Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mr. Who

It seems every time I sub I fill a different role.  I can't tell if I'm subconsciously emphasizing certain aspects of my personality just to test out student responses, if aggregate classroom attitudes really vary this much, or if I can blame the following on the clothes I wear.

As discussed in my last post, I recently wore a bow tie to a middle school.  Some students took to calling me "Mr. Bowtie."  I think it's catchy.  The immediate impression of eccentricity seemed to make my eccentric moments (lapses in memory or a candid admission of how I can be both boring and fun) more humorous to the students.

The next day I subbed I returned home feeling like I had "Mr. Accessible" written across my forehead.  That's not dirty.  It means that on that day, students (high school) were incredibly accepting of me due to an unusually lenient attitude of mine.  While students were working on projects with computers, I would walk around the class and help, chat, or correct as needed.  I was caught by surprise once when I walked passed a student who abruptly closed the lid of his friend's laptop and I chuckled automatically.  Both kids were surprised by my reaction and we all laughed.  I soon said that I was willing to laugh "because I know that it won't happen again," which I followed with a friendly glare.  Another boy once got up to go distract some others and, while walking, had to hold up his pants to keep them from falling off completely.  I said, so the whole class could hear, "Hey, _____, I was going to tell you to wear a belt, but as I see you have one on, I suppose you just don't know how they work."  Everyone laughed, including him, and he returned to his seat to work and remained on good terms with me for the class.  At the end of the day I found myself giving a bit of a pep talk to a [stoner] student who sought me out for a question.  We talked for a few minutes and he seemed very receptive.  I like the accessible approach.

Today, I was a sub in an elementary music classroom.  I worked with three kindergarten classes (and some other older ones) and officially never want to spend consecutive days with students under 11.  One was fine, more would be crazy.  My mind is not suited for tiny children.  It is today that I felt like "Mr. Who?"  My last name really isn't very hard, and I'm happy if students use its initial, but I got the blankest stares from students today when I introduced myself, and was just "Mister!  Mister!" or "man with long hair" for most of the day.

I almost forgot that I mentioned clothes at the beginning of this and then only mentioned the bow tie as something relevant.  I always wear a tie, and I arrive and leave school with a sport coat (which I often have on during the day too).  Importantly, while the tie and coat set me apart (especially from HS students) as mature and educated, certain friends of mine have made sure I can also coordinate my clothes well enough to be accepted by the modern fashion standards of twenty-somethings.  I think it's this combination of both youth and maturity in my first impression that enables the kinds of interactions discussed above.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Recent Substitutions

I've had a few jobs as a substitute recently, and they've almost all been interesting.  I am enjoying meeting all of these administrators and neighboring teachers and think I've been leaving good impressions.

I just got home from my first time subbing back at the district where I was a student teacher.  I subbed for Mrs. D, in fact.  Many students and staff were very happy to see me in the school again, and those who did not yet know me (most of the MS students I had, in fact) accepted me quickly.  Maybe it was because I was wearing a very colorful bow tie.  The tie itself got a lot of attention today, all positive.

In one humorous moment, I was beginning class and an introduction of myself when I noticed that in the back corner of the room a boy was leaning way back in his seat, with the hood of his sweatshirt over his eyes, allowing him to just barely see me with his head tilted back and resting on his chair, his legs sprawled, and his arms crossed.  I paused for a moment (everyone was paying good attention), looking at him, and then said "What, are you trying to intimidate me?"  There were some giggles, even from him, but then I said, "Because you just can't intimidate a guy with a bow tie."  Everyone laughed, including this boy as he sat up and removed his hood.  My joke barely makes sense (something about self-confidence, I guess?) but it worked anyway.

I also keep telling this story: During my first day substituting, a 7th grade boy asked a music question (during music class).  I answered his question and the boy next to him looked at me and said, "Are you smart?"  Quickly think of what you'd say to that.  "Yes, I'm a teacher," was tempting, but he and I have both had unintelligent teachers, I'm sure.  I said "I'll let you decide that one."  I think that was a splendidly unabashed question, and it totally caught me off guard.

At this point I'm substituting for many districts.  I also just heard from a friend about a substitute finding system that many other districts are clients of, and that he's been subbing more than me because of it.  I don't know how my college's education department thinks they're helping graduates find jobs if they haven't even informed us about this simple, popular, local opportunity.  I'm a little bit bitter, but will sign up with them next week.

I just got a call from a local independent school that I've worked with in the past asking me to apply for a very proximal long-term substitute position for their older math.  Hmm.  I think I will probably try that.  Other job opportunities: nearby short-term choral position, rumor of at least one upcoming local full-time music position, a full-time in WI, and a full-time in CA.