Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Never Make Assumptions...

Being an assistant teacher for these two years has meant that I get to work firsthand with substitute teachers.

And there are wonderful substitute teachers. But unfortunately, those subs are in high demand and there aren't usually enough to go around.

I know that I'm in a unique situation. Most people leave some hopefully-foolproof sub plans, cross their fingers, hope for the best, and read between the lines of the notes and the students' comments to guess how the day actually went. It's a leap of faith, and sub plans are a pain, but at least you don't have to be there to see how awful it may go.

As it is now, our school is required to get a substitute for the classroom teacher, but usually, because I know how we do things, I do the majority of the teaching anyway. I have quickly discovered that some substitutes actually will walk around, help students, and help them pay attention while I teach. Others... well, I can easily see which subs come to our school knowing (and taking advantage of the fact) that they often have a much easier workload because there is an assistant teacher in the room who does almost everything.

I also have a chance to see those who mean well, but unfortunately just don't quite cut it.

Today there were only 10 minutes of the entire day during which my students were alone with the substitute teacher while I was at lunch. Less than that, actually, when you consider that we never get in from recess on time.

Written in the plans: Basically, take students for a restroom break, and then to a special.
Implied: Keep the class under control.

Apparently I need to be more specific, because the class was completely out of control to the point where another teacher stepped in to yell at loud kids and try to sort out some probable bullying. The other teacher explained that maybe she had overstepped her boundaries, but felt obligated to step in because the substitute was doing nothing more than "standing in one spot and talking loudly" to the kids and she was concerned for a student's safety.

Annnd not only did his happen, but when this colleague stopped in to talk to me about it after school, I had no idea what she was talking about. The substitute had allowed the class to get so out of control that another teacher intervened, and a student was possibly physically bullied in the bathroom, but the substitute didn't bother to tell me anything about it, even when I was in the classroom for the entire afternoon with her. This is a situation that my colleague shared with the principal- and the substitute didn't even share it with me.

In fact, her note to the teacher ended with, "We had a great day!"

I'll say it again. There are wonderful substitute teachers, but there are also some- even the sweetest old ladies- who make me worry for the days when I will have my own classroom and need a substitute. Because if I struggled to keep certain members of the class under control today- I don't even want to think about what the day would have been like if the substitute was their only teacher.

And I might not have even known.

It's a scary thought.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Recess Walk

Until the weather gets freezing, I'm actually enjoying recess duty. I usually take over Homework Detention, which means helping a lot of kids who don't do their homework at home (and often have a hard time completing it on their own). I don't mind it. Some of these kids are getting attention that they crave, or getting one-on-one reteaching that they might not get otherwise. Meanwhile, I miss out on lots of tattling and help out the grade level teachers. Win-win!

Unfortunately, I started Homework Monitoring just after promising one of the little ones that we'd go for a walk and talk one day. He kept asking me, "When are we going to go on our walk?" And when I said, "I don't know- I'll try today!" he'd respond, "You keep saying that." I felt awful, but I promised him that I'd find a day to make it work.

Today I was finally able to go on a walk with him, and I asked him about his weekend.

"Did you see the building that went down on TV?" he asked. I assumed he was talking about the local bar that burned to the ground a few days ago.

"Oh, the one with the fire?"

"No, the one the plane went into. I felt really sad for that lady," he told me somberly, with genuine sympathy on his face.

Apparently at some point this weekend, he saw a 9/11 memorial on television, heard a woman tell her story, and didn't realize that the whole event actually happened 9 years ago.

I was a little taken aback, but also touched. I don't think he realized that this had been such a huge national event, especially because we live far from the area in which it happened, and he wasn't even alive when the planes hit- and yet I could tell that he was really affected nonetheless by seeing it.

I wouldn't have expected a seven year old  to understand the gravity of 9/11, but he certainly seemed to. I'm glad I made time for that walk today.