New Reality

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It begins again, the March SOL#2019 Challenge, and while I’m up for whatever it brings, I am in a different space than I was last year. When I undertook my first every-day-in-March-all-31-of them writing adventure, I had been retired for eight months, had relocated, and was settling into the next phase—whatever that might entail. I actually credit #SOL2018 with galvanizing me to find something else to do with my time. Distance swimming, beach walking, and producing a YA book recommendation video Shelf Life weren’t enough.

Emails about education still flooded my in-box; diigo swelled with articles about dimensions of teaching, and I found new, articulate voices of education bloggers to follow. Obviously the bug had not left my system. I was in this for life. The NCTE Convention in Houston, my best in a long while, inspired me even more. Unfortunately my resumes went out unanswered or were kindly rebuffed. Despondent—that’s how I felt. I had envisioned working with aspiring teachers, imagined helping to build a teacher training program, committed to professional development without end.

But I began where I found an open door: substitute teaching. The local school district was actively seeking candidates, so I began the process. It involved accreditation, transcript submission, state testing for culturally responsive teaching, and paying a fee. I was certified, though, and have been teaching again in a very different district from the ones in which I have spent most of my career. I am learning.

Here’s what I know: I enjoy being around young people, around the enterprise of educating—even if, as a place-holder, I am often the target of those kids who’d love a break from having to hold it together. My first assignment, one I steeled myself to accept, I drove to the middle school shaking, a rush of butterflies tumbling inside. As soon as I stepped through the doors, however,  after greeting two students busily conversing, calm reigned. This was familiar; I was happy. I had made the right decision. This continues to be true, even when days or classes don’t go as well as I’d like.

I talk to kids about their lives (more about this later!); they share their feelings, the books they’re reading, their likes and dislikes—sometimes they share more than I want to hear. But I’m there—to listen and to help them on their way. “It’s a tough district,” my interviewer explained. “These kids have to be tough. They’ve been through a lot.”

Yesterday when I asked a young man why he wasn’t completing the assignment, he said, “I just can’t focus right now.”

“Can you do the work at home?” I was prodding. I liked his gentle smile. He bothered no one.

“Not now. I’m living in the shelter.” Matter-of-fact—his reality, now mine to know.

The phone rang at 5:30 this morning with a teaching vacancy. I refused it and future calls for the day. I can do that; I can choose, and am lucky, to have that luxury. My reality.

3 thoughts on “New Reality”

  1. One of the nice things about substituting is that you can pick and choose the days you want to work. I must admit that I have never substituted. I found a job right out of college and when I retired I had no desire to go back and sub.

    1. I didn’t know how I’d feel about it, but I enjoy it. The nature of the work gives me opportunities for reflection on teaching overall; I value that.

  2. Wonderful that you can step into this spot. After retiring I didn’t think I could do the jump from school to school. So I found a small job helping one school. Now after 6 years I think I am retiring for good. On to work on more personal activities that I am now ready for. It will be interesting to see how you feel as the years go forward. Nice to have the option to say not today! Enjoy your time with kids!!

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