Now about them kids…

I guess it’s time to return to the topic of kids- subbing and at church.  The past week I was back to two days of subbing after my big half-day Thanksgiving week.  I was lucky to get even that as only one district I am signed up with had classes at all that week, and only Monday and Tuesday.  Monday of course is a photo day for me which left only Tuesday for work.  So this past week I did middle school for two days in two different districts.  What happened in both cases was the teachers were taking a second sick day in a row, but fortunately this did not spell disaster like in that one BD/ED classroom in near-urban district.  The first class was a Spanish class, and half of a husband-wife team.  They even had classrooms right next to each other.  This is the second time I have ever encountered this, the first being in hometown district where a husband and wife both teach the same grade of science- one on each of the two teams for that grade.  Incidentally at that school there is also another married couple, but in their case they teach two different things.  So back to Spanish, it was a very easy day- for all classes I showed a video.  Now, she teaches both 7th and 8th grades, but everyone still got the same video- the celebration of Christmas in Mexico.  What was it?  Oh, yes- Piñatas, Posadas, and Pastorelas was the title.  I’m sure you’re familiar with the first- a seeming staple of Mexican celebrations.  The other two mean a party and a Christmas play, respectively.

Wednesday I filled in for an 8th grade resource teacher, though she had one 7th grade reading group.  This was a bit more interactive than the Spanish class, at least for some of the periods.  As mentioned, I worked with a reading group for one period, led an interesting homeroom activity where the kids picked sides with questions about what is more important to them and then some explained their choices, acted as an assistant in a language arts block, watched over a tutorial period, and led another block period with reading a story together and then watching over the kids as they defined words from the story.  A varied day for sure, unlike typical middle school classes.

Next post: the kids at church this week- I’m already tired of writing…

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.


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…

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.

Still my favorite grade

Monday: 5th grade.  Location: my hometown, same school as last week’s PE assignment.  This wasn’t my favorite fifth grade assignment, but it was still a good day.  The day started with specials.  As I subbed for PE last week, I knew a little bit of the schedule so I expected this.  It’s always nice to have extra time to go over the lesson plans, particularly in elementary school when there are so many different things going on.  Spelling pretest went well, but I thought there were some challenging words on that list.  It didn’t stop three students from making the challenge list though with three or less incorrect, to the disappointment of one of them.  They tell me the challenge list is much harder so they don’t like to do it.  One student mentioned purposely spelling some wrong to avoid this list.  I hope he wasn’t serious.  Note to self: make challenge list more fun too so students actually want to succeed.  Math was next, and being the advanced group I started out with my usual routine of putting up some high school or college problems on the board and asking them to solve them, saying, “This is the advanced class, right?”  Yes, ha ha.  So the real lesson was kind of a review for them I’m told, so the teaching part was kind of short.  Toward the end a student came back it asking for his homework for the rest of the day.  I asked him to wait a minute while I addressed a problem with the math group, but he just left.  I found out later he had a migrane so I can excuse his impatience.  I ended up sending his work home with another student.

The afternoon was reading and writing, followed by social studies.  There was a whole group and small group lesson.  Then we went over the reading test they took last week, the one the teacher still had with him.  Oops.  He asked me to make fresh copies for the kids, but since they were only going to look at them and nothing else, the teaching assistant gave me an alternative by making transparencies instead and saving a tree.  The social studies was finishing up a packet, and studying for their quiz on Tuesday.  I wish I had seen the packet ahead of time.  There were so many questions on the first page it would have been easier to go over a whole class example before they started.

So that was Monday in a nutshell.  Today I was at another school for the first time, another one close to home.  I picked up on it right away though.  It was a low-level reading program.  In fact, I subbed in a class like this just last week.  It was another district, but it seems they use the same program, just as many districts use the same U of I math program.  It was mostly small group work with 7th and 8th grade classes.  There was some whole group instruction, but it was just introducing the small group lesson.  It wasn’t a bad day, though I’ve had far worse.  Some of the students were ELL, and regular readers know about some of my experiences with ELL students.  Speaking of ELL, I had an opportunity to sub for 1st grade ELL today but I decided to take a pass.  One thing worse than those bad experiences in middle school ELL was in the primary ELL department, where there are many students who know very little English and are therefore that much more difficult to teach.

So, tomorrow I will be in yet another school I’ve never been in.  3rd grade.  Until then.

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.

Graduation part 3

Just kidding.  Thursday I subbed at a middle school again, and eighth grade did have graduation rehearsal most of the day.  Fortunate for me, I subbed for seventh grade.  The end of year had already come for three of the districts I sub in, but this one district actually finishes next week with a half-day Thursday and a one-hour day Friday.  I currently have an assignment for Tuesday, but I am not sure if it will last.  I didn’t get along well with one of the TAs in that class and even got a call from the principal on the day, but I have a good record with that school so he recognized it as an anomaly.  I did skip out on an assignment with this teacher since, but being the end of the year with only one district still in school I can’t be too fussy.

So, back to this week, I subbed Thursday for a BD/LD teacher.  The classes I had were two small-group reading classes and two tutorials.  There were two other classes, but I acted more as an assistant in those.  It was mostly self-work,  but one class was end-of-year details, i.e. turning in books.  Yippee.

Friday was a half-day with the class I was with Wednesday.  Good for me as I left my lunch is his fridge… 😀  He never noticed, and I grabbed it Friday.  Not much to do here- silent reading, correcting homework, math test, self-science review…  The teacher is going to be out all day Monday too.  Too bad for me someone else has that assignment.

Sweltering heat those last couple of days I will tell you.  With temps in the high 80s (with high humidity!) and no AC in the schools we were all sweating, even with fans going.  This district is finally entering the latter half of the 20th century starting next year, but that didn’t help much those two days, or the at least one day I will be working next week.  Can I wear shorts please?