Today, May 3rd, is Teacher Appreciation Day in the U.S. This comes as I’m nearing the end of my 17th year as a substitute teacher after failing to get a permanent position in Social Studies. Well, I was 57 years old at the time and had a master’s degree, so I was too well qualified to begin with.
Now I can work as I please, except the old military sense of duty has kicked in during the pandemic. So many others have dropped out that the need for subs is acute. Consequently, tomorrow will be my eleventh straight day in the classroom. So much for slowing down in old age.
Over time, my preferred assignment has gravitated toward special-needs kids. During this current stretch, I’ve had to retrieve a lost shoe, sit with a boy in the high school clinic which a nurse tried to get his tongue to stop bleeding, and fill in for three days for the teacher who deals with kids with behavioral issues at the middle school. This last gig was especially demanding; when I told an aide who had retired in the recent past what I was doing, his reaction was “What is wrong with you?” I was afraid I’d made at least one mortal enemy during this stretch, but kids seem to have short memories. And giving out candy helps.
The satisfaction comes from working with other teachers, who always seem very glad to see me. And that goes for at least some of the kids, too. A day of recognition is nice, but I still prefer the everyday rewards of being around a younger, more energetic generation.