Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Substitute

Thankfully, I never had to play the role of substitute. It's a different type of teaching experience because you enter the classroom under a premise that no one really believes: that you are just as capable as the educator you're replacing. In reality, you have no idea what was previously taught, who the children are, or what were the class expectations. Hopefully, the teacher has left a detailed lesson plan, but even if they did, the kids know the deal. You are an adult they are unaccountable to. If something goes wrong in this class, on this day, you will be blamed.

Mr. Fullwood was my model for what a sub should be. He was a huge guy (to us) and big enough that you didn't feel bad about making jokes about him, but also big enough that you didn't want to piss him off because he could squash you. He smiled like a yellow-toothed Cheshire cat at all of our dumb jokes, even when Jon Silk always asked him if he was going to be giving the class the "full wood" that day. Although his voice was coated with tar from the pack of smokes he kept in his breast pocket, he didn't raise his voice often. But when he did, people got quiet. Most importantly, he had both a sense of humor about his dour profession, and a corresponding pride in what he was doing. He made us do whatever was on the lesson plan and he made sure nobody got too crazy. Even though it must have been primarily a way to scratch a couple of nickels together, we got the sense that he cared about us--even if only for 60 minutes.

This experience, along with my time working in Baltimore public schools (Higher, higher!), inspired me to write The Substitute, which was recently published in 2 Bridges Literary Review. Check it out when you get a chance. But before you do, prepare yourself with some instructional videos from Key and Peele.

1 comment:

marine supply stores said...

Well, I think there's just a lot of parameters that need to be measured before trying to accomodate the quality of lesson a sub gave to a certain class... Anyways, good post, totally enjoyed it.