- “The Humbling Servitude” (My Time As A Substitute Teacher)
I remember waking up on the morning of Monday, October 7th, 2019 at 5:45AM in a scramble. It was my first day on the job as a substitute teacher at a high school after being fired from my “fancy” private school job. I quickly tried to get myself together as I brushed my teeth, got dressed and ate a bowl of cereal before making my way out of the door around 6:50AM. I remember making my way onto the highway and seeing how congested it was. I had twenty minutes to make it to work.
By the time I arrived in the building it was 7:22AM. Punch in time was 7:15 and I was disheveled. I remember the Administrative Assistant not looking at me as I said “Good morning”. When I waited for her to acknowledge me she said, “You’re late.” I tried to explain to her that traffic had been horrendous but she didn’t want to hear it. She gave me my scheduled class assignments for the day and sent me on my way. I remember thinking to myself: “How did I get here? This is embarrassing. You went from earning a Master’s degree, to teaching as a TFA corps member to landing a prime-time private school gig, to now earning pay per-diem as a substitute teacher.” Definitely not what I had planned for the latter portion of 2019.
Nonetheless, I made do with the situation itself. As time progressed I got to know the kids, learned my way around the school and started to make acquaintances with teachers that were in the building. However, there was definitely a void. I didn’t belong there. I was worthy of a full-time position somewhere. At that point in time, I was extremely thankful to still have had my adjunct position as a lecturer at Goodwin University. It made me feel as if I was somewhat important while I was trying to figure out what was next for me.
I’d be lying to you if I said that I was 100% professional all the time. There would be times where I’d be on my phone, staring at the feeds of many on Instagram or texting my best friend Mark. (as we exchanged stories of frustration with each other about our predicaments which led to us creating our podcast) Furthermore, what ate at me more times than not were microaggressions from the Administrative Assistant that consisted of racial humor ( A Key & Peele reference as I read the attendance of a roster) or the critiquing of me filing papers and how I went about doing them. It made me think that I had gone to school to earn such prestigious degrees to only end up back where I had initially started. But somehow, someway, I persisted. I began waking up everyday at 5:30AM and made sure I was out of the house by 6:45 the latest. I wouldn’t allow the assistant or any faculty member to say anything negative about me for the following two months.
Once December arrived, my energy had been revitalized as I had went on a job interview prior to the Thanksgiving break. Moreover, upon entering the final month, I was informed the job wanted me to come in for a second interview on Wednesday, December 11th. However, before that could happen I remember being on duty on Tuesday, the 10th in the ISS room. I was watching a student that was supposed to be doing her work as I my eyes started to close. At the time, I was reading the Bible but couldn’t shake off the drowsiness that had just emerged. So I succumbed to it and shut my eyes momentarily. A little while after that I heard a brief knocking on the office door as the Assistant Principal looked at me with a blank stare. After meeting eyes she disappeared. A couple of minutes later, the secretary from the main office came into the room and told me that I was supposed to take all of my things and head to the principal’s office.
As I walked down the long hall, a huge pang of fear arose and sat in my belly. There was no way around it, I knew what was coming. When I entered the Principal’s office, he asked me if I had fallen asleep on the job to which I responded, “Yes, I did.” After telling me that it was unacceptable and that the safety and responsibility of the kids were of great concern, he fired me on the spot. As I left his office to retrieve my things and made my way out of the building towards my car, I felt like a total loser. By that point, I had lost two jobs in a matter of two months. There was no one that had taken more “L’s” than I did in 2019. Nonetheless, I persisted as I went home to prepare for my call-back interview the following day. During that time as a substitute teacher, I learned a lot. I learned what it meant to be a laborer. I learned what it meant to be a substitute teacher and what actually comes with that position. But more importantly, I learned another vital lesson to life in that when things get tough by no means do you quit. You keep pressing onward until the tide starts to shift. And so, I carried on as I geared my goal to just become better. For me, that meant taking another loss in the midst of trying to gain another win. Once again, another lesson learned.
Kevin Anglade is a writer, poet, publisher, scholar, and educator from Queens, New York. Anglade holds a B.A. and M.A. in English literature from the City University of New York (Brooklyn & Queens College). As an educator, Anglade taught English Language Arts in Hartford Public Schools and is an English professor in the General Ed Studies Department at Goodwin University. He currently serves as a Rehabilitation Therapist with at-risk boys for the judicial branch within the state of Connecticut and is the host and producer of The Wise Guys podcast. He enjoys reading, podcasting, jogging and is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection, A Flower That Rose (2021).
Follow him online: @kevinanglade11