May 6, 2007


I'm thrilled to get the chance to visit Melissa in just a couple days, but nervous as well. It's nothing to do with where I'm going, but with what I'm leaving behind.

Five days. Two subs.

Ask any teacher: planning for a sub is the most rigorous form of self-assessment, much harder than planning for yourself. Everything has to be exceedingly clear, every step laid out exactly in order. It's just like those make-a-peanut-butter-sandwich exercises, except with a hundred extra variables.

Not only that, but when you've cultivated five classes for the better part of a school year, you have rhythms set down, routines, ways of handling the smart alecks and the slackers, ways of dealing with the ebb and flow of drama. Mostly it involves movement: changing activities after fifteen or twenty minutes, circulating around the class, always ending things slightly before you think they should be finished.

I have two subs recommended by the office, since my usuals were unavailable. That's never a sure bet, though; I know of several who talk a good talk to the secretaries, but turn into tyrants in the classroom, or ramble on about whatever's on their mind instead of following the lesson, or bury themselves in the newspaper and hope the class holds together.

Subs have the hardest job in education, no question.


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