Today and tomorrow I am at Central, filling in for one of my favorite teachers, Charlotte Prosser. And as usual with these sort of experiences, I had a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride.
After spending two years in the classroom, subbing is so much easier than it was before. I can walk into most classrooms and put on the Teacher 'Tude with very little effort. One trick that I have developed is to offer "Free Chat Time" at the end of the hour. I give them the last two minutes, then offer to tack on an extra minute for every five minutes in a row that they are productive. If anyone talks, I walk up to the board and restart the countdown time. I have a precise spiel that goes with it, which is becoming quite polished. I am trying to use it only when I have a sense that there is no other way to get work done. But so far it has worked really well.
The toughest jobs now are the ones at Central, where I end up working with kids who are somewhat familiar with me, and perhaps used to a more relaxed version of myself. Because Thanksgiving is this week, there are only two days of school, so no one expects to get much done. Most of my classes are "Learning Strategies" classes: small study halls for kids who just aren't hacking it in their other classes. The smallest was five kids, the biggest nine. Most of them went just fine, especially the 7th graders. Being the youngest kids in the school makes them easy to manage.
My last class of the day, however, was 8th and 9th graders. And there were some serious attitudes in there. Three, to be precise. I'm afraid that today I let them get away with too much talking, including a fair amount of back talk. It was the last hour of the day, I was tired, and wanted to avoid conflict. I never raised my voice, and was polite but insistent that they work or read quietly. They weren't having any of that. They did not use any inappropriate language, but they were rude to me. They weren't interested in earning more Free Chat time at the end, because they were chatting along during the class. The resource teacher, Rebecca Clark, was working the room with me. She is in that class every day precisely because of these problem students. I'm sure her presence helped, but it didn't suppress the mess.
So by the end of the class period, I was feeling kind of down. The rest of the day went well, but it had ended on a sour note. I spent some time talking with Rebecca about how it had gone, and she asked me where I had gotten my Free Chat Time routine. It was so finely polished, it must have come from somewhere.
I got a bit misty. It was a strong compliment at a time when I was not feeling confident. I told her that it was mine, and thank you for lifting me up like that. Since losing my job, I have been having an internal debate over whether or not I am a good teacher. I tend to be a pretty positive person, with a good self-image, but getting fired has really screwed with that. Kind words from friends and family are well and good, but hearing that I am doing well from a colleague lifts my spirits in a unique way.
So I left the school feeling pretty good.
Of course, it didn't hurt that today was the Staff Thanksgiving Luncheon. I brought a 12-pack of Pepsi, and feasted from the pot-luck wonder. Sooooo good. I love a good pot-luck. And that was an unmixed blessing in the middle of my day.