I was at Sunset Hill Elementary from 7:30 this morning until about 3:15. I taught a 3rd grade class. Easier than first, but not easy. I think it would have been easier if it hadn't started snowing around nine o'clock. Someone said, "Hey, it's snowing!" and the next thing I knew they were all gathered around the windows giving commentary on the weather. (e.g. "Wow, it's really coming down!" and "Look at how it's snowing!" and "Cool!")
The principal commented at the end of the day that you could feel the "Snow Energy" as you walked down the halls. The kids were abuzz with excitement, and everyone had to deal with it. Of course, dealing with it as a sub makes it that much more of a challenge, but I think I did okay. At least no one came to tell me that the class had been very loud.
It was fun to watch them at recess, goofing around in the snow, throwing it at each other, making tracks, and being silly. One kid was picking it up and dropping it on his own head. After all, it had stopped snowing, so he had to do something to bring back that loving feeling.
I spent the entire day five or ten minutes behind the schedule left for me. I felt kind of bad about it, but catching up just seemed impossible. Every time I figured we were going to catch up, the kids took five minutes longer than I expected.
They were reading (and studying) "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", one of my favorite books from back in the day. It was a bit difficult to do a discussion, because some of them had seen the movie, running some serious interference with the book. You don't have to think to make predictions about what might happen if you've already seen a version of what happened.
I learned one important lesson today: during silent reading time, I was struggling to deal with a full bladder. I told the class that I would be stepping out of the room for a minute or two, and that when I came back I would listen from outside the door. If it was quiet, every table would get a point, and if not, the tables I could identify would not. The principal was in the resource room outside the teachers' restroom, and I told him that I had stepped out briefly. He told me that he would go cover the class, which I thought was nice. When I got back he told me that it was school policy to not leave classes unattended for any length of time. A sensible rule for many reasons. If I had given it any serious thought, I might have called for help instead of just leaving, but for the last ten years I've been teaching people who can take care of themselves. Time for a paradigm shift.
After school I apologized, but the prinipal, Mr. Bay, told me not to worry about it, and that it was as much for my own legal protection as for the kids' safety. And he assured me that when he got to the class room you could have heard a pin drop. I will confess to a bit of pride at hearing that. Mr. Bay asked if I could give my contact information so that they could request me in the future, and once again I felt pretty good about the day.
I found Mr. Bay to be a very dynamic principal. He starts every day with a short assembly, which I saw today. A student read the announcements, and another student read the cafeteria menu for the day. (Breakfast burrito or french toast strips with a sausage patty, I had both. Not bad for caf food.) They introduced the school Watch Dog for the day, the father of one of the kids. I talked with the Watch Dog a bit during recess. It was his first time, and he enjoyed it. They basically have a parent around to walk the halls, provide a bit of additional security, as well as an occasional extra pair of hands. Good program. Mr. Bay knew lots of kids' names, and had a good rapport with the students. I'm guessing that my Uncle Tom Sack runs a similar ship up there in Effingham. (Curse the ham, we hates it! we hates it!)
The teacher had assigned a helper, Vivian (once again, I'm not using the kids' real names in these write-ups). Vivian is a nice girl, but a little high strung. I feel bad, because I may have piled that on her by telling her at the beginning of the day that I could really use her help to get through the day. I had to tell her a couple of times during the day that the best way she could help me was by not getting up without permission. So one more lesson there: don't depend too much on the helper.
The other kid that sticks out in my mind, besides little Anna with her twisted ankle, hobbling around on crutches in the snow!, was Steven. This boy had an attitude. He talked back to me in little, not-quite-over-the-line ways. If I were going to be back in that classroom tomorrow, I would start the day by having a little talk with Steven about respecting others. At one point a girl had accidentally bumped into him. Well, she said it was accidental. He argued repeatedly that she did it on purpose because she didn't like him. He then went on to show why she might not have liked him. I asked her what we say if we hit someone accidentally, and so she said she was sorry. Steven said he couldn't hear her. Fine. So she repeated it. Then he said he couldn't hear her again. I was starting to get a bit pissed at this point, but didn't say anything. He accepted the next apology, though with unsurprisingly little grace.
Here's my moment of regret: next time I will talk with "Steven" (in whatever class I come across him or her) about being kind and forgiving, and how other people see you. Of course, it would depend on having the proper time and place to do so. This kind of behavior is becoming too widely accepted in the world, and it is up to teachers to HELP with a more positive shift. I say 'help' because I'm sure that Steven has inherited his attitude from the people he lives with. I am also sure that his teachers have done what they could to improve that attitude, but no one has the effect of a parent.
Well lookie. It's 1:15 a.m. I'm not sure if I can keep up blogging about every classroom I spend time in, but I want to. I'm so tired that some of these lessons may not sink in if I don't reinforce them, so here I am. I hope it's also good reading for you.