Partially immersed

日本語が話せますか?

If the characters above got rendered properly in your browser you should see Japanese writing.  The proper response for me would be, say what?  Of course, if I knew what that said the real response should be:

いいえ、私は日本語を話さない。
Sorry, I guess you probably don’t know Japanese either.  The first question was, “Do you speak Japanese?”  The response was, “No, I do not speak Japanese.”  When encountering a Spanish-speaking classroom, I always start with, “No hablo español, solamente inglés.” (I don’t speak Spanish, only English).  It’s fun to see the kids’ reaction, especially if I add a little bit more from my severely limited Spanish vocabulary.  With Japanese, I can’t even begin.  Three times in the space of two weeks I found myself in dual language classrooms- twice for Japanese, once for Spanish.  What kind of class is this you may ask?  I will answer.  Once upon a time the way to teach kids a foreign language was to offer it as an elective in high school.  Then, someone learned that the best time to learn new languages was as a young child, so they added the classes to the junior high curriculum (in some cases making kids take five different ones in sixth grade!).  This trickled down to intermediate grades with one language twice a week like gym.  Still not happy, the powers-that-be started dual-language classes allowing children as young as six to start learning a different language, and that is where we are today.  In such a class, the younger grades slowly learn the language, and then they start instructing in that language as they get older for a sort of immersion experience.  In the Japanese class, this means that for the entire afternoon teachers and students use only Japanese.  The teaching assistant took over this duty of course since I would be unable to converse in or even understand Japanese.  It was an experience not unlike working in a deaf classroom as I have done before, but knowing that I could converse with the students in English when necessary.  This was sixth grade, so they were on their sixth year of this.  They seemed pretty proficient to me- having read Japanese books for starters and giving a book report in Japanese.  When it came time for me to instruct, however, we all went back to English.
The Spanish class was 4th grade, so they weren’t as proficient in their second language as 6th grade was in theirs.  There were no book reports or the like in Spanish, though of course it could have just been the day.  When trying to read the Spanish social studies book, it became clear many did not understand very well.  Unfortunately I did not have a Spanish-speaking assistant at this time as I did for Japanese.  When math time rolled around, the Spanish-speaking assistant finally arrived and I expected she might take over for a bit, but she didn’t so we did the subject in English as I could do little more than the numbers and operations in Spanish.  As it turned out it was probably a good thing we did it in English as they had a difficult enough time with the topic in their primary language.
So what’s next, dual language French? Italian? I guess I may find out.  It’s odd that this is the first year I have been in this sort of classroom in all my years of subbing.  Bilingual and regular foreign language classes yes, but not dual-language.  This may mean then that the chances of doing it again are somewhat remote, so we’ll see.

From kids to kars.. er, cars

It looks like this may truly be the end for the summer, but it is also a beginning.  I was able to secure jobs for the last three days.  I even had a job for this morning, but I canceled it when I was still awake at midnight and it required an earlier start.  I stupidly took a nap yesterday afternoon so that affected my being able to get to sleep.  Monday was an extension of Friday as it was a two-day assignment.  It was a light-duty assignment since it was an assistant position.  I was pleasantly surprised though to find the assistant I subbed for had a paid lunch-duty assignment, so the lower-paying assistant assignment was offset a little by this.  Too bad my Wednesday assistant assignment didn’t have such a thing.  It’s the end of the year though, so I take what I can get.  The two assistant assignments differed somewhat in that the first was there for a group of five kids (four actually since one has been out of school for the last couple of months) while Wednesday my attention was focused on just one boy with autism.  For the first I was on hand for the rest of the class as needed, which wasn’t much being the end of the year, and for the second I stayed around this one boy, but did help his neighbor too who needed it at times.  Across from him was another boy with albinism- the second I met this year.  As seems to be standard with this condition, he had vision problems which required extra-large textbooks and he had to wear sunglasses and a hat outside.  There really wasn’t a lot of academic work being done on these last few days as the grades had already been turned in.  There was a lot of cleaning and turning in books and extended recess times.  There was a lot of letter writing in one of the classes (imagine writing a letter- at least half a page each- to every student in the class.  They were doing only five a day, but still very monotonous.  They also did math speed drills, practicing the times tables.  I also did a lot of copying.  Well, at least I was paid.  It was also a rest in a way which is perfect for this time of year.  Tuesday was completely different.  You already know about the fire, but aside from that it was a very normal teaching day with math, reading, and so on.  I didn’t do much teaching though- a lot of facilitating.  Get them started on something, and off they go as I walk around keeping them on task.  I saw one of my now-former weekend kids, but only for math.  The teacher I subbed for did advanced math.

