Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Substitute Teaching

Well, I've now been a sub for one full week. It's crazy how they just throw you into it. You just show up and suddenly you are in charge of 32 ten year olds. You never know what the rules are, or where the hall passes are or whether to walk outside and pick them up from recess, and if so, where to pick them up and whether there is a bell or not. That when you start learning the little teacher tricks to use. (At least in elementary grades) Like, "Who can raise their hand and remind the class what we do when we need to go to the bathroom?" Or, "Who can raise their hand and help me pass out the colored paper?" The trick is to ask two questions first that you already know the answer to, so you can correct them or add things they forgot, and they think you magically know everything. When you hit the higher grades you learn to use this one, "If you all work hard and work quietly, when you finish the worksheets the teacher has assigned, I will pretend not to notice if you listen to your mp3 players or use your cell phone after you hand them in." You have never seen such well-behaved students. It's like those 10 minutes listening to music are equivalent to crack.

And you just have to deal with things that, really a sub shouldn't have to, like fights and new students. Especially when the kids see the new student and then raise their hands and ask, "Teacher, why are some people brown?" And when you don't quite understand what they are asking, and say, "Excuse me?" another student helps out with, "because he's brown and we're all white." I guess that's what happens in a second grade classroom from Eagle Mountain Utah when a new student arrives and is the only black child in a sea of white.

Sometimes, you just have to look like a moron. Like when I was subbing for a teacher who taught both Spanish and English as a second language. I wanted to write a note to the teacher saying that if she ever needed another sub, she should call me. (It's all about connections) Well, I decided to write it in Spanish. So, I laboriously write it out the short note and glance through it to try and find any mistakes. Then I walk over to an ESL student and hand it to her. I ask her, "Can you please look at this and tell me if I made any mistakes?" She smiles and says sure, then looks down at the paper. Her smile goes away as she reads the paper and says, "I don't understand." Oh. My spanish must not be as hot as I thought it was. She can't even understand what I'm trying to say in this note. "See, I was going to leave a note for your teacher in Spanish, and was wondering if you could understand what I'm trying to say." She looks down at the paper again and says again, "I don't understand." The boy in front of her turns around and says, "Here, give me that, I'll check it, she's Russian."

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