Substitute Teaching in my Old High School

It’s the end of the year for the kids in high school. I’m a substitute teacher now, living the high life, nearly exactly where I was when I sat in these very rooms.

My old high school is preparing itself for destruction, its replacement soaring lines of brick and mortar right over the old soccer field. This poor old building must feel like it’s being cheated on, abused by those who once loved it, those who use it without care, those who slam the doors and scratch the walls because, hey, we’re getting a new school after next year.

The kids are and always have been rather free in this school. A public school that trusts its children? Who could imagine.

This teacher has two teal staplers and one roll of transparent tape. Her desktop is otherwise blank, as well as her classroom, besides the elephant in the room in the form of a judge’s bench. It’s the legal systems classroom, where kids come to learn about laws that don’t yet apply to them. They learn about the ramifications of drinking and driving before they are legally able to do either. There’s not a single poster on the cinder blocks, only tears in the paint. An ancient chalkboard, black and empty, hangs beside a whiteboard, streaked in blue, and a Smartboard, the dirty placid feel of printed paper.

The girls’ hair falls in pin-straight strands over their shoulders, or pinned up in a bun on the top of their head, or frizzing out of a ponytail. The lone boy stares at his phone. The door might as well be revolving, but I don’t bother to close it. It is, after all, the last day of classes.

They figure their next year schedule on their cell phones. A friend comes in, smiles at me, and sits on the top of a desk. A girl juggles a slinky, drops it against the legs of her desk with the sound of cymbals.

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