24 September 2010

What class am I teaching today?

My current job title is a substitute teacher - I don't think I've said that before. I prefer to sub for high school students, but my bills tell me to accept anything offered. So, this week I taught some not-quite-kindergartners, some 3rd graders, and some high school students. (I also filled in for a janitor, but who wants to talk about that?)

First, the adorable 5 year olds. Well, mostly adorable. The class was actually labeled "developmental" kindergarten, which (I think) means they weren't quite ready for real school. They're the ones who haven't figured out how to write their names, struggle when counting higher than 10 (we definitely hit a wall there), or can't sit calmly during story time, etc. Anyone who knows me will recognize this isn't my area of expertise. Still, they made me laugh - "Teacher, look at the pretty zebra!" she says as she holds up a book about alligators. Yes, there was a zebra, but it was in a green mouth and nearly underwater. Pretty wasn't a word I would have used. Then, they made me shake my head in exasperation as one kid got all the others to repeat the word "poop" in a kind of prebathroom cheer. And they made me find my inner-mother and comfort the child who ran out to recess only to fall down and hit his head on a slide. One of many crying episodes, I'm afraid. I had to take a nap when I got home.

Then, I taught some 3rd graders - I suppose you could call it a promotion. Some were incredibly sweet, but all were whiny. It didn't help that sickness seems to have hit the school early and 2 went home sick. One threw up all over the bathroom before heading out. I let 4 others go down to the office for temperature checks. The rest felt good enough to talk over every lesson. I think the only time I had complete control was during read-aloud time. And I don't even like Charlotte's Web. My favorite thing about 8 year olds, however, is how suddenly everything hits them. When they figure out what I want them to do in Math - their faces light up and they just have to interrupt class to say "I got it!" When they kick a ball over the fence, it's a big surprise, even though they had come close 3 times before. When their friend says "I'm going to punch you," they still act surprised at the follow-through (we had a discussion after that incident). Ah, to live in the moment once more.

Finally, high school. I got to teach some English lessons today (my field). :) I tried to inspire some poetry, worked through a section of Beowulf, reassured them that To Kill a Mockingbird really was worth reading, and administered a practice essay test. These are things I know how to do. But after having an enormous amount of interaction with the shorter pupils of previous days, I was disappointed by how quiet high school students can be when they aren't discussing football games, who their dating, or Justin Bieber. It was pathetic. Apparently Grendel isn't impressive enough as far as monsters go. It seems Sparknotes is sufficient when studying racial tension in the South. And poetry is for emo's and they're more like hipsters. They would rather plan a banner for homecoming week. I wanted to find a soap box and tell them the importance of all the above, but the bell was about to ring.

I realize there may not be immediate gratification for these assignments, but couldn't you at least try to care? I don't understand.

Some day I'll get a classroom of my own and figure out how to inspire interest in great literary works, but until then, call me if you're feeling sick.


  1. Oh, but teenagers are the greatest examples of self importance and short sightedness, aren't they? And even if they DO care, they are probably not allowed to act like they do for fear of some social ramification.

  2. Some of my favorite books I ever read were for school (to kill a mocking bird included). The problem that you're dealing with is that while these students may enjoy the works, they are not used to you and talking to you about it. I only took the honors and AP classes in HS because if I didn't I was bored out of my mind. No one else cares. The people I was with cared. So don't fret, there are students who are excited to learn, they just group together and you seemed to have taught the wrong class.

  3. It's true - I realize many, many high school students care about good writing (maybe the ones who become bloggers?), it was just the mood of the day and I felt the need to vent. Thanks for the encouragement. :)