Only in Middle School… (Also, Subbing.)

October 9, 2008

Before I started student teaching, I “knew” I wanted to teach high school. I figured I ‘d have classes of juniors writing witty recreations of “The Nose” By Gogol, and other suchlike fantasies we only see in movies starring Robin Williams.

My part-time student teaching (1988, I think) at a junior high (Legit! They were still called that then.) did nothing to change my mind. And even though juniors turned out to be a pain in my full-time student teaching heinie, I still thought that high school would be my milieu. (See, I could use words like that with them.)

After that, I subbed for a year or so at both levels. I had a lot of fun. If you have the right attitude and weapons, and can afford to live on $85 a day, it’s a great job.

TIP: When you have a sub (at our school they’re called guest teachers…hahaha), ask the sub to rate each class’s behavior on a scale of 1-10, taking into account cooperation and respect. Tell the sub, and the kids, that only scores of 8 and above are acceptable. I reward classes who score a perfect 10. I go old-school Catholic school on any class who scores 7 or below:

“I must be obedient and respectful for the guest teacher.” Fifty times. Hand-written. Capitals, periods, whole nine yards. Whole class.

I also leave a seating chart, and tell the sub to put an x on the ones who are the biggest pains. If I can get them to give themselves up, (usually) I spare the rest of the class.

If you’re the sub, just say that the teacher told you to do that. (Then, in your note to the teacher, tell him/her about it, so you might have back-up next time.) This is a powerful weapon for a sub. If there are “issues,” all the guest teacher has to do is wander over to the rating chart I leave on the board, and casually start writing, you know, a seven. BAM, as my brother Emeril says. Pwned, as the gamer kids say. No class goes less than 8 twice.

Anyway, then through one of the people I subbed regularly for, I got a job here. And from the git go, it’s been things like the following that make junior high so much more fun than high school. It’s like Pony and Cherry talk about, in high school everyone has an image to keep up. In middle school, they’re still trying to figure out what their images are. So we get lines like this:

As “Margaret” (she being the prime representative of my friendly and sensitive class) comes in the door yesterday, she says brightly,

“Don’t I just remind you of yellow?”

“Ummmm. Yes. When I think Margaret, I think yellow. And vice versa.”

“I mean, you know, it’s all happy and bright and cheery. Like me.”

“Oh. Well, yeah, in that case…Of course.”

You just don’t get that in high school.

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Mr. Coward has been teaching on the beautiful central coast of California since 1989. He sometimes tweets when he's in the right mood: @mrCinSLO.


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