After about a month and a half out of college as an undergraduate I was beginning work for the first time this past Monday as a substitute teacher. Would my Connecticut education from primary school through the college level prepare me to address the topics, students and challenges of substitute teaching?
I began my teaching career in Bloomfield Public Schools, teaching a middle school language arts class. The day began smoothly with the regular teacher in attendance before a conference that would remove her for the bulk of the day. The students took well to my age, enthusiasm and tone in the classroom. When I asked if they were allowed to watch President Obama’s inauguration, they were surprised to hear that when I was in eighth grade, I did not watch President Bush’s inauguration. Of course, they thought I meant George H. W. Bush.
The most interesting and rewarding aspect of my first day of substitute teaching was the opening question that the teacher had left on the board for the children to complete. The question read: “What are the causes for the drastic differences in test scores between urban and suburban students in Connecticut?” Although some students had trouble understanding the basic drive of the question, I pushed them to wonder whether students, parents, teachers, violence or environment had the greatest impact on education levels. Most students wrote that environment was the greatest concern. Urban students, the children said, struggle with gang violence and environmental struggles that distract them from their studies that most suburban children don’t face. When I propositioned them on the change of attitude among urban and suburban residents towards President Obama, most students felt more hopeful about their futures and the future of the country. Some, on the other hand, felt that students were too far removed from the scope of Mr. Obama’s effectiveness and the President made little difference.
Education, in their view, was a positive deterrent to violence. Although many children brought up the idea of “super criminals” that would perform acts of violence and engage in criminal activity regardless of the consequences. The majority of people would follow rules and look to improve themselves instead of living a life of crime. The students seem engaged, interested and open to their own educations and the progress of the nation, in general.