Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Freelance Educating

Hello! Long time, no you-read-what-I-write! That's my bad. I haven't written anything in quite some time. I'm not sure why.

Anyway, I recently became a substitute teacher. In fact, I've been a substitute teacher for about a month and a half now, which means I am an expert freelance educator and can pass on my wisdom. I've taught every level from preschool to fourth grade, which, admittedly, are not exactly opposite ends of the possible teaching spectrum. This is a brief breakdown of what teaching at each grade level is like, based on my in-class experience.

Okay, I've only technically subbed as an assistant teacher in preschool, so I may not be an expert here. Subbing as an assistant preschool teacher basically means you're going to clean the tables and do the art project. I'm not sure if you know this about me, but art is not a strength of mine. If there was some contest between teachers for best art project, and there were two captains that got to pick teams, I would be picked last. I'm not afraid to play the gender stereotype card and say that might be because odds are that I would be the only guy teacher and, stereotypically, guys are worse at art than girls. You know, unless you count, like, Michelangelo, Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and many other very famous, successful, male painters/sculptors as "art-doers." My own mother did not display my art from school, and I don't blame her because it was awful. I guess you could say I'm not even an expert at being an assistant preschool teacher, but I fit in the chair and am a great supervisor, so I get a pass.

No experience; please give me a job.

1st Grade:
I think I've only had half a day as a 1st grade sub, but that was more than enough of a sample size for me. I'm not sure if you're aware, but 1st graders are only one year removed from kindergarten, which is only one year passed preschool. These are some young folks. Tattling is very much a big part of first graders' lives as well as a lack of knowledge of how to get someone to stop something. Here's an example based on a true story:
1st grader: Mr....
Me: Russell.
1G: Mr. Russell!
Me: *Stares at 1st grader*
1G: *Stares back*
Me: ....Yes?
1G: Um, [other 1st grade student] keeps putting [his/her] hand on my desk!
Me: Did you ask [other 1st grade student] to stop doing that, or say that you didn't like it?
1G: No...
Me: Let's go do that together...
*Problem is solved*
I had to ask the, "Did you ask [other 1st grade student] to stop?" question many times in just half a day. One nice thing about 1st graders, though, is that recess is the ultimate bargaining chip. For example, the class was quite disruptive (I was later informed by the classroom teacher that's just the way the class is). I told them, as they were all lined up and dressed for recess, that I needed a minute of absolute silence with no talking, laughing, stomping, clapping, and no touching, and that I would start the minute of silence over if it was disruptive. It took one minute and I was pleased. And they were, too, because they actually got to go to recess a couple minutes early - I had budgeted for two start overs.

2nd Grade:
There, surprisingly, is not much to report about 2nd grade. Off the top of my head, I have somewhere between one and two days of 2nd grade experience. Reading quietly to oneself is not an area in which 2nd graders excel, I do know that. Even if you were to take out either "quietly" or "to oneself," it'd still be a little questionable.

3rd Grade:
This is where the kiddos start to get a little sly. Perhaps you remember the old, "This sub has no idea about anything; I'm going to keep asking to go to the bathroom because s/he'll keep saying yes"? Well, this is now obsolete. The new, "I have to go to the bathroom," is "I need to go to the nurse." Apparently, these schools are giving acting classes, too, because almost all of these requests have come with tears. I let one kid go, skeptically, and peeked into the hall to see her dancing and singing down to the office. I've had to bring so many ice packs down to the office at the end of the day from "headaches."

Also, let me just tell you about my first day subbing, which was in third grade:
I had recently sent in my application to be a substitute teacher in the local school district and had not heard back. I had the day off from work, so I was lounging around my apartment in my robe, sipping coffee, when my phone rang. "Ah! The district office saying I've been approved to sub!" I thought. Nope. It was a local elementary school.
"We need an all-day 3rd grade sub today."
"...Uh, okay..."
"Have you not been told you've been approved to sub yet?"
"Um, no."
"Oh! Well, you're approved! Can you come in today?"
"Uh, sure! Yeah, I can do that!"
So that was exciting. I got in about 10 minutes before the kids did and was shown around the school by a neighboring teacher. The day was going well and I made it to the point in the day where the kids went to specials. The paraprofessional that was in the room came up to me and mentioned that one kid has anger issues. "Oh, okay," I said, kind of brushing it off.
"No, I mean like, we've had to evacuate the room for the rest of the kids' safety, he's hit a teacher a few times..."
She then went on to tell me that he'll probably have a tough time with a transition occurring later in the day and, when that happens, to lock the door and open the closet door so that the window is covered, and don't let anyone leave. Well, sure enough, the transition came and little buddy was not pleased. They got him out of the room without much problem, though, so I just passed out the Scholastic Kids magazine and jumped in. A few minutes in, I hear the door shut, and I see the little guy in the window and he is not happy. Another kid jumps up and opens the closet door. This, apparently, is a much more common thing than I thought. The kids, though, kept getting up to see if he was still at the door. He was. Every time. This made Scholastic Kids time go longer than it was supposed to go. At the end of the Scholastic Kids time was a scheduled bathroom break, but since we were not allowed out of the room, the bathroom break was put on hold. I was trying to draw out the Scholastic Kids because I didn't want to interrupt the next thing with a bathroom break. Kids would come up to me as I was reading asking to go to the bathroom. "No, we can't go because [kid] is in the hallway." This was not the desired answer, but my logic was sound. However, kids kept coming up and asking. About half the class had asked to go to the bathroom, when one kid all of a sudden realizes someone is missing, and not the angry fella.
"Wait! Where's [kid]?!"
"Hmmm...that's a good question. Anyone know?"
"You said he could go to the bathroom before we started the Scholastic News!"
Uh oh. There's a kid out there in an apparent war zone and he has no idea what's going on. I'm uncomfortable and nervous, just like the kids with full bladders, but for a different reason. Thankfully, the lost kid made it back, which prompted everyone swarming him asking if he was okay and where the angry child is. Despite how much time we spent on the Scholastic Kids, we did not cover much. Since the hallway was apparently safe, though, we had our bathroom break. I had never seen a stampede of kids with that much excitement that was not for recess or the end of school. Poor kids.
At the end of the day, the neighboring teacher came over and said she was impressed because this was easily the toughest 3rd grade class in the school, which made me feel better about my subbing skills.

4th Grade
I have a day and a half of 4th grade experience and they were my favorite so far. I got to do actual writing stuff with discussion, which was awesome, and the kids learned a bunch. However, I also had to do division. I'm good at division, but only at one way. This was the intro to division, so I had to teach three methods. It did not go well. I apologized many times and asked, "Does that make any sense?" a lot. I blame the teacher's manual. On the half day, I didn't have to teach anything. It was pretty great. We had indoor recess, though, which was not great. I was supposed to have the room where kids did missed assignments while a neighboring teacher took the kids outside. Well, with inside recess, you don't go outside. I didn't know what to do in that scenario, because 1.75 classes seemed like a lot of kids to leave in one room. I was going to ask the other teacher what to do, because she'd probably know, but she had a sub, too. We ended up doing the 1.75 classes in the other classroom, and I got the quiet, .25 classes doing homework. I was okay with this compromise.

And there you have a brief synopsis of my subbing career, because I know you were very interested.

You're welcome.

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