Posted tagged ‘school’

Adventures of a Substitute Teacher: Keeping Control the Last Day of School

May 25, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                             May 25, 2017

       

Today is the last day of another school year. Well, actually…most of the eighth graders’ last day was a couple of weeks ago! They checked out about the time “May” appeared on the calendar.

Today I’m substituting in the afternoon for a teacher friend of mine who is attending her daughter’s fifth grade graduation ceremony. So…what would be practical bits of wisdom to have written on my hand for the last day of school. Here’s what I’ve come up with!

1) Don’t let anyone get killed! Keep an eye on the school roof. Don’t let anyone jump from there just because they wore their Superman t-shirt. Also, if someone has been noticeably uncoordinated the whole school year playing “Frogger” across the street in front of the school most likely will end up badly!

2) Use your common sense. If something that is being done may very well end up with a police report being filed…that’s probably not good! Remember! “Common Sense” is a middle school elective that most students choose not to take. They prefer woodworking with sharp objects and piercing tools instead.

3) Stay with at least two other teachers during the last hour when most of the school is outside. Like packs of wolves, students will look for “lone teachers” to pick on. It’s their nature! In case you as a teacher get separated make sure you have plenty of candy in your pockets. Throw the candy away from you while shouting “Candy!”…and run in the opposite direction!

4) When the final bell sounds…get to the side of the hallway or into a classroom. The running of the bulls is about to happen. If you feel brave run in front of them, but just remember…another stampede is coming from the opposite direction and you most likely will be the meat in the bun!

5) Expect the emotional! There will be the students who will say that they will miss you greatly…wish that you could come to high school with them…want to visit you this summer…tell you that you’re the best teacher they’ve ever had…that you have inspired them to become teachers…and all kinds of other nice comments. Simply nod your head in acknowledgement and give high fives. The students you truthfully inspired have been known to you for a long time. They are the ones who never have to look at their cell phones the whole class period.

6) Understand that some of these students will be sitting across the table from you in less than twenty years as the parents at parent-teacher conferences! As your body shudders uncontrollably…remember the same thing was true for you…back in the day! Miracles still happen, just as they did long ago with you!

7) When you get in your car immediately lock the doors! Students like to pretend they are zombies!

Adventures In Substitute Teaching: Old Mr. Wolfe

May 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           May 10, 2017

                     

I have nicknames for many of the students I substitute teaching for. I’ve been in their classrooms enough that having a Mr. Wolfe-created nickname is a badge of honor…sorta’!

Bryson has become Bison, Marina gets called Marinara, Alex is Arby’s, Josh with his man-bun is “Pimple Head”, Jonah has become “Goat” (His choice! He says it is an acronym for “Greatest of all the rest!” I pointed out to him that the acronym would then be “Goatr!” He gives me a blank look…like a goat!)

I rattle off group nicknames also, like “Fruit Loops”, “Munchkins”, and “Space Cadets.”

Evidently, turn about is fair play, because a day of subbing in 7th Grade Science produced a new nickname for the teach!

Back in my high school days I was nicknamed “Beowulf” when my sophomore English class was studying the old story. “Bill Wolfe”… “Beowulf”…it stuck to me like a fly on a fly strip. In due time it got shortened to simply “Beo.” People I went to high school 45 years ago…no, it can’t be that long!…still call me “Beo.”

On this day of science discovery a new name was delivered my way. As my first class began trudging into the portable classroom of my friend, Ronnie McKinney (whose uncreative nickname is “McKinney!”), the pre-bell chatter began. One of the students who I had nicknamed “Abnormal” (Abigail is her real name) asked me how tall I was. I responded with “5’6” and 1/2.” Then I added, with a note of pride, “However, I used to be 5’8”!”

“So you’ve shrunk?”

“Unfortunately!”

Another young lady who I nicknamed “Camm-ay” (from Cammie), saying her name like she’s French, joined in the conversation. Since I refer to her as “Camm-ay”, she calls me “Wolf-ay!”

“Wolf-ay! You’ve shrunk?”

Another young lady, Ky-lay joins in. “Like a grape!” Wolf-ay is like a raisin!” Everyone laughs, and I even chuckle about the personalized humor.

“Wolf-ay has become all wrinkled!”

