Monday, January 10, 2011

Be Careful What You Minor In

My name is Jenn, and it's been two months and eight days since my last post. But I have a REALLY good excuse.

It all started back when I took that drama position, directing the high school's one-act play for competition. Well, technically it started before that when I signed up to sub in the local school district. But the key thing is that when I went to interview for the drama position, I took along a copy of my resume (nattily transported in my leather portfolio) to give the principal, as part of my Oh Look, I'm All Professional and Not Just a Stay-at-Home Mom persona.

Two hours after being hired for the drama position, I got an email from the principal:
I see on your resume that you have a teaching minor in French. Our French teacher is moving out of state next month. Do you have any interest in applying?

I zipped back an instant reply of:
No way, man. I last spoke French fifteen years ago and have retained only the amount necessary for ordering in restaurants and cursing at fellow drivers in a creatively Gallic way.

I may have worded it slightly more professionally than that. I closed politely with:

However, I'm happy to fill in as a sub if you need someone to cover the gap between the current teacher leaving and the new one starting.

Weeks went by, and I heard nothing more, so I assumed that a new French teacher was hired. Then one day my phone rang and the high school secretary called to offer me a long-term sub position in French. The teacher they planned to hire turned it down at the last second. I would start in a week. With no lesson plans, no full-time French teacher in sight, and a back pocketful of scattered French profanities. Merde. Beaucoup de merde.

I should mention that no one in the school could seem to locate a copy of the district curriculum for French. Which would have been really freaking helpful.

I yanked out dusty college textbooks, frantically Googled things like "How to teach high school French", and made my husband quiz me on verb tenses. For just shy of a month, I taught five levels of high school French and learned that there was more French squirreled away in dusty corners of my brain than I had realized. Thank God, because three of the classes were reading novels in French. Don't get me wrong - I ordered the English translations and ready them side-by-side to check my accuracy. Still, I did better than I would have expected, especially when you consider that these were books by authors like Camus and de Beauvoir. (Bonus: I learned the French word for "pimp", which I had not previously known. "Souteneur", FYI).

By 8:00 pm each night, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. And at 5:00 am each morning, the alarm clock beeped me back into bleary consciousness.

When they finally found a full-time French teacher, I had a four days off then was right back into another long-term sub job for an English teacher. That took me right up until Christmas and the brink of a nervous breakdown because five days before Christmas I had still not baked, mailed cards, or finished wrapping presents.

Takeaway lessons from my experience:

1. Subbing is a really good way to justify buying new clothes and pretty shoes.
2. Teenagers are wacky little critters, but strangely endearing.
3. For God's sake, be careful what you minor in.