Search Me!

Think about it...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

HOM: Substitute

The work at Glacier Concrete, like many jobs in this area, was seasonal, usually shutting down in November and resuming in March, depending on weather & orders. It was SOP to work the season and then draw unemployment for the winter layoff. This worked out well for me to do some substitute teaching. As I have mentioned, I tended to get the hard-to-handle classrooms and developed a minor reputation as a disciplinarian. One term of subbing still sticks in my memory. The Bigfork Junior High called me in: one of the teachers resigned mid-year because he could not maintain any classroom discipline and the replacement they hired had put in a week and then had to take a leave of absence for a death in the family. I was warned that I was walking into a zoo so I had my entrance planned out. I used the Roosevelt approach, "Speak softly & carry a big stick." I didn't smile, either, for the first few days! I was at the desk in front of the room Monday morning when the kids trooped in, laughing, talking & shoving. When the bell rang, I stood up, wrote my name on the blackboard, and started talking, and I talked quietly. I started introducing myself and telling the class my expectations, and as I talked a little ripple of silence kind of radiated away from my desk as they quieted down and hushed each other so they could hear me. I told them I was just getting over a sore throat so I couldn't yell and wouldn't raise my voice. I told them that if I asked the class to be quiet I expected them to obey, but if I had to walk up to an individual and ask him/her to be quiet that person had an automatic 1/2 hour detention after school. The first night, half the class was in detention. The second night, three or four. The third night, no one. Thursday, one of the ninth graders kept talking after I asked for quiet. I went up to him and asked him to please be quiet, and he glanced at me and kept right on chatting. Now, in this PC day & age I would be fired for this, but I reached down, got a good handful of shirt, lifted him up to eye level and asked "Would you please be quiet?" No anger in the voice, no loudness, but the message got across. There were zero discipline problems from then on. The rest of the time I was there, the kids were great, and I went out of my way to help them with problems. Once guidelines were set and enforced they were wonderful & we had a good time. Well, mostly. The girls handed me a defeat. I was supposed to teach a gym class once a day, and I drew the girl's P.E. class. In the first class with me they held a sit-down strike and refused to dress out with a "man!" as a teacher. I had no clue how to handle that so I didn't even argue -- I just gave the period to them as a study hall, which worked out well for all of us. On my last day, the kids & I had quite a visit. I asked how they'd liked me as a teacher and they were pretty up front about how different I was from the guy that resigned. They said he'd ask them to "please" be quiet; when I reminded them that I'd always said "please" too, they said "Yeah, but you didn't wring your hands when you did it like he did." Overall, they gave me a good grade. TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)