OK, so last week was my first week of substitute teachering, as I alluded to before. Having done children’s ministry since I was about 17, I have over 20 years cumulative experience with people younger than me. I am also the father of three daughters and have had extensive experience in observing the behaviors of all sorts and ages of girls and the occasional teenage boy. And, believe it or not, I too, was a teenager once. But that was way back in the 1970s.
Substitute teachering is an interesting choice of work; I know of no other job where one can have such a variety of “co-workers” in such a short space of time. Some of them are in the fourth grade, some have doctoral degrees, some are snarky teenagers. From my vast three days worth of experience though, I have seen that there is seldom a dull or predictable moment.
My first foray into this business was on a Monday morning. Luckily I got an Art class for half a day. Some of the kids were really talented but not motivated. Some were talented and motivated, some were untalented but motivated, and a lot of them were untalented and unmotivated. I was actually able to help some of them with their projects, which gave me some confidence in my new gig. They all commented on my size, and I think that may be an advantage, because when I walked over to see what they were doing, they mostly did what they were supposed to. Of course, I had no idea when classes began and ended, but I only had to survive until about 12:15, as I later found out.
Just before I left, I met some of the other teachers breaking for lunch. They asked how it went and I told them that it went OK. One gal told me that I ought to play the part of the “crazy sub”, the one that just might snap, maybe today, maybe now. It seemed a little early for that advice; I think she just wanted to say it to see if someone would actually pick up on that role. I assured her that although I wouldn’t implement that strategy right away, I would likely keep it in my lexicon.
The next day was filling in for the “Reading Teacher” at a nearby elementary school. I was met with vague instructions, a helper that knew little more than me, and the realization that these were the “troubled readers”. Without revealing too much, suffice to say I was exhausted by three o’clock. I had spent the entire day standing, prowling, nudging, reading, and at one time when a kid pretended to shoot a neighbor with his finger, I took his pretend gun and pretend bullets; eject pretend magazine, eject pretend round in pretend chamber, pick up pretend ejected bullet, lock back pretend slide. He just stared at me in amazement.
The last gig I filled in was on the Thursday before the Thanksgiving holiday, which was to be an entire week. It was at Alvin High School, and was a German language class. My initial reaction when I saw the opening was, “Can I do this?”. But then I realized that the students would probably be able to speak pretty good English. The kids were all pretty much typical high school muttonheads, a little smart aleck and funny, but also a little intimidated by my size and moustache. Every class had a comment about my size, and I always downplayed it. My first speech, which included my name on the board, was usually about cooperation and getting along. I told them, “I am a substitute, not an idiot”.
The second most asked question was if I was German myself, due to my last name. HA, NOPE, I’m of Swedish descent from Texas City. They asked if I spoke German, I answered nein. They asked how tall I was. To that, I would hold up my hand level with the top of my head, pause and say, “uh, THIS tall…”. A couple of times my answer was “five foot eight”, and when they expressed incredulity, I would reply, “I just talk bigger”.
In each class my very clear and spelled out instructions from the regular teacher instructed me to give the students worksheets and then show a DVD of a made-up German teen-soap with German subtitles. Tanja and Christian and Julia and Hasan had minor relationship drama, with cleverly inserted counting in German, directions, ordering orange juice or soft drinks or traveling to Amerika or even riding their bikes down the Strasser. The copyright was about 2003, so the clothing and music wasn’t so bad. At the beginning of the episode while the students were still talking and milling about, I encouraged them to be quiet, since I had grown to like the music, suggesting that I wanted to download it to my iPod. That got a laugh. Once I even encouraged them in my best Hank Hill voice, “Just watch the danged vid-ya…”. They got it. One kid allowed that, “It’s rare that we get a sub with a sense of humor”, to which I replied simply, “Yeah, same here…”.
If it weren’t for the fact that every day when you walk out of the school, you’re out of work again, I would say that sub-ing, as they call it, would be a pretty good way to make a living.
Except in the summertime, what the heck happens then?
Monday, November 30, 2009
Posted by aA at 8:25 PM