Back To School

There is something about the smell of a school.  It doesn’t really matter what school, because they all have the same basic smell…as if it was built into the walls during construction.
When I walked into the high school on my first day as a substitute teacher, I was struck by the fact that this high school smelled exactly the same as the one I’d done time in, 600 miles and a lifetime ago. 
I’d always wanted to be a teacher, but life had intervened.  Now I was in a classroom at last, albeit as a substitute, and I was terrified.
Memories of high school suddenly snapped into focus, like that moment in a horror movie when you finally see the monster for the first time.  I remembered what had happened to some of our subs.  What was I thinking?  These kids had no reason to do anything I told them to do.  I was screwed.
I sucked a breath into frozen lungs as I watched thirty students, every one taller than I was, pour through the door as the bell rang. 
It was too late to back out now, and I needed the job.
“James Aborn,” I called out the first name on the roster.
“Yo, whazzup girl?”  The cocky voice rose from the back, and scattered giggles followed it up.
Without thinking I walked back to his desk.  “Would you like a second chance on your first impression, Mr. Aborn?” I asked him, my voice low and calm.
The lanky body sank lower in his seat and his eyes met mine briefly.  “Y-yes ma’am.”
“Good choice.”  I walked casually back to the front.  “James Aborn?”
“Here!”
I moved on to the next name, “Lizzie Allen?”
“Here!”
My fear retreated with each name.  I was going to be fine.

This post is a response to a prompt from Write On Edge – “In “On Writing” Stephen King wrote, “The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”  The word limit was 300 – a hard number to hit!  Thank you for stopping by, and as always, comments are appreciated!

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14 thoughts on “Back To School

  1. Go you! As a former teacher, I admire and respect your command of the first day.

    As a total wuss terrified to substitue, I admire and respect your kick-assiness. 🙂

    Fantastic moment to capture!

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  2. Not Just – Thank you! Part of the life that intervened was giving in to the people who told me I had no business wanting to teach high school. I was too short, too nice, to handle teenagers…and I should teach elementary. Standing up as a sub and succeeding was incredibly empowering!

    Julie – Thanks! They're mine too!

    Galit – I used to call myself and the other subs “Moving Targets.” Subbing was all about being the Dread Pirate Roberts – remember that bit from “The Princess Bride?” After the first couple of weeks, my reputation preceded me into every classroom and behavior management was a non-issue. That's when I could have fun and enjoy the kids, and they could have fun with me.

    Amybeth – teenagers are terrifying! “Mean Girls” was actually a horror movie, I'm telling you!

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  3. Wow, I am totally impressed. That worked! I taught for a while and substituted. I never would have had the guts to call a student out like that. I would have laughed along. You can see how many of my first classes probably went. Yeah, they walked all over me. Until I was in tears. But I toughened up.
    Way to go! Expect better than they give you and they will rise to the occasion.

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  4. Anastasia – I didn't have time to think about it…I think if I had I would have frozen right up!

    FinallyMom – high schoolers are tough…middle school? They're really REALLY scary! lol

    Wild Child – They definitely rise! One of the hardest parts for me was when they'd say something hilarious…but I couldn't let myself laugh because it was also wildly inappropriate! They don't need that sort of encouragement!

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  5. I admire your quick thinking. I was a substitute teacher once upon a time. I took a different tack. I started the class off by slamming the door. It worked, but it's not something I'm proud of.

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  6. Nicely played! Subbing is such an interesting game, isn't it? I taught middle school, but when I subbed, I liked the high schoolers. They generally had a sense of humor 🙂

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