As I write this I am still trying to secure a job for tomorrow, but I won’t be surprised if nothing turns up.  One district is already out of the running.  Monday however, I start on something new.  I will be training to take pictures of cars for ads.  Actually, I think I mentioned this in another blog post so I won’t repeat it, but now I have signed the contract and have an official starting date.  He is even allowing me to do my usual week at camp, which is coming up in less than three weeks.  Training can last three weeks to three months depending on how quickly I learn the ropes.  This should become my priority over subbing, but I will probably still do maybe one day a week, more in winter if there are less cars to do.  I will see.

A middle school week

(Big Nate ©Lincoln Peirce)

This past week I could be found in a middle school every day.  In fact, I was in one school for three days for two teachers.  I started the week in near-city district at the school that was closed for a few days a couple of weeks ago due to swine H1N1 flu.  Yes, I’m still fine, thanks for wondering 😉 ..  The class was IT, though in actuality he only had four classes (I believe I mentioned before that at this school 6th grade doesn’t take this class).  To make up for it, he had a tutorial, something usually only the core teachers have, and lunch detention.  It is my understanding that under normal circumstances lunch detention has only ten or less students.  Monday had 23 😯 ..  Most didn’t have passes though as was supposedly required.  Huh.  So as typical in this class which doesn’t have an assistant like in hometown district, students didn’t work on IT projects.  Instead, students had to read a packet then do three worksheets based on it.  Yeah, kind of a blah day for the kids.  The packet only covered about half the chapter that the worksheets had questions on I discovered later in the day.  So naturally I informed the students of this… hey, are you kidding??  Like they needed an excuse to be lazy and not do it.  “Hey, I didn’t find the answer in two seconds so it must be in the half I didn’t get to read so I’ll just skip the question.”  My lips were sealed about this little discovery 😈 ..

Tuesday and Wednesday I subbed for sixth-grade math.  Not that I taught any, nope.  Still in near-city district, I was at their other middle school and the teacher left plans just having students work on problems out of their books.  This is the sort of assignment in which one hears about subs falling asleep…  They were generally well-behaved, at least in my book.  The resource teacher however, who came in for a couple of periods, didn’t think so as she was very…not friendly.  My highlights were going over the warmups (not listed in the plans, but I did it anyway just to have something to do) in each of the math classes, but for her one social studies class I just suffered in silence as I babysat.

Thursday I was in hometown district, so I didn’t have to drive as far.  This time I was with 7th grade language arts.  They had a spelling test, afterwhich they worked on a persuasive writing packet for the rest of the time.  You may be thinking, “Spelling test? But it’s only Thursday!”  Well yes, but this district had an institute day Friday making it a four-day weekend instead of three (Memorial Day ya know).  Near-city district on the other hand was supposed to have a four-day weekend, though Tuesday instead of Friday being the off day, however for them Tuesday was a buffer day that got changed due to the winter’s snow days.

Speaking of near-city district, as you already surmised from my opening paragraph I was back at Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s schools as a 6th grade resource teacher.  No, not that one, but the one for the other team.  I’ll tell you, her first period was very busy.  Do this, then this, then this, then this…  Fortunately she gave me time constraints, otherwise it would have turned into a do this, then this, then leave a note on how we ran out of time for the rest period.  Out of the rest of the day, team teaching with another teacher followed by a tutorial period, two of the periods were quite interesting as there were two subs in the room- a lot of teachers were out- could Memorial weekend have anything to it I wonder..? Come to think of it, there were a lot out on Thursday too in hometown district…  Anyway, there was a little more restlessness in these students than the ones earlier in the week which I fully understand since it was a holiday weekend coming up after all.

So that was my week at work.  I do hope I get a chance to fill this week, all four days of school, but I suspect I won’t have four full days.

Thursday

Back to the school I subbed in for art last week, about four doors past in fact in 4th and 5th grade row.  It was another day with no break for specials, not even computer lab like Tuesday.  The morning consisted of a large language arts block with a reading from their Treasures reading book and some guided reading.  I made an error in the guided reading- I was supposed to have the second group read their books while the first group read and discussed their book with me.  I read this note as I was passing out the books after the first group finished- whoops.  So we read the book together.  Well, in the end neither group got to the next part so I left them on even footing.  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

Following language arts we had time for social studies before lunch.  They are using a book called History Alive! and we learned about the Bill of Rights.  In reading earlier the students read out of the book, but this time I was told to read to them so I did.  They ended the morning with working on review sheets for the chapter which they would finish for homework.  Lunchtime.

The afternoon began with math.  My job here was to go over the work they did for homework and turn it over to the teacher from across the hall who would come in and teach an enrichment lesson.  Kids as always enjoy coming up to the board so we did that when we could.  Unfortunately I went over by about ten minutes- why am I always so slow when it comes to teaching math?

