The dark cloud of doubt hung over me as I drove to work. It was only the second week of school and I had been gone for two days laid up with a cold. My voice was slowly coming back to life, but it still lingered in the ICU. The cough, the sniffles, and the sinus pressure still hung on. Yet at work, the homework piled up and my curriculum materials lay dormant on my desk; if I didn’t want to walk into a total mess on Monday, I needed to go in and get everything and prevent my classes from falling behind.
Then there was the thought of the subs and my students. I knew my students were good, but I had made some parent phone calls before I left, and sometimes there’s the fall-out of an angry student. I’ve also seen my “angelic” students who would do anything I asked, turn on a sub they didn’t like. Then there’s the case of the seasoned sub who lost his cool with one of my more rowdy (but good-natured) classes. Had he waited five minutes, they would have calmed down and got to work. Instead he flipped out, got ridicuously angry, which caused my kids to lose it some more, and then got into an altercation with one of my students. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what happened in order to determine my next steps. While my students didn’t have model Dick and Jane behavior, they weren’t being bad or doing anything out of character. It was the sub who flipped.
I had no idea what I would find waiting for me, nor did I know how my kids would respond to me not having a voice. What I found was both good and disheartening. The good: two nice notes from both subs telling me how good my kids were (WHEW!). The disheartening: the second sub was brand new and thought my detailed lesson plan (that allocated specific amounts of time to each activity) was arbitrary and proceeded to do things his way. One of my TAs, who has a better understanding of how my class runs than I do, tried to steer him onto the correct course. He brushed her off and said, “I got it! It’s all good!” (which is code for “something’s going to hit the shitter”). The warm-up he put on the board were not either of my warm-ups and had nothing to do with either of my classes. Because of his actions, we’re all a day behind.
What made me feel better was my kids’ kindness and support. They were all respectful, did their work and many offered to “speak” for me. When the class got to chatty, they corrected themselves. One student said, “This activity doesn’t require talking!”. One of my students whose parents I called earlier in the week went out of his way to be helpful. Everyone worked together and got along. Two boys created a rap about my illness; one rapped that I was “fakin’ it” while the other rapped about how I was really sick. They had me and the class in stitches. Another student showed me an app for short stories she thought I would like. It was an amazing day.
It’s really easy to become negative about today’s youth. It’s easy to say that they’re lazy and they don’t care and they have a grand sense of entitlement– it’s easy to say this about them because often it’s true (and I’ve had my share of them). But kids are good, too. Most kids want an opportunity to be good and be recognized for good behaviors. My kids reminded me of that.