Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Thursday, September 01, 2011
All the 1st grade teachers are on campus this week doing individual student assessments while substitute teachers are have the rest of the class for the day. My daily report for Monday listed two names that pretty much used up 85% of my voice, energy and fortitude.
Meeting with the teacher at the end of the day, she said she was not surprised they didn’t behave any better for me than they do for her.
Wednesday’s class was more of the same with twice the number unfocused still-stuck-in-kinder-mode tykes. The only calm moment realized was during the reading of the next two chapters of “Flat Stanley”. Their teacher wasn’t surprised by her class behavior report either!
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
It seems that 6th grade enrollment had dropped over the summer. As a result all five 6th grade classes were under populated. The decision was made to disband one of the 6th grade classrooms and re-absorb the students into the remaining four.
Coincidentally, the 1st grade classes were over populated and the, now the newly surplused, 6th grade teacher was now going to be the teacher for the “over quota” 1st graders.
The “new” 1st grade teacher, under contract, is allowed a two day transition period to dismantle the old 6th grade classroom and setup her new 1st grade classroom. My job is to cover those days and be with her 6th graders until they disperse to their new class assignments.
All this was finalized by the school district on Friday, the third day after the start of the new school year. I found out later via “teachers lounge scuttlebutt” that the district has been “grappling” with situation since mid-summer.
The uncertainty and apprehension among the kids was obvious as I was asked several times both days if I knew which classes they were going into. I had no answers. It was Tuesday afternoon when I delivered them to the 6th grade wing when they finally had the answer while meeting their new teachers.
I can’t imagine that the situation will be much better over in the 1st grade wing come tomorrow.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Sunday, November 15, 2009
So, Gary…from the “Odd things I noticed while at school” diary these last couple of weeks:
3rd grade: Be sure to remove the headphones plug from the cassette player to make the speakers play. I should have tested the player before school instead of the instant I needed it at the start of the reading lesson.
4th grade: Assigned nicknames for a different pair of tattlers – “Toe Jam” and “Arm Pit”
4th&6th grades: Subbed two classes at two different schools in a single day. The 6th graders were better behaved.
The teachers were required to observe each other in their respective classrooms for some kind of teacher evaluation process. I got paid for a single full day instead of two half days which would have paid more.
5th grade: First time I’ve ever seen two sign in sheets for substitute teachers in the office. Twenty out of twenty-seven teachers out in a single day!
1st grade: Dealing with the little Khan man again. I see a little improvement. At least he isn’t pretending not to know English any more.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
“Aren’t you too old to remember stuff?”
Kind of a rude question but I WAS wondering if I had left the garage door open when I left for school this morning.
“Where’s my pink jacket?”
I’m betting this comes up a lot about other items of clothing that this kid may or may not have worn to school. I thought she was asking to volunteer an answer to the math question I asked the class.
On a 1st grade sentence board: “My dog says “Aarph!”
Maybe in some other weird English speaking country they do but here in America, dogs say “Arf!” Just ask Little Orphan Annie or her dog Sandy.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I’m pretty good with little kids. Kids this age don’t hold anything back. Feelings, thoughts, idle curiosity, random urges, everything and anything will eventually be articulated at unexpected times.
They don’t mean anything bad or nasty when they blurt out what might be considered inappropriate or rude comments coming from older kids or adults. It just means they are observant and stating an observation. Situational restraint is a learned behavior. It’s best to acknowledge their comment and try to divert attention to something else.
A little hand goes up in the back row.
Li’ll guy: “You have no hair on your head!”
Me: “You’re right. Ok, let’s finish taking roll call”
Before she left, the teacher informed me about the criers.
“The girl will quietly sob all day wanting to ‘go home’. The boy is extremely insecure and not at the level of the rest of the class academically. He will probably be hysterically bawling his eyes out before the first recess as he has done every day since school started. Just have the principle come get him as he has done every day since school started.”
My goal today was to see just how much crying I could stand before calling in the heavy guns.
She didn’t warn me about little Khan.
Khan simply ignored me in favor of wandering the room, bugging other kids, getting into stuff that wasn’t his. If there is one thing that can irritate me, it’s a kid that thinks he can ignore me when I call his name.
“He doesn’t speak English” was the explanation from the other kids.
