Lean times

During these times of uncertainty I think it appropriate to mention that I have had a couple of lean days in the past week.  How so, you ask?  First of all I am not talking about my diet or any lack of jobs.  What I refer to is the lesson plans.  Twice in the last week I have walked into the classroom to a lesson plan book opened to the appropriate week.  Okay, this gave me the general outline for the day but another teacher had to come in and help me interpret them.  Seeing “10:15-10:30 Student Council Election” doesn’t tell me who is running, for what positions, and how to do the vote.  In this case I was told to skip it by the other teacher so I happily did so.  Things a lesson plan like this doesn’t include is behavior management system, details on what is to be taught, students who can help, and more.  Fortunately as I said the teacher across the hall laid it out for me and I was able to take it from there.  In addition there was a teaching assistant in the room for one of the students.  Both were very helpful.  As well, I had a good class, so all in all today was a good day.  Well, in the spirit of lean-ness this post must come to a close.  Well really because I’m tired and want to go to bed but if it fits the topic then, hey. 😛

y=mx+b

y=mx+b

My three day assignment that was cancelled earlier this week would have been at the school I wound up at today.  You can say it turned into a one day assignment I suppose.  Oddly enough, the teacher I would have subbed for was the “team teacher” in two of the classes.  In those classes I of course acted as an assistant, but I did get to teach four classes.  I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by and I mentioned the three day assignment to her and she told me she just rescheduled because she didn’t like taking days off in October.  I didn’t ask why, but conferences are around this time I think so that’s a possibility.

So the four classes were run pretty much the same way though they were actually two different levels.  The regular math classes were working on percent markups and discounts.  Given a cost and a percentage, they had to determine the final price.  The other two classes were algebra.  They were working on graphing equations and determining solutions from the graphs.  I actually got a high complement in one of these classes.  One of the students told me I taught this better than the regular teacher.  I didn’t know what else to say but to just thank him.  So…  Besides the last class having a couple of characters in it (I expected it, being a class of just eight students, and one of the regular classes as opposed to algebra) it was another pretty good day.  First period was one of the two “team teaching” period, so Just watching for the one period and seeing things not in the plans definitely helped here in keeping with the routine though I suppose being eighth grade they wouldn’t have had a tough time adjusting to a different routine if necessary.

It is now the start of a three-day weekend and time to get some rest…

7th to 7

No comments at all on the last blog post?  I either posted this story before or I caught all of you on a bad day I guess.  Anyway, I moved from 7th grade the other day to two different 2nd grade classes, and I do mean different in more ways than the obvious.  Yesterday was generally a good day.  I unfortunately had no break for specials like PE or music, but even without I didn’t have much to complain about.  There was an hour at the end of the day for computer lab and research, but though another ran that class I still had to be there.  They were researching dinosaurs.  Their entire day (well, almost) was actually based on this topic, from books to read for silent reading to centers work to the research at the end of the day.  This topic is an early speller’s nightmare by the way, with all those crazy names.  I think I can spell some of the more common ones like T-Rex, er- I mean tyrannasaurus rex and pterodactyl.  Those of course have come with practice.  Let me just take a quick look at Wikipedia for some of the more unusual ones…  Okay, just looking at one single classification of dinosaurs I found names like archaeornithomimus, anserimimus, struthiomimus, ornithomimus, pelecanimimus, shenzhousaurus, and harpymimus.  Yech- see what I mean?

So again that day went well.  A few students had to flip cards (oops, I mean “pull tickets” – small details like what things are called is of utmost importance to these concrete thinkers) but they were pretty well behaved.  I wish I could say the same about today’s class- some of them were all over the walls (figuratively).  I would often have to repeat myself when I told someone to just sit down.  Very chatty too.  They did not seem to know how to do work with no talking.  This is the sort of class I had when student teaching.  The teacher also didn’t leave directions for her behavior plan so I had to try to figure out how the one they had, one I was not familiar with, worked.  They tried to tell me, but they couldn’t agree on the details.  I did mention doing things just right did I not?  I had one boy who would just complain how I would do it.  Needless to say I will not be using this plan if and when I have my own classroom someday.

