Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Didn't Want to be Welcome

I am not certain what I expected when I signed up to substitute teach. Oh, I knew that it is not really "teaching" by official rules in Michigan, that requires certification and credentials that I (unfortunately) do not have. However, my general expectations were designed about a self-constructed classroom image, based on my days as a student, my time spent teaching at university, and my years as a trainer and lecturer. I generally expected NOT to be a welcome sight to the students. I expected uncertainty and something of a let-down on the part of the students.

I had not planned on my new role as "fresh meat."

I remembered wanting to learn in school...a distant memory clouded by all the angst and relationship anxiety that permeated high school life...but I was certain I wanted to learn. I admit, I was unprepared for the malicious grins on so many faces and the feral light in some eyes. I wasn't there to teach, to discipline, or to babysit I was the day's entertainment a new puzzle to probe and solve. For a few moments, all was quiet on the western front. When I failed to break into song and dance, the testing began and it was me being tested. When I failed to collapse or give in to outlandish requests (One does have to let them go to the loo, right?), but pursued the absent teacher's instructions to the letter; they began to shut down. Some participated and worked together (a bit louder than normal, but, hey I was a sub after all), but many just put a head on the desk and checked out. Some talked quietly, some sneaked food and drink when I was not looking, but many just "checked out," for the hour. I didn't want to be welcome, but I also didn't want to be superfluous.


I Didn't Want to be Welcome

Their eyes cheered when they saw my face,
And I marveled at their musical grace,
As they danced, seeking borders to cross -
And battlegrounds to scout and boss.
I heard the critical rustle and hush,
As things academic turned to mush;
Leaving each muse both gagged and blind,
And recess flagged in every mind.

I whithered at their gleeful stares,
And shuddered at the baleful glares,
Of those who quickly sensed fresh meat -
Already tasting the salty and sweet.
As aye, for each here was the rub...
This day we have a brand new sub!

A neophyte, I'd thought to find,
Behind each pair of eyes, a mind
Perhaps prepared to take a test -
An intellect charged and now at rest;
But coiled to spring, when on the nonce
It perceived ideas, to ensconce
Within a frame of lightning thought -
And logic's lattice swiftly wrought.

But as they hie from assigned seat,
And drive class order toward retreat,
And seek to probe my armor's chinks,
I slowly see what each one thinks -
And distressed, I comprehend
That learning has come to an end,
And testing of our wills holds sway -
At least, on this, a subbing day.

As class disruptors crash and burn,
I feel for those who want to learn;
But culturally powerless,
They watch, as with each little mess
The unrepentant terrorists,
Slash their academic wrists,
And practice, in their childish way,
To waste another precious day.

Once they learn they cannot go,
And rules, unchanged, they must follow;
Their energy seems to deplete -
They sink into their assigned seat.
Their eager eyes grow guarded, veiled,
And thoughts once free are swiftly jailed.
Those who planned their thoughts to vent,
Are silent now, and reticent.

It's fortunate that, (at least to some)
I didn't want to be welcome.

Mick McKellar
February 2009

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