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Friday, December 17, 2004

After This I Deserve Two Weeks Off…..

This should have been a day off.

I figured that all the teachers would have wanted to say goodbye to their kids on the final day before the Christmas break and I was all set to sleep in and take this Friday off. That was until the phone jarred me awake at 06:30am.

The job was a Kindergarten class and I agreed to take it as I thought it should be a short easy day. There are usually two teachers or at least a parent helper for Kindergarten classes. There might be a little holiday party and/or an early dismissal.

The first thing the office told me when I got there was to wash my hands often as there was some kind of stomach bug going around the school.

The lesson plan indicated the kids were supposed to give a morning performance in the cafeteria, art project after lunch and an afternoon party. This was going to be a full day class and there are no other partner Kinder teachers or parent helpers signed up to help.

So much for my grand assumptions.

At the bell, I gathered my 18 little kinders and march them off to their classroom. All the kids were hyped up. Last day of school, their parents were gonna come hear them sing, they were promised a party, etc, etc, etc.

So I wasn’t surprised to see four of the boys hit the classroom and begin rolling around on the floor laughing hysterically. I had heard about “rollers” but this was my first encounter with any. I got them to stop by telling them there would be no party if they didn’t behave.

I had barely completed the attendance sheet when I was called to bring them down for their performance in the cafeteria. The person in charge told me where to stage them and asked where their teacher Mrs. “G“ was. Told her I didn’t know what her ailment was and I didn’t know just what they were supposed to do here. Fortunately one of the other Kindergarten teachers stepped up and said she’d lead them in their song. That was more than fine by me since I don’t do no singing stuff.

After the performance I took them back to class and handed out the planned art project. All they really wanted to do was the party as they all kept asking about it.

One tough cookie seemed to delight in kicking her table mate. I moved her to another desk to work only to find that she returned to continue making herself a pest. She would also sneak out the door to the bathroom without telling me.

Telling her that she had to ask first and go with another girl fell on deaf ears. This turned out to be an all day process trying to keep her in class and not tormenting the rest of the class.

After lunch, they were supposed to quietly watch a movie while I set up their party.

Instead I had to deal with a kid’s bloody nose (Thanks to whom ever suggested that I carry disposable plastic gloves on this job), while “tough cookie” continued tormenting some of her girl classmates.

Where oh where are some of those camera toting parents I saw at the performance this morning? No where! That’s where!

After I got the bleeder squared away and the video going, I located the party supplies which consisted of two gallons of apple juice, a bag chips and forty sugar cookies. Great idea! Add lots of sugar to an already hyped up group of 5 year olds.

I put out only one cookie per kid and turned the rest of them into the office at the end of the day for “disposal”. They pretty much finished off all the chips and juice and several announced that this was “The best’est party” they ever had.

They must have some really dull parties….

The teacher had presents for each kid and I handed them out as they left the room for the day. I held “tough cookie’s” gift for last and had a conversation about behaving in class, not hitting other kids, asking for permission to leave the classroom to go potty and doing what the teacher says.

I don’t think it made a dent as the kid continually interrupted with “but I want my present now….”; “Can I get my present now?….”; “I’m supposed to have my present now….”, “Gimme my present…”

I finally gave up and sent her off with the rest of her class.

After handing them off to their parents, I asked another teacher about “tough cookie”. She indicated that all the teachers knew all about her and my experience was no different than Mrs. “G”s.

I can’t imagine what a class with two or more like this one would be like, but I do know that I’d probably not want to experience it.

I’m REALLY going to enjoy these next two weeks off without that early morning call.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Too Much Time!!!

Two days till the end of school for this year and I figure there shouldn’t be much for these kids to do.

This 3rd grade teacher’s lesson plan bared this out.

This was the day they were supposed to complete their mid-year assessment test. I found out from another teacher that this was to go into their permanent record.

I always thought that the accursed “permanent record” threat was a myth! Now I know…

Lesson plan for Thursday…

Allotted 01:15:00 test time for mid-year assessment test. – Kids finished it in about 30 minutes.

Allotted 01:00:00 Writing – You gotta be kidding. Way too much for 3rd graders.

Allotted 00:45:00 SSR – Again, you gotta be kidding. Way too much for sustained reading.

Allotted 01:00:00 Math – Kids finished off these 20 questions in less than 30 minutes

And then ….00: 30:00 of “whatever…” - End of the day of “Do what you want. PE, games, etc

The only activity I would have liked more time for was………..Lunch!

I let them play several rounds of a game that the kids assured me was a quiet activity. I had different kids run the “Thumbs Up 7-UP” game, because I thought it would be interesting to see how they react when given a leadership role.


