Back to the routine of the school year today for all five members of the household: the boys returned to 8th and 5th grades, my wife is back in front of her fifth grade classroom, and Lucy the wonder dog is back to…whatever it is she does during the day. Me, I’m back to prowling cyberspace and elsewhere for new substitute assignments and permanent positions by day, bagging high-end groceries at night. Not exactly what I had in mind for my second year of teaching, but for now it’s what I have to work with.
Most of my sub gigs the past two months have been return visits, by invitation, so I know I’m building some good relationships at a few schools. Hopefully that will pay off with a permanent gig in 2010. As I used to teach in my Workforce Center Finding the Hidden Job Market classes, “Network, network, network”!
Although this teaching thing in New Orleans is a whole different kettle of crawfish; of the eighteen schools I have subbed at thus far this year (including 13 high schools) there are only three that, if they called tomorrow offering a permanent gig, I would immediately say ‘where do I sign’?
Three-of-eighteen? Thats Mendoz Line terroitory; .166 is not a great batting average.
I’m looking ahead to return visits at some of my favorite New Orleans Schools, and checking out a few new ones, given the opportunity – and hopefully finding a permanent gig. In the meantime, thought I’d take a glance back and revisit two of my favorite student interactions of the first half of the school year.
As I drove up for my fourth visit to one pretty decent high school, I encountered some students I had dealt with before. They greeted me politely, and kept going. At the end of second period, one of the students I had seen on arrival came up to me and asked what kind of car that was I drove up in (Ford Taurus) how old it was (1999). The following conversation ensued, in all earnestness on the part of a 16 year old 10th grader:
STUDENT: Hey, Mr. Lucker, you need a new ride. I can find you any car you want…at the price you want to pay for it.
ME: (skeptically, with humor) Really?
STUDENT: Yeah! You tell me what you want, how much you can afford to pay…and I’ll find it for you.
ME: Define ‘find’.
STUDENT: (thinking) You know…find it for you. Name the car, man. Even the color. Whatever you want to pay, man, and I’ll get it for you.
ME: Define ‘get it’.
STUDENT: (exasperated) C’mon, Mr. Lucker! Any car you want, you know… I’ll ‘get’ it for you.
ME: Don’t you have a class to get to?
STUDENT: (over his shoulder while leaving) You just let me know what you want when you’re back tomorrow….
At least he has the salesman’s tenacity and positive, gonna-make-that-sale fortitude going for him. I could only wonder if he serves as his own middle man.
But my favorite episode occurred on my seventh or eighth visit to one of my favorite high school sub hangouts. I was standing with another student in the doorway of a classroom of full of ninth graders, discussing that student’s behavior (which was worth bringing him to the doorway to discuss, but wasn’t anything that would have gotten him sent to the office or any such thing – an important note) when one of the assistant principals walked by, and said “Everything O.K., Mr. Lucker?” To which I replied, “Nothing we can’t handle. We have it worked out …” when the student interrupted with his answer to the A.P’s inquiry: “This man is tryin’ to tell me things!” The AP stopped, and the following ensued:
AP: (calmly) Son, Mr. Lucker is your teacher…he is supposed to tell you things.
STUDENT: Uh, uhh! He can’t tell me nothing! He aint my teacher…Ms. Russells’ my teacher!
AP: (more calmly) Son, please come here. (motions kid across hall to where he is standing)
STUDENT 2: (from inside classroom) You can’t get on him for sayin’ that – he’s right, this man aint our teacher! He can’t tell us nothin’!
AP: (motions STUDENT 2 into hallway) Son, come out here please.
STUDENT 3: Man, you can’t say nothing about that to them!
AP: (less calmly) Boy! Get out here! (motions student 3 to hallway)
STUDENT 4 (girl) Oh, mister! You’re wrong for calling them out there. They didn’t do nothing! And Mr. Lucker ain’t our teacher!
AP: (less calmly but still retaining his cool) Young lady, please step out here.
At this point, the assistant principal has four students along the wall across from my classroom, and a security guard at the far end of the hall comes down to investigate. He and I are standing in the doorway as the AP is telling these kids why they should be listening to me, when, out of our peripheral vision, we both see an English textbook go whizzing through the air. The security guard immediately points at a young man, and says “Grab your things! You are going home!” To which the kid protests “Why am I going home? I wasn’t throwing that book at him ( pointing at me) I was throwing it at HER”! (points to a girl sitting in the corner shrugging her shoulders).
As the kid gathers up his belongings, the security guard shakes his head, looks at me, and says “Sometimes they just don’t know when not to say anything”.
Five students gone in one fell, 90 second swoop, and I hadn’t said a word. It is, to date, a personal record. The rest of the class ran pretty smoothly.
Here’s to more educational fun and excitement in the second half of the year!