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.

While I’m waiting…

I wrote a post two days ago, but because it involves a video I need permission to link to and the ones I asked have yet to respond.  Well, I don’t really know if I’ve asked them yet or not- if I send an email asking a question, is it asked when I hit the send button or when they read the email?  Apparently they are swamped at work right now.  Sigh.

So, how about this week then?  Well, on Monday I drove to Crystal Lake to observe a job photographing cars for online/magazine classifieds.  While this sort of job is done by one person at any given dealership (or rather, group of dealerships) there were two there I was able to observe and question since one was in training.  Training?  I wasn’t told about that, or the meager $250/week during such training, but hey- it’s $250/week more than what I made over the last several summers.  I guess it’s roughly equivalent to an $8/hr fulltime job, but only when training.  After that, it’s $7/car commission.  The ones I observed do around 100 cars a week, so that’s $700 per week right there.  I called the owner back Wednesday and said I was still interested, and will meet with him next week.

Tuesday I felt like I was in uniform with the rest of the kids as I subbed in 4th grade.  You see, the school I was at has a dress code (the only one in any of the districts I’m in as far as I know, well besides the standard stuff like no exposed midriffs, no beer t-shirts, etc).  They can wear red or blue polo shirts with I suppose certain pants or shorts (not sure of the exact code on the legwear), and I just happened to wear a red polo shirt that day so I ended up matching a third of the class 😀 .At one point during the day all the red-shirts were grouped together in the same general area doing partner work and I just had to comment on it.  And for the Trekkie readers, yes we all survived as we weren’t on an away mission 😛 .It was a pretty enjoyable day.

Wednesday I was in another elementary school subbing for an MI (mentally impaired) teacher.  He had eight kids, mostly 6th grade, so they were in their last days at this school.  So was the teacher apparently as he will be retiring after this year.  In fact, there seem to be half a dozen retirees-to-be at this supersized district school- When parking that morning I saw no less than six reserved spots for retiring teachers, including the teacher I subbed for.  I didn’t park in his spot, but I wonder if I should have?  Back to the class, Ironically, the largest student there was one of the 5th grade girls.  It was mostly a day of simple things like alphabetizing words, identifying letters and coins, and reading a simple book with them.  The end of the day had the students making predictions on how many blocks the kids could stack in a minute, then seeing how good their predictions were.  There was one who liked making predictions of forty-something or seventy-something, even after seeing the last student stack less than 20.  Well, I said what sort of class this is.  Theu also made cards for the teacher which is how I really discovered he was retiring since I had mostly ignored the names on the reserved parking signs on the way in.

Today saw me back in supersized district for 7th grade language arts.  For the first time in a long time, I saw one of my former students from church in one of the three block periods I had.  This school apparently has an abundance of teachers as the average class size was only 15 students.  In junior high.  This would seem to me to be the probably first place for cutbacks if they have any for next year from our sagging economy.  The students listened to a reading of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling, which I just now discovered while finding these Wikipedia links is actually a short story in The Jungle Book, which likewise I never knew until now is a short story collection rather than a full novel.  I knew the movies were based on the book of course, I just always thought it was a novel- you learn something new every day!  Of course, never having read the book this was the first time reading this story for me as well.

So that catches me up for now.  Hopefully I can move that one post from drafts tomorrow, just as soon as I get the permission I’m sure they’ll give once they have a chance to respond to my email.

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.

Not quite who I’m thinking of…

Hey, I recognize him.  Hmm, a bit younger, wearing pink, and in a wheelchair- I guess I didn’t recognize her after all.  No, I’m not on any sort of drug, illegal, prescription, or otherwise.  The class I was in today, a mentally impaired class, had a dead ringer for a boy who was in my cabin last summer and comes to church from time to time.  No, he didn’t look like a girl, but rather with the short haircut and the familiar face I thought the girl was a boy.  Then I saw the pink jacket and shoes, so I actually asked if the student was a boy or girl.  I didn’t realize at first why the face, not just the haircut but the face, cried “boy” to me, but once I looked closer at her I was like, “Wait a minute, I know that face…”  Well, if not the boy I know, then was she his sister?  Nope.  Completely different last name, and a foreign first name to boot, Preet, unlike his very English name of Danny.