I don’t care if you can’t speak the language. You CAN recognize your own name spoken loudly by the only adult in the room. I know a little “Khan-Man” when I see one.
Even if you can’t speak the language, you can get the idea that you’re supposed to be seated quietly on the floor if I use gestures indicating where you are to sit like every other kid in class is obediently doing.
And for a kid who doesn’t know English, he certainly can communicate, IN ENGLISH, with other kids in class and on the playground when he thinks adults are not paying attention. He also seems to understand English when I mention it’s time for recess, lunch, bathroom, computer lab and cleanup at the end of the day.
When the teacher came back after class to inquire how my day went, she was surprised that the criers made it the whole day without too many tears. She was even more surprised that the principal didn’t have to baby sit the bawler boy today.
I told her that whenever I saw either of the criers start to lose it, I’d call on them to come up and help me “do something” and it was enough to temporality turn off the waterworks. That had to be repeated several times today.
I also told her about my problems with her little “con man”. She related that Mom insists that he acts that way because he doesn’t know English. Mom is in denial and that’s not good. The teacher knows different. She’s seen the same things with his little “con-man” act that I saw today.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I can honestly say that I can’t remember a single time I had a substitute teacher when I attended grade school. I know there must have been a few times where our regular teacher wasn’t there and someone else was in front of the class. I simply don’t remember any.
It may have been so long ago that I “forgot” due to the onset of early Alzheimer’s (aka: “Old Timers”) disease. I don’t remember.
Maybe it’s due to the fact that I went to a Catholic school where all the teachers dressed alike, in long black and white dresses with a ship’s prow shaped habit that hid all but “the face”. I simply don’t remember any “substitute nun”.
Most of the kids I substitute for don’t remember my real name but there are some who call out “Hi, Mr. Homework” when I arrive on campus. If I’ve been in the class more than twice, I can usually “recognize the face” and more likely than not can’t place the name to go with it.
So it was last week, on the way out to my 5th grade classroom, that I was confronted by a friendly pint sized boy asking: “Are you a substitute?”
Me: Well, yes I am.
Kid: Are you Mr. Homework?
Me: Well, some kids call me that. What’s your name?
Kid: (He tells me but I forgot now. See how bad I am?...)
Me: What grade are you in?
Kid: I’m in 1st grade and I know all about you. You write letters on the board when the kids are bad and give them lots of homework, huh!
Me: Well sometimes... How did you know?
(…Since I haven’t subbed any class under 2nd grade at this school, I’m wondering where this kid is getting his information.)
Kid: My sister is in 4th grade and told me all about you. Are you coming to my class?
Me: Not today.
Kid: Awww! She said you were fun. I wish we had a substitute today.
Me: “Well, maybe next time…”, as I continue out to my classroom.
I wonder how long it’ll take for the memory of “Mr. Homework” to fade. I’m guessing not much longer than
Substitutes aren’t meant to be memorable.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The last three days in class have been GREAT! I subbed 1st, 4th and 6th grades at two different schools and they were ALL great kids to be with. The 1st graders were especially satisfying to be with because messing with their little minds is SO much fun.
I didn’t realize that the Pokémon fad was still popular until “sharing time”. One boy was showing his collection of cards and had the rapt attention of several boys. There were lots of volunteered advice and comments on individual cards and abilities of each character.
Personally, I know absolutely nothing beyond the fact that they are cards and kids like to collect and trade them. So just to mess with them, I innocently asked:
Me: “So you poke a man with these cards? That doesn’t sound very nice…”
Boy Chorus: “No! It’s “Pokie-MON”, not “Poke a Man”!!”
Me: “Oh…my mistake! I get it now, but why would you want to poke your mom? Does she like getting poked with those little cards?…”
Frustrated Chorus: “Noooo! Not like that! Not “Poke Yer MOM! It’s Poké-Monnnnn…”
…I’ve been told that I can be frustrating to little kids at times.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
This is a slow week for subbing. I had a half day in 5th grade Monday and another half day Tuesday in 1st grade.
I’m usually not real fond of 1/2 day assignments but if I have a choice, I prefer the afternoon half of a 1/2 day assignment. It’s usually shorter because the kid’s lunch time is part of that half day. Since you don’t have to be there until or so, you can sleep late and not rush breakfast.
