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Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Most UN-Typical Day…

I’ve been laid up sick all this week so that’s why I’ve not been posting any personal subbing trauma. I thought I was getting better yesterday afternoon when I took an assignment for minimum day today. I had to cancel it later that afternoon when fits of coughing up pukey colored phlegm made the rebound.

This was the first time in four years I have had to call and cancel an assignment.

Last week I posted “A Typical Day” about how a typical subbing experience should go. I thought it might be interesting to do a very “un-typical day”. This day is derived from a compilation of all the “wrong” things that have happened over the last four years, compressed into one subbing assignment day.

1. Getting the assignment:

Because you weren’t sure if one district would keep you busy enough, you signed up to be a sub in three different districts. Smart thinking! But WHY do they always call at 05:30AM for a 08:00AM assignment? Why do I seem to be only getting calls from the same district? AND…Why is it the farthest commute (30mi) from my house?

We find out later in the school year that the district knows you are signed up for multiple districts and therefore they start calling earlier to make sure all THEIR assignments are filled before the other two get a chance to fill theirs.

2. Getting Ready:

Shower, shave, dress business causal and make sure I have some money to buy lunch.

Wait two more hrs till it’s time to leave for school.

3. Getting There:

I don’t need any maps I got the directions off the internet to get to today’s assignment. I arrive an hour early hoping that I can get in and set up with lots of time to spare before the kids arrive.

The school office is deserted and locked. It turns out that the secretary doesn’t get in for another 20 minutes, so I’m waiting in the car reading a book.

4. After Getting There:

The school secretary finally arrives and my hour lead time has been cut to 45minutes. I try to check in at J.F. Jones School and I’m told that they don’t have me listed for today. More checking and the mystery is solved.

I’m at the wrong school.

Elementary schools are usually named after some prominent politician or school functionary. This is how I end up at J.F. Jones School instead of K.R. Jones School. Who knew that Jones was such a common name and I don’t know the address of K.R. Jones School?

The secretary gives me a district map to K.R. Jones School. By the time I get there I’ve only got 15mins until the kids hit the door.

5. Get Data:

(I forget to check the teacher’s box for lesson plans and attendance sheet)

6. Locate Classroom:

I get the key and hoof it out to the farthest building from the office, to the classroom on the end.

Opening the door, I’m hit with (A: Blast of heat in height of summer or B: An icebox of a classroom in the dead of winter. Take your pick).

The Heating/Air system hasn’t worked for several months. The temperature controls are (A: stuck on or B: not working. Take your pick.)

There is no technician available today to fix it. Class starts in less than 10 minutes.

7. Locate Materials

I can’t locate the lesson plans or attendance sheet in the room. I remember that sometimes they are in the teacher’s box. Mad dash back to the office to find the box has only an attendance sheet.

I notify the secretary that I have no lesson plan and she calls the teacher at home: “I sent it via email to Ms. TeacherNextDoor to print out for him”

There is a sub in for Ms. TeacherNextDoor today so she didn’t get the email. The secretary promises a lesson plan shortly after the start of class.

8. Arrange Materials

Return to the classroom to find indignant teacher informing me that I had morning yard duty and because I didn’t show up for it, she had to cover the whole time for me.

Hurried explanations are all I have time for because half the kids lined up on the playground are already in class and I still have to find mine.

9. Board work

We’re finally in class and I attempt to write my name on the white board. I say attempt because all the “Dry Erase” markers are dry and unusable.

I rummage through the bins next to the overhead projector until I find a nice new black marker. I write my name and date on the board and turn around to questioning hand in the air.

Me: “Yes?”

Kid: “That’s the wrong kind of pen. You can’t erase that kind.”

Looking down, sure enough, it’s a black permanent Sharpie.

10. Attendance

Take attendance and stall for time until the lesson plans have been re-sent to the office secretary, printed and delivered.

“Time for Silent Reading (SSR)”

11. Teach

The plans finally arrive. It’s printed out in size 3 type size and barely readable. I notice that the morning duty has been crossed out, and the after school bus duty appended and written in red ink.

The kids are the worst in every way possible. A good third are on meds for ADD, ADHD, ADADAD and WAS. The others are just out of whack. One even has contagious “ringworm” and the school nurse won’t send him home.

