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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Being Flexible…

Friday was the last day of a three day, pre-arranged assignment for a teacher I really like in a class I really like. The first two days it was actually fun to be there. The teacher had laid out detailed plans with books and materials logically arranged. Since I was to be there for three consecutive days, I even had the advantage of reviewing the next day’s plan before I left the classroom.

Friday, I arrived for my last day of this assignment to a school office in chaos. Thirty percent (10) of the teachers were out and they were scrambling to find subs to fill the last minute sick calls. I was SO glad I already had a class that I knew I was prepared for, a class I knew I wouldn’t have any problems with and that was “fun” to be with.

That was before the principal tracked me down while I was on morning yard duty.

“We’re having problems lining up enough subs for all the teachers that are out today. I’m trying to shift people around and I need you to sub for Ms. N in 6th today. I’ll cover your 5th grade class for the first hour until the sub I lined up for your class gets here.”

My questioning look must have conveyed my wounded confusion.

If you have a sub coming in an hour late and you are going to cover the first hour why does that involve me moving from a great 5th grade class to a 6th grade class where I know there are no plans, is a class known to be the same or worse than the one I previously described as the “day I quit” while she gets MY primo class?

As explained by prince, this sub normally only works K-3rd graders and was reluctant to agree to work with 6th graders. In desperation the prince promised he’d arrange it so she would not have to deal with “big scary kids”.

His solution was to give ME the “big scary kids” and hand over my fun class because: “You’re a guy and I know you can handle them”. As it turned out “handle” is a synonym for “survive”.

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be flexible…

Update: 03/31/2010

I was at the school and met with the teacher of my aborted three day assignment. She related that the Friday I was switched to 6th, her kids had the school psychologist for the first part of the morning, a sub for the rest of the morning and a different sub for the afternoon! She described her kids’ reactions of that day as “disorienting” at best.

In reality, I thought the school psychologist should have taken my 6th graders for the whole day. She probably could have written a couple of books on “abhorrent childhood behavior” from that one experience alone.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Day I Quit…

It happened to me last week in a 6th grade class. I’ve worked with this class before when they were 4th and 5th graders. Nothing has changed. If anything it’s gotten even worse.

This class behaves as if every school day is a party day. That’s not to say that everyone in the class behaves this way, but when a good 80% of the class is in full time party mode, the other 20% disappear in the chaos.

After several attempts to get them into the mysteries of bar graphs and histograms for the math lesson, I gave up.

“I see we aren’t going to get much done today so…the text book page for today’s Math is on page 221. Read it yourself and figure it out on your own. The homework assignment is on the board. If anyone has any questions, you can come to the back of the room where I’ll help those who are motivated to do so. I’ll let your teacher know that she’ll probably have to repeat this lesson tomorrow since it isn’t happening today.”

With that, I went back to the teacher’s desk in the back of the room and sat down…waiting to see what affect that had on the class. None!

Not one student came to the back for questions or help. In detailing the events of the day for the teacher to review, I included a note that she would probably have to redo most of the day’s lessons.

“Sorry I couldn’t do a better job for you” was my closing line on the end of day report.

I met the teacher in the teacher’s lounge a couple of days later. She apologized to me for her class and said they are like that for her also and it’s not just an act they put on for subs.

In asking why the school hasn’t tried to break up this group into different classes, she told me that ALL the 6th grade classes are like hers if not worse.

At least I can take a day off after an experience like that. The teacher isn’t so fortunate.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Having students “read out loud” is sometimes very painful.

Readers that are painfully slow as they try to decipher words that they should know by 5th and 6th grade, painfully hard to listen to as they mutter monotone throughout the section or read machine-gunned words nonstop with no consideration for punctuation marks or spaces between words.

“Here’s a tip!” I suggested to one machinegun boy, “When you come to a period or question mark, take a breath before continuing. All that got me was exaggerated inhale-exhale sound effects at the end of every sentence to the amusement of the rest of the class.

At least I know he’s reading!

When time starts getting tight and I know they have a worksheet or practice book page to complete for the reading session, I’ll sometimes take over the reading and let them follow along.

In reading an essay about Alaska’s grizzly bears, I was attempting to cover the last three pages of the story to allow them time to complete the associated practice book page.

“….in the Unites States…( “LOWER Unites States!” interrupted the buzz cut kid on my left)…uh, yes! You are right…in the lower United States…blah, blah, blah…one day...( “one AUTUMN day!” (buzz cut kid again)…(me with a baleful look: “right again! autumn day …blah, blah, blah…you don’t want to bump heads with a bear while berry picking...( BC: “BLUEBERRY picking!”)…

At this point, the girl across the table told him that he was being rude and to knock it off. “Yea, quit being so persnickety!” her friend chided in.

After giving an impressed, approving look at persnickety-girl, for using that totally unexpected unusual word in correct context, I addressed the class.

Yes it IS a bit rude to correct the teacher while reading, but I DID skip some words. At least I know he’s reading along, even if it’s only to spot my next mistake.

As soon as I said it, I knew I’d regret it.

As I read the last few pages at a slower pace to make absolutely sure I didn’t skip any words, thirty kids were focused on the text, word by word, line by line to see who could be the first detect my next error.

At least I know they’re reading!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Flemmy Loogies

I worked only two half-day assignments this week. Took myself off the sub list for today to go out and find me some drugs for the hacking-cough-flemmy-loogie thing that’s going around.

Several people I know have had it for a month or more. At Claudette's suggestion I tried Mucinex-D and seems to get me through the night and the next morning. I just hope it gets me through four subbing assignments starting Monday.

I would have taken myself off the list for the next week, but a teacher actually begged me to take her class for two days. She insisted they were a great class.

Wanting to say "no", I agreed figuring I'd still have the rest of the week off.

Then I get a call the next day at home from another teacher at the same school: "I know you're already subbing for Ms. F on Mon/Tues so can I have you for Wed/Thur?"

Now how is it going to look at this point if I already said "yes" to one and "no" to her friend?

So now I'm working MOST of next week and counting pills to see if I can make it through to next Friday.

I wonder how many boxes of the stuff I can buy before the government thinks I’m a PCP chemist?