Friday, November 20, 2009

How I Spent My Substitute Educators Day

I don't really like to sub for younger grades. Have I mentioned this before? I'm sure I have. Sure, kindergartners are cute, but they're so needy. This, clearly, is why I have a cat.
Wednesday for some reason I could only get a half day gig. I subbed in the middle school in Troy, and I had accepted a job to sub in that same school the next day, for the full day. After hearing that this next day was a teacher-parent-afternoon conference day, I ran home and canceled the job. Just because it says full day on the subfinder doesn't mean they won't send me home with half a day's pay, or worse, cancel the job 5 minutes before I show up. Since I was home before the other subs, I took the opportunity to peruse the available sub jobs on the sub finder website. There was a gig Thursday at the school with the ED room, and the teacher's name hadn't yet made it on my DNS list.

When I showed up Thursday, I was greeted by a door with four names on it. This serves as a metaphor for the entire experience of this classroom. Another adult is already in the room when I arrive, and she gives me a brief rundown of the day. It essentially consists of my standing by and looking on, as other adults will apparently be running most of the show.

This is the school with the morning program. A few other schools do this too, and as I've said before, I think these entire-school daily-morale-booster things are to be encouraged. Standing on the sidelines, I heard surprised expressed from the other adult in the room when a chubby little girl from our class is called up to the front, as it is her birthday. Over her chubby little gut she wears a shirt that is pink and says something about her being a princess or very cool or attractive in shiny letters. Standing beside a woman with the mic, she suppressed a smile and put her chin to her chest as the entire school screamed at her: "BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM! SOMEBODY TOLD ME IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY TODAYY!!" which concluded with them screaming HAAAAPPY BIRTHDAY! while throwing arms over heads and bowing them at her in praise. When we went back to the room, it was decided that she needed a crown. As a super-kindergartner, she knew right where the crowns were kept. She pulled open a drawer for me and pulled out the plastic - enclosed collection of two-step crowns. Step one: remove excess crown by tearing along perforation. Step two: staple to head width. She wordlessly handed my the stapler, and I searched for a sharpie to write "Lilly is 6!" in the star. If my memory serves me, they have not changed the design of these crowns since I was in kindergarten. My mother has a picture of me on my birthday, wearing such a crown. For some reason this was the birthday tradition in Miss Tracey's first ever kindergarten class (traditions have to start somewhere, right?). Only in my picture, there is more than me in my crown standing somewhere in the room. There is Scott. This wasn't allowed, having another person in your birthday picture, but apparently, Scott and I were quite fond of each other. I remember liking Scott. I remember what I liked about him: he was blond and blue eyed and vaguely reminiscent of my boyfriend Jonathan. Jonathan was only my boyfriend because our mothers were good friends, so we were often babysat together. I think much of our intimacy was encouraged by adults. We would kiss and he would hold my hand and tie my shoe and zip my coat and show me wheel of fortune on the radio at the same time it came across on the TV (in other words, magic).

I could only find a fake sharpie, which is less opaque than a real one. Lilly happily wore her crown and took position as lead counter-of-days-in-school during morning circle time. Someone made a "days of the week" song to the tune of "The Addams Family," it must be taught in early childhood programs, every kindergarten in the greater capital district seems to employ it.

"Days of the Week (snap snap) Days of the Week (snap snap) Days of the Week, Days of the Week, Days of the Week (snap snap)....There's Sunday and there's Monday, there's Tuesday and there's Wednesday..."

At one point, I called one little girl's name to get her to start doing something...or maybe to stop doing something "LaKiesha!!" I called.

"It's WAH Kiesha," she corrected me.

"WaKiesha? LaKiesha? That's what I said!" I defended.

"No, you said Kiesha!" she said with a silly grin. Later in the day I made a big show of checking her ears for earwax because she didn't seem to be hearing anything I said correctly.

And then there's Grant. The mystery for me about what men DO with all the time they waste hogging the bathroom, which begun for me with my father and grandfather is starting for Lilly and LaKiesha and all the other kindergartners in his class every time he turns on the light and shuts the door. The kid is in there for at least 20 minutes at a go. I don't know if he comes out without being prompted. He's a heavy set little boy, and it is hard to not think of him as an old man.

Kindergarten stresses me out. All day long I've got kids begging me to tie their shoes and zip their coats and work out their fights because Jimmy won't share the saw ("Yes I will!" shouts Jimmy from across the room).

When the hoard of other adults in the room made lots of comments about the teacher being out the next day too, I assured them I wouldn't be in. When they asked me if I had a gig for the next day, I told them that though I didn't, I figured I'd treat myself to working at a High School for Substitute Educators Day. When I went home, I made a point to check that the gig was indeed one day as I had thought.

I was wrong.

Good thing I checked.

Frakkin ayyy.

So Friday I wake up and get ready to face all of those people I assured I wouldn't be in twice. Luckily, the closest thing I got to a comment on it was "Good morning, again!"

Along with my distaste for classes of the younger variety, there is the issue of plans. I want my plans to tell me what I am to do. I do not want plans that are merely a schedule or essentially notes to one's self. I do not have a degree in early childhood. I do not know all the acronyms. I also do not know how things are run. If you write three page numbers down for math, and then someone tells me that when I do math, the book I need is sitting on the easel, I will attempt to dictate the entire lesson. How was I to know that the students had individual workbooks? How am I supposed to keep up the appearance of authority if I have no clue what's going on?