“It happens!” I admit.

Three minutes later as the class is about to begin there is laughter by the white board at the front of the class. I know something is up. I didn’t graduate from high school with a 2.4 GPA because I was stupid, mind you! I gaze at the board as the students clear out of the way. Camm-ay has drawn two pictures with a dry erase marker. The first one is an oval shaped figure with two stick legs. The picture is labeled with the words “Young Wolf-ay!” The second picture is also an oval shaped figure, but a bit leaner with a few lines squiggled through it. It’s a raisin! And the name beside it is “Old Wolf-ay!”

I chuckle at their humor aimed lovingly at me. During the course of the day and since I’ve been referred to as “Old Wolf-ay” and “Raisin” quite often.

Even as I write this I’m picturing the drawings…and I’m still chuckling!

“Missing the (School) Kids!”

January 31, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 31, 2017

                             

I’m a little grieved today…a little down in the dumps so to speak!

No, it isn’t my Spartans! They beat Michigan on Sunday! Yes!!!!! It isn’t the weather. Today is suppose to hit 60! Who can be grieved by sixty degrees on the last day of January except a polar bear!

Today I’m not teaching seventh graders about world governments! That’s why I’m a bit grieved.

For many of you, especially parents who have a seventh grader, such a statement about missing the flatulence, body odor, and squealing of seventh graders qualifies as lunacy. At a multitude of moments in a typical school day I would agree, but there were other stretches of awesomeness that drape over the annoyances.

Yesterday was my last day of a three week substitute teaching position in Room 306, otherwise known as “out in the portables!” Three weeks of teaching 120 seventh graders about supply and demand, the value that we place on moments and experiences, and finally…the variety of world governments and what we can learn from them.

At their core middle school students have not changed since I was a short spectacled seventh grader at Williiamstown (WV) Junior High in 1966. Twelve year olds are still goofy, uncertain, giggly, diverse, comfortable and uncomfortable with themselves as they’ve always been. There are the hard workers, the pretenders, and the indifferent.

They ask goofy questions and yet are surprised by the answers:

“Mr. Wolfe, I have A’s in all my classes except this one and one other. Why don’t I have an A in Social Studies?”

“Well…I think you need to understand that A does not stand for “average!”

Envision mouth dropping open in disbelief!

“Mr. Wolfe, you can call me LeBron because I am the greatest!”

“Well, I’m pretty sure that LeBron’s letter grade in seventh grade social studies was probably at least three levels above you!”

“Mr. Wolfe, do I have to take the quiz today?”

“Well, let’s see! Let’s analyze the situation. First of all to take the quiz requires that you be present…and you’re here! And second, everyone else is taking the quiz today…so I’m going to go with “Yes!”…final answer…and I don’t even need to call a friend!” (Yes, sarcasm comes in handy with 7th graders, although I’m not sure if the asking student understood the reference to “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”)

At the end of my last day it was a bit gratifying to have several students ask me with pleading voices if I would come back and sub in their classes?

So today I’m missing them! Well, there were a few who were like leeches, parasites whose purpose was to suck the blood out of you, but the other 115 students pumped life into me.

So what will I do with my day? Oh, that’s right! I have 7th Grade girl’s basketball practice this afternoon!

Alphabet Sighs

December 14, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  December 14, 2016

                                         

The fourth grade class I had been assigned to be the tutor for was walking back to the classroom from recess. One of the students walked beside me and said, “Your last name is Wolfe. Mine is Woods! I wish they didn’t go in alphabetical order so much of the time. I guess we’re mostly last, aren’t we?”

“Yes, I suppose we are,” I replied. I could tell that she saw me as an end-of-the-alphabet kindred spirit.

“I wish they would go by first names, because mine starts with a “C”… Colleen!”

“And I’m a “B”…Bill! There aren’t too many first names before me, just “A’s” like Adam or Angela and then some of the “B’s” like Bob and Bonnie.”

“Bob and Bonnie would actually come after Bill.”

“Oh, you’re right! My bad!” She gave me some grace, probably figuring that, with my age, I sometimes got confused when it came to vowels and such.

She was ready to continue about her last name woes. “It just seems that when anything gets handed out I’m always the last one to receive mine. We have no X, Y, or Z’s in our class. Last week in music class the teacher was handing out instruments to people…alphabetically! Guess who got stuck with two sticks to hit together? Lame!”

“And when I order lunch that gets delivered to our classroom I’m always the last one to receive it.”

“There’s got to be something good about being at the end of the alphabet. Like if someone brings cookies to class and they get handed out, but there are extras when it comes to the end of the alphabet!”

“Well, first of all, we’re a healthy snack school so you can forget about the cookies! And second, it’s more likely that there wouldn’t be ENOUGH of whatever snack it is instead of too many! Thus…another slap in the face to a W!”

“Jesus said the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

“He wasn’t thinking about fourth graders when he said it, though!”

“Think about all the people through the years whose last name started with a W!” Woodrow Wilson, Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Webster, George Washington…”

“John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abraham, Alexander the Great!”

She had me stumped and speechless, plus I was somewhat taken back by the fact that she knew who Alexander the Great was.

“Think of it this way. A “W” is a strong letter, a good letter. When the Chicago Cubs win a game they fly a flag with a big “W” on it. “W” is a letter of celebration. It indicates a winner, and you, Colleen, are a winner!”

She looked up at me as we were just about to enter the classroom. “I guess you’re right, Mr. Wolfe. I mean I know it’s your job to make me feel good about myself and all that, but I think you might be right. “W” could stand for a lot of good things, like “Wow” and “Willy Wonka.”

“And you know, Colleen, when there is some kind of processional march it is always the most important people who march in last!”

She stopped for a moment to let another student pass her, and also in order to be the last one to enter back into class. “Thanks, Mr. Wolfe! I think you are another “W”…wise!”

The Diary of a Middle School PE Teacher

December 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           December 3, 2016

                                

MONDAY

Dear Diary,

This is archery week for the physical education classes! It is one of the weeks during the year when I have a “safe word” that I share with the other teachers. That is, I fear the temptation to take one of the bows and arrows and use it in a way that would cause me to end up on the nightly news…nation-wide!…might overtake my common sense. So I have a safe word to say to the other teachers around me that will keep me out of jail, and a future career as an incarcerated librarian!

My lunch today was a PB and honey sandwich on multi-grain bread, complimented with a side of carrot sticks.

My second period class of 8th Graders arrived already overdosed on “annoying.” Thank God they are not in one of the archery classes! The assignment for their class was to run/walk for 30 minutes around the track. It’s amazing how students who have taken “annoying steroids” slow down when they are asked to run/walk for 30 minutes. Some of them made 4 laps! That’s a mile in a half-hour! That’s like a slow record!

I shot free throws with a sixth grader before one of our classes began. I made 23 in a row. He looked at me like I was a much older version of Steph Curry. How long would his amazement last?

TUESDAY

My first two classes of 8th graders were retesting a few strengthening exercises, like pull-ups, doing a plank, and something called a “wall sit” where they sit against a wall as if there is a chair underneath them. Some of them were done doing all three exercises in ten minutes. Did I say that the longer it takes someone the better? On the other hand, one young lady did a wall sit for a solid hour. I had to go and inform her math teacher that she would be late because she was still sitting. It’s amazing how some students will push themselves, while others are much more proficient at pushing the patience of the teacher!

Archery safe word: Big Bro!

No one died in archery today. The only wounds were to the pride of a number of students who couldn’t shoot it into the ocean!

My lunch today was a PB and honey sandwich on multi-grain bread, complimented with a side of carrot sticks.

My sixth grade buddy told a few others about my free throw shooting, so I had a little flock of his classmates watching me shoot free throws before class. I only made 16 in a row today, but they were still amazed. It is much easier to amaze sixth graders than it is eighth graders!

A seventh grade girl came to me before class wearing cowboy boots. “Do you think I can run in these today?” I gave her the “Are you serious?” look.

WEDNESDAY

Hump Day in a week where the temperature has continued to dip. My first two 8th grade classes were scheduled to go outside for some “jump rope conditioning”. I was all set, but then they started whining about the fact that with the wind chill the temperature was six degrees. I reminded them of all the games that had been played over the years at “The Frozen Tundra” in Green Bay. When a few of the students asked me where in Colorado Green Bay is located I knew it was a lost cause.

