AWAI Writing Challenge Honorable Mention:
You Don’t Always Have To Be A Student To Have A Favorite Teacher

I’m going to take this essay in a whole different direction.

You see …

For six years I was a substitute teacher, or in my township we were called “Guest Teachers.” The philosophy behind the Guest Teacher title is that the substitute is the primary teacher’s guest in his or her classroom and that the students must treat the Guest Teacher as …

Yes, you guessed it …

A Guest of the Teacher.

Whether that concept always worked in every classroom is the subject of a whole other essay.

However, there was one very special 5th grade teacher, named Sue, who truly believed in the guest teacher philosophy. Whenever I was asked to take her class she discussed with her students how they were to behave when I was in the classroom. Sue was very strong in instilling respect for adults and people of authority. I never ever had to write up one of her students for bad behavior. It was always such a pleasure to be in her classroom.

But, this is not the only reason she became my favorite teacher to substitute for.

Sue believed in stretching the minds of the children. She had research games that the students could play as a reward for doing a good job on a project or for good behavior. These games were advanced trivia questions that as a team they would have to answer 5 history questions correctly to win a prize. The students thought this was the greatest thing in the whole world. Here they were learning very sophisticated lessons while thinking they were having fun and winning prizes.

Every month, students would rotate in classroom jobs. Sue did not call these jobs “Paper Passer,” or “Attendance Folder Deliverer,” or “Line Leader.” Their titles were “Materials Manager,” “Courier,“ or ”Personnel Supervisor.” Titles that you would normally see on a management team in an office. Having these titles made the children think on a totally different level.

Sue was heavily into Science. She would always have something interesting for me to teach the students … whether it be done by bookwork, a movie, or they could work in groups to create a science project to present to her the next day.

After substituting for her several times, Sue gave me carte blanche and allowed to me work with the students on something that was interesting to me. This would be anything from sharing one of my experiences with them or having them write about one of their own experiences. I would allow them to write in the “copywriting style” … using you, I, me, etc. Having them do this gave them an outlet to express their own creativity while allowing them to get a different perspective without interfering with their regular Language Arts lesson.

Every day, the class would have a period of a “Special.” These classes were for Gym, Art, Music, and any additional educational classes required for the students to be in. This was my time off. Since, I did not have to grade papers, I took advantage of this time to work on my own copywriting. It was the perfect setting—a quiet classroom conducive to creative writing.

It got to the point that Sue would consistently request me as her own personal Guest Teacher. The students also enjoyed having me. If there was a conflict in my schedule and she had to have another substitute take her class, I would get an earful from the students the next time I was in their classroom.

Guest teaching was lots of fun. And thanks to AWAI and living the copywriter’s life, I was not only able to share what I know with a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds, but it also allowed me to grow as a copywriter. I had total flexibility in my life.

I have fully retired from Guest Teaching and I now work as a full-time copywriter. Thanks to Sue, I not only helped to stretch the minds of these children, but I was able to stretch my own “copywriting mind.”

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Published: September 2, 2009

3 Responses to “AWAI Writing Challenge Honorable Mention: You Don’t Always Have To Be A Student To Have A Favorite Teacher”

  1. Sounds like a very gifted teacher. Thanks for sharing your essay!


  2. Your lovely essay reminded me of all the wonderful teachers I had as a kid - great job, Jo!


  3. Jo Ann,

    Awesome essay! Proof positive that those that think a little outside the box, go much farther in whatever they do. Just as you did with your approach to the essay!

    Nice job and Congratulations!


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