The assignment was a 5th grade class at the same “Not Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” elementary school. I was cautioned by their teacher that her kids are really “sweet” but can be difficult in a lack of attention and laziness kind of way.
In reality, they were easy to get along with and responded when I wanted the noise levels to be toned down a bit. This was a much better experience than the 2nd graders earlier in the week. The only howls of protest came at the end of the day when I listed the homework on the whiteboard before dismissal.
-- Reading: 20 minutes
-- Math: one page with maybe 10-15 problems left (we did the first 5 in class) dealing with improper fractions.
-- Any unfinished class work.
Kids: “…But, but, but…teacher promised that we’d NEVER have more than six math problems for homework!…EVER!!”
After checking the lesson plan to make sure I hadn’t misread the homework section for math, I informed them that I had my orders. It didn’t include any restrictions or references to any promises of homework limitations.
After locking up, returning the key to the office and on my way out to the teachers lounge for one last “restroom break”, a voice called “MR. HOMEWORK!” from one huge SUV in the parking lot.
I gave the usual customary wave and smile as I continued to my urgent appointment in the men’s room.
“MR. HOMEWORK! MY DAD WANTS TO TALK TO YOU!”
My urgent restroom break just became more urgent.
Because of the nomadic nature of a substitute teacher, I rarely have any encounters with parents of the kids I see during the day. Even then, it’s mostly dealing with delivery of birthday cup cakes, “Hi, How are ya!” introductions before school or notes to be delivered to the regular teacher tomorrow. Never a “My dad wants to talk to YOU!” encounter.
The guy behind the wheel is HUGE! Sleeveless shirt, tattooed from the shoulder to the wrist on both arms, shaved bald and Fu-Manchu mustache. He didn’t look like a guy I wanted teed off at me, so I resisted the urge to run. Instead I approached the passenger side door and informed “Killer” that I wasn’t Junior’s teacher and that she’d be back tomorrow if he needed to talk to her.
Killer politely said that he, indeed, wanted to talk to me if I had 10 to 15 minutes to spare. He suggested that we could go to the classroom and have a chat if I didn’t need to leave right away.
I bought some time by agreeing to meet with him and his kid in the cafeteria after I finished some business in the teachers lounge. I didn’t elaborate about what kind of “business” that had suddenly become extremely urgent.
I spent the next several minutes trying, among other things, to figure just what Junior told his dad that would warrant the pulverizing of an underpaid substitute teacher. I came up empty so I exited the teacher’s lounge to find the duo resting in the shade of a campus tree.
Instead of the closed classroom (with potential lack of witnesses), I suggested the cafeteria where after school homework session was in full swing.
At a table near the back and away from most of the noise, I re-introduced myself to Killer with my real name instead of “Mr. Homework” and asked what the problem was.
Killer told me his son didn’t understand about some of the homework and he (Junior) wanted some clarification.
“Go ahead, Junior. Ask the man!”
Junior: Ms. Teacher PROMISED that we wouldn’t have any more than six math problems for homework.
Me: So, you’re questioning the “amount” of math homework and not how to do it? Your teacher is the one that listed on the lesson plan what the homework was. If you have a problem with the amount you need to talk with your teacher tomorrow.
KILLER: (to Junior) What? I don’t care about the amount. You told me you didn’t understand!
Junior: Well, I don’t understand it either.
Me: Ok, show me the math page.
He removes from the backpack the math page worksheet on improper fractions. The first five problems we did in class are still blank on his.
Me: Well, do you remember that we did these first five in class? I don’t see anything done here.
Junior: I don’t understand it.
Killer asks me if I could go over a couple of the ones we did in class again with Junior.
After being tagged teamed between me and his dad, Junior works his way through the first three. Killer is satisfied that he can do the rest at home.
Me: Ok, is that all?
Junior: I didn’t understand the grammar (identifying declarative .vs. imperative sentences) worksheet either.
Me: Show me!
Again, Junior removes from the backpack the grammar worksheet and again it’s completely blank.
Me: We went over this in class. We even did the first five as examples. All you had to do was write a “D” next to the “declarative” sentences, an “I” next to the “imperative” sentences and identify the subject of the sentences. Remember?
Junior: (no response).
Me: Let’s go over the first few again.
After the first three examples, Junior concedes that he can finish the rest of the worksheet. Killer, looking on, agrees. Killer thanks me for my time with his kid and had Junior shake my hand as I head to my car alive and un-bruised.
I’m not sure if I violated some school district rule about outside contact with parents and students but I did let the teacher know that it did happen just to cover the bases.