mary fucking poppins

by Miss What's-Your-Name-Again?

Dear Substitute Who Was Here Yesterday,

I’m not sure there is a good way of putting this, so I’ll just come out and say it: the kids totally hated you! They hated your irrelevant television references, your stupid jokes, your desperate sports trivia. HATED them all, worst day at school ever.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

They were so relieved to see a face that wasn’t yours they did everything short of hoist me up on their shoulders and chant my name (probably just because I hadn’t told it to them yet.) They almost had me believing that I had floated down to campus holding onto a little black umbrella instead of pulling up in a dented 2000 Corolla, sipping lukewarm coffee and trying to figure out how Nickleback had made its way into my Sufjan Stevens Pandora station.   And I couldn’t have done it without you, so thanks a bunch.

I was so rad; I hopped casually onto the teacher’s desk, telling them, “Now guys, be nice.  It’s intimidating for some teachers [i.e. not me] to come into a 6th grade class.  She was just trying to find a way to relate to you guys.”

See I can be charitable when I’m on top.

And on top I was. With you to break the ice, I slid effortlessly into my position as “Coolest Substitute of all Time.” We put up halloween decorations instead of doing silent reading. I used the smart board! I called kids out when they weren’t on task, and still had them high-fiving me on their way to lunch. And we got the work done because everyone wants to please the cool sub.

It’s a funny thing too… what attitude can do to a person’s day. Once I believed that I was this Muhammad Ali of substitutes, suddenly all of the chips fell in my favor. Did I actually remember how to do the math that I was supposed to be teaching today? I didn’t, but suddenly I did! Do I have lunch duty? No?! Recess duty?! NO! In my break time, I cheerfully organize and annotate the day’s work with rainbow-colored post-its. I meet the faculty with swagger, looking responsible and pert. I manage to get every single student to return their laptop… no last-minute, school-wide search for that ONE GODDAMN MISSING LAPTOP today! I go down to the office to get my carpool duty assignment, and am politely informed that she doesn’t have one. That means I am dismissed forty-five minutes early, I zoom down the [unspecified major highway] sans rush hour traffic. Thank YOU!

It makes me wonder how life would be if I woke up every day feeling like a champ. Would I still be living in my tiny studio apartment, living paycheck to paycheck? Because the rock-star me of today, I truly believe, could have anything she wants! Why did I need the validation of a classroom of prepubescent private school kids to feel like a (more ethnic, less edgy) Patti Smith? As I look at the dirty dishes in my shoebox kitchen, place a pointless ice cube on the dying orchid on my coffee table, and coax my window a/c unit into working again, I already feel it losing its sheen. The ball is over, the fancy dress is gone. My magic flying umbrella has turned back into a 2000 dented Corolla, littered with school parking passes and Luna Bar wrappers.

It is then, of course, that I hear in my head what I am constantly telling students: confidence has to come from within. You gotta discover your swagger within yourself, because the kind you get from others just doesn’t last.

But man it’s still pretty sweet.

Sincerely,

Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

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