Friday, May 13, 2011

Goodbye, little blog!

It is time for me to retire this blog!  I started at my summer job this past Monday and I'm calling it quits as a substitute teacher.

For the record, this subbing gig wasn't the worst thing in the world.  Yes, a substitute teacher is constantly being taken advantage of by students.  Yes, a substitute teacher leads a lonely life surrounded by teachers and staff s/he barely knows.  Yes, a substitute teacher does very little teaching and a lot of babysitting.  And yes, the job has very few rewards and the lowest pay imaginable.

What, then, did I get out my six months of subbing?  The ability to manage a classroom of unruly, hormonal teenagers.  The appropriate language to encourage children to follow rules and respect authority without any anger or frustration on both the teacher and the student's part.  The quiet confidence that allowed me to sit in the lunchroom with a bunch of strangers and have a decent conversation.  The ability to know when a student has crossed the line and when a student just needs to be ignored or given a task.  And finally, six months of experience in a classroom setting.  This experience will be of use later in life when I return to the possibility of classroom teaching (as I predict I will).

I do not recommend this course of employment for anyone who wants to make ends meet.  People who lack self-confidence, or are over-confident, should steer clear of subbing (the kids will tear apart the weak sub and will retaliate against a sub with too many rules/too much confidence).  Anyone who will take what the kids say personally should never, ever, be in a classroom.

I have grown a lot as an educator and I'm a much more confident group leader.  This shows when I teach for my part-time job and this will show when I start teaching programs for my summer position.  I'm moving on to a position that allows me to contribute to the world in a more concrete way.  I get to plan programs, deal with visitor complaints, design advertisements, and be outside every day at a beautiful site.

So long, public school system!  Maybe we'll be together again in the future.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Another Day In Spanish Class

I was pretty disappointed to hear that I'd be in the same Spanish class for a second day in a row.  I knew that if she didn't have great plans for me the first day, the second day would probably be worse.  I was right.

The teacher had assigned things like this, "Answer the following questions in English: what are your favorite foods?  What do people in Spanish speaking countries eat?  Write down a typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner for your family."  What kind of assignment is that???  No seventh grader is going to take that seriously, and very few did.  I thought maybe the kids only have Spanish once a week so I might have different classes but no, I had to take on the same group of unruly 7th graders two days in a row.

The lovely 12/13 year olds decided to discuss their virginity (which they've already lost).  One boy was explaining that he wanted to sleep with a girl so he lied about his virginity so she'd feel more comfortable.  I had to swoop over several times to try and stop these conversations but they just didn't listen.  Sometimes I wonder if I should just kick these kids out of the classroom.  I never do because I don't feel like they've done anything worthy of being kicked out, they just need to shut their mouths.

The one positive is that the school administrators didn't have me take on other classes during my prep periods.  Wednesday I had to cover an English class during my one prep period but yesterday the teacher had three preps in a row so I got to finish my book (finally!).  I'm not subbing today because I'm meeting with my former bosses to discuss whether I'll be returning to my summer job again.  Cross fingers and toes in the hope that they're willing to pay me what I need to survive!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spanish Class

I'm not sure this particular Spanish teacher is ever actually in school.  I don't know if she thinks I do a great job with her classes or if no one else will take them, but I feel like once a month at least I'm in this teacher's classroom.  And I really don't like it.

For one, the teacher doesn't ever leave good assignments for her classes.  My recent favorites: copying vocabulary words for food items into their notebooks and drawing their "dream houses" and labeling the rooms in Spanish.  The kids never take these assignments seriously and that leaves me with a room full of kids who know I have no power over them.  I can't tell them their dream house drawing is going to be graded because obviously it's just busy work.  I wish she would realize that I need worksheets or real assignments to keep the students from taking advantage of the situation.