This class also had no break, but there was a shorter lunch and less “off” (someone else in charge) time.  In fact, the only time I had outside the classroom besides lunch was fifteen minutes to check out books in the LMC- they didn’t even get recess outside of lunch.  It wasn’t in the plans, but even if it was they would have lost it.  Needless to say between these two things the day felt quite longer than yesterday.  Does this tell me I am not able to do it?  Not at all.  I think I need to come up with my own behavior plan next time rather than conform to the cooperating teacher’s plan if I don’t like it.  That was probably also a mistake- trying to conform with how she ran things, automatically taking a follower (read: teaching assistant) role.  Not good when I’m supposed to be training to be a leader.  So, should I go back if the college agrees to give me another chance?

Fire! No wait, just that time of the year.

Today was a special day that occurs just once a month.  10AM, first Tuesday of the month- the testing of the disaster sirens all over the area.  I’ve always wondered what if there was a real disaster at this time?  No one would believe it.  It is also the season for testing something else.  For the past two days I have been lucky enough to work at the two closest schools to me.  One elementary, one middle.  For the past two days I’ve been blessed with the classroom disruption known as the fire drill.  I was warned of the impending one this week at the first school, and eventually told that Monday was in fact the day, but today at the middle school I didn’t have much warning.  In fact, I would have had none at all if it weren’t for the happenstance of one of the students leaving the room (with permission) to do something, and being told by another student that there would be a fire drill.  He came back and told us (there was a teaching assistant there as well).  Of course student-to-student information cannot always be trusted when you’re talking 7th grade, but we prepared for the possibility anyway.  Sure enough, about ten minutes later we were headed out of the building and across the street.  I bet that van driver coming up the street was none too happy about having to wait for a few hundred students to cross in front…

Yesterday I was with fourth grade, and had such a good day that, coupled with the clarity of being wide awake from an energy drink imbibed at dinner I was thinking- what if my calling to teach the grades I’m comfortable with was an accurate interpretation after all?  I speak of a calling I felt back around ten years ago to teach.  I was reading an article about teachers that day when I felt the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit on me seeming to tell me “this is what I want of you.”  After that I started to teach, badly at first due to my lack of experience, 4th grade at my church.  A new 4th and 5th grade ministry was formed that same year which I joined and still teach to this day.  A couple years after I went back to school to finish a degree.  I had come so close to an electronic engineering degree and failed at the very end.  This time I would be going to become certified as a teacher.  Well, I did very well for most of it, just like with my electronic engineering degree some years earlier, but like that degree I failed to pass the ultimate test.  Back then it was a senior design project.  This time it was student teaching.  I did an excellent job on my lesson planning, an okay job on teaching the plans, and a horrible job managing the classroom.  One of the rooms had over thirty students, but that’s no excuse I guess.  After that, I cooled my heals and started substituting- the professors at the school felt sorry for me and gave me a degree anyway, calling it success after so much time spent in school, but to this day it hasn’t felt like success.

A couple years later, I had an idea that I would get secondary certification (6th-12th) and get certification that way.  I would teach science in middle school I thought.  Well, after being told by a professor there, who had even filled in as head of the education department for a short time, I was later informed that no, it was a mistake and the policy of no second chances at student teaching still applied, even if I changed from elementary to secondary.  I then applied to another school and was accepted, but then once again I was later told that no, it was a mistake and they couldn’t take someone who started a teaching program elsewhere.  It has now been a year since that decision and a lot of wasted money taking classes to fulfill that secondary degree.  Thanks a lot. 🙁

This brings me back to today.  As I was saying, last night I had some sort of clarity on this and the shortcomings I have thought I had seemed somehow miniscule, and that I could indeed teach reading and writing as well as the things I’m good at- what was I thinking?  I am most comfortable with upper elementary so why should I have settled for a secondary degree anyway?  I am now seeking confirmation with God that I am ready for this and have His approval and blessing.  My mind has been changed so often that I can’t be sure on my own that this clarity is true or just caffeine-induced.  I do have some other lifestyle changes I need to make, particularly as I am not sleeping well again.  I had started Tae-Bo about a month ago, but then I pulled some leg muscles, followed by severe lower back pain (both are gone now), and finally the flood in the basement where I was working out.  I’m still not positive about guys and aerobics, even if it is martial-arts aerobics, but it’s better than running or laying out big $$ for weight training equipment or a fitness center membership.  Hopefully this can help me sleep once I start again.

