Introducing podcasts worth hearing: Substitute

Insights from a semester of substitute teaching

In our last instalment of podcasts worth hearing, BOLD Blog covered the Cult of Pedagogy podcast, an ongoing discussion that covers all aspects of teaching and learning. A podcast that would’ve helped writer Nicholson Baker prepare for his most recent project. A novelist and essayist, Baker’s newest book, Substitute: Going to School with a Thousand Kids, is about what he experienced during his semester of substitute teaching.

He talks about his book and what he came to learn through teaching in an interview with Katherine Lanpher recorded for the “LIVE from the New York Public Library” podcast series. Baker describes what surprised him, what infuriated him, what he thinks are problems with typical curricula, and what happened when he deviated from them.

Baker reads a couple of excerpts from the book. The first is a moment in a class where he decides to read out of a book of facts instead of lecturing about the topic that had been assigned. Some of the students enjoyed it, others did not, but the passage captures a very real moment of student engagement coaxed out by a moment of spontaneity.

And in the final excerpt, Baker writes about a sentiment clear throughout the interview – he expresses how wondrous young people are – small and brilliant, often self-aware, and always full of surprises.