Yeah, I drive a Ford Fusion...

So, I was sitting here thinking about what I was going to write today. Life has been super busy with teaching during the days, bartending during the nights, playing with the kids, going for a bike ride or two, getting some writing done here and there, and... Oh, yeah, The Sentinel launch is this Friday. So, at first I thought I'd write about it all, but then I decided. Let's talk about teaching.

I have a couple REALLY funny stories from this, but then it hit me. Maybe I shouldn't publish all of these really funny stories on the interwebs. A lot of them have to do with things other people's kids say and things they do, and while I wouldn't mean any harm by it, they just struck me as funny, I could see someone's mommy getting in a tizzy over it, and I don't need that. I do have one that is about an adult, though, and I think adults are still fair game.

(To protect the innocent AND the guilty, all names and locations have been changed.)

So, I'm called to sub in a science class one day at a relatively large school, I take the job, and show up on time and ready to go. Most of the time when I get there to sub I check in at the office, grab whatever credentials they might want me to wear around my neck or on my shirt that label me as not a child molester or crazed gunman, and then get down to the room. I then generally have notes sitting for me right there on the desk and I run through them quickly to see what the plan for the day is, thumb through any assignments I may be handing out, and familiarize myself with the talking points of the day. Then, the students start showing up.

When I got to class this day, though, apparently someone forgot to leave me any notes, so I run down to the office real quick and ask, and she says the teacher should have left them there, but she'll call him real quick. So, she calls him, and the teacher doesn't answer the phone, (duh, I don't answer the phone when work calls and I've called in sick.), and the secretary offers to get the principal to see what I should do. He comes out and offers a couple of ideas about just making it a study hall day that would have nothing to do with what they are normally doing, and then I offer to check out the teacher's planner, which many teachers often leave sitting on their desks or can be located on their computers, and figuring something out from there. So, the principal and I run down to the room, but there is no planner to be found. He reiterates his idea about it being a study hall day and I agree that if I don't figure out something better we'll just go with that, but I'll be honest that sounded incredibly boring. It could be a slight problem too because this school has block schedule which makes classtime an hour and a half long. That's a lot of wasted time and I don't know if getting kids to just sit quietly for 90 straight minutes sounds easy to any of you, but it is not. He apologizes a bunch and says that he'll tell my neighbors I'm kind of in here winging it so that they'll poke their heads in every once in a while to make sure I'm OK and I inform him that it's no big deal. I can handle it. Don't worry about it.

So, the kids show up, and first hour is always a little hectic, since I don't know anyone's name and we have to do attendance and lunch count and all of that jazz. The kids were very cooperative, though, and my classroom leadership skills/tricks have been honed pretty well. I say skills/tricks because part of being a sub sometimes is tricking the kids, especially if they are rowdy or uncooperative, into doing some of the work for you, ie, almost competing for the privilege to do so. It's different than when it's your own classroom where, over the course of the days/weeks/months, students and teachers ideally develop a symbiotic working relationship. I have to make that happen in about five minutes today, since I don't have an action plan to follow.

Anyway, we get the start of the day stuff over with, I get to the front of the science classroom, introduce myself to everyone, and ask them how they are etc. We have a few laughs, while still staying under control, and they ask me what we're doing today while I prod them for ideas about what they've been studying, doing, etc. After a few minutes I've grasped that they've been talking about famous scientific inventors of the 20th century. I see that I have a bunch of chromebooks in the classroom, so I devise a plan. 

Admittedly, I've subbed a number of science classes before, and although it isn't what my degree is in, I read science stuff all of the time. I find it interesting and enjoyable. Anyway, the students are conveniently seated in pairs so I pick up my dry erase marker and ask the first pair their names and to name a 20th century scientific inventor. They choose Einstein. I ask them what he invented. They have no idea. Perfect. I write their names along with Einstein's on the board, and proceed to do the same with all the other pairs.

During this time, I notice a man kind of sneak in and sit down in the adjoining science lab. When I say sneak, I mean that a series of windows and only one door separate the classroom from the lab, and though the door is open, he was quiet about it and I'm not sure the students noticed. Not a big deal. The principal said that he would have neighbors check in on me. As I'm writing the stuff down on the board I see him open a briefcase and get out some papers. He starts writing on them and kind of seems to be watching, but isn't necessarily paying a lot of attention. I assumed he was one of the other teachers who decided to just do his prep work in the computer lab as a favor to the principal and I, just in case I needed the help.

