Friday, September 25, 2009

The Hot Librarian Was Me

Sept. 25, 2009

Today was my first half-day in a new elementary school and as a librarian. It was a really nice school, gorgeous library...and when I walked in, I had no idea what to do. I also had bus duty. I may have had a bun, but I wasn't wearing any glasses and no one asked me to take my hair down and to seductively ask them what the penalty for an overdue book is. This was an elementary school.

With the help of the principal, an aide and other teachers, I was able to figure out that the librarian (who had been out several days taking care of a sick parent) had a system. She had bins with books, for different grade levels that contained lesson materials for each grade level for the entire week. We were recycling lessons for the entire week as each class had this special about one time a week.

I had to do some digging to figure out where some things were (we never did figure out how to lower the projection screen)how to check out/in books, where the kindergarten name tags were for the afternoon class, and how to figure out which class on the lesson plan corresponded to actual classes coming to the library (turns out you could do this with the phone list).

After all that initial anxiety, I only had to teach a 4th grade class and a multi-handnicapped class of two students who were accompanied by aides. I was even able to set some things up for the afternoon sub before I had to leave. They asked me if I could stay for the afternoon, but I had a prior house-sitting commitment. No dice. It was a real bummer, because I could have used the money.

Lessons Learned:

Find a place to lay down your lesson plans and remember where you put it (bring a neon clip board and clip them to it for visability).

Sometimes, you can have more than one CD with a song on it with the same title, but it turns out they are different songs and the one you thought was the right one is actually, quite wrong. Don't worry, the kids will tell you if you're wrong.

Find out crucial responsibilities and make sure you have the tools you need to get them done properly.

Sometimes you will have to improvise if technology is not available to help you with whole group instruction. You will end up having to repeat yourself a lot.

See if the sub has left a list of reliable students that you can pump for info as needed. If not, single them out quickly.

Be prepared to split a large group between an activity and computers. Give directions before "off you go." LOL

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Language Arts Bystander, A Tale of Two Teachers

Sept. 24, 2009

After my first bad high school experience in the gen. ed. math class, I knew I had to go back the next day as a special ed. teaching sub and possibly face some of the kids from the day before that had made my life so very difficult. I had processed what I could do better next time and I was ready for the next day.

I arrived, (trying not to sweat) and I was asked to first cover a homeroom/beginning of a 9th grade science class during a teacher's IEP meeting, prior to starting my day as a special ed. teacher. I got to talk to the science teacher before she left for her meeting. She had a lesson plan (if not written down) and a seating chart. Good times!

Before the kids got there, I bounced back down to the first floor (from the third floor) to find my classroom. The teacher I am subbing for doesn't have a classroom. She floats. It turns out, I'm team teaching an English class with a regular ed. English teacher in her classroom. (Yay) and she has the plans and is teaching for the day (Woohoo) so I get to observe her and how she handles the kids (Yahoo!).

The kids really didn't seem to respect their female English teacher (talking back, eye rolling) etc. It's general education again! 10th grade this time? They were starting A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It was fun to be able to sit back and observe rather than having to teach. I got to see how another English teacher introduced a new book, and thought about how I would do it differently. I also got to observe more telling behavior of general education students. They definitely need to be involved/engaged right away and they really whine about taking notes.

Today was my reprieve from yesterday.

Lessons learned:

Teachers in neighboring classrooms can be valuable resources
Kids will do things when your back is turned
Don't allow them to write questionable answers on the board
Don't put paperclips or other things within arms reach where they can steal them
Don't put up with disrespect (students speaking after you've told them not to do something)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sometimes You Gotta Be Self-Taught

Sept. 23, 2009

Sometimes you show up for work as a sub, and you might not even really be needed. I showed up to teach a half-day of HS Social Studies, signed in at the office, got my sub packet, met the teacher and discovered he didn't need a sub. There must be a mistake. He'll call the office. "Sorry, I don't need a sub." Alrighty then. Back to the office I go.

I stay, I file, then I am asked to go to cover a math class, I survive nearly getting eaten alive by three general education math students who don't want to be there. No written lesson plan, no class list and three boys that want to play "Let's be Disobedient." A true recipe for disaster.

I have come to realize that neither of the school districts with which I am employed have any intention of teaching me, a substitute teacher how to use student "write-up forms," how to send special-ed. students to a "resolve room" or how to send general education students to in-school suspension (I.S.S.). I learned most of these terms from a conversation with another teacher.

NONE of these procedures were covered at either of my substitute orientations for either district. It's like they want the kids to eat you alive. Experience is my teacher, and she's one cold, hard (fill in the blank).

I have come to the educated conclusion that I think districts specifically don't want to have a written policy on these things because it could potentially lead to a lawsuit. That's the only logical explanation I can muster. What do you think?

Do you think it would be helpul to train teachers on the appropriate use and availability of such methods of remediation and discipline?

