Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Today I was a substitute teacher at my mom's school. I am not sure how I got talked into doing this, other than my mom kept nagging me until I said I would do it (she's clever like that).

I left my house this morning and stopped at Starbucks to get some coffee. I needed some energy. I wish I had possessed the foresight to tell them rather than add extra espresso in my coffee, to instead add a dose of loratab and valium, because kindergarteners are LOUD. Especially when you are the substitiute music teacher. I was unnerved by the end of the day.

I parked myself in the main office until all of the teachers got out of their meeting. While I was in there, I heard a small someone screaming bloody murder 3 feet outside of the office. "Great," I thought to myself. "The day I am fortunate enough to sub is the day a hostage situation breaks out in the school." Intrigued, I lean forward in my chair to see what is going on. Turns out there's no hostage situation; rather, someone has cut in front of the line leader, which is much much worse. Apparently, line-cutting is the 8th deadly sin, not noted in Scriptures.

After witnessing this, I contemplate escaping, but my mom's boss appears. She shows me to the music room and gave me the schedule, etc. The good thing about being a substitute music teacher is that you can put on one of 400 videos that are sing-a-longs about Jesus and call it a day. I thought that this was brilliant.

The classes rotate to music in 15 minute increments, which is about how long the kids' attention spans last, even with the latest Donut Repair Gang video playing (Donut Repair Gang = this generation's Psalty the Psalmbook or McGee and Me). The three year old classes came first.

If the two's are notoriously terrible, the three's must be REALLY terrible. My first class was not even in their seats before someone ELSE does the unthinkable and cuts in front of the line leader. I look at the clock and decide it is going to be a long morning. The children sit down and the line leader, incensed by the malefaction that has been committed against her, refuses to sit by the offender, which of course, is plausible reason for the offender to burst into tears. To make her feel better, I sit down beside her. This tactic worked, because when I got up to turn up the volume, the offender whispered across the semi-circle to her former friend, "the TEACHER is sitting by ME!!"

Some of the children were watching the Mother Goose Sings Gospel video, others were poking each other or playing with various buttons, bows, and imaginary airborne objects. Then there was the teacher, who was glued to the TV. Two things were keeping my attention: first, the horrible acting. These kids weren't even trying. Second, each song that the kids were singing (if by singing, you mean lip synching with about a 2 second delay) was a common folk song with new words about Jesus and other Bible characters. Therefore, "The Farmer and the Dell" became "The Woman and the Well" and "Three Blind Men" became "Three Wise Men." I was stupefied.

This class left after their 15 minutes was up, and in came the next class. I introduced myself to them and told them we'd be watching some Mother Goose. One adorable little boy with curly blonde hair wrinkled his nose and informed me that he didn't like Mother Goose.

In case you weren't aware, it's mind-boggling how many deep secrets are bestowed upon you when in the presence of a kindergartener. Just this morning, and with absolutely no prompting whatsoever, here are the things these kids felt that I needed to be aware of:

  • I don't like Mother Goose.
  • My eyes are blue!
  • My mommy is having a baby!
  • You are too big for that chair.
  • I own this video.
  • I have a boo-boo right here.
  • He is four.
  • There are 6 empty chairs here.
  • I have seen this one before.
  • That's a cow.
You get the idea. Anyway, after starting more Mother Goose Forces Rhymes Sings Gospel, the little curly haired fellow followed me to my seat and asks to sit with me. He remains perched beside me for the rest of the 15 minutes, with his hand in my lap, except on the occasion he grabs my hand to hold it. He looks up at me every few minutes and makes comments, including some of the ones listed above and my personal favorite, "I love you!" This would have meant a lot more to me if he had been twenty years older, but it was still precious of him. I think he'll grow up to be a heart breaker.

After my last three class, I go to visit the two-year-olds. The music teacher makes a "house call" to their classroom everyday, since I suppose trying to get about 15 two-year-olds literally from one end of the building to the other would pose an assortment of obstacles. The problem with my "house call" was that no one had told me to bring a video with me, and I temporarily forgot almost every folk song I learned in kindergarten (I blame my iPod). We hit the classics first, like "Jesus Loves Me" and the "Itsy Bitsy Spider", which we then variated into the "Big, Big Spider, the Baby Baby Spider, the Super Fast Spider, and the Super Slow Spider. Then I read them a book based on the song "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands." The book included the clap/stamp/nod verses that we all know and love, and took creative license on the song to include Roar/spin/flap your wings/jump around, and more. We then "made music" with our bodies by clapping our hands, stomping our feet, rubbing our palms, etc., then hit up Jesus Loves Me one last time.

After my experience with the two-year-olds, I returned back to the music room and took stock of the videos on the TV cart. I found one that my old roommate, an elementary education major, used to have in our dorm room. She would buy videos for her class and screen them at home to see if she could make a lesson plan out of it. I happened to be in the living room the day she was watching Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and I thought it was wonderful. I almost switched my major, just so I could have an excuse to watch it. Anyway, I was delighted to discover Chicka Chicka Boom Boom on the TV cart, and put it in so my next class, the four-year-olds, could watch it.

When they came in, I introduced myself, and so I could watch Chicka Chicka Boom Boom without interruptions, I decided to try my luck. "Welcome to music! I am Miss Lindsay, I am here for Miss Luanne. Now we're going to watch a video, and you can sing along as much as you want. But this is music class, not talking class, so we won't talk while the video is on, okay?" (Note: oddly enough, in all but one class, talking was not a problem. The main difficulty I ran into was getting them to keep their bottoms in their seats. This kindergarten needs a regular dance class incorporated into the curriculum, because rather than SING to the songs, they all preferred to express themselves through dance.)

It kind of worked, or maybe they had just come from the playground and were tired. Either way, I got to watch all of the alphabet letters meet each other at the top of the coconut tree (the plot of the song/video). After
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, there were more short movies on the video. Knowing this, the class decided that it was of utmost importance to see the video's box to see the screencaps of the videos still to come. They actually got into a fight over it. I grabbed the box, held it out so everyone could see it, and then took it with me to my seat. At this point I was convinced that it is entirely possible that kindergarteners could fight over air.

My Sunday night babysitting charge
was in my last class of four-year-olds. He walked in, saw me, and smiled really big. He came up to hug me, and the other boys and girls, sensing that this is how their new subsitute teacher wishes to be greeted, surrounded me and hugged me. I about melted. Children are so sweet.

The last two classes went by without any big problems. I stayed to help some of the teachers with the "lunch bunch" (opening juice boxes, etc) and then hit the road. After I left, I had an ironic realization: there is probably more job security in substitute teaching than I will have in whatever field finally decides to accept me. Is it possible to become a professional substitute teacher? Are the benefits good? More importantly, do I get to leave work at noon everyday?

1 comment:

  1. If I was a substitute teacher for kindergarteners either I or some of the children would be dead now. You are courageous.

    Oh..and to respond to an earlier blog. You need to leave B'ham while you're young, single, and have no attachments. I mean, you can always go back if you don't like Nashville, but it would suck to always wonder what it would have been like if you left. I love you!


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