The English Sub

Monday: I’m teaching English.  After just a few days teaching, I have discovered that first period is perhaps the best moment of the day…it’s all downhill at 8:16.  At 7:20 am, the students are too tired to talk.  I’m beginning to wonder whether sedatives might improve our educational system.  Pretty sure I heard Bernie endorsing such last week in the debate.  I’m showing a movie today entitled “Lady Bird”.  It’s about a woman who “tirelessly works to keep her family afloat after her husband loses his job”.  Certainly God has a sense of humor, but must He apply it to me? 

Period Two:  The teacher leaves instructions that cell phones are to be placed in the plastic cubby hanging on the wall.  All I see is a petri dish.  150 students using the cell phone slots all day long.  I feel a fever coming on just thinking about it. 

Taking away the cell phones does not work.  Students begin to talk with each other…the way we used to talk to each other when we “Boomers” were in school.  They seem to enjoy it.  Work?  Work does not happen without the internet.  Brains are confined to data packages.  Divided country problem?  Can’t get people to work together?  Consider it solved.  Remove the internet and we may just have a conversation. 

The substitute teacher secretary…who is not a substitute, but is a secretary…brings me a note and asks me to sacrifice one of my class prep times to cover another class.  Having already planned my prep time to consume more coffee and compose my thoughts on my laptop, I am highly offended.  I consider joining the “Red for Ed” protest at the statehouse…though rather late.  With my “Substitute Teacher of the Year” nomination on the line, I reply with an enthusiastic “no problem”.  How am I to know whether it’s a problem or not? 

REVELATION:  Telling kids to take notes on 6 pages out of a textbook is not a lesson plan. 

Looking at my wingtips I suddenly realize that I’m the teacher in “The Breakfast Club”.  I scan the room for Judd Hirsch and Molly Ringwald.  I consider utilizing the phrase, “You mess with the bull, you get the horns”.  Mental note: Return Barry Manilow’s wardrobe asap. 

I try to remember my senior year.  Where did I sit in the classroom?  Did I read anything?  I remember Accounting class.  We worked on an accounting system for a fake business the entire semester.  My system never did balance.  I resorted to declaring bankruptcy.  My accounting teacher found it less than humorous.   I remember lunch.  I remember our senior prank.  Animal House was the popular film and food fights were the thing.  I distinctly remember being in the lunchroom and watching for the second hand to strike noon.  All Hell broke loose, if Hell is composed of mashed potatoes and milk shakes.  For the record, it is not.  For the remainder of the semester we were not allowed to sit in the cafeteria after our meal was consumed.  Cameras were installed.  Teachers patrolled the aisles.  It was a proud moment for the class of 1980. 

I have a new theory on classroom decoration.  When I taught health class last week, the walls were filled with baseball posters and pennants.  When I say “full”, I mean not a square inch left to place a series pennant.  Granted, the teacher I subbed for was the baseball coach, but the decoration need not stop at sports.  Today’s classroom is filled with strange, depressing art along with VCR jackets of movies.  The back wall looks like a tribute to Blockbuster.  My new theory focuses on the intended audience for such artistic efforts.  I am convinced it is not the students.  If anything the numerous visuals serve as yet again one more distraction from the work at hand.  Nay…such efforts are for the teachers.  It’s a bit like a convict decorating their cell with pictures of the outside. 

The children are beginning to catch on to my riddles.  I’ve only been here for three days, but the communication system among the students rivals any Emergency Broadcast System our government could ever contrive. I finish the day teaching English Lit.  The students are reading “The Stranger”.  I ask them to summarize what they have read thus far.  It’s a story about a French guy in Algeria who kills a guy because the sun reflected off the victims knife into the killer’s eyes.  That’s it.  I walk away from the day with great hope.  I’m certain I can write a story worthy of High School Lit consideration.

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