Lane Meyer: “She only speaks French, Roy. She doesn't speak imbecile.”
Lane's mom: "In honor of our special guest, I've created dinner mon dieu — including Frahnch fries ... Frahnch dressing ... and Frahnch bread. And to drink..." (holding up a bottle of Perrier) "Pay-roo!"
- Two separate scenes from the film “Better Off Dead”
Vacation is over. Monday marked the first day back from break. But surely nobody would miss the first day after break, right?
My alarm blared at 5:25 am. It wasn’t always this loud, was it? I’d also taken a week off from dealing with sit-ups, so I got back to work on crunches. The phone rang, but instead of my called I.D. reading “Private Caller”, it had a name. Wrong number? The roofer? No such luck. The regular gatekeeper will be out for the next few weeks, so I’m going to get calls from a substitute gatekeeper. Since she’s a sub, I wonder if I should act up.
When I heard that I’d be teaching French, I wanted to exclaim, “Mon dieu!” because I don’t know French. All I know is a handful of words and phrases. (I’ve used up two phrases for the title and this paragraph, so I’m almost out.) If subbing Spanish is a stretch, I may have just snapped the rubber band. Surely, there’s some algebra class I could teach instead. What were the chances that a teacher would send adequate plans after having a week off? If only I knew how to write the answer zero in French.
The problem is that I have no plans to teach French. I didn’t even know I was on the roster to teach French. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure they ignore my list because that’s how I wound up subbing Instrumental Music before break*.
I grabbed the film “Ratatouille” in English (I know, lame), renewed my subscription to www.enchantedlearning.com in case I needed to print some handouts, and took my iPod and speaker (just in case), and left my house with trepidation.
When I arrived at the office, I the secretary handed me plans. This was the first line to the principal and assistant principal:
“I will be out sick on Monday. These past few weeks of intense exchange work have done me in, the final straw being that incident on Fri. night. Here are my sub plans:”
Oh great. What was this final straw and will I have to deal with this student?
The sub plans were fine. She was clear about having the first three classes read and answer questions out of the textbook and that I’d collect the work at the end of class. Then I went to her room, which wasn’t a classroom, but an office. When I saw the cart filled with stuff on it, it became clear that I would be a roving teacher. I ran back downstairs to the office to find out where the classrooms were located since the plans failed to mention this CRITICAL piece of information.
For the last class, I was supposed to find an animal packet in her office. If I couldn’t find it, I was supposed to find a documentary on Paris. If I couldn’t find that, I was told to go to a website and print a food and shape packet. When I couldn’t find the animal packet, I breathed a sigh of relief when I located the DVD. But I went to the library to print copies of the other packet, just in case. For good measure, I printed animal coloring pages from Enchanted Learning.
The first class was filled with dream seventh-graders, who did their work quietly. One girl raised her hand, so I came over.
“I don’t have a question. Well, I do have a question, but it’s not related to French.”
That’s good because I don’t know French. “What’s the question?”
“You know Home Depot?” I nodded. “Well, why do they have a t at the end if it’s silent? Isn’t it like a waste of a letter?” She began talking faster in case I didn’t take her seriously. “I mean, like wouldn’t it be better for the environment if we didn’t make signs with letters we don’t pronounce?”
“If they dropped the t, they’d seem illiterate,” I said.
“Besides, you take French and you’re asking me? They don’t pronounce most of the ends of their words. Etoile is a good example.”
She agreed. (Maybe she's the perfect audience for The Disappearances.)
The eighth grade class I had next was the opposite of the first class. I already knew them from when I first became a sub and taught Science when they were seventh-graders. They were HORRIBLE. Since then, I’d had them in gym, which is preferable over making them sit and do something. Apparently, this class doesn’t like to do anything. While a few kids worked, I walked around nagging the others, who were kind enough to ignore me.
The second eighth-grade class was better, especially when I separated two of the boys. One wound up reading in the hallway instead of doing the assignment, but at least he was quiet. And reading. It turned out that the Science teacher, who was in and out of the classroom (since it was her room), spoke French and was able to help the students more than I could. She said, “I should’ve subbed French today and you could’ve taught Biology instead.” I agreed.
Next came fifth-grade. Guess what? The DVD case was EMPTY. So, I gave them the packet and told them they could color if they finished early. Fifth-graders love to color, so they buzzed through the packet to get the chance to color sea creatures, insects, birds, and other animals.
While they worked, I spied a row of dioramas on a shelf. “They got to do dioramas!” I exclaimed. (No, really, I exclaimed.) The teacher told me it was an American colony project. I eyed the cardboard boxes and their contents with envy. I want to be teaching Social Studies and doing fun projects. I remember having the students create journals for colonial women, toolboxes for occupations of colonial men, Native American posters, Explorer reports, and Bill of Rights pictures. Sigh…
The day ended, so I bid the school adieu.
* Instrumental Music fun: