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.

Oh, the irony

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

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

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

First full day of the year!

And only day this week, partly thanks to my connection issues which are unfortunately still ongoing.  I had no internet at all for yesterday afternoon and evening, while today it’s been intermittent.  I wonder if the signal is now too powerful if that’s possible?  I mean, it was going through a cable that was chewed or worn to the center wire, so it’s possible that in the past they have had to increase it to compensate (the cable didn’t get that way overnight after all) and now that it’s fixed, the signal may be too strong.  Just throwing a guess out which is probably completely off.  The tech who was here was unable to measure it as his portable reader needed recharging.  Since the connection was up and I was getting nice speeds (around 19000kbps on speakeasy.net), he just let it go.

Still in special ed on Friday, but not due to meetings this time.  Apparently the teacher had a bad case of bronchitis on Thursday so he wisely opted to take Friday off.  It was actually a rather easy day.  Four classes (well, three really- one was a typical two-period-long language arts class) were team teaching, meaning that a sub just takes the role of a teaching assistant while the other teacher takes over the teaching part.  The other two classes were resource periods.  I just gave them a topic to write about in their journals and once finished they just worked on homework.  There was also a teaching assistant in these classes (a sub too, by the way) so as you can imagine it was a pretty light day.  Next Thursday and Friday I have a job lined up for ELL in another district.  This is a teacher I refused to work for last year or most of the year before.  I am hoping things have changed since most of the students from that problem class have gone on to high school.  I will let you know how it goes, hopefully with other stories throughout the week.

Last couple days

My last post on my actual experiences with the kids was last week, so I guess it’s past time to write about it again.  I finished last week as a traveling social studies teacher on Friday.  That’s right, this district has a separate teacher do social studies for 1st-3rd grades.  I’m not sure why.  To get started, when I accepted the job online it showed what school the teacher works at of course.  The school is located at the far end of one of the further districts from me (read: at least a half hour drive), but this was the school one of the kids in my church group attends so I thought I might see him, and so I accepted it.  As it turned out, the system I believe lists the school at which a traveling teacher works at the beginning of the week.  However, this was Friday so all bets were off.  I actually wasn’t aware it was a traveling job when I signed up, so I didn’t think anything about it.  Now, I was at my Thursday job when I accepted this job (no, I wasn’t looking when I was supposed to be teaching so just take those fingers off the keyboard and read on! 😀 ).  By the time I got home there was a message waiting for me from the teacher telling me that I would be at a different school in the morning, and yet a third school in the afternoon.  I wouldn’t be at the listed school at all.  I am glad I listened to the message and didn’t go to the original school.  We all know I have gone to the wrong school before…

To make things short to move on to this week, the day went okay.  Second grade was working on tourist booklets for their town, with an attractive front, facts about the town on the first inside flap, and pictures on the rest.  Being second grade, they needed help on the spelling of course.  Also ideas for facts and pictures.  Being the town that had the first store ever in a major restaurant chain, that was prominent on several projects.  1st grade listened to a story on safety.  Dinosaur boys and girls were featured in this story.  Hmm- so that’s why dinosaurs became extinct- they broke all of the safety rules! 😛  3rd grade were learning about Chicago history and we worked on a timeline of major events in Chicago history.

Monday was one of those days of subbing for a teacher who was still in the building.  She is a resource teacher for grades 1-4.  Of course this was just one day so for all I know she may have 5th and 6th grade students on other days.  She had to do some testing so that’s why I was subbing for her.  There was one first grader who was pulled out three times for this this teacher, and apparently at least once more for another.  It would seem he doesn’t spend much time in his classroom, at least on Mondays.  He was pretty unhappy when I pulled him once right after the other teacher brought him back.  I really hope this level of disruption is actually helping him.  The morning was spent with three reading groups of different grades, and a push-in where I went to the classroom and worked with small groups of students.  They were reading plays (leveled for their reading level of course).  Drama can often be favorite moments in teaching and today was no different.  In the afternoon I had one pull-out (the first-grader) for math and other than that I was helping out in classrooms as needed.  They started the fourth-graders on algebra, using hands-on equations.  This is a program using manipulatives on a “scale” to solve equations by balancing the two sides.  I didn’t have any algebra until I was in junior high…

Today as I mentioned last post was a half day for me.  Fortunately it gave me time to get assignments for later in the week in my downtime.  I had PE at a school that I have had many problems at.  It’s an all-year school that actually has classes from 8AM to 4PM.  This long day probably contributes to the problems I have had.  The first two classes were 4th/5th grade classes.  The first class had a new teacher.  Actually, the teacher started the year as a first grade teacher (had been one for at least the few years I have known of her).  Apparently the 4th/5th grade teacher moved a couple months ago and the school switched the 1st grade teacher and hired a student teacher to replace the 1st grade teacher.  I compared two class lists, and it looked like two of the more “lively” students were gone as well, but they might have been moved to another class for all I know.  We played speedball in the three classes I had (40 min classes by the way, not 30 min).  The two 4th/5th grade classes did very well.  The 3rd grade class was a different story.  They played like everyone wanted the ball rather than just wanting to play to win.  Once one student had possession of the ball, most of the rest of the class surrounded him or her, pretty much preventing the student from doing anything other than handing the ball off to a teammate.  After awhile some students just quit playing- this wasn’t a game of good sportsmanship.  I actually had to stop the game and have the kids spend the last five minutes sitting down.  The nurse came in and yelled at them too (one of the students had run out of the gym to her office toward the end- he had pulled a girl’s hair and then she tried to get him back.  Sigh.  When I told the gym teacher about the morning (he arrived before I left) he knew right away who that student was…

So, that was my last few days.  If you’re still awake, now is the time to leave comments (hint, hint!).  Until tomorrow then.


Subbing has traditionally been a waiting game, waiting for that call to come inviting you to take over someone’s classroom for a day or sometimes more. There is one district that for some reason last fall seems to have just stopped calling me altogether. Actually, that is not strictly true- the sub for the sub caller (yes, even they have ’em!) actually called me a couple of weeks ago, but the regular caller hasn’t called for over two months now. Well, at least I am blessed to work in an age where I can grab jobs off the internet (by the way, I refuse to capitalize this as if “internet” is the name of a town or country). Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work so I am left waiting until the morning of for some district to call (yes even the computer systems call) or for a last-minute bout before the day starts to at least find a half-day position on the online systems.

Well, this morning I indeed received a call from one of the districts. Enter password, this middle-school resource teacher needs a sub, yada-yada. However, when it got to the end and I selected “yes” for the job, the system said, “sorry, we are unable to assign to job- goodbye.” Nice- why did you call me then? Another district’s system locks the job when calling someone so someone can’t select the job on the online system when it is offering it to someone by phone; I guess this one doesn’t. Either that or the teacher canceled while I was listening to the instructions. Since I was then awake, I sat down at the computer and looked for a job. Fortunately I found one right away- and one I wouldn’t need to be at until after 8:30, so back to bed I went for another hour. As usual, I slept for only half that- I don’t know what it it, but I can’t get good sleep lately. I constantly wake up and fall back asleep throughout the night, sometimes laying awake or half-awake for a while before going to sleep. It seems I have picked up this problem from one of my parents…