Time to close this blog?

Seeing that today is the one month anniversary of my last blog post about my life, that is a valid question.  The filler is interesting, but what about my two jobs, one of which was once the emphasis of this blog?  This week was actually a milestone for my new job.  For the first time my commission exceeds the $50/day they have been paying me since the start of training last June.  It’s still not much, but the job promises to pay more eventually.  And what about the camera training the owners have asked me to take charge of?  One of them has plugged me as the national camera trainer to one of the clients after they noticed my pictures are pretty good.  Great- a standard to live up to! 😛 .I still wonder how much I will be paid for this training whenever it happens.

At the moment I am subbing, or trying to, for two full days a week plus mornings five days every two weeks (every other week I go to two places on Friday so I can’t sub that day).  I am signed up in three districts this year but so far have only worked in two.  What?  Yes I did say two before, but then the third sent me a welcome note without my having signed up again so I stuck with it.  Since they were the source of some of my jobs so far, it looks like I made the right choice there.  I have subbed for one (half) day of middle school so far- the rest have been in elementary schools.  I actually took a bilingual first grade job- something I try to avoid during the main part of the year.  I also just took a job for a kindergarten morning Monday at the very school I went to for K through most of 2.  Oddly enough, while I can remember the names of all my other elementary teachers, I can’t for this school.  I wonder if I will be in the same classroom I was in for my own kindergarten?  I wonder if I will even recognize anything at the school.  I am pretty sure I took no assignments there last year.

Let’s see what I can say about the jobs I’ve taken so far.  The first-grade bilingual class was a little rough as the plans the teacher left were not very detailed, often requiring me or one of the assistants who were in and out of the room throughout the day to find the required materials.  The kids were also not very good listeners, but whether that was because of limited English skills or other reasons I couldn’t say.  Another couple of days I was in a position where there were no plans.  These were for special-ed teachers who didn’t even have set schedules yet being the beginning of the year so I ended up helping out in different classrooms throughout the day.  I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if I found out that they came in the next day and said, “I had a sub?”  I don’t think I was expected…  The junior high job was a teacher who had both 7th and 8th grade classes, and all I did was supervise as they used computers to work on projects.  I was worried when not just my classes, but others as well used the laptops throughout the morning with little time to charge them, but according to one teacher the batteries actually hold out for some six hours or so, something I have never heard of in laptops.  My own computer lasts for three or less, but with with its specs I am not surprised.

So why have I not been keeping up on my friend’s blogs even if I couldn’t be bothered to update my own?  I don’t know.  If you want refrain from posting commenting in return I will understand.

Oh, the irony

Last weekend I picked up a job in hometown district for first grade.  In fact, it was the school nearest my home.  Later, a job in supersized district appears for a resource teacher (they call it by a different name, but that’s what the job is- for those students who need the extra boost).  It was of course much further so why would I want to change over to this one?  Yet, for some reason I did.  Probably because I hadn’t worked in that district for a month thanks to them canceling most of the jobs I’ve taken in recent days.  Yes, the expected one included.  That actually lasted an entire week believe it or not.  I guess no one bothered to check and see that a mere 90-day (noncertified) sub had their three-week assignment.  We’re the ones who get the unwanted/last minute scraps at the table.  Did you know 120-day (certified) subs in this state can work more than 120 days?  They have to get a waiver from the state to do it, but for some reason they get it.  There was one year the state said no, but with some finagling they managed to get it back for the next year.  For the end of that one year, jobs were easier for me to come by.  So back to the story, I did change the job.  1st grade is a little below my comfort zone anyway, as I have mentioned.  So Monday I arrived and guess what?  They told me I was needed in first grade at the start of the day because another sub was going to be late!  Sigh.  It happened to take away my only break that day outside of a 45-minute lunch (the teacher didn’t have any students for nearly the first hour, after that it was one group of students to the next.  Actually, they offered to let me stay in first grade and bump the other sub to my assignment.  After having worked in this class for the last hour I thanked them for the offer but moved on.  And, the other teacher worked with older kids.

The first grade irony continued on Wednesday.  I subbed for elementary PE where we played hockey tag all day, a combination of the two games in the name.   The “it” players are armed with hockey sticks and they try to hit other players with yarn balls.  Depending on the rules the players hit could be out or become “it” as the stick is handed over.  The morning was all 4th-6th grades, most of whom knew what they were doing.  The afternoon had four groups, one 4th grade, one 2nd grade, and two 1st grade.  So, back to first grade for another hour 😉  Not only that, but one of the classes, probably the roughest group all day, was a class I had subbed in for a couple of days last year.  Several older students had asked if they could help me during their lunch, and this was the class they would have helped with had I said yes.  I should have said yes.  Oh, well.

In case you’re wondering, Tuesday was pretty much a repeat of IT in hometown district, same school as last week.  The 6th graders were working on house floor plans instead of enlarging cartoons, and the 7th and 8th graders were still doing modules like last time.  Nothing much to say.

