Thursday, October 28, 2010


Trying to control the sixth grade class I was in today, I played "trivia" with them, making them each answer a question before lining up for lunch. Name the captial of this or that state, name someone who signed the Declaration of Independence etc....

Name a famous cowboy. I was looking for Jesse James or Buffalo Bill (not exactly cowboys, but the idea is there) or someone like that.

I got Woody.

Couldn't argue. He's a cowboy, and he's famous.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Early is Too Early?

This week is Red Ribbon week. We tell the kids to say "no" to drugs and give them bookmarks and elastic bracelets to remind them of the word "no."

There's nothing like a kindergartner or first grader asking, "what are drugs?"

I get the idea of planting the seed early and conditioning kids to make good choices when the time comes, but sometimes I think it's too much too soon. They're still trying to figure out the right direction to draw the number 7, and we're telling them about drugs.

College is the other big one for me. One school I work at has each classroom themed like a university. Usually, the one the residing teacher attended. Each room has a bulletin board in the school colors with a banner, streamers, etc. Another elementary school has a line about attending college within their school pledge that they recite after the Pledge of Allegiance.

This is another message I think we might be drilling in with too much enthusiasm. I get that dropout rates are bad, and that we want kids to finish high school and be eligible for college. I also get that the job market 0pens up substantially for those with a college degree, but truthfully, college isn't for everyone. There are many worthy trades where a degree is not necessary. Why are we obsessed with this message? And are we filling young heads with information that only confuses them and adds to the stresses they already face on a daily basis when we give them these broad instructions on how to deal with situations they're not going to face for many years, if at all?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

First Month Down

I was a little bit worried about a lack of work this year because my favorite district put subs on backup in favor of recently pink-slipped teachers. I'm still worried about that in a long-term outlook. It's the district where I live and I really enjoy the fact that so many of the schools are less than a ten-minute drive from home.

However, I am pleasantly surprised to have already worked nine days this year. Most of the days were in what has always been my least favorite district. It is difficult to get to, parking is a mess and the schools are overcrowded. At least, that was my impression after last year. This year I got three days in a row in a school that is on my edge of that district, and only about 8 miles away from home. I don't have to mess with freeways, it's a straight shot down a large boulevard, the school is actually quite nice, with the upper grades being in a brand new building, AND it has a parking lot! There are still too many kids in the classrooms, but, that seems to be the trend everywhere.

I worked a fourth day there just yesterday. So...maybe the Mother Superior in The Sound of Music is correct when she says that where a door closes, an window opens. I hope this is a good omen for the rest of the year. The first month there are a lot of meetings. Of all my scheduled days, I think only one has been to cover for illness. Budget cuts have also cut out a lot of inservices, but maybe it will be okay....maybe. Cautious optimism...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Did I Miss the Announcement?

Raise your hand if you heard the announcement the Principal made that said you can run on the stairs, talk loudly in the halls, talk in class, not listen to teachers and take things off of other people's desks today!

Nobody heard that?

Then I guess today is just like every other day and we have to follow all the same rules we've always followed, right?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bathroom by Lottery

I may have hit upon a way to deal with the "I have to go to the bathroom" requests that have a tendency to spread like wildfire after the first kid asks to go.

I had 29 third graders today, and in the time between the start of school and first recess, I have no clue how many kids had to go. I don't like to decline the requests, because, well, they may have to actually go.

So, when I went out to get them from recess, naturally a few asked to go before we went in because they "forgot." I lined them up in the hallway outside the classroom, made them all sit down and listen (not the easiest feat) and numbered them off. I told them that they would get to go when and only when their number was called. There would be no extra trips and no extra drinks of water before lunch.

Then we went inside and sat down and did our work. I called them group by group at at time. All the 1's, then the 2's, etc. Shockingly, it worked. Only one kid missed his number being called and asked me later if I ever called it. Nobody whined or asked to go a second time.

I may make this a standard practice. It beats sending them all at once at that age. The problem was, I numbered off to seven, which meant I had four kids out at a time. That may be too many. Next time I'll do the math better and only have two or three. As always with subbing, something that works once can be a fluke. There's no guarantee it'll work again, but I may try it tomorrow when I'm in with fourth graders.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I worked three days last week and I have five days set up for this week. Two days this week are in middle school, and the other three days this week are at a district that isn't my favorite, but since I have about $1500 on my credit card from summer spending, I figured I'd better suck it up and take the work while I can get it.

It's interesting how my various districts are dealing with budget situations. I was in a First Grade class with 29 students last week. The rest of the district is similarly packed. Subbing in that type of situation is mostly noise control. After the first hour or so, it's really not possible to get anything of substance done. Another of my districts has ten furlough days on the calendar. Ten! And some of those days are reserved for in-services that would ordinarily get me some subbing work. My favorite district has put subs on an on-call basis only. No requests because pink-slipped teachers get called first for any sub jobs.


So, this year may be less fun, and more survival-mode. Although I'm getting calls, the calls are in a very difficult district that is something like 99% English learners. The schools are surrounded by high gates that are locked, and in some cases, the parking lot gets locked up as well, although I'm not sure that's so much for safety as to keep the local residents out of the lot.

I'm hoping that the situation in my favored district will get better and the teachers listed to sub will either get re-hired or make other choices. That's really the district where I'd like to work full-time, and the only way to get a foot in the door is to actually be there. That said, all experience is valid, right? It's all about learning.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Second Year, Same as the First

Well, maybe not really.

I actually got a call this morning at 6am. It was to sub for 5th grade math. I decided I really didn't want to start the year off with 5th grade, so I declined. Not wise. I certainly need the money, but I just couldn't see rushing around to deal with 5th graders the first week of school. Of course, they're not really 5th graders yet. At this point, they're really still 4th graders, but, whatever.

Since I know at least two of my four districts (still not sure about number three--sub meeting is on the 16th) have put pink-slipped teachers on priority for sub calls, I know most calls will be last minute. I guess I'm going to have to get into the habit of waking up early and getting ready and just wait for the call to tell me where to go each day. Not my preferred method. I'd rather have notice at least the night before, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I am slightly encouraged that I got the call this morning. I was expecting to have nothing for September. A call in the second week of school might be a good sign.

Despite my hesitation to deal with certain grade levels, I think I'm rested up and ready to go back to the battlefield. I'd better be, because I already accepted a full day roving at a middle school followed by a half day science at the same school for later this month. It makes no sense, I know. Why decline 5th grade and then accept middle school two days in a row? I don't have an answer. The only redeeming aspect of the assignment is that the school is closer to home than the call I got this morning.

I'll let you know before I go in....if I don't post afterward, send in the National Guard....