…. Maybe it was because I don’t know the rules or how to play the game.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I arrived at this school only to see “No Homework Week” posted on the board in this 6th grade class. This was obviously going to be a problem for my classroom discipline technique. I couldn’t very well threaten them with extra homework in a “no homework” week, now could I?

So I reverted to the guess the sub’s previous job title exercise.

We had a few new innovative guesses like: Ice Cream Dude and Mr. Clean guy (This only makes sense if you know I’m bald)

Once again, the technique worked like a charm. They were great kids and the only real noisy outburst was at the end of class when I revealed the “final answer”.

The teacher next door came in a few minutes after class wanting to know what happened in our class at the end of the day.

I just told her that they were happy that school was out.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Art Class…..

This was the shortest sub job yet. I was called to the country club school at 11:30am and met with the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) art teacher.

I was supposed to teach one class art for an hour while she went to the dentist. She assured me that I didn’t have to know how to draw. That’s good because I couldn’t draw a crooked line in an earthquake!

She gives me the quick nickel tour and all the handouts I need and then tells me: “Ok, you do the next 4th grade class for an hour and you’re done! Have fun!!” as she exits to make her dentist appointment.

The teacher then introduced me to the kids and went to her desk to do “stuff” for the next hour.

Things were progressing pretty well. The kids were drawing the “human form”, “a flag on a flag pole” and a “cartoon guy peeking out of a hole in the ground” all according to the instructional handouts. Every once in a while a kid would walk up to show me his work.

Obviously some students have more talent than others, but I made positive comments about all of them. So when one kid came up with a picture of what looked like a space cat from a Japanese comic book, I told him “it was very very good, but it wasn’t one of the drawings we were supposed to practice. Can I see one of those?”

The kid got this horrified look on his face, ran over to the trash can, crumpled up his drawing, tossed it in, went to the corner of the room and refused to speak to me.

I must have had a panicked look on my face because the teacher motioned to me that she’d take care of it and for me to continue.

The teacher later told me that the kid was autistic and did not react very well to ANY kind of negative or perceived criticism.

Thanks for the heads up warning……too late.

Friday, December 10, 2004

K through 6th....

Thursday I was subbing the 6th grade class in a school I hadn’t been to before.
Friday I was back at the country club school doing Kindergarten.

Talk about transitions and similarities!

Both days were spent trying to keep control of the class.
Both days spent part of the time watching a video!
Both days, the students were supposed to write something based on what they saw in the video.

Some students from both classes produced the exact same amount of zero work even with prompting.

Friday, I had to stoop DOWN to get eye level with one little guy to find out why he was crying (..I didn’t call on him to be one of the three people allowed in the playhouse).

Thursday, I had to look UP at about 10% of these pre-teen monsters.

There’s usually at least one “character” in each class that requires more attention than the rest. This 6th grade class had three.

We had the mustachioed Latino wannabe gang banger. He has a special desk wedged between the teacher’s desk in the corner and a short wall which isolates him from the rest of the class. And he’s proud of it. He’s evidentially an instigator of disruptive behavior.

Then we have Jabba the Hut boss man who, evidentially, decided that he wanted his desk in the front corner of the room with his own special “captains’ chair” so he could look out over the rest of the class. I could never get a good reason why the teacher would allow this, but I’m only in-n-out here for the day.

Lastly, we have the “lawyer”.

My explanation of the “HOMEWORK” process was interrogated by a series of possible loopholes that might apply:

“What if the final bell rings during writing of the final “K. Does that count”?
“Can I get the entire class extra homework by mouthing off?”
“If we get to the “K”, can we negotiate additional letters like an “S”?
“I’m pretty sure it’s illegal for you to give us extra homework.”
“How much would the extra homework, if given, count toward our final grade?”
“Is our teacher Ms. S going to make sure we even did it?”
“Are you going to be here tomorrow if Ms. S is still sick?”
…and on…and on….and on...

This guy sounded a lot like sweathog “Vinnie Barbarino” from the old show “Welcome Back Kotter”

Compare this to Friday’s kinder kids quietly doing their artistic interpretation of Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night.

One more week then two weeks off!!!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Herding Cats…..

Just when I think that I’m starting to know how to handle classroom kids, along comes this group of 1st graders. Maybe it was the rainy day, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the Christmas season, the phase of the moon or maybe it was me. Who knows?

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.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Very Short Day

I was called at 8:45am for this K-1st combo class that started at 08:00am. It was 09:15am by the time I got to the school and into the classroom for what was supposed to be a full day. It was actually a partial half day. The principal of the school was teaching it.

Twenty minutes to finish what they were doing in “math centers”, 20 minute recess, 45 minutes reading them a story followed by coloring worksheet and then lunch/dismissal at 11:30am.

Two hours work for half a days pay. Best hourly rate so far.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I Should Have Seen This One Coming…..

