Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Art of Idleness: Substitution

There is a certain substituting rhythm that I have adapted myself to. The average class requires very little student interaction. The goal is to go by unnoticed, the dream being that the students will function as a separate entity, not needing the inspiration of a teacher.

Thankfully, most of the time I "teach" I encounter the brightest stars of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School constellation, which allows me to do whatever I want. I drop the bad news to the kids: do this worksheet, then this one, then shut up, and they accept it.

My latest assignment was middle school math. For the first half of the day I was in a surly mood; the kids were not paying attention to me. So I quickly changed up my style and began to threaten them. All of the kids were supposed to be working on EOG worksheets, but there was a group of three boys that refused to do so. I had learned earlier that the ultimate punishment in middle-school world is to send the kid to the teacher break room, where they must do their work in dead silence and isolation.

I walked up to the three chumps and knelt down in front of them and laid out the law:

"Look. I'm not blind. Just because you have the worksheet in front of you doesn't mean you are working. You are over here slapping each other and smashing staplers on the floor. You are disrupting the kids who actually want to learn something. If I hear anything else you are going to the break room. Capiche?"

This made them shut up, and for the rest of the day this is what I did, making an example of one kid at the beginning of the class and then sitting back to relax and let them grovel and learn.

In the meantime I had discovered a tragedy of my own. There was no internet. What the heck was I to do? So Bored. Thankfully I brought Jurassic Park with me, so during my break periods I watched it. Get ready for an upcoming post about Jurassic Park. I've got Jeff Goldblum thoughts.

But my true-found entertainment came while scrumming through the "art & crafts" drawer. Here I found a watercolor kit!!! So for my last two class periods I spent my time painting, filling all the students around me with jealousy and fascination.

Here is my end product:

Yeah I know. You might be wondering if that really took 2 periods to paint? The answer to that is No, it didn't. But that's beside the point. It all began with the creature in the middle. I think the arms may have been inspired by my mantids lethal forearms, the head inspired by a parrot, and the rest of the body by a grotesque spider abdomen. Then I just felt that he needed to be soaring out of the water, heading towards an exotic island.

Then one of my admiring students said I needed a dragon. After half-heartedly rebuking them for watching me paint instead of working, I opened up discussion of dragons. I could not really see it happening in this painting, but I added some version of a dragon anyways, just to please the masses. I think the "dragon" is really scaring my mantid-fish-parrot, making him flee into the dense brush of the island. Meanwhile, the sadistic, all-powerful Sun God is watching, pleased with the havoc his world is wreaking.

While I was doing this I was, of course, washing off my brush in a bottle of water. The water by the end was a dark mess, the color of forest-green sweaters in L.L. Bean magazines. I half jokingly offered to pay someone 10 dollars to drink it. Much to my dismay, about 5 kids leapt up to battle for the opportunity. I was part disgusted, part impressed. I wound up backpeddling and not allowing anyone to, saying that I wanted it for myself. I couldn't stand for poisoning my children!!!!

Finding entertainment without internet is So Challenging. But for all those out there who feel helpless when denied the .com world, don't despair. Just think. Last week I subbed for a elementary music class, and for 7 hours all I had to do was teach two 30 minute classes of kindergarten kids. I played them a Carnival of Animals video during class, and for the other 6 hours I locked myself in and banged on the piano and tooted on the recorders. I learned how to play Amazing Grace on both. And since all four walls of the classroom were made of mirrors, I practiced all the dances I had forgotten how to do. I danced the Rumba with my reflection. I ate my lentil leftovers. I GOT PAID.


  1. it's all yours. i will give it to you

  2. i enjoy your writing very much-- you are easily in the top 5% and I have read the very best (this being said after reading j park post then this one)