Monday, May 24, 2010


What do you do when some 4th-grade boys in your class walk into the room from a bathroom break laughing about how one of them pooped on the floor?

You pretend like you never, ever heard one word of it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Awkward Moments

So I think I saw a former student at the mall today. Or rather, he saw me. After you've subbed enough classes (well, for me anyway) the faces start to kind of run together and look the same. I'll just be out and see a random 9-year-old, in a whole different city, and think, "I could have taught him." As was my passing thought when my idle eyes landed on this tyke--but then he smiled shyly and waved. I waved back. That was all. Did I know him? How awkward. I barely remember the kids I taught yesterday.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010



Have you ever subbed for a school you used to be a student at? I'm sure it happens to anyone who teaches in the same area where they grew up, like me. It's very strange going back to your old alma mater, having not seen it literally since the last day of 3rd grade. Spring of 1994. A lot changes took place at Strawberry Fields Elementary in that time, but a remarkable amount stayed the same. Of course the hallways--I didn't remember them being quite that small and bright. I guess memory literally has dimmed them for me. The classrooms were exactly the same--all window-lined and cozy. And I never quite realized how hippie it all was. Nature murals on the walls, school mottos about peace, respect, love. Mandatory chorus productions for the lower grades, in which they sing songs with a 70s vibe about flowers growing and nature being happy. Holding their fingers in the "peace sign" as a way to tell others to be quiet (and the students do this, not the teachers!)

Yes, I had an absolutely wonderful day last Friday (not like the one I had there the week before--I'll save that for another post). It consisted of me acting as special ed. specialist, which was basically helping out the main teachers for a 2nd grade class and a 4th grade class (it goes up to 5th now! It was only K-3 when I went. Crazy.) Let me tell you it was the easiest, most delightful day. I got to help with some reading tests, help make bags for the children's Mother's Day gifts (decoupaged candle-holders), monitor them during chorus rehearsal (which was really just sitting in a metal chair in the cafeteria and watching their adorableness), play with them during recess, helping the other class make tissue paper flowers for their mothers, and my favorite part--we all went outside in the grass and sat in a circle, and opened some screened cages to set the class's butterflies free, which they had hatched themselves for science studies. The kids were delighted; butterflies landed on everyone and fluttered all around us like little orange petals in the wind.

Whoa, sorry, getting a little too hippie dippie there. Anyway, want to know the BEST part of subbing at your old elementary school?

You finally get to see the FACULTY LOUNGE!

Well, obviously it looks like every other teachers' lounge I've visited (not that exciting), but it was still a bit surreal to finally be on the other side of things. And the weirdest part is eating lunch with your former teacher, Mr. Baciagalupo. How weird to hear him be called just plain "Dave." I will never call him Dave. It's just not right.

And then there's the awkwardness of playing the memory game with your old teachers (only 2 of mine are still there--I was told I just missed my others by a year. Also the gym teacher, library teacher--just as scary as when I was young--and a reading specialist who I was never close to). My 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, remembered my last name and my talent, which was astonishing and touching. She didn't seem much like she wanted to talk though. Young and energetic (if firm) when I had her, she still retained that prettiness I remembered, although edged with age.

And Mr. B, well he was completely different from '94. I wonder now whether it's my memory that is wrong, or he acts different around kids than coworkers, or maybe the years of dealing with third graders has caught up with him, but he (I think) used to be upbeat and humorous, and now he is barely monosyllabic. Not to mention he went from black hair to gray, and his face is a lot more bedraggled than I recall. And he didn't remember me at all. Not at all.

Still, it was a wonderful day. I loved that school, and I hope I get to return to it before the year is ended.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

6th-grade math

Charlotte again!

Well, sadly there was no answer key, but we were doing "area of a circle" (pi-r-squared) and even though it's been awhile, I felt reasonably confident that I had the correct answers.

I'm constantly at this school so the majority of kids in all my classes knew who I was. I subbed an 8th-grade social studies class here for 3 weeks straight when their teacher was, well, arrested actually (and is no longer their teacher.) I also subbed a 7th-grade English class for a full month when the teacher had major surgery. And I can't remember a week when I haven't been in the school at least once. It's nice to feel like I'm a part of the school. I always hear shouts of "Ms. Charlotte!" when I'm walking down the hall and the staff and admin. recognize my face even if they don't know my name.

