Ring!! It's 6:45 am. I wake up with a start and then stumble out into the kitchen to answer the phone.
"I need a sub today. Can you go to Lakeside Elementary for 8:30 this morning?"
I agree, and sleepily take down the details. I have been an on call substitute for probably at least 6 out of the almost 14 years I've been a special ed paraprofessional.
SETA, CA, SEA, every district calls us something different, but basically I do one on one work with special needs kids. In every district one always has to start out on the sub list, and slowly you work your way up to garnering temporary jobs, and then permanent ones. My luck hasn't been too good. In the last two districts, a year after I was hired permanently, Hubs was transferred and we were forced to move. I had to quit my job and start all over, at the bottom of the list. Again.
Subbing has had its interesting moments. I've been thrown into classes any where from grades K-12 and am expected to help kids with anything from sewing (which used to make me hyperventilate), high school math (which I failed. Twice.), to woodworking. It's a little strange sometimes, being in a Kindergarten room one day and grade 9 English the next. You eventually become really good at faking it in the classes that you are really bad at-like Auto Mechanics.
Once I was sent to a grade 2 class and when I walked in the room was greeted with, "Bonjour! Parle vous francais?". It was a French immersion class, and my skills in french are limited to reading the french side of the cereal box. In that same class, we had a desk clean out due to some strange smell in the room. We soon found that one of the children had saved a raw fish in his desk he'd brought for show and tell about a month before. I have never been so grossed out in my life.
Then there was the time I was assigned to watch a 6 ft tall, 190 lb boy as he made his way to the men's bathroom.
"Make sure he has all his clothes on when he leaves." I was told. The look on my face must have told them how confused I was. "Well, he tends to strip and then run naked down the hall." Oh. And what do I do then? I'm 5'5 and 110 lbs. Do I stop him? Right.
I've been almost drowned as a mentally handicapped student used me as a flotation device in a pool, and stopped another child as he chased a boy around his classroom with a baseball bat screaming, "I'm gonna KILL you!". My job certainly has it's moments.
However on the other hand, there are many more moments of magic that I will never forget as long as I live. Like when I took a wheelchair bound child snow tubing, and her squeals of joy were so infectious that her mother and I had tears in our eyes. Or the time when, after months of work, a learning disabled child suddenly began to read and we spontaneously danced a wild jig around the room. Or most of all, when I left my last district and the autistic child that I desperately wanted to hug (but who disliked being touched)threw her arms around me first to say goodbye.
Those are the moments that keep me in this profession.