Recently, I asked an elementary school teacher friend what was her favorite thing about teaching. Her answer? "It keeps me off the streets and out of Target."
Right on, Sister. I feel you, yo.
Here lately I've been working a lot, and it is really keeping me on my toes. This week alone I have taught Art to every grade between kindergarten and 5th, then had a full day of kindergartners. The rest of this week is 3rd graders. Lord, have mercy.
Teaching, for me, is so different now. In my former career (if you could call it that) teaching middle and high school, teaching was more than anything about surviving. Get to school on time. Try not to strangle anyone. Keep breathing. SMILE. Just get through the day. Add to that Going Through A Divorce, Getting Pregnant By Your Roommate, Your Grandpa Just Died, Your Boss is An Asshole, and Mom Has Cancer, and you've got a shitstorm. But after a multi-year hiatus from teaching to be a Mommy, along with a chunk of gained wisdom and maturity, it's completely different now. Maybe it's just teaching elementary school, although I know for a fact that before I had kids there is no way in hell I would have even considered dealing with the little ones. Now though? They're kind of a trip. It also totally helps that I don't have to be there with them every single day. Honestly? That would likely PUSH ME OVER THE FUCKING EDGE. I look at the teachers I work with and I think, "Holy shit. She/He's A GIFT FROM JESUS." Nothing makes you appreciate a teacher like being one, THEN having kids of your own who depend on these people to help shape their lives.
It's really easy to forget that that randomness of your children, when they are SO DAMN CUTE and they say the funniest things, ISN'T NECESSARILY ALL THAT ENTERTAINING WHEN YOU MULTIPLY IT BY 30 AND IT HAPPENS FOR 7 CONSECUTIVE HOURS, NONSTOP. And when the kid that says it is NOT YOUR OWN, but rather the offspring of some random entity who expects YOU to take responsibility for everything his or her child does. AND when it happens when you, yourself, are talking. And the buses are being called. And your blood sugar is low. WELCOME TO A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A TEACHER (and substitute teacher).
But then, there are the good moments. I am NOT a hugger, but it's kind of hilarious when you walk down the hall and get sporadically hugged by fifteen minions whose names you couldn't recall if your life depended on it, but whose faces you (sort of) recognize. Or when you ask the kids to help you think of words that rhyme and their response is "Pajamas Majamas!" Or when one of them asks me "What did your Mama pack in your lunchbox?" For the first time in my life, I'm seeing the humor in kids and actually kind of enjoying it. A dear friend who moved away last year recently nearly had a stroke when she found out I was subbing elementary school. She would likely keel on over and die if she heard me admit that I (usually) like it.
It doesn't matter how much I ponder and mull and stew it over, I'll never know if things are different now because I'm older and have different life experience, or because of the specifics of the job (which are, admittedly, much easier for substitutes). What I do know is that I have really fucking awful days sometimes. And I have really amazing, memorable days sometimes. Just like everything else in life, the job has its ups and downs. But I can't help being a little in love with the ups. I can't help feeling good about my day when I come home, even if the day kind of sucked.
B once told me, when I was frustrated and having a really horrible day subbing, to stop and consider that school might be the best part of some of these kids' days. I like to think of that now. I hope I'm the best part of some kid's day. Even just every once in a while.