The Many Hats of The Substitute Teacher

1 Jun

Hello, class.

One of the many perks of working at The Urban School is that I get to sub there pretty much whenever I want to.  My jazz band only meets a few hours a week, so anytime that my class isn’t meeting, I’m free to cover for the other teachers at school. It’s a lot easier and cheaper for the school to just pay an in-house teacher to sub, rather than going to an outside agency.

It’s a total win-win – it pays well, and I get a ton of work done. What’s more, I get to help out the other teachers while hanging out with some of the kids who aren’t in jazz band, as well as spending some non-rehearsal time with the ones who are.

When I’m subbing, the sheer variety of hats that I get to wear any given week is totally awesome.  A sampling:

The Science Hat

docbrownBy now, the science teachers at Urban pretty much know that I’m not going to be able to teach anything of substance to the kids, so I mostly just hang out and guide them through whatever cool/weird project they’re working on. The labs at urban are really cool, and it’s fun to get to spend some time in them.  What’s more, Urban offers a neurobiology class, which kind of blows my mind.  Then there are the more random science-y happenings… for example, the other week, a kid came into class with a dead snake that he’d found in the road and proceeded to dissect it.  Aah, high school.

The Math Hat

mathletics_trucker_hat-p148862420337032437q02g_400See above re: teachers realizing that I am not an expert in the field I am subbing.  Urban has some really, really great math instructors, (they actually make me wish I could have studied at this level when I was in high school). If I had, maybe I would have been better-equipped to actually teach something when I sub math!  As it stands, I’ve frequently had to give out quizzes in these classes, and there is nothing quite like the petrified, blank expression I give when they come to me mid-quiz, distressed, and ask, “So, for 6a, should we assume that the triangle is isoceles?”  My answer is usually along the lines of “Does it seem like that’s what you should do? Yeah? Then yes.”

History Hair

powdered-wigAnother subject in which Urban excels is history.  In addition to offering standard world and American history, the school offers things like a 20th-century “America Transformed” class and a San Francisco-specific course.  I always have fun subbing these classes, and usually have something substantive (or at least substantive-sounding) to add to the discussion, which is nice.  Most recently, I got to tell a student that there is no “turn of the 19th century,” that there is an end and a beginning to a specific century, and that the century itself is what turns.  So, it’s only “turn of the century.” Am I talking out of my ass? Does that sound right?

The English Bowler

english_bowler_hatThis is where I get into dangerous territory, since I am a pretty awesome pretend English teacher. Only pretend, mind you, but I can bullshit with the best of ’em.  And when I sub, particularly for Shakespeare class, I totally want to teach as much as possible.  So, when the class is discussing the ins and outs of King Lear, I’m so down to tell them all about how the word “Bear” turns up so many times, because it’s Lear’s totem animal, or about the blindness theme, or whatever. Also, I recently got to watch a film version of that play with Bilbo Baggins as Lear.  Creative writing classes are also really, really fun – so much drama!

The Spanish Sombrero

sombreroEveryone is learning Spanish these days, though for whatever reason, I learned French.  And not really even that well.  I should probably have taken the time to pick up some basic Spanish vocab when I was, you know, living in effing Miami for four years, but, I didn’t. Sigh. One of our Spanish teachers in particular has me sub quite a bit, but always (jokingly) laments to his class that I don’t speak the language. “Aah, Kirk.  ¡Él es músico!” Hee.

The French Beret

best-black-beret1Aah, French – a class I really love to sub.  Not only do our French teachers let us watch some downright crazy animated shorts (I also managed to sneak in the Flight of the Conchords’ “Foux de fa fa,” heh), the classes are always really cool, and take me back to my own experiences in high school.  I’m actually subbing a French class as I write this… they’re learning the subjunctive and getting ready for their final.

And you know, thinking about that, watching the students prepare for their calculus and French finals, take notes on videos, and turn in test recycles… I guess the best thing about all of the subbing hats I wear is that at the end of the day, I can just take them off, hang them safely on the rack, and go play the piano, hat-free.


2 Responses to “The Many Hats of The Substitute Teacher”

  1. Sam June 1, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    Ah French…the endless hours we spent staring at Mr. Ritz, his blinding lack of an accent and disdain for his students permeating the room like a fetid corpse. Those were the days.

    Ironically, I took Spanish courses in college and am slowly learning it and enjoying it much more than French.

    • Kirk June 1, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

      Fetid Corpse = heh. For whatever reason, the thing that stuck with me most about Ritz was when, for an assignment, we had to record our own spoken parts to that silent horror film, and he recorded all the music on his own. He played all this organ stuff, and it was pretty good!

      It was, like, this tantalizing glimpse into his secret past as a musician, and just seemed so at odds with the (kinda mean) guy we all took French from.

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