It’s the height of the pandemic and high schools are operating according to a quadmester system. This means two new courses every 10 weeks, with students spending half of each day on each course.
I arrive to the office for my daily timetable. A supply teacher rarely knows which subject they’ll be teaching at the high school level until they get there. I see an M on my assignment sheet and excitedly asked the school secretary if it’s vocal or instrumental music I’ll be covering.
“M stands for math, not for music. You’ll be covering advanced functions.”
“The advanced function of what exactly,” I ask jokingly with only me finding it funny.
I arrive to the classroom, where 25 sharp pencils eagerly await their assignments.
“Sorry that your geometry teacher couldn’t make it today,” I start, “she sprained her ANGLE.”
Crickets. One sympathy sound. Many blank stares.
“This is advanced functions, not geometry,” the girl at the front states bluntly yet politely.
“Yes! I’m glad you caught how complex and layered my silly joke was,” I respond like a bold-faced liar.
Amidst a landscape of bone chilling silence, I hear an argument brewing in the back corner.
“Sorry, Miss. We’re disagreeing on the formula.”
“Don’t let it happen again”, I reply, mentally rejecting images from this morning when my children were trying to sit on each other’s heads before breakfast.
I open the textbook and recognize nothing.
One of them approaches me for help.
“I think you’re so great,” I offer.
These people don’t need me. They are self-sufficient machines. It’s library quiet in here and I’m thinking this might be the easiest gig I’ve ever had.
It’s abnormal for a student to do so much of one subject for such a long period of time, so most teachers take two brain breaks daily.
“We don’t need brain breaks,” they say in unison, “We need solutions to our equations.”
“OK. I won’t make you walk outside, but you have to stand up and stretch. It’ll make you more productive.”
They reluctantly get up and also do Ms. G’s fun poll about where they see themselves in 10 years. 75% of them want to be doctors. 10% want to be researchers. 10% can’t decide which kind of engineering program they should apply to and it’s stressing them. One wants to find a cure for cancer. Several others offer to help with the latter.
These students are a giant chunk of our future and I am ecstatic about that. My faith and hope in what’s to come has been restored a little more because of today’s teaching assignment.
“Thanks for trying to make us laugh today,” one student says on her way out, “I needed that.”
“Thanks for sharing,” I needed that too.
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