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Show No Fear — The Substitute Teacher


James Van Praugh once said, “If you want to do good in your life, do good in your life. The energy you cre­ate is the energy that the uni­verse returns to you.”

Energy … a class­room is always burst­ing with energy. The big ques­tion is, “What will that energy do to me, the teacher? Will it inspire, ter­rify, or con­sume me?” The key to energy is to attempt to har­ness it for good, but beware — energy often is as unpre­dictable as the teenagers in the room!

My #1 rule for step­ping into a class­room — espe­cially now that I am a sub­sti­tute: SHOW NO FEAR! Teenagers can smell fear. It cre­ates a nat­ural “high” in the ado­les­cent brain. This “high” trans­lates into POWER. Power can be a good thing — unless it is in the hands of the inmates. It is impor­tant to remem­ber that the adult must main­tain the power in the class­room. One must learn to ignore the sweaty palms, shak­ing knees and swirling stom­ach. 35 pairs of eyes can strike ter­ror into the heart of the bravest of men — but a middle-aged woman wear­ing a pony tail can cause those eyes to look sheep­ishly at the floor, if the power is cor­rectly applied.

My secret? Keep them off bal­ance. Keep them con­fused. Keep them won­der­ing what will come next. “Is she for real?” they often say. That’s a good thing — it means they are more inter­ested in what I am going to do than in try­ing to destroy me in the first five min­utes of class. When in doubt — fake it. “Good morn­ing, Happy Fri­day (or what­ever). It’s your lucky day because I am your sub. I get to tor­ture you today. Oh goody, this will be fun!” Eyes will roll, that’s guar­an­teed, but they’ll also be caught off guard, and they may be a lit­tle scared. Bwa­ha­ha­ha­ha­haha — POWER!

OK — I am not sadis­tic or cruel — I love what I do and I have a good time 99% of the time. The point is to be gen­uine — even when trick­ing them into think­ing you are big and bad and a lit­tle bit of a crazed nerd. Once they see that I am “for real” we get along. And we learn. And we have fun. If you are not gen­uine — all of the “big bad­ness” in the world won’t work. Just like the smell of fear, kids can spot a phony a mile away! One must be real in their weird­ness and in the sense of fun. If you can’t believ­ably shout, “Come on down” from the class­room door after the bell — then don’t do it! Seri­ously — you may be trau­ma­tized for­ever if the kids dis­cover that you are a fake — and it’s even worse if you are a fake who is scared to death.

I can do this” should become your mantra — and it will serve you well. Good luck, sub­sti­tute teacher-to-be; have a great day. Oh, and remem­ber — you are doing this because you love kids and you love to learn and to teach. If you don’t, then run … very fast and very far. Don’t look back.

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