I’m So Glad I Don’t Have to Work!

I am still recovering from last week. I subbed all five days in a kindergarten classroom. The students were well behaved, the teacher left decent plans, and I was the principal of this particular school twenty years ago. Still it took me three days to regain my energy. The hardest part of the assignment was standing on my feet for seven hours a day. Of course I wore my good athletic sneakers with my “professional outfits,” but my back was still sore at the end of every day. Two days I went to the gym after work to limber up. It worked on Wednesday. On Friday I went to the gym and could hardly do my routine. I went home and collapsed on my bed for three hours.

It was fun to interact with the five and six year-olds. I got lots of hugs and pictures drawn and colored for me at home. Kindergarten is all day and very academic these days. The kids switch for reading in order to be taught in achievement groups. I had one off-the-wall child in my reading group. One day he ran out of the classroom. Another day he locked himself in the boys’ bathroom while the psychologist was observing the class. On Friday he kicked and hit seven children and then ran off. When the principal tried to return him to my classroom, not knowing what behavior had sparked the escape, I informed her and gave her my “principal look.” She took him somewhere else for the rest of the period. I don’t know how the teacher can deal with him and teach the rest of the kids.

.Since I was the sub I could do fun things, like help them write a book and illustrate it, use playing cards for math, read and tell stories and act them out, and teach them songs. I brought in my puppets and used animal stickers for rewards.

The key point, though, is that I choose to do this, I don’t HAVE to work. I have a golden parachute from the district where I get paid extra for subbing as a retired teacher for a maximum of thirty days a school year. It serves as incentive for retirees and the district benefits from instruction going on more or less as usual, with some fun projects thrown in. All the retirees I know who substitute.bring their own bag of tricks. My bag of tricks includes favorite picture books, copy paper and Ed Emberley’s drawing books I teach the children to draw figures that actually look like race cars, bears, hippos, castles, etc., rewarding good classroom behavior with stories and drawing by following directions.

The money I earn is a nice cushion to pay country club dues or extra on my credit cards, but not essential for food or mortgage payments. I do have a friend who’s a real estate agent who worked convention registrations to eat during these lean times. She earned eight dollars an hour. It wasn’t a bad job but sometimes she was a room monitor and had to stand on her feet all day. Now that the real estate market is picking up, she \’s glad to jettison that job.

Although I never earned big bucks in education, even as a principal, the social contract is that educators earn a fair retirement. The attacks on pension programs scare me. I agree that high level officials shouldn’t get enormous sums. I don’t even think people should “double dip,” returning to the career they just retired from and getting a salary and a pension. But most of us education retirees are teachers and live modestly. We earned our pensions.



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