I am in El Paso this week to preach for Mike Acosta. This last week in Prescott I substituted at the local middle school and the high school. I should preface these comments with my only other teaching experience besides church Sunday school. We started a school in Zambia for several reasons, all good. We had a government lease for 99 years that required us to have some educational facilities on our property. The current government would probably let Sunday school slide but future governments might not. So it made sense to start a school. We had many qualified people without work who could help us with the school. It was a great way to serve the community as most students went to what were called the “extension schools”. These were schools run by teachers who had government jobs teaching in the government schools. Fifty kids in a classroom with a teacher maybe showing up in the afternoon to write some things on the chalkboard. So Albert Skombwa was going to start his own school anyways so I suggested he start one for the church. The students would pay minimum school fees that would be used to pay salaries. My wife taught English and I taught composition. We had two classes of about 25 each of 10th graders. I would copy stories from “Chicken Soup” and have the class read them circling the words they didn’t know and look them up in the dictionaries provided by the Wickenburg church. Each morning when I came to school after prayer the students would stand together and greet me with a polite welcome. The only mischievousness in this greeting was when my wife was working them to super pronounce their r’s. Zambian tend to mix their r’s and l’s. These students were super charged to be there and the experience was great for me and them.
Sooooo. I was quite shocked when I went to my first substitute assignment for some 6th and 7th graders. Substituting is glorified babysitting, but I had no idea that they would be acting like babies. To focus on one side of the room called for misbehaviour on the other side of the room. Every action seemed to require intense pressure on my part to keep the kids in line. Two classes were just watching a film, “Tora, Tora, Tora”, that they seemed bored with. I found I could get their attention and keep it for a few seconds when I would mention how the action in the film lined up with the questions the teacher had written on the board. The last class was rehearsing a play about a bully, but was filled with impolite comments from the class. They just seemed to not want to be there and wanted to do everything in their power to make me not want to be there. I now know my only real leverage is to send them to the office. Now I know the mechanics of this. I was told by the high school teacher I subbed for that one of them must be the sacrificial lamb. These were his words. I will be better prepared next time.
The High School experience was much better. They seemed to accept what the teacher wanted me to ask them to do and do it. I had been warned about one unruly class but even that class did well. They were doing a review about nationalism for world history. Part of the assignment was to label a map of Russia that included all of the bodies of water. I read a great book called “Reeling in Russia” about a news correspondent who fell in love with Russia and was able to convince a publisher to send him back and do a story about fishing as he fished all over Russia. I made points in the class when I would “help” a student who was refusing to do anything by reading and pointing out all of the spots on the map. My major victory of the day was when one young man let me know he was failing so it didn’t matter whether he did the work or not. He encouraged him to et least do the map, saying that all men should enjoy working with maps. He did the map.