The daily musings of a substitute teacher in East Central Illinois.

Superlative Teaching

Today I was a 5th grade teacher at Robeson Elementary. In fact, I was subbing for my mother-in-law, which is always a fun experience. However, her student teacher was concluding a two-day “take-over” of the class, so instead of teaching, I did tutoring in the hallways.

I spent the morning helping two students with math. They were learning fractions and working on problems that asked them to identify things such as 1/10, 4/10, and 1/2 of 1,050 miles. (105, 420, and 525, respectively, in case you were wondering.)

In the afternoon I spent an hour staring down a boy who has officially declared me the meanest teacher ever. Of course, he also said that both my mother-in-law and her student teacher were the meanest teachers ever, so I don’t know how much weight I can give the statement. But still, I kind of took it as a compliment. You see, I always half-jokingly tell my students that I am a really mean teacher because I won’t tell them how to spell anything. I always explain that I want them to try to figure it out on their own. I do the same thing when it comes to learning new words. One of my more commonly used mantras in the classroom is “look it up”.

So this particular student was supposed to be reading aloud to me, but he didn’t want to. He wanted to play around. But I wouldn’t let him. I made him sit in his seat and kept instructing him to read. I also wouldn’t let him use the bathroom, mostly because he had just gone, but also because I knew he just wanted to waste time. When he asked me what I would do if he went in his pants, I just shrugged and said that we’d get the custodian to clean it up. He asked about what would happen if he “went number two” in his pants and I again shrugged and assured him that it could be cleaned up. So he concluded that I was the meanest teacher, and I agreed with him that I was.

I found the entire situation quite amusing, particularly since so many other students choose to use other superlatives to describe me and my teaching style: the most fun, the best, the coolest, the smartest, the nicest, and the hottest. (Okay, only my wife says that last one. I’d actually be totally weirded out if a student actually said that to me.) All of this has reassured me that I am a superlative teacher. I bring out the best and the worst in my students, and I lead them to make a decision. Either they hate me or they love me. I am pretty certain that no student who has passed through my classroom has a non-committal opinion, which I think is awesome. It means that I definitely leave an impression upon my charges!

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