Subbing Summary - August 2010

Although I regularly post this kind of stuff on my Facebook page, I thought each month that I continue substitute teaching I should post a list of things students said to me or other such memorable moments. Most of these are quite hilarious. For August, this list is a little abbreviated, since school started August 13th. (Believe it or not, I subbed the first week of school. Even teachers have reasons to be out the first week!) I won't list every sub job I had.

Friday: Elementary Art
The lesson plan called for me to have the students write in their art journals "Places We'll Go." We talked about where they went this summer, if interesting, then I read aloud the Dr. Seuss book, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" We then brainstormed some places they could go (or things they could be, for the older kids) and then they were to draw a picture of that in their journals. Clear, yes? Creative? Definitely. I had kids drawing safaris, outer space, playing in the World Cup, being a princess, some really great things. And then I had one student, a second grader, draw a picture of Walmart. Actually, it was her dad dropping her mom off at work at Walmart.

This same day also saw multiple "are you Mexican?" queries, to which the response, "No, I'm Irish" elicited, "Can you do that dance thing?" Apparently all people of Irish descent can jig.

On a brighter note, it warmed my heart to hear one student whisper to another when meeting me at the door: "That's our sub? She's so pretty!" Ah, the honesty of children! It often degrades me, being a heavier gal, so this was a welcome change.

Wednesday: Elementary Music
It inevitably happens. You get called at the last minute for a sub job, and when you arrive there are no lesson plans. In this case, the teacher hadn't even really set up his teaching space. There was a piano (digital with a sticking key - E above middle C), a file cabinet (empty), a tall shelving unit with doors (with a few random supplies in it), a couple of chairs, and a big empty space. Nothing on the walls, no chalkboard or white board. Cue pulling lesson plans out of various orifices! We did some Hokey Pokey, some Deep and Wide, action songs that kids (in theory) know the words to. Then I borrowed from the art lesson above and read them the Dr. Seuss book. Before that I asked them where they might like to go, what they might like to be when they grow up. One younger class had two particularly... interesting... responses.

One little girl said, "I want to do gymnastics, like cartwheels and stuff" and proceeded to do a back bend. I said, "So, you want to be a gymnast?" to which she said, "No! I want to do gymnastics."

Another little girl said, "I'm going to be a princess when I grow up!" This is a typical 2nd grade girl fantasy, so it wasn't my place to burst her bubble. I'll let her parents explain to her why a little black girl from the inner city probably won't grow up to be a princess.

Friday: High School Vocal Music
This was another "no sub plans" day, but fortunately the high schools have full-time accompanists and he certainly knew what was going on. While nothing humorous happened, one heart-warming thing did. A freshman choir class included about a dozen students I'd had a lot subbing at a middle school last year. One of them, Jesse, came to me at the beginning of class and said, "Yo, Ms. H. I don't mean no disrespect or nothin', but you been spending some time at the gym, ain't chu?"

Saturday: The Gym
Ok, obviously this isn't subbing-related, but it goes with the overall theme. During my core class at the gym, Sir Mix-a-lot's "Baby Got Back" comes on the mix. Our instructor, who is at least my age if not older (mid-30s) asks us, in all seriousness, "What does that mean, 'get sprung?'" Awk-ward. Fortunately my friend Dominique, who is also another instructor at the gym, managed to explain it without getting graphic or even more than nebulous. The rest of us just kept doing our crunches.

Tuesday: Elementary Music
This was only a half-day job, and for a good friend of mine so of course we'd talked and there were no surprises in the plans. My afternoon consisted of lots of action songs and telling stories about "Mr. Brown" and "Mr. Black" to demonstrate high and low. I only saw K-3rd grade. In one of my classes, I had a lighter-skinned black girl tell me I look like her mother. Unless her mother is white (possible), she might need her eyes checked.

But the best was in my last class, which was 1st grade. "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" can be a very active song, especially this rendition which also included "Neck, Elbows, Hips and Feet." After the first time we did it, I said, "Wow! That's quite a workout, isn't it? I might not need to go to the gym tonight!" A couple kids used that as a cue to tell me about their kinder-gyms, but one black girl in the front had a different take on it. She was considerably chunky and obviously out of shape, and she said with that overt seriousness that little kids can get, " I don't go to the gym." She sounded exactly like a stereotypical 30-something black woman, right out of a Tyler Perry movie.

Substitute teaching is an interesting and unique challenge. Some days I feel that I am not paid enough. Other days, I think I am paid too much! It requires creativity, patience, a firm hand, understanding, flexibility, and a desire to make sure students are learning. I do miss having my own classroom, and I'm taking some more steps towards having that again. But, until then, I'm going to keep subbing. And, keep the stories coming.

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