Creative (Non)Fiction, education station

Elementary, Dear Claire.

School’s out.

So I can talk about it, no?

The following is a creative non-fiction piece. It contains some solid memories melded with echoes of shenanigans that I’ve witnessed over the years. 



Dear Readers, lend me your ears and your sympathy. I work as a substitute teacher. When I first started, all I wanted was to help kids. Now, all I want is to run away.

Years ago one morning I was summoned to an elementary school. I was elated. I figured a class of Grade 7s would offer a nice break from the teenagers I usually worked with.

Before I arrived, my heart was filled with hope.

Hope that the kids would like me.

Hope that we would all get along.

Hope that I would lead the students’ math lesson without breaking into hives.

I arrived just in time. Carefully, I reviewed the teacher’s plans. Then I waited for her students to appear. I breathed deeply and thought positively.

Yet in spite of my optimism, the kids weren’t happy to see me.

“Where’s Ms. Stevens?!?” One of them yelled.

I didn’t have a clue, and I actually told him so.

“You don’t know?! Whaddayamean ya ‘don’t know’?”

I sighed and got the class started.

As the kids began to work, in a corner, a gaggle of girls giggled.

“How old are you, Miss?”

“Um, what…?”

“You look like you’re 20.”

I made a face. “Uh…Thanks?” I tried to look stern. I wanted them to know that flattery would get them nowhere.

Just then, a paper ball sailed past me.

I turned around. My eyes ping-ponged across the room. I couldn’t tell where it came from.

I bit my lip and headed back to my desk. Paper or no paper, I was determined to persevere.

Within seconds, my resolve was shattered by another unidentified flying object. I saw something shiny, then heard a clang on the floor. What was that? A penny..?!?

“Boys!” Thinking I recognized the culprit, I shouted in his direction. “Stop throwing things!”

I gave them my best death-stare—which I have since learned resembles an angry puppy—then looked back at my schedule.

I wish I could say things got better. But I’d be lying.

At one point, I left the room. I slipped into the hallway, looking for a lifeline.

Friends had told horror stories about leaving purses alone with students. But I didn’t care. I would have given away all the fantasy-funds in my bank account if these kids would sit down and be quiet for more than two seconds.

My mission proved unsuccessful. The two nearest classrooms were empty, and in the third the teacher was busy. It looked like he would’ve blown up if I’d interrupted him to ask for help.

Dismayed, I went back to my room. I needed an Advil, and it wasn’t even 11 o’clock.


After 3:30, I visited the principal. She blamed me for the day’s events. When addressing me, she actually used the words “Because of you…”

Right. I’m the one who told Johnny and Jasmine to throw random papers and laugh as I nearly cried.

I left, alarmed. And I never worked in an elementary school again.


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