The Substitution Situation Tenacity.

The other night I had a dream that involved, among many other odd things, my eighth grade music teacher and choral director. Now, I haven’t thought about this person in a good many years so I am at a loss as to why she suddenly appeared in my dream on Friday night, but there she was. This got me to thinking about her. The last time I saw her was after my last performance as Mr. Whitney in the musical “Anything Goes” during my senior year of high school. Somehow I had managed to get the three music teachers that I had during my high school years together in the same room and back then I thought that was kind of neat.

Thinking about this teacher reminded me of the few days I had as an introduction to student teaching when I studying music education at SUNY Fredonia right after high school. I’ll never forgot the feeling that I had when I stood in front of a room full of seventh and eighth graders at Cassadaga Valley. I perceived them as hostile, though in retrospect I didn’t really have a reason to think this way as I was only going to be around for a day or two. But it was right then and there that I knew that teaching junior high students was not going to be in my future.

Back to the teacher from my dream.

At my hometown one moved from the “little school” (K-6) to the high school (7-12, actually Junior-Senior High School). At the high school we were all mingled together, there was no separation by floor or wing. When I entered the high school at 7th grade, the choral and music teacher was a well-liked woman who was kind of built like a tank with an attitude to match. She was very popular, always had command of the room and a very talented woman. An definite alto, she could easily fill a room with her voice. I’d enjoy crossing paths with Miss Whitney again.

This favorite teacher decided to take a year sabbatical to pursue a degree in school administration. The school granted her the year off and for my eighth grade year, they hired a brand new, just out-of-college teacher to handle the music classes and choral duties for the year. Miss Moonan was somewhat soft-spoken and as a soprano she had a beautiful voice. She had a decidedly different way of teaching and handling the chorus. Since everyone in town knew everyone’s business, everyone knew that Miss Whitney would be back the following year, so essentially Miss Moonan was a substitute teacher for a whole year.

Now let’s think about that. Think about the horrid things that have been done, both in fiction and in real life, to substitute teachers. I vividly remember an English substitute teacher sitting in a corner, nearly in a fetal position because all hell had broken loose in the classroom to the point that the movable partitions between that separate the room from the adjoining classroom had started falling down. I remember another completely losing her breath and fleeing the room because someone had poured a bottle of cheap perfume in the ventilation system. I don’t even want to talk about the Home Economics incident when the microwave caught fire under a substitute teacher’s watch. Being a substitute teacher is a horrid position for those that are not built Ford tough.

I really think some wanted Miss Moonan to fail. I know that many classmates wanted her to fail. What did they have to lose, after all, Miss Whitney would be back the next year. Folks from the village came to the school musical (it was “Oklahoma” that year) hoping for a catastrophe. But there was none. The musical was wonderful, and while the chosen favorites may not have been in staring roles that year, the show went on. I have to hand it to her, Miss Moonan stuck it through and though students did their best to make her life miserable, she didn’t flee, she did her job to the best of her ability and she even continued her teaching career (albeit opting to move to the elementary school level). I believe she is still teaching today.

So I guess I dreamed about Miss Moonan the other night because I admired her for her tenacity. She stuck it through when the chips were stacked against her. And I admire that in a person. It’s a trait that I strive to find in myself. Stick it through and do what you got to do. I should have remembered that back in college. Perhaps I needed that reminder, the other night.

Thanks, Miss Moonan.