Priceless dog therapy

Okay, those are two things mashed together in the title describing events of Wednesday, my only day of subbing this week (though I am still trying for some Friday work).  What happened to Tuesday?  Well, I had to push my Monday photo work to Tuesday due to that annoyance to the daily routine known as jury duty, or in my case non-duty.  Fortunately no driving was required for this civic duty as the location was Chicago.  In fact, I would just not show up rather than drive there due to the ridiculous traffic.  Fortunately, the train stations are within walking distance both from my home and the courthouse in the city.  I also was glad this was the civil court instead of the criminal one- I don’t know how people are able to serve on juries for criminal trials that can often take weeks to complete.  I realize jobs can’t fire you for jury duty but they don’t have to pay you, and that lack of pay would be a huge problem, at least for me.  You noticed, I’m sure, that I wrote “non-duty” earlier.  What actually happened was my group got called down (while I was in the bathroom no less) and we went down to a courtroom, only to wait and be told that the two parties came to a settlement so no jury would need to be picked.  So we went back up to the jury waiting room in case we might be needed again.  About an hour later we were called up again, jury trial take two, or so I thought.  However, this time we were given our checks and sent home- I guess being called up once can count as our civic duty even if we didn’t make it to jury selection, let alone trial.  We did have to wait until they were sure we would no longer be needed though.  With half the day still left, I stopped for lunch since the next train wouldn’t depart for another 45 minutes.  Unfortunately, with the light leaving us earlier these days I was not able to go to even one of the dealers since I couldn’t be sure how long it would take and didn’t want to make a wasted hour round-trip anywhere.  Yes, I could have blogged Monday, but I just wasn’t up to it.

Which leads us to the topic of the title, my sub-job Wednesday.  I had to get up at 5:30 to start looking since it is near impossible this year to get a sub job in advance for some reason.  I somehow managed to secure one at a nearby school in their mentally-impaired program.  I must remember never to show up any later than 10-minutes early at this school.  I was right on time, but ended up about ten minutes late because they closed the lot by the front doors due to buses meaning I had to ask where the other lot was, wait in traffic to get to it, suffer leagues of parents dropping off their kids in the very same lot, find a spot, then walk a quarter mile back to the front doors of the school.  I did note there were still spots left in the front lot as I headed to the doors.

So I eventually made it to the classroom, somehow still before the kids arrived to the class (though I still had to work my way around several at their lockers).  Being a MI class there were of course teaching assistants so I was able to cool down from the hassle of my arrival.  They showed me the schedule for the day, but being Vet’s day that schedule was just made to be broken.  Instead of an hour of guided reading, for example, they had maybe 20 minutes before heading to their 2nd-grade buddy class.  That teacher talked a little bit about Veteran’s Day, and then a couple of soldiers came in to visit- one from the Army, the other a Marine.  Both had served time in you-know-what part of the world (the marine couldn’t tell us where- essentially saying it was classified, but the army soldier had been to Afghanistan).  They talked a little about what they did, what life was like with their respective units, and their families.  The 2nd-graders had written several questions to ask them during their visit.  It was quite interesting.  Once the principal came in and whisked them to their next class to visit, we headed back to our own room for snack time.  The next schedule change came during this time.  Just as they finished eating and sat down to read silently, in walks a vet.  Okay, she wasn’t a vet but I just had to use that play on words.  Notice how I didn’t capitalize the word this time?  That’s because this person was a pet therapist, if not a veterinarian.  Both work with pets, though for different reasons- oh never mind.  So my pun didn’t work- sue me. 😉

Anyway, the therapist reminded the kids how to handle the dog (apparently she had been here before), making sure they let this lap dog sniff their hands before they could pet him.  She also taught them how to give the dog treats (in an open hand, because the dog could bite your fingers if you hold the treat by the thumb and forefinger).  She also had the dog do some tricks.  The kids one at a time rolled a die and the dog would jump through a hoop for the number of times it showed, then later they did dog bowling where the kids would hide a treat among foam pins, and the dog would knock a number of them down to get to the treat.  Cute.

The kids got their silent reading in, and then we skipped math to do calendar in the short time left before lunch.  This is where the next part of the title comes into play- the look of surprise on a 5th-grader’s face when you sneak up behind him while he’s eating lunch and ask him a question in a place he does not expect to hear or see his church and summer camp leader as he turns and recognizes me.  Priceless.  As I talked to him, two more kids from my church got up to talk to me- one of whom I was going to talk to next, the other a surprise to me.  What was funny about this encounter was the girl who I had worked with in church drama last year didn’t know what to call me since she only remembered my first name, which is what I use at church- Mr. Derek.  She had clearly been taught to not use an adult’s first name at school.  Maybe I told her last year, I don’t know.  I didn’t know the third one came to this school, but this school being the closest to my church means several kids do happen to attend school here.  I know of three others in the junior high area who I know I have mentioned before (two are the girl’s brothers, twins whom I have also worked with at church).

