For the final day of my first month as a substitute teacher, I was fortunate enough to hangout with some elementary students in an English Second Language / ESL class. The largest group I had during the day was four kids at once, and the ages ranged from kinder to fifth grade.

Some of the older students have been working through a story line in the class about ancient Egypt. When they arrived to the class, they began to share observations of changes that had been happening on the Egyptian mural scene they had painted, and was hung on the whiteboard. It was fun to hear what things they learned in the daily reading passage via their ”Did you know…” questions.

With the smaller groups, I was reminded a few times of how challenging it is on the kids to have a substitute teacher. Change is hard, and seeing an unknown face arrive at your classroom door to whisk you away to a small group can be a scary thing. During two class sessions, I was only going to have a single student with me. The first student chose to stay with his home classroom, and the teacher of the other solo student informed me that he was quite shy – and the best thing I could do was try to find something to connect with him on.

When I met the student, I introduced myself, and asked him if he wanted to go have some fun playing games. He slowly nodded his head in response, and I then asked if he liked to play video games at all. A more eager nod was the response to this query, so I replied that I like to play video games too, and I lifted up my pant leg to show him my Super Mario socks. His eyes grew wide, and he looked up at his teacher with a smile concealed behind a mask. Turns out Mario is his favorite, and just like that an instant connection was made.

It took a bit more to get him to fully warm up to me as a teacher, but by the end of our thirty minutes together he was doing an awesome job finding hidden elephants in a Where’s Waldo style book and describing their locations using various prepositions. He did the cutest gesture when he found an elephant – he would kind of make a zoom-in motion with his fingers on the elephant, and would say ”Describe” – because I would often prompt him to describe where the elephant was. He would then say ”on the roof” or ”next to the tree” – he was doing wonderful.

On the walk back to class we continued to have fun playing an I spy style game where we would place my Walter The Farting Dog stuffed animal places in the hallway and describe where Walter was. Giggles and smiles all the way back to class – and I was very thankful for wearing those Mario socks today. 🧦