Connection. I believe it is everything. We are always affecting others…even if we do not see it. We are either making drops, ripples or waves in the frequency of our linked experience. There is a thread holding us all together.
I tell my own little messengers it is like a very colorful quilt. We all have our own square that we decorate and represent. One fact is certain. All of the pieces are woven together. Some fragments are perfectly clean, embellished and yes, oh so fake! Others are confusing and dark, clouded with turbulence and pain. Other scraps are just plain disgusting and heavily trampled upon. The hopeful luminous sections continue to pulse out little beams of light, regardless. Why? They have chosen to overcome. Do you get the picture? They are all patched together somehow, someway, forever influencing each other.
Okay, so I started this entire thought process with the intention of sharing my experiences as a Substitute Teacher in a public school district. Geesh! That is a dreadfully long introduction, but I do believe it may be necessary. The public classroom is a great representation of the quilt.
Being a sub isn’t for everyone, but I absolutely affectionately ADORE it!! I definitely thrive on change in order to feel alive, and there is nothing quite like being thrown in to a different situation from day-to-day (I so badly want to say ‘den of wolves’) and attempting to land on my feet. Although I want peace, I treasure challenges, so being a sub gives me that great opportunity to act fast, set structure quickly, all the while remembering to pause and feel. I must gather and be attentive to the students…the little people, the crazy ones, the hurt ones, the ignored ones and the disciplined ones. My goal is to get through the lesson plan and actually accomplish maybe 75% of the items that the organized under-paid real teacher has left us for the day. It always becomes a vividly lumpy most-marvelous ride.
INSIGHTS: I have great respect for these real teachers. I have found them to be exquisitely prizes of humanness…people who can actually influence and teach my own little messengers when I cannot.
The most significant thing I have learned from subbing is that the kids I am toughest on, have to draw the line with, thinking they will hate me forever….are the ones that come running for my hugs in the grocery stores. They go out of their way to introduce me to their mothers and siblings when I am in my sweats and no make-up on. It is usually in the moments of my self-loathing that they catch me by surprise. They let me know that I am their little piece of The Gold Thread.
My own kids rarely listen to my oh-so guided words of wisdom. Therefore, I am always bewildered that the students in the classroom often respond to me. Wow!! They can hear my voice? They can feel my cues? Yes, they certainly can.
Here are some of their responses just this week:
As I unlock the classroom door and peer out my head, a 2nd grader runs to me in full embrace and exclaims with a big grin “The best substitute ever for all people!” Really? With a greeting like that…how can it be a bad day? It cannot. She is an artsy soul, always drawing, hardly ever working. She is one I have to harp on to stay on task. I know her from another school, another year. I also praise her…I tell her what a wonderful creative person she is. We are connected through The Gold Thread.
A 7th grade young lady, after witnessing a rough interaction I experience with a boy taller than me, and with more attitude than me, names me Sensei Sorter. Sorter is my last name. And really, that is all I actually do all day…sort things out. I impulsively say out loud “Oh no…was I too mean?” …thinking I do not want to play some one-sided Commander Jerkface role in their lives. This quirky clever student gleams at me with respect all day… and the other students start calling me Sensei Sorter, as well. They explain to me that it is a name of great honor and educate me with mind-boggling weighty historical information. They’ve got me. I am wrapped around their beating hearts. They are studying the Middle Ages with their real teacher. I am humbled. I listen and receive even more. After what for me was a tumultuous start, we end up merrily rolling through the day. I watch them, they compete to impress me with their hard work. They all want my approval. It is funny how the day can turn around in a split-second. I end up grabbing some elementary stickers out of my messy satchel. If I was prepared I would have brought chocolate. I roam the room, handing out smiley faces and little red apples and kittens that say “perfect” to super hip 7th Graders. They love them. They lighten up. Even the tough boys put them on their foreheads, their books, their clothes. They wear them proudly all day. We are all vibrating through The Gold Thread.
Another strong, smart, sometimes-naughty 3rd-grade boy recognizes me out at the bus line after school. He has red hair, freckles and reminds me of Dennis-The-Menace. I had to evacuate the entire classroom once for him in Kindergarten while the Vice Principal kindly removed his baby-cheeked chair-throwing persona from the area. He runs up to me, stops and boastfully yells “I have not gotten into trouble once this year!” I hold up my hand, beam and give him five. We will always be connected through The Gold Thread.
On Friday (all teachers are in love with Friday), as I walk around the room of a highly-capable class, I notice that two students are giggling. They are supposed to be answering questions on a Scholastic News worksheet that we just read through together. I notice they are editing the questions with a red pen. Then my heart melts. They have noticed the word “substitute” in one of the questions and have eloquently re-designed the entire inquiry to be about me. Instead of the original, “Which phrase is the best substitute for ‘engaged’ as it is used in the article?”…the paper now states “Which is the best substitute?” The answer is written in, “Mrs. S.” The article is on the video game Minecraft. It debates whether or not it is a learning tool. The neighboring student has written my name in red. It proclaims “Ms. S. Minecraft is nothing compared to her.”
I am speechless. These children, born of someone else, are all of our little messengers. How lucky am I to be connected to their little Gold Threads?