Posted tagged ‘learning something new’

Mr. Wolfe'(“Wolf-ay”), Substitute Teacher

December 6, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 6, 2017

                               

Almost a year ago I had an unusual bonding experience. I got a phone call asking if I would do a long-term substitute teaching position for a month at the middle school I also coach at. The call came on Friday and I started the next Monday. I was as green as week-old guacamole when I arrived at 7:15 that morning of January 9th. The principal’s granddaughter was in my first class!

It was 7th Grade Social Studies and I admitted to the class that there were a lot of things that I DIDN’T KNOW as I started the journey. On the board in front of the classroom I made three columns of marks to indicate all the things I didn’t know…and then to the right of that a column of things that I did know that included about three tiny marks under it.

The class was held in one of the portable classrooms outside the school building, and on the first day high winds that registered as much as 110 miles an hour in the area made the classroom shake like a 7th Grader standing in the middle of the principal’s office. The school district cancelled afternoon bus transportation because a couple of trucks had blown over.

That was the first day of my new experience…and it was awesome! We laughed together each day in our pursuit of knowledge and figuring out the world. Each day the 125 students that entered my classroom taught me as much as I taught them. They knew things would be a bit different when I showed a Duck Tales cartoon to introduce our study of how inflation worked.

And then one day a couple of the girls were playing around with how to pronounce my name and they suddenly made me French. Wolfe became Wolfe’, pronounced “Wolf-ay”. To be fair, I had turned a couple of their names into French-sounding mademoiselles first and they returned the favor.

After my month-long stint I was a bit depressed at no longer heading to the portable classroom each morning. The other three teachers on my team asked me why I hadn’t applied to be the new teacher and were a bit surprised when I told them that I did not have a teaching degree. I was simply a state certified substitute teacher.

Those three teachers would call me to sub for them, and for the rest of the school year I was in one of the portables several times each month.

Now…Year Two…word has spread about the substitute with the French name and the new seventh grade students have joined the parade of students who have made me a French-Canadian. I walk down the hallway and have students yell my name. Yesterday I was subbing for Physical Education, today I have seventh grade language arts, tomorrow eighth grade science, and Friday seventh grade science.

And it’s awesome!

Going Back To School

October 28, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 28, 2017

                                  

My parents would testify to the truth of this statement.

I was not a very good student!

Actually, I was not a very motivated student. I was motivated to get to physical education class, but I can not remember another class in middle school or high school that I was motivated to excel in. Each day was a trip to Boredom in a vehicle named Mediocrity.

I remember a number of my teachers, but not necessarily for what they taught me. I remember “earthquake drills” in Health class where we laid our heads on our desks. An earthquake drill meant that our teacher hadn’t had time to plan a lesson. I remember my chemistry teacher saying that if an atomic bomb was going to be dropped by Russia it would be aimed at a place within an hour of our location. I don’t remember the chemical symbols of the periodic chart, but I do remember that we’d be the first to perish on doomsday!

I substitute taught seventh grade all five days this past week. The techniques and methods of teaching have changed, but the students are still the same. For many students the legal requirement of being in school seems to cast a looming shadow over the opportunity to go to school. Since they HAVE to do it there is a lack of WANTING to do it!

I was the same way…or worse! I now wonder what my teachers said to my parents during those parent-teacher conferences. I doubt that it included statements about my academic achievements and prowess.

And now…forty-five years after high school, I often wish I could return to the role of student and sit under the tutelage of some of those teachers that I rarely gave a hearing to. I wish I could actually sit in one of those desks and hear about dangling participles and plane geometry theorems. I’d like to sit there with my laptop and type out notes as my teacher lectured on the Spanish Inquisition.

Why is it that we are too often late in appreciating what we’re a part of, and left to sadly reminisce about lost opportunities?

Of course, that’s how it is with other area of our lives, also! We take for granted the presence of family and friends, talk about visiting that certain aunt someday soon…that never seems to come…and then it’s too late! We commit to getting out of debt…next month! We’ll make that doctor appointment for the physical exam we’ve been dreading…sometime soon! We’ll take the family to a movie…as soon as we get that major house project done that we keep putting off!

I wish I could go back to school. Maybe I will! My Great Aunt Lizzie took art classes at the community college in Paintsville, Kentucky when she was in her mid-nineties! I still have the painting she gifted me with of her log cabin birthplace. Maybe I’ll sign up for an American History class with young adults and risk being called Grandpa!

Funny, isn’t it…my longing for education when I used to long for it to be over!

Becoming the Student Again…as the Teacher

January 8, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        January 8, 2017

                             

    Tomorrow I begin a long-term substitute teaching position, traveling with a pack of seventh grade adventurers through Sub-Saharan Africa for the next couple of weeks. In preparation I went to the public library and checked out a bunch of books, including Fodor’s The Complete Guide to African Safaris! Of all the continents Africa is the one I know the least about…and thus, I will be the “lead student” amongst a roomful of students in the discovery process.

