Visiting a class as a substitute teacher and as an author are really different! I have now done both – and after my first whole with a 4th-grade class, I don’t know whether I’m more admiring of public school teachers or appalled at the textbooks and workbooks they have to use ….I thought those dreary social studies books were a thing of the past, but one of the items on the lesson plan the teacher had left was a chapter from a book called The Connecticut Adventure.
I remembered substitute time as party time (that hadn’t changed, either). I had brought my digital camera, and whenever everyone behaved for 10 minutes straight, someone got to take a picture. When chaos broke out, the clock started over again. The girls ALL took pictures of each other—either the whole group or their best friends. The boys all took pictures of objects. I especially loved this:
It was taken by a boy who seemed smart and super-bored by school and I can’t say that I blame him. It was sad: all that money spent on the school – 18 kids per class, a teacher who is obviously great ( not me, their regular teacher!), special ed teachers and aides and computer labs…..and so much of what they were learning was so boring! But at least every school day includes 45 minutes of independent reading and they all love that, and they can all read.
I took that picture (and yes, those are BRGs books they are reading -- I brought in a big stack of them -- and they were all well-loved: somewhat to my surprise, one boy read Anna's Three Little Kittens out loud to all his frieds, giggling -- and wrote down her name very carefully so he could order the book! Not surprisingly (4th grade is the age I'd expect for this one), another boy wrote Meghan a fan letter and drew an alien.....the book the girl has spread open on her desk is Linda's Magic Hoofbeats.
They were such great kids!
It's too bad that they don't get more intellectual stimulation at school. If *I* ran the circus I'd let the teachers choose their own materials (you KNOW by looking at those text books that a commitee picked them out!) and have people come in and visit a lot: not just artists and writers but scientists and mathematicians and historians -- people who are passionately interested in what they do and can pass that on to kids.