Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fort Freshman

“Save the drama for your mama.”

- Original Author unknown, but heard on an episode of the Fox reality show “Boot Camp”

Today’s job was for high school for Community C, which I’d only worked with one time before. The weird part of the job is that it was for DRAMA. Why I put myself down to teach drama, I have no idea. I had nothing I could bring for them to do if there were no plans, so I decided to bring my iPod and dock.

When I arrived to the school, a teacher chef walked me to the stairwell that led to Community C office. Sometimes I feel like subbing is like being in a Fellini film. When I made it up four flights of stairs (with four heavy bags) the sour secretary pointed to my schedule and attendance sheets, but no plans. The teacher’s mailbox was empty, so I hoped something would be in the room. On the way down, I ran into my sister’s role model* who sweetly said, “Hi,” instead of running away from me.

The large room was like a suite – with a large room in the middle and four smaller rooms attached to it. I made my way to her office and met another teacher. It turned out I’d be working for two teachers who were going on a field trip and I’d be working in two schools, because one teacher’s afternoon schedule was at the Freshman Academy. (You know, the place I drove to by accident yesterday.)

While in the room, I realized that this was probably where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck rehearsed when they were students at this high school. Looking around, I wondered if any of these students would become famous actors. I recognized some of them who had been in the dance recital.

Before class began, this was a discussion about Passover overheard between three students:

Boy 1: “I’m still the youngest, so I still have to read ‘The Four Questions’.”

Boy 2: “I don’t know anything about being Jewish. What do you do at a Seder?”

Boy 1: “We eat matzoh, drop wine on a plate, eat matzoh, and drop more wine.”

Girl: “You sound like you’re really devoted to your religion.”

When it was time for class, the students had to watch a movie about an illegal Irish immigrant family called “In America”. They were good during the film. I had to leave class twenty-minutes early in order to make it to the other high school, but the teacher had assured me they’d be good for the rest of the period. “Don’t tear up the place,” I said before leaving. “Good luck with the ninth-graders,” one of boys responded.

I’d taught at the Freshman Academy a few times before**. While ninth-graders aren’t my favorite grade to teach, I understand the species. But I didn’t understand the directions to the classroom, so I took the television up to the second floor, when my class was in the basement. And then I fumbled with the door key. But I figured everything out before the students arrived.

I asked a group of girls to sit.

One of them said, “You look really young. I don’t mean it in a mean way or anything.”

Her friend added, “I hate it when people think I’m eleven.”

“I used to hate it when people thought I looked young when I was your age, but now I like it,” I said.

I refrained from adding a story about the hassle of trying to drink underage when you look really young.

This group was supposed to watch “A Raisin in the Sun”, but they weren’t into it, so I spent a lot of the time walking around, trying to keep it quiet enough for the handful of students who were trying to hear the movie. The only time the class cared was when “Claire Huxtable” from “The Cosby Show” first appeared on the screen. At some point “Jesse” from Full House made an appearance and a girl and I agreed he was cuter on “Full House”. Oddly enough, nobody cared about P. Diddy or Sean Combs or Sean John or whatever he goes by these days.

The back of the room had seating shaped like big Legos. They were blocks the size of milk crates and double-sized milk crates that locked together. Boys and girls argued about armrests and footrests and who was hogging what. I couldn’t believe that I had to negotiate seating. One female student observed and said to me, “This class is really selfish.”

One boy had crutches. He and a friend each picked up a crutch and pretended to shoot their classmates, complete with quiet machine guns sounds, pretending they were playing the video game “Call of Duty”. I wondered (feared) if my son would act this way when he reached ninth-grade.

A girl said, “They’re being so annoying. Stop them.”

“Boys, you can’t pretend to shoot your classmates.”

“Why?” (As if he didn't know.)

“For one, these girls will never date you.”

“We don’t want to date them! They’re not our type.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that they probably weren’t any of these girls’ types.

I added, “There’s also a no weapons policy in this school.”

