First Day of School

Diary of a Building Sub: Day 1

I didn’t sleep much last night, even knowing that I was unlikely to have an assignment today–on the first day of school, who’s going to be out, right? I expected to be on office duty or lunch room duty or running errands or generally assisting lost sixth graders and reminding 8th graders that their phones had to be off and out of sight. Nothing to be nervous about.

That, of course, is not what happened.

As soon as I arrived, a harried-looking office admin greeted me and directed me to go speak with the principal to see where he wanted me to be for the day because one of the Special Ed teachers had just given birth and they didn’t have a long-term sub yet but she didn’t know if he wanted me covering in there and could I just go talk to the principal who is out in the rain directing bus traffic, oh! and here’s a master key and the phone is ringing and I gotta get that…

I left her to her hectic first day tasks and went to find the principal who greeted me warmly and told me to go be the special ed teacher for the day.

Special Ed.

On the first day of school.

Oh, boy.

The head Special Ed teacher was happy to see me, and sent me off to a Language Arts class (yay! my favorite!) to help the IEP kids get settled in. “Come back to the Life Skills room at the end of the block,” she told me. No problem, I thought.

Home room and Block One was fine. There were a lot of IEP kids in there, but there were also two paras in there with me, and between the three of us, we got everyone squared away and helped them with a few first day activities. This isn’t so bad.

I returned to the Life Skills room at the end of the class, and discovered several already-exhausted paras and one very kind but slightly panicked-looking head teacher looking very pleased that I was there. The paras were sent out one at a time for a break, and I got to know the Life Skills kids. There were five students, each with very unique needs and varying abilities. One girl quickly attached herself to me, so the head teacher asked if I was comfortable taking her down to her homeroom class for orientation and then on to her Block 3 class. Sure, I said.

The walk down to the classroom was challenging. This particular student really liked to touch things…all things. Everything. Light switches, fire alarms, posters, clothing, hair, faces. Everything. The solution to her “handsy-ness” was to put a stress ball in one of her hands and to hold tight to her other hand as we walked. She sat patiently through home room, and then we headed off to Digital Literacy.

Now… I don’t quite understand why a student with limited verbal skills and no reading skills needs a Digital Literacy class. Art? You bet. Music? Sure. Gym? Absolutely! Attend core classes and be with her peers? Yes! Yes! Yes! But… what is she going to do in a Digital Literacy class? What she did on day one was color paper after paper with a red crayon until there was no space left to color (and also a large portion of the desk, unfortunately).


We headed back to Life Skills after class, and then went down for a quick lunch before returning for a bit of a break. I spent the rest of the day in Life Skills working on different assignments with the kids, practicing conversations, and taking intermittent dance breaks. We walked the kids down to the buses at the end of the day and made sure everyone was with their bus para, and that was it.

Not a bad first day. Not the first day I imagined. Not the first day I might have hoped for, but not a bad first day.

My only fear is that I’m gonna be stuck subbing for the Special Ed teacher for awhile. This is not a terrible thing, but it’s not really what I’m good at or what I enjoy. Oh well! Such is the uncertain life of a building sub!

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