How Not to Watch a Movie (Be a Substitute Teacher)

It’s true.  The academic staple of substitute teaching is showing a video.  And after being a substitute for over thirteen years, I can’t tell you how many movies I’ve had to watch.

The absent teacher can pick any type of movie, but some subjects are more predictable than others.

For science classes, Bill Nye the Science Guy is a favorite, especially in middle school.  High school teachers tend more toward MythBusters and nature films.  This is not always as benign as it sounds; in one biology class, I had to show a video about the seas with a segment of a pod of killer whales stalking and killing a baby sperm whale six times in one day.

Social Studies is more toward the conventional movie format.  Sometimes this can be a reach, like Rosemary’s Baby for Urban Planning (to discuss the contribution of the architecture to the film; even I thought that was strange).  Business classes have liked to view the President’s The Apprentice.

Many of the conventional Hollywood offerings are too long for one period; some stretch to at least three sessions.  I have yet to see the ending of Hotel Rwanda, even though it’s been assigned about three times.  I saw the second half of A Beautiful Mind first, and didn’t get to watch the first half until three years later.  Still, that was one I really enjoyed; I ended up buying the book.

Sometimes, the choices are out of just plain desperation.  I once filled in on Thursday and Friday for an Algebra I teacher who had been out all week with the flu.  Since I’m not a math teacher, all I had were video programs, and by Friday we were down to such exotic topics as string theory.  Maybe there was a budding physicist somewhere in the group.

One of the most awkward situations is in a vocational class.  One of the area high schools I’ve taught at has an excellent automotive repair program, but no one is allowed in the workshop with a sub.  So we always fell back on the teenage boy’s favorite — a Fast and Furious movie.

Whatever it takes.  I guess I shouldn’t complain — after all, how many people get paid to watch movies?

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