There’s so many challenges to being a teacher, and even more to being a long term Substitute Teacher (all the work, half the perks… no union). Every day has its perks if you look hard enough for them, though. Today, my perk came in the form of a formerly challenging student being in the discipline office; trust me, I know how that sounds- I am not a teacher that hold grudges against students nor do I enjoy seeing students getting disciplined or suspended, but if he wasn’t there talking to one of the Vice Principals (VPs), I never would have seen him or gotten to catch up. I’ll take the win in this case.
Let me tell you about this guy. He was a student in the most emotionally draining class I’ve ever had (they’re the group that ran off the seasoned teacher before me) and he and I regularly had what could be described as heated discussions about the fact that I didn’t believe in “bad kids” – a label he really enjoyed hiding in. Today, he was in the office as a result of racking up too many tardies which resulted in a one day suspension; while I would have rather seen him in a class I was covering, I was excited to see him either way. While we were talking, two of the VPs each poked their heads out of their offices, with one coming out to greet me and mention she was trying to get our student into woodshop next semester- which fits this guy perfectly. He needed education that got him up, moving, and used parts of his attention that is under-stimulated by lecture and essay writing. I was so excited to see her taking a personal and solution-based approach to one of the kids who taught me as much as I taught him in our time together.
This morning, I asked him how he was doing (other than his impending suspension of course). He said he was doing better now that he was “away from the bad kids” at our other school, but quickly redirected to “the kids I used to get in trouble with” after I looked at him in the “I KNOW you know better face” he must remember so clearly from our time together in his eighth grade English class. His sister still goes to the middle school I spend most of my time at, so I asked him to let her know where my room was in case she needed anything. When I asked what class was his favorite, I was surprised to hear that his favorite is a class that is notoriously one of the most difficult classes on campus (several of the honors kids I’ve taught had to drop it) and congratulated him on working hard enough to enjoy the class and the teacher. We talked about strategies to get to school on time and avoid another suspension for such a stupid reason. We talked about his interests outside of school.
The only thing I didn’t tell him was how proud I was of him for not only reaching sophomore year, but also for thriving and finding what works for him and what doesn’t. I wish I had.