I always keep an inflatable beach ball in my purse for just these types of occasions: I was asked to substitute teach 6th grade Hebrew school tonight. Since everything pointed toward this being a “warm body” type of assignment, I issued the following orders:
“You have two important jobs tonight. The two important jobs are not to disturb other classes and not to get hurt. It would be great if you could also practice some Hebrew.”
I followed with an explanation of what constituted disturbing other classes and what behavior seemed likely to wind up one or more of them maimed. One child needed to be filled in on the definition of the word “maimed” and I needed to be filled in on how to use the classroom’s CD player. I put on Matisyahu and we proceeded to have a good ole’ time, in as much as you can have a good ole’ time in a relatively bare classroom.
The two times I was asked why I couldn’t be their regular teacher, I stuck with the facts and just the glaringly obvious facts: “Because you’d never learn any Hebrew.”
When I first got my teaching certification and even up until this very school year, the idea of teaching children older than second grade seemed absolutely absurd. But sixth grade has some definite advantages. While they’re still hell bent on testing every boundary, sixth graders actually have a much better sense than preschoolers do about whether or not it is in their best interest to get into a power struggle with the teacher.
Also, their interpretive skills are also much more finely honed. Conversations such as the following, requiring a jump in logic that would take ages to walk through with a preschooler, can happen at lightening speed:
Me – “As soon as you’ve read page 88 aloud you can go outside for break.”
6th grader – “I refuse to read.”
Me – “Then we’re going to be in this room a long time.”
(6th grader whips book open to the correct page)
These skills also helped them come to a quick decision when I made this announcement -
”You’re going to make a poster for your teacher. You can decide what to put on it or I can decide, but if I decide it’s going to be in Hebrew.” Never have a seen crayons fly so quickly into the hands of 12 year old boys who, even at age three, were “too cool for school.”
All in all it was fun. It was a lot of fun. It may possibly have even been more fun if I actually knew more than 10 or so words of Hebrew.