I arrived at a local high school, signed in, received my substitute teacher badge, and made my way to the classroom. The day sprawled before me, filled with bells and teenagers and packets of work left by their teacher, my friend Sam.
I was semi-prepared.
The day before, we moved to a new house. The movers finished at around five o’clock, and then we ate the food a friend dropped off and started unpacking. I fell into bed exhausted and woke still tired from the non-stop activity of moving day.
Luckily, I keep my sub bag stocked with a binder and a spiral notebook. I have forms with my rules and regulations. I have phone numbers in case of an emergency. I have paper to leave the teacher notes at the end of the day. Also in that bag is a pack of crackers, pens and a bottle of pain reliever. Headaches are pretty common for substitute teachers. That day, I’d even remembered to toss in my current manuscript, so I could work on revisions when the class was working on their assignment. I can get away with that only when covering a high school class.
In the chaos of the move, I forgot to grab anything for lunch, and I forgot to refill my water bottle and stick it in my bag. I realized all of that only after the first class filed in and I was sitting at my desk, thirsty, while examining the lunch schedule.
Some teachers leave plenty of work to keep the kids occupied and some leave just one or two short assignments and the rest of the class period is spent doing crowd control (and some teachers leave absolutely nothing at all). I sit at their desk (or walk circles around their room), wondering how they manage to teach anything. Class sizes vary, but most contain at least 20 kids, with 30 kids just as likely. When does a teacher breathe? When does she have time to scarf down lunch, grade papers, use the restroom? It’s overwhelming, and I have developed an even deeper appreciation for the people guiding my children through their education.
I survived the day without lunch (thanks to those crackers stashed in my sub bag) and without water. I chugged about a gallon when I got home that afternoon. My classes were fairly well-behaved, and it was a good experience overall.
I’m glad I showed up, even semi-prepared.
Honestly, no matter how hard I work at anything, I usually show up semi-prepared. I’m not entirely sure it’s even possible to be totally prepared. I mean, God sent John the Baptist (This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Matthew 11:10) to prepare the way for Jesus.
People still had no clue what was going on when Jesus actually arrived.
I hear women talk about not being ready to have children, and I think, “You never will be.” Because you can’t predict the kids you will have. You can’t predict how your body and spirit will react to pregnancy and childbirth, adoption or fostering. At best, you can show up to motherhood semi-prepared.
Substitute teaching has been that way for me. I did it before, a decade ago, and I assumed that experience would prepare me for this one. I was wrong. There are differences. Back then, my husband was a youth minister and there was only one high school in town. I knew a lot of students in the classes I covered, and those students would back me. They set examples of how to behave when I was their teacher for the day.
My husband is no longer a youth minister. This town has more high schools than I have fingers. At least, it feels that way when I show up at yet another school I have never served. I’ve yet to know a single student in any class where I have subbed. They don’t know me, and they have no reason to automatically respect my authority. I have to earn it.
I’m glad I showed up to motherhood. I’m glad I hopped that last-minute plane to Honduras back in 2015. I’m glad I get to run media for our Sunday night worship experience, even on the weeks when I struggle to get the slides in or make the screen work or keep my eyes on the Macbook in my lap.
Is there something you are putting off because you feel only semi-prepared?
Are you afraid there is something more you could do to get ready?
Here’s the truth: There is. There is always one more thing you could do, but now is the time to let go of fear.
Take a risk.
Throw caution to the wind.
*originally published on Middle Places