Brain Light Bulb On! Single digit wind chill days are a good threat in the curing of annoying students. Think of it as being like weather-related Castor Oil!

My lunch today was a PB and honey sandwich on multi-grain bread, complimented with a side of carrot sticks.

The boy’s locker room smells like a Port-a-Potty! I walk through it several times a day to wake myself up! It is a multi-sensory experience!

THURSDAY

Two new sixth grade students came into my classes today. They looked like they were being led to their execution. I calmed them down and had everyone say hi to them. Being a new student in school on December 1 is a hard road to walk. They stick out like a sore thumb, because everyone else has their official P.E. shirt and shorts on…and they don’t. We hooked each one of them up with a couple of students who have the gift of acceptance and hospitality. These are students who did not heap “annoying” on to their plates when they went through the character traits buffet line.

The last day of archery and no one died! Safe word once again is “Big Bro!”

My lunch today was a PB and honey sandwich on multi-grain bread, complimented with a side of carrot sticks.

The sixth grade boy, who was amazed on Monday by my free throw shooting, came up to me and said, “Coach, I wore this for you!” He had a “Steph Curry” jersey on underneath his official P.E. shirt. I was flattered and then made 30 in a row before class started.

In my role as P.E. teacher I look to bring in other academic disciplines…such as geography! Today I had the sixth grade classes line up in order of where they were born…close to Colorado Springs at one end of the line and extending out from there according to distance away. When I got to the end of the line and two students born in North Dakota were on the other side of the student who was born in Hawaii we had a little geography lesson. “I know that North Dakota seems like it’s a world away, but Hawaii is about half an ocean further!”

At the end of the day we took down the archery range and breathed a sigh of relief!

FRIDAY

Last day of the week! Six classes of endurance to reach the finish line! A day of dodgeball and keeping control of the chaos. There is something about sixth graders on Fridays! They start popping like popcorn, energy and excitement springing to the surface. They are prone to lose all perspective, like inmates in the prison yard who might start rioting at any moment. One boy throws a volleyball at another student’s head, another student kicks a soccer ball into an a group of classmates that are just standing there. Ice packs are ready for distribution. Fridays are the best reason for there to be a 4-day school week!

My lunch today was a PB and honey sandwich on multi-grain bread, complimented with a side of carrot sticks!

The afternoon’s highlight was a young lady in one the seventh grade classes who nailed a few of the boys in dodgeball with pinpoint accuracy. By the end of the class period boys were running from her as she approached the line with one of the dodgeballs. Awesome!

At 3:00 I checked out! It was a good week, and I was looking forward to a Saturday lunch that did not include peanut butter, honey, and carrot sticks!

Guest Teaching Middle School Physical Education

August 24, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             August 24, 2016

                     

My first day and a half of “guest teaching”…a.k.a. substitute teacher…got kicking this week in two different schools teaching physical education. What a hoot!

Are middle school students hilarious or what? Yes…yes…I know, some of them are obnoxious and will do anything for attention. Some of them would rather be sitting outside the Assistant Principal’s office waiting in one of the Death Row chairs than being in math class! Some of them…many of them…feel uncomfortable in their bodies at that point, from the ones who aren’t tall enough yet to ride the roller coasters to the ones who got double doses of height and size at early ages. But still, I receive so much writing material from being with middle school students!

“Coach Wolfe, are you teaching our P.E. class today?” asked the seventh grade boy with the high-pitched voice and a mouth full of braces.

“You got it!”

He smiled wide showing the extent of the work of his orthodontist. I wasn’t sure if he was excited that I was subbing, or excited that he had a guest teacher who was a P.E. class rookie!

Physical Education class first thing in the morning reveals who slept until the very last minutes before coming to school and who are the morning butterflies, already flapping their wings with energy. Monday’s lesson plans started with a period of kickball. We marched out to the field and established the ground rules: no spitting, no tripping one another, no acting like a jerk, no apathy…okay, strike that one! Some middle schoolers dress themselves in “uninterested” when they get up in the morning.

