Miss Norton Teaches Kiwis

Today was my first day teaching Mrs. Toller’s class.

I felt like a baseball player who had just been transferred up to the Yankees and told to pitch after only playing in the minor leagues for half a season.

Today we were working with similes, and as you can see by my eloquent example above, I was pretty nervous about it. Not only was it my first time working with this group of students, but it was my first time ever teaching middle schoolers AND my first time ever teaching Kiwis. So, a lot of firsts and a lot of nerves.

It did not particularly help that Mrs. Toller had an emergency she had to see to and there was no Reliever (Substitute). So it was me and twenty plus students, alone together for the first time.

The first ten minutes did not go smoothly. I had yet to receive notice that Mrs. Toller was going to be late, and I had no access to the role anyway, and I had no idea where the students were supposed to be going. So, I sat there silently typing away at my computer gearing up for the units I was supposed to start today, as the students chatted away. I then received word from a fellow teacher who had been tasked to get in contact with me, and she let me know what I had to do. I pitifully tried to get the class’ attention, and was somewhat relieved and simultaneously disappointed when another teacher walked in the room and barked orders at the students–which I thought was a bit excessive, but obviously my, “Uhh, put your devices away?” wasn’t doing much.

We then tramped off to P.E. in the gym and en route the teacher completely disappeared.

P.E. was run by the gym teacher, so I contented myself to sit in the stands and look awkward as I watched them do gym–I had been told to stay with them.

During the hour in which they were playing gym hockey (complete with plastic sticks and wiffle balls) I tried to mentally psych myself up, and part of this included remembering a TED Talk about power body language. Not only did this succeed in making me feel more ready to take over the classroom instruction, but I also have the suspicion that it succeeded in making me look more awkward. Double win!

At the end of gym we walked back up the hill to the classroom where I awkwardly whispered to the students–do you have to get changed out of your gym clothes now? The answer to which was no.

Then I was on.

It was my time to shine. I was ready to go. So ready. So, I introduced myself, “As a reintroduction, my name is Miss Norton, and I’m not just someone who sits at a desk all day on her computer. I actually am a teacher.” This earned some smiles and nods.

I am the greatest. I can do this. I am hilarious

“And I actually teach English, so I’m super excited to be doing language features, and later I’m going to introduce a play to you, and it’s a one I really like. It’s a good one. Trust me. I would tell you if I thought it was a bad one.” Kind of a lie. I’m not a huge fan of Romeo and Juliet, but there are plenty of worse plays out there, and honestly, if I had been taught it the way I am teaching them, I probably would have loved it. I mean, I incorporated John Green and everything. But, they’re nodding, and their eyes are still on me.

I am the Queen of the English Teachers. My grace and wisdom shall endear them to me and make them loyal subjects. 

“Today for language features, we’re working with similes.”

Scattered snickers and glances at one another.

But, since I am the queen, I did not let this deter me. In fact, I used this to my advantage because I’m the queen. “I know, I know, you’ve done this before right?” Nods all around and looks of relief. I had been told they hadn’t worked with similes yet, and was somewhat surprised. I’m glad the information was misinterpreted on my part, because instead of reviewing them and going over basic examples (i.e. She cried like a baby–what does that mean?), I was able to do cool stuff, like give a dramatic reading of Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Taylor Swift’s “Red” which had them all laughing and calling out what the meanings of similes could be. I was so happy that they got it.

Bestow unto me the orb and scepter. 


After we reviewed the definition and purposes of similes, I had them write similes using their high-vocab words, which was kind of a lot to ask of them, but I’m nothing if not rigorous. So, we ended up with sentences like: “as furtive as a new drug dealer” and “as pervasive as a fire in a forest” or one of my personal favorite, “as subversive as Donald Trump.”

Once they came up with the sentences and wrote them on strips of paper, I collected them all and we played a game that one of my friends from Penn State made up that I loved. It was an active version of “Would You Rather?” We cleared out the center of the room for running and gathered in the middle. Students told they had seven seconds to touch the wall that was assigned to the simile. So, for example, students who would rather be “as furtive as a new drug dealer” ran to the right wall and students who would rather be “as subversive as Donald Trump” ran to the left. Any student who wasn’t touching a wall at the end of the seven seconds was out and didn’t win any points. (They were Whose Line is it Anyway style points). Once the seven seconds were up, I chose a random student from each side to say why they chose the side they did, and the side with the better argument (i.e. did you know the definition?) got the points. If they were equally good, I flipped a coin.

The game was good fun and everyone participated, and yes, you may refer to me as Queen Amy the Stupendous English Teacher from America.

I’ll leave it at that, and talk about Romeo and Juliet tomorrow, so that way I can at least be called queen for a day before we talk about how the mighty have fallen…


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