I had taught school before my sons were born and the grades I taught were not primary ones. Had dealt with first graders as I did my first part of student teaching in the first grade and that was not a fun experience at all. The second part of student teaching was in the fourth grade and it was wonderful. I had felt blessed to have taught the fourth grade and then the fifth prior to quitting teaching.
When my older son was two and a half and my younger son was six months old, I had no choice but to try subbing for our lives were not Utopia. Too many things were needed for them and I thought with subbing, I could pick and choose the grades and the schools where I would go. Well that was partly right in the choice of schools but not the choice of grades: My up the street neighbor was in charge of getting substitute teachers to fill in for teachers.
I talked to her and explained how I felt. She then called me several days later and asked me “Would you like to sub in kindergarten for two weeks?” “Kindergarten?” I asked her? “Two weeks?” “Yes and it would be easy, for you’d teach the same thing in the mornings that you’d teach in the afternoons to two different sets of students.” I was speechless on the phone. “I’ve never been around young kids except my own. Can I call you back this afternoon?” “Sure” she said “but don’t forget for this job will go fast.”
Mulled the idea over and over in my mind. It meant that I would have to get a babysitter and it also meant being away from my little sons for two weeks. Called my mother –in-law and she said she’d love to babysit. “I hope this is the right thing to do” I remember telling her. “Yes it is and it will be good for you and for me as well” she happily replied. And so I called my neighbor and said “I’ll take the job but where is it?” “It’s at Taft elementary and I’ll call and get you the job.”
I knew where Taft elementary was located but I had no car. All weekend I worried about not only how to get there but how to teach five year olds. Good heavens, it wasn’t in my experience. My mother in law said “I’ll take you and come and get you. And your sons will be with me.” There it was –etched in stone. No way out but to do it.
Come Monday morning, my then-husband had left for work and I was hurrying around the house cleaning up this and straightening up that while waiting for her to pick us up. When I saw her car, panic set in me. “Do I really want to do this?” I thought to myself. She came inside and we got my sons ready and off we went to Taft.
I remember walking in the school’s front door and going to the principal’s office. “I’m here to sub in kindergarten” I told her. “Glad you’re here and by the way, the kindergarten in not in the school.” “What?” I asked her. “It’s in a church down the street; I’ll give you the key to the door.” There was no way I was going to ask the principal why the kindergarten was down the street much less in a church. “How far is it?” I asked her. “Oh, not far. You’ll see it” she told me.
Down the street I flew with that key in my hand; had no idea what to expect at all. Tried the front door only to be met by some woman that apparently worked there who then told me “You need to go around the back and open up the door with that key.” By now I was hysterical and went around the back, unlocked the door and found myself in a kindergarten room. It was a few minutes until the aide showed up—what a relief that was.
I darted to the teacher’s desk to check out the lesson plans: What she had written down for the week, would not last half an hour and what she had written down for the next week was even worse. I had no choice but to improvise that first day that seemed endless. The only break besides recess and nap time was lunch and that meant that I had to walk the entire morning class down the street to Taft where they ate lunch [as did I in the faculty lounge] and then walk back with all of the five year olds.
When that group left, the afternoon class walked in. Most of the afternoon was improvising on my part, for the lesson plans would not last nor did they work. I used all sorts of former things I had done with my fourth and fifth graders hoping to teach at least something for kindergarteners can’t read or most of them couldn’t. There was some success and I was never so glad to hear the school bell ring for it meant that school was out for the day.
My mother-in-law was waiting outside the school and I had to walk down the street to let her see me. I was never so glad to get in her car in my life much less to be with my sons. “How’d it go?” she asked. “Don’t ask me right now” was my answer.
That evening after fixing dinner and spending time with my sons, I got an old school bag and searched all over for things I had used before as a teacher. “One day down and nine more to go!” I said aloud. I found quite a lot and put them in the bag because they were going to be needed for those nine more days. Don’t even remember getting in bed but know that I did for I heard my then-husband telling me “Wake up! You’ll be late.”
This day I was armed and full of ideas. And I remember that I had a wide silver cuff bracelet on each arm, a dress, red heels and that bag as well as my pocketbook. My dark brown hair was almost black and long. My mother-in-law dropped me off at the school and I told my sons “Bye” and thanked her. Checked in with the principal and off I went down the street to that church. Yes, I had the key.
The aide was waiting for me; I unlocked the door and we both went inside. “Today’s going to be different and a better one” I told her. She semi-smiled at me and I noticed she was looking at my silver cuff bracelets but said nothing. This time, I was prepared as I had laid things out the day before and was ready for the first group. Slowly but surely the kindergarteners came in the room and sat at their tables. Attendance was taken and so was the lunch count when all of a sudden a little girl looked at me and said “Are you Wonder Woman?”
Ah the silver cuff bracelets had worked their magic but I had not done it intentionally. “What do you think?” I asked her? “I think you are!” she screeched. It was then that a little boy asked “Are you going to fly around the room?” Pausing I said “Well you never know but if I do, it will be so fast that you won’t see me do it.” A hush fell over the room and I had to turn around so that they couldn’t see me laughing.
The aide looked at me and I looked back at her with a “you know what I mean” look.
“You even have on red shoes” said another little girl.” “Yes I do.” The morning went by so fast that it was time to walk down the block to lunch. My aide and I made sure that they were all seated and I saw them talking among themselves. I saw one little boy say “Wonder Woman!”
When that class went home, I am certain that some, if not all of the students passed the word onto the next group for I heard a kindergartener in that group ask me “Are you really Wonder Woman?” I went through the same routine as I had that morning about flying around the room. Shock set in and lasted all afternoon.
For the rest of that week and the next, I wore those silver cuff bracelets each day—and my red shoes. It was as if magic had settled over the entire classroom both morning and afternoon. I couldn’t count the times I was asked if I were going to fly or where were my super powers. “I only use my super powers in an emergency and all of you have been so wonderful that I didn’t need to use them.” Little smiles lit up the room.
That was my last afternoon class and the last of subbing in kindergarten. I’m sure that each little kid went home and had told their parents that they thought I was Wonder Woman. At least those silver cuff bracelets and my red shoes worked wonders. I was so relieved to actually call it a day and go home for good. The bag of things I had gathered up remained with me when I would sub again but it never was in kindergarten again.
My hat goes off to those that teach kindergarten for it is not easy at all as I found out. But wearing a silver cuff bracelet on each arm and having on red shoes did wonders for those two weeks as well as having a bag of books and a notebook of ideas.
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