Honestly, what happened to February? I swear.

I was inspired to become a substitute teacher for three main reasons:
1. Last fall, I realized I really wanted to be a teacher. But after looking into what it would take to become one at this point in my life, I decided it wasn’t feasible. I would be looking at $20k-30k in debt for a Master’s Degree, at least 2 years of time, and in the end, I may not find a job. There is still a national teacher shortage, but in the area where I live, it’s not really a problem. We have vastly more unemployed teachers than open jobs, and I am not willing to relocate. On top of all that, teaching doesn’t have all the benefits it used to carry. The health coverage isn’t as good, pensions are gone, and the starting wages, even at high-paying schools, are significantly lower than I make now.
2. I hoped subbing would help make me a better parent. Dealing with other peoples’ kids would likely give me more perspective into the minds and behaviors of my own.
3. Extra dollars never hurt.

On my first day, I was put into a Therapeutic Emotional Support (TES) class with only five kids. Throughout the day, all but one of the kids left at some point to go to another room. Despite the small numbers, it was always myself and at least one other person – usually some type of therapist – in the room at all times. This was a group of wonderful kids all suffering from various mental health issues, all on the autistic spectrum, who need specialized curriculums, different learning approaches, and individualized attention. The therapist with whom I started my morning congratulated me on choosing such an unexpected assignment as my first subbing job. “Figured I’d jump right into the extremes,” I told her.

To be honest, working with those kids was amazing. They really took to me. Whether it was because I was a man, or because I was a new face, it’s hard to say, but I resonated with them and they connected with me. All the work got done, nobody had any meltdowns or attacks, and I felt like I made a difference in their day.

Only two other days of work have followed: a full day of high school history, and a half day of a standard second grade class. High school is simple because the students don’t need your attention, which is also why it’s remarkably boring. The second graders were the most difficult so far. They were rowdy and disrespectful to a surprising level. Go figure.

It’s only been three days, but I’m already finding that I have had more patience with my own children over the past two weeks. I’ve been more understanding of their needs and their tantrums. I’ve barely yelled, we’ve been able to talk through problems, and even though they flipped out a couple times over absolutely nothing, I didn’t feel the need to flip out back at them. And honestly, even if I don’t keep subbing past this school year, I’ll be happy if continued development of that patience and empathy is my primary takeaway from the experience.

We’ll see how first grade goes next week. Until then –