My best class was eighth graders taking a vocab test.  It was a hard test and they spent almost the whole period in silence, working on their tests.  Second best was the other eighth grade class working on projects that are due tomorrow.  The worst was my first period, a group of seventh graders that I already know from my various placements.  The class included some of my least favorite students from my long-term position in seventh grade and also some known problem kids from my other subbing experiences.  It was a little crazy in the room but I'm glad I knew the kids.  If I was a new substitute coming into that classroom I think I would have died!  They were so loud, didn't listen well, and didn't do any of the work.  But I now know that they won't get out of hand if I remind them to quiet down and let them get away with doing no work.

I had my first out-of-the-classroom encounter with a student this past weekend.  And of course I saw the same kid in my first period today.  He exclaimed, "I saw you this weekend!" and then proceeded to try and find out where I was going (to a birthday party) and where I live (two blocks from where I saw him, but I certainly didn't tell him that!).  It was a weird encounter and even weirder to see him in class a few days later.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm Back!

I'm officially back.  I had my week "off" then my week at the high school.  I filled my vacation with work for my other job and my week in the high school went pretty well.  I remembered a lot of names and the teacher left me with tons of stuff to do.  The topic for the week was ecology, which I love, so I had an easy time coming up with extras for the kids to learn about and little tidbits of interesting information to keep them interested.  It was a good week and nice to be back with teachers I can eat lunch with (when I go to a random school I generally eat alone or eat silently while listening to the teachers gab).

I was not looking forward to today.  To be honest, I'm really tired of substitute teaching.  I have a graduate degree, I've done a million and one internships at some pretty great institutions, and I've had good jobs in the past.  This job search funk I'm in is pretty serious and in the last few months I've really lost hope.  I finally got a call from last year's summer job and I may be transitioning back there some time in the near future.  For now, though, I have to keep subbing and it's bumming me out.

Thankfully the universe was good to me and gave me a great day in the 6th grade.  I was a math teacher and her students were probably the best behaved I've ever had.  Not a single kid tried to get away with anything and they were actually completely silent while working on their math packets.  I was so happy with their behavior I gave every period 10 minutes of game time.  I was blown away at how well-behaved they were!  Thank you, universe.

On a slightly different note, Osama was killed last night and the kids had a lot to say about it.  Many don't think he's really dead and I don't know if that's because their parents are skeptical or they themselves are skeptical.  They also knew this was BIG NEWS but since they're young they wanted to discuss it but didn't really have a lot of background information.  Sixth graders were two years old in 2001 so they've lived knowing what happened but not fully comprehending.  They made me feel old today - "where were you on September 11?"  As it happens, I was walking into the choir room for third period (in high school) and saw a plane crash into a building on the TV.  I thought, "what kind of idiot can't see a GIANT building in front of them???"  I didn't realize the location until I listened to the reporters.  It was interesting to compare my experiences with the sixth grader's and think about my parents and JFK's assassination as a sort of parallel.

Anyway, no more ruminations.  I'll be off at my other job tomorrow and back in the schools Wednesday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

High School Part II

Today I returned to my long term high school biology and physics teacher position.  The teacher is having a second surgery so I'll be in for one more week.  I'm crossing my fingers that this might be my last subbing gig before transitioning to my summer job.

This is the deal: the teacher had surgery today, April vacation is next week, and I'll be in for her the entire week of the 25th.  She left me lesson plans and activities and since this is the ecology chapter she has left me lots of room to improvise (yay!).  It should be super fun to teach one of my favorite subjects and I can be more enthusiastic about how cool it is than I was for genetics.

I think most of the students were happy to have me back.  I'm pretty sure I overheard one girl complaining right outside the door, "I didn't know she was coming back!  Ugh, I can't believe we have to have her again... (blah blah blah)"  I don't think I ever had a problem with this particular girl so it's a little weird that she apparently hates me.  Oh well.  Her problem!  The girl in physics that I had a big problem with, G, was definitely not excited to see me.  She asked in class whether I would be their sub for the whole week after break and I said yes.  Her face was stony, flat, unimpressed.  Again - oh well!  The feeling is mutual, G, trust me.

