I had an experience yesterday that reminded me that what I know intellectually is NOT necessarily accurate or real. Walking into a real classroom in 2011 carrying preconceptions based upon classroom teaching experiences from the 1980's was a shocker. Now, my son-in-law teaches and I have heard him discussing his classroom antics, difficulties and issues with behaviors, but again, this isn't the same as feeling or smelling...yes, smelling a classroom today.
Let me share a few of my more humorous experiences here. I mention smelling because I had a young man who had serious issues expelling gas during the period...quietly, but violently. He left to use the bathroom and took care of business, I am sure. However, even with the window open, when the next class arrived, they looked askance at the new sub, wondering, I am sure, just what MY issue was. Everyone walked in squinching up their faces and noses.
The teacher I subbed for had outstanding organizational skills with everything in folders, numbered and copied. And, the directions were clearly outlined and I was able to follow them fairly well given that I had forgotten that these days teachers have classes mixed with kids who are both behaviorally and academically challenged. Though I tried to move around the classroom asking if any help or assistance was needed, it wasn't until we were through a period that I realized...hmmm, x boy or girl maybe had special needs. I am sure teachers cannot leave info on who the issues may be or what could be done for x or y student IF z occurs. I will ask but I left, having had a great time, learning and relearning some lessons but also feeling I maybe should have done a, b or c, differently.
Another young man left the class and his classmate told me to not be surprised if he returned and told me what he had done in the bathroom: number 1 or 2! He opened the door and announced exactly what he had produced...no one responded or laughed, and he sat down and got to work. A surprise for me...obviously de rigour for everyone else.
Several teachers talked fairly openly about their challenges and while one day does not an expert make, nor does it make one fully informed, I heard them differently than the chat one hears from fellow parents and grandparents. I didn't realize how many years I have been outside of a classroom...even as a parent of a now 21 year old, we haven't been connected personally to all of the education conversation, debates, arguments hitting the airwaves and newspapers. I am listening and watching anew.