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Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Three classes at two schools in one day?
That was not the intent when I took a half-day 4th grade assignment yesterday.

When I started substituting nine years ago, I took any assignment at any grade level. Over time, I gradually discovered which schools and which teachers seem to have better control on the classroom environment. By "classroom environment", I mean classroom discipline. By classroom discipline, I mean the general behavior of students. My experience with this particular school has rarely been positive.  Nevertheless, every so often, I will take an assignment just to see if my bias should remain unchanged.

That the assignment was for a half day helped sway my decision to take it. If the class was as I expected, I'd be out of there before lunch and not have to endure another three hours.

Let's just say that my bias is still validated for at least another year. The teacher arrived at 11:30am to take over. I was honest with him and he wasn't surprised. He's having much the same control issues with this class.

As I was checking out, the district office called to see if I could take an afternoon assignment in P.E. at the middle school. Since it was on my way home and I hadn't had any assignments at the middle school all year, I agreed. 

It was not much of an assignment as all I had to do was take roll call for 5th period, hand out locker assignments and P.E. schedules. The P.E. teacher unexpectedly returned for his 6th period class.

After three hours of utter chaos with 4th graders this morning, a one hour assignment was just what I needed to balance out what started out to be a pretty crappy day. That was until I went back to the office to check out.  

There, the office decided to have me take over the combined 7th & 8th grade ELD (English Language Development) class for the last period of the day.  

I'm not sure what qualifies a student to be dumped into ELD as I could identify only two actual students that were not fluent with the English language. The other seventeen seemed completely fluent as they demonstrated by doing nothing but complain in colorful English the whole 50mins.  

Adding ELD classes to my "not preferred any time soon" list.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Easing Back Into Routine...

The first week(s) after a long break can be unpredictable when it comes to class discipline issues. In some classes, it takes a week or two to get back into the rhythm of the classroom and expected student behavior. Sometimes you get lucky and they come back enthused about school.

School resumed Monday (1/7) after the two week Christmas break. I worked Monday (3rd grade) and again today (5th grade). In both instances, I had absolutely no discipline or behavior issues.

The 3rd graders made me laugh And I had a lot of fun.

The 5th graders didn't really need me to be there today. The teacher has them pretty well self-motivated to run the class with minimal help from an adult. Class officers do the morning accounting of attendance, lunch count and homework checking. Various class officers are trained and eager to run parts of the teacher's lesson plan involving the daily work assignments.

My involvement today was limited to giving a spelling test and explaining a few of the word problems in Math.

All in all, a great start for 2013!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


School starts up next week and it's been a little more than a month since I last posted something relevant to the main topic of this blog so I thought it was time to get back on track.

The school district I work for does not have any mandated or even voluntary requirement that I belong to CTA Union (California Teachers Association). I know this because searching the CTA website for the word "substitute" generates only one hit and it does not relate to anything about "substitute teachers". CTA has had, in the past, only minor impact on me as a substitute teacher.

So what's happened that I'm commenting on the CTA at present? It's actually a very minor positive side effect of something called "working to the contract" (WTC). It started a couple weeks before the Christmas break when I arrived for my classroom assignment.

It seems that the CTA and the school district have been at odds about pay raises and benefit issues. The district is countering that times are tough so suck it up or quit (not the actual language, but close enough). The facts are not important (to me, anyway) since whatever the outcome, it won't change what the district pays me as a daily substitute teacher.

Apparently, the teachers don't want to strike for some reason. They chose a tactic called "work to the contract". This is where the teachers are to work strictly inside the confines of the union negotiated contract and nothing further.

That means, they are to arrive at school no sooner than the contracted starting time, and leave the classroom at the contracted quitting time. They aren't allowed to correct papers, make copies, meet or call parents or any other school related tasks outside of school hours if it isn't stated in the contract.

 Since my job assignment starts 30min before the first bell, I get a prime parking spot close to the building while the teachers are driving around the school or parking in the street waiting for their WTC starting time!

 It's not much, but I'll take it.