You may know that I am retired. And that word has come to mean that I get ‘tired’ and then I get ‘re’ tired which means ‘tired again’. If anyone out there thinks ‘retired’ means the equivalent of ‘rest’ then I signed up for the wrong gig. I am very busy and one day soon I may return to work for a break. Are you tired of my whining yet?
The truth is, I have returned to the classroom. I am now a ‘Guest Teacher’ which is a coat of glossy paint on the word ‘substitute’. Remember those days? You walked into your school room, saw a strange face and you began to sweat mischief. It’s kind of a kid’s classroom DNA. A ‘sub’ translates to “Game on!”
What these kids don’t know is I am the one ready to play! Sure…I walk in, skim through the lesson plans, the daily routine, schedule, and then I can do what I do best: teach. Imagine that.
Oh, I honor all of the goofy Department of Education directives that have become handcuffs for schools. I embrace the fancy schmanzy terminology of ‘schema’ ‘meta-cognition’ and such. Somebody sure made a boat load of cash on those buzz words. But they come and go. Those ‘Fun with Dick and Jane’ Ginn Readers have morphed into ‘Literature Circles’ and ‘Book Clubs’ with the concentration on some really good reads. Even Dick, Jane, and Bunny would have been dazzled. But I digress.
When it comes down to it, a true teacher never loses that innate ability to cast the spell. You know…that invisible connection between a story teller and the audience when the current is so strong and binding that the rest of the world disappears. That sacred journey when a little mind embraces that obscure concept and the marathon is won. When that grown-up is awed by the answers and ideas of little plaid shirt, third row, second seat. When the individual gifts of active learners transform a “skill and drill without the thrill” into moment so electric that teacher and student are speechless.
And these aren’t just pretty words. It has happened. And still does. Frame a necessary state standard and standardized test objective in creativity and wonder and the neurons fire. Yes, it can be done. Sprinkle a bit of humor and season the recipe with forgiveness for honest errors and the kids will push learning over the top.
My point is this. I am now entering classrooms as that unknown warm body who is paid to keep order and inject a modicum of education. What they don’t know is that I am a pretty normal nobody until those kiddos walk into the door. And then I am under their spell. Sure, they are strangers with names I won’t remember, but their questions, ideas, routines, and even behaviors become my total focus. I may not be their real teacher, but I am a teacher who is theirs for a whole day and I really teach.
I don’t have to compute grades, create rubrics, document and defend a curricular objective as if it is a Supreme Court ruling, and lay awake at night wondering if my performance evaluation will mesh with my students’ test scores. I am free from those (few) mean parents and amnesic administrators who have forgotten that teaching is not about cranking out a standard product all polished and perfect. That the sacred learning moment should never be compromised by an administrator’s strict schedule or personal agenda. A school’s focus must be about that plaid shirt, third row, second seat having a name, heart and soul, and realizing a test score is no true measure of a person.
Being a ‘Guest Teacher’ has its perks. I pick the days I work and if I don’t want to accept a certain assignment in a certain school, I don’t have to. Pretty cool. I like that autonomy just fine. The pay? Oh…it’s a little less than minimum wage but heck, I have this luxurious teacher’s pension to fall back on. Or trip over…when the month exceeds the money.
So if you call me and don’t get an answer, I may not be resting on my retirement laurels. I might just be substitute teaching.