Saturday, March 5, 2011


Yesterday was completely bizarre.  There's a nearby school district that is rumored to have a full-time HS music opening soon, as one of their music teachers is going to retire (an instrumental job, it turns out, but I'll apply).  I was scheduled to work a half day as a sub Friday morning at this district — my first time there.  I wanted to make a good impression.

First of all, everyone's noticed this but I still must complain: Why must schools have eight doors at their main entrance and only unlock ONE of them?  Most of the time, they won't even indicate which magical door is the one people are supposed to use!  I'm sure the secretaries have a great time watching, on their security cameras, people like me try every damn door before finding the correct one.  This happens to me every morning, because I work at so many different schools I never remember which door is the special one.  I resent this.

I knew that I was going to be a sub for a MS learning support teacher, and I was glad I could do so in half a day just in case I turn out to not be good at working with these groups of students.  Before my first class started, I got a call from the office asking if I would work at the HS in the afternoon, which I accepted.  These morning classes went rather well.  I was even warned about one boy who particularly hates male substitutes who turned out to be absolutely no trouble at all.

I returned to the office at about 11:00 to get my HS assignment and they said that they thought I would be needed at 12, so I was able to go pick up lunch at a nearby deli.  I got a wrap to go and drove to the HS where I couldn't find a good place to park.  I drove around different lots, clueless, until I found a spot.  I sat in my car and continued to listen to a symphony on the radio and ate my lunch.  When I was almost done, an administrator (the principal, I think) walked up next to my door.  They had been made nervous about me due to my driving around and subsequent sitting in my car, so the first impression they had of me was as a clueless, embarrassed sub.

I finished my last bite and went to the office where I found out that I wasn't needed until 1:00.  I went to the faculty room to read and met a couple other teachers.  I liked the environment there.  Most faculty rooms are busy with a gaggle of women talking about American Idol, but this room had a diversity of gender, ages, and conversation topics.  I'd like to work with these people.  I met a teacher's aide, Mr. G, who told me he works with the teacher I would be subbing for, as well as what I would be teaching: ESL.  Multiple people told me at that point, "Uh oh, do you speak Spanish? You'll be working with a boy who doesn't speak any English."  I barely speak basic Spanish.

About 10 minutes before class I went to the room I was to teach in and looked for lesson plans — nada.  Then the boy who speaks no English, whose name I'll change to Frank, arrived.  He was the only student, so I would have no one else to translate even basic things.  I greeted him and asked if he had any work he could do or a book to read, and couldn't get my questions across at all.  On Thursday, too, I didn't have lesson plans, and on that day I called their office and they were helpful.  On this Friday I called the office and essentially got laughed at.  The conversation ended thusly: "OK, I guess...just let me know if anything arrives there"..."*chuckle* Yeah, sure."  I turned around and looked at Frank.  He returned my gaze blankly.  I somehow got him to show me his agenda which I used to find out how long he was supposed to be with me (another hour and some), then I got a piece of paper and pens and said "let's play a game."  Just then, Mr. G arrived.  It turns out he was e-mailed the plans, which he then gave to me.  The plans were rather limited; they said nothing about Frank's level, abilities, or faculties, and barely told me what to do.  Mr. G, fortunately, knew where a folder that they work from was stored and retrieved it for us.  Frank was on page 2 of the first ESL picture dictionary.  He had a worksheet to do, so I taught him new words.

His accent was incredibly heavy and he spoke with the timidity of a frightened child.  I worked with him on making 's' sounds in words with an 's'.  I had to teach him the difference between 'm' and 'n', even though Spanish uses both.  I had to teach him the difference between "in" and "on," which is not an easy task.  Ultimately, we got through the class, and I do think he had a good grasp of almost 10 new words as well as some new sentence structures.  The lesson plans ended here, but it was only 2:15.  I asked Mr. G (who had been working with someone else this whole time) if this teacher has any other students arriving.  "I think she usually goes to the middle school at this time," he told me.  Great.  Again, it's a good thing he knew this and I met him.  I went to the office, which called the MS office and confirmed that I was needed there.

I drove to the MS and found out that there were two students I was supposed to work with, but nobody knew where.  A secretary called some teachers to find out what was typically done and no one had any useful information.  She eventually had to use the intercom to call these students to the office because she couldn't find them using phone calls.  One came by and explained that he was doing something else with another teacher, so he was sent back to that.  As long as these students had somewhere else to be, it would be pointless to just find a room for me to supervise them in.  The secretary was now on a quest to find the second student, but I was no longer needed, and went home.

Well, almost.  I had forgotten to return my substitute badge to the HS office, so I had to return there and embarrass myself again.

I hope that the next time I sub there I can redeem myself and the offices (particularly HS) can redeem themselves.  Maybe then I'll be able to want to work there again.

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