Feelin’ a bit “testy”

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  The ISATs.  Illinois’s standardized test given to all kids to rate the schools (why?) and to see if they stand up to the rules of No Child Left Behind.  If not, then they have to know what to fix, so I suppose that’s a good enough reason for them even if rating the schools isn’t, in my opinion.  So what does this mean for a sub?  Less work to be had of course.  There are no meetings or workshops that would require a sub, and the teachers are supposed to be there giving the tests except in the most dire circumstances.  That leaves a much smaller pool of teachers who might need subs, fortunately through whom there is some hope.  Today for example I had a half-day for a literacy teacher, and since grades K-2 are generally unaffected by testing she could take the day off.  Yes, she is gone for the whole day but only required a half-day sub as she just canceled her afternoon obligations.  This position was one in which students are pulled out of their classes for extra reading help.  The four groups I had varied from kindergarten to second grade.  It should have been five actually, but due to a mixup two classes were out to recess when I went to pick up the kids so I had bonus planning time instead 😛 . Did I say K-2 are exempt from the testing?  Let me rephrase that.  I meant PreK-2.  What is the point of my bringing this up you ask?  Well, because a job I would ordinarily pass up opened up for Friday and I jumped on it instead- full day at-risk preschool for Friday.  I would pass because of the age and how far in the future the job is.  If it was 6AM and I was still looking for a job for the same day I would take anything of course, even the tough classrooms I’ve had in the past.  With three days notice I usually am able to pick something else up closer to my comfort zone, but for this month I have to treat any job as a blessing (and they all are) and just take it.  I have done preschool before, so I do know what to expect.  I remember at one school I would start thinking of the kindergarten kids as big kids.  Weird.

So here I am, sitting.  Using my internet connection to constantly look for openings.  Speaking of which, there is one district I haven’t seen an opening in for weeks now.  I should call and ask what’s up, but for this week at least I know they will just say it’s testing.  Funny, I seem to recall having this problem before with a different district.  I can’t find the post about it right now, oh well.  Maybe it was last school year.

The little ones

Last week when looking for jobs, an assignment for this week came up and I jumped on it even though it’s an age group I normally don’t work with outside of specials like gym or music, or potluck (floater) assignments.  However, it was a two-day assignment so I figured why not after all the middle school assignments I’ve had lately.  It was first grade.  It actually turned out not so bad.  One of the reasons I tend to stay with older kids is the type of management younger ones require.  It’s not just teaching with them, but mediator, parent, shoe-tyer, and other roles.  Well, I didn’t have to tie any shoes this time around in any event.  The first day had a slow start.  After taking attendance, bilingual kids (some Hispanic, many Indian) would leave ordinarily, a good third of the class, but this time only a few left while a teaching assistant came in to help with the rest.  Teaching assistants- always good to have.  They are a familiar face to the kids when there is an unfamiliar face like mine there- young kids love consistency.  The slow part was when we did calendar.  The lesson plans, generally well-detailed, was not so with the calendar time.  They pretty much just said the kids would help me.  The thing about that is younger kids always want to help, so as expected I had at least half a dozen little ones all trying to show me what to do.  Once the chaos was sorted out, I flipped through the cards they gave me and let each child do one of the dozen calendar activities until we made it all the way through.  We started the next activity, reading, about 15 minutes late.  I had to skip independent reading, but we eventually got back on track.

So the morning went- reading, stations (centers), some writing, and then the Spanish teacher came in for his lesson before lunch.  During centers, there were a couple of students who were at the computer center.  Unfortunately in this district there is no general log-in, and the teacher didn’t log in for me beforehand or leave me the password, so- no computer center.  They got to read instead.  Once the Spanish teacher came, it was a little break for me, but I stayed in the room anyway.

Following lunch the kids always spend five minutes quietly listening to music to settle down from recess.  Then the “star student” talked about her family, showing some photos.  I presume all the children get to do this throughout the year.  Once she was done, it was gym time, then music.  Another break- yes!  As asked in the plans, I graded homework while they were away.  The final part of the day was math.  I had two teaching assistants this time helping out, so it went well.  They learned about fact families for addition and subtraction.  Well, most of them learned.  I found out on day two, a rarity since most assignments are one day, when grading their homework that five or so did not in fact understand.  Well, I tried.  Finally, at 2:30 they were dismissed, I straigtened up, and left a note.

The next day was mostly the same, except no Spanish, art instead of PE and music, and dismissal was 3:00 (Wednesdays are early days in this district for teacher meetings- why they don’t just have the teachers stay a half-hour later one day I don’t know; I guess it works for them [and for me 🙂 ]).  The math lesson was more fun though- candy heart math in the spirit of upcoming Valentine’s Day.  They of course got to keep the candy hearts to take home afterward.

