It's been a long time since I substituted in an elementary school. I had forgotten the innocent energy of that age. There are still incidents of meanness, but they are much rarer, less humiliating, and more inclined to be fixed by even a forced, insincere apology.
Lesson Learned: One of the basic things that kids learn in PE is sportsmanship. Because sportsmanship is a kind of discipline, requiring individual attention and effort. In other words, it is work. And what do students naturally do when there is a sub? You know it: they slack off on their work whenever they can.
My first class, a group of 4th graders, did not play nicely; they played a sort of capture-the-flag game, and some of them took it just a little bit personally. There was some name calling, some bending of the rules, and some outright cheating. I compensated for this in later classes by starting the class with a talk on sportsmanship, asking them to give examples, and encouraging the practice.
I had forgotten that kids can cry easily. I saw four or five kids cry today, mostly because of perceived unfairness or insult from other kids. One or two were close to tears after a fall. A couple of kids got very whiny when they didn't get what they wanted from me, whether chosen to be “it” or allowed to pitch in kickball.
I had also kind of forgotten that kids can latch onto a reasonably friendly and fair adult, such as myself, in one class period. By lunch time, as well as at the end of the day, there were kids saying, “Hi Mr. Sack!” from all over. And of course, I had learned absolutely no names, as I did not even have rosters. Still, the open friendliness of the kids made me feel welcome, and I'm guessing that if I am back at Prairie Park some of them will remember me. When I started teaching at Central Jr. High there were kids who remembered me from when I subbed in their elementary classes. Like I said, they can latch onto some adults.
It was a good day, but a reminder of why I don't want to teach elementary school all the time. They have an amazing energy, non-stop, and mostly positive, but by the end of the day I have had enough of it. I prefer the more laid-back atmosphere of high school.