Sunday, May 22, 2016

Names and Jobs

As I walk across the blacktop at my son's school, I am not sure which name I will be called. I hear, "Hi Miss Sara," "Hello Mrs. Grafton," and "Mom" all in the course of one day. My roles at the elementary school have evolved over the last two school years.

When Alex began kindergarten, I left my full-time job at a university. My original intention was to go back to college/university work part-time. During Alex's kindergarten year, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the school and work as a noon aide to oversee the kindergarteners during lunch. When I asked Alex's kindergarten teacher what to have the kids call me, we settled on "Miss Sara". One of my grandmothers called me Miss Sara, so it is a familiar name. I enjoyed the opportunity for the kids to be less formal with me as a volunteer and noon aide.

Also during Alex's kindergarten year, the principal wrote in the school newsletter about the shortage of substitute teachers in our district. The teachers are pulled out of the classroom for meetings and trainings, which has caused an increased need for substitutes on specific days. To substitute in California, you need to have a bachelor's degree in any field, pass a test (the CBEST), and pass a background check. I went through those steps last August to obtain my 30 Day Substitute Credential. By September I was employed as a substitute teacher. I walked into new classrooms as "Mrs. Grafton" or "Mrs. G" for the younger grades (kindergarten and transitional kindergarten).

Based on need, I also signed up to work as a substitute instructional assistant. This position allowed me to help kids in our special days classes and students who are mainstreamed into the general classrooms. Some of these students already knew me as Miss Sara, so I wasn't going to have them call me a different name.

Substitute teaching is not an easy job, and it has helped me think on my feet. I have worked in classrooms from transitional kindergarten (when most of the kids were still four years old) to fifth grade at 5 different schools in our district. It is a flexible job that still allowed me to volunteer in my son's first grade class as "Miss Sara." I have met so many friendly teachers and staff members who have helped me out in new environments and in new situations. I've has some rough days, some smooth days, and everything in between. As a substitute in my own district, kids may recognize me outside of school at the grocery store, restaurants, and the library. It is always nice to hear a "hi" from them.

I worked full-time at universities for ten years, so the draw to work there again continued. I know that I want to work in education, and I spent this school year exploring various options. I applied to a couple of academic advising jobs in my area. I found a position that I was interested in after an in-depth interview process, but I was not offered the job. I interviewed for another position, but I turned down the offer. It was a good job, but it was not the right fit for me anymore. During March and April of this year, the ball had started rolling in another career direction for me.

As I was exploring options for future full-time employment, I considered pursing a California Teaching Credential. I found an online program and attended an information session in early March. My original intention was to apply for Fall 2016 if it seemed to be a good fit. It turned out that I still has time to apply for Summer 2016 and begin the program sooner. Around the same time, I was approached about the need for a long-term substitute in second grade at my son't school. The job was for 27 days and my credential allows me to work for up to 30 days in one classroom. Over the course of the school year, I had spent time in a variety of second grades classes and was enjoying this grade level.

There were some restless nights, tears, and uncertainty, but the puzzle pieces fit together by May. On May 2, I took over a second grade class for the remainder of the school. I have the opportunity to teach 22 bright and inquisitive students. I explained to them that I've had multiple roles at the school, so that's why they call me "Mrs. Grafton" while some of the first graders call me "Miss Sara." On May 4, I started the CalStateTEACH program to earn a K-8 Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. I had not been a student for 12 years, and the last time I was in school was before marriage and having my own child.

I am taking a few minutes to write out this journey before I get back to studying, lesson planning, grocery shopping, and laundry - my new normal for a Sunday.