Friday, March 31, 2017

a whole week as a permanent roving sub at alamogordo high school. this means i know where i'm going every morning, and they place me wherever they want. in return for the security of a job in a single place, for the rest of the year, i agree to be a sub in any or many classes during the day or week; whereas some teachers get a prep break or hour off, they can just put me anywhere, and i do it.

one other benefit is that the middle schools are behind me. in one of the middle schools, some kid brought a bottle of xanax and distributed them among middle schools; thirteen ended up in the hospital and one was still not awake according to one of the students. i was relieved to be nowhere near that middle school, even though it was my favorite of the two middle schools. high school students, in contrast, are more mature. just as bad, just as irresponsible, sometimes, but more mature.

i say that 'embrace the tiger, return to mountain,' to the chinese, probably means live life to the fullest, keep your spiritual center. to me it means shoot down the mile-high mountain to alamo high school (home of the tigers) in the morning, climb the big long hill when the day is over, back up into the clouds, where there's still snow, and it's always at least twenty degrees cooler. i saw baker the policeman this afternoon, conferring with somebody about their speed of ascension. i myself was going barely over the speed limit but enjoying every minute; i was returning to mountain.

nobody respects a sub, and they certainly don't want to do any work in what they consider a freak but well-deserved vacation from any serious thinking, but they don't mind talking about life, or about whatever you bring up. i asked my students today about bluegrass bands in alamo and they didn't know. they knew the difference between football xanax and schoolbus xanax, but they didn't know from bluegrass. one claimed it was her cousin who had distributed the pills, and she was furious that such a thing could happen. but i've taken to engaging them more. for one thing, i know them a little better now; i know who's trouble and i can spot right away who's not going to do the work. fortunately, it's not so much my concern if they don't do the work. it's more my concern if they're truly disruptive to those who do do the work. it's also my concern if teachers stop in from nearby classrooms concerned about the noise level, or the destruction of furniture. they tend to watch out for subs, having seen this kind of stuff before.

it's actually not so great being the "cool" sub who lets them use cell phones or doesn't really care whether they finish the work or not; actually you kind of undermine the system if you're too loose, or if you let them do stuff that other subs or teachers don't. it's pointless having a battle with them, or letting the class be a confrontation, when so little is at stake. i'm a one-time visitor; i hate sending people to the office, and don't want "he-said" "she-said" to define my experience. on the contrary, i reward people who finish the work, also people who say they've been sober for a while, or that they gave up smoking. i think they deserve some recognition for being a teenager in a complex and difficult world, and, of all the times they are supposed to be focused on learning, their time with a sub is not truly one of them. one reason they resist learning anything from a sub is that they instinctively know that it could be different from the way the main teacher teaches it - and if so, that's a problem for everyone.

early in the week i got into new mexico history, and read about the lincoln county war (pat garrett and billy the kid) and the pueblos. i was hot on the trail of the claim that some of the pueblo people came from the caribbean. today i had no access to computer, so i simply read camus' "the stranger" which had been left in the room. i got about half through it and will probably finish this weekend. my mind is relatively free, yet i should pay attention to students, what they do, whether they work, etc. "babysitting," some people call it, yet i know my teaching time will start soon enough, and that will involve grading, and testing, and everything else, so i might as well enjoy a little break myself. thirty years of hard teaching, and now i get to sit around, look at tiger posters, and watch kids make movies of each other on their phones. they are my sub, because suddenly, i don't really have to teach them. i was in a spanish class, and i started to teach them about diminuitives, which are used differently in spanish than english. they were impressed, a little, that any old duffer would know any spanish at all. but they still didn't want to learn it. i might as well have been talking about the movies.

everybody's a little traumatized by the thought of thirteen kids in the hospital, but it's spring break, and we've all gone home now to relax for a week and get over it. those parents might just yank those kids and put them in to some private school, but the lone private school in town is about to close, and that might not be an option. actually i have no idea what those parents will do or think. i can't even imagine what their experience is like. i try to take seriously the idea that above all, i am a protector of young souls, who often don't have very well-developed judgment. for that, i'm hoping the city of alamogordo will respect me, and make it possible for me to keep embracing the tiger.


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