So, now I've paired all of the students with a name of a 20th century inventor, I ask them to get one chromebook per pair, and I assign them the task of finding said inventor's birthdate, death date, what he/she invented, why that is important, and 8 other facts.  No Wiki allowed. Class is off! 

It actually was going better than I had hoped. The students were working well together, we had the proper amount of interaction without getting rowdy or loud, and I moved from group to group to help facilitate learning. The only real problem was that they were almost working too fast, we still had almost an hour of class left, so I devised another part of the plan. I went to the dry erase board, erased the names of the students and inventors, and kicked on the smartboard. Some of you may not know what a smartboard is, but it is basically a big touchscreen computer interface at the front of a lot of classrooms. I then went around the classroom and told every group to pay close attention to their inventor's faces. I want them to be able to picture them in their heads. They say OK, but didn't really know why.

So, now the kids have all pretty much finished and the process of putting away the chromebooks gets a little rowdy. I notice the man in the other room stand up with a clipboard and kind of stand by the window, and he seems to be paying attention. Whatever. It takes a couple of minutes but we get back to our seats, I get everyone calmed back down, and I tell them to rip their page out of their notebooks, put their names on them, and turn them in. I walk around and pick up all these assignments. Then, I pick my first names. We'll call them Bobby and Susie.

I ask Bobby and Susie to come up to the front of the class and tell them not to disclose the name of their inventor. I ask the people who were sitting near them if they knew who Bobby and Susie's inventor was, and they say no, which is perfect. I then asked Bobby and Susie who wanted to write on the board, and they agree that it should be Susie. Then I asked her to draw me a picture of their inventor's face, since I had asked them to memorize the faces. She blushes and everyone in the classroom laughs, and she doesn't want to do it. Bobby says he'll do it, and I offer to draw a picture as well. So, Bobby and I go about the task of drawing our pictures of Henry Ford on the dry erase board and everyone gets a real kick out of it. I have to settle them back down a couple of times, but not a huge deal. We finish and admire our handy work. Obviously the pictures are terrible and I ask the students to guess who their inventor is. Once again, obviously nobody could get it from the picture so we give his birthdate, death date, and the fact that he invented mass production. One of the students raises his hand, gives the correct answer that it's Henry Ford. Sweet! I let Bobby and Susie go back to their seats, I punch up Henry Ford on the smartboard so everyone can see his picture, make a couple of jokes about how bad my drawing is, compliment Bobby's excellent work on Henry Ford's nose, and talk/interact with the kids for a couple of minutes about Ford. While I was talking I noticed the man in the other room smile a few times at our conversations and I was glad he seemed to be enjoying himself.

The only problem I really had now, though, was that I had spent almost ten minutes talking about Henry Ford, how he invented mass production, and how I drive a Ford Fusion, and how someone in the class should invent sustainable fusion reactions on earth because then we'd have relatively unlimited energy, but then they didn't really know what a fusion reaction was so I told them that it was when two hydrogen nuclei slam together with such force using either gravity or superheat or both, that they stick together, or fuse, which lasts like a gazillionth of a second until they split apart, releasing massive amounts of energy while creating normal amounts of radiation along with a helium nucleus and a neutron. I'm not sure if they understood any of it, even though I was pointing at the periodic table as I explained it, but the problem I was having now, was, that I wasn't going to have enough time for everyone's pictures and stuff if I rambled on for so long.

So, we went through the rest of the class, and alas, I could not keep myself from rambling. Because it's hard when the kids are asking you legitimate questions and you can make eye contact with every single one of them, showing that they are actually listening and they are smiling and participating while still staying under control with their laughter/talking etc. We had fun drawing the people and then I would pull them up on the smartboard and make fun of my drawing skills some more, which they all got a kick out of. One group was too shy to draw a picture so I drew one with my left hand and one with my right simultaneously. They were pretty awful. Pretty much stick men with long scraggly hair and weird noses. Anyway, we only got six of the twelve inventors drawn and talked about, and then it was time to go.

Success! I just had to do this two more times, which should be easy now that I have a lesson plan fresh in my brain. So, as the kids file out of the room I see the man in the other room put his stuff in his briefcase and I figure he's on his way to teach somewhere else. Instead, though, he comes into the room and introduces himself, but he doesn't say "I'm Mr. So and So", he says "I'm Dr. So and So and I enjoyed watching you teach today."  My first thought was "Wow, I wonder why Dr. So and So teaches middle school," but I just said, "Thanks a lot doc. Did ya learn anything?"

He laughed. I laughed. Then, we talk for a couple of minutes about the lesson and how well the kids interacted and how I did a good job keeping them on task, and how he thought I was going to lose them at the Chromebooks putting away part, but that I wrangled them in nicely. He then complimented me on my use of technology and that the drawing pictures then putting them up on the smartboard was a nice touch. He also thought I handled the shy students who were too embarrassed well, since we should never embarrass the kids, and then he wondered aloud if I would be finishing the rest of the inventor's up tomorrow, to which I replied. 

"I doubt I'm back in here tomorrow."

He laughed and said.

"Don't worry, I think you'll be back."

I was genuinely confused, but thought maybe he knew something I didn't so I just said something to the effect of this.

"Well, I mean if I am I guess I can keep going with this, but it would probably be better to get in touch with their teacher and make sure they get back where he needs them."

To which he replied.

"You mean you aren't their teacher."

"Nope, I'm a sub."

He couldn't have hid his embarrassment no matter how hard he tried, but he tried nonetheless. The rest of the conversation went something like this.

"I apologize for the mix-up. I'm Dr. So and So, the superintendent, and I was here to observe Mr. So and So today. He's new and I've only met him a few times. I thought he looked a little different! You did an excellent job with his lesson plan and materials, though. Why aren't you already teaching science somewhere?"

"Well, I write books, I bartend at nights, and I'm not actually a science teacher. My degree is in Social Studies Secondary Ed."

"Well, I think you could handle science too. How did you know all that information about fusion?"

I gave him the same answer I give students when they ask me the same question.

"I'm old.  I know stuff."

He laughed. I laughed. Then he offered me a handshake, I took it, and he started to leave.

"What kind of books do you write?"

"They're Action/Adventure with kind of an eye to sci-fi lovers as well. Think Cussler meets The Matrix...kind of." (I'd never actually used that comparison before, but it kind of fits. Maybe I'll keep using it.)

"Sounds interesting. Where can I find you?"

I pulled out my wallet and gave him a card.

"You can start there, or just go to google, amazon, or wherever, type in Tim Wheat, and you'll be off and running."

"Well, it's nice to meet you Tim, and if it's as interesting as your teaching style I'll probably enjoy it. Was that whole lesson in the notes, or did you ad lib some of it?"

I didn't want to get anyone in trouble, but I didn't want him to ask someone else and get a different story so I told the truth, which I hear is always a good place to start.

"Actually, I had to make up the whole thing. Mr. So and So must have gotten sick in a hurry because he didn't have time to leave me anything, or maybe somebody lost it or something."

"You made up the whole thing this morning, just now?  Even the picture drawing?"

"Well, I kind of got the gist of what they were learning from the kids and ran with it from there. I just added the picture drawing to burn time. I probably didn't even need it, but once it was so much fun I didn't want to skip it."

"Well, good job Tim. I appreciate your help today. Good luck with your other classes and your books."

"Thanks doc."

I wouldn't have called him doc again, except for that I couldn't remember his name. You would have thought Dr. So and So wouldn't be so hard to remember.

He laughed at me calling him doc again and left. The second class time was my prep period for the day, so I didn't have any students coming into the classroom and I sat down, pulled out my laptop and started working on promoting Rex Chase and The Sentinel. Did I mention to any of you that The Sentinel launches this Friday? September 26th 2014? 

Just in case you didn't know. It does. You can buy it from Amazon by clicking on this buy it from Amazon picture thingy. I'd really love for all of you to buy it the day it's released and leave a review. You know bump it up the bestselling list a ways and make zillions of dollars!

I still need Amazon and Goodreads reviews. 

That's all for the day.  HAPPY WEDNESDAY EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted on September 24, 2014 .