What follows is the Introduction to my new book, I’m Probably Dancing–Permission to Be Who You Already Are. I will be presenting rough drafts of each chapter as I write them. Chapters may end up in a different order than I present them in this blog. I welcome your input. The idea of the book is that each chapter will have an alternate theme. The theme of each odd numbered chapter will be raising children according to their own unique giftings. Stories in these chapters will show either how this was or was not accomplished in a child’s life and what the outcome became for the child. The theme of each even numbered chapter will be stories of my personal experiences as a substitute teacher in the Public School system and how kids in public school are, or are not, given opportunities to be themselves. Now for the Introduction (and, remember, what I offer will be rough drafts):
I was surprised at how nervous I was.
I sat behind the teacher’s desk. Then I got up and walked around the classroom tossing my water bottle from hand to hand.
I stood at the marker board in front of the rows of empty chairs. The board was wiped clean and I decided to write my name so the students would know who this stranger was taking the place of their regular teacher.
I walked to the back of the room and realized I couldn’t read what I had written on the board. I returned to the front of the class, erased the board and rewrote my name in huge letters.
The room was freezing cold. Eventually I came to realize most of the rooms in schools where I would be teaching were kept cold. Having spent my childhood in the desert—along with the fact that older people like me get cold easily—I always wanted it warmer than it was. But, the thermostats in school rooms are covered with a plastic cage so as not to be adjusted.
I returned to the teacher’s desk and sat back down, wondering where the students were. It was past time for class to begin and not one student had entered the room. Was I in the wrong room and the students were waiting for me somewhere else?
Just then I heard a small voice from outside the door. “He’s old,” it said, “like eighty or something.”
The classroom door had a small, opaque window in it. I saw movement through the smoky glass. A face looking in. Suddenly it dawned on me that, perhaps, students weren’t allowed to enter the room without adult permission. In the days to come I would learn many things students weren’t allowed to do without permission.
I got up and walked to the door and opened it to see twenty sixth graders lined up against the wall in the hallway as if they were facing a firing squad.
I must have had a strange look on my face because they looked up at me as if I might just eat them all for lunch. Maybe they thought I had heard the remark about being eighty or something.
Why had I decided to become a substitute teacher, anyway? It had been almost fifty years since I had been in a school room. I had even kept three of my four children at home during their schooling years because I had such negative memories of school and I just couldn’t let my sons go through the kind of public school experience I had.
I took a deep breath and said within myself, “I may not even make it through the day. But as long as I am going to be their teacher, these kids will not have a typical public school experience.”
“Good morning,” I said in the cheeriest voice I could muster. “Come on in!”
They filed into the room and sat at their desks. Somehow I knew they were not sitting at their regular, assigned seats. I didn’t care.
“Who are you?” one of the boys asked.
I pointed to the board.
“Can we call you ‘C.D.’?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Can you?” I responded with a wry smile.
“Yeah, that’s what I said. Can we call you ‘C.D.’?”
I repeated, “I don’t know, can you?” This time I emphasized the word “can”.
The girl sitting next to him said, “Stupid, he wants you to say “MAY we call you C.D.?”
The boy rolled his eyes in disgust. “May we call you C.D.?” He also emphasized the word “may” but with deep sarcasm.
I looked at him and said, “Don’t you hate it when somebody says that to you?”
Several students chimed in at once: “Yeah, every time we ask if we can go to the bathroom, our teacher says, ‘I don’t know; can you go to the bathroom’”. Again, sarcasm.
“I used to hate that, myself,” I admitted. “But, hey, I’m a teacher, so you have to give me some slack. Who else will make you use proper English?”
“May we call you D.V.D?” asked one girl. The whole class thought this was worth a hearty laugh. I didn’t get the joke. It hadn’t registered with me that this was a play on ‘C.D.’ She had to explain it to me and the class enjoyed my cluelessness.
“Let’s compromise,” I said. “You can call me ‘Mr. C.D.’ if you like.
The class immediately jumped on my use of the word ‘can’ instead of ‘may’ with loud protestations of glee. None of them were going to accept the excuse that I had said ‘can’ on purpose to test them.
I told the class, “The only thing I won’t put up with is Rude. I just don’t do Rude very well. I won’t be rude to you and you won’t be rude to me or to one another. Sometimes people don’t know they are being rude and they have to be told. So, if I say you have just been rude, you can apologize. I really like apologies. If you are rude and apologize I will forget it ever happened.”
Everyone nodded with understanding and I began the first day of what was to become my year of substitute teaching in the Public School System. Eventually, I came to call it My Great Undercover Experiment.
This book explains what I did and why I called it undercover…