In the morning, I had a class of 8th-graders who apparently come in for a "study skills seminar" with this teacher on Fridays (which I had no idea about until they showed up, because it said nothing about this in my lesson plans). I told them they could use this period as a study hall, to which they replied "we took our finals last week and we have two weeks to kill until graduation," - to which I replied "okay, fair enough." :)

So basically we just talked. I asked them about their post-junior high plans and about their end-of-year dance and I even answered some questions about high school... It's such an exciting time in their lives and it was nice to just take a minute and chat with them about it. I had several students come up to me and hug me at the end of class and I had to politely decline several invitations to be friended on facebook. (A recipe for disaster in my opinion, but it's nice to be asked).

And the 6th-graders were GREAT. Really well-behaved, worked hard, and were much calmer than I expected for a gorgeous Friday in May. The only problem with this school is the fact that they have block scheduling - it's really hard for 11 and 12 year olds to sit still for an hour-and-a-half. (Heck, it's hard for ME!) and they usually lose it after about an hour-ten. They were on their best behavior today, though, so... can't complain at all!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

And We're Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Insanity.

Charlotte here!

That didn't take long, did it?

Today was pretty bad.

It was a 4th grade class that I've had once before and - while they weren't exactly little angels - I definitely don't remember them being this insane.

The whole day seemed to consist of them complaining about their work (which, granted, was simply packet after packet of worksheets - totally monotonous), disturbing the people around them, and tattling to me about every. little. thing. And then of course they're "supposed to do the worksheets individually, but they can talk quietly as long as it doesn't get out of hand." Well, we all know how that goes.

The tattling got SO out of hand that I took a leaf out of Rosy's book and explained to them that what I really wanted to hear was them complimenting one another - and promised to give little rewards for each compliment I heard them give to one another. Well, guess what? Barely ANY takers. They were just not interested in saying anything positive about their other classmates.

What they WERE interested in was sneaking to the back of the classroom to get on the (highly off-limits) computer whenever I was bent over helping a student with their worksheet, jumping over tables, drawing all over each other's arms (???), criticizing each other's clothes, calling each other names, stealing calculators from the teacher's cabinet (which was emphatically dis-allowed by the teacher) for their math packets, and you know... just too much craziness to report in full.

I mean, by my usual standards, two-thirds of this class would have been sent to the office.

And THEN an item was stolen from the teacher's desk, and (before the principal was able to determine the culprit) it turned into a classroom version of a witch-hunt ("it was youuu! Nooo! You're only saying it was because it was youuu! Noooo! It was hiiiim! Yes - it was hiiiim! I saw him!" No proof. No credibility. Just pure hysterical vitriol and one spitting-mad substitute screaming for quiet.

Hmm. Yup. Probably could have handled this one better.

I was probably lulled into a false sense of security by how smoothly everything went yesterday.

Tomorrow is 6th-grade math: (Please leave an answer key, kind teacher! Please leave an answer key!)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why I Do What I Do...

...For days like these.

Charlotte here, guys. And it really was just a glorious, glorious day. Unlike the one had by poor Rosy. :( I had an elementary school Special Education class at a seriously awesome school. The class was small, the kids were adorable, the para was AMAZING - I literally wasn't ready for the day to end.

One thing I love about this class is that the teacher and para really seem to let the kids' interests shine through in their lesson plans. One of the kids is really interested in dinosaurs, one loves outer space, one loves sharks... and they actively encourage these interests, which is just so wonderful.

We had all sorts of adventures together. We read a book about spiders, and it was a GORGEOUS day, so we took a walk outside and tried to look for spiders. We found plenty of other bugs, but no spiders - although we did find one inside the school, naturally. We sang songs, we had "social time" (during which we played two rounds of Uno) - which may sound fluffy, but is actually great for the kids' cognitive and social development (i.e. recognizing patterns, taking turns, being both a gracious loser and a gracious winner).

