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Monday, January 31, 2005

Boy, Am I Tired…

I didn’t accept any assignments Wednesday through Friday last week because Claudette was ill and wanted me home. So I had a five day “vacation” from teaching before going into Kindergarten today.

Kindergarten has fewer kids (16) to deal with and even an hour less class time than the upper grades. I can’t figure out how these kids tire me out so fast but they do! They’re not bad kids, just loopy! Not quite into the “classroom” routine that upper graders are expected to follow.

In the last five minutes of the day, this class is expected to clean their desks. So I figure, “Ok, a damp paper towel to the table tops isn’t a bad thing”.

Next thing I know there are kids with glopping piles of sopping wet paper towels! Add to that a bottle of liquid soap and the tables are literally foaming up the place! The topper is that the in classroom toilet is stopped up! With what, is anybody’s guess!

I finally snatched all the soap bottles away and had them get dry towels to work on the tables and chairs. What a mess in such a short time!

The tables and chairs, hopefully, should be completely dry by tomorrow. I wasn’t even going to attempt to mess with the toilet. I left a note instead.

I need another five day vacation.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Is It A Bad Sign…

Is it a bad sign when …The Office secretary hints that this 4th grade classes can be a “handful”?

Is it a bad sign when …The a 4th grade teacher I met in the office indicated that all the 4th grade classes at this school are the same “handful”?

Is it a bad sign when …Lesson plan for my class has separate sheet devoted to discipline and has asterisks denoted as disruptive next to six of the 35 student names?

Is it a bad sign when …Principal says don’t smile, be tough?

Is it a bad sign when …Principal personally gives you his direct extension number to call if there are any problems?

Is it a bad sign when …Principal drops in half way through the day?

Is it a bad sign when …yet a different 4th grade teacher tells you horror stories about sub experiences with her 4th graders?

I decided to do both “HOMEWORK” and the “JOB GAME” with these guys. They started off pretty good. They responded every time I tapped the white board marker in the area I had reserved for the word “HOMEWORK”. We made it to the first recess with only an “H_”.

These kids switch rooms for math. I ended up with a mix of mine and some from the two other 4th grade classes. This required me to set up a separate “HOMEWORK” threat for just the math class. I had “my kids” fill in the newcomers on how it worked. This didn’t work as well on a combined one lesson class.

An hour later the “math class” had accumulated “HOMEWOR_” before the class ended. Of course this is when the principal decided to pay us a visit “just to see how things were going...” Luckily, only one kid wasn’t where he was supposed to be and the class was generally doing what they were supposed to be doing. After math, the classes switched back to the normal mix. The returning students noted the progress the math class had made to “HOMEWORK” and wanted to know details. I didn’t give them any.

As in the previous classes I subbed, these guys were enthusiastic about the “JOB GAME” in which they had posted guesses. One guess was: “always was a substitute teacher”.

I reminded them that the price for revealing the final answer was continued good behavior. They had about 28 guesses posted and most of the students seemed to be leaning toward “retired principal”.

By the end of the last working period, the class had inched up to tie the math class at “HOMEWOR_”. We had something like 5 mins until P.E. followed by class dismissal. The class was really starting to get wound up and getting loud as I had erased all but the final two job guesses in preparation for the finale.

After about four attempts to get them settled and ready to go out for P.E., I gave up and sent them out without revealing the answer. They were all disappointed but also relieved that I didn’t give them the final “K”.

I heard later from the 4th grade teacher next door that the sub she had last week didn’t do as well as she heard about students standing on desks throwing stuff back and forth across the room. She indicated that this group of 4th graders has been like this since Kindergarten as they moved up through the grades.

She suggested that if I’m subbing next year, I might want to avoid any 5th grade assignments at this school.

I’ll probably forget by then………..

Monday, January 24, 2005

3rd Grade “Community”…

This assignment was for a “community” (teachers description) of two third grade classes (50 kids). It is team taught by two teachers. I was subbing for one of them. Pretty easy assignment as I let the other teacher dictate what she wanted me to handle.

My first assignment was the “low readers”. I had about 10 kids of which Aarron was one. I initially thought Aarron was just a class clown by the way he seemed determined to disrupt the group trying to get laughs. Then things got ugly when I attempted to get him to cooperate and get into the swing of the lesson.

Next thing I know, he’s on the ground under his desk bouncing the desk on his feet saying “I don’t care, you can’t do anything to me”

The kid’s right. I can’t physically get him to do anything except let my team member in on what happening. The next think I know, the principal arrived and hauled him out of class to be sent home. The teacher said this is normal for Aarron. He has family and emotional “issues”.