I divided the students into two teams trying to gauge talent levels and make the two squads as equal as possible. Note to self: At eight o’clock in the morning middle school students are not that interested in the teams being fair. They are much more interested in being social than being kickball phenomenons! They are much more interested in talking to one another than they are in answering questions posed by the teacher. Even outstanding plays that showed athleticism were met with indifference. Mistakes, however, were razzed and ridiculed.

It was picture day, that one day when each student gets their photo taken. Therefore, as the kickball game continued some students put the brakes on their interest and effort. They were the ones who were overly concerned about appearance. Looking good for their picture pose was more important than movement towards a kicked flyball. No one will remember the score of the first period kickball game, but that picture!…they will have tp live with that picture for the rest of their lives!

The questions started! “How much more time before we go in?” “Do I have to keep playing?” “Do I have to still kick, because I really don’t want to?”

When answers to questions did not fit into the desired responses that the student wanted to hear the excuses started rising to the surface. “I don’t feel very good. Can I sit out for a little while?” “My ankle hurts!” Amazingly the afflicted were quickly healed as class was coming to an end!

And just so I wasn’t getting the idea that these middle school students were different than the norm, the next day I was at a different school teaching another class of eighth graders in eight o’clock kickball and guess what? The only difference between the two experiences was that it wasn’t picture day at the second school!

Like I said, middle schoolers are hilarious!

Guest Teacher Orientation

August 10, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            August 10, 2016

                                

I took my seat on the left side of the long conference table. Ten of us looked expectantly towards the front of the conference room. The presenter was getting his materials organized and about to start.

I was about to get oriented! I was about to find out how to be a guest teacher. Let me emphasize GUEST TEACHER! Not substitute teacher! Somewhere over the last forty years somebody decided that the term “substitute teacher” was like attaching a sticky note to the back of a person’s shirt with the words “Kick Me!” written on it in large bold letters.

Time to confess! I remember the number of times I took advantage of whoever it was that was substitute teaching in my classroom. I remember asking Ms. Roth, who also happened to be a member of the my church, if I could go to the restroom. I feigned illness from eating lunch in the cafeteria that day…a logical conclusion! She gave me permission as I grimaced in front of her, and then I went down to the gym and shot basketball for the rest of the class period. Now… she would probably not remember that, but I do!

Perhaps my transgressions were part of the soil that produced a new name growing out of it, the name “Guest Teacher!”

The orientation began. The presenter stressed a couple of points to help us survive…or that is, be successful! One was “Use your common sense!”  He gave us several examples of what BAD guest teachers have done! At the end of it all of us had the same thought: What were they thinking? Perhaps being around middle school students rubs off on the substitute…er, guest teacher, and they start doing stupid things that result in them getting called in to talk to the school administrators.

I started to make a mental list of all the things I couldn’t bring with me to school: handcuffs, a pocket knife attached to my car keys, peanut products, Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, words with too many syllables, taser gun, transistor radio, pillow, iPad, sense of humor, bull whip, duct tape, and all political commentary. If I left all those things at home my chances of being a successful guest teacher would be greatly increased. The storyline of guest teaching has been littered with examples of people who “did stupid”, were asked not to come back again, and now are making more money working on a fast-food drive-thru lane.

But then came the second point of the orientation to realize. That students will try to take advantage of guest teachers! Wait a minute! That’s how it was back in 1972 at Ironton High School, in Ironton, Ohio! That means…that means…that nothing has really changed! Well, one thing has…the title. because I am a “Guest Teacher!” Hear me roar!

We were brought back to the reality of the situation; that students are by nature the same as they were back in the day…that they will try to get away with whatever they can!

This is where leaving my sense of humor at home becomes important, for I will look at them like a drill sergeant facing his green recruits and with no expression say “I don’t think so!” It’s also where it is important that I have left my taser gun at home, because I would be tempted to use it a few times.

So now I am ready for battle…I mean, to teach! I’m ready to impart my pearls of wisdom to a new generation of young learners. I’m ready to experience the new chef creations of school cafeterias, students ready and eager to learn, the latest adolescent language terms. and spending the whole day in the gym!

I am oriented! I am a Guest Teacher!

A Substitute Teacher’s Notes To Self

May 18, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           May 18, 2016

                              “A Substitute Teacher’s Notes to Self”

April 20

        Assignment: 1st Grade

Today I learned that first grade boys have bad balance. Most of them fell out of their chairs sometime, or several times, during the day. Girls, on the other hand, are well-balanced and make good ballerinas. Not a single girl fell out of her chair.

