All tagged Education

Adventures in Substitute Teaching

 I love reading. I love words. I love the worlds created in my brain from images emanating out of words. That’s why I became an English teacher.

What a perfect job for me! I spent my career promoting books, themes, poetry, writing, thinking about literature—it’s such a complex and beautiful compulsion that I could, but won’t, go on and on and on.

Via Flickr Commons - A 1950s advertisement featuring the “ideal teacher.” Click through for image credits.

I retired three years ago and now revel in my free time to do all that I love: reading, writing, talking about literature, and gardening (which actually has nothing to do with reading). For me, this is fantastic, although I came to a point this fall where I decided I wanted to connect again with kids and young adults.  

I began substituting. Once or twice a week, I get to spend time back in the classroom—and I’m loving it.

One evening the phone rang with a request to substitute for a middle school learning resource room teacher. Ummmm… I taught high school students for twenty-six years, no middle school kids were ever part of my classroom teaching experience. I almost declined the job offer but pulled back a bit and thought,

“Wait a minute! What a snob I’m being. I’ve worked with so many students with reading and writing difficulties, with second language students and students who flat out don’t like English class. I’ve taught college prep classes too. I can do this!”

When I came into the classroom the next day, I was surprised that there were only six sixth grade boys. The “regular” teacher was there to greet me. When she discovered my background and experience she told me what reading she wanted done and suggested that I come up with my own writing prompts for the boys.

To my surprise, I had a great time with these boys, especially when it came to writing.

I had a couple of good ideas—or what I thought were good ideas—for prompts. Six sets of eyes stared back at me, none with with an inkling of inspiration. One boy took pity on me and signaled to me. When I leaned down to talk to him, he whispered to me his idea for a prompt,

“Tell them they’re trapped in the desert, the sun’s sizzling and they look up and see a sand dune that’s made of ice cream.” 

List-O-Rama: Three More Dealbreakers

Zeppelin-ramp de Hindenburg / Hindenburg zeppelin disaster

Apparently, I’m a very picky reader, because since posting my list of book dealbreakers, I discovered that there are a few more common book occurrences that drive me abso-freaking-lutely bonkers.*

It’s funny, though, because I didn’t consciously realize how much any of these things bothered me until I started looking through my notes in my Kindle clippings file and noticed that I kept noting the same plot-related details over and over again in three years worth of clippings. 

Animal death as a plot device.

I’m a big-time animal lover. I love my dogs like my family. So, when animal death is used as a plot device, particularly death of a beloved pet—but really any story with the animal death (or injury) as a plot device, I instantly feel manipulated and it completely pulls me out of the story. I’m at the point, where if a book intrigues me and I see that an animal plays an important role, I will Google for spoilers so I can decide if I can handle the story and the inevitable animal death (seriously, being an animal in a novel is pretty much a death sentence).

Sometimes, a book is strong enough that this plot device won’t kill the deal for me (I recently read an ARC of an upcoming contemporary YA that I loved and an animal death snuck up on me, but the rest of the story made it a very solid, recommended read regardless), but it will completely ruin a “bubble book” for me.