The morning I got the call from the School District, I thought "How hard could it be?" After all it was only for half a day while the teacher went to a medical appointment. Just 8:30 until 11:30 (including a 30-minute recess). And it was only for a class of Second Graders.
So, I showed up bright and early, wanting to make a good impression. The teacher introduced me as I looked out at the sea of very diverse little faces. Some were smiling I think but truthfully I can't remember. The teacher gave me some quick pointers, handed me a brief lesson plan for the morning, highlighting what had to be covered. She even gave me a few other things that could be covered if I had time. Looking at the list, I thought, "Piece of cake" as I recalled my days as a Master Instructor in the Air Force.
The teacher then bid the class farewell to an angelic chorus of "Goodbye, Mrs. Smith." And out the door she went. My honeymoon lasted all of about ten minutes. The next three hours were among the longest I have spent, and I have been through Air Force Winter Survival School and prisoner of war training. Somehow, I managed to get through half of the required material---the rest they would have to make up in college.
My only reprieve lasted 15 minutes when I tricked the class into believing I could record everything on the classroom music cassette player with the warning that I would play it back for their teacher. That lasted until one of the little angels said, "You can't record stuff on that old thing." But, hey, it was worth a try. At least it got me to recess, which was itself a challenge---especially herding all the kids back into the classroom for the last hour until lunch time.
By the time I left that morning, I was so glad to escape I forgot my backpack. When I returned to the school to retrieve it the next day, I was certain I had walked into an alternate universe. Inside the classroom the teacher was back, bless her soul, and all the children were seated, quietly listening to the teacher reading aloud to them. As I apologetically and somewhat sheepishly stepped through the door, I was greeted by a chorus of "Good Morning, Mr. Kirk." Who were these kids, anyway? Could this be the same class? I was so shocked by the reception, I almost tripped as I headed for the door.
In a momentary lapse, signing up for another substitute teaching day actually crossed my mind. But the thought was fleeting---at least until the Principal stopped me in the parking lot as I ran to my car. "Mr. Kirk, do you think you might want to try a class of Sixth Graders some time?"
From out of nowhere, I heard my voice: "OK. I'll give it some thought. After all compared to a class of Second Graders, how hard could it be?"
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