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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Dad Wants To Talk To You…

The assignment was a 5th grade class at the same “Not Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” elementary school. I was cautioned by their teacher that her kids are really “sweet” but can be difficult in a lack of attention and laziness kind of way.

In reality, they were easy to get along with and responded when I wanted the noise levels to be toned down a bit. This was a much better experience than the 2nd graders earlier in the week. The only howls of protest came at the end of the day when I listed the homework on the whiteboard before dismissal.

-- Reading: 20 minutes

-- Math: one page with maybe 10-15 problems left (we did the first 5 in class) dealing with improper fractions.

-- Any unfinished class work.

Kids: “…But, but, but…teacher promised that we’d NEVER have more than six math problems for homework!…EVER!!”

After checking the lesson plan to make sure I hadn’t misread the homework section for math, I informed them that I had my orders. It didn’t include any restrictions or references to any promises of homework limitations.

After locking up, returning the key to the office and on my way out to the teachers lounge for one last “restroom break”, a voice called “MR. HOMEWORK!” from one huge SUV in the parking lot.

I gave the usual customary wave and smile as I continued to my urgent appointment in the men’s room.


My urgent restroom break just became more urgent.

Because of the nomadic nature of a substitute teacher, I rarely have any encounters with parents of the kids I see during the day. Even then, it’s mostly dealing with delivery of birthday cup cakes, “Hi, How are ya!” introductions before school or notes to be delivered to the regular teacher tomorrow. Never a “My dad wants to talk to YOU!” encounter.

The guy behind the wheel is HUGE! Sleeveless shirt, tattooed from the shoulder to the wrist on both arms, shaved bald and Fu-Manchu mustache. He didn’t look like a guy I wanted teed off at me, so I resisted the urge to run. Instead I approached the passenger side door and informed “Killer” that I wasn’t Junior’s teacher and that she’d be back tomorrow if he needed to talk to her.

Killer politely said that he, indeed, wanted to talk to me if I had 10 to 15 minutes to spare. He suggested that we could go to the classroom and have a chat if I didn’t need to leave right away.

I bought some time by agreeing to meet with him and his kid in the cafeteria after I finished some business in the teachers lounge. I didn’t elaborate about what kind of “business” that had suddenly become extremely urgent.

I spent the next several minutes trying, among other things, to figure just what Junior told his dad that would warrant the pulverizing of an underpaid substitute teacher. I came up empty so I exited the teacher’s lounge to find the duo resting in the shade of a campus tree.

Instead of the closed classroom (with potential lack of witnesses), I suggested the cafeteria where after school homework session was in full swing.

At a table near the back and away from most of the noise, I re-introduced myself to Killer with my real name instead of “Mr. Homework” and asked what the problem was.

Killer told me his son didn’t understand about some of the homework and he (Junior) wanted some clarification.

“Go ahead, Junior. Ask the man!”

Junior: Ms. Teacher PROMISED that we wouldn’t have any more than six math problems for homework.

Me: So, you’re questioning the “amount” of math homework and not how to do it? Your teacher is the one that listed on the lesson plan what the homework was. If you have a problem with the amount you need to talk with your teacher tomorrow.

KILLER: (to Junior) What? I don’t care about the amount. You told me you didn’t understand!

Junior: Well, I don’t understand it either.
Me: Ok, show me the math page.

He removes from the backpack the math page worksheet on improper fractions. The first five problems we did in class are still blank on his.

Me: Well, do you remember that we did these first five in class? I don’t see anything done here.
Junior: I don’t understand it.

Killer asks me if I could go over a couple of the ones we did in class again with Junior.

After being tagged teamed between me and his dad, Junior works his way through the first three. Killer is satisfied that he can do the rest at home.

Me: Ok, is that all?
Junior: I didn’t understand the grammar (identifying declarative .vs. imperative sentences) worksheet either.
Me: Show me!

Again, Junior removes from the backpack the grammar worksheet and again it’s completely blank.

Me: We went over this in class. We even did the first five as examples. All you had to do was write a “D” next to the “declarative” sentences, an “I” next to the “imperative” sentences and identify the subject of the sentences. Remember?

Junior: (no response).
Me: Let’s go over the first few again.

After the first three examples, Junior concedes that he can finish the rest of the worksheet. Killer, looking on, agrees. Killer thanks me for my time with his kid and had Junior shake my hand as I head to my car alive and un-bruised.

I’m not sure if I violated some school district rule about outside contact with parents and students but I did let the teacher know that it did happen just to cover the bases.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not Mister Rogers' Neighborhood…

In four years of subbing, I’ve subbed at this school on only three previous occasions. It’s one of the farthest schools in the district from my house. It’s considered one of the more, let’s just say, “troubled” areas of town.

Mister Rogers' neighborhood it’s not. This impression was reinforced in yesterday’s 2nd grade class. The assignment was a Social Studies lesson on the differences between a neighborhood, community and a town.

Suggestion Example: A “neighborhood” is made of families who live next door (neighbors), in the same apartment building, on the same street, or send their kids to the same school. People in the “neighborhood” might get to know each other by having 4th of July BBQ’s, neighborhood cleanup days, football parties or back to school night at the local school.

Prompt: “Ask the kids about activities that happen in their neighborhood”

Here’s the short list, before I cut them off, of some neighborhood “activities” that they experience in their neighborhood: car accidents, robbery, fire in the back yard (arson), stolen car (multiple), car break-ins, car vandalism, car fire (intentional) and two murders.

I tried to steer them back to examples of “positive” activities, but no one came up with anything other than one birthday party “bounce house” that some uninvited neighborhood kids asked to play in.

(This was also one of the toughest assignments, behavior wise, I’ve had in a long time.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Drought Then Flood...

My 5th season substitute teaching started mid-August. My average subbing assignment schedule usually runs two or three days a week during the school year. I’m happy with that frequency as it gives me some down time if I happen to get clotheslined with one or two of those unexpected difficult assignments in a single week.

So it was with some apprehension when the first three weeks went by with absolutely no calls. I was starting to wonder if I was even on the subbing list.

I don’t have to wonder anymore. The subbing drought ended with the first call late last week that resulted in a flood of five consecutive assignments starting Sept/12.

The first random call was for a school I rarely get assignments. Three days for 2nd graders. At lunch in the teachers lounge the first day, a 5th grade teacher asked if I was available for her class on Wed this week. Today, also in the teachers lounge, another 2nd grade teacher who knew I was subbing next door asked if I was available for Friday, also this week.

There are two schools of thought about substitutes in the teacher’s lounge. Some subs feel the atmosphere is basically hostile to subs and will eat in the classroom or the car to avoid uncomfortable situations. I have the opposite view. It’s a great place to meet and greet teachers for potential future assignments.

But enough is enough for this week. I want Thursday off so I might be eating my lunch in the car tomorrow.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Substitute Teacher Report...

...and I have nothing to report.

We are starting the 3rd week of school already and it's all quiet on the subbing front. By this time last year I was almost too busy.

Anyway, the blog has been getting several hits with query's for "substitute teacher report" so I thought I'd oblige by posting a copy of the report I use for elementary school classes.

Anyone is free to steal, copy, edit, adapt, adjust, duplicate, replicate or photocopy mine for their own use.

Click image for larger view:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The New Profanity...

The second week of school hasn’t offered any substitute assignments so we went to the mid-day, discount ($6/ea) movies yesterday. It’s almost like having your own private theater room. There were only 10 people attending. Very nice. The only downside is that I can’t pause the movie for a potty break.

It’s not unusual to find graffiti in public restrooms offering various “services”, “art” and “news” written with sharpie pens or carved onto restroom walls.

I’m not sure when it started but restroom profanity seems to be posted by the less gifted.

“Four letter words” are now being shortened to three, mostly by eliminating the letter “C”. I suspect that the letter “K” also might be on the way out to reduce the time required to get your message across.

It’s probably an easy supposition that this development can be traced directly to cell phone text messaging and internet chat room acronyms. But I think that the trend in not highlighting spelling errors in favor of phonetic spelling in school as part of the creative writing process might be partially to blame.

Well, time 2 zip an get bak b4 I mis 2 mch of da moo-v “De Drk Nite”.