The Island of Pens: How NOT to Sub

Posted on June 3, 2012Filed Under substituting | Leave a Comment

I’ve been camping at an undisclosed location since Friday, I have a stack of research papers turned in Thursday that I haven’t even looked at yet (thus upping my 10-a-day reading quota to about 13 or 14), and I have a new Christopher Buckley book (They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?) I’m halfway through that I would like to finish a lot more than those research papers, but I have to share this one. It’s gold.

A math colleague of mine, who just this year came back to us from a three year stint at the sixth grade level, and a past contributor to this blog checks in with this story from about a week ago.

One of our subs guest teachers is also a city councilman. It’s a good thing 7th and 8th graders aren’t regular attendees of the public meetings, else our esteemed councilman would be made mincemeat of for all to see on public access cable tv on a monthly basis.

It was during the homie base first 10 minutes of first period that the announcement came up about some sort of 8th grade citizenship award. In my homie base, we tune out as soon as we hear the words 8th grade, so I’m not sure of the whole award thing, but “Mr. Ah” was subbing in an algebra class which had both 7th and 8th graders in it, so I got confirmation of the aftermath of that announcement from one of the boy’s friend who was there.

Being the citizenship kind of guy that a public servant/substitute teacher must be, he took the announcement and ran with it. I guess he wanted to foster a whole, deep discussion in the 10 minutes-minus-announcements that is homie base. Sensing an opening here, one enterprising lad, an 8th grader of course, offered that the discussion might be more relevant and persuasive if they created their own country to be citizens of.

Mr. Ah thought that was a splendid idea and wrote the suggested name upon the board.

Then he tried to get a discussion going about the meaning of citizenship in this new country, and how we might judge a good member of this society. He wrote their suggestions on the board around the name of the country in a brainstorming fashion, but was increasingly distressed to see the growing hilarity in the room. Realization dawned only when he began to see, amid the laughter, students trying to take pictures of the board with their phones.

Finally, the lightbulb went on.

Pen Island.

Wait for it. Move the space to the right a bit.

There it is.

The almost as good part for me is that he copped to all this in his note. And, according my inside sources, he also encouraged them to get closer, and let them all take pics if they wanted.

Sigh. That’s a far cry from kicking a** and taking names.

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