I found out that the teacher for this 4th -5th combo class specifically requested me to sub her class. This is a little odd since I didn’t recognize her name and a check of my logs showed that this is would be the first time I’d be doing her class.

It turns out that I had subbed in the class next door to this one, as mentioned in my Nov-01-2004 blog entry. Quote: “….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… “

This was the noisy combo class!

I now remember meeting this teacher on my way out after class a month ago. I now recall her saying something like: “I’ll have to have you try my class sometime….”

I forgot all about it!

Her sub plan did say they were a noisy group and that I’d have to stay on task and keep them busy. Wow…….Most of the lesson plans I’ve come across so far say stuff like “It’s a good class, very helpful, shouldn’t be any problems, etc…”

Some of these 5th grade kids that switch classes for Math were in my Nov 1st-2nd class. Evidentially, they were the ones that asked their teacher to have me as their sub! About ten of these kids remembered me from last month.

With the teachers advisory about how “social” (teacher speak for “noisy”) these kids are, I decided to explain the “blue magic marker and HOMEWORK” rule first thing. I told them that the record for the fewest letters accumulated by ANY class I subbed, so far, was only “HO...”

The morning lessons started pretty good. They were all watching whenever I walked toward the white board with the blue marker in hand.

Each time, I’d hear a chorus of SSSSHHHH….’s and the noise level dropped to zero. I’m thinking “this IS going to work!”

By recess, they had only “HOM…” on the board and I felt confidant this was going to be an “ok” day.

After recess, came the MATH assignment. This is when some of the students from the Nov/1 class and this one switch rooms.

This is the hardest part of doing a combo class.

I assigned a test for the 5th graders to start on, while going over the homework for the 4th graders. This, necessarily, required my split attention.

That’s when it happened.

There was a commotion at one of the 5th graders desks. Chairs were knocked over, a girl ran out of the room, and several others were grabbing at books and papers.

I missed whatever had happened.

I went after the girl who was crying in the hallway outside the room and quickly found out that the boy across from her had squirted her with a modified water bottle squirt gun and gotten her, the desk, chairs, floor and a couple of by-standers wet.

I confronted the “squirt-gun” kid. He had a ton of excuses why she started/deserved it. “… during recess,she…last year,she…yesterday.she....etc”

I sent him off to the principles office. He was crying that he didn’t want his parents to find out.

This was the first time I’ve had to send a kid to the office for discipline. I guess it was just a matter of time.

It took quite a while to regain control of the class. We were now up to “HOMEW..” by lunch time.

After lunch we had started on the next assignment when I noticed a kid at the water sink in the back of the room taking a long time for what I thought was a supposed to be a short drink.

I walked over to see that he was running water over both arms that were covered in some sort of red rash and broken skin!

He said it was a “spider bite” he got a few days ago. I’m thinking more like spider monkey bite from the movie “Outbreak” staring Dustin Hoffman!

I sent him off the health office right away with a note. He was back five minutes later, packing up his books saying his parents were on their way to pick him up.

If the next people through that door were wearing a white moon suits and oxygen tanks, I’m outta here for good!

Of course THIS interruption also took a while to regain control of the class.

We were up to “HOMEWOR...” with over 30 minutes to go.

I told the class “Not looking so good at this point in time…” and posted “Do 300 word essay on: Why Our Class Is Noisy” on the white board just below “HOMEWOR…”

I have come to realize that that final “K” is where I will lose all control. As soon as it is awarded, I have no bargaining power to work with. It’s a done deal and there is nothing for the kids to lose from that point on.

So I work that last half hour dramatically threatening the “FINAL LETTER” until the only noise I hear in class is “SSSSSSHHHHHHH” from all the kids every time a voice louder than a whisper is heard.

All except one who is on her knees, hands in mock prayer, silently mouthing the words “Please, please, please…..”

Finally the dismissal bell rings and all that pent up suppressed “socializing” is released in a loud roar.

I’m done for today….. No final “K”.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

In Home Recovery Day (IHR)

Maybe it’s the season, the weather or the lunar cycle, but this 1st grade class was mostly about “Keep it quiet and sit down, please”.

These kids seemed to be short on attention span because it was only one or two minute lulls between the noise level hurricanes.

I was dragging by the end of the day.

The other 1st grade teacher came over at the end and told me my class I was subbing for was less rowdy than hers. I can only imagine. She said it seemed to be in all the classes during this time of year.

She said she was taking the day off tomorrow for something called “in service seminar”. I was thinking I should take the day off tomorrow for “in home recovery”. Sounds good!

I went to a Dr’s appt later in the afternoon only to return home to find 8 new messages on the answering machine! All were automated call assignments from the same school about a sub job. The same school I was at today.

I guess I’m not going to get that “IHR” day after all.

At least it's not the same 1st grade class.