The class ends with a weekly class meeting where all the 3rd grade “community” gets together to hear about “praises” and “issues”. The kids start by complimenting each other about how they are grateful to others for “being nice”, “playing together”, “and being helpful”, etc.

They then gravitate to the “issues” side where they address complaints generated during the previous week. If a kid can remember a slight during the previous week, the issue gets resolved by the following formulated conflict resolution script:

Victim: “(BadGuy’s name), are you ready to hear my issue?”

BadGuy: “(Victim’s name), I’m ready to hear your issue”

Victim: “I feel mad when you (offending action) at (offending action location)”

BadGuy: “I hear you when you said I made you mad when I (offending action) at (offending action location)”

After about a couple dozen of these exchanges I wonder just what this accomplishes. I can see it now 30 years in the future.

U.N.: “Terrorist, are you ready to hear my issue?”

Terrorist: “HA, HA, HA!!! SPEAK UNBELIEVER!”

U.N.: “I feel mad when you blow up innocent people all over the world”

Terrorist: “HA, HA, HA!!!, I hear you stooge of the Great Satan. DIE! DIE! DIE! ”

Just wondering…..

Saturday, January 22, 2005

English Grammar One More Time…

After reading last Thursday’s blog entry some people, mainly my wife and daughter, have offered to teach me about the difference and proper use of transitive, intransitive and sundry other English verb forms.

I thought I should give it one more try. So……….


Transitive versus Intransitive Verbs.

Not as difficult as some people think. A transitive verb takes a direct object: it shows action upon someone or blah blah something. Intransitive verbs take no direct object; they need only a blah blah subject to make blah a sentence Some transitive verbs: Hit blah zz (you have to hit something or someone; you can't just hit); climb (you don't just climb; you climb something); and bring (bring what?). Intransitive verbs: sleep zzz (you don't sleep something; you just sleep); and fall (you can fall down the stairs, but zzzz you don't fall the stairs) There are a few things zzz worth noticing. First, just because something grammatically needs a direct object doesn't mean we actually use it. If someone said, I swung zzzzz the bat and hit, we zzzzzz don't have to ask what he hit; the direct object ball is understood Second, many intransitives might blah blah zzzzzzz look like transitives, as in She walked three hours. Here blah three hours is not really a direct object; it doesn't say what she walked, but how long (it's actually an adverbial phrase) zzzzzzz Third, many verbs can be both transitive and intransitive: though ran in the paragraph above is intransitive, the blah blah same word is zzzzzzzzz transitive blah blah blah in He ran the program for zzzzzzzz two years. Children can play catch, or they can just play. Even sleep, given above as an intransitive, could become blah blah blah blah transitive if we said He slept the sleep blah blah of the zzzzzzzz righteous. The blah blah only real blah blah danger is when blah blah you start zzzzzzzzzzz changing verbs willy-nilly: "We blah blah have to think blah blah quality" (giving blah blah blah blah the intransitive blah blah think a blah blah direct blah blah object); "I blah blah hope blah blah you blah blah enjoy" blah blah (instead blah blah of blah blah enjoy blah blah it). Zzzzz.. .zzz... zzz… zzzzzz… zzzzz…zzzz… zzzzzz… zzzzz… zzzz… zzz… zzzz… zzzz… zzzz… zzzz… zzzz… zzzz… zzzz… zzzz…

Nope. Didn’t work….

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Bone Head…

Everything was going hunky dory with this 6th grade until we got to the English grammar lesson.

Now I have to explain at this point that the technical nomenclature of English grammar was never my strong suite.

To qualify for graduation, I had to take “bone head” English grammar in college……..twice!

Diagramming and labeling the parts of a sentence beyond noun, verb and object still makes my eyes cloud over and the brain go numb.

Today’s detailed lesson plan instructed me to teach a section of English grammar to these 6th graders. The “teachers” cheat sheet on this subject indicated exactly how I should instruct the kids, what examples I should write on the board and even what sentence parts to underline and label.

Piece of cake……I can DO this!

So, I launch into the lesson explaining (reading verbatim) the difference and nuances of transitive and intransitive verbs, being and linking verbs, predicate nouns and adjectives to these eager young minds.

I write the suggested example sentences on the board and carefully underline and label the pesky verbs with their proper labels as indicated.

I then hand out individual work sheets to the class so they can dive right in locating and labeling verbs in sixty odd sentences on their own.

Then I wait.

For next three minutes I’m thinking, “I just might get away clean here”.

