Wednesday, April 1, 2009

German Chocolate

Substitute teaching has been on a Trader Joe's imposed hiatus of late. But this hiatus came to an end this past Tuesday as Mr. K resurfaced in the city school system. These days it takes the most illustrious position possible to draw me out, and this particular position sounded pretty sweet to me: German teacher, 8-11 at a middle school, 3 hours off and then 2 hours at a high school. German is an elective, so kids should be little, benign, language sweethearts. Riiight?

The middle school classes were appetizing enough with only 7 students per class. However, the teacher I was subbing for floated from classroom to classroom for each period, the main downside of this being that there was another teacher in each of these classrooms while I was there, sitting at the desk writing lesson plans and denying me the power position. So instead I was forced to sit in a chair in the front of the class like a total numbskull!

In the second class the incumbent teacher thankfully disappeared and I was able to exert my will upon the students. The goal of these 7th graders was to work on their poster presentations about Berlin. I legally sent some students to the media center, while others did stuff on the computers in the back of the classroom. I say stuff because I have no clue what they were really doing, nor did I care.

This was mainly because I was quickly preoccupied with one special student. We'll call him Willy, both for anonymity and for the fact that I don't remember it. My attention was first drawn to Willy when he began pirouetting and yelping in front of the blackboard. When I asked him what the matter was, I got a sequence of "Where is our teacher?!" followed by "What is wrong with him?" "Why isn't he here?" All of these I responded to summarily: "I don't know. He'll be back. He's fine. It doesn't matter."

This seemed to assuage his concern, but instead of working on his project he sat at his desk in an altered state, staring off, foaming drool around his braces. Utterly out of my comfort zone now, I urged him to start working, to do anything that would allow me to leave him alone... but it quickly became evident that this was not to be.

So I asked him to teach me how to say a few phrases in German. "How are you?" "My name is ______" "I am great." That went by successfully, so I suggested we research Berlin on the computer. This elicited a deranged holler, a few body thrusts, and several smirks from the other students. All that came out of his mouth after his spasms was "German Chocolate!" followed by a sequence of bizarre questions about German chocolate... most of them wondering what the most common filling for German chocolate was. At this point I was more than willing to cultivate his passion for German knowledge, regardless of the subject, so I told him there was only one way to find out.

So we spent maybe 10 minutes researching German chocolate, culminating in the discovery of a German website selling the chocolates. At this point I took control of the mouse and put in an order for $3,500 dollars of caramel filled chocolates, adding them to my virtual shopping cart. Willy was following my every move and became very excited, thinking that an actual purchase had been made. I then told him that the chocolate would arrive in the next couple days to the classroom. Panic filled Willy's face then as he informed me that Mr. _______ would be very upset about this, and that he was going to get in lots of trouble for being affiliated with such a transaction. So I told them that I had just gotten word that the federal agents had prevented the chocolate from passing into the USA, and as the bell rang the chocolate thread ended.

After that class I made my way to the 6th grade exploratory German class. The lesson plan consisted of having them split into pairs and quiz each other on telling time. After ten minutes of that, we were supposed to play Fisch Mal, Go Fish, with big numbers. I joined one of the groups and I kicked their butt in the first game, came in 2nd the next game. My only mistake in this class occurred before it started when I went to write my name on the board... I grabbed a gigantic Vis-a-vis pen instead of a dry-erase pen, and scribed Mr. Kneidel in gigantic letters across the board. Permanent Vis-a-vis pen. Whoops. I guess they'll know who did it!

After a wonderful 3 hour lunch break I made my way to the high school. These German students were wholesome and alternative, but had apparently been permanently scarred by the substitute the day before. They told me that the previous substitute had not allowed them to speak any English and had forced them to practice German. How. Dare. He!!!! I sympathized completely.

First I wrote my name on the board. Then they mispronounced it. Then I shortened it to Mr K. Then they said, "shouldn't it be Mr. N if the K is silent?" I said yes. Mr. N it was.

Then I wrote the lesson plan on the board. Then we all laughed at it. Then I told one of them to close the curtain over the window on the door. Then I told them not to leave, not to scream, and that those were my two main rules. They then asked if they could use the youtube on my computer to watch Hannah Montana videos. I told them no, watch it on that kid's Itouch. So they did. I then started playing Lexulous on my computer and eat Smarties.

So all went smoothly. Some did schoolwork, some gossiped, some got on facebook, one pair broke up with each other, and all the while I thought, "Who am I to deny them?"


  1. Allan, this made me laugh so hard! Where are you subbing? In Charlotte? My blog is if you want to read about any of my European adventures (I don't know if I told you I got the Phillips grant?).