One such opportunity came up about 2 months ago. The principal at my daughters’ middle school sent out a plea – they needed help. Not a volunteering job, they needed a different kind of helper - substitute teachers - to help out when they took time to improve skills, or needed time to spend with their family. I, for one, understand fully well – that time with family is irreplaceable. I also know that a teachers’ heart is divided multifold ways, between their students and their own families – who need them just as much.
So, if they needed help – there must be a good reason for it. With this in mind, I got the sub-certification, did the training – and two months after that email, I was officially a substitute teacher (also).
My first assignment came about rather quickly – I was called in to my daughters’ school to help out over the next two days. I said “sure” and showed up the next day – without a clue about what to expect. I found a curious wave of responsibility wash over me as I walked into the school’s rotunda, and went from being a consumer to a provider. I learned then, that the teacher just had a baby and was actually out on maternity leave. Yes, she needed the time with her family. I also discovered that my assigned classroom required different teaching skills, as the students were equipped with different learning skills than the rest. Five days later, I found myself in the principal’s office, agreeing to help out for several weeks. The task just became greater than the title.
In the short time I’ve seen and heard a good many things. From a barrage of acronyms regarding curriculums and lesson planning, conversations about comparing children and classroom dynamics in the lunch room to substitute teachers comparing notes about which school is better than the one they are in. I have also seen teachers becoming human – sharing stories of love, loss and learning with their colleagues, working and committing to being better educators. The dynamics of students is complex – I see them transform from overactive, sometimes boisterous and disruptive individuals to bright, smart, sensitive often bravely outspoken young adults. The transitions only happen in the fleeting moments they receive positive, reassuring attention, and they are gone if that moment is lost. They can do it; they just need know we believe it too.
I am also learning about partnerships, patience and perspective. Partnerships from the staff, and particularly co-teachers who are extending their warmth to me, patience – in allowing all the possibilities to develop, and most importantly perspective – on my own limitations, challenges and goals – not as a teacher, but as a parent.
Meanwhile, CC’s work does not stop. While I am waiting on blog posts to appear in Khabar (check the Feb issue) or working out lesson plans with WFM/Salud (Avalon & Johns Creek) and the City of Roswell, this new task has become my own learning lab. A few days ago, I saw one of the teachers eating a big bowl of carrots. Seriously, he was only eating carrots almost as if on a dare. I think today he pulled out a bag of pita chips or something similar from a large bag. Another pulled out a microwavable chicken pot pie two days in a row and ate it from the box, while a third carefully cut away into a large bowl of salad greens – it was devoured in 10 minutes. In contrast I felt a little guilty eating the made-fresh lunch of peanut daal, steamed rice and an okra stir fry, but obviously, that had been my choice – to make our meal that morning. Even my daughters’ Math teacher, a fellow Indian, envied our meals. Fortunately, I have been able to fine-tune weekly meals, making sure that we eat IN every night, so our meals remain healthy. The dishwasher breakdown from the summer also gave us some valuable lessons.
I cannot imagine how we can really believe we are nourishing our body if we are barraging it with inadequate nutrition! Calories counts are fine but they are more effective if we can determine how many calories are truly needed between two meals – based on the task at hand! The time-saver sauces are proving extremely helpful, they DO cut away the prep work completely. I am looking forward to making them again - as I am on my last jar! Perhaps that can be my relaxing and reassuring activity for my next Sunday afternoon before I ready for another week.
So, am I going to make it over the next few weeks? I know; I can.