Apples and Buicks
Today I was a 7th grade language arts teacher at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High School. For those who are playing along, this marked my first day ever at MSJHS. Just as I had several wonderful experiences subbing at MSHS, the students at the junior high are equally awesome and delightful.
I knew a handful of the students in the junior high from when my wife and I taught their Sunday school class a year ago, but, otherwise, I didn’t know any of the students, and they didn’t know me. This always makes for an interesting dynamic between teacher and students. One thing I have noticed is that students want to know a lot about their teachers and, as the students get older, this interest increases dramatically. I was quizzed on my first name (which I didn’t share, because I like to challenge students to learn it on their own), my age, my marital status, the number of children we have (and want to have), my favourite author, favourite book, favourite song, and even my favourite Christian rap group (answer: none–I don’t know any). I was also asked my opinion on U2 and especially Bono, as well as whether or not I like Lady Gaga and/or Justin Bieber (answer: not really to the former, never heard anything by the latter). I was even asked about what type of products I have to use in my hair, and how much. Clearly, this students wanted to know all about me.
They also wanted to know all about the students in Champaign, especially since I mentioned that I am in my third year as a substitute in Unit 4. They wanted to know what my best experiences and worst experiences have been, and which school district is better. The thing is, I can’t really answer this last question. It is akin to asking if I prefer apples or Buicks. I like both, and for very different reasons. Likewise with the two school districts that have utilised my skills as a substitute teacher. Students in Champaign are extremely diverse, and very willing to share their unique perspectives in class. Students in Mahomet are very eager to learn. I am not saying that Champaign students are not eager to learn, nor am I saying that Mahomet students are not diverse–rather, these are two examples of traits about the schools that I really appreciate. Champaign does have a more diverse student population. Champaign also has ten elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools. The Mahomet-Seymour district is smaller (three elementary buildings that are divided by grade levels, one junior high and one high school), which leads to less diversity. Champaign students are eager to learn, but there are a lot of discipline issues that, especially as a substitute, can make this eagerness to learn to a backseat to classroom management, much to my dismay.
But I do not like one district more than the other. Both districts have students that challenge me as an educator, and give me opportunities to develop my own pedagogical style in a way that is very much affected by my daily activities. If I were offered a job in Champaign, I would take it. If I were offered a job in Mahomet, I would take it, as well. If I were offered the equivalent job in both districts at the same time, I would discuss it with my wife, pray about it, and make the choice accordingly.
[EDIT: I have changed the title of this post, as well as the comparison in the body, in light of this quote from my friend Ryan Rudd: “Of course you can compare apples to oranges. They’re both fruit. They’ve got plenty in common. You know what’s tricky? Comparing apples to Buicks.”]