Writing and math - my best and worst subjects, respectively - are what I'm here to teach. To prepare, I've studied an exhaustively detailed handbook that New Jersey provides its public school teachers.
To a layperson, this manual is an overwhelming tome, a testament to the elaborate infrastructure of evaluation and documentation that envelops public education.
But it offers no real advice for holding the attention of a classroom full of 10-year-olds who'd rather be listening to one another, preferably on smartphones.
After just half a day in front of them, I'll be exhausted, filled with admiration for the good people who do this for a living.
Right now, though, I'm just getting started.
"I understand you guys have already written five-paragraph essays," I tell my fidgety, albeit adorable, audience for the second, or perhaps eighth, time.
"What's an essay?"
Eager hands fly up.
So far, so good.
I'm in class at the invitation of the Cherry Hill Education Association, which is inaugurating a program started last year by the New Jersey Education Association.
Yes, the state's largest teachers' union, also known as Chris Christie's favorite piñata.
If critics such as our governor are to be believed, the NJEA and its affiliates offer a sanctuary for overpaid, over-pensioned slackers selfishly consigning thousands of innocent children to lives of despair.
No wonder the union seeks to improve its relations with communities by offering civilians, such as newspaper columnists, a chance to walk in a teacher's shoes. Which in this classroom normally are worn by Denise Roskey, who has taught at Kilmer for 13 years.
"I always wanted to be a teacher," the Mount Holly resident says. "There's nothing better than watching a student's confidence grow."
Roskey, who combines the energy of a newcomer with the savvy of a veteran, is the real deal. She loves what she does, but she doesn't sugar-coat, either.
Teaching is not for sissies, and teachers can't overcome, much less, solve, the familial and other issues that sometimes undermine student performance.
"We're not inputting data into computers," Roskey says. "No two kids are the same."
That's certainly true at Kilmer, a no-frills structure that's the most racially, ethnically, and economically diverse elementary school in the township.
Halfway into my first hour, and thanks largely to Roskey's invaluable assistance, my students seem ready to write. But in this technology-laden classroom, I'm not sure which implements to utilize; perhaps the boys and girls will transmit their essays onto the smart board, or into my headset.
"Pencil and paper?" I exclaim, as these vintage school supplies get passed around.
It's as if someone brought out an inkwell, or perhaps parchment.
"You like them because they're old-fashioned, and nice," one boy observes, accurately.
After 20 minutes of intense concentration, several of my charges volunteer to read their favorite sentences aloud.
I've got a budding genetic scientist, attorney, and artist in the room, as well as a couple of would-be journalists (aim higher, I feel like saying) and a bunch of boys with professional sports aspirations.
The latter may explain the potentially expensive "dream houses" whose floor plans they draw in my second and final lesson of the morning.
My own fantasy residence, sketched on the seemingly magical smart board, is modest - if one overlooks the central courtyard and koi pond.
But my students have more exuberant imaginations.
What's supposed to be a lesson in calculating perimeter and area becomes a chance for them to design houses that feature "man caves," swimming pools, bedrooms the size of soccer fields, an actual soccer field, and, on the plans drawn by one young lady, a "meditation room" as well as a "money room."
Speaking of which. . . "How much do you make?" one lad inquires brightly.
"Not enough," I say.
The kids laugh, and I look across the room at Roskey.
She's laughing, too.
Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @inqkriordan. Read the metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at www.philly.com/blinq.