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Friday, September 30, 2005

The Big Giant Lesson Plan…


The main tool I need as a substitute teacher, is a good lesson plan from the teacher. It is my security blanket. I usually carry it around with me or stick it in my pocket for reference. I experience mild sensations of panic if I put it down somewhere and forget where it is.

I NEED that plan.

I have noted in past posts instances of less than ideal plans. I’ve encountered the range of plan formats that include professional word processed plans, handwritten plans, no lesson plan, Post-It Note lesson plans, 2nd hand plans, bad lesson plans, private lingo plan, minimal lesson plan, the audio lesson plan, and "things I can't do" plan.

So you can imagine my amazement, or should I say dismay-zment, when I walked into this 4th grade classroom to confront the BIG GIANT lesson plan. Written on, not one, but TWO 3’x2’ sheets of chart paper. TWELVE SQUARE FEET of lesson plan.

While I’m just gawking at the gargantuan plan, the teacher next door drops in and greets me with. “How’s it going?” I just point at the deceased tree of a plan with a few mumbled words about “...just reviewing the lesson plan”. She looks to where my quivering finger is pointing and her single comment is “Oh My!”

I, of course, cannot carry this thing around all day. I could, possibility, use it as a sail for a small boat, but anything else is just useless.

So I take the next 15 minutes of my prep time to transcribe the BIG GIANT PLAN onto a single manageable sheet of note paper.

I thought about leaving her a BIG GIANT DAILY SUBSTITUTE TEACHER REPORT, but I just didn’t have the energy to write that big.

Maybe I should have left it on a Post-It Note?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sexual Harassment, Fight, Fight, Fight…


Second graders are a trip. Fresh from graduating the 1st grade, these kids are still in the tattle tale stage. Everything from “She said a bad word!” to “Those boys were trying to look at my underpants!”

I called the two young punks up to the front of the class and gave them my best “evil eye” demanding an apology to the girl they were curious about. I wonder what Bill Clinton was like as a second grader. Is that how his reputation started?

Today we blew off an hour going to an assembly skit for the lower graders about being the new kid in school, dealing with bullies and smoking. The kids thought it was great but I thought it was even better when the actor asked the kids about “solution choices” when dealing with a bully.

The presented choices were:
1. Hide.
2. Fight.
3. Talk it out.

Bully Victim: “Should I hide?”
Kids: “Yea! Hide!”

Bully Victim: “Should I fight?”
Kids: (chanting) “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Bully Victim: “Or should I try and talk it out?”
Kids: (continue chanting) “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Bully Victim: “Don’t you think talking it out is better?”
Kids: (continue chanting) “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Bully Victim: “I donno, I think talking it out might be better. Don’t you?”
(At this point the kids must have realized that the skit wasn’t going anywhere until they responded correctly)
Kids: (quieter) “Yea, talk it out”.

Somehow “TALK IT OUT, TALK IT OUT, TALK IT OUT” just doesn’t seem to have the same mob quality rhythm as “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Thank God for P.E…


Teacher called in sick with a migraine. If I was stuck with a class like this 6th grade class every day, I’d have a permanent migraine too.

In addition to earning the distinction of being only the second class I’ve ever had reach the HOMEWORK anti-goal, they reached it in record time. By 10:00am, I was ready to quit and go home.

Despite three surprise visits from the principal of the school, and two separate lectures from same said principal, half this class had no desire to cooperate.

Best part of my day was the last hour P.E. where I could put a little physical distance between them and me.

I’m taking tomorrow off…

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bad News…


Well, my four day sub assignment ended after just two days. Not a real biggie. I guess the teacher got everything squared away at home and was ready to re-take control of her class. I just didn’t appreciate the way I got the news. A phone or email as late as Sunday night would have been acceptable, but not at 05:00am Monday morning.

If you live long enough, bad news will come your way. It’s a part of life and unavoidable. It’s just that sometimes the delivery method and/or timing could be managed to lessen the impact.

Some of the more memorable examples how I got “The Bad News!”

1. Promise a young college graduate all year long that a job is waiting for him after college graduation and then cancel that promise two weeks before the intended job start date and one week before his wedding and honeymoon.

2. Reassure your employee that the rumors are false about his job being outsourced overseas before he goes on vacation only get the news his job left while he was on vacation. The boss delivers the news via answering machine the weekend I get back from vacation. Luckily, he didn’t have my cell number or he would have tried to call me a week earlier in London so the termination dates could have been recorded a week earlier. Nice guy, eh?

3. Have an automated system call at 05:30am and wake me from a sound sleep to tell me that my 2-day substitute teaching assignment for day and tomorrow is cancelled. Couldn’t that piece of news waited for at least one more hour of peaceful slumber? I guess I should be grateful they didn’t call at 04:00am.

As it turned out, the other school district called later and I picked up a job for a 5th grade class starting at 10:00am. The only thing I lost today was a couple hours additional sleep.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Student Elections…


Day 2 of the 4 day subbing assignment finds the school in full Election Day swing. The kids had a morning assembly to hear the campaign speeches from about 60 candidates for five student council offices. Offices of President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and School Historian were all up for grabs.

Some of the expected unattainable campaign promises:
1. Candy apples for lunch!!
2. Open access to the school playground after hours and weekends!!
3. Less homework!!
4. More recess!!

-- AND --

5. Less THINKING!!

Yep. One candidate for President actually promised “Less Thinking”. This got a big laugh from all the teachers present for the assembly.

Either this kid has his tongue planted firmly in cheek or is impressively perceptive about the apparent intelligence of today’s average voter.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Kids Are Like Pizza…

Back to the same class I had last Wednesday.

I met with the teacher before class and she said she needed to be away for the next week or so and wanted to know if I could take her class for the next three school days. Her dad is sick and needs constant monitoring at home after the hospital.

“Sure” I said. The kids were great last time so I felt confidant that today and three more should be no problem.

When I went to pick them up for the start of class, I heard a chorus of “Hey look! It’s Mr. Homework”

I had, indeed, used my tried and proven method of classroom control last Wednesday, by adding letter by letter to the word “HOMEWORK” at each noise level event, the class remained fairly workable. Last Wednesday’s effort made it through the end of class without the issuing the final “K”, so awarding the threatened essay was averted.

By the end of today, I’m not as confident as I was at the beginning of the day. The frequency rate in accumulating letters to “HOMEWORK” has increased. While it IS the same class, they might be catching on to my “system”.

These kids are like pizza! It’s great the first time just out of the oven. The next day leftovers are still good, but not great. The third day, it’s just edible. The fourth day it’s time to throw out.

Hummm. Today was left over day. Tomorrow is the “just edible” day. That means Monday and Tuesday are …. Oh, damn!...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Passin’ On the Bug…

Monday: Cured and ready to go back to school. No calls.

Tuesday: Couldn’t take any sub today jobs because today the car seems to have contracted my flu bug. It’s stumbling, stuttering and cough like balking down the road. $600 bucks later, the car is well again. Now I’M feeling “poorly” again.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

L’ill Germ Bags Got Me…

No calls Thursday and sick on Friday. The little germ bags must have got to me at school somewhere. Hope to be feeling better for tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Standing Out…


As a sub, you go into a classroom not knowing what to expect from that morning’s group of kids. They don’t know you and you don’t know them.

It is only a small minority that stands out and then it’s usually for the wrong reasons. I know from my brief experience that the kids’ names I get to know quickly are those that give me the hardest time.

A smaller minority of kids stand out for the opposite reason. These are the kids that are the helpful, enthusiastic, active (in a good way) and are fun to have in class.

For the most part, the majority of the kids don’t particularly stand out because they don’t act out; they do their work quietly and fly mostly under my substitute teacher radar.

Today’s 5th grade class, as a whole, was great. No trouble makers. The lesson plan and materials were exactly right. No “stand outs” for the wrong reasons.

But there was this one kid....

She was smiley, bright eyed, quietly responsive, and was doing all the work. Bright-eyes was just like the rest of the “not standing out” kids.

The only thing I DID notice about her was a slightly odd speech “quality”. Not exactly a speech impediment or lisp, but something just vaguely off. It was certainly not odd enough to divert my attention in a school district where accents and native foreign languages are the norm more than the exception.

At the 5th grade P.E. period, I was exchanging pleasantries with one of the other 5th grade teachers, when Bright-Eyes walked by with a small group of friends. The teacher asked me how she was doing in my class. I responded that she and all the rest of the kids were doing great.

He then told me, “I’ll bet you didn’t notice that she is deaf.”

I must admit that I was kind of stunned speechless at that statement. The teacher told me that when her family emigrated to the U.S., the kids had received a slew of immunization shots before their visa could be approved. A reaction to the immunizations left both her and her brother deaf. The prognosis they were given is that it might be up to 5-10 years if and when they might regain their hearing.

I tried to remember how many times I had called on Bright-Eyes to answer some question or read a passage from a book assignment without noticing anything even hinting that she couldn’t hear me. She just didn’t stand out.

The only clue I had that I missed was her speech pattern that the non-signing, hearing impaired sometimes have.

When I asked how she manages in class, the teacher explained that she can read lips, and watches for visual cues from the kids around her to figure out which books and the pages she needs to be on to do her work.

After P.E., and for the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but be amazed how this girl functioned in class. I now noticed that she was constantly in tune with the other girls at her desk. Quick glances at what papers and books she needed were very subtle. During reading when Bright-Eyes was called on, the girl next to her gave her elbow a nudge and pointed in the book the passage she was supposed to read and off she went without a hitch.

After the kids have left for the day, I had to correct a “capitalization exam” the kids had taken earlier that morning. Twenty-five mal-formed sentences in all lower case. Of the 23 exams I corrected, only one near the bottom of the pile, had no errors.

It was Bright-Eyes, the most “Out Standing” kid I have met so far.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005



I checked in at the school for this 4th grade assignment. I was assured that the attendance sheet was already in the room. The teachers’ desk had the lesson plan and two thirds of the books and work sheets to be done for the day but no attendance sheet. A trip back to the office and a repeat check of her box didn’t produce the missing attendance list.

I’m running out of time as the kids are due through the door in about 10 minutes and I still haven’t found the other third of the material I need or that damned attendance list. So it’s hide-n-seek time.

I start at the classroom door and hunt on every exposed table top, filing cabinet and finally found the attendance sheet on the overhead projector stand. I found what looked like the other third of the teaching materials on a low table under the map of the world.

With the newly found work pile there was also a second stack of math tests completely different in content and difficulty from the stack piled under the lesson plan.

Now I have to give a math test not knowing which one to give when the time comes.

I’m starting to feel like a contestant in a game called “Let’s punk the sub!” I asked a couple of the more reliable girls which math test looked correct when it came time for the math test.

If it was wrong, it’s not my fault. Bad planning on teachers end results in marginal quality on mine.

Friday, September 09, 2005

What Time Is Lunch?…


The detailed three page lesson plan for this 2nd grade class assignment was clear, concise and complete. The required materials were labeled and arrayed in order of use on a desk in the corner of the room. I couldn’t ask for a better start.

Then the kids came in.

No one in this class can seem to ask a question unless their nose is planted squarely in my face.

ME: “Ok! RULE for today! You have sit down and raise your hand to ask a question.”

I think I repeated this phrase ten thousand times that morning and still there would be a tug on my [shirt/pant leg/hand/arm]: “[Where/what/when/how/why/can] I [read/ write/ get/ put/ have] [that/ this/ he/ she/ it/ them]?”

Each time I’d look the little yanker kid (YK) in the eye and ask: “Are you in your seat with hand raised”?

YK: “Oh…I forgot.” And back to his/her seat they go.
(Repeat this scene all morning…)

Finally, during the math work sheet, a hand is raised! The little YK is IN her seat!

Praising the little YK for being seated and quietly raining her hand, I smilingly ask: “Now what question do you have?”

YK: “What time is lunch?”

ME: Eyes closed, rubbing forehead with thumb and index finger. “Ok. Listen up. New rule! You have sit down and raise your hand to ask a question AND the question has to be about the work we are doing NOW!”

The rest of the day we worked on the “…work we are doing NOW!” with not much progress.

Class behavior report:
Four boys earn first level warning cards for acting up in class.
One boy earns a second level timeout after throwing a fit about getting a warning card.

Injury report:
“Throwing Fit” kid fakes fall and points to elbow claiming to need a cold pack from the health office. He becomes indignant and starts to cry when request is refused. Somewhat mollified when supplied wet paper towel.

Oh Damn! report:
Kid waits too long to ask permission to go to the bathroom. We have leakage. Janitors do “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to do choose who gets damage control.

The lesson plans were great but execution of the plan not so smooth.

I’m taking Monday off…

Thursday, September 08, 2005

First Call For This Week...


First call of the week came for a late morning half day for a 6th grade class. The moderately noisy thirty-four kids got really into keeping it down after I related the story of a 5th grade class that got the HOMEWORK assignment I handed out last year.

They were impressed enough to behave the rest of the day. I think I found a new classroom behavior tool.

It was an easy day. Lesson plan indicated that they had work already assigned and no instruction from me was needed except to answer questions. Lunch, PE and recess pretty much took up most of my half day.

I had only one kid try to scam me. She asked to go to the bathroom OR get a drink of water? I guess she thought that by throwing out a bunch of options, one might actually get granted. I’m guessing she’ll get better at the game as the year progresses.

I got a call for a full day 2nd grade tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

English As She Is Spoke…

No calls for today after the long three day Labor Day weekend.

Surfing the net did uncover this hilarious gem of literature. “English As She Is Spoke” or EASIS for short is without question the worst phrasebook ever written. Click the link and read it aloud for the full effect.

Excerpt from: Anecdotes

A man one's was presented at a magistrate which had a considerable library. "What you make?" beg him the magistrate. "I do some books," he was answered. "But any of your books I did not seen its.--I believe it so, was answered the author; I mak nothign for Paris. From a of my works is imprinted, I send the edition for America; I don't compose what to colonies."

Excerpt from: Familiar Phrases

These apricots and these peaches make me and to come water in the mouth.

Excerpt from: Idiotisms and Proverbs

Take out the live coals with the hand of the cat.
A horse baared don't look him the tooth.
Take the occasion for the hairs.
To do a wink to some body.
So many go the jar to spring, than at last rest there.

Excerpt from: Familiar Dialogue With a Bookseller

What is there in new's litterature?
Little or almost nothing, it not appears any thing of note.
And yet one imprint many deal.
But why, you and another book seller, you does not to imprint some good wooks?
There is a reason for that, it is that you cannot to sell its. The actual-liking of the public is depraved they does not read who for to amuse one's self ant but to instruct one's.
But the letter's men who cultivate the arts and the sciences they can't to pass without the books.
A little learneds are happies enough for to may to satisfy their fancies on the literature.
I have only been able to procure the octo-decimo edition, which is embellished with plates beautifully coloured.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Back Story…

Last Tuesday’s 1st grade lesson plan included reading "Substitute Teacher Plans" to the kids.

From the Amazon review section:

“…A too-tired teacher takes a personal day after carefully making plans for her substitute and the class, and for herself during her time off. In her weariness, Miss Huff inadvertently reverses the activities lists, to everyone's delight. As the children and the sub go off to ride a roller coaster, skydive, build a huge sand castle, and so on, the teacher happily settles down to read, write, practice math by paying her bills, etc. … When Miss Huff returns the following day, she finds a thank-you note from her stand-in. The principal arrives asking for an explanation and is promptly invited to join Miss Huff and her class to take acrobatic flight training…”

Now the kids really liked it and all bought the story line but I think the there are some serious questions to be answered here:

Item 1: Miss Huff CLAIMS to be too tired, yet she was planning to ride roller coasters, do skydiving, skiing, scuba diving, visit the circus AND build sand castles at the beach. ALL IN ONE DAY! Does this sound like a “too tired” teacher to you? I think not!

Item 2: Miss Huff mixes up the lists and yet doesn’t realize it the entire day. Is Miss Huff in that much of a chemical fog that she “forgot” all that fun stuff? Me thinks she’s been “huffing” the glue sticks a bit much.

Item 3: Amazingly Miss Huff’s sub, Mrs. Martin, doesn’t even question her very odd lesson plan for teaching the kids. She just calls the office to get an instantly available school bus to cart 20 kids off campus without even ONE permission slip!

Item 4: Just where does Mrs. Martin GET all the MONEY for tickets to the circus, scuba diving rental, sky diving lessons and lift tickets to ski for 20 kids? Substitute teacher’s pay rate? School has loads of extra cash? A mystery it is!

Item 5: When the principal Mr. Johnson confronts Miss Huff and Mrs. Martin the next day, do they get the bums rush out the door? NO! Miss Huff arranges for her class AND Principal Johnson to go take acrobatic flight training!

Clearly these people are all in cahoots, embezzling school district funds to cover for a deranged teacher, an underpaid substitute teacher and an unscrupulous principal who may or may not have lecherous intentions toward his favorite chemically dependent 1st grade teacher.

Now where’s that number for “60 Minutes”…