Ersatz Redux

This morning I took my first phone call from a parent concerned about grades. Am I a teacher yet?

This is my last week in this month-long assignment teaching speech (excuse me, professional communications) to eighth graders and theater arts to sixth graders. One of the days that first week, I came home and told my partner that I could not imagine myself ever teaching middle school full time. Last Friday, we had a conversation about how middle schoolers are some of the most interesting kids to teach. I’ve played around with lesson plans, adjusted pacing, graded many speeches.

I have also heard more terrible jokes about LeBron James than I ever imagined. I have witnessed the awesomely casual powers of destruction wielded by sixth grade boys. I have banished students from the classroom. Over and over again, I have told students to put their phones away and to stay in their seats. I have spent whole 90 minute classes hopping from metaphorical fire to metaphorical fire, trying to put them out before something on the other side of the room got out of control.

I have learned the students’ names.

I have to resist the urge to write that as “I have learned my students’ names.” After a month, they feel like my students. That first week still felt like a sub job. I was leaning on the lesson plans the permanent teacher had left for me. We were watching movies and finishing up projects that had been assigned before I started. By the second week, and certainly by now, that has changed. I’ve been here long enough to assign projects and see them finished. I’ve learned the ins and outs of the various groups of students. The core progression of assignments isn’t mine, but I have a sense of its ebb and flow. I feel like a teacher, not a substitute for one.

I still go home tired, especially because I end my days with 30-plus sixth graders. My voice gets worn out. I have to remind myself that it’s not my kids at home who’ve been testing my limits for 8 hours. My writing has suffered somewhat because I’ve been working so much. Having a job is work (duh).

That’s what I wanted, though. As nice as it is to have time to write, I pretty keenly feel the obligation to work. Related: I keenly feel the obligation to pay bills. Blogging and working on a novel isn’t going to do that. Waking up at 5:15 or 5:30 a.m. is never going to be fun for me, but the last few weeks I’ve been grumbly mostly because I don’t like being up that early…or haven’t gotten enough sleep…or both. I have not been dreading my job like I have at various points since I started in September.

This might not be the perfect job, but it’s one I can do. Sometimes, that’s enough.

…Of course, next week it’s back to catch-as-catch-can subbing. One choice at a time.

Coming Soon: a long-form essay on leaving academia, frantic attempts to play catch-up for CampNaNoWriMo, and sundry awkward pop culture references.

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