Substituteteacherwoman* Teaches Art
“If I had an enemy then my enemy is gonna try
To come kill me ‘cause I’m his enemy.”
- Adams, William; Ferguson, Stacy; Gomez, Jaime; Harris, Keith; Pineda, Allan. Song, "One Tribe” Black Eyed Peas
Yesterday’s job was to teach Art at one of my regular schools. This would be my second time teaching the subject, and the first one** at another school didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked. I decided to bring my Bose and iPod in case I had older students, so I could bribe them that if they did their work we’d listen to music.
When I reached the classroom, everything was clean and organized, the plans were easy to find, clear, and all materials I needed were labeled on one table. Then I checked the schedule: two kindergartens, a second-grade class, a break and lunch, two first-grade classes, and a sixth-grade class. That seemed manageable.
After showing the kindergarteners pictures of birds from four books, they had to draw their own bird on a page that had some tree branches and leaves, and stated on the bottom, “A group of explorers found a rare bird deep in the jungle. They sent back this drawing of the bird sitting in a tree.” The classes went well. Most kids drew woodpeckers, bluebirds, toucans, flamingos, hummingbirds, and the mysterious “rainbow bird”.
The assignment for the first and second-grades sounded like it would be great fun, since the kids had to create their own superhero. The students got excited brainstorming superpowers and how they’d take down the bad guys. But after giving the introduction, I realized that the students couldn’t actually read the sheet. The vocabulary was too hard, and then they kept asking me how to spell every word, even spider, super, and fly. Those three classes were exhausting because they needed so much explanation and attention. First, they had to provide “Personal Information”:
(I got asked about that a zillion times, although I had said it was their superhero name.)
What is your extraordinary power or ability?
(They didn’t understand this either. Did “extraordinary” throw them off?)
Is there an enhancement of on of your 5 senses? If so, which one(s)?
(I think “enhancement” confused them because even my notes on the five senses on the board didn’t help.)
Do you need any special or advanced equipment?
(Once I explained what it meant, most chose a car or a jetpack, even if their power was to fly.)
How did you acquire your superpowers/what is your story of origin?
Where is your headquarters of base of operations? What does it look like?
(I used the bat cave as an example, but I was mostly met with, “Huh?”)
Do you have a sidekick? If so, who is it?
(Sixty times: “What’s a sidekick?”)
Do you have any enemies? Who are they?
(Now I thought this was the easiest next to name, but I got, “What’s ‘enemies’?”)
Tweaking the vocabulary for the younger set or using this in older grades would’ve made all the difference. The four boxes at the bottom for “Costume Features” wasn’t any easier for them:
How do you conceal your identity? What type of mask do you wear?
What is the symbol the represents who you are and what you do?
Are any parts of your costume functional? What are they?
What does your costume look like? What color(s) are in your costume?
After all of that, they could draw a big picture of themselves in their costumes on the back of the paper. Very few students go to that point.
Despite the glitches, I enjoyed the children. A kindergartener drew me a picture of a robot.At least I think it’s a robot. And a first-grader who had narrow blacked stubs for teeth and needed even more help that most of the other students, seemed to take a liking to me, even staying with me when he didn’t have a question.
This made up for the one girl who told a friend, who then tattled in front of the whole class that I was called “ugly”. I’m sure she said that because her regular teacher wasn’t there. And the teacher is a young, pretty Asian female who I think wears a size 0 and is awfully nice. In comparison, I’m an old, mean cow. I used the moment as a teaching lesson not to comment on appearance or people’s pictures unless it was to say something positive. The tattler raised her hand. “My mother said, ‘If you don’t have something nice to say, then you should keep your mouth shut.’”
When one of the middle school teachers saw me, he came into the classroom and said, “I’m going to be out all next week. Is it okay if I request you?” I said, “Sure,” and gave him my name, trying not to think about going to visit my father this weekend, and the fact that I’ll return to an unclean house without food or ironed shirts, and then have a week of work with some difficult classes ahead of me. On the upside, this teacher has witnessed a few of my groups on the boisterous side, so it’s nice that he thinks I’m competent enough to run his schedule.
Sixth-graders had to draw a shoe, which meant taking off one of their shoes. I DO NOTrecommend doing this during last period. Try it first period, when the shoes smell fresher.
At the end of the day, when I was cleaning up, I spied some old Thanksgiving handouts. Since their were multiples of each picture, I decided to take one of each, in case I needed them. Then I hesitated. If I wanted to teach older students, who would never do a project like this, was I resigning myself to having this horrid job in the fall? I took them anyway, and told myself that my daughter could color and hang them around the house for Thanksgiving next year, and that it wasn’t a sign of defeat. I have to have hope that by then things will change for the better.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
- Barack Obama
* These posts are the origin of my superhero name:
** Here’s the post about my first Art class job: