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Adventures In Substitute Teaching – My First Focus Group

Adventures In Substitute Teaching – My First Focus Group

I was grateful to be a substitute teacher today because my class served as a focus group for my upcoming coloring book, I was able to teach them more about the natural world, and because they’re a lot of fun. I taught a class of 18 first graders today. I was supposed to meet them in the cafeteria at 7:50, and as they gathered for the next fifteen minutes or so, I was able to learn all of their names and figure out why their teacher was absent that day. Apparently, she bought a boat to sail around the world, met up with a super villain who threw her all the way to the moon where she was abducted by aliens, and is now serving time in a prison on Mars. But I’m sure she’ll be back tomorrow.

As I’d approached the classroom when I first arrived at 7:43, a couple of teachers were making their way out of the room, and said, “You should be all set. Have a great day.”

The plan for the day was an extensive, three-page synopsis of what I was supposed to do and what I was supposed to teach, but it didn’t match up with the materials that accompanied it. According to the students, it included a lot of stuff they’d already done so it may have been the plans for the last day she was absent or possibly sometime in December. Either way, I had to improvise.

Fortunately, I had a copy of the proof of my next book, and I had them gather on the rug while I read “A Group Of Critters” to them and showed them the pictures for all of the different animals and the collective nouns that describe them. I’m happy to say that for the most part, they all loved the book and very much wanted to color the pages.

While there were a few images they didn’t care for, they were the same ones that I feared they wouldn’t like so that worked out pretty well. I have an artist already working on some of them, but there are a couple of others that I may have to draw myself. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done much drawing, but I may be able to make it happen.

But the kids all wanted to color after they’d gotten through the entire book. Since it was a proof copy, I cut all of the pages from the book and started passing them out. All of the students got the animals they wanted, and it was fun to see how they colored them. Some used only a couple of colors, and some used quite a few in imaginative ways that I would not have expected, but it was quite exciting to see that the work was appreciated.

As they colored, I went around the room and asked each student the name of whatever group of animals they were coloring. Since it was written right there on the page, they were able to learn that a group of parrots is a pandemonium, leopards are a leap, elephants are a parade, flamingos are a stand, and many others as well. So although I do still have some work to do before the book is finished and ready for publication, I think I’m on the right track, and I’m glad the kids enjoyed it.

In the future though, instead of cutting a book apart for each class, I may just make copies of the most popular ones and have them available to color after I read the book or recite the poem.

After lunch, we were walking to recess, when I walked off of the sidewalk to pick up a plastic grocery bag being blown along in the wind. The class wasn’t sure what I was doing, but half of them followed me, questioning why I was walking the wrong way. I snagged the bag, threw it in a trash can, and got everybody back on the sidewalk to make our way to the playground.

I found a bench in the shade and chatted with a couple of the girls, one who said she recently had surgery and needed to take it easy, and one who said she just didn’t feel like playing. And, of course, other kids came and went to tell me about super heroes, the crazy things their siblings do, and to ask for permission to go to the bathroom or clinic. Within a few minutes, two other girls showed up with hands full of empty snack bags and other pieces of plastic, exclaiming, “Look, we found some litter!”

I said, “Great! Good job! Is there a garbage can around where you can put that?”

“Yup!” And they gleefully bound off to deposit their collections.

It’s a pretty fun gig to be the best substitute ever.

Coming soon…