March 15, 2016: Fifth Grade

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My fifth grade teacher was a tall, imposing, angular man who happened to have a background in oceanography. I’m certain that he inspired in me a lifelong interest in science and nature. I always knew that retiring before I turned 60 meant that I had a lot more in me to give; I just wasn’t sure what form it might take. Of course I wanted to turn inward and devote myself to becoming the best cyclocross racer possible given my inherent limitations. I also wanted to finish writing my third novel. However, when I allowed myself to turn outward for a moment, I quickly rediscovered the amazing world of teaching young kids.

I applied to become a substitute teacher for the town that I live in as well as three other towns that are part of this Pre K-6 school district. I thought it would be a great way to justify my next bike purchase with the meager stipend that subs receive. In the first week, I got two assignments – one in the 6th grade followed by another in the 5th grade in the same school. After a week away on vacation and a week of illness, I was given the opportunity to sub again in the same 5th grade class for two days in a row. This was followed by a request from the principal that I consider becoming a full time, long-term sub for that class until the end of the school year in June due to a maternity leave and some creative staff shuffling.

The bottom line is that these kids are nothing short of amazing! The class is small but it has a full spectrum of kids with a wide range of abilities. I am definitely drawn to the super-bright kids that are totally on top of their game but find myself even more drawn to the kids that struggle. There are kids that are at least several grades behind in certain subjects; there are kids that don’t want to be a part of any of the academic action and live for recess; there are the quiet kids that prefer to work on their own; there are the kids with huge personalities; and there are the wise-asses and jokesters. In a way, I can relate to each and every one of them.

So for the next three months, I’ll be giving up some training time to focus on something even more satisfying. It surprises me how much I’ve gotten to know these people after such a short time. It also surprises me that they have accepted me for who I am. All I really had to do was be a warm body and pass a CORI check and not have fingerprints that tipped off the authorities that I had some dreadful, nasty past. Maybe I’ll even discover that this is what I should have been doing with my life all along. Maybe it’s not too late for this old dog because I feel a few new tricks coming!

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