Subbing Summary - August 2010

Although I regularly post this kind of stuff on my Facebook page, I thought each month that I continue substitute teaching I should post a list of things students said to me or other such memorable moments. Most of these are quite hilarious. For August, this list is a little abbreviated, since school started August 13th. (Believe it or not, I subbed the first week of school. Even teachers have reasons to be out the first week!) I won't list every sub job I had.

Friday: Elementary Art
The lesson plan called for me to have the students write in their art journals "Places We'll Go." We talked about where they went this summer, if interesting, then I read aloud the Dr. Seuss book, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" We then brainstormed some places they could go (or things they could be, for the older kids) and then they were to draw a picture of that in their journals. Clear, yes? Creative? Definitely. I had kids drawing safaris, outer space, playing in the World Cup, being a princess, some really great things. And then I had one student, a second grader, draw a picture of Walmart. Actually, it was her dad dropping her mom off at work at Walmart.

This same day also saw multiple "are you Mexican?" queries, to which the response, "No, I'm Irish" elicited, "Can you do that dance thing?" Apparently all people of Irish descent can jig.

On a brighter note, it warmed my heart to hear one student whisper to another when meeting me at the door: "That's our sub? She's so pretty!" Ah, the honesty of children! It often degrades me, being a heavier gal, so this was a welcome change.

Wednesday: Elementary Music
It inevitably happens. You get called at the last minute for a sub job, and when you arrive there are no lesson plans. In this case, the teacher hadn't even really set up his teaching space. There was a piano (digital with a sticking key - E above middle C), a file cabinet (empty), a tall shelving unit with doors (with a few random supplies in it), a couple of chairs, and a big empty space. Nothing on the walls, no chalkboard or white board. Cue pulling lesson plans out of various orifices! We did some Hokey Pokey, some Deep and Wide, action songs that kids (in theory) know the words to. Then I borrowed from the art lesson above and read them the Dr. Seuss book. Before that I asked them where they might like to go, what they might like to be when they grow up. One younger class had two particularly... interesting... responses.

One little girl said, "I want to do gymnastics, like cartwheels and stuff" and proceeded to do a back bend. I said, "So, you want to be a gymnast?" to which she said, "No! I want to do gymnastics."

Another little girl said, "I'm going to be a princess when I grow up!" This is a typical 2nd grade girl fantasy, so it wasn't my place to burst her bubble. I'll let her parents explain to her why a little black girl from the inner city probably won't grow up to be a princess.

Friday: High School Vocal Music
This was another "no sub plans" day, but fortunately the high schools have full-time accompanists and he certainly knew what was going on. While nothing humorous happened, one heart-warming thing did. A freshman choir class included about a dozen students I'd had a lot subbing at a middle school last year. One of them, Jesse, came to me at the beginning of class and said, "Yo, Ms. H. I don't mean no disrespect or nothin', but you been spending some time at the gym, ain't chu?"

Saturday: The Gym
Ok, obviously this isn't subbing-related, but it goes with the overall theme. During my core class at the gym, Sir Mix-a-lot's "Baby Got Back" comes on the mix. Our instructor, who is at least my age if not older (mid-30s) asks us, in all seriousness, "What does that mean, 'get sprung?'" Awk-ward. Fortunately my friend Dominique, who is also another instructor at the gym, managed to explain it without getting graphic or even more than nebulous. The rest of us just kept doing our crunches.

Tuesday: Elementary Music
This was only a half-day job, and for a good friend of mine so of course we'd talked and there were no surprises in the plans. My afternoon consisted of lots of action songs and telling stories about "Mr. Brown" and "Mr. Black" to demonstrate high and low. I only saw K-3rd grade. In one of my classes, I had a lighter-skinned black girl tell me I look like her mother. Unless her mother is white (possible), she might need her eyes checked.

But the best was in my last class, which was 1st grade. "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" can be a very active song, especially this rendition which also included "Neck, Elbows, Hips and Feet." After the first time we did it, I said, "Wow! That's quite a workout, isn't it? I might not need to go to the gym tonight!" A couple kids used that as a cue to tell me about their kinder-gyms, but one black girl in the front had a different take on it. She was considerably chunky and obviously out of shape, and she said with that overt seriousness that little kids can get, " I don't go to the gym." She sounded exactly like a stereotypical 30-something black woman, right out of a Tyler Perry movie.

