Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Substitute Teaching, Round One

“You do know we’re a school for children with discipline problems, right?” asked the fresh-faced guidance counselor as we walked up the stairs to the classroom.

Um, no.

I met a bunch of kind teachers whose names I forgot immediately. Ms. Edwards looked over Ms. McIntire’s ransacked desk for a lesson plan, and did not find one. As the students arrived, she pulled a writing assignment on stereotyping out of the book. It could not have interested the students less.

Because of my casual teaching style, I don’t mind a degree of rumble, I don’t mind being ignored – but these eighth graders went much further down that road than I had been before. They played music on their IMacs, looked at the internet, brushed each other’s hair, picked on each other, and baited me with personal questions. All at once. I went from desk to desk to desk. I felt frustrated not because the kids couldn’t or wouldn’t sit still, but because I couldn’t keep them talking about the good ideas they do have in their heads. I also felt frustrated because I knew I’d be passing on rowdy students to Ms. Edwards, who assured me that after we swapped kids, I’d have the “better” ones.

The “better” kids clearly talked to the morning class, because they were out of hand from moment one. A Mr. Handsome (seriously) got them more or less in hand.

I wish someone had explained the “trips” to me. Several kids came to "my" classroom "on trip" during my break. They seemed to be “time out” trips, to a neighboring class, which sounds like a consequence I could have used. But when, and how?

At the end of the day, the staff seemed surprised that I “still had a smile” and wondered if I would come back. (Please, the people I worked for and with for the last seven years toughened me up.) Well, sure, if you’ll have me; if I didn’t let them run too wild. I can only get better, now that I know the lay of the land.

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