Saturday, April 7, 2012

Practice Teaching Jesus Christ, Superstar, Easter 1971

In the spring of 1971 as I neared completion of my degree from Oklahoma State in Stillwater to teach secondary Social Sciences and Spanish, I began the final leg of requirements with eight weeks of practice teaching. This two month practicum began near the week of Easter in the Bible Belt and oil producing town of Cushing, Oklahoma. Having no car of my own, I rode in a car pool to the school from my Stillwater dorm room 18 miles away with 3 other practice teachers. My supervising teacher, Mr. Turner, when not employed as a high school history teacher was also a Baptist preacher. To say we were a match made in Hades is probably an understatement. For one thing at that time, I had never attended a Baptist Church. Now, this is not to say Mr. Turner was a bad person, but he was an inept teacher of teachers. He offered no guidance in the teaching profession that I recall. He just seemed happy to have a replacement in the classroom so he could escape.

During the late sixties I was schooled in the education theory of making history relevant. That is what I tried to do during that Easter season 1971 at Cushing High. My lesson plan was to ask my history classes to look at Jesus as a political radical and I introduced them to the music of Jesus Christ Superstar simultaneously. I might as well told them to get naked and roll in the snow when it fell. Everything about this approach to Jesus was foreign to them. My supervising teacher was not impressed, however the university education professor was from Slovakia was totally impressed. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of serious doubts about my chosen profession. If I’d only stuck with a major in math, at least the subject wouldn’t be controversial. In math there is just one answer and usually no one gets it right and most everybody hates math which is a comfort to one who enjoys being the “devil‘s advocate“ so to speak.

There were other problems in the spring of ’71 with teaching at Cushing High School, in particular that of classroom respect and discipline. There was none and as a rule in the many public U.S. classrooms there is none. Students are and were in school because they had to be. Many would rather be elsewhere sweeping a floor or peeling potatoes.

My history classes that spring were large with over 40 students plus there were racial problems galore between the Whites and Blacks not only in Cushing, but nationwide. The first time I had current events day, one Black gal give a 40 minute tirade on Angela Davis, the Black revolutionary of those days. The student raged on well over half the class period. Not being much older than the girl and not near as big, I was reluctant to tell her to sit down and shut up, although I clearly thought, enough already! I would eventually learn this teaching method, but not there. Also while at Cushing I had the joy of being threatened with a switchblade by another Black male student. The angry young man didn‘t bother to use it on me, but threw it at a circle he had drawn on his school desk. This knife incident occurred after I banned coin flipping in class. That taught me things can always get worse.

Upon completion of practice teaching I discovered too late that many young people could care less about getting an education to make something of themselves although there were and are exceptions (having been one). The profession frequently seemed not much more than a high paid baby sitting job that even Jesus Christ Superstar would abandon and I did eventually after working in the field ten long years.


  1. I graduated from there in 69. Always thought it was nothing more than glorified day care center. The only teacher I looked up to was run out of town because he wouldn't pass football players who earned failing grades. The coach was angered. I wasn't the best of students but I never felt challenged in any meaningful way. I suspect you would have been one of the good ones! Thanks for blogging!

  2. Dear Rreiley, Thank you for reading my blog and your comments in May. I am sure you would have been a joy to have in class. Hurray for the teacher who was ran out of town, my kind for sure.
    I had my fill of football after working parttime at the OSU Football Office for three years from 1968 to 1971. Still can think of nothing I like to do less than watch a football game. Fortunately in Alaska it isn't as important a sport as it was in Oklahoma, lol.
    Happy Fall and again thanks for reading my blog.
    Best Regards,
    "Alaska" Mary