A different kind of urban hike

This statue of an old-fashioned maiden was my only photo of the day.

Although this year’s project focuses on the paths of Berkeley, inspired by my January 2 purchase of the map so named, I also made a vow to walk more in general. And the opportunity arose on my first day of subbing.

Let me backtrack just a smidge. . . I left teaching 7 1/2 years ago. Okay, it would be more truthful to say that teaching left me, but that’s a whole long sob story I’d rather not relive for this post. Suffice it to say that I went from a stable 25-year career in elementary education to the glamorous offerings-aplenty world of publishing. Or maybe that was the little lie I told myself to get me up every morning.

I was incredibly lucky to land a job in publishing with nary an interview or related job experience. Since my wonderful husband hired me, I didn’t even have to update my resume. (My favorite line is that I can do what I want at work because I sleep with the boss.) Of course I have a B.A. in English Lit, which is exceedingly rare and a huge asset in the job market. (English majors not only have the distinction of being the best-read baristas, they are also prone to sarcasm.)

So, you may have heard: the publishing industry has been in decline since someone proclaimed that print was dead. And our property taxes here in Bezerkeley are among the highest anywhere. So . . .

To make up for the reduced income–and because my nemesis was no longer in charge of the lower school–I decided to see if the school where I used to teach needed subs. I filled out the paperwork, handed it in, and got called that evening to sub the next day for one of the 7th grade humanities teachers at the middle school campus.

Of course Wednesday is the day that I teach an after-school creative writing class for 3rd-5th graders at Madera Elementary in El Cerrito, so I explained that I could sub only if I was allowed to leave early in order to teach my class. It was fine.

The office staff person in charge of subs told me to wear my walking shoes because part of my day would be escorting my charges on their trip to visit their 4th grade buddies on the elementary campus, which is 1.6 miles by foot. The plan was for the 7th graders to walk over, eat lunch with their buddies, play with each other at recess, do an activity together, then walk back to their own campus in time for a 2:30 dismissal.

Except I needed to leave at 1:40 to drive to Madera, which is a mile and a half away from either campus. So I got up early, drove to the elementary campus, parked my car, and walked the 1.6 miles to the middle school campus to arrive there at 8:10, ready to get my class roster and sub plans for the day.

En route I saw one current elementary teacher walking the opposite direction  heading for work and one former middle school teacher who happens to live in the neighborhood out for her morning jog. I got lost, very briefly, when I unnecessarily climbed a steep block that led to a dead-end. Since I wanted to make up time for my wrong turn, I stopped only once to take a picture.

My first day of subbing was wonderful. In the morning the kids worked on making books out of their collections of vignettes–choosing their about-the-author photos, formatting the various pieces, printing out their pages, and gluing them together. They were kind, helpful, self-directed, polite, and respectful. Who knew that 7th graders were so great?

Then at 11:35 on an unusually warm, sunny February day, all the 7th graders and their teachers trekked over to other campus, bravely sweating up that last big hill. It was pizza day, so they happily ate outside with their 4th grade buddies and spent recess together. Afterward the 7th graders gave handmade cards to their buddies and helped them make special valentines that light up. I loved watching the older children patiently teaching younger ones and having fun.

I slipped out and drove to Madera to teach my regular class and was pretty tired by the time I got home that afternoon.

It was quite a productive day all around: between the two jobs, I earned $200 and took 12,668 steps!


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