Op-Ed

Real-life kindergarten cop calls Arnold Schwarzenegger for backup

Dave Hall is one of six reader columnist for The News Tribune.
Dave Hall is one of six reader columnist for The News Tribune. Tacoma

<drop_initial>When I retired after a combined 39-year career of Army, law enforcement and emergency management service, I thought substitute teaching would be a low-stress way to stay active.

I saw posters and newspaper articles asking for help with the growing teacher shortage, which was especially true in my local school district.

Even better, I wouldn’t have to return to school for a teaching credential; our state has something called an emergency substitute teaching certificate, which only requires a bachelor’s degree and sponsorship by a district.

The process took only a few months, and one evening in January, I got my first call from the sub coordinator, Maria. “Dave, welcome on board! Are you available to teach a kindergarten class tomorrow and the next day?”

I was eager to get started, so of course I accepted the assignment. How tough could it be?

The day started out well. I got to the school before anyone else arrived and waited outside until the principal showed up. “Welcome, Dave, and congratulations on joining the team!” he said after I mentioned this was my first day as a sub.

The rest of the staff was likewise very friendly and helpful, which added to my confidence. After all, I had faced armed robbers, enemy artillery fire and unhappy bureaucrats who didn’t like my requests for travel expense reimbursement. A bunch of five-year-old kiddies would be a piece of cake.

My “No worries, mate!” attitude evaporated about three minutes after the kids swarmed into the classroom. When I read the regular teacher’s notes, I noted the words “discipline” and “problem” appeared frequently.

That’s when the first clouds of doubt gathered. By mid-morning, about the time I lost almost all control of those 25 mini-anarchists, the clouds developed into a thunderstorm.

All my techniques learned over a lifelong career of public service – techniques that had once defused domestic disputes, calmed angry motorists and resulted in several successful negotiations with my wife – had zero effect on those little humans.

The noise level eventually brought the vice principal to my classroom/battlefield to restore order, which she did calmly and effortlessly. While I was grateful for the backup, I was also chagrined at my failure. I wasn’t sure I had the courage to return the following day.

Fortunately, I’m married to a brilliant woman. Upon returning home and confessing what a debacle my first day had been, she smiled, went to our old DVD collection and pulled out a copy of “Kindergarten Cop.”

“Time for some tactical training, Babe!”

I hadn’t seen that film in years, but Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance revitalized my confidence immediately.

Next morning, I showed up equipped with my retirement badge, traffic whistle and Mountie campaign hat. (No ferret or handgun, though. Rules are rules!)

Following Arnold’s approach, I had the kiddies lined up in formation and marched them around the classroom. I led them in light calisthenics.

After my students were a bit tired out, we all took a seat on the Storytime Rug, where I read to them in characters’ voices.

That’s when the vice principal poked her head into my classroom, smiled and gave me a thumbs up. And I knew I would survive as a substitute teacher.

Dave Hall of Steilacoom is a former soldier, retired cop, and full-time golf enthusiast. He’s one of five News Tribune reader columnists in 2019. Email him at dave.hall058@gmail.com

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