Monday, March 8, 2010

Subbing AP

AP is short for Advanced Placement, for students who not only plan on attending college but want to get a head start - high school AP courses are often worth college credit.

AP is for the organized, the studious, the diligent; AP is synonymous with the staight A student, the self motivated go getter, the "teacher's pet". There aren't many AP students in the hood.

Much like the tiger and the bald eagle, AP students are considered something of an endangered species.

In my world, the special ed world, AP students are a rumor, a myth; they walk by me every day but exist in a different universe.

I once stumbled into an AP student in the hallway and thought I had stepped on a dodo bird. Kids who do their homework and want to go to college? You might as well tell me you were teaching leprechauns and unicorns.

So on Monday when I'm asked to sub for an AP class, I'm more than a little surprised. Subbing is an onerous chore, as soon as students spot a sub they see a mark and know they have a golden opportunity to misbehave.

If you hope to be an effective sub, your personality defaults to tyrant.

As the AP class files in, they are both quiet and subdued. There are no cat calls, students attempting to switch seats, whipping out cell phones, or any one of a hundred other teenage shennagians subs typically have to deal with. It's a small class, but to me they seem the kids seem more like scholastic monks than students.

The bell rings. They are all seated, attentive. I pull out a typed lesson plan. "Today ladies and gentleman, the teacher has asked that you finish your story questions for The Importance of Being Earnest. She would also like to remind you that you need to finish Pride and Prejudice by the end of the week and that your essays are do tommorrow."

I move to write the days agenda on the wall, but stop myself. The kids all have their notepads out, busy writing everything I say down.

What the hell?

"Is that all Mr. Leiken?" one of the students asks.

I blink. "Did I mention my name?"

The girl points to the board. "You have it written up there. Plus, we've heard of you."

"Good or bad?"

"Do you remember Emily? She took a class with you and Duran and said the two of you should be teaching AP history."

"Your that guy that dresses as a pirate."

"And you ran the comedy club."

"Don't you do those crazy announcements?"

I nod. "Yes, yes, I do those crazy announcements. You all know about Oscar Wilde on his death bed?"

The students shake their heads, rapt.

"Oscar Wilde was dying in a cheap hotel in Paris, and he couldn't stand the drapes. So he told his friends, Either those drapes go, or I go. Then he died."

The class laughs.

I ask the students take out their books and start working, fully expecting to repeat myself.

I don't have to repeat myself. The students pull out their binders and start quietly working, opening up their books as they write down their answers. I stand at the front of the room for a few minutes, dumbfounded, fully expecting someone to ask for help or to have a question.

No one does. For the first time ever, I don't have to do anything.

I go to the back of the room to finish up an assignment. The students talk quietly among themselves, but after about twenty minutes I can see a few of them aren't on task.

"Excuse me," I ask in a normal tone of voice, "I'd just like to remind all of you that the questions are due at the end of class."

The students put their heads down and get back to work.

God damn it. Why won't they do something? What is wrong with these kids? I see a couple of them reading Pride and Prejudice, but when they get stuck, they pull out dictionaries to look up words.

Kids thinking for themselves? Should I call someone? Why aren't they asking me for help?

I've been teaching the bottom of the barrel for so long I can't even remember what a "normal" class looks like.

Special Ed has ruined me.

1 comment:

  1. Good experience for you, Brian. Wonder if you would feel as challenged and innovative as you have to be to teach Special Ed.