Notes From A Substitute Teacher

A few years ago, I considered going back to school to get a certificate in elementary education. I thought teaching would be a pretty sweet gig, with summers off to spend with my kids.

I got a job working as a substitute teacher in our district for grades Kindergarten through 8th. Figured I should “test the waters” a bit.

And boy, am I glad I did. Because those waters are deep. And ROUGH. And you pretty much need to be an Olympic Swimmer to remain there. Which, I quickly realized, I am not.

I am patient. I am kind. I adore children. But I am NOT a superhero. And quite frankly, THAT is what it takes to be a teacher in this day and age.

It takes knowing exactly what to do when the “tough” kid walks into your classroom with tears in his eyes because his dog died last night.

It takes knowing exactly the right way to help a child who struggles desperately in math, without destroying their self-confidence or embarrassing them in front of their peers.

It takes maintaining your composure when 27 children, at 27 reading levels, with 27 different personalities, are all vying for your attention at the same time.

It takes having a strong stomach, because you will be dealing with puke, and blood, and boogers (SO many boogers), and all kinds of other gross things.

It takes knowing how to discipline without causing shame.

It takes being able to handle a constant level of noise that would make most people’s head spin.

It takes being able to handle your heart breaking when you see an innocent child hurting from a difficult family situation that you are powerless to change.

It takes being able to appear confident when you have no idea what the answer is.

It takes knowing exactly when and how to intervene when you see a child being ostracized by their peers.

It takes being able to maintain a straight face when a child says something inappropriate, but hilarious.

It takes nerves of steel when you hear that emergency alarm go off, knowing that you alone are responsible for the safety of these children.

It takes being able to go home with enough energy for your own children after an exhausting day of wrangling a classroom full of other people’s kids.

It takes giving it your all, for the short time they are yours, knowing that what you say, what you do, and what you model, may have an impact on that child for the rest of their life.

Because I bet every single one of us can name our 2nd grade teacher.

And to this day, a few times a month, I stroll through the school entrance to sub a class or two, unburdened by lesson plans, test scores, and emails from parents. I do my best to fill their shoes for a few hours.

And I am humbled by the task.

Because those teachers? Their cars are already in the parking lot when I arrive in the mornings, and remain in that parking lot long after I leave for the day. I see them taking stacks of work home at night, on the weekends, and over breaks. Like I said…superheroes.

So today, if you get a minute, thank a teacher. For caring about our kids. For shaping the future generation. For doing what most of us cannot. ❤️


***Kids can be so hilarious, I don’t know how teachers keep a straight face sometimes. For instance, check out this post here: “Meet 16 Kids Who Gave Hilarious (and Brutally Honest!) Answers in School”