Monday, September 17, 2012

Substitute Me For Him

It was a kind of tradition, when I was in high school band, to torment the occasional substitute teacher that came to take the place of our infrequently absent director by switching instruments for the day. Trumpet players mishandling clarinets. Oboe players attempting to decipher the subjective mystery of the trombone. Percussionists picking up anything that they couldn't make a noise without hitting it. We all knew that we would probably suffer for it the next day, since our band director was not easily amused. Just as we knew that any similar antics in other classes had a comedy half-life of about as long as it takes for the regular teacher to read the note left by the substitute at the end of a trying day.
Which is why it might seem odd that today I find myself writing today in appreciation of all those substitute teachers that have come before, and all those who will come after, Alex. Alex came to me from the Ukraine, or more directly, from the district office. He had hoped that he would have a nice relaxed day of Reading Intervention. Instead, he was thrown into the maelstrom of elementary Physical Education. Even though "Red Light, Green Light" and "Mister Fox" were not playground staples in Alex's youth, he worked through our collective cultural differences and made it work. Just having another adult on the yard with me was significant enough, but the fact that he was willing to dealt with the vagaries of fifth graders playing four square made him a hero in my eyes. At the end of the day, we walked out. No one carried either one of us. No child was left behind or hidden behind a dumpster. We did the best we could.
I am always happy when we have full attendance, students and staff, because it means that we can continue our program at the pace that one hundred and eighty days of instruction demands. But if one of us has to make that call, I look forward to seeing Alex waiting on a chair in our office, looking forward to another unpredictable day.

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