As I write this I’m actually in a classroom with papers scattered here and there, chairs somewhat disheveled, and a semi-organized pile of class-work on the desk in front of me. I am a substitute teacher and I have the responsibility this week of covering for a sweet young teacher whose family has suffered a tragic loss. As a result of this sudden tragedy the teacher was not able to leave detailed lesson plans because she, and rightly so, could only be concerned with getting to her family and uniting with them in the crisis they had just encountered.
From the start I realize that I cannot do very much to help her with the grief and heartache, regardless of how much I would like to. What I can do is attempt to make this period of sorrow as bearable as I am able in the area I am able by doing the best I can filling-in for her in the classroom and providing a degree of continuity for the students.
This is the role of the substitute, or as some have identified the position, a guest-teacher. Most often I am called on to cover for a teacher who might have an appointment, or a training event. In these occurrences I usually find well organized and detailed plans. The instructor has had ample time to prepare for their absence and at times even negotiate benefits or consequences with the student in reference to their behavior. On occasion a teacher falls ill and needs coverage with limited warning, plans are often emailed to the school secretary or a colleague of the teacher to deliver to me.
Then, in situations such as this, there is no warning and the pain and grief of the circumstance do not provide for the provision of plans as the teachers life is thrown into chaos in the crisis. The substitute’s role here is to do all I can to make sure that the teacher has nothing to worry about here, and to provide the kids with continuity in the class room.
I am thankful for the experience I have had in preparing lessons and teaching, and I am especially grateful for the relationship I have with the school and faculty here and for the support that they provide to each other—especially visible in the concern for this teacher and her family—and to the guests in their building.
Many Blessings and Prayers for the Teacher I’m Covering and her Family!