So… how was today?  Well, I had no problems.  It was another LD/BD resource position like last week, but the kids were much better behaved than the one job.  In fact, talking was the only issue leading me to believe they were strictly LD (learning) issues.  I am a little perturbed about the rest of the week though.  I had a three day assignment that was cancelled at the last minute.  I logged in to the system to confirm it again and it was gone, no call about it no nothing.  I called the system as that is where it actually does the cancellations- for some reason it doesn’t do them through the web interface- and all I got was a busy signal.  That explains the lack of a call I guess- the phone interface was down.  I eventually got through and it did tell me the job was cancelled, so now I have to fill those days again.  Actually I did find a local 2nd-grade position for tomorrow, so that beats geting up at 6AM (other job) but now I work until 3:30 instead of 1:45 (Wednesdays are early dismissal days in the one district).  Well, that’s part of being a sub I guess.

First full week, finally

Did I really not post about my teaching for the last week?  Well, let’s see what I can remember.  Monday I worked as a special ed teacher at a junior high.  The teacher I subbed for I remember used to work in the district’s therapeutic day school program which is a program for students with particularly strong behavioral problems.  They even had large people specifically trained to restrain problem students and bring them to a cooling-off room when required.  I actually subbed for him in that position a couple of years ago.  These days he has moved to those with lesser, but still behavioral, problems.  Much of the day was quite simple with either team teaching (read “sub acts as teaching assistant”) or resource periods where students would work on homework.  He did have a language arts block at the end of the day though.  I did have an assistant to help as I worked with a group at a time so it wasn’t too bad.  We read a story about grey wolves.  The fun began last period, which was a study hall.  That’s when a lot of the behavior problems came out.  No, that’s not true- the last group of language arts was a struggle as well.  They were pretty much the same students in both cases in any event.

Tuesday I worked in grade 1. And 2.  And 3.  And 4.  And 5.  And- no, I’m finished…  I was in fact a floater.  I took over classes for an hour at a time.  I do wish they had organized the meetings a little more in my favor though.  I actually had to go from one end of the school to the other end at one point, a few minute walk due to the design of the building when I had to be in the next room right away.  Fortunately in that case the kids in the second class had been sent out to recess so the teacher was able to go to her meeting though I had not yet arrived.  It was overall an easy day and I was mostly able to talk directly with the teachers before and after meaning no written notes.

Wednesday I was in music.  This was actually the most challenging assignment.  The kids in many of the classes were very talkative.  Grades were mixed here too of course, from second to sixth (not inclusive- I had no third graders).  The older ones were the most challenging.  We did some music games the teacher had left, including instrument bingo (a standard) and a game where they formed musical symbols on the ground with their bodies.  That one was fun.

Thursday- let me look it up.  Ah yes, 5th grade.  Pretty normal though I had one very challenging boy in that class.  I’m not the only one who had problems with him either- I overheard a conversation in the lounge about him.  Apparently when we switched for math (I had the advanced class and did pan balance problems with them- similar to hands on equations I think I mentioned once before) he refused to do any work at all.  Well, with me he worked slowly but he did work.  He got distracted very easily though.  In the end he wasn’t as bad as some students I have had, but still a challenge nonetheless.

Friday I was in another special ed classroom.  The three sixth graders- wow.  Next to ELL a couple of years ago they were the most troublesome.  It was at this same school by the way…   One of the sixth grades is apparently on ADHD medication.  His parents I’m told are quite good at making sure he comes to school ready and medicated.  Guess which day they forgot?  Yep.  Once he had his meds after lunch he was a pleasure to work with.  Of the other two one was got very easily distracted and the other tended to work on only what he wanted to work on and was quite belligerent toward another student.  Two of the three finished their science assignment by the end of the day (worked on during no less than three periods…) and one even finished his math assignment.  There was one seventh grader who mostly worked independently and an eighth grader who wasn’t a problem when working, but he got some bad family news in the middle of the day and he was pretty much done working at that point.