To get on with things, this day was extremely easy for me.  It seemed like whatever I tried to do I felt like I was just getting in the way more often than not, so the usual best thing to do was in fact nothing at all and let the teaching assistants (there were three of them for the six students, usually eight though two were absent) do their thing.  These were primary kids (K-2), so that coupled with their impairments meant they needed the consistency anyway.  Their schedule for the day looked something like this: calendar time, which included singing; writing, which was either cutting and pasting words and pictures or inconsistent script for the higher-level students; an assembly which was a band concert by the area junior high; language lab where they put toppings on cookies (one refused to eat his too, saying the icing on it tasted “yucky”); making ziti for the party in the afternoon; lunch; self-selected reading; party with another class- they had made the dessert to go with the ziti- delicious!; more writing.

Well, I’m about to fall asleep so I will let the post end here.  If you see any errors, it’s because I couldn’t be bothered to fix them.  Tomorrow.  Until then.  Maybe I’ll add a picture to the top then too… 😉

Feast day- two days early

Well, it looks like I was somehow able to get a day of work in this week.  Apparently the teacher was gone yesterday too, and they didn’t use the same sub which left the door open for yours truly.  I am writing this post with a headache, so don’t be too surprised if it turns out shorter than normal.

I was able to pick up this day early yesterday afternoon meaning that had I worked yesterday I may not have secured a job for today.  Who knows?  Only one opening slipped past my radar for yesterday (locked when I tried to select it) so I imagine today would have been no better with the selection still being only one district.  The job?  Mentally impaired kids at the school furthest from me at about 13 miles.  I hoped to run into one of my church students here who graced my cabin at summer camp a year ago, and even found myself in the classroom across the hall from his, but as it turned out our paths never crossed.

So what is this sort of classroom like?  Think kids who can barely talk even though some are ten or eleven years old, two of which are wheelchair bound and can’t even feed themselves.  There were seven kids, three aides, and one teacher.  Yes, a ratio of less than two students per teacher; it takes that much energy to work with these kids.  Now these kids were very low-functioning, but that doesn’t mean non-functioning, so there is room for teaching them.  Mostly this is very basic math and simple writing (not all can write though), and a lot of coloring, cutting, and pasting.  Naturally the theme for the reading and writing lesson was- drum roll please- Thanksgiving.  I read them a book parodying The Night Before Christmas, replacing Christmas with Thanksgiving.  Then the kids did a sequencing activity on the book.  The ones who were able to write not only sequenced things from the book, they also had to write about it, a challenge for me to get them to do this.

Mostly the aides ran the class.  This was pretty much my only lesson.  I acted as an aide myself for much of the day which is standard practice as the aides know the routine and what to expect out of their students.  In the afternoon the day ended with an actual Thanksgiving feast.  There was corn, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and turkey- erm, cookies.  No actual turkey- several kids don’t eat meat anyway- but cookies decorated to look like turkeys.  I actually didn’t eat much of anything, and since this was less than two hours after lunch not much was given to the kids, but for them it was supposed to be a learning experience.  A lot of what these kids do is life skills, including cooking.  Last year I subbed in a class like this where the kids folded laundry (gym loaner uniforms).  I did force myself to eat a small slice of pumpkin pie.  There was only once slice left and I didn’t want to start any arguments 😉 .    I also took a cookie home since they were homemade and I didn’t want to offend.  You got me, I have a sweet tooth anyway so I didn’t mind.  One thing that the meal was missing was the thanksgiving part.  I didn’t expect prayer, this being the 21st century in a public school, but the aides didn’t ask what the kids were thankful for.  Maybe that’s too high a level for them, I don’t know.

Well, it looks like my post isn’t short after all, though I do still haved my headache even after taking an allergy pill and a 600mg Tylenol.  Come to think of it, I seem to remember that you don’t take Tylenol for headaches.  Waste of a pill- now where’s my Aleve?

Avast, ye scurvy dogs!

On this official International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I forgot one thing while subbing- I forgot to talk like a pirate.  Despite my reminder to myself.  I think the kids would have enjoyed it.  Oh, well.  Cleanup continues here on the home flood front- I finally ripped up the carpet at the foot of the stairs which has not dried since getting flooded.  The other day I also discovered that the dryer did not in fact survive the sump-pump failure.  It started once for a test run, but then once I put a load of clothes in suddenly the dryer wouldn’t keep going once the start button was released.  Later that evening, I came down to an odd smell, which after looking up the problem was probably a fried heat control board which is $130.  Sigh.   At least the washer works so I only have to dry at the laundromat for now.

