The Substitute Teacher Syndrome

Sometimes the classroom gets out of hand. Sometimes the teacher needs to speak up, get the unruly little jerks back in their seats, and impose some guidance. No lessons are going to get learned when the students are bickering, pursuing their own interests, or even trying to hold class … because there’s a way this is supposed to work, and letting the students do their own thing isn’t it.

The Indiana Pacers, second youngest roster in the NBA right now, need some guidance.

After Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Timberwolves, the Indianapolis Star got second unit point guard A.J. Price’s take on the problem.

“Man to man, we all want to win individually, but we’re not all playing as a team and I think that’s why we’re not winning,” Price said. “Until we come back together as a team, we won’t win.”

“Lately we haven’t been in sync, and we haven’t been together as a unit,” Price said. “That’s why we aren’t winning games.”

Roy Hibbert added his thoughts.

“Teams are adjusting to what we’re doing and we don’t know how to win,” Hibbert said.

Of course they don’t know how to win. They’re the students in this scenario. Under the tutelage of the mean old teacher that used to run the classroom, they reached the point where they were trading skeptical sideways looks with each other, even making faces when the teacher’s back was turned. The old fellow tended to ramble on and on about his pet theories, after all. He would present reams of statistics for the students’ edification. He pushed his own ivory tower schematic of how a classroom is run, lessons successfully learned, tests completed with passing scores, even when the test results consistently placed his class in the lower echelons of academic accomplishment.

That’s why the substitute teacher (something Lester Connor called himself last year when he filled in for O’Brien) was such a breath of fresh air. No more odd educational theories need apply. Our class is back to basics. “Smashmouth,” old-school educating at its finest. Readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic.

The kids responded well. Enthusiasm for learning blossomed. Test scores soared.

But at some point, the whole glorious process faltered. We don’t really know why. Did the students start bickering with each other over who was the best student? Did that new kid cause friction? Is the substitute teacher just too inexperienced to keep the students following the curriculum? We don’t know. Even putting our ear to the classroom door reveals nothing but noise that seems inappropriate to a learning environment, but what exactly is all the commotion is about?

Don’t know.

The youth of the team is not the issue. The Timberwolves are even younger, and they put the Pacers out of that particular spelling bee early. What we do know, what is abundantly clear even to those of us with no teaching certificate, is that Teacher needs to step up his game. Soon. Like, now.

And the teacher in this tortured extended analogy, Coach Vogel, says he’s ready to fix the problem.

“Clearly we’re struggling on the offensive end. We’re struggling as a basketball team. We will work until we come out of it, and we will come out of it.”

Coach, teacher, all the concerned citizens of the school system hope you’re up to it. Classroom discipline is not always easy to regain once it’s lost, particularly perhaps for a substitute teacher. The results are going to go a long way toward helping the school board decide if the substitute teacher gets called back next term.

Tags: Aj Price Frank Vogel Lance Stephenson Minnesota Timberwolves Roy Hibbert

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