April 22

        Assignment: Kindergarten

       If the snack crumbles it will end up on the floor. Cheese crackers and tortilla chips are destined for the carpet. On the other hand, grapes, celery, and raisins seem to be able to stay glued to the desks they are on.

April 25

        Assignment: 5th Grade

Fifth graders are into nicknames. My class had an assortment of nicknames, and characters…Taco Bell, Beaner, Hot Dog, Squeezie, Ant Man, and The Whiz…it seemed that everyone had an extra label of distinction.

April 27

        Assignment: Junior High Physical Education

Note to future self! When the teacher joins in on the games of dodgeball, especially the substitute teacher, he becomes the target! Nothing gives junior high boys more pleasure than lawfully pelting the sub! Stopped on the way home at the optometrist to get my glasses repaired!

April 29

       Assignment: 3rd Grade

         Give third graders the possibility of extra recess and they will follow you anywhere.

May 3

      Assignment: 1st Grade

Met my match! He…no names please…was the first student I ever sent to the office…and he was also the second person I ever sent to the office. He was unfazed by either visit, and, I found out later, that the office was on a first name basis with him. They had considered giving him his own room there.

May 6

     Assignment: High School Study Hall Monitor

The best!!! Four hours of reading in a room of students who all want to study…and getting paid for it!

May 9

     Assignment: Third Grade

       Third graders are completely amused by farting sounds! There always seems to be one boy who wants attention, either by farting or falling out of his chair like a Hollywood stunt man.

    May 11

      Assignment: 7th Grade Geography

Identify right away the student who has discovered his gift for being a royal pain in the butt! Keep your eye on him, because he has spent more time preparing to be a distraction than he has on doing his homework.

May 12

      Assignment: Latin

Never ever ever take a sub job teaching a foreign language that you can not speak. The students will be saying things about you in THAT foreign language that they would never say in English.

Getting Taught By First Graders

April 29, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      April 28, 2016

                                   

First Graders are simply adults in little bodies. They can also teach a substitute teacher a few things! And they did!

I arrived at their classroom in the late morning to fill in for their wonderful teacher for the next day and a half. As I talked through a few things with their teacher before she left, a couple of the girls entered the classroom…and seemed a little startled to see me there.

“Are you going to be our teacher?”

“No way!” I said in jest before then saying, “Yes, I am.”

They looked at one another and I heard one of them whisper to the other, “We usually have girls for subs, but he’s a boy!” That uniqueness, all because of my gender, gave me an “in!”

A couple of minutes later the rest of the class entered their domain and gazed upon the new face in front. I wrote my name on the white board. “I’m Mr. Wolfe…with an “e”…not the Big Bad Wolf,  but the good Wolfe!”

They told me their names one by one. They were ready to teach me. One boy in the back row raised three fingers in the air on his right hand. “Yes, Andy!”

“No, that means I need to go to the restroom.”

“If you raise your hand up?”

“No, if I raise three fingers on my hand.”

“Okay! Is there a restroom pass that you take?”

“No, we sign our name by “restroom” on the backboard.”

Another three-fingered hand shot up!”

“Yes, Gabriel, you can go to the restroom.”

“No, I can’t until Andy comes back.”
“Oh, okay!” My first lesson was being taught to me about restroom usage.

“Mr. Wolfe!” said the voice of a little girl named Jill.

“Yes, Jill.”

“If you have an emergency and you need to go to the restroom you raise your hand and make this kind of sign.” She cupped her hand in a “C” shape.

“Oh, okay! That’s good to know. Well, boys and girls, I’m going to be your substitute teacher for the next day and half while Ms. Brown gets some needed rest with the cold she has. So is there anything else I need to know before we begin math?”

There was TONS I needed to know, and they were very gentle with me. The math lesson was on an overhead transparency. One boy sitting in the front row informed me that it was his job, not mine, to turn the projector on. Another student pulled the screen down, and I began the lesson…on the fringe of cluelessness!

Several times the class reigned me back in to how things are done. Like a horse about to gallop, I was slowed down by a classroom full of riders. “Whoa, Mr. Wolfe!”

