I remember not being overly kind (read childishly cruel) to the substitute teachers in my life. Childishly cruel is probably better described as bratty or disdainful or angsty or some other word that explains the eye rolling and defiant attitude I took towards teachers. I played what I thought were exceptionally crafty practical jokes and obfuscations–silly lies I believe most people would call them. Perhaps I should fear a reckoning.
Though I was less than a model student, I hope the teachers who really inspired me did not bare the full brunt of my rebel without applause. I am talking to you Mr. Hamp, Mr. Moyes, Veronique the francais lab facilitator, Professor Carmichael and the physics TA who put up with poor calculations.
I became a teacher either to atone for my sins, or to prove one does not need to be reincarnated to feel the full effects of Karma. This could include, but is not limited to, students that don’t listen, students that would rather “chat” on their phones than to the live person next to them, students who don’t do their homework, students who do too much homework and students who still haven’t learned their irregular verbs.
While today was certainly not the reckoning that I am due, it was a reminder that such a thing is forever looming. You see, today, I was the substitute teacher. Today I walked into class and a student, perhaps in confusion, perhaps in revulsion, got up to check if he was in the right room.
“This is Upper Intermediate four, isn’t it?” He inquired.
I was about to compliment him on his use of a tag question and explain my presence in the room.
“Joanna is my teacher.”
Sadly, I have not gotten my sarcastic response under control, yet. My family criticized this point, but I hope they have learned to live with it. ESL students, for the most part, are oblivious, so I answered automatically and rather sarcastically, “I know.”
After clearing up my reason for being their teacher for the day, I explained that I was merely a substitute and that Joanna would be back for the next class and that they would only have to deal with me for a limited time.
What has all this got to do with life? Well, what unfolded for the next hour was a rather quiet class. We’re talking crickets chirping quiet–except with it being winter in Toronto, there are no crickets.
Yes, things eventually livened up. This could be attributed to dogged determination, tried and true application of teaching techniques and rapport building, the coffee finally kicking in, dumb luck or sheer force of personality.
However, I was just the substitute. My time was limited and now I am not more than a footnote in their collective memory.