What a week

The Thursday before last, I shot all of one car at two dealers- highly unusual, so on Monday that was more than made up for by having 18 cars to do between the same two dealers.  Normally this would make me quite happy, but not so much on a Monday following a snowfall.  For starters, I knew I couldn’t leave as early as normal because the dealers needed time to clean up their lots.  The first one was still doing it when I arrived.  Monday nights I have small group at my church, so it is the only night I need to finish on time so starting late and then finding I had so many cars to do, some of which would have to be brushed off, was less than thrilling.  I finished the second dealer a little before 7PM, then headed back.  It was dark and I was traveling 50MPH, so I can probably be excused for not seeing the massive pothole in the right lane.  I kept moving, but I feared it would cause my tire to go flat on the way home.  It didn’t and I was able to drive the car for the rest of the week, but when I brought the car into the shop Saturday because I needed a brake job, surprise!  A $500 repair bill.  Actually, it was higher but he gave me a break (on top of the four brakes 😛 ) because my mother and I were good customers.  $210 was for the brakes, $30 was for the oil change- that meant the rest was for the new axle and bearings on the potholed wheel.  Incidentally, I was an hour late for small group, partly because I stopped to eat on the way.


Tuesday I found myself in supersized district to sub- a rare occurrence these days as I can find few jobs available there even the mornings of.  And sub I dd- in bilingual kindergarten.  Fortunately there was an assistant with me for both classes- a different one for each class.  The morning had Spanish-speakers who knew very little English.  The assistant ended up running most of the morning.  It was a struggle.  Oddly enough there was a boy who I’m told actually knows English and very little Spanish, yet he was required to do everything in Spanish like the rest of the class!  The afternoon was supposedly Polish-speakers (hence the different assistant) but all of them knew English so I was actually able to take charge of this group.  I felt I accomplished much more with this group.


Wednesday I had only a half-day in, what do I call it again- next-door district?  It was for middle-school math.  The website said 7th grade, but when I got there I found out it was 8th grade.  Oh well, the system has been wrong before.  It was actually quite easy- most of the classes had tests, though I also went over homework answers.  This teacher actually teaches five different classes out of her six teaching periods- unusual for middle school.  Usually there are no more than three different classes, repeating the same lesson for more than one.  Her one repeated class was in the morning so I only had two different lessons, though I did start the 5th-period class which would have been my third different plan.  She arrived less than ten minutes in and took over.


Totally forgetting Wednesday when I had that entire afternoon free that there was a dealer in Barrington with two cars, I could kick myself when I realized I had forgotten and would have to fit them in Thursday instead.  This is a small dealer that only has a couple of cars every few weeks.  At least I did remember.  Eventually.  So I started off the morning by going there.  Of course, there had been some more snow Wednesday night so I didn’t get there too early.  I did the cars and was on my way to the next dealer when- 25-min in I realized I still had a set of keys from the first place.  Oops.  I turned around, angry with myself once all over again.  The better part of an hour wasted.  So I finally arrived at the next place, their lot cleared of snow, and found I had another bunch of cars like Monday.  Two of them were too loaded with salt to do (hey, I just used three forms of a homophone/nym!), so I breathed a sigh of relief and headed to the final dealer with a good three hours of light to go, though it would be less by the time I got there.  I finished with some light to spare.  You are probably wondering about Monday right now.  Yes, I did run out of light Monday, but when there is pressure to get things done at the end of the day like that I get all the photos out of the way first before I do the options and print the stickers, which tends to be the bulk of my time spent.


Friday I had only one dealer in the afternoon so I took a morning job in next-door district (still not sure if that’s the name I gave it).  It was for 3rd/4th grade.  When I arrived, I said who I was there for and was handed a folder for a classroom that turned out to be 1st and 2nd grade.  I looked at the name and it sounded right when I said it to myself, but while I didn’t quite remember the spelling of the name I knew it didn’t look right.  I asked another teacher if this teacher taught 3rd/4th grade last year as sometimes that info doesn’t get updated on the sub system (remember Wednesday).  She thought for a few seconds and then informed me there was another teacher upstairs with almost the same name!  I went back to the office to verify I was in the right class and found out that I was indeed given the wrong folder.  Both teachers were out this morning, probably both for the same meeting I knew at least the one was at.  I went upstairs to let the other sub know we had been duped.  She had almost the same story as me, knowing something wasn’t quite right with the room she was in.  We traded folders and I finally got a chance to look at the right plans.  The morning actually went quite well.  For the afternoon, instead of the usual two or three cars I had nine because for some reason the other photographer either didn’t go there the day before like he usually does, or they didn’t have any ready when he did which would have been strange considering nine were ready this time.  Well, more commission for me I guess- something I will need because of the car repair bill.  Sigh.


