Friday, October 26, 2007

Displaced Kinder

I was alittle excited yesterday because I was finally getting to go to an elementary school that I had missed so far. They had the jobs but always called too late to be do-able. This was an early call (5:AM) and it was a Kindergarten...piece of cake, right? Wrong. It was quite different and rather depressing and frustrating.

The buses arrive late at this outlying site and so school doesn't start until 9AM. I was supposed to be there at 8:20AM. I set out at 7:55AM and then realized, in my excitement, that I had forgotten my badge. You've got to have a badge nowdays to get on campus. Security is tight. So, having never worked there before, I wasn't quite sure of the best and fastest way to get there. I called them on my cell at 8:20 and said I was on my way, in the area and was I correct so far in my off ramps and streets. Yes, but it was very hard to hear. The parking lot was full so I had quite a walk to the office.

Here again the school was being "retro-fitted" and it was totally in the state of fenced-off construction, holes, dirt piles, noise, and kids and teachers routed around it all. My K room was the farthest away portable next to a big mound of filler dirt that a "bob-cat" (mini back hoe/scooper) was periodically moving throughout the day. We closed the door to no avail.

This was another AM/PM double K with two teachers. The AM teacher barely greeted me and not cordially, "Are you full or half-day?"


"Well, I'm going on a field trip this morning with mine and your's don't arrive until 11:40."

"No problem, how can I help you now?"

She proceeded to give me some "seat work prep" for the upcoming Halloween themed days. (mostly stapling and folding) She told me my aide would arrive at 10AM and could further help me prepare for mine. There was a typed "lesson plan" but it was rather sketchy and incomplete. Then we got a phone call from the actual teacher I was replacing and she tried to fill in some of the gaps. Her real reason for calling was to get the phone numbers of certain kid's moms who she was going to have to reschedule for conferencing or tutoring. I noticed the remains of a subbing summary from the previous Tuesday. Yesterday, Wednesday, she had been there to take her PM's on the same field trip to the "Pumpkin Patch". The aide later told me she hoped she wasn't having problems with her new home and the recent firestorms or with financial restructuring. Her voice did sound a bit stressed on the phone.

I was having problems finding all the materials for what she wanted done and the aide wasn't able to help much either. Her desk was a mess and so much of what was suggested again was "paper/crayon/pencil" heavy. The aide said to wait until the other teacher came back from the field trip and ask her. That made me feel a bit better and so I proceeded to set up some "alternate plans" of my own just in case...good thing...

The other teacher came back and was very cool, almost hostile toward me, the plans, what I did etc. I'm guessing she was miffed at the other teacher for "abandoning her" and was taking it out on me and "my kids". Her responses were brief if not curt and dismissive. She went to lunch and I was left to my own devises with the "aide" (bilingual) doing workbook prep in the back. So I forged on ahead and did the best I could to follow the plan and when in doubt...add my own...interests, specialties...biases etc. This would be music(Eng./Espanol) and math/lang. games. i.e. We counted the "days of school" (now 41) with pennies, not tiny paper clips on a distant wall. We sang and played the "Magic Penny Song and Game". They loved it but some had trouble counting their actual pennies past "one". Relating counting to actual things in sequence was still a challenge...forget knowing their left from their right.

I asked for help explaining the "centers" which were called for in the lesson plan and got no involvement or help from the other teacher who was busy on the computer and the phone calling non-cooperative hispanic parents. They were ignoring or refusing notes coming home because they weren't in Spanish too. The non-Spanish-speaking principal had refused (as illegal) this dual way of trying to get their participation in the school. This is usually not a problem at the K level.

The kids wanted things to be like they always were with their real teacher but they weren't and I wasn't getting any help to make them so from the teacher or the aide. ie. switching centers procedure, when and how. So, I forged ahead again...making sure they all had the "Magic Penny" game and a souvenir penny. Then I went to the math table and helped read the directions to those left there. The other teacher was three feet away and couldn't care less what they did.

I realized I was spoiled with my other K class and how well those AM/PM teachers worked together and helped each other for the good of their mutual kids.

Necessity being the "father" of invention...I came up with an "Rr" song for the letter of the day after the story in the big book (I couldn't find) and my own grandson's book on dogs, and a puppet show with "Tuggles" the Drug Fighting Bear. (yes, drug ed at this level) His message today especially to those who remembered to bring their "shades" (sunglasses) "Shade out drugs" "Stop and Think" This kids bearly (pun intended) knew what the lesson was about so we did some other "Stop and Think" activities i.e. crossing the street "Stop, Think, Look left, look right, look left again" and balloon ball...Stop and think before you throw it to your friend (the name you called out) They loved it all. The aide had long since left and the "uninvolved co-teacher" continued to ignore us. She did stop long enough to find the drug stickers in her desk drawer so I could pass them out at the end of the day, instead, as the plan suggested, in the middle.

I then walked six kids to their buses on the other side of the campus and she, reluctantly stayed with the remaining to be picked up at the door. The bus scene was chaos and the "principal" changed her tone of voice when she saw I was a sub, just observing, and was "without a clue" as to what to do. There was, overall a lack of joy or care with all the adults I observed dealing with the kids. Must've been the stress of the fires and air quality. This district kept open this whole disaster week, their neighbor district closed the whole week.

When I got back to the room the other teacher had already started her tutoring. "We wear many hats here," was her quote. One student hadn't been picked up and was near tears.

"Has your student left yet?" I checked, nope still there.

"Shall I take her up to the office to have them call?"

"No, I'll handle it."

"Is there anything else I can do for you in my time remaining?"

"No, I can handle it." (as a whole group of older students were dumped on her to watch)

Too bad for her, she didn't know, they used to be my specialty. RRR

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