As some of you know, I’m currently not teaching chemistry. Though I do a lot of chemistry writing (Check out “Chemistry: The Awesomest Science” and “Physical Science: A Smorgasbord of Knowledge”), I stopped teaching for a while to take care of my son. Circumstances change, however, and I’ve started a long-term sub job. Teaching TV production.
At first glance, this may seem like a problem. Not only do I not watch TV, but I only got my first cell phone two months ago. I’ve never owned a video camera and don’t even take regular pictures. I know nothing at all about the art and technology of video production.
Fortunately, I’ve got a co-teacher who knows what she’s doing. She’s worked a great deal with National Geographic making those cool critter-cam videos and she knows the ins and outs of all aspects of video production. Because she’s German, she’s having problems becoming an official substitute teacher, which is why I’m needed in the room.
It’s a great experience for me to be the most clueless one in a classroom. Though I haven’t the vaguest idea what the kids are doing, I can still find ways to make myself useful. I don’t know how the editing software works, but I do know how to handle data management so nothing gets lost. When our backup system went down, I was able to put something together. When the kids have ideas, I help them to figure out whether or not they’re any good. And when they need help getting the equipment together, I know enough to try and get what they need. I make a lot of mistakes, but I’m learning.
The one skill that’s identical between chemistry and TV production is the ability to not bother the kids. When students are working on their own and teaching themselves how to do things, my ability to leave them alone and let them work is invaluable. I keep an eye on things to make sure that nobody goes too far off track, but mostly I just watch and listen.
Am I a good sub? When it comes to teaching subject matter, my answer is an emphatic no. However, when it comes to leaving the kids alone to teach themselves, I think I do a pretty good job. And when things go off track, there’s a film producer available to give the kids a hand.
For the next five months I’ll be subbing. And mostly watching. And learning. And hopefully helping the kids learn, too.