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Substitute Teaching for the 21st Century
August 28, 2008 - 12:37am

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Crazy Larry, always hungry for acting roles, sent me an ad he found on Craig’s List:

People meet me (an author) at book signings and events and are always surprised; they imagine me differently somehow. It occurred to me that perhaps there is someone out there better suited to be me, to be the me I seem to be in readers' minds. You would accompany me at my next book event, and who knows what else; the idea is evolving and I'm letting it unfold as organically as possible. If this sounds intriguing--and this is totally for real--email me a bit about yourself and then I will in turn share my name and book titles. You do not need to be a professional actor at all. You don't even necessarily need to be female, though I will tell you that I am. Thanks for your time. Compensation: No pay.

Who knows what else, indeed? Here’s an idea to let unfold organically: Get actors to play us, college teachers. After all, students I meet at the start of every new semester are always surprised; they imagined I would look different somehow.

Since Larry’s looking for a gig, I’ll have him be the me I seem to be in students’ minds when they register. On the first day of class he’ll arrive to my room costumed in tweed and glasses, adept at thoughtful looks he’s practiced in the mirror. He'll call the roll delightfully, projecting students’ names, his voice rich and modulated.

After that it gets a little dicey. He’s just an actor, after all, not a teacher, and after waving a piece of chalk around dramatically, he begins to sweat. After a couple of minutes, students openly challenge him, and he looks around shiftily. Suddenly he bows, waits for applause that never comes, and runs out of the room. Scene.

Meanwhile, the middle-aged student in the back of the room who’s been trying to give him surreptitious hand gestures is faced with a choice. Should he reveal that he’s actually the teacher? Run out after Larry? Or join the forming mob and plan to slip away when it chases Larry out of the building?

 

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