Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fear and Loathing in a Classroom

Wow, I certainly let this slide for the past week or so, haven't I? Oops. My bad.

So, like I was planning on telling you about a week or so ago, I had my first experiences in the substitute teaching realm, and really, it wasn't so bad. You see, for a long, long time, I've known that at some point I wanted to become a teacher. The key words of that sentence being "at some point". I'm not sure if it was more of a fear of simply being on the other side of a classroom, fear of not being taken seriously, or something else akin to plain old scaredy-cat-ism, but I'd always been able to justify putting it off in my head. "Oh, I'll wait 'til I have more separation in age between myself and high school students" was my primary mental delay tactic for the last 5 years or so, combined with the lack of desire to go back to school to get my education training, etc. You see, in my last year of college, I developed a severe allergy to the daily transportation of a backpack full of books, brought on by an acute case of doing so for the vast majority of my, at that point, 22 years of existence.

But anyway, none of that mattered a week and a half ago, as apparently the only formal requirement to become a substitute teacher here is a high school diploma. And a willingness to not, you know, set the classroom on fire if the kids start to misbehave. Which, as you all probably remember from your own school days, would be a distinct possibility on a day when the regular teacher is out and a sub is there in their place. Lucky me.

So my first three days of subbing were for a high school English teacher, doing mostly reading and writing classes, with a "Living Skills" hour and a study hall (called Phase Catchup here, if I'm remembering correctly...long story). The first day was a bit of a challenge, meeting with quite a bit of limit-testing behavior by the kids. Now, I have no idea what they thought of me, but I feel like after I established that I was pretty much in the "don't mess with me, I won't make things tough on you" camp, things went pretty smoothly the next couple days. I was learning probably just as much as they were on a daily basis, with my primary lesson being as simple as: School laptops are to Students as Crack is to....well, people who like crack, I guess. All in all, I had a pretty good time on the high school side of the building, and at the end of the day Friday when they asked me if I could come back last Monday, I was happy to say yes.

When I got to school Monday morning, however, I was mildly terrified to find I would be shifting over to the other side of the building...the elementary side. I was to be a wrangler of 5th graders for the day, and looking at the sub plans laid out for me, I am not ashamed to say I was far more frightened than I was with the high school kids. You see, there are some I've talked to, Sara included, that prefer to work with younger kids, the logic being they are more respectful and more likely to listen to an adult when the adult wants them to do something, having not yet developed that well-documented teenage rebelliousness. I, in my very, VERY short experience, feel exactly the opposite. Older kids know already (for the most part) how they're supposed to behave and what kinds of behaviors are acceptable or not in a classroom. If they're misbehaving, it's by choice, and it seems to be more a matter of convincing them (either logically or by threat-esque methods) to knock it the hell off.

But again, I repeat, I likely have no idea what I'm talking about, having all of, what, 30 hours now in a classroom? And by the way, let me just say I've got a whole new respect for all teachers as of this fall. Long story short, even the day in the elementary class went well, and despite one nasty fall involving tears and an ice pack in gym (remind me to write a little about the game "Bat" later...really quite interesting), and some mild frustrations with a particularly, um, special student, it was a fun experience and a good way for me to get over my initial fear/nerves/whatever.

So we'll see, I guess.

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