I’m a substitute teacher and quite a popular one – with the administration that is, not necessarily the kids. I didn’t mean for it to turn out this way. You see, I also have a part-time job as a strength and conditioning coach. This second job starts as soon as I get to the university from the elementary school. I sought and received the approval of the elementary school principals to wear black UnderArmour sports pants, neutral shoes, and a nice sweater and scarf to top off my teaching outfit. This allows me to partially strip at stoplights on my way to the university fitness center and arrive properly dressed for my second job.
It was my second day at the elementary school that won me my reputation as a disciplinarian. I’d put on my earrings, was wondering if one of the first graders would choke me with my amethyst pendant and then, unthinkingly, put my coach’s whistle around my neck and took off.
This class and the assignment were new to me. I was to be the assistant teacher to a new, just minted first grade teacher. The only hint that the very young teacher was actually a teacher and not a tall first grader was that all the other children addressed her as “Ms. Smiff.” Ms. Smith and I greeted each other, got the attendance taken, and sent off the lunch orders to the kitchen. Our first problem came when it came time to conduct the day’s first lesson. Ms. Smith couldn’t get the children to be quiet and still. She couldn’t even get them to be in the same universe as quiet. As far as “still,” they looked liked mini world extreme cage wrestlers. I didn’t have time to admire some of the holds as my attention was suddenly riveted by Ms. Smith clapping her hands, occasionally tapping the top of her head, and stomping on every third beat. The lyrics were something about “attention” and “quiet,” but it was difficult to tell with the degree of noise in the room. Unfortunately, I happened to be the only individual in the room who was paying attention to Ms. Smith and her song. Instead of being fascinated, silent, and immobile due to Ms. Smith’s song, the kids were loud, obnoxious, and twisted into a large knot of small people on the story rug.
I didn’t even think about it before I used it – the whistle, that is. But then again, it caused immediate silence and immobility. In fact, it caused a lasting silence and immobility. The awe on their tiny little faces was almost as special as the surprise on Ms. Smiff’s. And the lesson commenced.
I see Ms. Smith every now and again at that school. She always smiles, waves, and pulls her whistle out as an extra “hello.”