For those of you that don’t know, I’m a substitute teacher.
And a journalist.
A dad, a brother and a son.
Lately, the universe has pulled me in many different directions and asked me to wear whatever hat best suits that situation.
Take Monday and Tuesday.
With Coraline Rose beginning 4K, and what a glorious experience it has been, it affords mom and dad some extra time during the day to get work done or simply sleep.
While mom now drives to the Milwaukee area for work, I have been testing my sanity by over-working myself to make a few extra dollars.
How American, huh?
Trust me, it’s not as bad as some have it, you know where they work a first-shift job all week and a few second shifts, overtime and whatever extra shifts they pick up – at a factory, without AC.
It’s not about the dollars – at least not all of it.
I dabbled in substitute teaching in the Burlington Area School District about eight years ago, and last year it was time to return.
So with about 10 sub jobs under my belt in the 2017-18 school year, I’ve nearly seen half that action in this semester’s first three weeks.
I am thankful to a wonderful boss at the newspaper, and to all the school staff, most which go out of their way help me out.
I’m lost half the time still. The school year is still early.
However, teaching is in my blood.
My mother got her degree at the old teacher’s college in Union Grove and taught first grade at several schools, including St. Charles in Burlington and some special education. She left full-time work after getting married and having kids in the 1960s, only to continue in a sub teaching role for another 20 years.
Two of my four sisters teach in the district.
It’s natural to feel nostalgic when I see a sister at school, with fond memories of growing up on Kendall Street, bossing each other around, my five older siblings teaching me how to live life, as our parents were busy working.
They enjoyed goofing on “Baby Mikey”.
I adore my older siblings and want to be just like them. I always have.
So much so that I tried to follow Laura, my closest one in age, all the way to college.
I applied, but didn’t get in for whatever reason.
Reset button sent me to UW-Waukesha and UW-Whitewater for my Bachelor’s in Journalism.
While I carved a career in writing, with 15 years of sports, news, features, blogs, columns, copywriting and more, I never realized that the entire time, the person I wasn’t desperate to emulate – my mom – was the one I learned the most from and eventually became.
That’s right, just like Joni Bologna, one of her affectionate nicknames, I find myself driving around town, substitute teaching when I can manage and worrying more about helping and motivating people than always being exactly on time or following other “rules.”
My mother is a free spirit, a true entertainer and educator and we all obtained her best qualities of explaining in a relatable way the wonderful art of teaching.
Just the other day, two teachers I subbed with went on about how they remember Joni as one of their favorite teachers.
In fact, in 1963, my mother even invited her entire first-grade classroom to her wedding.
One of those kids is now near retirement as a teacher and told me she actually attended the wedding, and so did several others.
Many think it’s only subbing, and all you have to do is sit there and “babysit.”
But I couldn’t disagree more.
I see it as a golden opportunity to reach kids of all ages and inspire the next generation to believe in themselves. A lot of kids haven’t necessarily had an adult tell them they were capable of doing something special, and they shut down.
So you really do have to be as good and put in as much effort as possible to teach kids, because I’ve discovered they have a voracious appetite for learning and must be constantly fed.
Sometimes, you have to be a therapist and listen if a kid is tired or had a bad morning.
Other times, you have to explain a complex word problem on a worksheet, and you can’t just give up and say ‘figure it out” – even if you truly don’t know the answer.
It’s harder than people think.
But just like sports and writing, it’s become another passion.
If you can manage it around your schedule, I would highly recommend substitute teaching.
Who wouldn’t want to help shape the future with just a few words of encouragement?
A smile, wink, nod or “good job” is sometimes all it takes to turn a kid’s day, and potentially world, upside down for the better.
Last week: 7-2
Martin Luther 40, Catholic Central 27
Waterford 45, Elkhorn 30
Burlington 57, Westosha Central 18
Lake Geneva Badger 33, Delavan-Darien 12
Wilmot 24, Union Grove 14
East Troy 23, Brodhead/Juda 12
Evansville/Albany 38, Whitewater 8
Franklin 55, Kenosha Bradford 28
McFarland 27, Walworth Big Foot 10
Mukwonago 44, West Allis Hale 21
Muskego 63, Waukesha South 14
Palmyra-Eagle 30, North Fond du Lac 29