If you compute the pay by the hourly rate you are actually in the afternoon class, then it’s the highest paid job for substitutes (per hour) in this area.
The rate (a little more than ½ the regular day rate) divided by the actual hours in the classroom (around 2.5h) works out to be about $25/hr. Slightly less if you do the morning half class.
Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary in the district you work…
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Substitute teaching at the elementary level isn’t all that difficult as far as subject matter goes. While there have been occasions in the past where, once or twice, I didn’t feel “educated” enough in English grammar to actually teach the subject, those situations tended to be at the upper grade levels. Teacher edition text books with the answers included and teacher provided answer keys for any worksheets to be handed out make my job fairly easy to handle.
Any functioning adult should be able to master 1st grade worksheets without any problem or aid from an answer key. English grammar at a 1st grade level shouldn’t be a problem…even for ME!
So imagine my surprise and frustration when confronted with the following worksheet involving words with vowel “U”:
The instructions are simple enough.
1. Say each picture name.
2. Listen to the sound of each letter
3. Print the word for the picture name.
All the words have either the short or long form of the vowel “U” and this being 1st grade work, all the words are less than five letters in length.
Quick, time yourself and see how well you do in identifying the word that goes with all the pictures.
Note: All current and veteran 1st grade teachers are disqualified from participating. THEY, of course, have the answer key!
(The one circled in red is a real killer. For the longest time the only thing I could imagine was that finger removing a “booger” from the baby’s nose. But that’s an entirely different vowel…)
Monday, October 10, 2005
It’s not a good sign when the lesson plan is missing as was the case today for this 1st grade class. Double checked the teacher’s staff box and cruised every inch of the classroom. All I found was a “general lesson plan” containing only subjects with no specifics.
There was also a general schedule on the board that indicated that this class had different arrival times for two sections of the class.
The first half class of “early readers” came in at 08:00am followed by the last half “late readers” at 09:00am. This meant that that there was also a staggered dismissal time (01:25pm and 02:25pm) for the two groups. Beyond that, I had no specific idea what reading, math, writing or spelling lessons I was supposed to do with them. Fortunately, the two neighboring 1st grade teachers, noting the lack of a lesson plan, brought in materials and made copies of worksheets from their classes to work with.
As a topper, for today, it was also picture day in the cafeteria. This was listed on the board for 09:15am. Just enough time to take roll and get them lined up and ready to go.
The thing that’s hard about 1st graders is that most of them still can’t tell time yet. So there is a constant clamor and yank at the shirt sleeves followed by one or more of the following endless litany of questions about the time.
“It’s time for recess now?”
“We’re ‘sposed to get our picture taken today. I think it’s now!”
“I think it’s time for lunch now! Can we go?”
“Are you sure it’s not time for snack? I’m hungry! We get a snack at recess”.
…and so it continues.
The constant reassurance that, I can actually tell what time it really is, goes unheeded. Trying to teach them how to tell time for themselves as indicated on the analog classroom clock is pretty much beyond their comprehension.
When it IS finally picture time, we take a tour around the school looking for the “big tree” on campus where the group picture is to be taken. It seems only the individual pictures are taken in the cafeteria and no one IN the cafeteria actually knows how to direct us to the “group picture tree”.
We locate the “group picture tree” to be told that we’re too early. They sent out a notice last night to reschedule individual class times. Of course without a lesson plan, there is no way for me to know of the change. The photo guy felt sorry for me and let me cut the line after 20mins waiting in the hot sun with 19 squirmy, antsy, loud 1st graders so I could take them back to the cafeteria for individual pictures.
By the time we got all the pictures done, we were already 10 minutes into the 1st recess so I let them loose as they exited the cafeteria. I went back the classroom where I discovered that someone had delivered the missing lesson plan! Finally some luck coming my way. I didn’t care where it was found or who delivered it, only that I had it.
With the lesson plan, there is important information about handing out the homework sheets before the “early reader” group leaves for the day. This is nice to know since the “general plan” had nothing about homework assignments.
Finally after lunch and “back on track” with a plan, we plow on with math, story reading and journal writing when one of the little tykes raises his hand and says: “We’re ‘sposed to go home now”. I look up at the clock and to my shock it is 20 minutes after the hour. The “early reading” group is due to be dismissed in 5 minutes and I haven’t passed out the homework sheets yet!
