Assembly: Change Change Change

A long time ago I learned the truthyism: nothing is constant except change itself. This is not a bad way to understand the world, but for some reason some people just don’t get it.

We have a situation in Assembly that requires some people to be moved from one seat to another. Particularly one person, Person 1, but the last person we moved, Person 4, was very unhappy about it. Person 4 was convinced I thought she had done something wrong. She didn’t of course. She didn’t believe me. She actually broke down into tears. Sobbing, fifty-year old women from Boston are pitiful, but because the change was important and necessary, I didn’t budge (I can’t tell you why Person 1 had to move unfortunately).

This set the mood for the day.

A client/trainee, Person 2, who was a tiny part of the primary reason for the change is someone who taxes the patience of the faculty and other clients/trainees. Person 2’s disability makes her cranky. Constantly. She is a very nice person, but if something sets her off she complains non-stop (Hey is for horses! I can’t drink caffeine. Current events is only supposed to be on rainy days! I hate Bingo! Tell the other faculty they can’t boss me. So-and-so is bossing me! etc.). We moved her to her new location, because she has been doing very well and we had been looking for a way to integrate her better into the group.

Today, the first day of the move and person 2 is happy with the change, but one of her new neighbors was not too thrilled and started picking at Person 2. Person 2 complained. Eventually, Person 2 had to be taken outside until her “behavior” subsided. I have been working with Person 2 for as long as I have been substitute teaching with Assembly (since early February) and so I know how to weather her worst storms and to also help her understand we hear what she says, listen carefully and value her. It did not take long for me to get Person 2 to agree to ignore her neighbor at her new table. Now Person 2 and her neighbor have a long history of strife. Both are hard working, competitive women with very different disabilities. To say the least, the needling continued. The neighbor dislikes Person 2 (“She’s annoying”). We had two more blow-ups, both went outside for “talks” and both lost their end-of-day rewards for good behavior, but Person 2 is still happy with the change. Eventually, the neighbor will come around to Person 2 and everything will be fine. The stress of change eventually goes away.

It is too early to see if Person 1 likes the change. He’s sneaky. Person 3 was just fine with the change. Person 3’s OCDs are extreme and I was expecting problems, but I got none.

At the end of the day, the last thing I heard from Person 4 is: “I didn’t do nuttin. I was good. Why did you make me change places.”

Oh my!


I love substitute teaching. I love the variety and daily change of pace. Even when I’ve done long term assignments each day is different. One of the other nice aspects is being able to look at the politics of a work environment and celebrate not being a part of it. I like getting to know students and trainees and seeing their bad sides (and subs always see the worst part of students) knowing they are essentially good people–for the most part, I hate seeing the mean in some kids and I’ve hated seeing bullying. I also love getting to know the faculty at the different schools I work at.

Today was the last day for one of the Faculty in Assembly. She left half-way through the day and got the chance to say good-bye to all the trainees she worked with. Some of them were brought to tears and some are not sure what happened. She left for the reasons most people leave: greener-pastures, better pay and benefits and a change of pace. She wanted to continue in Assembly and work at the new job as well, but conflicting training schedules ruled that out. Things like this happen.

The difference in this experience and when a teacher leaves mid-term at a main-line school is the student rumor-mill. Like Assembly, faculty do not tell students why someone leave. It rightfully isn’t their business. At school, the student rumor-mill goes into over drive. The students try to figure out why something they don’t understand happened. Particularly with popular people like the faculty-member who left today. Sometimes dark-hints from less than ethical faculty will cause student-body ire to fall on administration or other faculty. In Assembly, the trainees cry and admit how much they will miss someone, but only occasionally is there a bru-ha-ha.

When I first started subbing at Assembly, I was replacing a faculty member who left under dubious conditions. The rest of the faculty was glad to see her go, but not many trainees. When I took over, I was answering questions about the now gone faculty-member and when was she coming back for two weeks. A couple even told me it was my fault (usually after I told them to do something). Still, acceptance settles in faster in Assembly than at a main-line school.

To me, the reason is simple: constant turnover. At the institutional care most of the Assembly trainees live in, there is a lot of turn-over. The work is hard. I couldn’t do it. I can’t deal with adults who need bathrooming help and I gag at the smell of poop. There is not a lot of long term continuity and so the trainees get used to people going in and out of their lives. The trainees know I am a sub and that I work with every population group. They are used to the idea that I will be working with them one day, at a middle-school another day and then magically, I am back with them or with a different group in the facility like Laundry or Brick.

While I am very glad the particular faculty-member left today (she did give notice and was quite professional) and agree with why she went, I find the consistency of the trainees lives lacking. Even here, some of the faculty have been in Assembly for years. One for thirty-two years, but it just isn’t the same. Living on a bed of sand is not good for anyone.