A Warm Welcome
Today I was a 2nd grade teacher at Sangamon Elementary in Mahomet. I have only been to this building a handful of times this year, but each experience has been an incredibly positive one. I continue to be amazed at the intelligence and engagement of students who are as young as they are. I am also impressed with how well the faculty and staff have taught the students to treat guests in the classroom with the utmost respect.
This is, of course, something that most teachers pay lip-service to, at the very least. I’ve even been in classrooms where the students are asked to sign a contract to agree to act according to specific guidelines with a substitute is present. But, honestly, most students don’t think anything about these contracts. That isn’t to say that they are crazy hellions, or anything like that! Far from it, in fact. But it would be a lie to say that substitute teaching is often a matter of quickly establishing limits and then hoping and praying that the students will not set fire to the room, tie me up, or both.
Needless to say, I have never experienced either of those situations, and thus I continue to enjoy my work and my adventures. Each day is full of new surprises, even when it is a room I have been to several times in the same year. What is always fun is to see what happens when students recognise me, especially when I’ve never been in their classroom.
I’ll be honest: either I was quite oblivious to the world around me as a child (something I kind of doubt), or substitute teachers just didn’t leave that much of an impact on students when I was young. I can honestly only remember four substitutes in the total sum of my public education, and all four of them were from middle school or beyond. One is remembered for being mean. (She told us on day one that she hated kids. Sigh.) One was a very heavy-set woman with bad body odour. One was an incredibly old woman who was still a “Miss” and seemed destined to always be old. And one was a crazy guy who had been the former chief trauma surgeon in a Dallas, Texas, ER before quitting and moving to Illinois to sub. (At least, that is the story we were told.) He spent the days telling dirty jokes. Sigh. (I, on the other hand, spend my time teaching 2nd graders words like “otorhinolaryngologist” and “defenestration”.)
So it is always interesting to have students wave to me in the halls, even when they don’t know me, or even say hi at Wal-Mart, and then explain to their parents that I am “their substitute teacher” (never just “a sub”–I am “their” sub). And I love the warm welcome I receive from students who want to show me that they are glad to have me there, and hope I will return. Allow me to display exhibits 1-8 from today:
Nobody told the boys and girls in the class to do this. They just did it. They drew them and then placed them on my desk, with little-to-no fanfare. It was their way to welcome me to the room while they were doing their work. I keep all of the artwork I get from my students. Eventually, I will have to cull it; I realise that. But for now, each is a precious reminder that what I do matters.
And that’s reason enough to keep them.