I fumbled through math, but they was gracious. Without saying so they let me know that it was okay. “Good try! You’ll do better next time!”

Time for Science! I read to them from a book about Neil Armstrong and the Apollo space shuttle launch to the moon. When I informed them that I remember watching the moon walk when it happened on July 20, 1969 they looked at me with puzzled faces. One of them raised his hand and asked the question that the whole class was thinking.

“How old are you?”

“Older than when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.”

They looked at me with sympathetic faces that said “We’re sorry that you’re so old!” And yet, they were also fascinated that I had actually watched first-hand what they were now studying about. In their eyes it gave me a sense of worth and value.

“Mr. Wolfe, what is the surface of the moon like?”

“Well, Marcus, it is kind of like a mixture of sand and dirt.” I was guessing, but they thought it sounded plausible.

Recess thankfully arrived! They taught me how to play a game that is somehow a mixture of Jurrasic Park and Star Wars. I was to choose a kind of dinosaur and also a character from Star Wars and run around the playground making “character sounds.” I was a playground rookie, ignorant of rules and procedures, but none of the students scolded me about my lack of recess experience. In fact, I gave them four extra minutes and suddenly I was the cat’s meow! I would have won a popularity contest against Hans Solo!

After recess we read. I started to read a book about a girl named Felicity, but was halted before beginning. “Mr. Wolfe, we sit on the carpet square over there and you sit in the rocking chair.”

“Oh, thank you!” The carpet got populated and Felicity made her appearance. They were drawn into the story…and then it was time to go home.

“Mr. Wolfe, can we do some dancing with the lights off?”

“Excuse me!”

“Can we turn the lights off and dance?”

“Is that okay?” (I went to a Baptist college where the “D word” was prohibited on campus. Everyone knew that the “D word” would lead to the “S word!”)

“Yes, it’s okay!” The lights got turned off and for two minutes a class of first graders did “creative dancing” between desks, down rows, with beaming faces and giggling voices. I halted it after a couple of minutes and they lined up.

“Okay! I will see you all tomorrow!”

“Mr. Wolfe!”

“Yes, Susie!”

“This has been the best day ever!”

I smiled at the compliment and realized that I could probably say something close to that myself.

Observing Junior High Math Class

February 10, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                February 10, 2016

                                 

On Monday I sat in on two different junior high math classes. As I’m gearing up to be a substitute teacher I wanted to experience another classroom situation, and also to revisit the subject that I had difficulty with back when Moby Dick was a minnow. I was great with numbers…and then some wise guy started including letters into the problem. I got lost in the midst of “x’s” and “y’s”. If you asked me how much 45 times 20 was I could tell you faster than an adding machine, but put a letter into the mix and I floundered like a fish flopping in the bottom of the boat.

But I went willingly to this classroom of formulas and adolescent confusion, and I learned several things. One, that I actually understood part of the lessons, and enjoyed it…kind of!

Two, that junior high boys haven’t changed since 1968! Oh, they have fancier devices now, but at the core they are twins two generations removed from those who sat in the same classrooms.

Thirteen year old boys still make noises. When the teacher was on the other side of the room there was a good chance that a farting sound would come from somebody. One boy broke out in a humming sound until he was asked to keep it quiet. Pencils were used at various moments as drumsticks on desk tops. Fingers were snapped against open jaws to make popping sounds.

Junior high boys make noise!

Junior high girls ranged from totally quiet to “Chatty Cathy’s”, who would suddenly erupt in nonsensical comments. During a class time when students worked together on an assignment you could hear snippets of conversations about Super Bowl Dorito’s commercials, the half-time entertainment, and what was eaten that day for lunch.

Junior high boys still like attention. I identified the three boys in the first five minutes of the class whose social standing was based on their wisecracks and off-the-wall humor. They weren’t malicious…just in need of being noticed.

Junior high students are special. Several people asked me why I would observe in a classroom of 8th graders. Was I on some kind of probation and this was part of my sentencing? Did I not get that memo about how junior high boys cause hair-pulling and temporary instructor insanity?

Actually, I enjoy thirteen year olds just as much…maybe even more…than sixteen and seventeen year olds.

There you go! Now you know I’m warped!