By lunchtime, the room is a complete wreck and I seem to be missing four kids.

12. Lunch

I head for the teacher’s lounge for snack lunch of a candy bar and a diet cola.

To promote “Only Healthy Foods” on campus, the district mandated the removal of all vending machines. This includes the “Teachers Only Lounge”. No Diet Pepsi for me.

With my meager lunch money, I head for the school cafeteria to look over the bill of fare. I didn’t know that they could grow apples the size of golf balls, buy 3oz cartons of milk. Hot dogs, pizza slice or PB&J round out what defines a “Healthy Foods” lunch. Imagine, all that for only twice the price of what the kids pay.

It seems that the “kid’s lunch” is government subsidized while food for adults is not. I’m hungry, but not enough to fork over $4 for minuscule, disgusting food.

I resolve to have lunch “after school”.

13. Afternoon

I luck out. As indicated on the plan, today is one kid’s birthday and his Mom has dropped off cup cakes and juice boxes for all the kids plus a few extra. The four kids I lost earlier have made it back in time for “birthday food”.

There is even enough for the “Substitute Teacher” to hold him over till I can hit the “Healthy Food” McDonalds on the way home.

Today, I learn a valuable lesson. Delay all class parties involving food until recess or after school so ants won’t be attracted by the smeared, “healthy food” cupcake topping, ground into the classroom carpet.

14. Cleanup and Leave Report

The final bell rings and kids race out. I’m exhausted but my day isn’t over yet. Remember? I have “bus duty” that stretches my work day another ½ hour.

I leave a written report for the teacher to let her know how your day went. It was all bad.

I don’t feel like cleaning up the room. I make a half hearted attempt to erase my name in permanent marker from the board. Doesn’t work.

15. Exit the Building

Return the classroom key to the office, sign out, go home and notify the district that I don’t want to sub in their district anymore.

…There will be no next day!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Another Reason I Don't Do H.S.

I'm not sure what class this guy was supposed to be substituting, but clearly he's not in control...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Substitute Teacher Typical Day…

The StatCounter feature listed on this blog shows individual search strings that different search engines used to land here. Some of the search strings used to find this blog have been interesting to say the least.

A few days ago a search for “What is a typical day for a substitute teacher?” didn’t find the answers for one nervous guest teacher, so she emailed me with some basic questions. I now realize they might be useful for other prospective newbie substitute teachers. I only sub for elementary grades K-6th but I assume the basics are the same for Middle and H.S.

The major differences being you teach only one lesson to 5-6 H.S. classes instead of all the subjects to one elementary class. You also have to take attendance for each period.

This following information may or may not be in the “substitute handbook” you received when you applied for the job. It wasn’t in mine.

My Typical Day:

1) Getting the assignment:

The first year, almost all of my assignments were automated calls in the early morning. About 2-3 hrs (4:30-6:30AM) before the assignment, the phone will ring and request consent to take a class. As you get experience, teachers will pre-arrange assignments days and even weeks in advance. (I hate the early morning phone calls…)

2) Getting Ready:

Shower, shave, dress business causal and make a sack lunch. I take a sack lunch because the typical school “lunch hour” is exactly 40mins and there usually isn’t any time to go off campus to eat. Don’t even ask about buying the school cafeteria lunch. It’s too expensive and crappy quality.

3) Getting There:

Make sure you know how to get to the school before you leave home. I have a binder of MapQuest maps for all the elementary schools in the district. Your assigned arrival time is 30mins before the kids are due to enter your room. If you are a few minutes late, it’s no biggie. If you decide to get there too early you might find yourself waiting in the parking lot until the school secretary arrives.

4) After Getting There:

Check in with the school secretary. Some schools make you sign in before class; others insist you sign on the way out. Get your classroom key and room number. If this is the first time at this school, ask for a map with the location of the office and “your” room marked. Ask for directions to the restrooms, teachers lounge and teachers mail boxes. Use the restroom. You won’t have another opportunity until the first recess.

5) Get Data:

After stowing your lunch in the fridge, find “your teacher’s” mail box and check for an attendance list and/or lesson plans. If they aren’t here then they may already be in the classroom.

6) Locate Classroom:

Unlock door, turn on the lights and, if necessary, the A/C or heating system. I suggest leaving the door locked until you get settled. You don’t want kids running in/out dumping back packs or hanging around while you’re getting settled.

7) Locate Materials

Locate the lesson plans and attendance sheet if you haven’t already brought them over from the office. If you are lucky you might even have a seating chart. If not, this might be a great time to make a rough one using the table arrangements and name tags on the student desks if available.

8) Arrange Materials

Look over the lesson plan, locate all the books and handouts referenced. Might be a good idea to arrange them in the order used and open all books to pages referenced.

9) Board work

Write your name (or alias) with today’s date on the white board. If there is additional time, you might write the day’s agenda on the board from the lesson plan.

10) Go Get’em

When ready, go find where your class lines up. Sometimes it’s right outside the door most times it’s out in the playground. Once the bell rings take them to class and let them get unpacked and settled.

11) Attendance

Introduce yourself and wait until any morning announcements from the office are complete. Take the attendance and lunch count. If you don’t accomplish anything else for the day, you must have the attendance turned in. Most elementary schools here also want to know how many are buying lunch and include it on the daily attendance sheet. Ask the kids who gets to run the attendance over to the office. Different schools, classes have different procedures but the kids “know what to do…”

12) Teach

If you’re lucky, all you have to do is follow the lesson plan, take breaks during recess and lunch and have a great day.

If it isn’t a great day, vent online with your own blog…

13) Cleanup and Leave Report

When the final bell rings and kids are gone, leave a written report for the teacher to let her know how your day went. List anything on the plan that didn’t get done or that you didn’t think went well. Let her know about how her class was with you today. If you have notorious names, list them. If you had any exceptionally helpful kids, list them also. I’ve been told teachers don’t trust subs that write “everything was great” when they find out later it wasn’t.

If you feel up to it, clean the room. The teacher appreciates coming back to a clean room. I usually make the kids clean it up before I let them go home.

14) Exit the Building

Return the classroom key to the office, sign out and go home to relax.

…Until the next day!

(P.S. See attached comments for helpful tips for those in the upper grades that I don't do...)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Valentine’s Day…

Subbing on candy holidays isn’t high on my list of favorites.

Halloween and Valentine's Day are usually to be avoided at all costs. But since the schools are out all next week, I accepted this two day fifth grade assignment hoping for the best.

Could have gone better if:

  • …The lesson plan for math wasn’t titled “Valentine Candy Math”. The first instruction on the worksheet was “DON’T EAT THE CANDY HEARTS UNTIL YOUR TEACHER SAYS YOU CAN!!!” As suggested, I repeated this instruction to them even before they entered the classroom. The two page math worksheet had them sorting, listing statistics on number, color and graphing the contents of the box of “SweetHart Candies” on every kid’s desk
  • …They hadn’t had a class party the day before. They had seven (7) full size bags and assorted flavors of leftover chips that the teacher said to hand out at recess. She didn’t want them left in the classroom over the vacation due to previous problems with mice in the classroom.

Another math problem: Equally divide 7 different sized bags of chips by 32 kids. Can’t do it? Neither could I.

So, at recess time, I took all seven bags and lined them up outside the classroom door. My final instruction before opening the door to the impending stampede was: “Don’t return with any leftovers as they are not coming back into the classroom”.

I was sure the chips would have been devoured by recess end, but I was wrong. Four kids had somehow managed to hoard partial bags of “Flaming Hot Cheetos” and “Ranch Flavored Chips”.

As promised, I confiscated the remnant chips and, to the chorused horror of 32 fifth graders, scattered the hoarded remnants to the seagulls patrolling over head.

Problem solved…

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Poke Yer Mom…

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.

Friday, February 08, 2008


This "video" is audio only but listen to this teacher's next day address. I'd like to think that something like this happens every time they give me a rough time...

Ahhh...The smell of "auditory" napalm in the morning....

(Update: Looks like the kid that recorded and uploaded this had second thoughts as it's now been deleted from YouTube. I guess she/he realized that the teacher might figure out who posted it and cause more grief than they were willing to deal with...Smart kid)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Minimum Day, No Way…

Thursdays are “minimum day” in this district. Substituting on a “Thursday” means a full day’s pay for about half a day’s work. Teachers cherish “Thursdays” almost as much as a regular school holiday.