Saturday I was supposed to go cross-country skiing with a few guys from church, but when I called around Friday I couldn’t find anyone who rented skis close by, and the one store that was recommended to me closed at 6PM Friday night, too early for me to go there.  Well, I hope the others had a good time.  Instead, I stayed home to receive that repair-bill shock…


Well, that was my week.  How was yours?

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…

Partially immersed


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:

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.


Preschool in near-city district at a different school than the other times.  Tho other school had two near-identical classrooms- the teachers are truly a team there- and the students were English-speaking.  You know where I’m going with this one…  I arrived, and the principal was acting as secretary and signed me in.  Headed to the classroom and what is the first thing I see?  Everything in Spanish.  The one school got the English-speaking kids, this one got the Spanish-speaking ones.   Most did know a little English, and unlike another class I was in in another district, let’s just call it one-school district for the number of schools I was usually called to sub in toward the end of last year which is tied to the reason I didn’t re-sign up with them this year, this time I had an assistant working with me who could speak Spanish, so I didn’t have too much of a problem.  The morning and afternoon were similar in schedule to the other school.  I think they run off the same schedule as pre-k is a special progam in the district.  They had some start-of-day work, calendar time, centers (which included a lot of play centers), song time, wrap-up, and take them outside to the playground to wait for buses.  The morning was actually a little different than the afternoon.  The primary students (K-2) were preparing a musical show for Thursday night and the preschoolers were given their own bit for it by doing three songs of their own.  Two were counting songs (the duck with five chicks and one runs away, leaving four, then three, and so on, and a similar one with frogs jumping in the water- glub, glub!) and the third was a weird version of “Singing in the Rain”.  The other two had some movements the kids were given to do, but this song has them in the song ala “Hokey Pokey:”  thumbs up, shoulders back, knees together, butt out, tongue out…  All given one at a time and added on to the rest so by the end it’s a true video-moment seeing the kids doing all of that.  Those of you with kids might know the song I’m talking about.  They also practiced these songs during the song time.  For morning, the rehearsal took the place of the start-of-day work and caused centers to be shortened. even though we only stayed to do our songs and then left.

Right after calendar was read-aloud time.  In Spanish.  With a tape (whew…)- I only had to hold the book up and turn the pages.  Apparently the title was funny- I just wish I knew why, but I forgot to ask the assistant.  I read Spanish about as well as I speak it.  For my center, they worked on making ducks with construction paper.  The outlines of what to cut out were already drawn for them so they just had to cut them out and glue them on in the right spot.  I added a 3-D element by folding the beak, feet, and wings so they stuck out.  As par for course, there were things glued upside down or lopsided, or even in the wrong place.  Most did fine though.

At the end of the day, they went outside to the playground.  This was the easiest part- just watching them to make sure they didn’t get hurt.  After this, I had to strap in a bunch of students in the bus.  They put their seatbelts on, I had to tighten them.  For about ten kids each in the AM and PM.  One also had additional gear to attach him to the seat which fortunately I had seen before in the mentally impaired classrooms I’ve worked in so I knew what to do with this.

Again, thanks to the help of the assistant I survived the day.  Next up, 5th grade then 8th grade social studies.  Tomorrow.  Three posts is enough for one day, for me at least… 🙂

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.

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.

From 8th to 8

Going back to elementary was quite a difference from the last several days, in more than one way.  First, going from age 12-14 to age 8.  There is a world of difference between teens and second-graders.  Second, going from the specials to the academics.  The last week has been dominated with Industrial Tech and PE, with a short break in ELS (also quite different from second grade even though some of the material is similar…).  Finally, working with a single group of kids all day instead of over a hundred.

I didn’t actually do much teaching today.  They really have a routine down with language arts centers so all I had to do there was introduce what they would be doing and then help here and there when some didn’t understand something or other.  Math was just an end-of-year assessment (didn’t need to be reminded of this- the lean season known as “summer” is nigh upon me).  They had a handwriting worksheet I only needed to introduce, again, and computer lab in the afternoon where someone else pretty much ran the show while I helped.  I did get to start a book for read aloud, a Mexican Cinderella.  They are on a unit apparently about Mexico, including learning some Spanish.  Across the room were their attempts at making the Mexican flag which I had to duck under every time I crossed the room.  The teacher I subbed for must be much shorter.

Well, it was fun and I did at least get to work with a class I have worked with once before so there were less surprises- I’ll tell you subbing in an elementary classroom requires a lot more work than in a middle school classroom.  Breaking routine can be difficult with younger students, whereas older ones just take in stride and adapt.  Therefore, studying the routine from the plans takes up some time.  Well, enough of this blathering on.  On to bed and then a different second-grade class tomorrow.