I should probably note that the biggest issue was one boy in particular.  He was one of the ELL kids, and he was all over the place- so much so that one of the counselors came in and marked off an area for him that he had to stay in.  I wonder what the teacher thought of it when she came in today?  Fortunately, her class uses a behavior plan where the kids have to change cards if their behavior is unacceptable.  They start on green and get two warnings, yellow and orange, before landing on red which means trouble.  For the one student, it meant a note home to his parents.  I’m not sure if it’s the same for the rest of the class, but whether it is or not as I said it means trouble for the student.  Only that one ended up on red one of the days, but several more wound up on yellow or orange.  The Spanish teacher was most unhappy about the class today- something about “worst day in five months…”

Well, in any event I survived the two days in first grade.  Next up: Friday’s ELL.  No silent h before that this time, but I do have things to say next post.

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… 😛

I hate going to the wrong place…

Sigh. If there is one thing that is deficient it is the software that one of the districts I’m in uses. No teacher comments on jobs, and no way to change the school in the case of a traveling teacher. So, it is up to the teacher to contact the sub and let that sub know when a position doesn’t start where the system says it does. Needless to say, today I was that sub. Last time I took a social studies position the teacher called me to let me know where I would need to be. Not this time. While I was aware it was likely to be an itinerant position again, I just figured since no one contacted me I would be going right where the system said I would. Silly me. I went there and, you got it “Oh, she doesn’t come in until the afternoon. You have to go to this other school…” I was pretty POed when I was told this. Someone has the responsibility of letting me know, whether it be the teacher or the office. At the other school I actually ran into the teacher in question. She was doing an observation so that was why she needed the sub. I didn’t want to be rude played it calm and apologized for not being on time because the system said I was to go to the other school. Whether or not she got the hint I don’t know as all she said was it was no problem since I didn’t start teaching for another hour.

I’ll have to say she did prepare thoroughly for me with all the materials separated by class, detailed plans, and whatnot. Meaning of course that I couldn’t blame her if things went wrong. 😀 Okay, I wouldn’t anyway, and nothing did go wrong. It was a rather pleasant day. Between the two schools I had four first-grade classes, one second, and three third. The lesson plans unfortunately were not quite the same for each class of the same grade so I was kept on my toes. The one thing I really didn’t like having to do was pick one student from each class to get an award for behavior. While I would like to say I was completely objective on the selection I really couldn’t keep a constant eye on each student to determine who best earned it. It was inevitably more like picking three or four students to watch who seemed to be behaving themselves and look for reasons to disqualify them, then still winding up picking between two or three at the end, completely subjectively. Oh, well.

Yesterday I was at a local middle school as the industrial tech sub. Tomorrow I will have a half day (oh why do I take these? At least I will get to sleep in!) for IT at another school. I already know what to expect there, so I could write up a comparison of the two, but I will save it for tomorrow anyway, just because I can. 😛

Help me make the music of the…

Hmm. Mr. Webber’s Phantom of the Opera line doesn’t quite work since this was during the day. How about, “The hills are alive, with the sound of music…” Yep, that works better. If you haven’t guessed by now the position I subbed for today was music. Elementary music. Like most specials jobs in the district I was in, it was a traveling job, but fortunately this time I went to the right school first. The first two classes were great. They were fourth graders and they were really focused. As they were in a unit about stage productions/musicals, they got to watch a video with scenes with a couple of famous dancers if you thought of Billy Elliot, you are dead wrong. In fact, he’s not even real. Did you know there is actually a musical based on this movie by the way?. Nope, not Michael Flatley. At least he’s real, but you are thinking too modern! Go way back to the 1930s-1950s to get this one. Okay, you have them- Fred Astaire and Gene Autry… No wait, not the kind of dancing that involves bullets at your feet- Gene Kelly of course.

Anyway, they saw scenes from a few shows including Ziegfeld Follies, Royal Wedding, and, of course, Singin’ in the Rain. In Royal Wedding, There was a strange scene where Astaire danced not only on the floor, but on the walls and ceiling as well! If you go to the Royal Wedding link and check out the trivia for it you can find out how they did it. These days they would just use computers of course. The kids really enjoyed that scene, as well as Kelly getting wet in Singin’ in the Rain.

I wish I could say that the fifth graders at the other school did as well with this video, but I can’t. There were technical difficulties (the LMC gave me a DVD player that was broken- it wouldn’t play the disc) and the first class just talked and talked, even after I finally got another player and started the movie. The second class was a little better, but still excitable during some scenes. The third class did much better, though not quite up to the fourth graders.

Finally, I had lunch then four afternoon classes with younger grades. No video for them, but instead the second graders worked on a show they were doing- we just went through all their songs on CD. I noticed this show involves the fifth grade as well. At first I wondered why the teacher didn’t have me do this plan with that grade, but remembering how the first two classes went I quickly shelved that question. First grade had yet a different lesson, which we only got partway through, but that was expected by the teacher. Well, that’s it for now.