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Tuesday, November 30, 2004


I had a great day with this 5th grade class. No discipline problems other than getting them quite down a few times.

I have found that the magic marker “HOMEWORK” technique a 6th grade teacher showed me (See the Saturday, October 30, 2004 blog entry) REALLY, REALLY works!

The magic marker tapping on the white board, indicating another letter was close to being appended to the partial word that would eventually spell “HOMEWORK” was more than enough to quell this crowd.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the class next door.

This school was built during the previous “new age” method where teaching in an “open” space without walls was felt to be an enriching environment for learning.

When the schools finally realized that this didn’t work AT ALL, temporary walls were added between the classes, but they left pass-through ways between all four of the classrooms in this pod. This means you can hear the classes on both sides if the other class gets a little rowdy.

Within the first 10 minutes while taking attendance, I heard this teacher next door screeching at her class to settle down and be quite. I had to stop the attendance until she was finished.

I must have had a puzzled look on my face because a kid in the front row said “She always screams like that. Every Day!” The outbursts from next door reoccurred several times during the day.

(Note to self. Find out which class that is and append it to my “Never In My Lifetime Sub List”)

With each teacher tirade next door, the kids in my class would snicker, giggle and laugh.

I would then have to tap the whiteboard with the marker and like magic, my kids would quiet down.

Late in the day when I felt they were ignoring the warning signs, I finally printed the first “H” on the board.

You should have heard the stifled cry’s of dismay.

This was the only letter I had to print for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

See Habble Es Pan Oly – Part Dos….

I got a call for the same bilingual 2nd grade class I had on the 15th.

I figured this would work out “ok” since I had a good experience last time. But, it seems that familiarity breeds “Hey! We know this guy and he isn’t fierce anymore!”

It was almost like a complete different bunch of kids but I knew they weren’t because they remembered my name from the last time.

It was a constant battle to keep the noise level down enough to finish the day.

During the lunch break, some of the other teachers were complaining about how wound up all the kids were the day before the long holiday.

I hope that was the case because I’d hate to see what a third round with these guys would be like.

Maybe, I’ll avoid assignments for this class until I’m desperate for work. This is also reinforcing my reluctance to take on any “long term” sub jobs for any one class.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Clean Sweep….

This was another no-warning bilingual 2nd grade class. Also a very late morning call. Teacher sounded like she was at deaths door when I got there.

My wife is a fan of a show called “Clean Sweep” where the focus of the show is to locate the house with the most accumulated stuff to de-stuff and re-organize it back to a somewhat human habitat.

This teacher’s desk would be a good candidate for this show.

I knew there was a desk under this mountain of papers, books, bags, cans, boxes and everything else because there was an office chair in front of it. The chair hole, if that’s what the space where your legs were supposed to go when sitting at a desk, was filled and overflowing out beyond the desk with more stuff. Piles of more stuff blocked all the desk drawers.

As a sub, I’m encouraged to leave a note letting the teacher know how my day went. I stood there at the end of the day with my note in hand just wondering where on this “Data Stuff Mountain”, I should leave it.

I decided to leave it on the seat of the chair at the bottom the mountain and left the building.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Nine Little Birds on a Wire….

Every once in a while something surprising happens and you just have to applaud. That’s what happened in this Kindergarten class today.

The teacher left me some notes on a few songs on CD the kids like to hear during their class. The kids were getting a little restless during an “art” project so I queued up the songs she had indicated and went back to the “teachers chair” in front of the class.

Some of the kids sang along with the first song and the “fidgets” settled somewhat. The second song had about half the class singing along with the tune while coloring nicely.

The surprise was at the start of the third song about something dealing with “nine little birds on a wire”. One of the littlest girls got up and announced in a loud voice, “Come on girls let’s go!”

I thought they were about to make a break for the door or something.

Instead, six or seven of the little girls all lined up in front of me and began singing and line dancing to the song. They were so small but all arms, legs and hands were all in sync to this very energetic hula like performance. Toward the end, even some of the boys joined in.

I was so surprised and they were so cute, I had to applaud at the end. I was tempted to play the song again just to see it one more time.

Friday, November 19, 2004


I was the sub for the long term sub for this 1st grade class. Evidentially, there have been a number of sub’s working this class. From the comments I heard from other teachers, I think the long term sub is due to return to short term sub assignments.

During the break, one of the other 1st grade teachers came to the teachers lounge and handed everyone an “Exposure Notice”. Evidentially one of her kids left after an hour into the lessons with a diagnosis of contagious “Hand, Foot and Mouth” disease (coxsackie virus). Great…I guess this is what they mean by occupational hazard.

