A substitute teacher is teaching my class today. She is a Mama Bear like me. In fact, her daughter is a student at our school. She has subbed for me before; and when I returned, everything was in its place. Students reported all went well. I imagine things will go as planned today.
Two years ago, a former collegiate basketball player, Mr. S., who happened to be 6'9," subbed in my classroom. He was just out of college. The children knew him from the year before when he played for our state university. They were excited about my absence.
"Will he give us his autograph?" one student asked.
"I'm not sure," I said. My feelings were a little hurt. Usually, they were sad to see me go.
The night before he subbed, I left my plans and class rosters, all labeled and organized neatly, on my school-issued teacher desk. Then I dusted around the computer and document camera on my antique wooden desk, adjacent to my teacher's desk. I loved that antique desk and its matching wooden rolling chair, both gifts from my husband. I vacuumed up the lint off the carpet in the reading area and tidied up the bulging bookshelves.
Before locking the classroom door, I tucked my wooden rolling chair, warm cherry wood gleaming, under the desk.
I wrote a note, in cursive, on the white board, "Behave for Mr. S.! I'll miss you!"
Then I locked the door and left. It was Thursday evening.
Monday morning, I unlocked the classroom, wondering vaguely how Friday had gone. My note on the white board was still there. Beside it, someone had drawn a smiley face with a pink marker.
I turned on the lights and slipped out of my jacket, hanging it on the peg behind the dividing screen that closed off the storage area.
"So far, so good," I thought, noticing that the students' chairs were up on the desks like always; and the floors were mostly clean...a broken pencil here, a curl of perforated notebook paper there. Shavings from the pencil sharpener had spilled over on the floor, but that was pretty typical.
Then I saw it...my wooden chair...my antique, wooden chair...the one that was just right, not too hard, not too soft...was broken in pieces. The cherry spindles along the back were cracked in half; and the rounded top part of the chair was hanging from one splintered arm. I gasped. Someone had been sitting in my chair; and he broke it all to bits.
"Oh my," I whispered, gingerly gathering up the loose pieces of the chair. I reminded myself that accidents happen.
By the time the children arrived for class, I had regained my composure. This was not the time to act like Baby Bear.
"Mr. S. broke your chair," one of the children stated the obvious.
"I noticed," I said, shrugging nonchalantly. "I'll get it fixed."
"He was too tall for it," another child explained. "He sat down, and leaned back, and the whole thing tipped and...well, you can see the rest for yourself." He waved at the busted chair.
"Was he okay?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah. He's tough."
"Good," I said. I was glad he was okay. I imagined it was quite a start to the day. Poor guy. Twelve-year-olds are not always kind when grown-ups experience an embarrassing moment.
During my planning period, I rolled what was left of my chair to the custodian's office. Felix, our custodian, looked worried. He said he'd do his best.
"I guess that chair is for a shorter teacher," he said, "like yourself." He offered me a plastic rolling chair with a padded seat and no arm rests.
A few mornings later, I was pleasantly surprised to find my chair, a little battered and scarred and smelling faintly of wood glue, back in place by my antique desk.
It's a good thing I don't sit down much during the school day since some loose splinters snag my sweaters; but the chair is back where it belongs...mostly good as new. She might be old-fashioned and only useful for a short teacher, like myself; but she's a pretty tough old gal.
The chair will be fine today. My sub is my size exactly.