After we were settled in Canada, i decided to try supply teaching. I applied to the local school board to cover secondary school classes and then waited to be needed. I can’t remember how many schools I went to but a few memorable moments stand out.
I recall taking a firm line when a class told me they always left early for lunch on Wednesdays.It was the sort of thing you were never told by the school secretary but kids always tried to pull. I stood my ground despite their grumbling and then found out in the staff room that they were right. I’m not sure what trouble I caused.
My sister came to live in our town and one day we went shopping together and bought wigs. Mine was long and black and hers was long and blonde. I was called to fill in for a teacher and because I didn’t have time to wash my hair, I wore the wig tied back at neck level. During the lunch hour, I was approached by the art teacher who told how much he much he admired my black hair. He said it must be lovely when it was loose around my shoulders and asked if he could paint me like that! He probably took my stammering refusal for shyness. I did wonder later if he wanted me to pose clothed or unclothed.
I filled in for many different subjects. One time, I covered a music teacher. The class had to listen to a recording of Ravel’s Bolero. If you know the piece, then you are aware that it involves a repeated sequence of notes that gradually gets louder and stronger. It does go on and on and on and the class was not receptive to its continued powerful rhythm. They just wanted the music to stop. And so did I.
The funniest experience of my supply career happened when I was filling in for a history teacher in a Grade 10 class. The poor souls had to complete worksheets on the effects of the Corn Laws in England in the 1800’s. I handed out the sheets and they took out their textbooks and started to work without much enthusiasm. I wonder now if the regular teacher tried to make this topic interesting. I hope so. After a few minutes, I realized that I had a disturbance in the back of the room. I looked closer and noticed that students were kicking something along the row. .
Then some braver kids moved the object near the front of the room. As it sailed closer, I realized I was looking at a grimy pair of girl’s underpants. I rejected asking if they belonged to anybody. Then I was remarkably lucky and for me, very well co-ordinated. With a big grin, a boy kicked the pants toward me. I swung my right leg and hoofed them straight into the garbage can. This got me a loud cheer. I explained that I had learned the skill from the All Blacks in New Zealand and this earned me another cheer. It certainly helped to improve our understanding of the Corn Laws.
Next week I will write about teaching fire fighters. True story.