Today, for about twenty minutes, I got a fix the likes of which no junkie will ever know the bliss of: I got to teach a class. My lesson, my rules. Twenty of the finest professional minutes I've enjoyed in quite some time.
One of our teachers was in an IEP meeting that was running over time (IEP meetings with laywers in them can be that way); as a result, his first period class waited outside the room with no teacher. Being the only administrator that can ever be found in such a situation, I was sent in. This was different than the usual "the sub didn't show" situation; this teacher left no lesson plans, for he had no idea he would be out. I let the kids in, and took center stage.
There's a lesson I've always had on standby in the back of my head. In a flash, I can pull it out and spread it over the class like a fine tablecloth. It's about the sinking of the Titanic*, and it was originally conceived as a critical thinking exercise with a little history thrown in. I didn't get to set things up and draw them out; the teacher could walk in in five minutes or fifty, and I had no idea how long I had. This would have to be the microwave version, at best.
[Tangent: I can actually apply this lesson to anything, and you actually have to sit through it to see why. I've found connections--strong ones--to history (American, European, and military), psychology, physiology, physics, sociology, mechanics, law, politics, economics, media, and math. I've got a killer footnote to the whole lesson--which is my link to literature, and which I always present at the very end--that leaves them all in a complete state of rake-handle-between-the-eyes awe.]
I was only a few steps into the basic setup when the teacher walked in. I already had the students silent and completely drawn in--they were eating it up, since they'd never seen the big, bad, Assistant Principal do anything but yell before--and if I stopped now, the magic would be lost. "Do you mind if I continue?" I asked. The teacher had absolutely no problem with it. "Are you sure? I don't want to mess with your plans." In the end, I have to respect the teachers on my campus and not abuse my position, but he insisted that I continue.
And so I did. I asked them questions, and they offered answers; some right, some wrong, and all handled with my dusty-but-still-effective positive feedback approach. They asked questions, and I answered with my "here's the answer, and here's how to understand it" style. At the end, I hit them with my killer footnote, and they applauded me as I left (odd, but I'll take it, these days, where I can get it).
Thanks, Mr. History Teacher. I needed that.
UPDATE: For the last two days, the students from this class have not only been saying "hi" to me in the hallways, they've been thanking me. Two have asked if I have any more cool stories, and one has asked when I'll be coming back. If this keeps up, I'm gonna be Jonesing again real soon.
*Every so often, I'll find a topic and exhaust it. I spent two and a half years studying the JFK assassination, just for fun (and yes, I have my own theory). Not long after, it was 18 months of Titanic research. I've studied other things here and there, but I'm still waiting to find another really BIG topic to play with.