When I sub, I generally prefer the older students. They are less needy, can work independently, generally don't spread as many germs and don't tattle. However, if want to work every day and be paid, I need to be prepared to handle the little ones too.Their elementary school teachers really do have my respect, and I can feel inspired and energized by younger students and the elementary education environment just as much as by sophomores, juniors and seniors.
One day I was a substitute in an elementary art class. I love everything about being in an art room at every grade level. I love the water colors, the sticky glue, the damp smell of clay and especially the big sheets of white paper, just begging to be designed on by an eager little first grader.
But man, those little first graders can drain you of energy, even when they're at their best! You have to be on your game 100% when working with the little guys.
Thank goodness for free bells. Thank goodness even more for free bells, and the main office not paging you to come assist them with stuffing mass-mailing envelopes when all you want to do is pee and drink Diet Coke alone for 45 minutes.
One morning at my break, as the bell rung and the other teacher escorted her charges back to the regular classroom, I heaved a sigh of relief to be done with the " wild group" and stuffed a dollar in my pocket. Off to the vending machine for a 20-ounce bottle of carbonated caffeinated courage! I rounded the corner by the restrooms and out to the hallway, lickety-split because free bells don't last very long.
There stood Eli, a kindergartner. His eyes were large and brown; his face was round; his hair was golden. He was wearing an over-sized Green Bay Packers jersey which hung down to his knees. I looked down.
His sweat pants were bunched at his ankles with his underwear snaked around his sneakers. A large poo filled the space between his ankles. There was a brownish smear on one shin. He held back the shirt tale of his jersey to keep it clean, and I saw more than I wanted to see.
"Help", he said shyly. Tears began to roll down those puffy cheeks.
There were no paper towels. The school had gone to hand drying machines to save on paper and mess. I raced back to the art class and pulled mass amounts of brown paper towels out of the dispenser by the sink. I ran back to little Eli and blanketed the smelly and shameful site between his feet and had him step out of his pant legs gingerly, freeing him from his fecal fiasco.
I needed gloves and maybe the school nurse. I managed to hustle the five year old back to the nearest restroom, out of sight from anyone who might laugh or report him.
"Dude, wait here. I'll get your teacher or the nurse, OK?" I said to him. I hated having to abandon the little guy, but he needed help, and we were alone. Eli nodded and understood.
"Thank you." He was such a sweet kid.
Eli is ten now. I wonder if he still remembers that November morning in the school hallway when some substitute teacher he didn't even know happened along and helped him out. As much as I still prefer the big kids over the grade school set, I will never regret being there for one little guy who put his trust in me for a few moments and thanked me. The littlest ones are the most in need of not throwing back.
"Please, Mrs. S, Can I take the quiz over?"
"Is there anything I can do for extra credit?"
As a teacher, I hear this a lot. Some people would say that in real life, there are no second chances. When you grow up, you have to deal with consequences. "You made your bed. Sleep in it!"
What to do?
Generally, I want to give students some sort of second chance or at least courtesy time to finish a project, as long as they can show me that they have been working diligently and honestly with respect toward me and their peers. Of course, before I plan an assignment, I try to take into consideration the amount of time we have in a given class period and whether or not it's a group/ partner task or independent work. I also want to consider what sort of review and reinforcement we have covered so that the student has had ample opportunities to learn in school. In some ways this isn't really a second chance as much as its an extended first chance.
In my first year of teaching high school I gave a kid a second chance and wish I hadn't. I provided opportunities to turn in late work and re-do test questions. He paid me back by rocking back on his chair, littering the floor with edges of spiral notebook paper, making rude sounds and generally being a little jerk. He failed a test, which put him on academic probation. The football coach came to me to persuade me to raise his test grade a couple of points since he was only micro-points from passing and he needed to pass to play.
My first reaction was, " Um, no." The coach, a large man with a red face and booming voice. His neck somehow disappeared between his chin and his green and gold tie. He begged me by saying he'd have a talk with the boy about his behavior if I would pass him on the test. I was 22, new, naive and needing to get along with my first-real-job-ever colleagues. Oh yes, it was also a religious school which promoted acceptance and forgiveness.
I caved. I passed the kid. He failed again and was still an ass. The coach got him finagled through one week, but it obviously taught the kid nothing. I wish now I hadn't given that one boy a second chance, because it hurt my reputation as a teacher. I wish I'd had the backbone to stand up to the coach and and tell him no way. Instead, I had to deal with a smart-ass and his friends the rest of the year who wouldn't take me seriously because I was too nice.
