“The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?”
(Not the exact question I was asked to give, but close enough.)
Sub for long enough and you get to the point where you look forward to unusual days. Last Wednesday started normal enough, but I had something interesting happen about halfway through. I was subbing for a history teacher who wanted me to show a movie on Martin Luther in the first period. No problem. Not my favorite thing to do, but easy enough. The rest of the periods were to be used as a study hall to catch up on work for this and other classes. I knew the students would see this as synonymous with ‘free time,’ but there was little I could do about that.
During the day, I am sure that word got out that this teacher was absent and the students would essentially free to do as they pleased. That was true of all the classes except fourth period. For them, the teacher had left me a long question to ask. It took most of the white board to write the explanation and the instructions for what they were to do, but I did as instructed. Imagine the consternation of the students who entered fourth period assuming they were to have a ‘free day’ only to find they were to write and thought provoking essay. You would have thought I had sentenced them all the forty lashes tied to the ship’s mast. Needless to say, managing the class for that hour was difficult as the students did everything they could to avoid actually having to do the assignment.
A number of questions entered my thinking as I wrestled with the students to keep them on task. Why was this class singled out? Was it some sort of punishment? If so, it would have been nice to have been given an explanation. Perhaps the students were being punished and they knew why, but I didn’t know and that would have been helpful information to have.
Next, I wondered at how hard they seemed to think this assignment was. To help alleviate some of their fears, I held a class discussion on the subject assigned hoping to spur their thinking a bit. I thought they had enough information by the time we were finished that writing the essay would be a snap. Sure enough, two of the students were finished five minutes after I asked them to start, but they were the exception. These were high school seniors and many of them claimed that they intended to go on to college. Did they have any idea how much of this kind of writing would be required at higher levels? Did they not realize that many of them would be answering a question much like this on their entry application? Apparently not.
I still have no idea why fourth period was singled out this way. If I get the chance, I am going to stop by and ask that teacher when I am at his school next. I can’t wait to hear his answer: it’s bound to be interesting.