The name sounds like that scary “mad cow” stuff. While I’m sure this isn’t anything in the same league, I can’t help visualizing 15-20 kids whirling around the classroom, spewing saliva then collapsing in big heap.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Last Minute 4th Grade Assignment

There is nothing of unusal interest to say about this last minute assignment. The kids are kids if a little noisier than some.

This class includes a couple of 9 year old wannabe hard cases probably headed to JUVI in the future. It's still too soon to make that call.
(just my non-expert, one shot experience, personal observation)

Besides, what do I know? These two just might end up politicians or priests for all I know.

As of today, they are just two disruptive elements that make my job twice as hard. I shudder to think what a group of five or more like these kids in one class can do to a substitute teacher.

I’m not at all confident I could handle it.

Monday, November 15, 2004

See Habble Es Pan Oly??

I arrived at this school early Tuesday morning to sub for a 2nd grade class. The office secretary took one look me and said “You DO know this is a bilingual class, right? Do you speak Spanish?”

I said something like: “Ahhh, that would be..No!. That wasn’t indicated under special notes from the teacher”. At the same time I’m thinking “OOOHHHH….SH*T!!!!”

She hesitated a little before saying: “Oh, I’m sure you’ll do fine”. (Did I hear a little chuckle as I left the office?)

I get the room key and head off to the classroom. In the window of the classroom are a few signs that looked like “Welcome to Ms. S’s class”. At least that’s what I thought it said because I CAN’T READ SPANISH!!! NOT A GOOD SIGN HERE!!! “OOOHHHH….DOUBLE SH*T!!!!”

Entering the classroom, I notice that all the signage and posters on the walls around the classroom are “ALL SPANISH!!” I’m feeling overly warm now and my leg starts twitching.

There is a nice older lady writing on a pad at the teachers’ desk and we introduce ourselves. She is the teacher in the room next door. SHE is writing this teachers lesson plan ON THE FLY!!. OMG!! AN ALL SPANISH CLASS AND NO LESSON PLAN!!!. I am in REAL DEEP DOO-DOO HERE! “OOOHHHH….TRIPLE SH*T!!!!”

She asked me if I was bilingual and could read and write Spanish. (I’m about to bolt out the door at this point, but I stick with it.). I guess I look like I’m a mono-lingual type of guy, of which I AM!!

Reacting to my negative response, she starts crossing some things she just wrote on the lesson plan. I guessed she’s revising the schedule to adjust to this Anglo sub sacrifice that’s about to happen.

I pick up the math book that’s open for today’s lesson. All the instructions are in Spanish. I browse the kids “fun” reading books the kids can use during silent reading time. At least half of these are in English, the rest are, of course, in Spanish.

This nice lady teacher from next door then tells me that she and another teacher will drop in when they can to see how it’s going. She then addresses the 22 kids waiting at the door to explain where their regular teacher was, who I was and informs them that I don’t speak any Spanish.

If that bit of news fazed them, it didn’t show.

With a little trepidation we began out day together with a “Good morning, children!” and I get back a chorus of “Good morning, Mr. Perry”’s

What I discover, is, that ALL these 7 yr olds are truly bilingual enough to deal with me in English and can help each other out when I had a few problems communicating with some of the newer kids.

They are really a bunch of great kids! What a surprise!

While, their reading and writing skills aren’t at the usual level of an all English class, their verbal skills are great in both languages.

I did have teacher visitors, and even the principal at one point, check in from time to time. I could honestly tell them that things were going great.

When reading a lesson story to them in English, I’d stop a few times and ask them a few questions to make sure they understood ok. Occasionally, I’d ask how to say some of the things we were reading about, like lizard, turtle and mouse in Spanish. They got a kick out of my remedial Spanish pronunciations.

When I returned the room key to the office, the secretary asked “How did it go?”

With a self-satisfied smug, I told her “Great!”

…and it WAS!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Kindergarten Week

Well this week seems to be ALL Kindergarten. Monday and today in two different districts and got a call for Friday at the country club school for a half day.

With Thursday a holiday, that only leaves tomorrow a mystery as of tonight.

Kids art for me tends more toward the abstract (i.e. let the kids' draw what they want) where as “real” Kindergarten teachers tend more toward the traditional.

If the teachers plan calls for “draw a picture of the student of the week”, I tell’em have at it!! If their student portraits look like green globs of Swiss cheese on toothpicks, who am I to judge? I’m no art critic! I can’t even draw a crooked line!

The “real” Kindergarten teachers, on the other hand, are very “hands on” in their control of art technique.