I get the group to put away their stuff while frantically placing homework assignments at each student desk. With 1 minute to go, homework distributed and back packs packed, I dismissed the “early group” with a sigh of relief and turned my attention to the “late group”.
A few minutes into the “late group” reading, there is a knock at the door and three of the “early” dismissed are back saying their sister/brother/mom isn’t there to pick them up yet.
That’s when I had a bad feeling.
I took another look at the classroom clock and to my horror realized it was 12:25 and not 01:25.
I had just let ten 1st grade kids out of class an hour early.
I rushed outside and rounded up a total of six of the missing. That left four unaccounted for, so I called the office, told them I had read the clock wrong, dismissed some kids early and told them I was missing four from Ms. L’s class. I of course couldn’t give them names right then, since I hadn’t sorted out the names of the six I HAD rounded up.
The office and yard duty people located three of the missing waiting at the bus pick up that wouldn’t be coming for another hour. The 4th missing showed back up at the classroom looking for his jacket he accidentally left. He gave me the evil eye for the next hour for making him stay in class when he thought he should be allowed to leave.
When I think about what bad things could have happened, I realize how lucky I was that nothing did happened this time. After class one of the other 1st grade teachers came by and asked, with a wink, “What time is it?”
My lesson for today: “It’s important to know how to tell time…”
Friday, May 13, 2005
Isn’t that strange? The kids were very concerned that something happened to her. I thought it was a little rude to the kids not to let them know in advance that nothing was wrong but someone else would be there in the afternoon.
It would seem a common courtesy so I wouldn’t have to explain, ten times, why she disappeared to which I had no answer.
Well, maybe she got to busy that morning generating that, hopefully, full detailed lesson plan for me.
Nope, the entire lesson plan was written one small 3”x3” post-it note.
1. Spelling test.
2. Peter Rabbit
3. Recess (1:10-1:30)
4. Finish Peter Rabbit
6. Friday envelopes.
No details on WHAT I was supposed to do with “Peter Rabbit” or just what “Science” I was supposed to teach.
Found an additional post-it with not much more clarification:
1. Peter Rabbit: “Model for students on what to write”.
2. Science: “Stick pictures on grey board”. (She underlined “board” ??)
It sounds almost as if she did this at the last moment without checking to see it was clear to anyone except herself, doesn’t it?
I didn’t appreciate it. It made for a LONG 2.5 hours.
(She also forgot the mention that this was a 1st/2nd grade combo class, not that it made much difference)
Friday, January 07, 2005
This call came late morning for 1st grade class at a local school I hadn’t been to before. This is also my first working school day of the New Year and the pouring rain meant the kids were not going to have much recess time today.
The 1st grade teacher evidentially got sick just before the kids arrived for class. As a result, the prepared lesson plan was of “minimal” content.
Most of the plan consisted of “Catch up” activity. Meaning “Do the stuff you didn’t have time to complete on Mon-Thurs. Problem is that these 6 year olds didn’t have all that much to catch up on.
Plan item for listed “Do Yellow Folder”.
I asked some of the kids if they had a yellow folder. Sure enough, they all did and proudly displayed for me their completely empty yellow folders.
I love it when a well detailed “plan” comes together!
A time announcement confirmed that the lunch time recess was cancelled and that the kids were to return to their class rooms after eating. I inquired at the office how long I had for the shortened lunch period before the kids returned to the classroom.
She assured me that the roving yard duty people would monitor the kids in class while I had my full 40 minute lunch in the staff lounge. I’m thinking “Three or four yard duty people looking in on 8-10 individual classrooms? How does that work? Hummmm”
Of course, on the way back to class after lunch, three of “my kids” came running out the door saying they were looking all over for me “For a long, long time!” One of the kids in the class was bawling his eyes out sobbing “We thought you weren’t coming back for us!”
A short questioning revealed that no “yard duty” person came to stay with “my kids”. They spent the last 20 minutes unsupervised in the classroom wondering if I had abandoned them.
At least they were happy to see me again! They COULD have been groaning with disappointment for showing up the rest of the day.
It took a few minutes to get them settled and the water works turned off so we could return to a class routine.
Next time I’ll know better than to ignore my gut feeling.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
The “HOMEWORK” trick didn’t work this time. As soon as I got them to quiet down, the commotion level started up again.
