The Life of a Substitute Teacher

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

This past Monday was my first day since the end of October that I wasn’t needed to sub at The Family School. I knew that the run would end as I was after all just a substitute waiting for the position to be filled permanently. It had been my lucky break that there weren’t any highly qualified elementary Physical Education teachers around willing to teach twenty hours a week for a .4 Salary.

I was more than willing. I told HR when asked why i keep applying for a job I’m not qualified for that I had been doing this job for months and was willing to get qualified if they would hire me. I had just picked up my HQ status in reading and wasn’t really in the mood to spend more money on a career that’s not shown capital gains. I’m barely treading water in a profession that I’m  so passionate about.

I didn’t care about working only twenty hours a week that probably wouldn’t come with benefits. I just wanted to be with the kids. I already felt the positives outweighed the negatives. I was close to my home. I could go home and let the dogs out and recharge my batteries. My batteries don’t recharge so well when other people are around. I enjoyed the school and felt at home with the alternative philosophies, though I wasn’t exactly sure what made them alternative. I loved the fact that the kids could call me Susan. Some people will be up in arms claiming that its impossible to teach structure and discipline if I’m too casual with the kids. Just because students called me Captain Honthumb at my previous school, this title didn’t bring automatic respect. Far from it.

Maybe it was the fact that I tended to play with the kids I was teaching. I was a PE  teacher; how could I not get in there with them. Ii had such a blast teaching the floor hockey while playing against them. I had a blast, the kids had a blast, and that was the beginning of the end.

The hardest part of subbing longterm, especially with this particular school and population, is that I fell in love with the kids. I had been working so hard on learning their names and learning about their personalities. I was especially aware of what it took to build trust with spectrum kids. Most, if not all of my experience, with kids on the Aut spectrum were older kids, so getting a chance to work with the younger kids was an amazing opportunity.

I’ve never been diagnosed with spectrum “disorders,” but I can relate with some of the issues that they go through. Issues that I’m going through right now.

There’s a sense of a comfort when I have known where I’ve been going  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for three months. Sometimes I wouldn’t be scheduled and didn’t really know that I was working, but I would always find out that they did indeed need me and how grateful they were in my taking the initiate to come to school anyway.  Comfort is an understatement. I’m not a person who casually deals with change and having some as semblance of routine is like wearing a favorite sweatshirt, that sweatshirt that has  stains and should be thrown out or at least shredded for rags. To me that would be like destroying a friendship. I didn’t care  about the stains and I try hard to not think about other people caring about them either.

Last Monday I showed up to my school, a place I was starting to call home, without knowing if I was needed, but I was confident since I hadn’t heard that a new hire had been brought on board. I had been doing a good job. The kids thought I had. It warmed my heart when kids would tell me that that I was their favorite PE teacher. No one had ever called me their favorite English teacher. It does help to be teaching a class that more kids want to be in.

Perhaps I had jinxed  myself by changing my uniform. This was the first day I had shown up in black wind pants instead of my usual black “formal” sweats. Professional sweats. But when I was told Monday morning that I wasn’t needed, the wind was taken out of my sail. I felt sucker punched. No indications or signals let me know what was coming. I’m not sure what I would have been able to do if I had known. Perhaps being able to say goodbye to the kids may have helped heal my broken heart.

And now I have to deal with what I hate about being “just” a substitute teacher. I hate not knowing where I”m going tomorrow or the next day or if I am going anywhere at all. I check for jobs for two school districts, I check on the internet and do so multiple times a day. When I first began subbing, I was fanatical and would speed-dial the numbers. First come, first serve makes it competitive.

So, in addition to missing the kids that I had gotten to know, I have to deal with not working. I’d like to come to a place where I don’t think that I’m not wanted just because I’m not asked for a job. I turned down a lot of jobs since the end of October while being slated. Never thought that being slated was a good thing. Not being chosen to substitute has nothing to do with me as a person, but I’m going to have to fake this sentiment until I convince myself to not feel unwanted and dejected.

Wish me luck.Photo on 2-4-15 at 5.21 PM



  1. I do wish you luck, and I wish the powers-that-be at that school knew the value they were dismissing when they told you not to come back. It’s their loss, and although I know you are feeling very unloved by all this, it’s what the kids think that really matters, and you said it yourself here, you are their favorite PE teacher! It’s the adults who remain ignorant of what they had and threw away for no good reason! xxxlovexxx

    1. Thanks Bex. It’s getting the heart and the intellect to synchronize is my challenge. All the knowledge and Understanding doesn’t effect the broken heart, though I do know that time does heal all wounds. Eventually.

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