… and then complain when they do exactly as we expect. A certain student came home from school reporting on a substitute teacher the class did not like. She began her report by asking me, “Doesn’t a teacher have to let a student go to the bathroom if it is an emergency? ” I did not answer; I asked what happened. The class in question took place after just after lunch. A girl came in, saw there was a sub, and began “dancing” near the classroom door. The teacher asked her to sit down. She continued to loudly make a scene. The teacher continued to ask her to sit down. The girl never did sit down, and continued to interrupt as the teacher tried to finish taking role. Then the teacher let her go. After she left, several members of the class began asking the teacher out loud, “Why didn’t you let her go? You have to let people go to the bathroom.
What if it’s an emergency? ” The teacher explained that he would have let her go a lot sooner if she had just sat done when she was asked and allowed him to finish taking attendance. Typical of many classes with a sub, there was a video which the teacher showed using the TV monitor. The students demanded out loud that the teacher put the video on the powerpoint projector instead of the TV monitor. The teacher refused. The students insisted their regular teacher always puts videos on the powerpoint projector. The teacher still refused. When I started teaching, we handed out purple, smelly mimeographs and showed filmstrips on a reel-to-reel. Some people reading this post may not have any idea what I am talking about. My little friend came home complaining about what a mean teacher the substitute was. I guess she expected me to commiserate, and she was thoroughly astonished that I had an entirely different take on the incident. I told her the fault was with the students, not the the sub. First, the girl created a public scene when she could have walked respectfully to the teacher and quietly made her request.
But no. She engaged in melodramatic, loud theatrics and essentially set a trap for the sub. She probably did not have to go to the bathroom at all. Second, the students thought it was okay to question the teacher’s response out loud, but worse, the teacher thought he had to answer their objections. Third, the students whined about the powerpoint projector. I told my young friend that no sub with a speck of common sense will do anything just because the students say the teacher does it. That is exactly the way to guarantee a whole period of one piece of nonsense after another. My little friend thought that perhaps her teacher forgot to write the part about the powerpoint projector in the lesson plans she left. Maybe so, I said, but the class will just have to do without, and they should never have been disrespectful to the sub about it.
She countered, “If we like the sub, we behave.” Wrong answer. Students behave because they are expected to behave whether they like the sub or not. Students have not the power, responsibility or authority to decide that they will behave “if we like the sub.” Liking the sub is irrelevant. Shame on our society for even giving such a wrong-headed notion any positive attention. Then my little friend asked, “But what if the sub doesn’t like kids? ” What was she really saying, that kids have the right to punish a sub they decide does not like them? Wrong again. It is irrelevant whether “the sub likes kids” or not. Students are expected to behave, period. The problem in our society is that students did not get these wrong-headed ideas from nowhere. They have been socialized to them their whole lives. As a society, we do not really expect students to behave, the obligatory first day “expectations” lectures notwithstanding.