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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Subs 16-20

As I said in my previous post, it's becoming difficult to keep track, so here goes:

20 Elementary vocal music: The system called me three times before I accepted. I kept holding out for something in the afternoon, or something not in elementary school, or something that would just let me sleep the rest of the morning away. I called the school to let them know I was coming as soon as I got cleaned up a bit, then washed my face, had a quick bowl of cereal, and left. I had missed the first two classes, and the third was starting soon. Word search. Video. The end. No problem.

And that was it. Lunch time. I ate lunch in the cafeteria with some kindergarteners. And let me tell you, if you want to experience a modified reality in which many of the rules as you know them are thrown out the window, all you need is a little time with a table full of kindergarteners. It started when they noticed my blue shirt and called me a blue dinosaur, perhaps linking me to Barney. I invited myself to sit with them (no children sat at the table where I sat! how sad!) and did my best to participate in a conversation that covered plans for the day, siblings, friends, friends being called siblings, denial of being a sibling of a friend, and what the heck was I doing there.

Then I went home and made some lunch. I almost feel bad about getting paid for a half day when I spent two and a half hours at the school and only did an hour and a half of work, but it makes up for the times I have I have spent five hours and did seven or eight hours worth of work.

19 High School English: This was another example of how a well-conducted class can run smoothly, even with a sub. There was only one problem, which made for an interesting story:

The teacher left plans for the students to work by themselves at their desks. In the second period one girl on the far side of the room from me kept facing back towards the guy sitting behind her. They weren't making noise, or talking loud enough for me to hear them, but sometimes that kind of thing can be the crack in the dam that leads to a flood, so I went over and asked them to do their own work. He said nothing. She said something like, "You don't need to worry about it." Had she not turned back around to her own desk at that point, I might have considered moving her to another desk, because it was bordering on insolent.

A short time later, she was turned back to him again. I went over and asked her to please move to another desk further away. She packed up her stuff and walked past the desk I had suggested, and out the door. I quickly went out into the hall and asked where she was going. No reply. What could I do?

I sat down at the teacher's desk and tried to call the office. The damn phone proved too difficult to use. In many schools dialing zero gets you the office. Not this one. Once I got someone to reply on the speakerphone, but she couldn't hear my voice. Frustrating. I'm not sure if a couple of students in the class were laughing at me or at something else, but I was starting to get a bit annoyed, so I stopped messing with it. During the next break between periods I managed to get it to work. I left a message on the vice-principal's voice-mail, then figured it was out of my hands. After all, I couldn't just chase this girl down the hall leaving a classroom full of students who were barely focusing on their work.

Then during the next period I got a huge surprise. The girl showed up at my door and asked to talk to me out in the hall. My students were working quietly, so I went. She apologized to me, and told me that they guy behind her was her boyfriend, and they were breaking up! Right there in my class! After she had left my class, she went to another teacher, a sort of mentor for her I guess. So she hadn't just been wandering around.

I thanked her for coming back to apologize, and reminded her that from my point of view what she did was very rude. I suppose the lesson for me is that not every student who is rude to a teacher is doing it just to be pig-headed. Some of them are doing it because they are caught up in the emotional storms that they have stirred up in their own worlds. It doesn't make the behavior any more appropriate, but it does make it understandable.

18 Jr. High Business and Computers: The first and last class of the day watched the same video about the stock market crash of the 1930's. It was from the History Channel, and I thought it wasn't bad, but the last class whined and complained and asked me to stop it right up until the bell. Of course, it was a Friday afternoon, so I guess I couldn't blame them, but I also thought that with just a tiny bit of focus they might have gotten something out of it and perhaps enjoyed it. The other classes all had computer stuff to do; typing exercises (including a fun little game called "Typer Shark", you should give it a try if you think you're a good typist, or if you want to be better.) and digital image manipulation, i.e. Photoshop. These kids are learning some pretty cool stuff. Once again, the teacher left good plans and kids who knew what to do with the instructions. Granted, watching videos is pretty lame, but as long as they connect to the subject material, why not?

17 Jr. High English: Advanced English, actually. Only two classes of it. The teacher left instructions for me to call in the morning, so I did. We had a nice chat, too, and she has since called with work for Horyon. She emailed me her plans, which came down to watching and grading presentations. I did my best. After seeing only four total, it was hard to make an accurate assessment, but I did my best. My favorite was the kid doing the presentation on peanuts using Powerpoint to illustrate his talk. It didn't hurt that he brought peanut butter cookies, too. And it certainly didn't hurt that there was a bite-size Snickers baked into the center of each cookie. And my grading wasn't one bit influenced by getting two cookies instead of just one.

This situation was interesting because the teacher was actually retired, but they asked her to come back to teach two classes of advanced English. She works the kids pretty hard, and they perform well. They didn't exactly speak glowingly of her, but by the end of the school year I think they may realize how much they will miss her. If not by then, then after they start at university.

It was also interesting because one of the kids in class is a girl who sometimes watches Maxine at church. It's always interesting to observe the way kids who know you react to seeing you in school. She was friendly and behaved well. I asked her to take the attendance to the office because I knew I could trust her to not fool around. Though I had the sense that the same could be said of almost all the kids in those classes.

16 High School ESL. Hmm... Let's see. That was February 15th, a whole month ago. Small classes, wide variety of levels, from kids who spoke almost as well as native speakers to kids who had just gotten off the boat. We read an article out loud and discussed it, then they wrote about it in their journals. There was a para in a couple of the classes who was very helpful. Her name was Jesus (pronounced "hay-SOOS" of course), which was a bit of a shock to see in writing: "My class aid Jesus will be helping you with this class." (Insert your own punchline here.) She cracked the whip when I hadn't realized that the kids were getting noisier than they should have been.

Jesus was a college student with a very interesting style: multiple facial piercings, a seriously asymmetrical hair cut with highlights of colors more suited to flowers than hair, and an outfit that Madonna might have worn in the early 80's, back before she went all hyper-sexy. She was the kind of girl that you might look at and think, "Oh, it's going to be as much trouble keeping her in line as the students, maybe more." In fact, I thought she was one of the students until she introduced herself to me. In spite of her appearance, she was very well spoken, as well as fluent in Spanish. She was a pleasant reminder not to judge a book by its cover. Not that I had actually done so, but that was a cover begging to be judged.

As you can see, not much subbing in the last month. Between sickness and having other stuff to do, I'm only getting in once a week. Sometimes only a half. The extra time is nice to have, but I'm missing the extra money! I didn't sub today because spring break is next week, and I think students were out today. Hopefully I can pick it back up after the break, and hopefully you will hear from me before then.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Rob! We, too, spent the entire month of Feb. and half of March being sick, so I had some catching up to do on your blog. LOVE the videos of Maxine singing!! I'd also like some more info/comments on the Transition to Teaching thing. My coworkers have been telling me I should really do it thru FHSU. I'm not sure I could handle all the homework & etc. And I have no clue how much it costs. So--if you ever have time to write more on the subject, I'd love it. Your blog is awesome. Colleen

A Brief Introduction

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