To teach or not to teach…

We’re home from our trip to Vancouver and planning to stay for awhile so we’re debating whether or not to put our names back on the substitute teacher list. We know that our skills are in demand and the pay would supplement our pensions rather nicely but we’re really not sure we want to.

After retiring in June of 2007, we both did quite a bit of subbing until we left for Japan in February 2008. In Japan, we taught full time for 12 months with our longest break being only two weeks. It was an amazing experience but, by the time it was over, we were definitely ready for a break from the classroom. We decided that we wouldn’t put our names back on the sub list until at least the end of this October. There’s a shortage of qualified substitute teachers in this area, however, and we hadn’t been back in town for 24 hours when the phone rang the first time and we were asked if one of us could come in the following day! We declined but the phone continued to ring quite regularly throughout the remainder of the school year. We thought it might begin again in September but, since our names still didn’t appear on the list, I guess the message finally sank in.

Neither of us would mind subbing occasionally if we always knew in advance and could plan accordingly. There are many times when teachers have medical appointments or workshops to attend and are able to book their subs in advance but there are also those early morning phone calls! We remember the times when we woke up sick during the night and simply couldn’t go to school in the morning and sympathize with the poor teachers who find themselves in that boat but we’ve developed the delightful habit of sleeping in until 8 o’clock most mornings and dread the thought of the phone waking us an hour or more before that! With flu season upon us, we know that that could happen frequently.

It might not be too bad if we were certain that the phone would only ring once but, unlike most larger jurisdictions, there’s no central dispatch for subs in our area. Each teacher is responsible for calling their own sub so a person can end up fielding many calls for the same day. We also know that ours is a number that many teachers would call first because they have a two for one chance of getting someone.

For many years, in spite of the fact that I enjoyed my teaching career, I had what I called my “school dreams” in the days leading up to each new school year.  These were dreams in which everything went wrong.  All a teacher’s worst nightmares would visit me as the end of August approached! One of the nice things about retirement has been the absence of these dreams; until the past week, that is! Since we started discussing whether or not to begin subbing again, I’ve had several “school dreams” and in each one, I’ve been a substitute teacher! I spent one night dealing with a mixed class of grade 1 and grade 9 students and another night with a class of unruly high school English students who were supposed to be writing stories.  Instead, some of them laid on the floor, hid behind the shelves, or wandered in and out of the classroom while others gathered around tables and played cards! Last night even Richard had a “school dream”!  He dreamt that two of the most difficult students that he ever dealt with were in the same grade 5 class. In real life, these two young men are close to a generation apart in age but dreams are like that. They don’t always make a lot of sense but I wonder if these ones are telling us something?

The unfortunate part of substitute teaching is that it can sometimes be as trying as the scenarios in my dreams. I subbed for three years earlier in my career and during that time, I worked hard to establish a reputation amongst the students. I knew I’d succeeded when I walked through the halls of the high school and heard comments like “Oh no, it’s her!  We’re going to have to work today.” It wasn’t easy building that rep though and I’m not sure if I want to try to do it all over again.

On the other hand, we still love kids and winter is going to be long so maybe…  All I can say for sure at this point is that we have definitely decided not to do anything for another week or so, so that if we do walk into a classroom again, it won’t be until the post Halloween sugar highs have run their course!


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