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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mr. Knight's Dark and Twisted Day of Substitute Teaching a Second Grade Class

Today brought an experience that I haven't enjoyed in a number of years: substitute teaching a second grade class at a nearby elementary school. I heard yesterday afternoon that they needed someone to fill-in for a teacher, so I promptly called and volunteered for duty. Subbing is something that I've been doing for a month or so now, one reason is that I'm seriously thinking about teaching full-time and am sorta giving it a "trial run", you could say.

So I arrived a little after 7 this morning, the kids were in the room by 7:30 and their regular teacher had everything planned out. And I had an awesome assistant that I got to work with. We followed things per the instructions... but I also couldn't resist "improvising" a bit.

F'rinstance, when it came time to do Math, here was a written problem that the students had to figure out:

We drove for 2 hours, stopped half an hour for lunch, and swam at the lake for half an hour.

How long did it take to get to the campsite?

The kids were supposed to raise their hands and give an answer, if they calculated it. I let some of them respond, and a few got it right.

But then I exclaimed:

"You're wrong. Because these people didn't get to their campsite! And do you know why?! Because they're dead! Look at the problem again. It says that they ate and then went for a swim in the lake. Everyone knows you never swim right after eating a meal! It increases your chance of getting cramps. These people ate lunch and then went for a swim and got cramps and couldn't swim for shore, so they drowned! Their dead bodies are at the bottom of the lake. They didn't get to camp after all. The end!"
No, seriously, that's what really happened.

All of the students thought it was funny :-)

But since this was a math class, a more rigorous and concrete answer was expected. So don't worry, they all figured that out. Speaking of which, the answer is 2 hours since they're already at the campsite when they eat.

Then came reading time. My original plan was to read the kids a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, but more experienced minds suggested that this might not be the best of ideas. I can see it now though: some little girl arrives home after school and asks "Mommy Mommy, what's a 'shoggoth'?" or a boy says "Hey Dad can we sacrifice the dog to Nyarlathotep?"

Yes, a guy who considers reading Lovecraft to second graders. I say again: when Lisa and I start having our own children, that's gonna be one strange growing-up experience for them :-P

Instead for the first reading period I read them The New Kid from the Black Lagoon (which has nothing at all to do with the classic 1954 Universal monster movie) and The Signmaker's Assistant (pictured at left) for the second reading period just before school ended for the day. It's a terrific book for young readers about the danger of doing something just because a sign says to do it. And after we finished reading it together I asked them about the moral of the story, and got into how this might just have been a children's book... but that this same thing happens to grown-ups in the real world every day and it's never as funny as how things happen in The Signmaker's Assistant. From this I told the kids that they should learn to think for themselves, instead of just doing what a sign or a book or a movie or television tells them. Why? Because, I alluded without going into specifics, the worst historical event of the past hundred years happened because people did what they were told, without stopping to think, and they wound up doing very bad things that they otherwise would never have done.

A lot of the students raised hands to talk about examples in their own lives of what happened in the story. It definitely got 'em thinking. Which was the whole purpose of the story. I'd definitely recommend The Signmaker's Assistant if you're an elementary teacher. It not only provides a lot of good matter to think about, it's also a very funny book :-)

So that's what I did today. I thoroughly enjoyed corrupting teaching these kids, if only for a little while. Lord willing, maybe I'll get to do it again sometime soon.

Maybe then I can read The Call of Cthulhu to them :-)


Anonymous said...

According to the question as quoted in your article.

The answer is:

They never arrived.

Or did they arrive between driving and eating, or between eating and swimming.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm shoulda kept reading before I commented.

"So don't worry, they all figured that out. Speaking of which, the answer is 2 hours since they're already at the campsite when they eat."

How can you make that assumption? There's nothing in the question that indicates their location for lunch. They could have eaten in the car in which case the 30 min lunch is completely irrelevant. They could have eaten at a rest stop. Maybe they pulled over for gas and ate at a restaurant.

The question does not provide enough detail to arrive at a single answer without making unfounded assumptions. Since math is a science the question is complete junk.

Chris Knight said...

I brought up that point too but that's just the answer that the book gave :-\

Anonymous said...

Excellent Chris!

BTW although I didn't fit it in earlier good show on the reading time parts!

Anonymous said...

Chris more than filmmaking or politics I think teaching is your true calling. Someone like you could very much inspire children to think and be creative while also teaching them. This could be what God has put you on earth for brother.


Anonymous said...

Its hard not thinking of a classroom with Robin Williams as the teacher after reading this report. For what its worth I'll chime in and add to what Joshua said. There's a drastic shortage of male teachers and I think you'd make a great one Chris.