Friday, October 25th was my first full-day substitute teacher job. I was supposed to cover for the assistant band director at Barbara Bush Middle School in Irving, Texas. It was a long day of work, but it was supposed to be an easy day, watching the band director conduct his classes and doing whatever little helpful thing the band director asked me to do.
Easy is not a word that is normally associated with teaching. So, naturally, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, and a few things that couldn’t go wrong went wrong just for good measure.
The day started with rain. It was a slogging jog from home to my daughter’s high school, dropping her off early to get some extra project work time in before school. Then I had to drive all the way through Coppell to the eastern edge of Irving which somehow gets to be in our school district even though it is two cities to the west away. Dallas drivers in the rain… eeeyaaah! I almost died on the road twice, missing only by inches.
And, of course, when I got there, the secretary in charge of subs was not there. I was given the wrong sub folder by the other secretary. It turned was out that the band director himself was out too. So, there were two non-musical subs for six classes of music and a homeroom. And band directors have no idea how to provide work for kids when they can’t use their instruments. We were given an assignment online for kids to do on their Chromebooks. It was an assignment that, at best, would last for five minutes out of the fifty-minute class periods. Well, they did tell us to let them amuse themselves with games on the Chromebooks when they were finished (because, of course, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders never misuse the internet, meaning lots of walking around looking at screens to identify those things that SHOULD NOT BE THERE).
My co-sub was a very polite Indian lady who was working her first sub job and had no teaching experience.
So, with the potential for total chaos and disaster set, I had to basically take over and manage the baby-sitting festival for the day. We did get one significant break. The high school band director from the high school associated with Bush came in to direct the two concert band classes, and they worked on their music. Band directors of high schools are all masters of the art of teaching. We watched him work for two hours, 3rd and 4th periods. It was fantastic. He could stop off-task behavior with a mere look. He only had one horsey bunny give him any trouble, and he basically stapled that kid to his tuba with mere words and threats of that special band-director-kind that only band students can truly imagine to the full extent of its potential horror. Both of us subs congratulated him on his impressive teaching skills and thanked him for the pain and sweat he saved us from.
In the meantime… that mean time when we had to keep sixth graders full of bouncy-bunny Friday energy in their seats and unable to damage anything, kill anybody, argue with pocket knives and stabby pencils, or any other nightmarish thing that fevered little bunny brains could potentially conceive, we kept them in their seats (mostly), settled disputes (without yelling at them or hitting anybody), dealt with uncharged and non-working Chromebooks (mostly thanks to band hall outlets and the chairs near them), and kept them busy (at one point challenging kids to drawing contests in which I gave them paper and shut them up with my cartooning skills).
It was an exhausting day. But also wonderful, in its own way. One girl thought I looked like Santa Claus on the old Coca-Cola Christmas ads. Two or possibly three kids were smart enough to laugh at my jokes. And the day was completed with no casualties. I look forward to doing it again next week.