Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lemurs and Parrots

 This is kind of how I felt this morning, 
when I got the call 
to substitute.
Waiting for the spring to let go 
for the past week has been stressful;
today I was catapulted 
into the thick of things.

I had my first day of substitute teaching today.  Actually, it was a half day, but it was fine with me to start out slowly.  I think my FB status update a few minutes ago says it well:
Teaching 8th grade social studies = herding lemurs on speed. Teaching 9th grade "at risk" students = getting a flock of hormone-addled parrots to land and pay attention. The funny part? I enjoyed it, and did okay.
A couple things really stand out to me as I think back on today.  First, I really CAN still do this.  Don't laugh - it's been 13 years since I was last in a classroom, and I've never taught regular kids alone in a public school.  I'd had kids with serious special needs, in a small classroom setting with multiple staff.  I've never flown solo like this, except for some teaching with the home school co-op,which was admittedly much easier because the parents were right down the hall if I needed someone to help out, and it was a small group anyhow.  So, it was good to discover that I really can keep the lid on an entire classroom of students.  Especially after the teacher I was subbing for commented to me before he left about the "at risk" kids, who were supposed to have online work on the classroom computers to keep them busy.  He said, "The internet connection is down for 8th period.  I hope it comes back up; you'd better hope it comes back up."  So when it didn't come back, I essentially had two periods of study hall with them.   Woohoo, unstructured time with challenging students!  But we made it through.
Second, I was amazed at the casual crudeness of the older students.  They weren't mouthy or rude to me (although they were definitely testing me), but just between themselves the swearing and inappropriate comments were rampant.  Granted, these kids already have a number of strikes against them, and I knew that going into the afternoon.  I wasn't expecting angelic behavior and good moral compasses.  But it was still surprising to me, in a sad way.
And the funny thing was, I really liked the older "at risk" students.  I hit it off with them, and they were okay with me.  They listened.  They pushed boundaries quite a bit, but didn't get personal or obnoxious at me.  Maybe I'll get a chance to work with them again.  I hope the teacher will request me the next time.  I seem to have a soft spot for some of the tough misfits.