Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My Day Subbing In The 4th Grade

How this came about is my buddy's grade-level collaborative partner teacher -- or whatever the hell it is they call the other 4th grade teacher in the high-powered world of chartered education -- had to graduate from a Masters program or some such thing so I accepted the request to substitute teach on this, their first day of school. Subbing on the first day of school is more or less surreal. You're teaching someone else's rules and procedures, except not really because they aren't sure you're really gonna get done, so why not do that part when they get back. There's pretty much nothing built by way of class cohesiveness or routine and both you and they are hesitant to push the relationship-building because you're probably never going to be able to see each other again. Even if this is a fact they keep forgetting.

THEM (at various times): Tomorrow can we-
ME: Seriously, I won't be here tomorrow.

The worst thing, apart from no one telling you what the various cheer-based expectations consist of, is all the line-walking. Endless line-walking. My buddy in the other fourth grade literally has a line-walking rubric that he shares and models. I want to tear my eyes out. I felt like 50% of my day was spent getting into lines, practicing getting into lines, preparing to get into lines, or doing the actual line-walking in and around school, which is essentially a judgment parade. Assess my instructional capacity based on the relative straightness of the line and how well they bear to the right. Do it. I haven't made kids walk in lines for the last 4 1/2 years; I have no line-walking strategies to employ. Do I walk at the head, foot, or middle? Do the problem walkers take the lead or bring up the rear? What the hell is appropriate line-walking procedures? Where are my benchmarks?

ME: This is a Below Basic line and it better become Basic real quick.

Close the think tanks and scrap your research: The true factor influencing teacher-retention is the percentage of one's day spent line-walking.

But it's not just the line-walking. It's pretty much everything.

VICTIM: He took my pen.
ME: Dude, give it back. This isn't kindergarten.
PERP: grumblegrumble (returns pen)

VICTIM: He took my pen.
ME: Dude, give it back. This isn't kindergarten.
PERP: (pointing finger) But he just... (begins to make sounds only elementary teachers can hear)
VICTIM: (attempting to kick under the desk) No! I was just... (additional sounds unintelligible to the secondary educator)
ASSORTED OTHERS: Yeah! Cuz when we were...
ASSORTED OTHERS: Naw-uh! Cuz just now...
ME: What the hell is this?

ISSUE: Noise begins during direct instruction.
APPROACH: Strategic silence and virulent stares.
OUTCOME: Noise recedes; lesson continues.

ISSUE: Noise begins during direct instruction.
APPROACH: Strategic silence and virulent stares.
OUTCOME: Noise steadily increases.
TEACHER: That didn't work?

None of this is to say I got worked. Let there be no mistake: I took care of business, completed all lesson plans thoroughly, including big-ticket items like year-long H.W. planner procedures and modeling how to complete the Reading Response assignments. I was the alpha gorilla. Just so the record is clear.

I also made enough money to either 1) fund my weekend or 2) purchase non-destructible composition books for their Flatbook Essay Portfolios.


Blogger pseudostoops said...

Hahahaha. Hillarious.

To answer a previous question-yes, I had P. in class and I probably made even less progress than you. A real sweetie, though. In fact, my old kids will be 8th graders (ack!) this year, so we should play the "do you have any of my kiddos" game at some point. I'd love to hear how they're doing.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL... as an elementary teacher who is making the switch to middle school this year, this blog entry provides me with the first positive words I have yet to hear about teaching middle school.
You are SO on about the excuses given by the little ones... "but I didn't/but he did" is a 4 letter phrase in my opinion.

1:39 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...


There is nothing better than middle school! Seriously. Mature enough to occasionally sustain minimally structured work activity, kid-like enough to appreciate the goofiness, but not yet so old and jaded that they stare silently and judge you. You'll love it.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Jennie said...

Fantastic post. I'm a 7th/8th grade teacher as well, and I had to sub in a sixth grade class. I can tell you, those 6th graders resembled the 4th graders more than any 7th grader I've ever seen. so. very. annoying. The poking! And the tattling!
unabridged opinions.

8:46 PM  

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