Secondary Education

 The thrill-a-minute ride that is my life had a particularly exuberant swoop lately. Luckily it included an increase an age, which without a doubt made all the difference when the high school administrator giving me the keys to my classroom incredulously asked how old I was. Twenty-two sounds SOOO much better than twenty-one. Not. I’m going to let them be occupied with their ignorance and blind assumptions rather than reveal myself as their younger and more competent replacement. Even if it is only for a day at a time. 

Before I got to teach high school for the first time though, I had a whole day to wallow in my Birthday. If you don’t know how I feel about my birthday then please refer to “Better Than Yours” a little further down the page. Anyway, Mickey loves me and I spent the day at Disneyland for free. I’ve recently learned that many people would consider this a bad thing, and that the joy of doing things alone is lost on them. I don’t understand that, even a little bit, because when else to you get to make every decision based on your own preferences and desires. I got to ride Storybook Land without any judgment, and skip the monorail because I think it’s stupid. And I still had a whole park full of people wishing me a happy birthday. (I also got asked out by a girl, but that’s neither here nor there.) Carrying a pink parasol- I’m pale, this was a strictly practical addition to my costume- and semi-molesting a caramel apple as I walked through New Orleans Square I got to be the belle of my own ball. This was followed by dinner so good all the neighboring tables knew about it (and started ordering it a la Harry Met Sally) and mildly sexually harassing a very hot waiter. Sorry Bret.

There may not have been sexy escapades this year, but there was lots of love, and a ridiculous number of promises for lunch and drinks, which I suppose goes along with the whole ‘being an adult thing’. Not that sexy escapades and adulthood are mutually exclusive- at least they better not be or I’m going to be redefining adulthood for my own purposes. But things have been distinctly drab since the completion of college and the acceptance of a living with my parents, scandalous-less reality. Twenty-one may have been so fantastic that it will be hard to beat, but damned if I am going to let twenty-two be the dip after the peak.

Anyway, my glorified babysitting job has recently come with some interesting challenges- some of them more expected than others. For instance, it didn’t seem at all out of line for me to explain the French Revolution with a bagel slicer as visual aid. But, talking about the first stage of psychological behavior (0-2 years old), while trying not to look at the girl in the second row that is 7 months pregnant was almost entirely beyond me. Threatening the class with various forms of dismemberment for talking during the test (i.e. “I will rip off your leg and beat you to death with it- and fail you”) comes without thinking. But trying to be my witty and charming self in a class half full of deaf students- when I don’t know whether to look at the student or the interpreter- was a challenge almost beyond my adaptation skills. The beauty of being a substitute is that all of these issues are only yours for one day, though you do get a whole new set the next day. If knowing how to handle that isn’t a resume booster then I don’t know what is.

Newsflash of the Week: I wore a dress to do my holiday shopping- for the express purpose of receiving exceptional service- and accordingly, it was bestowed upon me. I also managed to make one man trip. Apparently walking and thorough appreciation of my legs is not compatible. No permanent damage was sustained.

Adventures in Substituting

After two days of substitute teaching I am, obviously, an expert. Or at least the children have not yet threatened to murder me after class. Even after I told one talkative boy that his class would murder him if he kept talking- thus keeping them from going to lunch. At the end of the school day I thought to myself that it had really been a rather uneventful day, and wasn’t sure that anyone would really care what I did all day. Then I thought about the 1st and 5th graders I’ve been spending time with, their relative insanity compared to normal people in the universe, and decided that I have the most hilarious job ever.

Everything always starts out very simple which is to be expected when you consider that all of these children were born after 2000. I have mascara older than them. That I still use. So, today, the only thing on the lesson plan was to teach the 5th graders about rain and the cycle of water on the earth. In the interest of trying to make a lecture about rain last an hour and keep their attention we talked about why we drink running water as opposed to standing water.

Me: “Where does the water you drink come from?”

Class: “A bottle.” “The sink.” “The fridge.” “The store.” “My mom.”

Me: “Okay. Why shouldn’t we drink standing water, like pond water.”

Class: “Because it’s disgusting.”

Me: “Yes, but why is it disgusting?” No answer. “How about because things breed in there like algae, and frogs and pods of mosquito eggs that hatch and attack you?” Terrified screams. “Nevermind. You know what a fish tank looks like after a week or so?”

Class: “Green and icky.”

Me: “Yes. Now would you drink your fish tank water?”

Class: Paroxysms of death. “NOOO!!” “Eww!” “Please God No, the horror!” I may have added the last one.

In short, nothing traumatizes these children more than bacteria. Well, that and the unknown. As one would expect, they felt the need to correct me when I did anything at all different from what their regular teacher would do. This included disciplinary procedures. When I realized this process was undermining my authoritarian presence I told them that I was starting a new list of bad children and anyone on Ms.R’s list was subject to my consequences- and they didn’t even want to know what those were going to be. This had a result equivalent to telling them I’d booked them a ticket on the train to Auschwitz. I enjoyed relative silence and obedience for the rest of the day.

While I’m still not sure whether to consider it a blessing or a curse, the tendency of all elementary school kids to say exactly what they’re thinking is endlessly entertaining. The first graders decided amongst themselves that I was sixteen while I was reading Franklin’s Thanksgiving.

“Miss R, are you sixteen?”

“No. We’re not talking about how old I am.”

And with proper incredulous disbelief, “Are you seventeen?!”

Knowing that it really wouldn’t matter what I said I continued talking about the dinner of the turtle family and their moose friends. My only real concern being that they were going to tell their teacher I’m sixteen, thus confirming the fears of the entire staff who came to welcome me/ speculate whether I’d snuck out of middle school to mess with little kids. I haven’t gotten a phone call yet so I figure I’m ok.

Two little girls cried in the course of one school day, and I may not have handled it perfectly, but they did stop crying. The first came to me saying that Rosalinda wasn’t going to be her friend anymore. I said that no one wanted to be friends with Rosalinda anyways because she’s mean. After a moment of blind confusion the little girls apologized and hugged, and did not ask me for anymore help with their friendship. The second was upset because the boy next to her was making fun of her. I found out he said, “Isabella farted.” Since Isabella did not fart, she was understandably very upset. When I stopped the tears running down my face, I told her that boys are awful human beings and she can basically ignore everything they say to her from this point on. She may be a little screwed up for a while.

It’s probably true that I’m mentally fucking them up in equal measure to enriching their minds, but we’re all having a lot of fun in the process. And it’s only one day right?

Next week: Subbing for high school…