Surrogate Class: When You Are Substituted by a Classy Individual

This blog is an homage to the incredible experience of having a very classy person fill in for me while I was recently detained from my Polite Pirates. It is inaccurate to say that Katie Boraske filled in for me. It is true that she fulfilled the role of substitute. That is what temporary teachers who replace an educator for a time are technically called, but Katie was so much more than that!

A dairy substitute replaces natural cream in coffee. One might use it if they want to cut down on their fat intake, save money, or want to store it longer than half & half will keep. It is able to be kept without refrigeration and longer than natural cream because it’s made using a variety of manmade chemicals. While there may be some benefits to having dairy substitutes, this coffee snob sticks to organic half & half, only. 

Katie Boraske has worked as my school’s “building sub,” off and on for the past couple of years. Building substitutes are available all of the time, in case an educator experiences symptoms of illness (Covid carefulness) and has to leave on short notice. When my father passed away recently, Katie was there to fill in for me. 

In addition to working as a building sub, Katie has helped me coach our elementary school chess club this year. Her love for the game, desire to grow in chess play, and gifted classroom management is invaluable to our biweekly meetings on Wednesday afternoons! 

When I found out that Katie would be the one to substitute for me, I was ecstatic. She let me know the moment that she found out via text message. Then we communicated about a few details in the lesson plans that I had left. What happened later on in the morning, though, was off-the-hook awesome. Katie texted me pictures and videos of what my Polite Pirates were doing. More than a substitute, Katie provided a portal to the classroom. 

At the time, I was going through tons of photos, preparing a slideshow for honoring my father’s life. When I came across a picture of myself with lots of hair (I’ve been bald for the past couple of years), I thought it would be funny to share with the class. I texted the image to Katie. Not only did she mirror the photo onto the screen in my classroom via Apple TV, but she video taped the Polite Pirates’ responses during the dramatic reveal. When she shared this video with me, my heart nearly burst with joy and laughter. I felt like I was there in the room with them!

The excellence in instruction, classroom management, and communication that Katie Boraske demonstrated daily made it not only comfortable, but fun to put together plans for her to teach my students for me. More than taking my place, it felt like Katie was a supplement to my teaching. A supplement is something that completes or enhances something else. We take vitamin supplements to fill in our deficiencies and help our bodies be the healthiest they can. 

We don’t always have control over who will stand in for us, but I hope that you can have the experience of someone as classy as Katie to substitute you when the need arises. It would be fun to hear some stories of other great surrogates to class. What funny, awesome, or unique experiences have you had with substitutes? 

Air Conditioning

“Sometimes I turn the air conditioner on to lower the humidity, even more than the temperature.”

What do you do to “condition” the climate of your classroom?

I live in the North Eastern part of America, a land full of extremely different climates. When my daughter complains that it is raining, I tell her about places right in our country where it hardly ever rains. The people who live there cannot plant the gardens that we can. They don’t enjoy frequenting forest hikes, because woods are too far to visit regularly. With a couple more examples Scarlet was convinced that foregoing a pool day for some rain might be worth it. 

As wet as it is around here, we are blessed with relatively high humidity. I lived in Florida for a year, so I know what humidity is. In Pennsylvania, it comes and goes, thankfully. But, there are days when you walk outside, and it feels like you are swimming to your car! 

It’s my opinion that high levels of humidity are uncomfortable. I don’t enjoy feeling sticky. It can even cause objects to deteriorate faster. 

The humidity makes the air feel even hotter than it actually is, too. This is because our natural air conditioning won’t work when the air is too humid. Our bodies produce sweat in order to cool off. The cooling sensation comes from the sweat from our skin evaporating. When there is already too much moisture in the air, the sweat doesn’t have anywhere to go! (Krueger, 2016)

My wife visited Big Bend National Park in Texas a few years ago. She was conducting research there, in the summer! It was well over 100 degrees, but “You don’t feel it,” she explained. “It’s a dry heat.” I have never had the privilege of experiencing “dry heat.” The dryness of the air in desert climates or areas that receive very little rain (<30% humidity) feel cooler than the actual temperature because of how quickly the sweat evaporates from your skin (LaNore, 2021). In the same way that you don’t even notice sweating because of how fast it disappears, you won’t realize just how hot the air is. 

One thing that I like about living in Pennsylvania is the variety of weather. Unlike Florida, we get breaks from the humidity. But, this means that we don’t acclimate to a constant feeling of stickiness. When the humidity hits, it is extremely noticeable.

The good news is that you can “condition” the air to be less humid. I was telling a friend just the other day that there are times I’ll turn on the air conditioner and set the temperature at only a couple of degrees cooler than the actual temperature. Why would I do this? Using an air conditioner can dry up the air (Anderson, 2017). 

You may be interested in “deep-diving” the science behind air conditioning, first invented by Willis Carrier in 1902 (How do air conditioners work?). Basically, air is sucked into a machine through a “compressor” that uses a cooling agent to lower the temperature of the air.

The gas then moves through an “evaporator” (central air) or over an “evaporating coil” (window units). This is when the chilled air loses its moisture. The heavy water particles are left behind, as the cool dry air exits the unit. You can actually see the water vapor leave window units on the outside of buildings. There is usually a hole where water drips out. 

Okay, so now that you have journeyed with me through the annoyance of temporary high humidity levels and how to feel comfortable, it is time to readdress the initial question: What do you do to “condition” the climate within your classroom? 

Have you ever walked into a space where the tension is so present that you feel it in the air? Have you ever felt your own blood boil to the point that you are heating up the room? People, including us teachers, blow their cool. We all get upset. 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve witnessed student after student experiencing frustrations (technology can sometimes stimulate this;) where one kid’s attitude begins to affect another’s, until the whole room is boiling over with irritation. I’ll usually catch the mood before it gets out of control, and I’ll have everyone practice a mindfulness technique. We have to reset our soles. 

There are times we have to literally, physically leave the educational space. I’ll bring everyone outside. I’ve even taken my class for a walk around the school, just to return to our room and work. They chuckle incredulously when they realize we did nothing more than roam the halls. It works, though. The “humidity” exits the room with us, and it “evaporates” off of our persons, out of our minds, when we move our feet. 

When frustration is mild, or if I can anticipate potential irritation; maybe we are about to do an assessment or practice something the students don’t enjoy; I will have the class do Tai Chi. This is a very pleasant way for the kids to get out of their seats, move their bodies slowly, and practice mindful breathing. It is a great way to lower the tension (humidity) before the “temperature” rises. 

How do you condition your classroom environment? How do you know when you ought to?


Anderson, F. (2017, September 9). Does the air conditioner dry out the air in my home? Forrest Anderson Plumbing Air Conditioning, inc. 

How do air conditioners work? Carrier.

Krueger, A. (2016, July 7). Why does it feel hotter when it’s humid? Science! Spectrum News 1.—science-

LaNore, S. (2021, July 5). Dry heat vs. humid heat — How do they affect me? Acu*Rite.