The biology students had to graph the population number of deer in a particular preserve over time and I was shocked at the students' lack of graphing skills.  I kid you not, they simply wrote the years on one axis and the corresponding population sizes on the other axis and plotted the points (this is after asking me which axis is which).  This results in a straight line.  I've been subbing in almost every grade level and these kids have absolutely no excuse.  They have learned to graph, I've seen it, I've probably taught it at some point.  How do you get to your sophomore year of high school and not understand simple graphing???  So I had to explain how to create intervals on the axes, why these intervals increase evenly (in 2s, 5s, 10s, etc) and why they can't simply write down the years from the data set.  There are some truly dumb people in this world.  There.  I said it.  Sad but true.

On a different note, it seems that the tanning spree has begun.  Several girls in school were nice and brownish orange today.  Almost no students wore a jacket to school even though it was a lovely 36 degrees this morning.  A kid walking into school in front of me had a t-shirt on and was carrying a red bull in one hand and a Powerade in the other.  Oh my.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oh, Friday.

Oh, Friday, what a crazy day you are.  You induce extreme ADHD symptoms in even the most calm of students.  I say this even though I really didn't have a bad day.  But it is a true fact and it is annoying for all who teach.

I had sixth graders today, in a science classroom.  It was the nicest classroom I've ever been in!  I think the ceiling was about two stories tall with big windows on each end.  It must be a very specific part of the building that I've never been in - I didn't even notice that architecture from the outside.  Anyway, I had pretty good kids and I did have an aide for two periods.  They were rowdy but their assignment was to keep working on building little cars out of cardboard and tape.  Assignments like that are difficult for subs because the kids can get away with a lot of stuff.  Groups wanted to test their cars in the hall, asked for materials a lot, and generally goofed around while I wasn't watching.  No one got hurt and most finished their cars so my day was successful in that sense.

I also had to fill in for a seventh grade teacher for the last period of the day.  These are the kids I had long-term a few weeks ago and they remembered me.  It was not a good group of them, though, and they were super loud and rambunctious.  It took all I had to remain calm and keep them doing something other than attacking each other.  The teacher hadn't left much work at all so I allowed them to play games if-and-only-if they finished the worksheet.  I was afraid a teacher was going to come in and yell at me, that's how loud these students were.  But thankfully the bell rang and they all went home.  Happy weekend!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Young kids give the best compliments!  But I'll get into that later.  Today I had fifth grade and the kids were great.

It was a prime example of a hallway where the teachers expect too much (in my humble opinion).  It was nice of them to check in but they were really worried about the behavior of the kids and if they were doing well for me.  They were fine.  The teacher had left a note pointing out three of the students and listing what their normal problem behaviors are and how to deal with them.  That was really awesome and I knew what I was dealing with right away.  The three listed "problem students" didn't even misbehave today.  They were a bit loud at times but no pushing, no swear words, and no lack of work ethic.

I'm not sure if all of the other teachers were having a bad day or what but they had a harassed look about them and seemed really annoyed with the fifth graders at all times.  They yelled at them in the hallway and I think would have been appalled at the noise level in my classroom.  I thought everything was fine, although I understand that being distracting in the hallway is annoying for other classrooms.

Overall I didn't have to reprimand anyone and the only reminder was to "quiet down".  Not out of the ordinary.

Now on to the compliments!  I have gotten some great compliments from the younger students in the past, and for some reason they are always about my hair.  I really don't think my hair is anything special.  It used to be nice and blond but has retreated to a boring brownish color in the last 10 years.  The kids always say how beautiful my hair is and I revel in the compliment!  The other compliment I got today was about my boots, which I agree are quite nice.  I'm glad these kids have no filter and just say nice things because I think as adults we don't speak up when we have positive things to say.  I've been trying to do that lately, for example: complimenting someone with a beautiful yard as I walk by or telling a woman on the bus that I like her dress.  It might be slightly creepy but hopefully it makes people feel a little better!