I first read this as an adult, but it was a few years ago. I don’t really remember much, except that Kristy came off as really unlikeable.
SMS is having another school-wide project. In this one, students can volunteer to be a “teacher of tomorrow” (TOT) and get to teach a class for 3 days (over a week). Kristy thinks this is awesome, because she’ll get to prove to her teachers how she could do their jobs so much better than them. Kristy, Mary Anne, Stacey, and Mallory sign up for the program. Kristy gets assigned to a girls’ gym class, Stacey to a Math class, Mary Anne to a Social Studies class, and Mallory to an 8th grade English class.
The TOTs have to attend training where they learn about lesson plans, and curriculum that needs to be covered and all that. Kristy thinks the idea of lesson plans are cool, but assumes she doesn’t need to do one for a gym class. Then she finds out that she has to work with the TOT for a boys’ gym class, since the classes are currently doing a soccer unit together. The TOT in question is Cary Retlin, who doesn’t plan to take the project seriously and doesn’t even doesn’t care about extra credit. He and Kristy don’t really end up doing much planning to start.
In her first class, Kristy tries to get the kids to warm up to some “fun” music from the 1970s, but Cary laughs at her in front of the kids, so the class is a bit unproductive and out-of-control. Afterwards, the actual teacher tells Kristy that she DOES need a lesson plan and that she needs to work with Cary. So for their second class, Kristy and Cary decide they will split the kids into two teams and will each lead one of them. This is a huge disaster. The other kids end up picking up on their competitiveness and basically start their own war. It doesn’t help that most of the people on one team take karate together. The actual teachers have to break up multiple physical fights, and Cary and Kristy end up having to explain to the Vice Principal why they totally screwed up. Amazingly, they’re still allowed to teach their last class session. Kristy comes up with the idea to do some kind of passing drill instead of a game. In it, the person passes the ball to their partner. If the partner misses, the original kicker’s out of the game. It goes well, and Cary works with her, so they sort of redeem themselves.
We don’t hear much about Mary Anne or Stacey’s experiences, just that they generally go well. But the 8th grade class Mallory’s assigned to is a bit of a challenge. First of all, Mal’s terrified of have to present in front of 8th graders and thinks they won’t do anything they say. And, apparently Mal’s pretty smart, because that’s exactly what happens. The girl does know her weaknesses. But her lack of confidence probably makes things worse. On her first day she keeps dropping things, and earns the nickname “Spaz Girl.” She keeps trying to run the class and the kids just ignore her and interrupt. Kristy and Mary Anne are in the class and try to help, but the other kids are louder and more successful. The actual teacher has to step in and threaten the class with extra papers to write, and that doesn’t even help. Mallory says that the nickname Spaz Girl has spread to other students in school, and she’s really upset about the whole thing.
As usual, some kids in Stoneybrook finds out about the cool middle school thing, and decides to do their own version of it. In this case, Vanessa decides to start a poetry school and make all her younger siblings attend. At first Claire and Margo like it, but get bored with it. And Nicky was bored with it to begin with. But Vanessa blackmails them into staying in the class by threatening to tell their parents about things the others did. Eventually, Vanessa realizes this is wrong and manages to get everyone into poetry by making it seem fun, instead of demanding they write about what she wants.
- I can’t believe Mary Anne would sign up for the Teacher of Tomorrow. Standing in front of a room talking for entire class periods? Super shy Mary Anne? Seriously? Was the ghostwriter for this book new or something?
- Claudia outfit: “A long-sleeved white T-shirt on which she’d painted a bald man’s head from a side view. All the lines were sharp, not natural at all. His nose was purple, his eyes were orange, and his skin was green. Jagged yellow lines like lightning bolts sizzled around his head.” Apparently, he’s a person having a great idea.
- On Kristy’s application for the TOT programs, she basically says how she wanted to prove that she could be better than all her teachers. Then she sees Mal writing about how she wants to share her love of books/writing. So she adds something like that about sports to hers. I just think it’s sad that Mallory who was so into the idea of teaching was torn apart by the students. For Kristy it was just a game.
- At this point in the series, Andrew’s in Chicago for a few months with his mom, while Karen’s living full time at the “Big House.” Maybe that’s what makes Kristy so obnoxious in this one.