I only had one child throw a minor tantrum the whole day, which is actually pretty amazing. He had accidentally smacked another child in the eye (it really was an accident, but he hit her pretty hard nonetheless) and I told him that he should apologize to the other child. Something along the lines of: ("I'm sorry that I accidentally hit you - I didn't see you there.") He insisted that since he hadn't MEANT to do it, he didn't need to say sorry.

Now there is just NO point in getting into a battle of wills with a 9-year-old. You'll lose every time. So I just shrugged, said I was sorry to hear him say that, and added a check mark to his daily behavior card. At which point he got up out of his seat, walked over to the window, ripped up the behavior card and threw it out the window. He then stormed back to his seat, put his head down on his desk, and refused to do any work whatsoever during that class period.

But I gave him time to cool off, and by the end of the day he was his normal chipper self. Other than that, the day was essentially awesomeness. I'd go back in a heartbeat, and the para said that "with your permission, I'd like to tell the teacher that you clicked very well with the kids and that we'd love to have you back." That's just so nice to hear! Oh, well. I'm sure tomorrow we'll be back to our regularly scheduled insanity to make up for today's welcome respite. :)


Rosy here. Thank you Charlotte for that wonderful introduction. And Charlotte, I hope you don't mind the changes I made to the layout. The old one hurt my eyes.

Today I had one of my most feared moments in the subbing experience: I woke up nice and late at the hour of 6:30 (slept in an hour!), got ready at a reasonable pace, drove the 40 minutes or so it takes me to get to most schools that I cover, made some wrong turns as per usual (my GPS, Tiffany, tries to help all she can but I give her so little navigational skill to work with sometimes), and arrived right at my scheduled minute of 8:30 to a new school (for me), we'll call it "Happy Grounds Elementary." After the usual chaos of locating a sign-in book and having no one staffing the office to send me in the right direction, I was finally introduced to my fellow 1st-grade teacher (and a rando whose hand I shook out of awkwardness because he was standing there) and sent along my merry way to my classroom. Several little first-grade darlings sat camped outside the door ("YESSS! A sub!"). I opened it to be greeted by the expected darkness but also--music and a lavender scented humidifier? What was this? I stood blinking in the haze and spotted a woman in the corner near the teacher's desk.

"I'm here to sub? I think? For Mrs. Gretsky?"
"Oh that's me! Didn't I put the right date?" said a pleasant, older woman in a patriotically-themed shawl. "I called yesterday but I was sure I put in for tomorrow." I double-checked my confirmation email. May 6.


Bless her, she tried to make the best of it, and gave me a few pointers (one of the first being, "Don't be afraid to be mean to them!" At least I know what to expect now...tomorrow) and showed me around, but honestly nothing could stave the awkwardness and embarrassment I felt at my unprofessional overlooking of the date posted for this assignment.

So I was sent on my merry way home, without a job, and with any drop of professional pride dissolved. It will be fun to explain Ms. Rosy's irresponsible mishap to the no doubt adorable Happy Grounds students' interrogations tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In Which We Answer Some Exciting Questions!

How long have you been subbing? Charlotte has been subbing for about eight months, Rosy for about six.

What did you do before that? Well, we both have Bachelor's Degrees in absolutely nothing related to child-care and (bonus for Charlotte) - she has a Master's degree in nothing related to child-care OR to her Bachelor's Degree!

That is insanity! That is not a question. Also, it is true.

Why did you start subbing? At first (for Charlotte) it was the economy, stupid! But then once she did it, she actually really enjoyed it. And then, unbelievably, so did Rosy. Crazy, no?

What do you guys like doing for fun? Well, Rosy is an excellent artiste. And Charlotte loves writing poetry, fiction, and (geek that she is) fanfiction. Both gals are musical and (aww...) were in their high school marching band together. Charlotte also loves vegetarian cooking/baking and Rosy is her official taste-tester. They also enjoy going out on the town for dancing, drinks, the usual. Also, they do have other friends, they swear. Like maybe one or two. And a half.

You guys sound amazing. Are you taken? Stop it! You'll make us blush. :) But yes, we're taken.

By each other? No. We each have a charming, handsome young man in our lives.

I still get the sense that you have inappropriate girl-crushes on each other. We will go so far as to say that you're not entirely wrong, and you may even be a little bit right.