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Friday, October 28, 2011

Band & Choir…

The substitute teacher system called late last night offering me a ½ day assignment for Band & Choir class. I don’t know how to play any musical instruments, nor do I know anything about singing.

But, I didn’t know anything about art earlier this year, so I assumed that the teacher wouldn’t expect me to actually “teach” either band or singing.

The lesson plan called for showing a video about practice and technique staring featuring Wynton Marsalis & Yo-Yo Ma. The kids were to write 20 facts or comments about the video with the admonition that a comment like: “There was a guy talking” would NOT be acceptable.

What I DIDN’T expect was SIZE of the classes. The middle school attendance sheets can accommodate 30 names per page. If I have a class with two attendance pages, it’s a big class.

First period had 41 students (a page and a half) but it was the second period when I saw the hoards arriving that I noticed the three full pages listing 85 students!

I did a quick count to see if I had 85 bodies, as I knew that calling out all those names would take up most of the available class time. I came up 4 short.

Asking who was missing didn’t work as I don’t think any one student knew ALL the names of the people in the class. I had one of the students call the attendance and identify the missing while I set up and began the video lesson.

Band kids tend to be the more "reliable side" kind so my day went pretty well for "trying something new". Someone suggested that my next "outside the comfort zone" substituting assignment might be girls P.E.

...I think not.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Book – 101 Ways to Bug Your Parents…

I took the 4th grade class to check out books from the school library. Everyone except one boy seemed to making progress in selecting books for the week.

Me: Have you found a book yet?
Bored Boy: No, I don’t know what to get.

Me: What kind of books do you like to read?
Bored Boy: I don’t know.

Me: Mysteries, adventure, animals…?   
Bored Boy: Nah, no, ummm nuh-uh. I don’t think I want a book.

He then went to sit out for the rest of library time.

Since I had twenty-eight other kids to monitor, I turned over the assignment of “book finding” to two 6th grade girls working as librarian assistants, with the instructions to locate a book a boy his age might like to read and bring it to me. I didn’t really care if they were successful. I had nothing to lose.

The girls returned just as I was rounding up the kids to return to class. They couldn’t have chosen better. I congratulated them on their excellent find and handed “bored boy” his book choice.

Bored Boy: I don’t think I like this book.
Me: Trust me. YOU will.

Back in class, the lesson plan called for 20mins of silent reading (SSR). This is one of my favorite times in that I get to lead by example, relaxing and reading whatever book I’m currently into.

Bored boy was the only one who hadn’t started when I caught his attention and pantomimed, with my hands, opening and closing a book while giving him “THE LOOK”. He started reading.

Every couple of minutes, I’d check on the class and in particular “Bored Boy”. Amazingly, Bored Boy was still reading. After a while, I heard him giggle a couple of times, saw him share a page with the kid next to him.

After a while, I glanced up and saw that Bored Boy and two boys on each side of him were reading 101-ways, pointing at different pages and trying not to draw my attention.

I pretended to not notice and at the end of SSR. Bored Boy couldn’t help himself and came up to show me several “things” they found that were funny and “he was going to try it at home”.

With a wink, my final comment at the end of the day was, “Remember now, you didn’t get that book from me, RIGHT?”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bottled Water Dilemma…

I never understood the bottled water craze. Maybe that’s because it didn’t really exist for the first half of my lifetime. As kids, we even drank from the garden hose and miraculously not one of us neighborhood kids died from drinking it.

Given that background, I could never justify paying $2/bottle for “better water” in preference to the stuff that was delivered to the house via city plumbing for pennies per gallon.  

But that’s not the point of this post. Every kid in every class I’ve been to seems to have one of those 16oz clear plastic bottles on the desk that originally contained French, Alpine or some such glacially pure “better water". The 3rd grade class I had yesterday is no exception.

I had recess duty with the 3rd graders when one of my half pint students approaches to ask if I will open the classroom so she could fill her water bottle from the drinking fountain in the classroom.

“I’m real hot and thirsty!”

The classroom is only 50-60 feet away, but I’m reluctant to cede her request when there was a perfectly good drinking fountain right behind her as I pointed out.

“Oh, I can’t.  My mom only allows me to drink bottled water!”

I could have pointed out that the plumbing to the OUTSIDE water fountain was the same as the one INSIDE the classroom and therefore had the same water. Also, refilling the bottle after she had already consumed the “better water” didn’t really make it "bottled water" any longer. Actually, it was probably worse depending how many times I suspect that same bottle has been refilled over the course of several classroom days.

Instead, I opted to open the classroom so she could fill her bottle and saved myself the panic that might ensue if the rest of the class (…and maybe the rest of the school?) found out.

It will just have to be our little secret that drinking fountains in the school don’t deliver “better water” than what kids 50yrs ago consumed and that drinking it won’t kill you!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The First Answer is Free…

I always get a positive response when handing out quiz and test materials with the standard promise:

“I’ll always give you the first answer for free!”

That always seems to accelerate the process of getting tables cleared, a pencil out and their undivided attention toward the front of the room in record time.

With dramatic pause and thirty pencils poised to snag a freebie answer, I direct their attention to the top of the page where the first question is:  


"The first answer is: your name"

Varied responses:
…Ha, Ha, I get it, Good one!
…And let me guess, the answer to the 2nd question is: Date?
...I don’t get it! (…from slow on the uptake group still looking at QUESTION #1)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Chain Gang Elementary...

One important item I carry in my subbing bag is a book to read at break, lunch and even in the classroom when the kids are doing “silent reading time”. It’s good to set an example in the classroom. 

I recently received a book in the mail detailing the “fictional” tale of an idealistic newsletter writer who gets drafted as the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president at his son's elementary school.

The opening paragraph hints that his idealism isn’t going to prevail…

“…In the twelfth year of his marriage, sixteen months before the shooting, twenty-one shopping days until Christmas, and eight hours before he reckoned for the tenth time that his wife didn’t love him, Richard Gray met a woman who would have roughly the same effect on his life a tornado has on a trailer park.”

I have to admit that I had a hard time reading the book. Not because of the fast paced and well written storyline but the cover art seemed to draw more than a few double takes from fellow educators passing through the teachers' lounge.

Save some money, the awkward stare and get the Kindle version on Amazon...