Well, that was how my week went.  Now who would like to join me in subbing?  Come on, there must be one of you… 😛

A new home

Our 4th and 5th grade ministry has been undergoing some changes as of late.  Early this summer the one who headed it up for the last several years passed the reigns over to the one who had been running the younger ages for some time.  His own duties now encompass the entire children’s and student ministries, as well as co-running the church camp.  Anyway, things for the last few months have been running pretty much as before with a few new policies thrown in- things like changing the reward system (for memorizing verses, doing devotions, etc) and having us interact more with the parents.

Well, transition period is over and things are a-changing.  A few weeks ago someone who had been with us a few years ago came back and has been placed in a position organizing the 4th/5th grade ministry as a part of his studies at Moody Bible Institute, and he is full of ideas.  He has made a few changes already and probably the biggest one this weekend is that we are now to call the children who are in our small groups weekly.  We took down their phone numbers and I have a list of about six or seven who I will need to call this week.  Next week some of them will go with one of the new leaders who has sat in the last couple of weeks and will be ready to lead some of the kids next week on his own and so he will become responsible for calling them.  I hope we get more 5th graders next week though as they were pretty much outnumbered by the 4th graders and I would like to have a larger group than three or four after we split.  Unfortunately at least one of them usually attends at a different service so I will lose him for sure.  Oh, another change was to go back to splitting groups by grade as we have been just splitting by gender for the last year.  I will be first to admit that we have been getting lax over the years so changes are refreshing and will hopefully benefit the students.

The biggest change however has nothing to do with the staffing changes.  While this weekend we started with phone lists, we also started in a different room.  The room we are in now was at one time exclusively for junior high school, and on Sat night/Sun morning since junior high didn’t meet (they meet Sunday nights) it was used as a live video feed for those who for some reason weren’t in the regular worship center (parents with crying children who took their children out of the worship center for example).  However, they redid the area in front of the church and that has become the new live video area.  So now we are back in the junior high room.  Wait, did I say back?  Yes, when we started the ministry, breaking it off from the rest of the grade school ministry, it met in this very same room.  I’m not sure why, but at some point they moved us to a different room (maybe this was the start of live video feed?) and we finally ended up in the school library after that wing was remodeled and second floor added.  Now that we’ve outgrown that room we’re back in the original room, only now it is better than before.  We have a full sound and video system including microphones if we need it, we have games like foosball, carpetball, and air hockey that the kids can play before the service starts and while waiting to be picked up, and the room just looks nicer than it did nine years ago.  Yes, I have been doing it for that long.  Who knows, maybe my calling might be to leave this church and organize a similar ministry at a smaller church?  Or maybe just stay here for another nine years.

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And your job for this week is…

Most elementary classrooms share a common theme.  Besides behavior boards, displayed classwork, televisions, etc. there are those boards that show who has what jobs for the week.  I have seen job boards with only a few jobs listed and most students on deck for another week and I have seen job boards where every student in the room has a job.  Once the common jobs like lunch basket, paper passer, mailman/messenger, and librarian are filled the teacher has to start getting creative with jobs like watering the plants, policing the floor, watching the clock (so the teacher doesn’t go into that valuable recess time of course), massage the teacher, window… wait, what?  Back up there- massage the teacher??  Okay, I admit I have not seen this one myself but apparently a Florida third-grade teacher had this job on her board.  I say had as not only does the job not exist anymore in that classroom but neither does the teacher.  Needless to say, when the parents found out about this one some were quite upset.  Fifty years ago everyone might have just gotten a laugh out of it but in today’s climate of teachers, erm, getting just a bit too close to their students (and going to prison for it) it is understandable that parents wouldn’t like this.  The article makes it clear there was nothing like that sort of hanky-panky going on, but the district decided to let the teacher go for her inappropriateness.  Well, we can all guess that’s why she was fired- the school just said it was a “personnel matter.”  Anyway, read the article here:

Teacher Fired After Asking Her Students For Massages

PS.  I am now waiting for this sort of job to show up in the classrooms I sub in- would be nice…