On Call

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Sub

So, each morning
The phone would ring
As mom and daddy slept
And I crept
Out of bed to answer
Or toss it in
My bottom drawer
Until it stopped
ringing,
Or, I’d brave it out
And pick it up –
Cheap, plastic
Time-magazine “gift”
With the long, long, long
cord, umbilical.

“Hello”, I’d say(hesitantly –
Waiting for the axe to fall.)
Whose hall
Will I be trudging down
Today?
What Grade
Will be my lot?
Second?
That little runt
Will slam the door
Repeatedly
Until I think I’ll-
(Well, I did scream
actually.)
Or, perhaps
Seventh?
Their idea
Of fun
Is to run into
The storage closet
And unleash
Every ball, stick
rope and hoop
Onto the shoe-squeaky
floor
While my
Rape-whistle shrieks,
Pointlessly.

Maybe,
I’ll get lucky.
The kids
Will all line up
And sit straight
Be quiet
Smile politely
Say, “Miss” and
Offer to carry
My bags
To the car.

What is this?
1956?

“Hello”, I’d say.
“Sorry. Wrong number.”

Kathleen Mortensen©2009

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22 thoughts on “On Call

  1. ugh…I taught school for exactly one year and then went on to something else. I've used my teaching degree for other things…but these scenes remind me why the classroom was not my 'cuppa'. Great poem.

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  2. Great poem Kat! If I look hard enough, I can see me in this picture. I remember well these desks will the flip up top! Hugs, CarolHA! My WV is slumped! I'm the one in the picture who is “slumped” over her desk!

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  3. This is really rich; Matt taught second grade for years; for two years he did a multi grades 1-4 in a rural school. I've never subbed but I did teach piano lessons for a long time. Great poem, Kat and I love the ending. Geeze.

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  4. Lyn – Wrong #s are good luck? I did not know that!RachelW – I don't know those books, but I'll google them.John – Not fun at all.Carol – I never had a flip-top desk, but we did sit up straight for the teacher!Christine – Thanks! I think teachers should be admired. I just couldn't do it.Rachel Fox – ThanksDianne – For me the not knowing where I'd be was the worst part.Deb – Oh yes! Big knot.Kat

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  5. I love it! I subbed for a couple of years and it was a trying experience — mostly with the kids “trying” me! You've really captured the feel of that knot in the stomach. Good ending!

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  6. I love this one! You've captured exactly the way I would feel with a class of rowdy “yea, let's take advantage of the substitute” students. BTW, how did you get a hold of my second grade picture?

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  7. I love this poem, Kat!!! You're an excellent poet. Excellent. I feel privileged to have met you here in blogville. Send this one out!!Wonderful form, too. Sorry to be a dork, but I always notice the techno-geek stuff like form. I also love the story.There are many images and lines that are spectacular, but my favorites are the “long, long cord/umbilical” and the shoe-squeaky floor. You show an accurate portrayal of kids…so real. The ending actually had me laughing out loud. Maybe I wouldn't laugh if I was a substitute teacher. But the dream of those wonderfully perfect little cherubs from Leave It To Beaver was a hoot. And then you wake up to the real kids.Fantastic work!

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  8. Cute and interesting. You trained as a teacher, then? I once worked as an LPN in a hospital float pool; never knew what unit I'd be sent to until I arrived for the day. It could be nerve-wracking at times.Love the old classroom photo, too! And, comparing the phone cord to an umbilical cord….cool. We still have a couple corded phones in use here.

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  9. Stevie – I asked around your family and they were very obliging. *kidding*Julie – It's a funny thing about me and form; I don't plan it out. The poem writes itself in many ways and the form of the piece takes shape or evolves from some strange unknown recess of my mind. How does it work for you?Jeannelle- I worked as a T.A. in my summers during university and that gave me an in to get contract jobs through the year, after a few years they allowed me to “sub”. Although I got accepted to Teacher's College, I declined.Mizmell – Yes! They are a rare breed these days, aren't they?KatJeannelle –

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  10. Great poem I remember the times when we had to sit with our arms folded and finger up in front of our mouths I can't remember any subs In secondary school we just had an hour off when somebody was sick.I was a sub in kindergarten Got asked back to the same ones all the time so that was good. Was one of my first jobs in NZ

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  11. In my own defence I will say that I was nice to subsitute teachers. The most memorable of which was a hippie type gent (this was the 70's after all) who wore clunky wooden clogs in the classroom.

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  12. Sandy – Thanks! I'm glad it comes across so well.Marja – Yes. It wasn't too bad if you went to familiar schools, but being called out to a new one could be terrifying!Lavinia – I was generally a well-behaved student (except perhaps for talking too much) and I treated my teachers – regular and “sub” with respect.Kat

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