The Power of a Substitute With Skittles

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          September 3, 2016

                               

My journey into the world of substitute teaching (“guest teaching”) wrote a new chapter this week when I subbed for a high school social studies teacher for three days. What an experience!

World History for the partially motivated…Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History for the more motivated, or, for some, more stressed…and a classroom full of freshmen for Foundations of Learning, a sophisticated academic way of saying “study hall!”

The school I subbed in, two blocks from our house, operates on a “block system”, which means the classes are ninety minutes long and meet every other day.

The Foundations of Learning Class was the first class I had my first day. It consisted of freshmen who want to study, freshmen who pretend to study, and freshmen who could care less about studying. The conversation was continuous, but I let it go. I had brought a book with me, Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick, but I found it hard to concentrate on the words. Back in my seminary days I would have to read some of the pages of theological writings out loud to hep me try to stay focused. I needed that as in the midst of the classroom conversations. When I read I either have ear buds in listening to music or I like it quiet. Being the teacher, it seemed that ear buds might be a bit risky.

Two days later I began the day once again with that study hall. I pondered how the ninety minutes of torture might go better. What might I do to change the culture of the classroom?

And then it hit me! Skittles! I emptied my piggy bank and bought a bag of Skittles for each of the students in the class. Yes, it set me back $10 of my already minimal guest teaching pay, but what an experience!

The class began with the regular suspects present. I took attendance and then showed the class the book I was reading, went into a brief excited explanation about how much I enjoyed reading history, but then explained how I either needed ear buds or quiet to comprehend what the pages were saying to me.

“I would really love to get twenty pages in my book read during class this morning, and, you know something, if I get twenty pages read I will be in celebration mode. I will be so happy…so, so happy that I think I’d like to give each of you a gift of celebration. So if you can help me concentrate and get twenty pages read…I want to give each of you a bag of Skittles at the end of class.”

Shock! Dismay! Confusion! Delight! Wondering if they heard me right! Open mouths of temporary astonishment!

“But, mind you, I can’t concentrate in the midst of a lot of noise, so you’ll have to help me out here.”

They dug in, but I noticed a few of them were looking at me to make sure that I was starting to read. I had instantly created the Skittles Security Guard , making sure I was on task with what I was suppose to be doing.

A few minutes later, a teacher at the school, and a friend of mine, stopped by to speak with one of the students, but when he saw that I was there we got into a conversation about basketball, his sons, and coaching. Talk about eyes of consternation being upon me. When our conversation had hit five minutes one of the students reminded me that I should be reading. I felt chastised and my teaching friend felt chased.

Back to the reading. Every few minutes someone would come by the desk and ask me how many pages I still had left to read? I was now the student in a room with twenty teachers.

At the end of class the Skittles became a reality for each one of them. Perhaps they were all sugared up for their next class, but in the process I hoped they discovered that Foundations of Learning could be ninety minutes of study and discovery on a regular basis.

The power of Skittles, a new tool for educating young minds!

Explore posts in the same categories: children, Freedom, Humor, Nation, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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