May 4, 2016

Teaching Science

Don't know what I'm doing.
As I've written about pursuing a teaching career and having Mr. Cackling Hen's classroom, I've spent months reaching out to various schools for substitute teaching and applying to full-time roles. Many schools have their own application process for substitute teaching, so I've humbly jumped through the hoops, cut the read tape, given fingerprints multiple times (for multiple fees), and given up blood samples and my future first-born child. I even sat in on a 6th grade class (See "Mr Cackling Hen's Grand Debut."), but I recently had my actual debut where I was in charge.

I didn't fully know what to expect for my first time leading a group of students, especially 6th graders. I envisioned them laughing at my worldly stories and jokes, as I threw the lesson plans out the window and became the coolest teacher ever. I also envisioned utter chaos, with students running around the room, throwing things, cursing at me, and having no respect for authority. It would probably be one of these two situations, and I really hoped for the former.

My "day" of subbing was really filling in for one class at 2 p.m. The teacher said I could come in early to observe her prior class, and I gladly accepted as a green teaching bird. I walked into the classroom, met by confused stares. The teacher kindly welcomed me, but told me this was her full class, so there was nowhere to sit. I stood in the back corner of the classroom for 45 minutes, wondering how a shadowing substitute teacher should stand, and what I should do with my arms and hands. I chose the ideal corner that also held lesson plans and worksheets, so I could awkwardly get out of the teacher's way when she needed one of those things. I also wondered if I should discipline the unruly back row of students, since I had a prime view of their antics. I didn't.

After that class was my teacher's planning period, where I thought I could relax in her classroom and compose myself for my teaching debut. But when the bell rang, we had to evacuate immediately, as another teacher used the room for this 8th grade class. These kids were bigger and louder. Proportionally, the teacher was also bigger and louder, and his voice boomed at these teens before I could flap out of there.

After countless minutes and deep breaths, I returned to my classroom to lead my group of 6th graders. It was a science class, which was perfect since my science knowledge is also at the 6th grade level. I wavered between standing, sitting, or just plain leaving as the kids entered. I expected they'd been threatened to be nice to the sub the day before, but they hadn't. As I greeted the chickadees, I was met with many a "Where's Miss Teacher?"

I greeted the chickadees and explained the plan for the day. Most cooperated, and some had to use the bathroom immediately. Within minutes, three students in the back corner managed to lean against the wall in a way that ripped two large posters to the ground. The class cackled and clucked, wondering how that could have happen.

"Just leave the posters on the floor, but don't step on them or rip them!" I hollered. One of the culprits offered to rehang the posters, but even standing on a chair, he was too short to help at all.

When does my talk show start?
Most of the class was for them to copy notes and do a worksheet. Only a few students pinched their friends' legs, screamed, or threw paper. Miss Teacher had told me I could play music for them quietly if they behaved, which helped cover the sound of my panting. The Internet suddenly went to dial-up speed, playing a few seconds of a song then stopping. Every student had their own solution, yelling from wherever they sat. "Try another station!" "Turn it up!" "I hate Coldplay!" After 10 minutes that felt like hours, God had mercy on me and let the music play.

My watch and the school clock were 5 minutes apart, so I debated which clock to follow. I picked the wrong one and told them to clean up 5 minutes early. All packed up and with no work to do, the students' volume quickly grew to a roar. My feeble clucks couldn't compete as I tried to come up with a game to pass the time. These kids were done. I was done.

Stay seated.
The bell rang and I breathed a sigh of relief. But as my class left, more students came in. Had I misread the schedule? Did I have another class for which I was ill-prepared? No, but a group of students come in every afternoon to clean the room. My duties were done, but I assumed the school would frown upon me leaving a group of 13 year olds unattended, so I stayed to hover and rehang the fallen posters. One boy was friendly and chatty, asking if I was from "London or something" based on my accent, and if I was an artist because of my hair. To both I said "yes."

I left my first day of substituting unsure if my day was a success, a failure, or just somewhere in between. I may have felt uncomfortable and unstable, but all the students did their work and went to the bathroom at least once. No one swore at me, and no one got into a brawl. Reflecting on the day, I deem it a huge success. Next time - kindergarten! Stay tuned.

KEEP READING! "The Best of the Unfinished Archives!"
"Waking Up in Lisbon."

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