To put it mildly, our family has been through a lot of transitions over the last year and a half — our son’s illness, my mom’s death, a change of cars, a change of banks, my own rocky spiritual journey, financial thises and thats, and new responsibilities regarding the house we’re renting. For the most part, the changes have made our lives more complicated rather than less, and added stress rather than reduced it. Not to be Debbie Downer or anything, just sayin’.
So it’s kind of nice when something changes that’s a clear positive. And in the last few weeks, we’ve had such a change.
Nina, my supermodel wife, is back at work.
You have to understand that at heart, Nina is a teacher. She was raised by a stay-at-home mom, tried that route herself and probably came as close as she ever will to breaking out the razor blades. She loves her husband and kids, enjoys football, likes movies … but teaching pre-teen children is what she does, if you get my drift. God made fish to swim, birds to fly, Dwyane Wade to play basketball and Nina to teach. That’s how she is.
So summer was rough for her. Bad enough that the charter school where she’d been “employed” was so badly administered that a group of high school wannabe-thugs basically ran the whole asylum. Or that at the end of the school year, the administration still owed her three paychecks and big chunks of five others. (They still do; my conservative estimate is that they owe her at least $6000 before taxes. We don’t expect to ever see a cent of it.) But now she was left at home — and for her, even teaching in a war zone is better than not teaching at all.
She took the first opportunity to reapply with the local public school district this summer, but due to layoffs last year (and perhaps the slowness of the school board) their human resource department was too backlogged to deal with the applications for substitute assistants at the time. It wasn’t until August 20, four weeks into the school year (they have a quirky system here — “modified traditional,” they call it — and the schools open in late July) that they finally got her paperwork processed and gave her a password for the substitute-calling system.
There have been thirteen school days since. She’s worked all thirteen of them.
Funny thing is, she’d been told that might happen by the district HR people when she reapplied. One person said specifically that she’d probably work 75-90% of the potential days. But we weren’t buying it. We figured they were overstating the case, as folks will do. Not so far, they haven’t. And in those thirteen days, she’s been at eight or nine different schools. She’s shuttled all over the district, filling in at one place one day, another the next. Everyone wants a piece of her!
Now, this is not an unalloyed blessing — there’s no such thing in a fallen world. I’ve had to re-hoist some of the responsibilities for Sean’s care that I’d passed on to Nina over the summer, with which Sean is less than totally thrilled, because Mom is just more fun than Dad. Running to different sites on different days means extra work for her chauffeur (me, since she can’t drive) and constant adjustments to Sean’s feeding schedule. A couple of the “jobs” have been snafus by a school secretary — in one case, three people ended up being brought in for the same fill-in post. There’s always the case of the school that brings her in to work with the physically handicapped, which is neither her strong suit (her specialty is dealing with learning disabilities) nor within her capabilities (since with the CMT, she’s crippled herself). And there’s the whole deal of handling the telephone calls.
(I should explain about that last one. the school district uses an automated phone system to call potential substitutes and offer them the open positions. Calls can come in from 5:30 to 11:50 a.m. for same-day posts and from 4:15 to 9:00 p.m. for future positions. When the system calls, you have to punch in your ID number, then it tells you where and when the job is and asks if you want it. If you accept, it gives you a job number to give to the school administrators when you arrive. If you decline, it lets you go — and then calls you later with another job until you either accept one or they run out of jobs. Nina will usually only decline an assignment if it’s at one of the district’s four high schools — her training was with grade-schoolers, and besides, after last year’s experience at the charter school she may never be willing to teach high-schoolers again!)
But all in all, it’s been absolutely a positive for her, and by extension for all of us. There is a power and a joy that comes from being where you’re supposed to be and doing what you’re meant to do. I get it from writing or reading (like, well, this blog). Nina gets it from teaching children how to read and write, add and multiply, interact and grow. This is, in all sense of the word, her calling. She’s great at it — we have testimonials of kids who jumped three grade levels in a subject in three months under her tutelage. And it’s great for her — almost every day she comes home with her face aglow, chattering about the children she helped and the teachers she worked with. And she hasn’t even gotten her first paycheck from the district yet (that’ll arrive in about three weeks).
Even tonight, as I was typing this, we received six (not a misprint — 6!) calls from the automated system for her. The first five were from three different high schools, so we gave them the matador’s “ole!” and waited. Sure enough, number six was at the same grade-school where Nina was a sub when we were first married back in 1999. It’s just a one-day assignment, but you never know where these things will lead. And she was more than glad to accept.
Fourteen for fourteen. And we couldn’t be happier. You go, girl!