The past month was a grand adventure.
The day I found out the furlough was coming, I began the application process to become a substitute teacher at our local school. Any income is better than none, and I was a teacher before I became a federal employee. The only reason I left was because it didn’t pay well enough to support a family of five, so I welcomed the chance to spend time doing something I love and am good at.
The first thing I learned is it is harder to become a substitute today than it was to get hired as a certified teacher twenty years ago. Since I have three children in our local school, I don’t think it should be an easy process—the background checks and other delays are important. I just didn’t expect it to take as long as it did.
During the days in wait, I learned that laundry, breakfast dishes, sweeping and mopping, and cooking lunch and dinner make the day go by quickly. And I can cook quite well, though I don’t plan to advertise it. Unless you are an attractive female or one of my children, I probably won’t cook for you. Also, no matter how many times you sweep, or how many dishes you clean, there will always be more dirt and dishes.
Government shutdowns are a great way to get in shape. Instead of sitting at my desk, I did the above, plus had unlimited time to run and lift weights. Running during the workday, though, made me feel guilty, so I still tried to wait until the end of the workday. Still, I lost ten pounds and my long run went from six to ten miles. Half marathon, anyone?
My first call to sub surprised me. I didn’t know I was approved until I got a text that asked, “Can you cover a third-grade class tomorrow and a sixth-grade class on Monday?” I replied, “Of course!”
During my time being a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade teacher—I had the opportunity to teach instead of just administering busy work—I learned that I’m able to adapt, that elementary teachers and students love having men on campus, which is rare, and I’m still considered a “young” sub, much to my delight. I also re-learned how exhausting it is to teach all day. If you believe teachers are over-paid, we can’t be friends.
What the old grouches need to hear is that, while there are a few stinkers, kids today are like kids always have been. They are generally bright, respectful, and eager to please.
By the way, fourth grade is my favorite, even though my certification is in secondary education.
Outside of teaching, and despite what conservative talk radio says, companies are not “hiring like crazy.” My savings turned out to be enough. But had Trump kept his promise to keep the government closed “for months,” it would have eventually run out, so I was looking for alternatives. Jobs aren’t easy to find unless you can afford to work for just a snip over minimum wage. I saw multiple listings for jobs that required at least a bachelor’s if not master’s and paid less than $30,000 (much like teaching in Texas). I feel for new college graduates (hi, Shayne!). What I have not learned is whether an apostrophe goes before the “s” in “bachelors” and “masters.”
The most important lesson I learned, once again, is to be thankful. I have a good job and live in a good community—two things I take for granted until I’m faced with losing them.