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Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Student end-of-year evaluation reports are in progress and I had just completed the last of four, half-day assignments in 1st grade. Even though the kids can clearly see the teacher through the window of the common central pod, it didn't seem to diminish the chaotic nature of unfocused 1st graders already checked out for the summer.

I had been home for about an hour after class when the principal of the school called. This is odd, since no principal has ever called me at home before. We have crossed paths and had casual conversations over the last ten years I've been subbing. He has been the principal at three different schools I have subbed.

Dr. B: Hi, Mark. I know you were in for Ms. J's 1st grade today. I need to ask if anything unusual happened today?
Me: I can't think of anything. Why?

Dr. B: One of the moms came in after school to report that her daughter told her: "The sub shoved me into my desk and hurt my arm!"

I am speechless for a couple seconds before I can respond. I can feel my heart beat faster. I am truly sucker-punch-shocked! My mind is racing as I try to process the events of the day to figure out where this might be coming from.

Me: What??  I have no idea why she would say that. It didn't happen! The kids were out of their desks a few times and the noise level was sometimes a bit chaotic but nothing like that happened. 

Dr. B: Mark, we have known each other for many years and this just didn't sound like something you'd do, but I had to call and ask. I'll do some further investigating and get back to you.
 Me: I definitely want to know what you find out. I've heard about situations like this spinning out of control with other subs and causing some serious problems. This is a serious deal, here.

Dr. B: I'll definitely call you tomorrow and let you know what I find.

As I relate the day's turn of events with Claudette, it only increases our anxiety levels. Questions along the lines of:  "Is this job worth it? Is it time to quit?" are debated and examined.  I guess it all comes down to what Dr. B comes back with. I can only wait out the rest of today and see what tomorrow brings.

The call comes mid-afternoon as promised.

Dr. B: I re-interviewed the girl with her mom. I asked it she knew the name of the substitute teacher that pushed her. She said "no". I then asked her if Mr. Perry was in the classroom yesterday. She said "yes". "Was it Mr. Perry who pushed you?" She said "No, it was the other sub"
I understand from the teacher that some of the 6th graders who didn't go on the class field trip were sent to your class to do busy work?

Me:  Two 6th grade boys and one girl came in for the rest of the day. The teacher and I discussed an idea to have them work as "tutors" and help with kids that needed help in class.

Dr. B: That's what I've been told also. I've got to do some additional work on this but I'm satisfied that you are not involved. So we're done, you are out of the equation. Have a good rest of the day.

Now that my blood pressure is back to normal, I guess I won't be quitting anytime soon. I will be seriously considering if I should restrict future assignments next year to 2nd grade and above.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Science Fair...

It is science fair season and it seems that every student in every grade in every elementary school has an entry.

The lesson plan indicated the time to take the 4th graders to tour the science fair exhibits set up in the cafeteria. At the appointed time, I escorted the group over as instructed.  I lead them up and down each isle so they could view the dozens and dozens of demonstrations of "science".

We had Solar System models constructed of Styrofoam, sticks and glue, the potato or lemon powered lamps, the flower sucking colored water demonstrations, tornado in a bottle, volcano models and....Something new I did not recognize. The exhibit indicated it was a model of something called a "Gaussian Gun".

Two wooden dowels glued together to make a track, magnets spaced and glued at three intervals and some steel marbles mounted along the track between the magnets. Like me, the kids were curious about what it was and how it worked.

Curious, I picked up one of the marbles to see how heavy it was and put it back on the rail. Before I could react fast enough, the marble rolled and accelerated down the track, hit the first magnet and before I knew what was happening, a chain reaction of steel marbles and magnets shot the last marble off the end and hit one of the boys in the leg!

Thankfully, the boy was unhurt but...really?  

That thing is downright dangerous!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Tall Tales...

I had an assignment in a 2nd grade classroom at the country club school. Of course, one of the first questions I get on a day when I come is usually: "Where did Mr/Ms Teacher go and when will he/she be back?"

This is my opening for an icebreaker and a demonstration that I am not as scary as I look. I will usually respond with some outrageously unbelievable retort like: "Ms Teacher had to attend race car driving school this morning and it's her turn on the track. She'll be in tomorrow and you can ask her all about it." Most kids "get" that I have made up an obviously silly answer instead of the standard "I don't know" response.

(...Some of the teachers I have subbed for comment that they look forward to hearing what they were supposedly doing while they were away.)

Students will sometimes try to "turn the tables" and try one of their own on the substitute teacher. Second graders usually aren't good enough to make it believable but it's fun to hear what they come up with.

Laura is an exception. The lesson plan says that she is a recent arrival from a private school across town and might have difficulties with some of the math they are currently doing in class.

While the rest of the kids are plowing through the math pages on their own, I work with Laura. As we're working, Laura tells me that she's new in this school as they just moved into the country club.

Yep, that sounds right. Even though this is a public school, I know the developer donated the land and built the school with the express stipulation that school enrollment be reserved primarily for the kids of parents living in the country club. From what I can see, it pretty much is.

Laura tells me that her family bought the biggest house at the top of the hill in the country club. They have a big pool and playground. Her dad is a musician and she has three brothers.

Sounds plausible.

L: We're going to see my grandma this weekend on the family farm.
Me: Sounds like a nice drive.
...There are many farms and vineyards about an hour's drive south of here.

L: No, it's too far to drive. We're flying.
Me: Oh, so you have to get up early to get to the airport?
...The grandparents must be out of state.

L: No, we have our own plane. My dad's a pilot.

Me: Wow, that must be fun.
...Six passenger private plane!  Impressive!

L: It's a jet. It used to belong to my grandparents but they passed it on to my Dad. 
Hmmm...Lear jet? Ok, family money. Lots of it.

L: It's been in our family for generations--since WWII!!
Ok, she got me. Got me good.

At this point I suppose I should have pointed out that Germany had the only jet powered aircraft in the world during WWII and it was dicey for even the single seat pilot to land the thing.

The teacher came in at the end of the day to see how my day went. I related how Laura had me going. The teacher laughed and then confided, "Did she also tell you that she has  seven toes on her left foot?"