You know that little substitute teaching gig I agreed to? I've logged 16 hours this week alone--silly me! I totally thought it would be a once a week thing TOPS. As of this morning I've worked with grades 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 (and, consequently, all 3 of my own children). I've taught division with two digits, conjunctive adverbs (with a bonus lesson on semicolons!), the "dropping rule" in phonics (involving that pesky silent "e"), a couple chapters out of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, passive voice, diagramming compound sentences and supervised book report compositions in the computer lab. (Yes, I know I totally needed semicolons in that last sentence.)
Surprisingly, 5th grade has been a real treat. When I was in college, I deliberately did NOT get certified to teach 6-12 grade English. I feared/dreaded/loathed the very IDEA of middle school kids--what with all their weird hormonal issues and emotions and icky smells. I hated middle school as a middle school kid, I was positive I had no love for them once I grew up. If a teacher got certified to teach a grade level or subject area, a district can assign the to teach it--whether they want to teach it or not, so by only obtaining certification to teach English 9-12, I was guaranteed only high school jobs. I feared a middle school assignment more than I feared not getting a job--and that's saying something.
It was with some hesitation that I agreed to sub in the Parochial School, but I figured with grades PK-8 represented, I had a greater shot at hanging out in grades PK-4.
I've spent the bulk of my time in middle school. And you know what I've discovered? It's a lot of fun.
Maybe it's because it's a Parochial School and the kids wear uniforms (khaki bottoms, blue polo shirts) and the class sizes are small (20 tops) and respect is totally drilled into these kids--but they were quite delightful. Especially 5th grade.
And you know what else? They smelled just fine.
They're energetic, funny, curious, talkative, hard-working and interesting. They help each other. They remind each other. They forget to follow instructions. They're easily distracted. They read a lot. They are happy to try new things. They admire their older classmates and look out for the younger classmates at the school. They love a corny joke and they look sideways at me but don't say a word when I don't make the sign of the cross at prayer time. They accept others with very open hearts.
There's one girl with gorgeous shiny blonde curly hair and hipster glasses who always always always had her nose in a book, oblivious to the world. She's polite and cooperative, but the moment she has a chance, she's got the pages open again. There's another girl with freckles and a huge grin, quick to lavish complements on her peers. I don't sense the back-biting and bullying typical in most middle schools. There's a boy who races through his work so he can have free time--and then when I ask him what he plans to do (instead of distracting his friends with his chatter), he volunteers to help a classmate finish a missed assignment.
I really like helping these kids with their work and easing the lives of teachers who are stressed out with having to miss class--I remember well what a huge blessing a competent sub was when I had to miss school. And because I taught school for 10 years, I inherently know stuff, like classroom management skills and where to look for the vocabulary lists and how to efficiently transition from one activity to the next. It's kind of a bonus that I get paid.
Spill it, reader. What have you tried lately that surprised you?