18 January, 2009

A Substitute Life

These days cooking is on the fly. Most days I spend hours haunting the online interface that lets me search for and accept substitute teaching jobs. Since there are limited jobs and a hungry mass of would-be teachers circling around Aesop (that's the interface's classical name) who don't want to be like the fox and only be left with sour/no grapes, there's not as much time for planning good food as there used to be, or researching meals and thinking about tantalizing combinations, for either breakfast on the run or lunch at the desk, while I madly scan the lesson plans for the afternoon and frantically try to locate the hand-outs, textbooks, and get a leg up on running through the material so I can pretend that I have been teaching this material like, forever, and know the teaching score.

Maybe you know a substitute teacher. We're easy to spot. We're the ones with dark circles under our eyes from getting up at 4:oo am to go over the map to the school one last time, throw a lunch of leftovers in a recycled bag, and if we are lucky or really organized, get to glug half a cup of coffee and a few bites of peanut butter toast on the way out the door to the bus. In the dark, in a snowstorm, in 20 below weather. Wearing sensible boots with heavy treads for walking up the long approaches to schools and over the Small-Fuji banks the ploughs have decorated the driveways with. The ones arriving at the office with a puff of relief, having made it half a second under the deadline.

On a good day.

The ones trying to speed through the pleasantries at the front desk and hustle ourselves to the classroom for a few precious minutes of recognisance before the first child arrives. It's a good day when you can take off your boots and coat and walk the room, locating the list of children assigned to helper tasks, the attendance folder, the homework list, the schedule of classes taught by other teachers when the students must be escorted and picked up from other rooms (which you have to find). the classroom rules list, the cache of extra paper and pencils, the stash of texts and the location of the piles of subject duotangs, the tape and the glue and the scissors.

A few times a week there's a day off. On those days I have failed to swim with the sharks and find myself in my home pond like the guppy I really am. Then I usually cook something good, but for the most part I have been using tried and true favourites from my recipe file. I have also been trying a lot of Thai recipes from The Blue Elephant (Royal Thai) Cookbook, and so far I'm not complaining. They're light and fresh, taste of lime leaves and coconut and warmth and carry me away to bamboo forests, which if I had any sense, is where I'd stay.

I''ll be putting up some of my versions soon.

In the meantime, all I can think about is that I have an assignment tomorrow and it's a good piece of commuting away. I'll be leaving early while it's still dark and cold, and I'll be out in that cold waiting for buses. I'll need two to get there. I know what it will be like waiting on the highway in the busy morning traffic. The air will not be good. In fact it will be something like the air in this video.

Don't let the brilliance of this Howard Vause gem or the dulcet tones of the singer fool you. It ain't fun on the roads.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora VJ,
You are fighting the good fight. Kia kaha my friend. Those kids do not realize how fortunate they are.

vegetablej said...

Thanks Robb, I keep telling myself that. <-:)