I grew up in a time of black-and-white box TV sets on which I watched two Saturday morning shows each week: “Tarzan” and “Jungle Jim.” Those adventure shows gave me a very distorted view of the Dark Continent. I thought most of the male inhabitants ran around in loincloths. I had a roommate in my years of seminary training who frequently walked around campus in a loincloth. He even performed our wedding ceremony in 1979…in a suit though!

So I enter the jungle of a new classroom Monday morning on a learning safari!

I’m thinking of making a trip to Barnes and Noble today to see if they have a CliffsNotes book on Long-Term Substitute Teaching! I can just envision how it might begin: 1) Be on time! 2) Make sure you’re zipped! 3) Don’t pick your nose! 4) Don’t be afraid! They won’t eat you!

I’m looking forward to my new education. I’m replacing a great teacher. The worst thing I could do would be to make social studies bland and a daily torture. I remember the history class I had my junior year of high school. We were arranged alphabetically in rows and Betsy Wolfe was in front of me. I can’t tell you how many days I got a few snooze moments as I hid behind Betsy. I was totally bored by American History at that point!

And then when I was a sophomore in college I took an American History class one term, taught by a professor named Richard Jennison. It was the only class I ever took that he taught, but he made history come alive. Wherever that spark of interest was within me, he ignited it for U.S. History. The next year I switched majors and become a history major. I look back at that and realize that Professor Jennison was the change agent in my life.

As I begin this new adventure I’m hoping I’ll come alongside kids in an adventure of learning, but, most of all, I don’t want any students to be like I was in that high school history class…hiding behind Betsy Wolfe with my eyes closed!

Being An Old Rookie

February 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       February 3, 2016

                                         

    I’m thirty-four days into my retirement after thirty-six and a half years in pastoral ministry. People have asked me several hundred times what I’m going to do? The answer to that is still being filled in, but I’m beginning some new endeavors.

Last week I was asked if I would be interested in being the interim pastor at a church a good drive away from where we live. My answer: “Not yet!”

What I have done so far in the first thirty-four days is spend a good deal of time with my ten month old granddaughter, learning how to change a diaper again, how to feed a baby, how to carry a baby in one of those baby carriers you wear, and finding out that going to the bathroom for someone who is watching a baby can only happen at certain times…so shake a leg quickly!

I’ve also officiated several basketball games for youth leagues. That experience has brought me into contact with some good coaches, and other coaches that I wouldn’t let my grandkids get close to. Last Sunday afternoon a minute and a half into one of the games I officiated I stopped the game and had a little “Come to Jesus” session with one of the coaches. He got the message that the fear of God was close at hand, and didn’t say another word to me for that game except to call time-out.

I’ve visited four different churches on Sundays and enjoyed the different experiences. More than that, I’ve had four Saturday nights where I’m not thinking about what I’m going to say in the Sunday sermon.

But perhaps my most adventurous new exploration is that I’m beginning a new career as a substitute teacher. What!!!!

Tomorrow I’ll go to observe in a classroom for the second time. The first time I observed in a couple of high school classes. Tomorrow I will observe in a couple of middle school math classes. One of them is Algebra. Maybe I’ll learn something, because it really didn’t stick the first time around when I took it…46 years ago!

In essence, I am a sixty one year old rookie. I face the unknown with excitement and hesitation. I remember how we treated substitute teachers back in the day. I’m sure we drove some of them to positions of employment with the elderly! We were insensitive brats trying to get anyway with anything we could. My fear is that I’ll encounter the great-great grandchildren of a couple of those teachers who know the criminal history of my high school days with their ancestors.

In my defense…I have no defense. It is just what we did.

My hope that the sins of my past school behavior will not come back to haunt be is rooted in the fact that I am already a coach at the two schools I will substitute at. But I also recognize that I am an old rookie who may be a bit gullible. When that first student says that “a + b= z”, I’ll say “Sounds good to me!” When that first spit wad zings past my head I’m not sure how I will react. When chalk dust is put on my chair and I sit down in it with my dark pants on I may become disoriented and bright red in the face.

You may be saying, “Those things will never happen!” I hope you’re right, because those are things that I did to substitute teachers when I was in school. The sins of the past…

I just want to get past the first day. Last week at a basketball game I was coaching, my wife heard someone from the other team say “Their coach is chill!” I’m not sure what that means, but she said it was a compliment.

I hope I am chill in the classroom the day when I get the 5:45 A.M. call. I can hear it now, “You have a substitute position today in…middle school Latin.”

Oh great! I’m going to teach a subject I flunked!