The rest of the day was recess and speeches.  I got to listen to the kids introduce famous people, living or dead.  The teacher brought in a podium, but a few students were a bit on the short side so I had to scrounge around for a makeshift step for them using a couple of books and an overturned storage bin.  The books were underneath to prevent them from breaking the bin when they stood on it.  They seemed to have some well-written speeches which I presume were graded already, so today was more about the presentations.  What is probably the number one area needing improvement in giving speeches?  I didn’t look this up but I would guess eye contact as that is what most of them struggled with.  They tended to read right from their papers.  The first student who actually seemed to have decent eye contact ruined it by having his arms in front of his face because he had decided to rest them on the podium.  There were a few though who did a good job on eye contact though.  They also did quite well on volume.  I could easily hear and understand most of them.

That was pretty much it.  I was hoping to see a student of mine from church there as he was only two doors down but our paths never crossed.  I did mention it to him today when I saw him.  So, that brings us to…

Tuesday

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…

Donning my explosion-proof suit

Back to the school entries- it’s been too long.  Before I continue though, one of my friends mentioned that I have been too general with my district descriptions, that she is always wondering which district I’m talking about.  I have been thinking about how to refer to these districts because I want to play it safe so any wondering eyes from those districts don’t lock on to my posts and figure out who this is in case I post something I shouldn’t.  I could of course refer to the districts as A, B, C, and D, but that would probably get to be just as confusing.  How about I come up with some better descriptions:

♦ Hometown district = the district in which I live, presently my favorite district I might add.

♦ Near-city district = the district I work in that is closest to the big city, Chicago, to where I live and bears a few similarities.  This is the district that has the really tough ELL and BD classrooms.

♦ Next-door district.  Of course, there is more than one town next to me, but the ones to the north, east, northeast, and southeast of me I am not signed up in at the present time.  Two are too small, and the other two called me so rarely I didn’t sign back up with them.

♦ Supersized district.  This district has a lot of schools.  It encompasses one entire town plus parts of at least three others.  It of course isn’t as big as Chicago’s school district, but what is?  Besides which I am not signed up for that one of course.

With that out of the way, I was in near-city district today doing something quite crazy- I returned to the classroom I had big problems in just a few months ago.  C will be glad to know that this is officially a BD/ED classroom, no LD kids to be found, unless they are also BD or ED (behavior, emotional disorders).  I was in my full faculties when I accepted this assignment just so you know, tired but not so much I didn’t know what I was doing.  I reasoned that there were unusual special circumstances last time- all four teachers/assistants were sick the day before, and I was one of two subs that day.  If you think young kids need consistency, these kids are like autistic kids in their such need.  They just broke down without it and I happened to be one of the targets that day.  So, in full figurative battle gear I headed to the school this morning, expecting anything.  I was early, got a look at the plans, talked with the other teachers, then read a book until the start of the day.  Fortunately I was the only sub this time.  The kids arrived, I waited for the explosion, then.. nothing.  It was actually a quite pleasant day.  One 8th-grader was absent for the first few periods meaning I didn’t have him at all which turned out to be a good thing as when he arrived it was apparent he remembered last time and got visibly upset if I just talked to him.  As for the rest, they had no such problem even if they did remember last time I was there.  Also making for an easy day, two of the classes involved just listening to an audiobook while the kids followed along (and they did, I guess S.E. Hinton is a hit with them), and one class was a single girl watching a movie.  The other two had potential for disaster as they actually involved my input and/or teaching, but the other teacher smoothed things out before they happened.  Kudos to her for using her planning time to keep watch as I led reading a story together before they could get a chance to work independently, which is what they are most comfortable with.  The other two, assistants, were off in watching the ones in specials at this time.  The last class was tutorial, and because this is the last day of the week (Good Friday tomorrow) the ones who did well that week got to watch part of a movie.  The other teacher took the ones who didn’t earn it to another room.

You were looking for a, err, more exciting day, weren’t you?  Admit it!  Sorry I had to disappoint you :mrgreen:

How about the other three days this week?  Well, I subbed for art in hometown-district yesterday, special-ed math the day before (same district), and, lessee…  oh yes- Spanish in the near-city district on Monday.  All days went very well.  The Spanish lesson, oddly enough, was actually social-studies lesson on Latin America rather than a lesson or worktime on actual Spanish.  At that school the 6th-graders don’t take Spanish so it was all 7th and 8th.  They also don’t do industrial tech which leads me to wonder what they do instead of these classes.  Art was movies for all followed by a little drawing.  5th grade had the most problems but the rest of the day went well.  The only real thing to report for the special-ed math day was 8th grade at the end of the day- they were so quiet and really worked- was this really 8th grade in April (the start of 8th-grade-itis, a common condition in those who know they will be in high school in a few short months).  That and there was a little mess-up at the end of the day when I found out I was supposed to bring the 8th graders down at 2:00 for an assembly.  Couldn’t they have announced it at 1:55 or something?  Oh, well.  They only missed 15 minutes of it.

