Substitute teaching is widely known – mostly by me – as glorified babysitting. Except with less glory. Also, technically speaking, it doesn’t have anything to do with babies. Substitute teaching high school is more like watching paint dry with teenagers. And the truth is I would feel worse for the students than myself. Since few teachers who are frequently absent leave lesson plans, activities, or a sense of daily accomplishment for their temporarily abandoned students, my job basically deteriorated to keeping the noise level down, making sure that only students that were supposed to be there were there, and ushering everybody else out.
The payment for subbing was upwards of $100 per day. Considering that I’m paid that rate for only five hours of nominal “work” and, that at the time, I was single, childless and living in a shared bachelor’s apartment,* it was nice “work” when I could find it. But on average I would only “work” one day a week. Which meant that my mornings were often painfully sad and very slowly disturbing. Like watching Snuffalopolus rummage through the trash in your alley.
The eventual and rare call would come from the central office. The sub-center tells its “workers” to expect a call between 5:30-8:00 am. Most of my calls came at the 6-7 window. Being that my alarm would shake, rattle and/or roll at 4:30, I would be extra sleepy-tired by the time my “work” day would start. Sleepy-tired, as any medical professional would tell you, is a state of sub-cognition wherein one dreams of Winnie the Pooh daintily cascading through the backyard. Extra-sleepy-tired is him being eaten alive by Snuffalopolus in the backyard.
And here’s where I make my caveat: I know people hold down two-to-three jobs all the time and usually for a lot less money. On those occasions that I had foolishly risen in the wee hours and foolishly tried to establish an early-morning walking routine, the only other people I had passed on the sidewalk at 4:30 were migrant workers trying to get first-dibs at the Day Laborer’s (which are temps of a different sort). There are mothers of my students that don’t make it home from work until the middle of the night after a two-hour commute. And, then, of course, there is also the Two-Third’s World and the fact that half of the world’s population gets by on less than $2 a day. But, please, this is my story, so let me do my whining.
I spent many a morning during this period reading my Bible or a magazine or watching a foreign film. I like saying this because it makes me sound all sophisticated and stuff. And that I am. But, in general, I was trying what I could to not fall asleep while tugging the neck of the phone like a teddy bear, duly and patiently waiting for that one expectant ring to pull me into action like a call from Commissioner Gordon.
*Yes, that sounds sexy. Just like a Three’s Company of just guys. But it wasn’t necessarily so… For instance, we had our very own built-up DIY nerdy loft beds to save room on valuable space. And our Under-Roos wearing was not a sight to behold.