The Blind Trap of Last Minute Coverage


Things I learned from covering for a secondary Math teacher for 45 minutes

Don't agree to cover a high school or middle school class for a teacher for any length of time without being equipped with the following things in place:

1. Knowing what grades the kids are in (the secretary won't always be able to tell you if the school is huge and the special ed. dept. has recently been reorganized)
2. Having a seating chart (you need to know their names, because sometimes a snarky boy might not want to tell you his name)
3. Having a written lesson plan from the teacher (the kids sometimes pretend not to know what they are supposed to be doing, even though the teacher says they know what they are supposed to do with the rest of their time, and the teacher neglects to tell you so you know for sure)
4. Knowing which kids have IEPs in the class and what their accommodations are (who is allowed to stand up at their desk, go to the library, go to see their special ed teacher, do fewer problems etc. If you don't have access to that information, everybody gets frustrated fast. "I HATE subs. They suck!")
5. Knowing the names of their special ed teachers and their phone numbers (so you can call them to tell them you are sending a student to them who says he is allowed to do so. Call ahead to make sure the teacher is there to receive the student)
6. Asking the teacher who your discipline problem kids might be (so you know who to believe and who you need to watch like a hawk)
7. Knowing the name and extension of the nearest teacher to ask for help
8. Having the phone numbers of the nurse, office, and security readily available
9. Having a transfer of power from the teacher who is leaving to the teacher who is taking over and consequences for a poor report. "Class...this is Mrs. so and so. She will be teaching the class for (time period). You are to give her your respect, the same as you would give to me. If she gives me a poor report, writes your name down, you will automatically receive (2) detention(s). Is this understood? Good. Mrs. so and so, the class is yours. Have a great afternoon!"
10. Remembering to have discipline reports at your fingertips and to fill out that sub report at the end of the day (sometimes you aren't given those when you are just covering)

Try and remember that each experience will make you a better teacher for the next class you have. If you choose to learn from your experiences and to look for how you would do things differently the next go 'round, each sub job will be better than the last.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Half-Day of 4th Grade

Getting my feet wet as a teacher with a half-day of fourth grade worked out perfectly! I got to teach a science lesson from the Water unit I taught during my student teaching experience and a math lesson on parallelograms from the math curriculum I had used.

Funniest moment of the day: discussing quadrilaterals with a 4th grade boy. All squares are rhombuses, but rectangles are not rhombuses because their sides are not all the same length.

Scariest moment of the day: realizing that this school had a more complex line up procedure for lunch than I could ever have imagined. The buyers had V cards to swipe for their lunches in the cafeteria, the there were different lunch categories by which they had to be lined up and then the bringers followed them. Together we were to line up and then we had a specific place in line with the other 4th grades that we needed to be in. Fortunately, the kids knew the routine and I had a teacher down the hall to help me to understand the whole process in advance.

Most surprising moment of the day: we got a new student from TN! He showed up with his mom and the principal at our classroom door. Mrs. Boyd, the principal was great! She got him buddied up with another boy in the class who volunteerd to show him the ropes.

Lessons Learned:

Be prepared for the unexpected and be OK with it
The kids will help you with unfamiliar procedures
Other teachers will be there to support you
Make nice with the building secretary, smile big and BE FLEXIBLE

I had a great group of well-behaved kids.

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Day of Subbing....

I decided to check Aesoponline last night and what did I spy with my little eye, but a special ed. aide job for today. After some debate on whether I should take it (do I want to be an "aide" vs. I really need the money and the exposure) I decided to JUST DO IT.

Right after I decided to do it, Jeff hollered downstairs that some cat had pooped in our bed and covered it up. He found it by laying in it. Good thing it was normal cat poopy and not any other sort. I ran upstairs and cleaned it up and Jeff stripped the bed.

Jeff immediately went on a tirade about it being Pixie's fault (our adopted cat of one year), except he reverted to calling her "that cat!" and talked about the cost effective way of putting her down (.22 to the head) promising that he would make for her a humaine end etc. He went on to describe how he'd never wanted her etc. and how she had been forced upon him.

I decided not to emotionally retaliate and to wait until I had laid out my clothes, and packed my lunch for my first day of subbing to make my move. Wait, it's not what you think!

When we were in fresh bedding and ready to fall asleep, I let him know ever so gently how I felt about him attacking our Pixie. I explained myself in such a way that was not disrespectful to my husband but also in a way that conveyed my sadness at his choice to disown my baby girl. (slap, slap!) That's the sound of me patting myself on the back for not instigating a fight with my spouse.

Flash forward to 4:30 a.m. this morning when I woke up with Hobbes marching all over and around us (in his usual, I'm awake-let's-play manner). I continue to shoo him away in my usual patient manner and THEN...I roll over and put my hand in wetness and I instinctively know, it's cat pee. WTF. It gets better.

This particular patch of wetness is on Jeff's pillow next to his head. There is another equally luscious and stinky patch of cat pee on our comforter in the gap between us. I am now fully awake, and feeling fully justified in assuming that it is HOBBES (my beloved male kitty, and Jeff's golden boy) that has done the dirty deed. I wake Jeff up. He can't put his contacts in for another hour. He is blind and sleepy.

Flash forward again. I have discovered not only the two patches of cat pee on our bed (remember this is the second time in less than 12 hours that we have changed the bedding)but I have also discovered poop on a pile of Jeff's clothes and another scattering of scat on the couch in the livingroom.

Jeff has now stripped the bed again and is now in the basement washing and refilling the cat litter boxes with fresh litter. I'm carrying the cat pee blankets, quilts and sheets down the stairs and beginning to wash them after cleaning up the cat pee, poo AND two newly puked piles of cat bile vomit that I have found in our bedroom- the ever popular place to spew bodily excrement if you're a cat. Yay teamwork!

Long story short, Jeff was able to get the cats appointments with the vet who determined that the problem is behavioral and not due to a physical problem. Wow. Did not see that coming.

Even after the craziness of the early morning I had a great first day in the classroom. I followed a 16-year-old, eighth grade girl with MR around for the day and had a great time. It was a positive experience and I would do it again with a given opportunity.

Yay for teaching! Boo for kitties misbehaving.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's Back to School Time

If you're a parent, you're preparing to send your child back to school or perhaps to school for the first time. If you're a teacher, you're preparing to face a new group or groups of children. Preparation.

Getting ready for what comes next. That's what we do if we don't want to feel like the guy who finds himself naked onstage with the task of giving a speach before an unsympathetic audience.

What are you getting prepared to do?