Today completed a week (well, 3½ days) of elementary subbing.  Up until this week it was all middle school.  Two days ago I showed up at a classroom expecting 4th/5th and it turned out to be 2nd.  The teacher changed grades this year and her info was not updated I guess.  I’m mad at myself about that day by the way.  I overheard something from one of the kids and I said to myself, “blog moment.”  Now I can’t remember what it was.  Next time I will write it down I think.  Anyway, an interesting thing happened that day.  I walked in on a meeting- yes, even the elementary teachers sometimes have team meetings- they must time their specials to coincide- and one of the teachers mentioned that I subbed for her last year and the kids loved me, asking for me to sub again.  And since the students were being tested, the whole reason a sub was needed in the first place in this case, and that teacher has two days scheduled next week to do the same, she took the opportunity to ask if I was available.  Another teacher asked the same.  One will be testing Monday and Tuesday, the other Wednesday and Thursday.  So… long story short [too late] I have four days in second grade next week.  Will I survive?  Well, you’ll have to tune into the blog to find out. 🙂

So… This brings me to yesterday, a half day of PE.  Two mentally impaired classes where I really just helped the assistants work with the kids, and three 4th or 5th grade classes where the kids got to toss the pigskin around, preparing for the passing part of a pass, punt, and kick contest some time in the future, apparently sponsored by the NFL.  A few of the 5th graders really had good arms- could throw pretty far.

Today was a mix.  Between morning and afternoon I had 3rd-6th grade (one 3rd/4th multiage class, one 5th/6th multiage.  They were at two different schools too, meaning I had to spend half my lunch leaving one school, travelling, and checking in at the other school.  Fortunately the plans at the second school were pretty easy so I was able to go over them quickly.  Nothing too special.  A lot of worksheets in the morning and a lot of supervising while students read or wrote in the afternoon.  Actually, scratch that- there was reading with a group for 45 minutes and during their independent reading time I did book conferences with a few kids so I did get to do some actual work beyond classroom management.  Speaking of which, this was a slightly tough crowd to keep under control.  Nothing like the ELL fiasco a couple of years back, mind you, but challenging just the same.  Fortunately I did have help in the form of an assisatnt and a high-school helper.  You know, why didn’t I ever have the opportunity to go back to elementary school when I was in high school?  It would have been fun I think, and a break from real schoolwork, though I suppose this high-schooler will have to write up her experience, or keeps some sort of log.  That could take the fun out of it I expect.

ELS, not ELL- dang acronyms…

Not sure what to write tonight. I was at one of the few schools one district ever calls me for- I am not sure what’s going on with that district. I guess it helps that this school is the largest in the district at over 900 students 6th-8th grades. At first when I saw the acronym ELS when I looked up the teacher online, a practice I often do when I’m not told what subject or grade I’m teaching, I confused it with ELL, or English language learners. Middle school ELL as I’ve posted before can be, well just add an h in front of it and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Oh, joy. But I should have remembered from another district that ELS stands for (something) life skills. I am not sure what the E stands for, but in short this refers to mentally impaired students, whether it be autism, down syndrome, or what-have-you.

So I arrived and found out about the class, confirmed by the lessons on the plans, and the students arrived one by one. Announcements, attendance, then off some went while others came in- a bit unusual for a middle school where the students start in their first class except for a few schools that have homeroom scheduled at the beginning of the day. So the first class was all the lowest students who could barely read even at a first grade level. Mostly, they repeated what I or the assistant read but some could read a little bit without the help. Second period was quite the opposite. I had the higher level ELS students, and we discussed ancient China and their inventions. Yes, gunpowder was one of them along with paper money, ship rudders, and porcelain. Then there was math. Most students worked out of packets while I worked with some of the lower-level students again, practicing counting to twenty (well, I did say low-level). Actually, before math I had to relieve another teacher who had a meeting with a parent. That class just colored. Anyway, following math the kids did “vocational education,” which today was putting together Hawaiian leis (those flowery things that go around the neck) using construction paper flowers, cut up colored straws, and yarn. The teacher who prepared these actually cut the yarn too short so they wound up more like strange headbands. Oh, well.

Following lunch I got the higher level class again and we worked on list poems. An example similar to one we did together is:

What I like about summer
Swimming at the local pool,
Playing baseball at the park,
Hanging out with friends all day,
Chasing down the ice cream truck,
Sleeping in until late morning.

The last period (not counting my off-period) was kind of a laid back period. Some students played a game, others used the computers, and one did some reading. Anyway, that was it. Not exciting, but different.

And I just picked up my job for tomorrow. It looks like I will be back at middle school I was at Monday for… PE again! If that isn’t strange enough, it is for a third PE teacher out of the five there. Two to go… 😀