Tales of a Sub: The NYC Private School Edition
Disclaimer: I have the utmost respect for teachers in any school system. I worked in a high school for 2 years and as a dance teacher for 10 years, and have many family members and friends that are currently employed as educators.
For the past month and a half I have been working as a substitute teacher in a variety of private schools uptown and downtown. Each day that I’m called in brings a new adventure and set of experiences, some more noteworthy than others. For the record, I’m not complaining about having to work- in New York City hustle is both necessary and the norm, and I hold (and have held) many jobs in addition to this subbing position.
However, it is slowly sucking the last bit of soul out of my body. When I started this job, I had high hopes of being regarded much like Robin Williams’ character in Good Will Hunting. In truth, I feel more like Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, or Michelle Pfeiffer in the prep school version of Dangerous Minds.
My first week teaching I was called in to sub Pre-K, Kindergarten and high school. The first two days I spent losing to 5 year olds in checkers and listening as the other kindergarten teachers bitched about all those runners in the park in the middle of the day, who must be “artists.” Yes, those “artists” have it so easy, working like maniacs to pay rent and survive in New York while pursuing their dream, as you sit on the playground babysitting a bunch of 5 year olds before snack time. Please.
I was excited the day I was called in to the high school, ready to do some real teaching! Be careful what you wish for. One period I was asked to proctor an English exam. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except there were two pages of instructions on all the class stipulations- Person A, B, C, and D may use their computers, Person E, F, and G have extra time, Person A and G can take their extra time in after school, have person B e-mail this to me and Person C and D… I blacked out after the fourth paragraph. What ever happened to “Here’s the test, keep your eyes on your own paper and good luck.” The following day I received an e-mail scolding me for letting a student with a stomach issue spend too much time in the bathroom, with explicit details on how to handle this problem in the future.
Hey asshole, in the future, give the test yourself.
Another highlight of this job was the day I taught P.E. to 1st graders. What is going on with children these days? Man up little ones, a little exercise never hurt anyone. I have never seen so many “injuries” incur in a 30 minute period. My favorite was “Ms. Morelli, he pushed me.”
Hey kid, you’re playing tag.
The best gig so far was the three week stint teaching third grade at a private school uptown. The kids were great, even the non-diagnosed ADD child who made ME want to be on meds. The subjects were fun, the teachers were all really nice, and I only got in trouble once for not dressing “teacher-like” enough. I quickly rushed to DSW to get a pair of flats to squeeze my fat, damaged feet into, accenting my short, stubby legs, and proudly wore my dumpy look for the final week.
Which brings me to the past two days. Or as I like to call it “14 Hours of My Life I’ll Never Get Back.” The school I’m placed at is downtown, which means a 45 minute commute to work. Fine. I’ll get up at 6:30am, even though it fills me with dread and makes me a cranky bitch for the rest of the day/week. I arrive at the school and I’m given all the lessons I have to teach for the day… in Spanish.
No hablo español.
I trudge through two block periods (75 minutes) at the computer lab, and go to lunch. There I’m ignored by every teacher at the table, so I quietly eat and courtesy smile every now and then when the rest of the table laughs. My final class is Philosophy, stocked with obnoxious high school kids to which I am invisible.
Day 2. I arrive at 8am. I have no classes until 11:55am. At 11:55 I am put in a study hall with a group of 8th graders who are throwing Cheerios around the room and walking in and out with no regard to my request to please stay put. No one disciplines them. No one peeks their head out of the classroom to tell them to get where they need to go.
Second half of the day. No class once again. I’m asked to go to the teachers lounge and cut out laminated signs. Final period now. I’m watching an intermediate Spanish class and counting the minutes of the clock like it’s my last day of parole.
I know I should look at this as “easy day!” and “easy money!” No, not really. I don’t find being disrespected and ignored enjoyable for any amount of money. Well, maybe a certain amount of money. But definitely not what I’m making.
Therefore, I leave you with this:
Please buy DEFRIENDED, and then share it with your friends, so I can pursue my career as a writer and stop taking jobs that chip away at my already shaky self-esteem and sanity.