Substitute teaching is an interesting and unique challenge. Some days I feel that I am not paid enough. Other days, I think I am paid too much! It requires creativity, patience, a firm hand, understanding, flexibility, and a desire to make sure students are learning. I do miss having my own classroom, and I'm taking some more steps towards having that again. But, until then, I'm going to keep subbing. And, keep the stories coming.


Weight Loss Psychoses

To say there is a great deal of psychology involved in losing weight is not a ground-breaking statement. I am not the first person, nor will I be the last, to say that losing weight is a lifestyle change, ideally a permanent one. The habits that lead to weight gain are innately psychological, and as I learned in a psychology class during my doctoral studies, we don't "unlearn" a behavior. We simply can't. We have to replace that behavior, that way of thinking, with something new.

I've learned a lot about myself and my eating habits over the past 11 months: when I'm inclined to snack, why I snack, why I make some of the choices that I do. It's been illuminating, to say the least, and I've been working to replace those thought processes. I've also started to realize, though, there are some other odd psychological things I'm dealing with as I lose weight. I don't think I'm alone in these, but I won't know for sure unless I throw something out there.

This isn't the first time I've lost a significant amount of weight. Twice I've lost a goodly amount of poundage; once intentionally, the other simply by circumstances of working all the time and subsequently eating less. The second time I hadn't realized I'd lost as much weight as I had until I went to buy new jeans and was down two sizes. This time, I'm being intentional about it again, tracking my workouts, reading up on what is effective and what isn't, making those lifestyle changes that I can stick with for the rest of my life. Replacing my behaviors, in good psychological stead.

Now I'm learning I have psychological ideations I need to address. I've never been a skinny girl. I was a big baby, and as far back as I can remember I was always wearing "husky girl" clothing. I never wore junior sizes -- they didn't have junior plus sizes when I was that age -- and I went from "husky girls" to plus-sized women's clothing. I've always known I was fat, but you don't ever feel as big in your own skin as you actually are. It's difficult to explain. I suppose, as much as I disliked being the big girl, I was comfortable in my skin. I knew generally how much space I took up. There's a certain security that comes from simple size, from feeling solid and substantial. As I get smaller, I'm actually getting weirdly insecure. Part of me wonders if I'll "miss" the weight, the size. I'm not very small yet, and I don't have the bone structure to ever be a size 2, but there's this weird lingering voice in the back of my brain questioning if getting smaller is the right thing. Words are failing me at the moment, but maybe other heavy gals out there who may or may not be reading this blog understand what I'm saying.

The other self-image factor I'm dealing with is how my body is changing shape. At my biggest, I knew where my worst problem spots were and how to dress my shape well. I didn't try to make any illusions, squeezing myself into inappropriate clothing. Those who know me well know my adage of, "Just because you can fit into it doesn't mean it actually fits." But as I lose weight, all I used to know about dressing my body is being challenged. Spot-toning is a fallacy, but at the same time weight loss doesn't happen evenly all over the body, partly because excess weight isn't carried everywhere in the same proportions. I'm now fitting into pants I haven't been able to wear for at least 3, if not 4 or 5, years, but because of how my body is changing shape they still don't look right on me. One pair I put on yesterday is overly baggy and saggy everywhere -- hips, thighs, butt -- but still manages to cling to and show my panniculus, my overhanging abdomen. 4 years ago, when I was wearing them regularly, I don't remember them being like that. Then again, they weren't as baggy, either. It is weirdly frustrating to know your pants are a size too big, yet if you were to go down a size they'd fit better but probably wouldn't look any better.

It's a matter of relearning my curves, I suppose. I also most likely have to come to terms with the fact that I may have the figure my grandmother had, and my mother, my aunts, and my female cousin all have: flat rears, square hips, very little waist-to-hip ratio. Hourglass figures do not genetically run in my family, at least on that side. (I don't know about my father's side, as I don't know any of my female relations there.) As a heavier girl, I had those hourglass curves -- and, of course, I also had curves I didn't want!

It's scary, frankly. I'm making radical, and hopefully permanent, changes to something I've known all my life: my body. It's also a little exciting, I suppose. Maybe I should lose the weight and dress like crap, and my friends will nominate me for "What Not to Wear." Or maybe I'll just lose the weight and still care about my appearance. But "WNTW"... it's something to think about...


