My classroom is on the second floor, and the adjoining hallway has a window that looks out over the gym. As I walked passed it the other day, I saw the PE class running drills in full gear. The thought that crossed my mind? “Man, I’m glad I’m not subbing that.”
That thought made me pause. Subbing. Was it really only a month ago that I was subbing? Have I really spent over half of my career subbing? Have I really only been back in full-time teaching for just over a week?
Teaching is so right, so natural, that as soon as I’m back it feels like I never left. Sure, the building is different. The break room has different amenities. My colleagues and students wear different faces, and there are different procedures and details for me to learn. But the act of teaching is the same. The major difficulties, the questions, and the skills used are – at their core – the same as everywhere else I’ve taught. I stand in front of a room full of hormone-filled, easily distracted teenagers, and I employ every strategy I can to engage them in Shakespeare, research papers, and life lessons. It’s what I did in all the schools where I taught before, so the habits and instincts are already in place. I am a teacher again, not just a sub. I just let out a sigh of relief as I typed that sentence.
I feel at home here, and it’s not because I student taught at this school. A lot has changed since then, for them as well as for me. Seven years ago they were meeting in a different building, had a different principal and administrative staff, and only a few of the teachers I met then are still around. Rather, I feel at home because I can finally feel at home. I can settle in, develop a routine, and take attendance just by glancing over the faces in the room, instead of awkwardly reading off an unfamiliar roster. I can walk the halls and be recognized, instead of being stopped by a security guard asking to see my ID. I have students bantering with me, proclaiming themselves to be my favorites, and asking whose names I know already. I’m answering questions about assignments, instead of saying “you’ll have to check with your teacher when he/she gets back.” I am the teacher. I can’t express how right that feels.
All that being said, even as I throw myself into the work and weave myself into the fabric of the school, I am still keeping a part of myself reserved. I’m trying not to fall head-over-heels in love with the school and become too emotionally attached. I did that once before, and leaving that school crushed me. If I knew I would be staying here in the years to come, if I knew for sure that I won’t have to pack up my classroom and say goodbye at the end of the semester, I could invest myself completely into the school and these kids. But I don’t know yet. There are so many variables out of my control – my husband’s career, the school’s budget, etc. I may have to walk away from this school, like I’ve had to walk away from so many others. I try not to think about that too much, but I can’t ignore the reality of the situation, either.
Still, even if I only have a semester, I can love and appreciate that semester. I can build my skills even more, find new strategies, and improve my content knowledge. I’ll enjoy it while I have it, however long that may be.