For the other two districts I haven’t worked much in them as of late.  Next-door district continues to have next-to-no assignments available for some reason and supersized district actually canceled the last two days I signed up for.  Thanks a lot.  At least they didn’t do it the morning of so I was easily able to get other assignments.  Speaking of canceling, I wonder how long it will take to cancel this next one I signed up for?  This isn’t bitterness talking, but reality.  You see, it’s a three-week assignment.  Yes, you read that right- three weeks.  As a noncertified sub, they are sure to pull that one away when they realize what happened.  I have my suspicions it wasn’t even meant to go up on the system.  Perhaps another sub canceled the assignment by using the system instead of calling the school.  I will be genuinely surprised if I still have the job come next Friday.  I am more than willing to do it-  I just don’t think the district will let me.  Anyway, make your wagers and I’ll keep you posted.

Surprises of various kinds

This week certainly had some surprises, starting off on Monday morning.  Having been extremely lucky, or so I thought, with a five-day assignment in 4th grade, I was a little surprised when the phone rang early Monday.  Uh-oh.  Yep, job canceled.  It seems the school decided to use “one of their own” since it was more than a few days- lucky me.  Fortunately the district is good enough to substitute any jobs on hand at the time when they cancel a job, so I was able to pick up two days that way, but not the half-day that was offered for that afternoon- seems the offer is for a short time only.  So, I was up early on Monday and no longer with a job for the day so I started doing my rounds.

This leads to the next part of the story.  Remember when I mentioned a problem with a certain district?  Well, I called last week and was told that there was no problem with my account that would prevent my seeing jobs for them so I was ready to call the sub system company this week to see what their thoughts were about why weeks went by without seeing jobs for the district.  During the rounds a full-day job in this district popped up and even surprised as I was I took it immediately before seeing what it was.  8th grade LD/BD.  Well, it wasn’t fourth grade but it was a full day so a nyah-nyah to the other district’s offered replacement half-day that I didn’t get  😛 . As it turned out, I would have to be there in just over a half-hour so I was off to speedily get ready.  I made it, barely.  It was actually a great day.  The first period- very quiet, the students seemed to be working.  Second period same thing?  These were LD/BD 8th graders??  I certainly couldn’t complain.  These were the only two periods I had by myself too.  All other periods I helped in a mainstream classroom- 1½ language arts blocks with another sub and a math period.  I would sub for this teacher again in a heartbeat.

Did I mention the one district gave me two days for the price of five (figurative- not five days of pay for working two!)?  I guess I had better correct that to the real offer- one day, not two as when I got home I discovered one of the jobs was canceled like the original, at the same school no less.  This makes me very wary of taking another job at this school in the future.  I was so concerned I worried that my Tuesday jobs (two half-days at the same school in neighboring classrooms) would be canceled as well.  If this were not a different school they may very well have, but come Tuesday morning there was no call, and when I got there the jobs were perfectly valid- I bring this point up because one time in this district a couple of years ago I showed up for a job only to find a very surprised teacher who had not requested the day off- turned out some student was able to get into the system and did some messing around.  So there I was, ready for a day in classrooms with autistic kids.  Not a problem, as long as the assistants in the room weren’t subs too.  I have had that happen too- that day was not easy.  Two regular staff members camped out that day in the room to give the kids familiar faces which autistic kids really need.  Fortunately, I was the only sub.  For the most part this day went fine.  The teachers were even there, just pulling kids out for testing.  The biggest problem was during the morning.  As you already know from my previous post, putting a hand in front of the face of an unwilling autistic learner can lead to consequences.  I was reaching in front of this girl to point out something on the paper and apparently she gave in to the animal instincts we sometimes have and bit into my thumb.  Well, that was the end of working with her.  Good thing she didn’t break my skin or I would have had to get some treatment just in case.  The other kids were more willing to do the assignment.  In the afternoon I did some one-on-one again for math, but there were no incidents here.  One of the kids was actually more of a two-on-one because a concerned assistant stayed to make sure the boy worked okay with me.

So that was Tuesday.  Wednesday I was surprised again.  I had no job lined up again, so once again I was up early looking.  Surprise- another job in that district that was dry for the last month or so came up again.  Unfortunately for me it was a half-day for the afternoon.  Not having anything else show up, I decided to keep it and use the extra time to catch up on some much-needed sleep.  Nothing really to tell about this one.  It was a school I hadn’t been in before, but it was a subject I like, science.  It was a good afternoon.  After I got home I slept for another hour before drama rehearsal at night- the reason this post is dated today, not yesterday.  One of my cast was missing (there are three casts for kids drama) and one poor boy was the sole member of his cast.  At least they still let him rehearse, even if some of us stood in for the other members of his cast.  Neither his cast nor mine perform for another six weeks or so though due to a long break for Eastertime.