Monday, December 1, 2008

The Substitute Teacher

“No! No! No! I am never ever going back there again.” Stacey told her daughter Karen when Karen came to check on how Stacey was doing on her first day back at work after a hiatus of thirty years.

“Sorry it didn’t work out for you, Mum,” said Karen.

“You said it would be good for me, I almost had a panic attack,” sobbing and wiping her tears on her sleeves.

“Come now, I will make us a cup of tea and you can tell me all about it.”


Stacey was trained as a secondary school teacher, and was a stay-home mum after her daughter Karen was born. Her husband Bob was a successful real estate agent and later manager. They were financially well off and there was no need for Stacey to return to the work force even when Karen had left home. She was happy with her charity work and volunteering at the neighbourhood senior citizens’ home.

Then Bob dropped dead from a severe heart attack. Stacey mopped about at home refusing to go out. She missed Bob, the one and only man in her life. Her whole life had evolved around him, and without him, she was at a complete loss. When Karen came to visit, most often, she found Stacey still in her dressing gown staring blankly at the television screening with its volume at full blast.

“Mum, you can't sit around the whole day like this. The matron of the rest home had been asking when you were going there?” asked Karen.

“Karen, please give me time. I don’t have the mood for anything else.”

Karen rang Stacey’s pastor and asked for help. John came with his wife Sue.

“Stacey, you might enjoy going out once in a while,” suggested Sue.

“I don’t know, I have been dependent on Bob for so long that I am at a loss in what to do.”

Karen suggested, “Perhaps you can try substitute teaching one or two days a week. You were a very good teacher before, Dad used to tell me.”

Karen rang an employment agency and found Stacey a job substituting in a school two days a week. It was quite a distance away, and it would take Stacey almost an hour to drive there.


Stacey arrived in the school and was ushered to the staff room. Nobody talked to her. She felt very nervous. The class teacher who she was substituting for rushed in.

Jan said, “Sorry! Stacey. I am on release and have a meeting. I will introduce you to the class and then I am afraid I have to leave you.”

The class was a new entrant class of five year olds. Some of the children had just started the day before and a third of the children were International kids who didn’t speak any English. The kids were a pack of rascals, and the situation became chaotic. The children were supposed to be sitting on the mat, but they were standing up and moving around.

“Children, please sit down while I do the class roll,” Stacey implored them.

“I want to go to the toilet,” shouted one kid.

Suddenly, they all wanted to go.

“OK, one at a time,” said Stacey.

“But we have two toilets.”

“No! just one at a time,” said an emphatic Stacey.

A teacher came in, she was a specialist teacher who took those kids who didn’t speak English to her special language room

“I am staying in your room to observe one of my children,” said Diane.

'Blow! I was not told that I would be observed by another teacher,' thought Stacey.

The children behaved better when Diane sat on the chair near them.

'Diane doesn’t approve of my handling of the kids, I can see she is trying to look neutral.'

Then Stacey noticed the two girls sitting right below nose had gone.

“Diane, will you please find them for me.” requested Stacey.

Diane looked all over the school compound for these two insolent girls. She reported to the office, and the school manager put through an announcement through the inter-com to look for them. The school prefects went out to search.

After a frantic search, the two girls were found hurdling together at the sports shed, hidden from the view by some flax bushes.

The deputy principal took the girls to Stacey and Diane and made them apologise for the worry they had caused.

The drama didn’t end there. For the rest of the day, it was one trouble after another.

“Jan, I never had such a terrible day in my life,” Stacey reported.

“I am sorry you were given such a bad class. Life as a teacher these days is never easy, and we don’t get paid enough for all this trouble. Tomorrow will be better.” reassured Jan.

'Tomorrow? Wild horses won’t drag me here. I won’t be coming back.'


“So Karen, I am not going back. I don’t need the money, I don’t need all this trouble.” said Stacey.

Karen gave Stacey a kiss and a hug, “Sorry, mum, I am sorry I cause you so much distress, may be you should just go back volunteering.”

No comments: