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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's Only January...

Subbing 5th graders on Tuesday, I pretty much listed all the boys in the class as disruptive. Each trying to out “goof-ball” each other to see who would win the #1 slacker award for the day.

By contrast, today’s 5th grade class (different school) had only one goof-ball. Not a boy but a cute, petite girl with a huge bubbly personality but zero work ethic and no sense of “personal space”.

Constantly out of her seat and wandering the room visiting friends whenever my back was turned. The final straw was when I caught her sneaking around with scissors in hand trying to snip off part of another girls pony tail.

“You’re gonna write my name down aren’t you...”, she said as I confiscated the scissors before any serious damage occurred. “You got it, kid”, writing her up and checking the clock to see how much more time until the final bell.

Maybe tomorrow will be better at yet another school, but with different 5th graders.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Taking Advantage…

Subs are not paid an hourly rate. Instead, we are paid a flat “full day” or “half day” rate. Anything less than four hours is paid at ½ the full daily rate.

A normal working school day is something like 6½ to 7 hours. My full day starts ½ hour before the kids hit the door and “officially” ends at the final bell.

Unofficially my day continues “until all necessary work is completed”. This could mean extending for bus or parking lot duty after school until all the kids are gone.

Every Thursday, in the district I work for, is “minimum day”. The school day is about 1hr shorter than the normal school day. The school day ends pretty much at the end of the lunch period. Subbing on minimum days is a bonus in that we are paid the full day rate for about 5hrs work. For obvious reasons, teachers are reluctant use a discretionary “sub day” on Thursdays.

So when sub line called on Monday for one of those rare “minimum day Thursdays”, I was ready to book it.

That was until I heard that the indicated start time was 1 hour after the normal start of school. The teacher’s appended recorded message told the story:

“I will be in the classroom for the first hour. Since this is a minimum day, this will be only a half day assignment. If you could come in a few minutes early, I need you to run some copies that you will need for the class. You also have recess and after school bus duty. Thanks for covering!”

Her translation:
“I can get most of the day off by working only 1hr in the morning and save myself a ½ a discretionary sub day for later”

My translation:
“I get screwed out of full day’s pay by an hour AND she wants me to come in early!”

I passed on the assignment just on principal.

There might be some newly minted sub that is just waiting for that first call and would gladly snap it up. I hope not.

I was bit bemused to get the automated call for this same assignment the next day. It seems the no one in the substitute pool took the bait on the first pass and it was cycling around again for a second try.

As I turned it down for the 2nd time, I wondered how it would all turn out. Would she give in and re-list it as a proper “full sub day” or would she give up, go to work and save it for another time?

No one likes to be taken advantage of.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Are You Weirder Than a 5th Grader?

I sometimes get weird questions and comments from students in the classes I sub.

Usual questions and comments:
  • How old are you?
  • You’re funny!
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have kids?
  • Is your wife a sub too?

Weird questions and comments:
  • Can I touch your head?

That last comment was made by a 5th grader while in the company of her regular teacher, no less. A baleful look from me and a “WHAT DID YOU SAY?” from her teacher ended that discussion.

What’s the weirdest question or comment you’ve ever heard from a 10yr old non-family member?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wired For Sound…

From part of the email I received from the teacher for this 5th grade class last week:

“…I am planning to head in early to work tomorrow morning for lesson plans for you. I just wanted to give you a little back ground of some of my kids…

…J has hearing aids but does not like to discuss it in front of the class. I normally wear an ear piece/mic that feeds into her hearing aid, however having strep throat I am not going to have you wear it. She is really good at reading lips. Her hearing loss is mild but do not get mad at her if you think she is not listening. When talking to her, just make sure you have eye contact and you’re not talking to her back.”

When I came in the next morning, I saw the ear piece/mic on the desk. It was a single over the ear, flesh colored, straw mic that you sometimes see worn by actors and singers in stage performances. Connected to a separate, small battery control pack it didn’t look like much. But, what a fantastic use in the classroom for a kid with hearing problems!

I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to use it but not disappointed enough to risk getting strep throat. J did just fine in class. I did have to remind myself, at times, to look in her direction when giving instruction and reading. It was the other times that “being wired for sound” might have been a distinct disadvantage.

Just how sensitive is that mic? What is its range? You have to be extra careful in what you say when you think no one can hear you.

I asked a few questions about the sensitivity and range of the technology at lunch in the teachers lounge. One of the aides told me that the teacher was in the classroom during recess one day and was wondering much the same thing. She saw J leaning against a tree on the lawn.

Through a closed classroom door and in a calm voice she said: “J, can you hear me?” and watched as J turned around and waved at her from about 100ft away.

So…when Robert emptied the contents of another kids desk on the floor when I was in the classroom, did I use an inaudible expletive before I unloaded on him or did I just think it? Would I have forgotten to take the mic off before going to the teachers lounge for lunch or used the bathroom?

All good things to think about the next time I’m in this classroom and wired for sound…

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Shoe for a Pencil…

“I can’t find my pencil! I lost my pencil! My pencil is broken! Someone took it!...etc”

The litany of the mysterious disappearing pencil is endless. I haven’t been in a classroom yet where there wasn’t at least one person standing at my desk begging me so solve his/her shortage of pencils problem.

Some classrooms have a stash of new or used pencils for loan. Some substitutes bring extra pens and pencils to lend for such occasions.

…I don’t.

Even if the teacher has a stash for loan, I don’t hand them out for free.

Kid: Can I borrow a pencil?
Me: Sure, ask one of the other kids to lend you one.

Kid: No one else has any. Can I borrow one of the teachers’ pencils?
Me: Sure, give me one of your shoes.

Kid: What?
Me: That’s the deal, a shoe for a pencil. When I get the pencil back, you get your shoe back.

That’s how I ended up with four, single shoes under my desk today in 4th grade. There would have been more but the others decide to redouble their efforts in locating a writing implement in the dark recesses of their own desk or the kindness of a kid with a surplus of leadware.

Now before you think I’m mean (…or brilliant depending on your viewpoint), let me explain that this idea isn’t original. Some teachers have hoards of new and used pencils that kids can use without limit. Some schools have pencil vending machines where you can buy one for a quarter. Some teachers use pencils as bribes for correct behavior and rewards.

A 6th grade teacher I worked for a couple of years ago explained that she felt the kids were taking advantage of her generosity with the new pencils so she started “lending” them out only in exchange for one of their shoes. She noticed right away a decrease in requests. A side affect is that it also cuts down on unnecessary interruptions during class time.

Obviously, I believe this woman is brilliant!

4th grade bonus joke of the day:

Q: What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?
A: Nacho Cheese!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Happy New 2nd Half School Year!

After three weeks of holiday break, it’s time to get back to school. I got a call today to be in class Tuesday Jan/5.

Back to school joke:

One day a mother tries to wake her son up by saying: “Get up! You’re going to be late for school!” Her son says that he doesn’t want to go to school.

His mother then asks him to give two reasons for him not wanting to go to school.

Son replies: “Number one, it’s too early in the morning and number two, I don’t like school”.

The son then asks his mother for two reasons why he SHOULD go to school.

Mom replies: “Firstly because you are 52 years old and secondly you are the principal of the school.”