Today I was once again a fourth grade (gifted/talented) teacher at Stratton Elementary in Champaign. Today went just as well as Friday, which was no surprise to me or the student teacher with whom I was working. The students were on task and respectful and we also had a lot of fun. I love the days when we have fun while learning and learn while having fun. That is one of my goals as an educator. When students and teachers are miserable, there is not much else going on.
Of course, there are some days when everyone is tired. The student teacher and I were discussing how often we get home at the end of the day and are just exhausted. I admitted that I am not nearly as exhausted after a day like today, when everything went according to plan, as I am on days when I feel like I am waging war with 25 children. But I am still exhausted. I get home around 4 pm or so, even when school is out around 2:15 pm, simply because my wife and I have errands to run. We are both well-aware of the fact that if we are to come home, we probably are not going to leave again. So my work days often start around 7 am and end around 4 pm. I gotta admit: a 9-hour work day can be draining, especially when I am putting my everything into at least seven of those nine hours.
However, I am glad to be exhausted at the end of days like today. I am exhausted because I did everything I could with the few brief hours I had with my students to teach them and to give them the tools they need to become life-long learners. That there is the core of my educational philosophy: I want my students to each want to learn on their own, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. If they do not have the desire to gain knowledge, then I have failed them. I don’t care what the knowledge is, specifically, just so long as they are always learning, and always coming to a greater understanding of the world around them.
Maybe it is a lofty goal to have as a substitute teacher. After all, the majority of my students will rarely see me again or, if they do, it will be between long breaks and with very little consistency. But I firmly believe that my job as a substitute teacher is to be a teacher first and foremost. As I tell my students, I am a certified teacher hired by their school district to take over the education process for a day or two when their regular classroom teachers cannot be there. That means that I need to be always teaching and, yes, always learning.