Then I see two, and then three and then even more heads turn to one another. Whispered questions start to circulate the class. “I don’t get it, do you?”, “uh, uh, nope”, “I’m lost!”

After about ten minutes, most of the heads and hands are up making the same plaintive cry. “Uh, Mr Perry? We need some help with this.”

Now I’M stuck. I DID review the lesson/work sheets during my 40min lunch trying desperately to see if I could understand this stuff before I gave it to the kids. I didn’t succeed.

So… at this point, I did the only thing I could think of.


I told the students that, truthfully, I didn’t understand this stuff when I was in school either and obviously I still didn’t. I told them that they didn’t have to do the assigned homework and that I’d leave a note for their teacher to re-do the lesson when she came back tomorrow.

We ALL breathed a collective sigh of relief with this solution.

I haven’t heard back from the teacher yet…….

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Five Year Old Develops Teleportation Technology….

Since the job assignments from the two nearest districts seemed to have fallen off since the first of the year, I accepted this south county Kindergarten assignment of 18 kids.

This is only the fourth time I’ve subbed in this district since I started last Sept.

The usual assignment reporting time is 30 minutes before the students are supposed to show up. This, supposedly, gives the substitute teacher time to get situated with the room and go over the lesson plan before the kids show up.

So I was surprised that at my assigned 07:15am arrival time that the lesson plans stated “The kids will wander in from 07:20am until about 07:30"! And sure enough, before I had my coat off, the first two munchkins came stomping in the door. No prep time today!

One of the “big deal” activities of Kindergarten is “sharing day”. So it was no surprise when Rebecca walked in announcing that she had brought in a trophy and a 3” diameter silver medal on a red, white and blue ribbon to share.

After she shared her awards for dance with the class, I suggested she put the trophy and medal in her cubby box so it wouldn’t get broken during class. After some protesting, she complied and the class resumed.

A short while later, while reading them a story, I look over to see that Rebecca and another kid aren’t listening but are having a “tug-o-war” with something.

It’s the trophy! I never saw when/how she had retrieved it from her cubby.

I took it and placed it on the teacher’s desk and told her that she could have it at the end of the day.

Some Kinders can REALLY give you some evil looks.

A short while later during another assignment, I look over and there is a red, white and blue ribbon streaming out both sides of Rebecca’s mouth. In response to my inquiry, Rebecca extracts the big, now slimy, silver medal from her mouth to announce that “My Mother said I have to keep it with me ALL DAY!”

Again, I had missed when she had gotten up to get the medal from her cubby. I assure her that it’s “ok” and I’ll keep it safe with the trophy.

Lifting the medal from her by the ribbon end, I placed it with the trophy on the teacher’s desk. I periodically check the rest of the period to make sure they haven’t disappeared.

We make it to lunch time when I send the kids off to eat. Rebecca exits the class sans medal and trophy.

I finish my lunch return to the class in time to greet “my returning kids” from lunch recess.

Rebecca walks in carrying the trophy AND wearing the medal around her neck!

My only explanation, at this point, is that NASA should recruit this kid for future assignment because apparently she has developed the Star Trek equivalent of a transporter machine!

...Either that or I’m getting too old and slow for these kids.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Two weeks into the New Year and I've had just 1.5 days of subbing work. This just ain't going to pay the bills...

Monday, January 10, 2005

Wakey, Wakey! Time To Start A New Day!….

The one thing about this job that I really hate is the early morning call.

I’m not talking about a luxurious 6:30am wakeup call.

It was this morning's jarring call at 05:30am that shattered my sleepy time and had me fumbling for the phone to hear about an assignment for this morning’s class of bi-lingual third graders that started at 08:10am.

I take down the information about the school and class location and try, without success, to get another hour of sleep before getting up at a half way decent hour.

After returning home from class, I found out that the other school district, that pays a little better, attempted to call me twice that morning after I had already gone. One automated call and once personally by the office manager looking for someone to fill an assignment.

I’m beginning to suspect that the REALLY early morning call by the first district is a tactic similar to a preemptive strike to snag all available needed subs before the other districts can start filling their jobs.

It’s only a matter of time before the “losing districts” catch on and re-trigger their sub line to start calling EVEN EARLIER.

Will I even hear the phone ringing at 03:30am?

I hope not…….

Friday, January 07, 2005

Rainy Day Insecurities….

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 11:00pm 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 noon 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.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Feast or Famine….

The schools have been back in session a week now and there have been no calls from any of the districts for subbing. I guess it would be bad form for teachers to call in sick the first week after a two week vacation. ;)