After I had stood up and said “Senorita! I am the English teacher,” and had been shown to the correct place to sign in, and had finally reached the classroom, I found it full of students ranging in age from adolescent my own age group. First I assigned the pairs for the speaking test and then sent everyone out except for the pair being tested.

I had no idea what I was doing.

The “gradual release” model of instruction is considered to be pretty effective: 1. Show me how you do it, 2. clarify it for me by checking for my understanding, 3. let’s do it together, and then, 4. I can do it on my own.

In my life, there are many, many times when I start with step four.

Since it involves a considerable amount of trial and error, skipping the first three steps results in a longer learning time (and considerable amounts of anxiety), but it’s generally effective in the end.

Crawling under the house to fix the toilet drain. Replacing the radiator in the car. Fixing a broken water line.

These are all activities that require immediate action. There’s no time to take a course before that toilet drain (or radiator or water leak) is fixed.

Being a substitute teacher, in my experience,  is somewhat similar.

I hope one day soon I will have the opportunity to be taught how to administer and score a speaking text for English language learners. This time, however, I was flying by the seat of my pants.

Giving scores to the students wasn’t possible, but I was able to take notes for the “real” teacher so that she could score the rubrics later. As I went through each pair of students, I began to have an idea of what to look (or listen) for in relation to the rubric. I am certainly not competent, nor yet prepared, to score a rubric, but when I do take the course, I won’t be completely in the dark.

The best part of the sub day came after all the tests were finished. We had an hour to reflect on the exam and to chat. The students wanted to know about me and my life. They don’t have a lot of opportunities to practice English with a native speaker, and they asked a lot of questions.  Then, I turned the questions on them and they told me about themselves, one by one.

They said,  “We want you to teach the advanced class. You should apply here for the job!”

I told them that I already have.

Who knows? My opportunity to learn step-by-step may be closer than I realize.

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