Adventures in substitute teaching

By Cookie Newsom - Contributing columnist

When I retired from UNC and came back to Wilberforce I was asked by the then Dean of the School of Education to teach a class in teacher preparation, so I did. One of the things that had troubled me was that the students, and many of the teachers, I worked with during the field experiences all told me that I did not understand teaching had changed since I last taught in public school in 1994, that the students had become much more problematic. They used words like demanding, entitled, disrespectful, etc. Some of the people telling me this were teachers that I had taught when they were in high school who were now teaching.

I decided after my re-retirement, I stopped teaching teacher prep in 2015 as the workload kept increasing, that I needed to check out the schools and see for myself if it was true that in about 30 years kids had taken a drastic turn to the dark side. So, I got my license to substitute teach. I found out kids have changed very little. They have cell phones, they are more assertive, but not necessarily in a bad way. One of the complaints of my teachers was that the kids challenged them. I replied that any teacher worth his or her salt would be delighted to be challenged, it meant the kids were actually engaged. I did not find them very different at all.

Last Thursday evening I was watching television when my phone dinged to let me know there was a sub job available. It was teaching Equine Science at the GCCC Agricultural Research Center, which is on Brush Row Road, 4 minutes from my house, the next day. My first reaction was, of course, no. I know nothing about horses at all. Then, I remembered what I always told my students, never pass up an opportunity to learn. So I clicked on the response that I would take the assignment.

On Friday morning I approached my assignment with some trepidation, having first mulled long and hard over what to wear. Was this going to be just a classroom assignment? I mean the word science was in the title.

I arrived at the facility early , when a lady arrived to open up in she informed me her name was Paula and she was the teacher¹s assistant. This was a relief. Someone would know what was going on and what to d. The kids arrived, juniors first, seniors later in the day. I informed them that they would be the teachers today since I knew absolutely nothing about horses. They took to the job with gusto. They brought the horses into the stables, fed them, watered them, brushed them, pulled hay bales and for them, swept up debris and horse poop. All the time with running commentary. They vied for my attention pulling me from one stall or another to tell me about the horse they were assigned to. I met Ace, Callie, Ginger among other horses and, eventually, Bob, the barn cat. The students were excited and bubbling over with enthusiasm to give me a crash course in horses.

I learned a lot, got to pat a lot of horses and watched kids blossom when they had someone to teach. They also gave presentations on different kinds of horseshoes, which was news to me. I decided after seeing them take to giving information rather than getting it that we may need to let them teach more and listen to them more often.

Paula kept us all on track. Thanks to the GCCC Equine Science department for giving me a great day and teaching me a lot. I appreciate you.

Subbing is a delightful way to keep in touch, make a few bucks and get all kinds of experiences you otherwise would not have. I recommend it highly and subs are desperately needed. If you want to be of service to our community sign up to sub, never know what you will learn!

By Cookie Newsom

Contributing columnist

Dr. Cookie Newsom is a retired teacher-professor. Contact her with comments at [email protected]

Dr. Cookie Newsom is a retired teacher-professor. Contact her with comments at [email protected]