Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Do Two Halves Make More Than a Whole?

We have neat teachers and lots to learn.
Down by our Riverside School,
Down by our Riverside School,
Down by our Riverside School.
Where Toad Day's fun in air conditioning...
Down by our Riverside School.

These are some of the very creative lyrics made up by students in two different classrooms yesterday. Obviously it is to that old tune and we inserted the school's name. Very catchy tune and they really sang it loud. Then we did our usual "point and increasing erasure" technique for learning it and they did! I'm sure the fascination with my baritone uke is part of it. To have a classroom teacher, singing and accompaning them is very unusual these days in the primary/lower grades. These were a 4th and a 3rd. Both teacher's absences were doctor/child related. i.e. a young, expectant mother and one with a sick infant at home. So, I agreed to do two 1/2 days to equal one.

This particular school has an almost identical floor plan to the one I just attended. It might be newer. However, it has a big usable, green grass field with its blacktop. Still no backstops or soccer goals or baseline marks and no trees for shade. (Time out, I just got a call for subbing at a Middle School in a Science Class, sorry, I had made other plans for today...too late)

I arrived early and the secretary wasn't ready for me. She went to a classroom with me and opened the door and didn't give me a key. It was just a 1/2 day assignment. No problem. But just before recess, the classroom phone rings and, "Would you be able to take a third grade class on a short notice, emergency - sick baby?" "OK, sure. I brought my lunch anyway, why not?"

Lesson plans were easy and clear. Thirty-four in the 4th grade class and they were well-behaved. Before they entered, I had cued up a barbershop rendition of "You've Got A Friend in Me" from Toy Story. They liked it as they got in their seats after stowing their backpacks. I suggested that this is where you could start to make "life-long friends" and that I still had some from this grade. Lots of math sheets to do, mostly why not a song or two? We helped individuals and the first two or three done got to play 20 Questions with our "class/remote model". That motivated some to finish. Then there was an attempt at "Team Teaching with the other Fourths in the same hallway for Reading and Math. I think I had the mid to low group but there was some confusion with the others not expecting a "sub". My assignment was to read a scarey chapter of their current "Goosebumps" which, I guess, is still quite popular at this level. We discussed word meanings and how to make a story exciting and interesting with discription.

Later, before lunch, the homeroom class was to go to the library for the first time and check out two books. About 6 kids had text books to check in and back out. I guess they were recently moved from another class. The librarian was the "typical librarian" now days at these schools. i.e. very cross, business-like and "put-upon" having to scan all these books into the computer. No more library cards to lose or forget. Less work for her and the visiting teacher. More time for her to prepare a little lesson on "the love of books, stories, authors" but nope. The kids were actually very well behaved and quiet overall. She helped no one find a book, I did. I found an old Judy Blume book "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" So I gathered the group, Indian sat on the carpet and read them the first page. I asked how many had checked out: two books, fiction, nonfiction, chapter, picture books etc.? Got the mixed, unenthusiastic response. I asked how many had read any of Judy Blume's books? Several eager hands went up and named them. The majority hadn't read any. I proffered: "How can any kid get through 4th grade without reading, "4th Grade Nothing"? How many have little brothers like Fudge? Several. Boy! I just don't know...anymore. We snuck back to class with our new books and worked on the Language Arts/Spelling lesson. Fill in the blanks, (some really difficult ones) and then rip out the page and turn it in and then their regular teacher came back and sent me, without key, to the 3rd grade.

They had one Social Studies lesson/chapter to read together before problem. It was about "urban, suburban and rural life" We could relate. They were very curious and open to my uke case and recorder. I promised we'd sing and play. This teacher had a "permanent aide" who was actually a credentialed teacher assigned to a boy with "learning challenges" - like he came up and showed me his purple "Barnie and Friends" She kept tabs on him and kept him "on task". When she went to lunch later, and we created and learned our "song" about school...he didn't like that I adlibbed a verse about "Barnie and Friends" in it.

At lunch in the teacher's lounge, the 4th grade teacher wanted to know if I would consider a "long-time sub job" after the New Year when she has her baby...yes, I'd consider it...but now I've thought better of it. To have to make lesson plans, correct all those papers and not get paid anymore than subs now do...I think not. We can discuss it more, but I'd prefer my "freedom" to come and go and have it planned already. After class I got a call on my cell phone from another distict in the area from a teacher at a school that I hadn't even been able to find who wanted to "interview me" for a long-term position which could turn into a permanent thanks again, I'm just too old for that now.

After lunch, with no P.E. planned, we just decided to have a "hootenanny" remember those? One girl requested "the 12 days of Xmas"...why not? So I taught them the version with the hand motions a still remember from my sister. Another long math lesson to be done quasi-together. Some want to go ahead and maybe get them wrong, others can't keep up and follow where we demonstrate the problems on the board. I taught "casting out nines" to the fourth. They thought it was too much work to check your work like that...imagine adding going sideways? It reminded me of "Wayside School" with the stacking of classrooms...why?

Releasing kids is such a chore now in the heat. Other teachers stay with them with a shade umbrella. Parents mostly are on time but there are always a few left over and then, after a half hour in the blazing sun, you have to march them back to the crowded office to wait and eventually call. A few ride the bus and fewer stay at "Connections". The Super Aide said she had tidied up the room but I went back to leave "good notes" These kids were great! I didn't correct any papers. I was tired. I went up to the secretary to check out as usual and was put off. She was too busy and I'd have to wait...and I couldn't wait near her. So I waited in the teacher's lounge for about 20 minutes. Each school has a different expectation from their subs on "when they can leave". I was informed that it was 3:PM at this school. "No problem, I'm retired"...nothing else to do." I think this maddened her more. She had to make up a special sheet with two 1/2 day jobs and I wasn't going to leave until I saw the job number and had signed it.

So, I came away with a unpleasant feeling, even though I helped out with the extra half-day on the spur of the moment, so to speak. If, and when I work there again, I'll be careful not to come to the office to check out before 3:PM and I'll probably not get there early either. RRR

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