There are bagels in the teacher's lounge. I figure this is part of something that everyone has paid money for, so I don't touch the bagels. I am wearing jeans, though I don't normally, as that is a privilege many teachers contribute money to some charity for. It is substitute educators day, and since no one realizes this or cares, I'm going to do my best to make myself comfortable. Thankfully, the other adult in the room invites me to go get a bagel. Not only do they have sesame bagels, but they have honey walnut cream cheese to boot! This is always my bagel order. Maybe it won't be such a bad day after all. Whoever has provided this breakfast has also set out some of those Nonni's biscotti things, and I pocket one for later.

When Lilly comes in, she starts talking about the fat hamsters she received the night before. Soon she starts insisting that today is her birthday and yesterday was not. Surprisingly, today she was not called up front during morning program.

During Thursday's morning program there was a session of W -(something)-A-N News, in which many students sat at a table and read unconvincingly news about the license plates I thought I heard we weren't going to have to get anymore. All of a sudden, one student flatly interrupts another, ("") sharing that Patterson has put the kibitz on this. Both days, the children sang and signed a song about being thankful and praying around a table, which seemed a little too church-state for even me. Both days, children said the pledge of allegiance (which is creepy, the more I think about a Nazi sort of way) and then sang a jazzed up version of This Land is Your Land, made suitable for children by way of the circus, apparently. Instead of having a real life news show, today to the question of: "Do you know what tiimmmee it isss?" all the children started shouting O-PEN MIC! O-PEN MIC!

Immediately following was Open Mic. One small boy got up and sang a Spanish version of Frere Jacque. The two other acts required no mic, and were probably more suited for a Talent Show, which maybe is what this inappropriately labeled gathering is. The next act was a smattering of third graders hula-hooping and jumping rope to a song. Only one of them was really worth watching. The last act was a group of sixth graders with a jump rope, jumping to a song. They were decent, and one boy would get into the rope with style, and jump up and down while jumping sections of a 360. Unfortunately, even he couldn't keep it going for more than 30 seconds.

The one thing that really upset me Thursday was the group time. No one really told me what group time would entail (how long, if we switch or not...anything), so I tried my best to have the students get the most out of the cutting-pasting-coloring sheet that was my activity with them. The other teachers began rushing me as soon as the kids in my group had half of their little pieces awkwardly cut out of the paper. Today I wasn't going to have it, and my groups were finished way before I was harassed about it. I took the opportunity to try and draw two of the boys who I feel are the cutest. One boy reminds me of the little boy from Family Circus, not that I really read Family Circus....but he has almost no neck, and a very round head, and this cute little way about him. In the morning, when it was announced he would be line leader, he balled up his fists, threw them into the air and his whole body followed as he leapt out of his chair in joy. He cheered and several other students cheered for him: "Hooray! Hooray for Joshie!"

The other boy I was trying to draw looks like he is straight out of the 1950s. H e would fit right in any of those feel-good black and white TV shows. He told me all about the sleepover he is going to have with his cousins this weekend; about how much fun it will be. In the group, in a discussion about who-knows-what, he said: "Do you know what's better than pumpkins?


Someone painted a small part of a hallway black and painted all the planets in relative sizes on the wall. They even included Pluto. This hallway was cut off with a few black curtains, and someone had drawn constellations on black sheets adorned with glow-in-the-dark plastic stars and tacked that to the ceiling. The kindergartners were given about 20 minutes to sit on mats in this darkened hallway and watch a poorly researched, poorly funded video about the planets (with a heavy focus on ours). This was a cute idea except that it was decided that everyone would take off their shoes and then walk into the area on the mats. A stinky-feet smell is not the issue here. The issue is creating a need to tie SO MANY shoes all at once. I thought my head might explode. After we mastered all the shoe tying, all the students sat on the rug to listen to a story. One student came up to me and asked me to tie his shoes. How on earth have they come untied from just sitting on the rug?!? Later in the day I accused him of untying his shoes. "Well I do untie them," he admitted "but I didn't this time!"

Soon it was Reading Buddies time. I have seen this in private schools, and that it is employed in this public elementary school is heartening. Another teacher brought down her sixth grade class, and they all paired up or grouped up with the kindergartners to read them stories. This is all well and good, but then the other adult says she needs to run out and grab her glasses, and then the sixth grade teacher says she's going to run to the bathroom, and instructs me to walk around and make sure they aren't fighting.

Wait. How did you just leave me alone with a room full of 40 students? How are you asking me to do something you yourself aren't doing?

Grant not only takes forever in the bathroom, he also goes at least 4 times a school day. Another adult speculated that this was an avoidance thing. So, one time, after waiting forever for him to get out of the bathroom, I met Grant at the sink while he washed his hands. I asked him what he's doing in there for all that time. He didn't really give me a decisive answer, but he did say that yesterday his "butt was bweedin'."

Ohh ho ho! :( Poor baby. He has more old man issues than I thought. (To be clear, I asked him if he'd told an adult, and he said he'd told a teacher who told his brother who told his mother).

So sure, Kindergarten can be cute and interesting....but the cute doesn't outweigh the neediness and the part where I don't even have a moment to read a page from my book.

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