End of August, and it’s back to school, for Becky, anyway. For several years, she and I worked as substitute teachers. I’ve gone to work full time, but she still subs. It doesn’t pay much, but it’s a pretty good gig. It is flexible enough not to interfere too much with other aspects of our lives, and while you can turn down a job, you don’t want to do that too often, or they’ll stop calling. There’s lots of Karma involved in substituting. Thinking back to some of the things I did back when I was in school, I guess I deserve the trials and tribulations of being back in the classroom as a sub.
Being a substitute does give some latitude in teaching style. I almost always brought my guitar with me. I’d do songs like “Marching Ants” for elementary students, and let them strum the guitar while cording with my left hand. Naturally, we sing “La Cucaracha” in Spanish class. Many high school students seem scarcely aware that we are at war. So different from the early ‘70s, when I was their age. I managed to dig back into the far recesses of my memory and pull out old Pete Seeger & Bob Dylan songs, like “Where Have all the Flowers Gone”, and “With God on Our Side”. It is amazing that the music from that time is new to these kids. My favorite classes, oddly enough, were high school honors and special education. Students with autism, in particular, responded well to the guitar. They don’t care about vocal quality, or hitting every string just right. And sometimes, I think I see a glimmer in the eye of an otherwise unexpressive face as they feel the strings under their fingers while strumming along. I remember, while preparing to sub for an 8th grade math class, hearing a student in the hallway say “Hey, that old guy with the beard is subbing today,” and another student reply “Awesome!” In a way, substituting is a lot like being a grandfather. I spoil the kids, then let the teachers (or parents) worry about the aftermath.
I’ve even brought my portable sawmill to school, though not as a substitute. I set it up right in the high school parking lot and demonstrated milling for woodworking and agriculture students who have never seen a board that didn’t come from a lumber yard. When I set up the problem: “OK, we’re at 8-3/4 inches, the next board needs to be 1-1/8 inch thick, and the saw blade takes 1/8 inch kerf. Where do I set the gauge for the next cut?” The response was “Mr. Boyt, we don’t do fractions.” I replied, “The first person who can figure it out can cut the next board.” It didn’t take long to get a correct response. I finished off the log like that, each time with a different problem, though I suspect one or two students were feeding the answers to the others. That didn’t matter. The problem was real-world when they were used to just doing them on paper to get a grade.
Well, if I go on any longer, you’d get a lengthy discourse on my opinion of the educational system.
Hope all is well for everybody on the homestead, or thinking about heading in that direction. If you’ve got some time and need to make a little extra income, give substitute teaching a try. Requirements vary, but for the most part, it just requires finishing high school, and a background check. Main thing is patience and discipline. Guitar is optional.