Creative (Non)Fiction, education station


This is one of those random stories I was talking about…

I was about 34 and in his office.

He, on the other hand, couldn’t have been more than 27.

This wasn’t the only time this would happen to me. Chastized, scolded, treated as an underling, when in fact, I was someone’s elder.

To what did I owe this encounter?

Somehow, it had gotten out that I had called Mrs. Smith–the teacher I had been summoned to replace. The subject? French.

Years ago, I’d known it well enough to have kept a drunken Quebecois man at bay. Yet to contend with a room full of teenagers…?

Something in the day’s instructions had given me pause.

So I picked up the phone.

Our exchange had been light, airy–even sunshiny.

“Have a lovely time with my kids!”


“Let me know if you need anything else!”

But here I was, sitting on the opposite side of the vice principal’s desk.

For some reason, the fact that I’d dared to call a colleague was alarming.

I was being reprimanded. I was there without cause, and I was in shock.

I held my tongue. For a second, I considered the expression on my face. Did I look afraid? I was.

Any misstep with these people could mean the end of my career.

All the while, I had wanted to defend myself…

Did you know that I used to go here? If you look closely enough at the photos of the alumni in the hallway upstairs, you’ll find me. (I’d wanted to add “…before you were born….” to my imaginary rant. I’d wanted the VP to feel the weight that the phrase could bring, even though it wasn’t accurate.)

Did you know that some of the teachers and staff who knew me still work here?

This school was every bit my turf as it was his.

And then there was the question that I wanted to ask most of all…Why are you talking to me like I’m 12? I’M A PROFESSIONAL!! I hadn’t called Mrs. Smith so I could ask her how to bake a pie. I know how to speak to my colleagues. I may be sweet, but I am not a fool.

There are a few things that I reckon I will miss about my non-career as a teacher. The rudeness of some of my coworkers is NOT one of them.

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.