Thursday, June 29, 2006

School's Out!

The school calendar has 180 days and I "subbed" 57 of those days this past year. After retiring from a business career in August 2005, I decided to try substitute teaching to spend time with young people. I completed the application process and enrolled in an Effective Teacher Training Course following my retirement. The eleven week training class was taught by a veteran teacher.

My first days in the classroom with students did not go as expected, but I gained experience as time passed and my performance improved. I began feeling better about filling-in for absent teachers sometime in January. Teachers are like all of us- they have appointments with doctors and dentist, workshops to attend, family emergencies, and sometimes sick children at home to care for.

When teachers are absent from their classes, they usually have a lesson plan for the substitute to follow. This plan is usually on track for the subject material under study. The priority for the sub is to execute the teacher's plan as directed. If the students finish early, then I supplement the remaining time with appropriate discussion or assignments of my choosing that are consistent with the class and subject being studied.

The 57 days mentioned above were days I worked in 6 different high schools and 2 middle schools. Early in the year, I stopped going to middle schools and subbed in high schools only. I was favorably impressed with the school system and observed students, classes, teachers, books, buildings, buses, activities, and environment much better than I expected after years of listening to people talk and watching or reading the news report.

Each day as a sub, I was in classes with around 130 students. This is based on six periods of 20 to 30 students per period. A class period is around 55 minutes. During the 57 days of subbing, I was in class with over 7,000 students. If I subtract the same classes I subbed more than once and subtract the middle school days, I estimate that I spent one class period with over 2,000 unique high school age students. This gave me great insight into the modern teenager- the way they look and behave, the material they study, the way they dress and talk, the way they write and compute, and the technology they possess in terms of calculators, cell phones, Ipods, etc.

Schools and students are far more advanced than when I was a teenager.

It's so interesting to see the variation among teenagers in any group of thirty. In most classes I've seen students, during idle moments or between assignments, moving to the beat of music in their mind, others draw art, some will read or prepare for another class, some look at themselves through a compact mirror as they apply make-up, some chat with their neighbor, some talk to me, and some try to distract the whole group with their entertainment attempts.

In addition to the daily pay I received, I was rewarded with comments of appreciation from students, teachers and front office staff members. Some students gave me high-five or hand-slap gestures, or verbal responses of YEAH when they saw me in the hallway and learned that I would be their sub that day.

The drawings above and below were handed to me by art-inclined students as they filed out of class at period end on two occasions.

I subbed in grades 9 -12 in classes of PE/Health, Earth Science, Geometry, Algebra, French, Spanish, Band, Drama, Chemistry, English, ISS, and History.

During the last week of school in a sophomore English class, I said this to each period, "As you journey to become an educated person, use some of your time this summer to read and study on your own initiative. Your school and teachers are helping you to build a foundation of how to learn. Much of the knowledge you gain will come through personal habits you develop on your own time."

I put a list of recommended readings on the board.

If you are retired and advancing in age, think about getting involved with young people in some way outside your own family. It can be rewarding.

Have a good summer.

Return here on July 5 for another post.

Have a good day!



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