Thirteen years ago I was a teacher in a classroom of sixth graders in Culpeper, Virginia, an hour from Washington, D.C. When the first plane flew into the towers, I was notified by the principal, in subdued tones at the classroom doorway, of the unfolding tragedy, our voices lost in the din of migrating desks and exploding backpacks. I was instructed not to inform students of that morning's events. I knew that at least one child had a father working at the Pentagon.
Classes are starting, which means that I’m likely only weeks away from that moment—as inevitable as first-week crushes and pasta-bar hangovers—when a student walks into my office, paper in hand, and says, “I don’t understand. Just tell me what you want.”
Years ago, right before an end-of-the-term field trip, my son brought home a notice from his middle school. The body of the letter included the usual information: dates, cost, arrival and departure times. But, the last line contained an ominous warning.
Some kids are happy that school is back in session. Others head for the classroom with some trepidation, but their reluctance is nothing compared to what Charlottesville author Erika Raskin feels each time she thinks about her days as a substitute teacher.
Years ago, before I decided to bite the bullet and embrace the soul crushing rejection that often goes with Being a Writer, I decided to try my hand at substitute teaching. I realized my mistake almost immediately.