On this, the second of four days subbing for a couple English teachers in Teton School District #401, I once again come face to face with how difficult this job really is.
Each class consists of such a wide range of students! Some are diligent, paying attention, following directions, engaged; others just couldn’t care less. At best, these other kids seem lost in another world; at the worst, they’re actively distracting their neighbor at the next desk.
Boys at age 12 and 13 are especially “touchy,” slugging one another and horsing around. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have brothers that this behavior bothers me more than it should as I stand in front of the room and seek to maintain some semblance of order. Not that I’m unfamiliar with it — it just doesn’t form a big part of my own memories growing up.
Hmm. I must have been one of those who just ignored all that…
These seventh-graders seem so smart and grown-up in so many ways. In other ways, they are just so young, so undeveloped, so ripe to be influenced by a positive word or simple recognition.
I didn’t sleep well last night, for thinking about today’s classes (and yesterday’s as well). I struck on the desire to read one of my favorite bits of writing of all time: three paragraphs from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby.
I have been pleased that at least this seems to be reaching them. (If you don’t know the story, in 1995, Bauby suffered a stroke at a young age and composed his memoir by blinking the only part of his body, besides his brain, that worked — his left eye. )
The section of text that I love starts on page 83, with this simple sentence: “I receive remarkable letters.” It ends: “I hoard all these letters like treasure. One day I hope to fasten them end to end in a half-mile streamer, to float in the wind like a banner raised to the glory of friendship. It will keep the vultures at bay.”
As one of the paras said, you could have heard a pin drop while I was reading. Full of strong sentence structure, clear images (a hushed and holy ceremony, roses picked at dusk, small gusts of happiness, the vultures, etc.), it’s exactly what the lesson plan covers. Written by such a vivid character, I’m hoping it will inspire at least of these students today as they try to compose their own “memoir stories.”
One thing’s for sure: Substitute-teaching keeps one humble.