The rest of the day was pretty mild.  I had an extra half-hour off due to the kids going to music, and when they came back we scrapped writing for some reason to watch part of a movie.  You know, I don’t think I have ever watched 101 Dalmatians before even though I kind of know the story.  We only watched a little bit of it before getting ready to go home, where I rested up until choir rehearsal, where I just want to mention that another pair of twins I taught a few years ago are regularly a part of- they finally came down to the tenor section after singing alto for the last couple of years (hey, they were 12-13 at the time!).  I can even name a couple more sets of twins and a set of triplets too.  I don’t know why, but they are not all that uncommon at my church.  Well, if I can think of some story to write about them sometime I may say some more.

Week in review

This week was mostly unremarkable.  Monday I was in second grade, Tuesday and Friday PE, Wednesday sixth grade science, and Thursday I was in third grade.  The highlights, or in one case “low”light, were probably the PE classes and the third grade class.  Science was a “students work on projects while sub circulates” day- not that it was a bad day, just a relatively uninteresting one.  Second grade just wasn’t memorable this week.

Tuesday’s PE class included some 4th and 5th graders who played a game called “homerun derby” where they used a fat bat and tried to hit a small gatorskin dodgeball across the room to a predefined homerun zone.  The 4th grade class didn’t get a single homerun leading me to switch to actual game mode toward the end.  5th grade did better.  The big part of this job though was the work with mentally and physically impaired students- three classes to be precise.  These classes started with some running, though some were pushed in wheelchairs or otherwise helped along by assistants meaning those assistants got a bigger workout than many of the kids.  Then with varying degrees of success the students practiced hitting the ball when pitched to them.  Again, the assitants played a big role here, not only swinging with them, but in some cases just getting them to the plate to take a turn.  The third class had more severely impaired students, so they didn’t even have the ball pitched to them.  Instead, there were T-ball setups, one of which I brought out to them.  The classes ended with free-time as these kids can’t go for a full 30 minutes of structured gym time.  They got to choose balls or oversized scooters (2 feet x 3 feet (!) I think) and spent the rest of the time with them.

The third grade class was truly a low point.  I was worried from the moment I read the note saying to get the help of one of the teachers next door if the class gives trouble instead of calling the principal over, which apparently one sub did three times last year.  I actually did not have to call him over, but the one time he did come was in the middle of a crisis so of course I ended up looking bad.  I’d better cross this school off for any sort of permanent job should my life go in that direction.  There was one student who actually got so mad at one point he stormed out of the room slamming the door behind him.  This was shortly after the principal’s visit when some students were set on finding some money that was thought to be lost or stolen instead of working in their reading groups.  Another student got frazzled and needed some calming time, saying he had a bad day yesterday and was trying to avoid one today.  Well, depending on what that bad day entailed, he may have failed as it was certainly a bad morning for him (and me) from that point on.  By the afternoon things got better though the math group tended to be every bit as chatty as the regular class (they switched for math).  There was also an assembly at the end.  The student who had stormed out during the morning was supposed to sit next to me, but instead the principal had him help with the awards presentation, rewarding students for positive behavior/work over the last few months.

The other PE class was my reward for Thursday’s third grade.  Over the entire day I only had five classes.  This had part to do with the fact this teacher worked in three different schools and so had two travelling times, and part to do with Friday being a light day with only one class at one of the schools instead of the usual four, so I was able to go home for lunch (this was in hometown district).  All classes went very well.  The first school had a volleyball unit going and her classes had their first day playing a real game so I had to go over the rules, though we really didn’t keep score.  The other three classes played some tag games.  It was a nice way to end the week.


Tuesday I was in the same district, but got to sleep almost an hour later.  I headed the same way in the morning, but turned off at the middle school corner to continue on northward to hometown-district’s northernmost school.  I checked in and headed to class.  The big difference in subbing for elementary versus middle school, besides the size of the students, is the lesson plans.  Most of the time in middle school I teach some or all lessons more than once, occasionally six times.  In elementary school however it is one class so there are a lot more plans.  Lucky me (not) I arrived on the no-specials day.  At least, no specials that gave me a break.  This was their computer lab day, so that at least was an hour I didn’t teach, but I still had to be there to help.  They learned about a website with books online, and when I say that I mean thousands of books- current and fully illustrated, in dozens of languages, accessible like a library.  Some even had audio tracks so they could listen as the stories were read to them.

Trying to remember the rest of the day- I worked in elementary again Thursday in hometown district and have fresher memories…  Ah yes, the math lesson was fun.  They had a test for half the period, and then I taught part of the next lesson.  What was fun was teaching them about standard units of measure.  We started off with a non-standard unit- how many 2nd-graders long is the room, then how many of one second-grader.  The answers were slightly different- 8 second graders, but only 7 2/3 of the one student.  I reminded them that if I chose the shortest student to measure the room, the number would have been higher and if we measured using a teacher, it would have been lower.  So then I introduced the yard by covering the last few inches of the meterstick (most metersticks have inches printed on the other side, and a meter is longer than a yard) and they estimated the the length of the room in yards before we ran out of time.

If I can recall any more good moments this day I will add them, but for the most part is was really a standard day otherwise with guided reading groups, social studies, silent reading, lunch…

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.

