Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Re-education of Me

You know those moments when you come upon some really interesting bit of information and you feel quite sure you must not have been taught it in school? It's so interesting that you know those teachers of yours must have left it out somehow? Else how could you have ever forgotten it? No. They covered it, most probably. We were just too busy thinking about whether our mini skirts were gonna cover our fannies when we had to go up and work that math problem out on the board, whether we would get a date for the coming weekend, whether to use Stridex or Clearasil on those pesky blemishes.... I don't know what, but we were not, most probably, a bit interested in some of the things I get the fun of being reintroduced to as a substitute teacher. I think I'll start telling you about some of them. There's knitting in here--just bear with me.

I decided four years ago that substitute teaching would be a good part-time job for me. I taught high school English for eight years and I feel very comfortable in the classroom. Besides, I know how much I appreciated a good sub when I was teaching--one who would care about the kids but not try to be "cool" and ditch my plan. It's hard enough these days for teachers to cover the curriculum without losing an entire day or more just because they must be away. I sub in classrooms for fourth- through twelfth-grade teachers, mostly avoiding higher level math & music (I can read music, but cannot play the piano, which seems to be a hindrance in those situations).

Usually, I try to do the assignment ahead of the students so that I can help them if they get stuck. Sometimes this works, sometimes not. A couple of weeks ago, I tried my darnedest to understand that experiment using dice to work out the decay of elements Pb, Bi, & Po, I did. I could not get it. But I have amazed myself by grasping algebraic and geometric concepts that eluded my teenage self. And I have been reintroduced to some amazing scientific and historical facts.

This past week was pretty sub-heavy. I was reintroduced to the details of Eli Whitney's cotton gin and how it led to the Missouri Compromise. I got to play with Shakespearean insults--"Take that, thou prating, mad-bread rabbit-sucker!" Great fun. Then I got to spend two days with a great bunch of 7th graders and analyze the story "I Just Kept on Smiling" by Simon Burt, watch them decorate their door for a "Just Say No to Drugs" contest, and TA DA! share some knitting with a few of them.

Yesterday, while the second core class was working on a couple of reading comp worksheets, I took out my knitting. Immediately, about five of the kids came up to see what was up. I was working on the afore-mentioned square round cable baby blanket. I had just had to frog it back to the dpn stage. One of the girls, Jazmane, said she had done a good bit of knitting (still in the square and rectangle objects phase), could she try what I was doing? I had come to a little stretch of stockinette, so I said sure! I showed her how to increase the stitch at the beginning of each needle, and she was off and running! Her tension was great, she did the yo perfectly, and she was going so fast I had to keep a close check on her so I could stay in pattern. When it came time for more cables, I did a row and then gave it back to her for the plain knit rows. I told her that she could do any kind of knitting if she could handle dpn's!

Meanwhile, I pulled out a sock I had on the Magic Loop, and another of the girls said she was a knitter, too, and that her mother does ML. I handed it over and she got going on that--only once did she drop a stitch, and we performed surgery and got her back to work. A couple of the other kids said they were crocheters and just wanted to watch. One was a little guy named Daniel, who also plays guitar, piano, and violin. A really happy and secure little dude, he is. While all this was going on, of course, the clowns in class tried to have a little party. I told them to get back to work on their assignment, that these kids were involved in something educational, not clamoring at the window to watch some kids in a fight down on the playing field, nor practicing hoop shots with paper balls into the garbage can, nor trying to imbed pencil points into one anothers' bodies, etc.

So sometimes substitute teaching is serendipitous, wonderful fun. I'm sure you'll also hear about the other kind of days at some point, but for now, I am looking back on a pretty good week with the younger folk.

Okay, I'm off to print out and mail 2 retail site orders, do some laundry, work on the baby blanket, do the finishing on 2 felted bags & take pics, and try to get out for a walk, because we've got sunshine today and temps in the 50's!

Happy Saturday All!


twig said...

Sounds like a fun day. I never had interesting substitute teachers. Not fair!

Amie said...

What a nice day!