I like to blog about stories and ways I’m growing, things I’m thinking and where I’m going. Sometimes these steps on the journey to wholeness are exciting and rich with meaning, and other times the steps are smaller and more gradual. I put one foot in front of the other and wait to be led to the next big thing.
Right now my life is full of little things. Little things I could never go without, like work, love, friends and rest – the little things that keep me going and make life good. These small steps into fall and winter keep me diving deeper into the routine of work specifically, which is reflected in the content and tone my blog posts, no doubt. A little less thrill, a little more chill.
No longer do I have fascinating travel stories to tell or funny moments to share from nannying, but what I can tell you about is my work – something I’ve never written on much for my blog but have a hundred thoughts about and a new story to tell every day! I figure the job I spend most of my time doing deserves a good blog post or two. Work is probably the setting in which I have been growing the most lately, after all.
I am a substitute teacher. Substitute teachers are a rare breed. I can safely say that I only have three friends who are substitute teachers, and that’s only because we came out of school with fine arts degrees and similar interests in how to make our independent teaching careers work, balancing our private studios with subbing during the day. (How many substitute teachers do you know?) I’m lucky to still be in touch with my friends who are doing the same kind of work because when we get together, we understand each other. We’re finally with “our people”. I consider our meetings a luxury now that I’ve come to know the need for community. While most jobs come with a group of co-workers (however wonderful or annoying they might be), substitute teaching can be a lonelier occupation.
Substitute teachers are in a new environment every day and rarely have a chance to connect with other teachers in the building, even if they end up working at the same school for multiple days. Camaraderie among peers is basically nonexistent – to the full time teachers, we’re just the odd ducks camping out in the lounge over lunch. We don’t get together for family bonfires each fall, hang out while we monitor kids at prom, or commiserate during drawn-out professional development meetings.
What I love about my job is that I have so much freedom. I can set my own schedule, come and go without much comment, and never have to bring work home with me. I also get a little thrill from doing something different every day; one day I am a band director, the next I teach Japanese, another day I am reading stories to Kindergartners. It’s a beautiful thing. Subbing during the school day also allows me time in the afternoons and evenings to teach piano, plan for my music studio, and still have some personal time to spend doing whatever I want, like blogging. It’s pretty awesome. The downside is just that sometimes I feel a little alone.
I’ve been thinking recently how it would be fun for me to write about my mysterious life of substitute teaching on the blog… all the days that I get to run a classroom with no one looking over my shoulder! And maybe sharing my stories would help me to not feel so isolated in my day-to-day life. Of course, my husband and mom and close friends have all heard my stories, but I don’t think most people have an expansive knowledge of the daily life of a substitute teacher. It’s kind of weird, I won’t lie. Going in and acting like the new boss to a new group of students everyday… who am I kidding, right? I am so not really in charge. I just pretend like I am, because that’s what they tell me to do. And it’s actually kind of fun! Not everybody gets to pretend they’re the boss every day.
Despite the fact that I’m at different schools every day and have no true co-worker community, something wonderful has started happening this year that has helped me feel ever so slightly less like an alien at work.
This fall is only my second semester substitute teaching but I’ve started being able to recognize a number of the students at almost every school. It feels like I’m cashing in on the time I spent last year building relationships with kids while I was student teaching (met 700 kids), accompanying (about 200), and during my first few months of subbing last spring (coming into contact with thousands of children!). I’ve also been teaching piano in the area for four years, so I’ve made connections with probably around 30 kids that way who all go to different schools. My day is totally made any time I see a current or former piano student during a day of subbing! Their faces light up when they see me because I’m someone they recognize and because they know (I hope) how fond I am of them.
Whether the students know me as Miss Leslie or Mrs. Newlin, they know who I am and they are always excited to say ‘hi’ to me as they pass by in the halls, and I love that! Substitute teaching is the closest I’ll ever get to being famous, which is alright with me because being popular with children is probably the most rewarding kind of popularity there is. I think that in the future I’ll begin to be able to recognize more of the teachers and maybe feel more of a sense of camaraderie, but for now I am very happy that I see familiar faces in the students almost every day. Sometimes they can’t remember where they saw me last – as an accompanist, a sub, or a student teacher! I’m sure I confuse them by playing so many different roles. Some of them just know me as Mr. Newlin’s wife, and that is okay with me. In this quiet season of life, I am coming to appreciate the little things like that.