Substitute teaching is not for the faint of heart. I wear my cocky little LHS Faculty ID like a badge of courage… even though they chose the prank photo that has Michelle Boen’s fingers making bunny ears behind my head. I kissed being taken seriously goodbye a long time ago, but seriously; the bunny ear photo? You want me to stare down sassy students while sporting a bunny ear photo ID? For the love. 

 So here’s the job; here are the golden rules for substitutes:
Take attendance.
Monitor the classroom.
Perfect the stink-eye. There is always a little rebel snorting on the sideline about to call you into the bullring. I’m telling you… perfect the stink-eye and use it. 
Don’t let students bleed or break bones.
Don’t let students leave the classroom unless they are bleeding or have a broken bone.
Above all… guard the desk.

Yesterday was Halloween. Mrs. Boen dressed up as a ghost and left me in charge of her students, and her desk. Holiday restlessness can be a challenge at best. Add the candy and costume factor and forget it, you’re already in the bullring. Fortunately, Mrs. Boen left “alternative activities” in case things went sour. And they did. They went green apple jolly rancher sour. Chapter review worksheets – fine I’ll show “Hocus Pocus” if you get to question number 30. That worked great until the ninth graders came in after lunch jacked up on steak fingers with a side of butterfingers. I went into a bit of Halloween costume mode myself. I pretended to be a nice sub (my mask was a smile). Here you go kid, pass out these coloring sheets and give me your best pumpkin.

My first mistake was probably the smile. However, I didn’t realize the low level of substitute sin I had committed until I received a text this morning from Mrs. Boen saying… “Selby! Where are all my markers?” Now granted, Boen’s my bestie. She takes a lot of grief from me. That’s what besties do, right?  Most teachers would probably catch me in the hallway and politely ask, “Hey! Hope everything went ok yesterday. By the way, I’m missing some markers… do you happen to know where they are?” In her defense, I did see Mrs. Boen in the hallway. I just avoided eye contact. Because when your bestie is a teacher, you know how much those markers mean to her. Guard the desk, Selby. Hashtag friend goals.

The heart of a teacher is their class. The kids. The students who aren’t always just a student. Sometimes they’re tired and cranky teens that have been through unimaginable horrors before the morning bell even rings. Sometimes they’re quiet and shy and almost invisible and they leave you a note saying you changed their life. The heart of a teacher is their class and they will guard their heart fiercely. If the heart of a teacher is their class, then the heart of their classroom is their desk!  It holds their tools, their resources, their indulgent stash of candy and coffee, and the one or two things they can’t function without – such as markers. Selby, guard the desk! 

I’m thankful for Mrs. Boen’s missing markers. Partly because I get to buy her some new ones and spoil her a little bit. Partly because we had yet another opportunity to poke fun at each other and lighten up the load that she carries while guarding the heart of her class. And I’m thankful for the reminder to guard my heart. It’s my job to care for the heart of the teacher in their absence. I don’t know what’s going on in the lives of these kids, but if my heart is missing markers, it’s going to miss the mark. My heart needs to be equipped with tools, resources, innocent indulgences, and the thing I can’t function without: the love of God. 

Is your heart missing markers? Is it missing the mark? I give you my heart – God’s love. Fill your heart, share your heart, guard your heart. 

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

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