Historical History

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History teachers PREPARE students for the FUTURE by teaching about the PAST

12 January 2009

I Prefer "Alternate" Teacher

I walk into a classroom I have only seen while doing observations after student teaching with a key, an ID tag that reads, "SUBSTITUTE", and a folder. The folder contains information for the substitute about the classes and the full-time teachers expectations. I enter the room, find the light switch, and sit down at the desk to prepare my mind for the day. On the desk is a piece of paper with clearly written direction for how the lessons should be taught. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and exhale. This will be my first experience as a substitute teacher.

My mind is racing with ideas and jokes to start the class, do I tell the one about the teacher who..., or the two guys that..., or how will I introduce myself? Fortunately, I was taught that, "Early is on time, and on time is late," so I have about twenty minutes before the first class is suppose to begin. I suppose the first thing I should do is write my name on the board, so I do. In fat bubble letters, I write, "Mr. SUMMIT," and draw a mountain underneath it with an arrow pointing to the top. Since the top of a mountain is known as the summit, it makes sense. Before I know it, the bell has rung and slowly students begin to enter the once peacefully quiet classroom. As they enter I begin to hear, "Are you our sub?" "Awesome a sub!" "Where is Mr. Gates?" all of which I will answer in a few moments.

BING, BING, the tardy bell has rung and it is time to begin. I close the door to the hallway and all fear or anxiety disappears into I don't know where. I begin by saying,

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen! If you haven't noticed by now, Mr. Gates is M.I.A and therefore you are blessed with me. I will be your substitute for the day; however, I do not like the word 'substitute,' because to me, it means all sort of negative things. For that reason, I prefer alternate teacher, the replacement teacher, and for those thespians among us, the under-study to Mr. Gates."

I go on to explain that my name is Mr. Summit and I have drawn a picture for those "visual" learners. By now the class has loosened up and have laughed at least twice. That is my trick, my key, my tool, my whatever,...humor! If I can get the students to laugh or even smile, then it will be a good day.

I learned in my experience as a student teacher last semester, that humor is an essential piece of my teaching style. I believe that students remember more things they thought were funny, than things they fell asleep to. Case-and-point, why is it that almost every student can quote any Adam Sandler, Will Ferrel, or SNL movie? Because they're funny, they laugh, and they have a good time watching them; they are ENTERTAINED! I believe the same is true in the classroom; if I can entertain the students for an hour and teach them something at the same time, then I have done my job.

After my introduction, we transitioned into the planned lesson, which went smoother than I had anticipated. The students were engaged in the discussion and were asking questions, some of which I could answer, some of which I could not, but that is okay. It is okay to admit you DON'T know everything, because you don't. In my experience, the students will respect you more for admitting you were wrong or that you don't know something, than if you pretend like you know everything and give them a bogus answer.

Classes came and went throughout the day and I had an incredible time teaching those students. I realized that I had been needing to get back in the classroom. I have subbed twice since the start of the semester and it seems like I cannot get in the classroom enough. Being a substitute has merely enhanced my desire to have a classroom of my own. For those of you teachers who already have your own classroom, cherish it, for you are fortunate. If you have a similar experience you would like to share, please post a comment. Thank you and remember, history teachers prepare students for the future by teaching about the past!

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