- Claudia’s sitting for the Pike’s and she compliments Claire for spelling house, H-O-S-E. Oops. It’s really sad when Margo corrects her.
- I don’t know why Kristy thinks the kids will like using music from the 1970s. This book was published in 1998, so I can’t imagine any 12-year-olds being excited by it.
- Vanessa’s apparently a Claudia-in-training, because she says how spelling isn’t important (even for a writer?) because editors and secretaries can fix it. Interesting that Vanessa, who’s supposed to be a book-lover and poet is saying this. Also, notice how she doesn’t mention spell check on a computer? These books can be so dated sometimes. And this was a late book.
- I feel like the last few books I’ve written about have had the main character acting like a complete jerk. Did the writers get tired of the series by the end and try to make everyone look bad? Or am I just getting less tolerant?
- At the second training session, Kristy says 50 teachers are waiting for them (to give one-on-one training for each class/TOT. That seems like a really high number. I can’t remember how many teachers there were in my middle school, but it doesn’t seem that high. Plus, you would think that each teacher would need to train multiple TOTs, since they have multiple classes in a day.
- A Kristy outfit, for one of her teaching days: “I wore plaid pleated shorts and a white short-sleeved polo shirt. Over the weekend I’d woven a blue-and-white lanyard and attached a whistle to it. I wore it around my neck like the other gym teachers did. I’d even gone over my sneakers with some white shoe polish so that they’d be super-white.”
- Stacey tries to stop Vanessa from blackmailing her siblings by saying real teachers don’t do that. But Vanessa just says, of course they do, they always threaten to call our parents about stuff. Interesting point.
- Assigning Mallory to 8th grade doesn’t make sense to me. Not just because of the whole issue of authority over kids who are older than her, but because she hasn’t leaned the 8th grade content yet. The program would make more sense if it was just for 8th graders. Or 7th and 8th graders teaching 6th and 7th graders. Mallory’s smart and likes English and all, but it doesn’t mean she’ll know 8th grade curriculum two years early.
- When Kristy complains to the gym teacher that she can’t work with Cary, she’s surprised to hear the teacher say that many of the actual teachers dislike each other but still work together.
- The gym teacher Kristy’s working with is the one that gave Mal a hard time a while back. And she coaches the archery team, in this land where middle schools have archery teams. But that’s hardly the most unrealistic thing about SMS. I was glad to see a reference to the earlier book, but I did notice the older book says SMS has gym twice a week, and in this one Kristy’s class meets three times in one week. (I can't believe that information has stayed in my head.)
- Kristy rolls her eyes when a kid in her class refers to someone as her “sworn enemy.” I guess she thinks that’s immature, but aren’t we always hearing about Alan being her sworn enemy? Or Cokie Mason, depending on the book.
- There’s some serious damage after the fight. One kid’s missing a tooth, one has a black eye, and one’s at the hospital with a possible broken arm. I’m surprised they let Kristy and Cary teach the last class or get any extra credit.
- The kid who’s missing his tooth is keeping it in a glass of milk? I had no idea that was a thing.
- Kristy’s trying to make Mal feel better about being called “Spaz Girl” and asks her if she’d be offended if a sitting charge called her “Poo-Poo Head.” Mallory says no, because that would be “silly.” Because Spaz Girl’s some sophisticated insult? People in my middle school were much meaner.
- After the last class goes well, the gym teachers offer to let Cary and Kristy coach the game at the end of the unit. Now….I have an issue with this. Because they were able to come back and teach a class with no incidents after creating a complete disaster, they’re being rewarded?
- When Mal’s teaching and getting ripped apart, Mary Anne actual jumps up and tells the other kids to stop giving her a hard time. Mary Anne can be sort of awesome when a crisis comes up.
- And to close, here’s a limerick that kids in Mal’s class pass around while she’s teaching: “There was a Spaz Girl named Mallory/ She taught, but not for salary/Her joy was to aim/Deadly chalk and maim/Her students, like ducks in a shooting gallery”……Mallory should be pleased, because she was teaching about limericks, and they seem to have grasped the concept.