A Teacher's Worst Nightmare

My dear friend Mary was a teacher for many years in a religious school, as I am, and knew well the extra labor and reduced income that comes with such a job.  She once had a first-day-of-school dream that just about tops all others: when she arrived at school, there was mass chaos, kids running everywhere.  Somehow, the principal hadn't hired enough teachers, so Mary was asked to teach two classes.  She did her best, lecturing from the hallway between the classrooms and trying to keep an eye on two bunches of wiggly middle-schoolers.  Her lesson plans were misplaced, and there were lots of other mishaps, but at the end of the day, whew!  She had done it.

And then, of course, she realized she wasn't wearing any clothing.

My school put forth a similar proposition to me this morning, though under very different circumstances.  The head of our department, a woman about my mom's age who is the picture of health, was recently diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.  We're all reeling from the shock, and I rashly offered to do "whatever I could" to help, never imagining that might include the miracle of coexistence in two classrooms.

It's actually not as crazy as it sounds.  My Creative Writing class is very small and working on the school's literary magazine, a task that requires them to do a lot of independent work.  The class I'm going to substitute for is AP English, where the students are extremely driven and also will be working independently -- practicing essays, mostly.  And really, there was no one else.  The assistant principal said, "It's either you or me," pointedly reminding me that she's a Calculus teacher.

Amazingly, I'm excited about this opportunity.  I'm ready to give the Creative Writing students an opportunity to prove themselves as independent adults.  I'm thrilled about teaching AP English, which I counted among my favorites from the day we received the summer reading list, roughly 5 times as long as the other class'. More than anything, I'm curious as to whether I can do it; I'm also adding another class, Honors English, which works from the same curriculum but at a slightly less accelerated rate.  Both are for several weeks, possibly longer, depending on how my friend feels after her surgery and treatments.  My most fervent prayer is that she'll bounce right back, of course, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to try something new.

And I can't wait to tell Mary about this.