Called in to work: again.

MAY 18, 2022

MIDWAY, BC Wednesday— This was to have been a week devoted to planting in the garden, but just as I was finding my pace forking over a half-decomposed heap of compost from last year, a call came from the local secondary school asking if I would accept an ‘on-call’ assignment for the day, as they were unexpectedly ‘down’ a few teachers.  Two teachers were away attending district-sanctioned sports events in Fernie, but two had unexpectedly developed influenza-like symptoms and needed to go home.

So far this year I have resolved to work only occasionally, no more than one or two days per week, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I have declined Monday and Tuesday assignments fairly consistently since January,  but I’ve made exceptions for the regular Wednesday and Thursday jobs teaching the grade 1 and 2’s in Rock Creek, and for previously-booked jobs at soon-to-close elementary school across the street from our house.

Still, the phone requests keep coming in, In these pandemic times of Covid-19, when all workers are admonished to, ‘. . . not come to work if you are sick’, I feel obliged to accept calls like the one that came in on Monday, mainly because I’m very close-by, — only a two-minute walk away from the high school.

I accepted the call that came on Monday after the school day had already begun; once there, it almost immediately became a two-day assignment, which was fine, but which took me completely away from the garden for an additional two days, so that I am that much farther behind.  

In this unexpectedly cool Spring, I rationalize my neglect of work in the garden by telling myself and anyone who will listen that there’s no advantage to planting seeds until the air and soil warm up.  Working as a substitute teacher can sure get in the way of productive work in the garden, but in this instance, I think my weather-related excuse may be correct.

At the high school, I met a few of the teachers I hadn’t seen for awhile, and filled in for a couple of teachers I had filled-in for before, one of whom was our eldest son, which was a special treat for me.  The work wasn’t beyond me; all I had to do was supervise a math test which I did from my ‘seated teacher’ position.  It will be interesting to hear back from “Mr. T.” how well I fulfilled the lesson plan he left for me.

The highlight of the two days was watching a grade 10 physical education class organize themselves for a game of softball on Tuesday morning. Clearly, they’d done this before, so they required very little from me. 

One area where I decided they did need a little help and encouragement from me had to do with an incident from a previous day’s class.

After after some close physical contact during a soccer game, there had apparently been an exchange of harsh language and words along the lines of, “Eff-you!” and, “I’m going to effing kill you!”.  

Hearing these words had frightened  and alarmed the boy that had been on its receiving end and he correctly reported the matter to the school principal.

Inappropriate language, including but not limited to the ‘Eff-word’ is never acceptable at school, nor is the use of language is disrespectful to another person, language which berates, demeans, ridicules, bullies, or otherwise threatens another person.

Still, not every 15 year old student has learned how to effectively respond to unexpected provocations.  Mistakes are sometimes made and need to be addressed; response strategies need to be learned and practiced.

So I decided to provide a gentle-reminder to the entire group that the purpose of the the softball game was to enjoy the fresh-air, to get outside and have some fun, that having a good game didn’t mean that everybody playing needed to be ‘best-buds’, but that it would certainly be helpful if those few individuals who might have had past conflicts in the past could make a special effort to get along today — for the sake of having a good game.

The message was well-received by the group and I saw more than a few wry smiles and sidelong glances among them which told me everything I needed to know: something had happened on a previous day.  

More importantly, I wanted to let the boys know that I also knew what they already knew, and that I would be ‘there and aware’ providing encouragement, but also ready to deal with anything should any misconduct arise again.

It was a good, long game where everyone seemed to have fun. The final score was 25 – 19 and I heard no ‘eff’ words or threats. 

Today I’ll be heading West to Rock Creek for my regular Wednesday with the Grade 1/2’s at West Boundary Elementary School.  Although I haven’t seen them for the last 5 days, I know I that within five minutes of the kids’ arrival I will hardly feel I have been away at all, the days are just so full and busy.  I have taken on the “SunSense” awareness promotion at the school, a curriculum meant to promote awareness of the potential harmful effects of the sun among children, their teachers and their parents.


By Paul David Steer

Wu wei the live-long day.

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