After that, they went back to bothering the crates. This class had an odd schedule because the students were in class for forty-minutes, left for lunch, and returned for thirty-minutes. (I have no idea why.)

I said to the boys, “If you leave these cubes alone, you can come back before lunch is over and build a fort, as long as you can see the TV.”



They returned early from lunch and built their fortress, which reminded me of "The Simpsons" episode when Lisa and Bart fight the UPS-type delivery people in the style of “Lord of the Rings”. Did you see that episode? Here’s a clip:

The rest of the class ran smoothly, though it was funny to see the girls (who scoffed at the boys earlier) liked the fort too, so about eight boys and girls sat inside (sort of) watching the movie. Just before class ended, we dismantled the fort.

* The recent role model story:

** Another experience at the Freshman Academy:


  1. Drama sounds like fun to me! I loved Jesse on Full House. He was cute then, but he's still cute now on ER.

    (Good thing you left out your drinking story!)

    Sounds like you had a nice day :) Yay!

  2. This does actually sound like a better day for you in the classroom. :) We have lunch like that too. Every third hour, the lunch 'hour' we have four 20+ minute lunches plus passing times. That's because the commons can't hold enough students at one time for fewer lunches. So third hour is really a half hour longer than other class hours to accomodate the extra lunch.

  3. You have got to be one of the most flexible people I know. It is good that you can go with the flow so easy and not get rattled. Juggling all of the many different grade levels would be hard for me.

  4. Aubrie, I don't know what the drama students normally do, but I'm sure it's not watching movies. The ninth-graders were supposed to be mapping the structure of the film.

    Sarahjayne, I've heard of that schedule from another blog. At the regular high school, they do a funny shift - teachers and students either have lunch a or lunch b and the period is longer.

    VKT, I do feel flexible and each night I'm exhausted!

  5. *dies laughing*

    A fort!!!! AWESOME!

  6. You go to teach where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck studied drama? Cool!

  7. Beth, I know - I couldn't believe it either! They had so much FUN making it AND sitting in it.

    Susan, it is cool, but (unfortunately) they don't visit the school. And when they come to town to visit family or make a film, I never run into them.

  8. Everyday is a new adventure. You are an explorer conquering new lands.

  9. You sound like a great teacher. :) Forts rule!

  10. Theresa, that was so funny, 'dont shoot your classmates, boys', they will learn how to attract the females.
    Have you ever thought of editing your diary and submitting to O Magazine (Oprahs), would be right up her street, so to speak.

  11. Hi

    Nothing like fortress building to bring a class of boys and girls together!

    You must be so super fit carrying tv sets up stairs and down again! As always I'm agog at how you put up with these bad directions, locked doors, no plans... but best is how you cope with these young 'uns - who are all so innocently wise in their own way aren't they?

    I love the pieces of conversations quoted!

    It'll be great if these kids in the Drama class fulfill their dreams in the future!

    Take care

  12. Sheila, while trying to keep the natives from conquering me.

    Danyelle, thanks!

    Brigid, I've never looked through Oprah's maagazine. While I've thought of submitting to magazines, I don't know which ones would be appropriate. I'll take a look. Thanks.

    Old Kitty, you think too much of me. I should've mentioned that the TV and DVD player were on a cart.

    These kids are funny. The difference between ninth and eleventh-graders is amazing. The "good" 11/12th grade students don't even try to get away with anything. If there's work - they do it. If there's a movie - they watch it.

  13. So much drama! Everday with Subbing it is a new adventure to be tackled. I'm right beside you.

  14. Theresa...
    please forgive me for not getting your prize to you... I was out of town and then flat on my back for the last week with a slipped something in my back... not tolerable to use excuses, I know... but when I tried to send someone to mail it to you... your address was nowhere to be found! Gads... I hate when children share my computer and *accidently* delete my notes... so please send me your address again... your jewelry has been sitting here looking at me with disgust for not being more prompt for days now and I really need to get it out to you to save my conscience.
    Email me at auroranae at ijango dot com....
    hurry before the necklace comes to life and strangles me for shirking my duty!!!!!

