Every year when I was teaching seventh grade, our school administrators gave us some sort of inspirational poster or story or memento to keep in our classroom for encouragement throughout the year. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it backfired. I remember distinctly the year the nugget of inspiration came in the form of a very short story about a woman who woke up and only had three hairs on her head. She braided the three hairs and was happy. The next day she woke up and only had two hairs on her head. She parted them in the middle and was happy. The next day she woke up and only had one hair on her head. She wore it in a ponytail and was happy. The next day she woke up and had no hair left on her head. She said to herself, “I don’t have to fix my hair today!” And she was happy.
I’m pretty sure the point of the fable was to find the silver lining in everything and stay positive, but as the year wore on, I decided what it really meant was that teaching makes your hair fall out.
I share this memory as an explanation for why I subbed so much in May. Despite working more hours than usual at my library clerk job, completing a freelance project, and keeping up with my own writing, I still made time to substitute teach eight times at seven different middle schools. Why? Because I know what May is like for teachers. At this time of year, they’re lucky if they have any hair left at all and they need a break. I know that all of those half days, sick days, personal days, and I-just-can’t-today days are well-deserved. I’m happy to step in and help.
The end of my year of subbing was just as interesting as the beginning. I watched Inside Out three times, The Lost World twice, and Scared Shrekless once. (That one was awesome.) One day I arrived to my classroom to find a bag of raw chicken on my desk. (It turned out there was a reasonable explanation for it that had nothing to do with Satanic rituals or mean pranks.) One day when some seventh grade science students playing a card game suddenly erupted into loud yells, I went over to investigate, only to have a boy calmly explain, “Sorry. I got AIDS.” (The card game was called “Defend Yourself” and was from their unit on the immune system.) And during the last half hour of my very last sub job, an eighth grade girl asked me, “Can I go ride my unicycle in the courtyard for Ms. Smith?”
Sometimes I think I’ve been asked everything in my teaching career, but that was a new one.
I think the best way to demonstrate what subbing at the end of the school year looks like and close out my Adventures in Subbing series is with a photo documentary. Here is a look back at my last six weeks of subbing, in pictures.
Happy last week of school, teachers! We appreciate you! May there be a large margarita in your future.