It was a continual procession of requests for drinks of water, bathroom breaks and so many defective pencils that somehow could not remain sharpened for 3 minutes at a time that I lost count.
Turn your back for one second and they’d sneak out to the common area to search their backpacks for snacks and water or out the back door to the playground heading for the alternate bathroom.
It was like trying to herd 19 very active cats. (If you’ve tried it, you know what I mean.)
It was a VERY tiring day.
I did manage to funnel them through the day’s lesson plan assignments, but it was clear most of them were somewhere else today. I’m not sure what actual learning they accomplished today.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Walked into this classroom and was visually assaulted by “STUFF” on every square inch of wall and floor space. It looked like a teacher supply store exploded and left this classroom crater.
I had to maneuver through the maze of stuff to find the teachers desk behind a wall of cardboard file drawers. It’s obvious this is her retreat from the kids. She certainly can’t teach from this corner kingdom retreat.
Hand written lesson plan and well behaved kids (mostly), had the day going pretty well till late afternoon P.E. that called for “dodge ball”. This game in the other district is banned.
I now know why.
The game, at least as 1st graders do it, is mostly taking the ball and run away from all the other kids trying to take it away from you while all of them scream “It’s MINE”.
A half hour of this is more than enough.
Friday, October 22, 2004
After last Tuesday, this was a welcome respite. The kids were enthusiastic, well behaved, and polite. This allowed me to function with the minimum of classroom control required.
Almost makes up for Tues. .............Not quite, but almost.
Met a teacher that taught my daughter when she was Elementary school.
I forgot to show her, her former student’s new baby. I bet that would have made her feel old.
P.S. Every job should have a recess…….
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
I was half way to the school when I realized I forgot my watch. Not a biggie. All the classrooms had clocks and the schools had bells or sirens for recess and lunch calls.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the classroom at 07:50am was that the clock was stuck at 09:00.
This should have been a forewarning of how this half-a-day was going to progress.
The teacher’s lesson plan was annotated with her own private acronyms. The line item “SW complete BAT assignment” had me searching every book and pile of papers on the desk looking for something labeled “BAT” or with a title that might be the “BAT assignment”. I didn’t even try to find out what “SW” meant.
The teacher arrived shortly thereafter to translate this entry to mean: “Student Will complete the assignment on what they learned about bats yesterday”.
This prompted a further review by the teacher to do some additional translations of her lesson plan that evidentially her “usual sub” was trained to handle.
With the teacher in the next room and an ear cocked to hear what’s happening in my class, the day progressed to recess time. The teacher had to let me know what time that was because this school also had no bells for recess or lunch time breaks.
This school’s yard duty comes with a clipboard with yellow and pink citations to hand out for various infractions of the school yard rules.
The yellow citations are for misdemeanor offenses by kids who call other kids names like “loser”, “poo-poo head” or don’t share the balls etc.
The pink citations are for the BIGGIE felony crimes like: “issuing ethnic slurs”, using the “F-word and others in the same league”, fist fighting, etc and ……………chewing gum.
I guess the janitor unions at this school have a lot of influence.
So with my clipboard festooned with yellow and pink citations I wander the blacktop looking for evidence of wrong doing.
One little girl came up to me with a crushed plastic bottle. I pointed to the trash barrel and she left.
The second time it was a boy with a handful of papers and trash. Weird but again I pointed to the trash barrel.
I started wondering if I was supposed to exam the trash CSI style to uncover evidence for issuance of a pink or yellow citation.
The third kid clued me in that I was supposed to hand out a “green” ticket for good citizenship for each piece of trash properly disposed of.
I had no green tickets. I did offer either a yellow or pink one but got no takers.
The other yard duty person festooned with clip board, whistle and a watch was about to leave for her break before the end of recess when she noted I was short two of the required yard duty items.
In addition to a watch to know when recess is over, I also needed a whistle to command the little tikes back to the classroom. Without these, the students, evidentially would get to have the “Never ending recess of their dreams” if left to me to perform this task.
She took pity on me by saying she’d be back to call them in after her break.
(This is turning out to be the longest four hours of my life)
The post recess day progressed to lunchtime where in I escorted them to the cafeteria and bid them farewell.
Note to self: Get a watch and whistle. You never know when you’re gonna need them.