Today was the final day of the school year. I’ve been serving as a substitute junior high science teacher for the last six weeks in a somewhat difficult situation with charge over the grading and no lesson plans. I did enjoy the chance to take ownership over the lessons and didn’t have to worry about state standards since it was toward the end of the year. The students were pretty much done with the content in their books. So I talked about forensic science (which enabled me to put in a plug for Purdue Agriculture as we watched the Dirty Jobs episode where Mike Rowe visited the university’s forensic entomology department), natural disasters, the ocean and astronomy.
So that was all good. I am feeling drained today, and will still need to go in to school tomorrow to finish up grading.
The experience did validate my decision to switch from agricultural education to agricultural communication my sophomore year at Purdue. After taking education’s Block I classes during a Maymester in Jamaica, I said, “Teaching’s not for me,” the main reasons being grading and discipline (isn’t Jamaica a great place to find that out?).
And sure enough, in the past six weeks, the two pieces I did not enjoy, the two pieces that are enough to deter me from teaching (and gave me greater respect for our teachers) were grading and discipline. If I could just interact with students and share knowledge with them, I would enjoy teaching, but occasionally, I’ve had to be more firm with them and upset with them to get a point across. Then, there will be students who are bright but don’t turn their work in because they just don’t want to, so I have to give them zeroes. It has been a frustrating journey over the past six weeks.
But it’s been fun and rewarding as well. Most of all I’ve enjoyed getting to know the students.
Like the one who gave me a high five on the last day (an action which really picks me up for some reason) and occasionally stood beside me while I’m talking to the class with his arms crossed, nodding his head and occasionally wagging his finger at the rest of the class to emphasize the points. When he first did it, I didn’t even know he was there, and he picked up the book I was about to read to them (The Wizard of Oz) and pointed to the picture of a cow flying in a tornado. I lost it. No one understood why I was laughing so hard. I tried to explain by saying, “I like cows!” So that was fun.
Then there was the student who drew a picture of me on one of their assignments.
The one who always entered the classroom first in the morning in a tired mood, who I’d say hello to every morning to hear a muffled answer, and then who, in the last week, began greeting me first and even gave me a high five today.
The one who said, “Forensics! Cool! This is what I want to be when I grow up!”
The two friends who have a ridiculous love-hate relationship and are constantly yelling at each other, then work together really well.
The student who, without trying, makes me laugh every day with kind ways and unique mannerisms.
There were times I didn’t want to go, but when I got to school and was in my first period class, I would feel recharged by the eighth graders’ energy. And that made it worth it.
Then there was my most improved student from 7th grade. For the school-wide awards program, I chose the outstanding and most improved students from 8th grade science and 7th grade science. The 7th grade most improved student was known throughout the school as a troublemaker, and I had experienced that when I first arrived. However, when we moved seats and he ended up closer to the board, some amazing things happened. He was participating and got into the final project we did on the ocean. So I chose him for the award.
When his name was called to the stage, the student body laughed.
But then I had him in eighth hour, and he came in and said, “I didn’t even want to go to the awards program because I never get anything, but I proved them wrong!” And he showed off his medal proudly. Then he said, “You know what I got a medal for, Miss Brown?”
At the end of class that day, he asked if he could take the computer cart back to the library, and I said yes. He proudly pulled the wooden cart through the halls, showing he could work hard.
And there were a couple of other students who got medals and proudly showed them off to me, saying as soon as I walked into the room, “Miss Brown, Miss Brown, look what I got!” I gave them high fives.
These are the aspects I will miss. Getting to know the students as people and helping them in a journey to understand that yes, science is fun, and that, even more important than that, hard work can be rewarding.
And for me, it was a journey deepening my understanding that, when it comes right down to it, it’s all about the people, and every individual is so very important.