Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old Faces, New Places

It's pretty nice to be liked by your students; to see their faces light up with recognition and loudly whisper to one another..."Mrs. Schoonover's here!" like you were a celebrity or Santa Claus.

This afternoon I had the opportunity to sub a half-day in my old stomping grounds; the building where I did my substitute teaching. In fact, I was in the classroom across the hall from where I taught the 4th grade. Today, my students were fifth graders and I have to say, fifth grade was enjoyable.

Not only was I pumped to sub in a classroom where I knew I would run into some of my old students, but I was also subbing for a teacher whom I admire and aspire to emulate; someone who has attained a level of teaching greatness I endeavor to achieve. Mrs. "M" is one, savvy lady.

This woman knows her shizzle and she had an awesome group of students. As a sub, walking into a well-managed classroom is like a soothing balm to the soul. You know within the first five minutes in a classroom what your day will be like and this woman's classroom was balmalicious. Organized materials, left a nice, clear lesson plan, helpful kids, and established routines. Fabuloso!

To say I had a great afternoon would be an understatement. These kids were wonderful to teach. It just ROCKS to have a good day!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Barren Grief

Whatdoyasay when people innocently inquire, "When are you going to have kids?"
And you want to, but you can't?

Maybe someday.

Whatdoyoudo when you're still waiting to be able to tell people you're the one who is pregnant,
And every other woman you are close to has already said it,
at least once
And they're younger than you?

It's just not our turn, again.

How much longer do you try and wait before you give up hope and admit your own barrenness?

This is never going to happen for us.

How can you look your husband in the eye,
Knowing you can never give him children?

What's wrong with me?

What's it like to feel like you're excluded from the Mommy club, or that you can't participate in a conversation about your kids when it's the dominant topic of conversation at most social gatherings for women your age?

I sit there silently, trying to smile and contribute something. Anything!

I crawl inside myself and hide there behind a smile. Don't ask me how I'm doing because I'll tell you what you want to hear, not what I'm dying to scream at you. Waves of grief wash over me and recede.

I wish I didn't want this so badly, then disappointment couldn't cut my heart so deeply.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

6th vs. 8th Grade Language Arts

I had a half day in a sixth grade language arts class yesterday (Wed.) and enjoyed it. Today I had a half day of 8th grade language arts and it was a different experience. I have discovered that 8th graders can't be allowed to work in groups, at least until you know them better and know who they can and can't work with and still stay quiet and productive. Individual work time is best!

I got the call around 9:30 a.m. at that I was needed at 11:20 a.m. I got to the school early and they seemed excited to see me in the office, I soon learned it was because my class started at 11:05 a.m. and they wouldn't have to get coverage for me.I was literally walking up to the classroom, many of the kids were already inside and there was an adult there with them that kept them occupied while I scrambled (in a calm authoritative manner) to find and read the lesson plans.

After the first class I knew what to do, and more important, what not to do. The second class went more smoothly than the last and then we had the third class with quite a few challenging students in it. Most of them stayed for a study hall period called "Trail" which got rowdy. It would have been good to know in advance that they weren't supposed to work in groups for Trail, only in pairs. I didn't know this until the end of the day, when I finally had time to read the rest of the instructions to the sub. It was a "wing it" kind of day.

PM homeroom followed and the students were at the end of their ropes as I was at the end of mine. Is it OK to crawl into a little ball and chant, "there's no place like home" repeatedly, when you're the adult?

There were no bells to signal the beginning or end of class. THAT was annoying.

Tomorrow is another day, this one will last all day instead of a "half" day. I'll be teaching science, which should be fun, but I don't know the grade level or anything else for that matter. It's the "not knowing" part that is so difficult. I almost think I could handle teaching middle school students if I had my own class where I could set up my own rules and procedures.

Into the unknown once again, on the morrow!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Full Day, 1st Grade

I took an assignment last night at a new elementary school, an older building, but closer to home. It was my first time in first grade and I met the teacher who was finishing up her lesson prep. as I arrived. She was obviously not feeling well, but she was very nice and showed me where everything was. That was nice!

She gave me a heads up about two students in my class. One of them was known by many other teachers. We'll call him Tishon. He was diagnosed with "Oppositional Defiant Disorder"

Tishon was actually absent the first part of the day, but arrived before lunch. This boy needs love, structure and discipline. He missed the first part of the day, and was out of routine, which put him off schedule and into a bad temper. He had trouble with everything, and every little thing set him off. He needs behavior therapy to learn how to deal with disappointment. Don't we all? To top it all off, his aide was not there today.

I don't know whether it was a coincidence that the two boys that had the hardest time behaving in class today, also went to after school Kids Care at the end of the school day.

My second little guy who had a hard time was Liam. I made him my helper today. He and Tishon did NOT get along and were at eachother during carpet time, and in the line. I learned to separate them quickly. Liam was very concerned with fairness, as was Tishon. They were tit for tat, those two. Two volatile commodities that I needed to keep apart or there would be inevitable fireworks. But I loved them both. I cannot tell you the amount of compassion that overflows out of me for these boys.

Lessons learned:

Ask the right kids for help

Make the attention seekers your helpers and teach them patience, discipline and self-control.

First graders love fairness and are continuing to learn about personal space and self-control.

First graders NEED routine.

"I'm standing up straight,
I'm standing up tall,
My lips are zipped and
I'm ready for the hall!"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Day and a Half in a Multi-Handicapped Class

Half day 10/1, Full day 10/2/2009

Every sub assignment brings new incites and learning experiences. I have to tell you I had the best time subbing in a multi-handicapped class for a day and a half. When you're helping kids to move around, to communicate, and to eat their lunches, it's a truly humbling experience. You really learn to be thankful and to count your blessings and you learn what it is to truly serve another human being.

These kids are dependent on their teachers and their aides for many things. It was a blessing to be in that classroom, with students who needed you,and who had the biggest smiles, even if they couldn't physically tell you "good morning" without electronic aide. They continue to focus on learning cause and effect, and that pushing a button or hitting a switch is necessary to communicate the need for help, attention, or a thought to another person.

I fed a student her lunch, I "danced" with students in their wheelchairs, I read stories, and I watched "All About Me" Power Point presentations to get to know the students. We even got to watch part of Mamma Mia. It was great! The head teacher and classroom nurse change diapers.

On my first half-day there, I was called away to sub for a half-hour in an 11th grade, honors Spanish class. The difference between the general education and honors environment is almost like night and day.

Lessons learned:

I will gladly sub in a multi-handicapped classroom.

It makes all the difference in the world if a student wants to be in school or not and if there is something in it for them.