I've learned a lot since then about how to handle those situations. Experience has taught me to use a crafty balance between being too iron-willed, and a total push-over. Not only do I know what to do should I ever face this scene again, I know better how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
"Hey Mrs. S. can I take the vocab quiz over?"
"No. Not this time."
When Jake B. was a little guy, he had a 1:1 school aide go with him everywhere but the bathroom. He could do that, but his helper(s) hovered outside the boys' room door just in case. Jake made peculiar sounds and motions, had a flair for the dramatic and loved old sci if movies. He could tell you all about The Man From Planet X, The Forbidden Planet and The Day The Earth Stood Still, but he had no real friends with whom to share his expertise. Jake never looked people in the eye.
In junior high Jake B. still had his school aides go with him to class, and they would help him with note-taking and staying focused for most of the bell. He used to think it was funny to hide his classmates' pencils or papers if they got out of their seat for a moment. It was a phase that lasted all year, and he would fiendishly laugh when Kevin M. would come back to his desk and look in all directions for the pen he knew he'd left in the crevice at the top of his desk. Jake took a long time to learn how to show an appropriate sense of humor at appropriate times. At the end of the day, if he'd finished his work and had no behavior incidents, Jake was allowed to look at his picture books of famous space ships, aliens and futuristic gadgets. Jake still made unexpected sounds and often retreated into his own fantasy world during his break time or whenever life felt overwhelming and he became sensory over-loaded.
Now Jake is in high school. He's close to six feet tall and wears a Star Wars t-shirt with a Storm Trooper's head blocked in four colors to look like an Andy Warhol design. His black hair hangs over one eye, but he can look at you directly and appropriately convey his needs and wants. He now proudly carries around a paperback book about classic science fiction films. At the end of the day he is allowed to lay down on the floor in the back of his class, and that's better than when he is too fascinated by the inner workings of the door hinge.
"I'm doing fine, Mrs. S!" He reminds me several times. A few other kids in class look over as if he's making that up. Their looks seem to say, " Dude, you're crazy"' but I know he's not. In fact, Jake B. might be the sanest kid in the room today. He has finished his math sequencing assignment before anyone else and explains to me on what page I can see which photos in his book. He no longer takes objects from others and tells me proudly that its not good to take someone's stuff.
Jake B. has done a lot of growing up. He's a good kid. I'm not sure what his plan will be for next year, but for today, I know that he is focused, able to learn and happy to do so. He enjoys sharing his passion with everyone, and there's nothing crazy about that.
Everything's jake for today. AW
Ok....for those of you who don't know me, ( yet),
How I Make My Money:
I am a Spanish teacher / substitute by day for various suburban school districts in my city, I teach Zumba at Curves plus a few other places and tutor students in the off hours. I pet sit as well. Currently, I am looking after Frankie and Smokey, 2 kitties) and Dweezil the Weezil.
How I Spend My Money:
I own 5 1/2 cats....1/2 due to the fact that my daughter acquired one about a year ago, and I claim Wedgie as part mine, because I paid for his fix and declaw job. She's assumed all other expenses and care now that she is employed. I love books... The e kind and the physical kind. I have two daughters, one son in law and one almost SIL. Very soon we are about to start some home renovations, which will take us from 1982 into the 21st Century! I'm pretty stoked about that but fearing the cost.
I drink way too much pop. ( Can you tell I'm from Ohio?) I love movies, manicures and making my garden look amazing when spring comes, and spring can't get here fast enough in my opinion.
I'm married (28 years) and just realized this morning while driving to work that I am entering my 30th year of teaching!!! Holy crap! How did that happen?
How I Hope To Make More Money:
In addition to all that in my life, I have written a memoir about growing up adopted in the 1960s and 70s, and finding my birth family in 1987-88. There's an odd father- daughter element to my story, which hopefully makes it a bit different from other adoption books. My goal is to have this book- baby " birthed" out within a year. I am researching publishing options now. It's edited professionally and 99% ready to go! The title had been tweaked a few times, and now is: Akin To The Truth: A Memoir of Adoption & Identities. My target audience is adoption triad people, teachers, social workers, young adults, especially females and older teens. People who like family/ coming of age stories, local Cincinnatians, family history buffs and fans of retro 60s-70s-80s stuff will also enjoy it. Tags would be: adoption, family, retro, coming out, relationships, education, secrecy.
Ok. That's me! Add me as a friend if it makes reading entries easier for you. This LJ is the public one for the purpose of this contest. I have an f-locked LJ as well.
Count me in on the A Game! AW
For the rest of you guys who may or may not know me, this one is my LJ Idol journal. I do exisit in other ways and places. My icon is one clue. How many amazing, adopted writers from Cincinnati, OH do you know? AW