Mug Shots!

My good friend and inspiration Tammy suggested I post some pics of my weight loss to date. Frankly, I've been a little bit hesitant because while losing 45 pounds (give or take) is certainly an accomplishment, as candid pics remind me I still have a long way to go.

However, today I had to head downtown to the substitute office that I work out of (I do substitute teaching) because I needed a new I.D. badge. Even before school was out last year, the ever-honest first graders were scrutinizing my badge and saying it didn't look like me. I figured it was the hair. Well, Rose the main secretary and I put the two I.D.s side-by-side and she started laughing and said, "Yeah, you needed a new badge! How are you losing the weight?"

Here I am in September 2009, about a week before joining the gym. The day I had this pic taken was the first day I could walk at all in heels after blowing out my knee for the second time. Sorry it's a little blurry.

And here I am today, August 2010.

I still have a ways to go, but now I can see what others see. I'll try to post more pics as I hit other landmark weight-loss numbers, saving the infamous "before and after" full body shots for when I reach my goal.


An Inspiration? Me?

For those who read this with any regularity, you know that the majority of my posts have been about my Battle of the Bulge. It really has become a focal point of my life. I suppose that is part of the overall lifestyle change that I'm going through, although I do hope I'm not becoming myopic. But I spent this past weekend visiting old (and new) friends in Raleigh, NC, and had a few additional eye-opening experiences.

It is nice, believe it or not, when you are picked up at the airport and the person who picks you up, upon seeing you for the first time in a year, mutters under their breath, "bitch." This, after thinking, "wow, she looks like a movie star!" (To that, I credit the Dolce & Gabana knock-off sunglasses.) So many people I saw this weekend immediately noticed that I'd lost "a lot" of weight. This included a person I'd met only once, and when I ran into her at her job SHE noticed my weight loss.

I still look in the mirror and see the work that has to be done. I think I've been gaining and losing the same 4 pounds this entire summer: I travel and gain them, I come home and lose them, and then I travel again. Even though I worked out in some way every day of this last trip, today the scale still said I was up 3 pounds. I wonder if those super-rich cupcakes from the party had anything to do with that..... but I digress. With so much up and down this summer, having this trip to reaffirm what I'm doing came at exactly the right time.

On top of that, I was told I was an inspiration. There are people I hold as to having inspired me -- one of them regularly comments on this blog -- and I see what they have done as astronomical. They've lost over 100 pounds. I'm in the murky 45 pound area, and while that's nothing to sneeze at, it's not the size of an adult person. I don't see that what I've done is anywhere near what they've accomplished. But I now have two people that I've directly inspired, and it's a little humbling.

My friend Mark in SC "blames" me for his current gym routine. Last Christmas I was out visiting him and gigging at his church, and I wanted to work out in the form of a walk. He asked if he could come along and although I warned him this was exercise for me, not sight-seeing, he really wanted to come. He thought my pace of 4+ mph was easily doable. I left him in the dust. He was really pissy afterwards, although I'd warned him, but it turned out he was pissy at himself. A week later, he got himself a membership at his local Gold's Gym and he has a trainer. He's lost a considerable amount of weight and regularly says our "little walk was a real wake-up call."

My "sister-in-law" Lisa just added her name to the list of folks I've inspired. She's a holistic health practitioner and has been doing some crazy dieting to lose weight, and she's been successful. But she also realizes that she needs to exercise. She's about to turn 50 and is harboring darker realizations, if you will, about her mortality. Lisa was aware that every day I was in Raleigh, I was working out. If I didn't make it to the gym, I did 30-40 minutes of Yoga at the house. We had several conversations about how I made the gym work in my schedule and how I made it part of my life, which gave her great ideas about how she can make exercise part of her daily routine. We are now going to text and such on a regular basis to keep each other motivated (mostly me motivating her) and we've planned that by next year we'll both be at our goals. For her, that's about 20 pounds. For me, that's 80 or so. Both are doable without starvation. For me, it's an average of 1.5 pounds a week, or 6-7 pounds a month. Or for a different perspective, about 30 pounds between now and Christmas, 24 pounds by Thanksgiving.

It's all a matter of patience and perseverance. And inspiration.