Teacher Oops: Sub on a Wall

Steph’s note: I realize this account isn’t exactly a “Travel Opps” and it’s not about one of my exchange teaching blunders in Australia, but as some of you have read, I have so many mishaps while teaching that I thought I’d post this story. In a sense, making an appearance in the world of middle schoolers or traveling to “tweendom,” definitely qualifies as a misadventure — especially when you are a substitute.  

Buena Vista, Colorado, USA; May 2013

Shouting above the sixth grade buzz in the McGinnis Middle School art room, I tried to get my overactive tween audience’s attention. “Okay, guys, I want to see more texture with your planets.” However, what I really wanted was another adjective to throw around since I was working “texture” hard.

A former English teacher, I was out of my element as an art substitute. I knew what looked pretty or aesthetically pleasing, but how do you explain that to eleven and twelve-year-olds? More texture.

Checking their work, I wandered from table to table in the open room, which had a funky, urban warehouse feel. The art teacher had graffitied the cement walls with robots, faces, and letters in vibrant purples, blues, yellows and greens. The faint smell of spray paint clung to various surfaces. On a clothesline, hooked from one wall to the other, black and white photos hung from clothespins. Dangling from the ceiling, Chinese lanterns and oversized neon cocktail umbrellas provided a nice break from the fluorescent lights.

“Are you an art teacher?” asked Chad. In a skull and crossbones skater hoodie, mohawk and pierced ears, he looked out of place among the boys of Colorado ranchers wearing Carharts and cowboy boots. He also didn’t blend in with kids of outdoor sports enthusiasts who wore North Face fleece and Chaco sandals.

“I teach the art of language,” Did I really just say that?  To me, “Language Arts” always came off as an overdone title for “English.”

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