Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Less than awesome.

Yesterday I arrived at a certain Middle School in Schenectady to substitute for a certain Special Ed teacher. I follow sub protocol: arrive, sign in, wait to be told room number, arrive at said room, look for sub plans.

So this room is in the basement. It is a single digit. I enter the classroom, and there are already 2 students present. Each is sitting at a table (for some reason, behaviorally challenged students always seem to get large working surfaces). Neither is talking, but one has headphones on, and I can hear his music from the other side of the room.

There is a paraprofessional (read: aide) in the room. He is wearing cargo shorts, a striped polo shirt, and skater sneakers. He is watching Lil' Wayne videos on YouTube.

"I'm here for such-and-such a teacher," I tell him.

"You're in the right place," he tells me, hardly looking up from the computer.

I look around for some sub plans, a blue and yellow folder, a typed or written piece of paper that says "plans" on it, anything.


There are stacks of papers on one of the front desk-tables. There aren't any instructions included with these.

"Did she leave me any plans?" I inquire.

"No, she forgot to write 'em." It is as if I am bothering this guy.

At this point I am just standing there, pissed. Usually, if I am the only adult in the room, I will take this time to put my things somewhere and familiarize myself with the plans. If there are other adults in the room, they will usually give me a rundown on how the day will go, tell me where I can keep my things, etc.

But he is still watching music videos on YouTube. Lil' Wayne, The Used, and other great musicians in the whiney-rock category.

I am staring at a bulletin board across the room, at remnants of wood-grain contact paper clearly left from a half-hearted attempt to remove said paper by tearing. I am gritting my teeth.

After what must have been five minutes, I turn to him and ask as sweetly as I can muster: "Is she going to be e-mailing her plans?"

"No, we'll manage" he assures(?) me, unconcerned.

"Well then can you at least give me an idea of what the day is like?"

"Sure, First period is math, second period someone comes in for science, third is home ec, fourth english, fifth is their lunch, sixth is health, seventh is sort of a free period, eighth is history and ninth is gym."

Never was I told when my breaks were, what my responsibilities were, any classroom rules, consequences, what I should or shouldn't do.

So I sat down at the table with all the stacks of paper on it. I rotated a chair so I could be facing the students, and I took out my book.

A second para-professional arrives. She takes a seat at a table in the back of the room. A third student arrives.

Unlike the students already in the room, this student is a bit chatty. He talks about his track meet to them, scolds the noisy-headphone boy for having his music too loud. I decide I like this boy. I think about this quick decision in my head, dwell upon it for a moment.

This boy opens up his backpack and pulls out what appears to be a bagel with cream cheese.

"Smells like sweaty balls!" he exclaims.

With an expression both disgusted and concerned, I ask him if he is referring to his breakfast.

"No! Ew! What?"

"Oh, if it was, I was just going to say, don't eat that!"

"Why, you know what sweaty balls taste like?"


By the way, the punishment for that gem of a comment was this:

both paras said his name in a disapproving manner.

Never sub for such-and-such a Special Ed teacher at a certain Middle School in Schenectady.

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