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?

Mine is smaller than yours!

Wait- that’s not quite how the saying goes of two boys comparing sizes, is it?  Well, in second grade apparently that is quite the appropriate comparison for comparing the lengths of their pencils.  Literally speaking of course- how can you even think…! 😮  Oh, never mind.  Anyway, the lower grades can prove to be quite interesting as the way a small child thinks is so alien to adults.  In the case I mentioned, two boys were in competition to see who could use the shortest stub of a pencil.  The clear winner was the one who sharpened his pencil so much only the metal eraser band was left with only a small point at the other end.  The next day, there was a boy who would break the point on his pencil on purpose and just use the broken tip.  I guess that actually beats the stub from the day before.  Including last Wednesday, I kind of just worked my way down the hall from one second grade room to the next.  Each room had its own challenges and own interesting characters.

Umm, ‘scuse me a minute while a close my window.  A skunk just walked by…  There.  Whew.  Where was I?  Oh- characters.  The latest room had a boy who liked to fight and apparently did so at recess time yesterday.  He was supposed to spend lunch with the principal today, but he didn’t show up.  Did his mom keep him home?  There was also the hearing-impaired girl who required me to wear a microphone.  I had to try to remember to take it off when I wasn’t talking to the whole class or to her.  For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to stuff it in my shirt pocket when not in use.  Bad idea of course.  Instead of getting me talking to others, she got the scratching of the microphone against the material of my shirt.  She never told me.  Only during the afternoon today did she tell her one-on-one assistant who told me.  Apparently Pokemon is still in fashion, as one boy showed me his small book of cards he would take with him to lunch.  And you already read about the pencil boys.

Of course as is normal for primary grades, there was the ever-present “this is how we do things and so you’d better get it exactly right.”  Okay, it wasn’t that bad but small children really aren’t as flexible as older ones when it comes to routine.  speaking of routine, it was nice how the teachers worked together and had their classes doing a lot of the same things.  Some of the stuff I got to teach more than one class, making it easier for the second since I already knew what I was doing.  All-in-all, it really wasn’t that bad working the five days with second grade.  Experience normally has me dreading multiple primary days as so much extra focus is required compared to the older ones, but this wasn’t bad at all, perhaps because the teachers were still there (doing testing) and checked in from time to time taking some of the pressure off.  I don’t know.  Tomorrow will be a little different in any event.  I have two half-days for music, but I might drop the afternoon because there’s a job fair going on at that time that I should attend.

EDIT: I forgot to mention the “does this look like the face of a guilty person” look of innocence one of the boys gave me when I asked him to change his card (behavior system).  It reminded me of when a sixth-grader tried this a couple of years ago with another teacher.  It failed then too- the teacher just said (a little sarcastically), “aww- how cute”  then gave him his punishment anyway.

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Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow…

No, I am not posting about Annie, but rather when FedEx gets over here tomorrow with my new computer. My old one died last year, hard drive failed again making think there is something wrong with the controller as it ended its life in the same way as the one it replaced. Second hard drive worked all the way through. Fortunately I was able to get a final backup of critical data before it stopped working altogether. I have been using someone else’s computer ever since, but it will be good to have my own again. Which reminds me, I will need a wireless router now so I can use the computer anywhere, after all what good is a laptop if I can’t surf the net from the bathroom? 😀 Time to join the new millennium, eh? I’ll probably pick one up on ebay.

Well, second day of second grade. Different school, different class, different experience. I actually got to do some teaching today, though only in math. They seemed to be a few sections behind the other school interestingly enough. Basic multiplication facts. That can kill the joy of math for many… They did get to draw at least rather than just writing numbers. They would draw arrays, like a 4 by 6 array for the problem 4×6=24. Aside from math I went over answers, did some reading aloud about how a movie is made interjecting my own thoughts as well as getting theirs on the process, and, well, that’s about it for the teaching I guess. The rest was more or less babysitting and trying to learn their particular routines. And no specials for this class today by the way. Aside from recess and lunch I was with them constantly, though like the class yesterday they had computer lab time where someone else was at least in charge even if I didn’t get to put my feet up in the lounge.

The lounge- what a tiny room to be crammed so full of teachers. There was just enough room for three long tables pretty close together with just enough room to walk around them. It wouldn’t ordinarily be so bad as teachers tend to go out for lunch, but today they had a cookout with grilled steaks and chicken, and baked potatoes. I’m not sure who all was invited to the cookout, but I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know about it. So instead of going out, they all got their food and came into the lounge crowding around the tables. I felt sort of like this:

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It didn’t help much that half the table space was taken up by three large cakes (someone’s birthday- don’t know what the other two were for) as well as a couple of miscellaneous snacks of which I did partake. 🙂

Well, aside from a 5th grade band concert in the afternoon, it was pretty much a normal day I would say. Good group of kids though a bit talkative and some would move about without permission. And now a long three or four (hoping just three) day weekend. Two districts are off on Tuesday so I may be out of work that day as well as Monday…

By the way, 100th post for me!