The Young

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The school year is swiftly coming to close with the end in sight: May 29. What an education this has been for me!

I don’t regret signing on as a substitute teacher for the Hawaii Department of Education, although I do have moments when I feel the attention span of children is about as easy to grip as greased rope. At the moment, I’m in a prep period for a teacher for whom I’ve subbed four days now. The class is quiet. The windows open to a densely wooded area and I am now hearing a bird sing. I wonder what it is?

The seventh-grade students in my science classes have been working on a PowerPoint presentation, based on one of five chapters in their text. Essentially, they create the project to teach the chapter. It’s a good stay-busy project. I showed them how to piece out the work into separate slides and to follow the end-of-chapter review to be sure they included all they needed in their presentations.

But I’m not here to babysit or pontificate. I’m here because part of me is still that kid in school who didn’t quite get it all right. I think I’m looking for me. I think I’m looking to help a kid make the right decision about her future. I know now that doing homework means you will be equipped to meet future deadlines. That keeping up with the studies means that the future will deliver something wonderful. Something. Wonderful. Something. Wonderful.

End daydream here.

They work on Apple laptops. I would imagine for about five minutes it was fun to take off computer keys and rearrange the letters into cuss words. But, since these students have never learned how to type QWERTY style, their hunt and peck is frustrating, and the joke is now on them. Brilliant. Will next year’s seventh graders know better? One would hope. I told the office about the computers. There’s a few weeks of school left and who knows if they’ll be refurbished or replaced?

Keys swapped and missing from laptops.

Keys swapped and missing from laptops.

I offered to edit the PowerPoints and fewer than half took me up on it, and each of them was glad they did. I talked to them about using bullets and art to break up big blocks of text. I told them about citing their work and creating a proper bibliography for their final slide. It’s important to me that their teacher feel as though I did more than babysit.

Early this week, three of the boys had “In School Suspension.” Apparently, when a duck flew into their math classroom, they let out their hoots and the substitute reported them. I think my perspective is much different. If there’s an uproar I usually separate the hooligans. If they persist, I give them an opportunity to come to the front of the classroom so everyone can pay attention to them. All of a sudden, no one’s a stand-up comic. It usually settles everyone down. It’s my favorite tactic.

Last night I attended the academic achievement awards ceremony at Kaiser High School, where my Kid1 is a sophomore. I am so pleased for her and proud of her. She was recognized for being a straight-A student, and for her achievements in math and social studies. She runs around with a cerebral crowd, plays viola in the orchestra, and explains youth vernacular to me. Our mailbox and emails are overflowing with queries from colleges and universities eager to enroll her. It is humbling and amazing to me. What’s it like to be her?

I relate more to students who don’t do well in school. When I was their age, I only succeeded in classes where I could write my way into good grades, so I took advantage of that. Math, science and foreign languages were difficult. So when I’m substituting these students, they have no idea how I can relate to their feeling disconnected to the subject. To them I’m an adult in front of the class. For me, it’s more than a babysitting gig. I want to help ignite eureka moments.