It’s no wonder that substitutes don’t get many calls to work on “Thursdays”.

This morning’s automated call at 06:00am was as unusual as well as it was unexpected. After hearing the assignment, I knew why it was being shopped around.

The assignment was for the worst school in the district where I’ve had problems in the past. It’s also the only school currently on my boycott list.

It was for SDC (Special Day Class) -- in the worst school in the district. (Did I mention that already?)

It was for a two day (Thur/Fri) assignment -- in the worst school in the district.

After what I had experienced, it was a no brainer decision to decline. It was also no surprise that the automated system called ninety minutes later (15mins before the class started) to “offer” it again, as no other substitute in the district wanted to take it either.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Carnival of Education Hits Town...

Can't afford tickets to Cirque du Soleil? Then drive on over to the "Carnival of Education" this week hosted by ringmaster "The Colussus of Rhodey"

The tickets are free and you might pick up some helpful education tips

Monday, February 04, 2008

Earthquake Just Now...

10:39PM PST San Jose ,Calif

An earthquake just rolled through here about a minute ago.
I'm guessing 3.3

After a well deserved day off, I'm back in 6th grade bright and early tomorrow

Friday, February 01, 2008

How to Clean a Classroom…

(Disclaimer: all names changed to protect my derriere in case any parent recognizes their own demon spawn)

I had a pretty tough fourth grade class today. I knew it might be like that from the first minute I entered the classroom before the kids got there.

You can usually tell by the number of isolated desks placed away from the various normal kid “table groups”.

A desk sitting off by itself at the front of the room facing the whiteboard, a desk placed right next to the teacher podium, a back corner near the coat rack, or one off to the extreme one side usually means a troublemaker that needs isolation and constant attention during the day.

This classroom had four.

It could have used a few more, but there wasn’t enough remaining real estate to accommodate any more. I spent 70% of my time riding herd on six individuals while the other twenty-five at least pretended to work.

I don’t know how many times today, I stopped the class to:

…Instruct little Emerald, when she wasn’t wandering room, to not shove paperclips up her nose so as not to pop an eye out.

…Remove the scissors from lil’ Spawn who spent considerable class time making confetti out of his test papers, making small crayon shards from large ones or hiding under the desk when my back was turned.

…Have Brainless moved to sit on the floor facing the sink for shouting out “POOP!” several times during the reading lesson.

…Prefix every question from Darn-yell to ask: “Is the question you want to ask about the subject we’re currently talking about?” This is because she constantly wants attention by raising her hand to tattle, whine, complain or simply ask inane questions not relevant to anything class related.

…and several more examples I’d like just like to purge from my memory.

It’s nearing the end of the day and I’m mentally spent. The room is trashed with garbage on the floor and my mood almost homicidal.

I don’t want to spend any more time in this classroom than necessary but I also don’t want to leave it the garbage pit the kids generated today, so I had an idea.

I make the following announcement: “We’re done a little early today, so I think I’ll let you go out 20 minutes before the bell”

(The kids cheer!)

“But the only way I can do this is if the class is cleaned up. Everything that doesn’t belong on the floor needs to be picked up, put away or tossed in the trash. When it’s all done, everyone can go. If not we stay till the bell. It’s your choice!” as I walk back and stand in front of the door.

The kids pick up a token amount of trash and line up at the door: “Can we go now?” I look around and simply point to some trash I can see from where I’m standing: “No”

Someone picks up the item, I was pointing at: “Can we go now?”

I look and point to some more garbage while explaining: “Even if it’s not your garbage, it needs to be picked up or no one leaves for early free time!”

Now they’re getting the idea. Hoards of kids are now furiously combing the carpet with rulers scraping up bits of paper, crayon, paper clips and staples being painfully aware that 10 precious minutes of “free time” have already passed.

They are back in line: “How about now?”

It’s actually acceptable at this point, but I don’t relent. I spot a white dot about ½ the size of a spit wad and point.

“OH MAN! You gotta be kidding!!”, but there is a new flurry of activity knowing that time is slipping minute by minute.

Now they’re back and I’m finally ready to let them go.

Opening the door, “Ok, you can go…”

…just as the dismissal bell rings