  15. Choices, subbing is adventurous - even without forts!

    Dawn, I just e-mailed you. Don't worry about it! Hope you're feeling better.

  16. Hi Theresa! I came to check out your blog after you commented on mine (i'm elfmama at LJ). I absolutely love the sub teacher saga. I subbed for two years trying to get a job teaching history at a highschool, but since I didn't also coach football, I was always passed over for someone who did (and then later hired as a sub when that person left to take a better coaching position). I finally took a job at the middle school. Oh, the tales I could tell. Anyway, love your blog!

  17. What an exciting life you lead. Every day is a new adventure. The drama classes sound fun though. I loved the line, “You sound like you’re really devoted to your religion.” That was the first smile as I read this day's adventure. Good luck today, I hope you are not met with any April Fools pranks.

  18. Susie J, thanks for visiting my blog. I've heard it's important to be willing to run after school activities - especially sports. You've confirmed it.

    Ann, I thought that line was funny too. I try not to laugh at the time, and then write it down as soon as I can!

  19. Nice story. Sometimes, I learned, you have to let kids be kids (ie, building forts) and then they are all about whatever you have to say.

    I have to say, you are such a good sub. I would be CRAZY if I had to go to different schools multiple times a day, sent back and forth! Their planning sounds horrible but you take it with stride!

  20. Tiffany, I agree about sometimes letting them be. I could've been mean sub and forced them into silence while they watched the movie, but it may have backfired and I knew the assignment wasn't critical to their learning.

    Music subs and some other specialists tends to work at more than one school because of the economy. But this freshman high school is temporary while the construction at the main high school continues. I hate going to more than one school in a day.

  21. I can't believe all the things that you teach! I love the stories about the students especially. "Boys, you can't pretend to shoot your classmates." LOL Your solution to that was brilliant!

    I've given you a blog award. Don't worry if you don't have time to do the whole award thingy. Just know you're appreciated!

  22. Mary Anne, thank you for the award. I always appreciate getting one.

    I think the students like that I find humor in their goofiness, but I won't let them do just anything. Or maybe they're walking all over me...

  23. Oh, lord. Thank you for subbing. Seriously, I did it for a year before getting into teaching full-time. It was eye-opening. And interesting in so many ways.

    Good luck and keep up the hard (crazy!) work. :)

  24. Mary Brebner, thanks for the comment. It's nice to hear from others that did it before teaching full-time.

  25. Oh, that's too bad - they should visit the school and inspire the kids. I suppose it would be a big mob scene and require security and all that, though.

  26. Sounds like those boys are pretty immature for their age.

    But DUDE! I totally had to look up who Fellini was. I know, I know. I'm an uncultured swine. (But now that I've looked it up I can joke back about being careful with the experimental drugs and creepy characters.)

  27. Susan, maybe they have visited but I've never heard about it. If I sub drama again, I'll ask.

    Jackee, I've never seen a Fellini film either, but I must've learned about Fellini somewhere. I'm uncultured too because I can only remember the sort of spoof of a Fellini film for Bud Light that asked, "Why are foreign films so... foreign?"

  28. I used to loathe doing drama when I was a supply teacher. The kids just got so excited and ran wild and I was helpless to control them! Sounds like you did a great job, though!

  29. Marsha, if I didn't have a movie, I don't know how those ninth-graders would've been. The upper-grade students were great, so I'm sure it would've been fine.

    I think it's a lot for a theatre teacher to expect a sub (supply teacher) to teach drama.

  30. This post made me laugh! I love that at that age, everyone can be placated by building a fort together! Drama was my favorite class in school - luckily, we never had to watch bad movies :)

  31. Kathleen, too many times I get plagued with bad movies. If they gave the kids and me something to DO, it would be better for everyone.