March 4: As I stepped out of the car to pick up our pizza, I heard a large group of children playing joyfully in the cold dark night. A schoolyard lay on the other side of the fence, but still… At last, with pizza on the carseat next to me, I rounded several corners until I drove past the schoolyard parking lot. There, a half-dozen people with fluorescent vests and orange torches directed scores of waiting cars to their proper rows and columns. I imagined the parents sending their kids out to play while they waited patiently. I had pizza, but those families were treated to their school’s first Fried Fish Dinner of Lent.
March 5: I walked past two little girls this afternoon but didn’t say hello. I walked past two little dogs but didn’t stoop to pet them. Eventually, I walked past two very furry buds on a tree. Then I caught myself, turned around and gently rubbed their softness between thumb and forefinger. I will choose differently if I see the little girls and the little dogs again.
March 6: I needed to dress for three hours of front-yard gardening when all of my neighbors would be walking by. And I promptly discovered that I don’t have gardening pants.
So I rooted through a bag of old clothes and found a pair of red flannel pants with white dots. To protect my arms against cuttings and sweepings, I donned a long-sleeve red shirt. Then I placed a red baseball cap on my head. Hmmm. I needed something to hold my cell phone and complete my eye-catching outfit. I know, a fanny-pack would be just the thing.
March 7: This morning, I drove past a teenage girl in orange high-top sneakers, chartreuse backpack and pink striped hair tied in two bunches. She was heading in my direction: to our local high school, where I was about to start my new career as a substitute teacher. Thirty minutes later (and a little bit nervous), I waited outside my first classroom. Then I saw the same teenage girl: sneakers, backpack, candy-store hair. My good luck charm. I took a deep breath and entered my classroom.
Bonus: My friend Jennifer said she enjoyed watching me garden yesterday. My attire worked perfectly.
March 8: I stood at the door of my fifth grade class and greeted the children as they entered. Almost without exception they welcomed me with a wave or a smile. Even though they’d never met me before, they already trusted me. And I realized that I trusted them. So in our morning circle, I introduced myself and asked for help: to find the computer programs they were using, to honor their room’s customs and routines, and to coach me if I did the wrong thing.
Six children immediately volunteered to be my assistant. Another child helped a classmate find their computer-based lesson. One asked me for help with math (fractions! lowest common denominators! acronyms I didn’t understand!). The entire class taught me the “Listen to Teacher” clap, which I hadn’t heard since Nate and Jeremiah left fifth grade many years ago. And a little boy gave me a wrapped cake when he saw that I had nothing to nibble during snack time.
March 9: Today I learned that weather stations collect so much hourly data that the information needs to be transmitted in code. I learned the codes for precipitation, cloud-cover, wind speed and barometric pressure. And I learned how to summarize all that data (and more) in an pictogram the size of a thumbnail. . . . A person can learn a lot grading assignments for two high school Earth Science classes.
Bonus: Today I received a note from the teacher of my (um, I mean, “the”) fifth grade class I served yesterday: “The students loved having you as a substitute teacher. They described how kind you were and how you treated them as partners in learning. Thank you! I am going to be out Tuesday March 29 if you are available to come back — the children would love it!”
The Earth Science teacher also asked me to sub for her on March 29. What to do?
March 10: I took a long, long afternoon nap.
Bonus: I can’t stop looking at this splendid New Zealand sunflower from Thistles & Kiwis.
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