“Draw an oval for the head, and then add eyes”. “No Billy, the eyes aren’t even. Start over, please”, Tarique, the hair isn’t supposed to be orange. Change it to brown, please”. “No, No, Allie, the trees are supposed to have leaves, go do it right”

What happened to free expression? No self-respecting “painter” would allow this suppression of artist freedom!!!

At least that’s the way our city fathers justified their expenditure of $500,000 for a supposed sculpture of the Aztec Snake God “Queztalcoatl”. It’s constructed of what looks like three huge blobs of black concrete stacked one on top of the other. The locals have nicknamed it the “pile of dinosaur poop” which is exactly what it looks like.

I found this link for your review: Quetzy

I vote to have a real Kindergarten teacher on the art approval commission for any future acquisitions by our fair city!!!!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Middle Wife

Received in an email

(By an Anonymous second grade teacher)

I've been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second-grade classroom a few years back.

When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell. So I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness. Usually, show-and-tell is pretty tame. Kids bring in pet turtles, model airplanes, pictures of fish they catch and stuff like that. And I never, ever place any boundaries or limitations on them. If they want to lug it to school and talk about it, they're welcome.

Well, one day this little girl, Erica, a very bright, very outgoing kid, takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a pillow stuffed under her sweater. She holds up a snapshot of an infant.

"This is Luke, my baby brother, and I'm going to tell you about his birthday."

"First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad put a seed in my Mom's stomach, and Luke grew in there. He ate for nine months through an umbrella cord."

She's standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I'm trying not to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching her in amazement. "Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts saying and going, 'Oh, oh, oh!'" Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans. "She walked around the house for, like an hour, 'Oh, oh, oh!'" Now the kid was doing this hysterical duck walk, holding her back and groaning.

"My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn't have a sign on the car like the Domino's man."

"They got my Mom to lie down in bed like this." Then Erica lies down with her back against the wall. "And then, pop! My Mom had this bag of water she kept in there in case he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like psshhheew!". This kid has her legs spread and her little hands are miming water flowing away. It was too much!

"Then the middle wife starts saying 'push, push, and breathe, breathe.' They started counting, but never even got past ten. Then, all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff they all said was from Mom's play-center, so there must be a lot of stuff inside there."

Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her seat. I'm sure I applauded the loudest. Ever since then, if it's show-and-tell-day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another Erica comes along.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Down and out for the count...

It isn’t that I am short on opportunities to sub these last two days of this week. The phone has been ringing off the hook day and night for all three of the school districts.

I have had a sore throat and a colorful yellow phlegmy cough since Wednesday afternoon. I decided I received enough from the schools this week.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Politics In Kindergarten...

Back to the country club school.

It’s the day after the election and all I heard this morning from the kids in my class was “Kerry, Bush this….”, “Bush, Kerry that…”.

Whooo, Whee. Thank God it’s finally over.

It’s a little disconcerting to hear all this from 5 year olds in the two Kindergarten classes I had, when at least half of them are still struggling to make it all the way through writing the alphabet.

I don’t think I even KNEW there was a president when I was 5 and in Kindergarten!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

ADD or Class Clowns?

Assignment: Day 2 of the same 5th Grade

Today went pretty much like yesterday only an hour shorter. Short day on Tuesdays.

The “other” teacher came in after class. Evidentially, two teachers switch off teaching this class. She had just come back from her Mediterranean cruise vacation and was scheduled for tomorrow’s class.

She asked me how I did with the ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) kids. I must have looked a little surprised because I didn’t realize that the same “challenging” students described by the first teacher were also the ADD students indicated by her partner.

Funny. I wouldn’t have labeled any of these kids with what I thought was a serious disorder like ADD.

If this is what ADD is, then I know a few guys that we used to know as “class clowns” that would have qualified.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Challenging ...

Assignment: 5th Grade Frozen District (35 kids)

I got a late morning call for this one. Teacher threw her back out and could hardly stand, but was in the classroom doing the lesson plan for me.

Most of her running conversation for me was about the “challenging” students in the class. Of course they were assigned the front row seats nearest the teacher’s chair.

In case you haven’t guessed, “challenging” isn’t a good thing. I began to wonder just how the teacher threw her back out or had it thrown for her by a “challenging” student.

The last half hour of class was spent mostly trying to keep the noise to be less than the noise in the next classroom of 4-5 combo kids. I figured a tie counts as a win.

The end of day bell rang and I sit back with a sigh of relief and I’m almost outta here!


Just as I’m leaving, the office called to say the teacher wouldn’t be in tomorrow either and they wanted me to come back tomorrow. I only agreed if the teacher came back to do a second day lesson plan.

I just hope she’s there tomorrow!.......