My students and I worked hard this past week so they deserved to have a small war, well, right after my 5 question mini-quiz.
I unfortunately did not take any pictures, but I can tell you that my students did not get violent, but they did get aggressively competitive. And, the positive consensus is that they had fun. At first, during first period, I made all students participate. It was not until second period that I had students who did not want to play. I accepted this as ALL the students not wanting to play until a student made a suggestion.
STUDENT: Miss, but some of us DO want to play. Have them do something else.
STUDENT #2: Assign us something from the textbook.
ME: You know, that’s not a bad idea.
This worked out well because the students who wanted to play, or at least did not want to do book work, gave full participation and the students who wanted to do bookwork, well, did bookwork.
By the time third, fourth, and fifth period came around I decided to have the students play two rounds of the game before asking if they would like to continue play or do bookwork. They all wanted to play! Excellent.
So, what did I do? I had them throw paper!
But not exactly like above…
I arranged the desks evenly so the desks are facing each other and there is about 6.5ft space in the middle. Two rows of 6 to my left, two rows of 6 on my right. 24. (I have less than 20 students in each class). I divided the students into teams. Team to my left would be orange; the team to my right would be green (I found a stack of scrap paper in the resource room, cut the papers into 1/8, and we used the blank side of the papers).
Each student would write a math problem based on my give topic. Seeing that I am working with students who still need to practice basics, I keep it to basic arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and I avoided division.
One single-digit number and one double-digit number multiplication…
Once they write the math problem, I take a quick look and I let them crumple the paper. This makes sure the student writes the problem correctly and fairly. Once I looked at both sides, I get out of the line of fire, and raise my hand to do a five finger countdown (this helps accomodate my deaf student wihout making it apparent). Once I do that countdown, the students throw their papers to the otherside. It becomes a paper-math-war! The opposite side must pick-up a paper, answer the problem, and turn it to my hand.
OBJECTIVE: The first team to turn in their responses and are answered correctly earn a point. Most points win!
My students are quite competitive so my rules varied per class period: “…you have to be touching your desk…”, “…you need to stay behind this imaginary line…”, “…you can not stand on your desk…”, “…do not aim at someone’s face”, and so on.
Oh, and why two different colors? For easy identification when the papers hit the floor. And why 1/8 pieces of paper? The larger the wad of paper, the faster it goes through the air, the harder the hit if it should be aimed at a student. I kinda’ want to avoid that. Smaller wads of paper do not hurt when launched from across the room.
I end the game early enough to play a last round and have the students clean up.
Last round: I return the color papers to each side and without telling them what to do, I have a student divide the papers to their team. Then I tell them to wad the papers up and throw at the otherside. The team with most colors on the otherside “wins” and they can throw the colors back at the other team. This became a fun amount of chaos as they really didn’t care about the rules and just wanted to launch papers at each other. Chaotic fun. I even laughed.
Then, my students cleaned up. No really, they cleaned up their mess.
STUDENT: Miss, what did we win?
ME: You get a…CONGRATULATIONS! I’m broke. I didn’t get my paycheck yet, but you did GREAT!
ME: You’re welcome, kids. YOU. ARE. WELCOME.
Teaching math is not easy. I know this because though it may not be my best subject, I know how to DO Algebraic expressions, but teaching it is a whole other story. It’s like riding a bike. I can SHOW you I KNOW how to ride a bike, but I can only teach you so much for you to learn HOW to ride it on your own.
This is, at least for me, how I can explain my situation.
That’s what makes this position challenging and exciting. If I do not know something, I try something new and learn together with my students. Of course, my students do not know how much I loathe math or how I averaged a “C” throughout my academic career. They do know I love to teach, and they do know I want to help, and therefore we’re all learning.
It is my second week subbing in this classroom. I am able to better gage the learning styles of my students and if I learned anything from my days and nights in my education classes I have learned to assess and identify my upper, middle, and lower learning level students. At this point I am proud to say that I am quite confident in knowing who those students are and which group they belong to. Now that I know this information, I am able to teach accordingly…sorta. I can not teach what I do not know, so lately I have been studying material, correcting papers, and creating lesson plans at the dinner table. I am exhausted, to say the least, but I will get the hang of it.
(Yes, and I am keeping in mind that I will be replaced by some qualified teacher, perhaps in September.)
Mt students have been doing bookwork. It could be like this for most textbooks, but I noticed the textbooks I currently use in the classroom have math problems begin easy to become more difficult. My lower level learning students will get, for example, #1-24; middle learning students will get #25-49; my upper learning students will get the more challenging (but very capable) questions #50-74. If a student from any of those groups falls behind on a task or completes the task ahead of the students I would need to change that student’s group or supplement their learning with something else like a worksheet (though I prefer not).
I do what I can with what I can.
I do a lot of monitoring and changing around things. My students have the occasional attitude about these changes, but so far no attitude has forced me to write a referral. I understand, they want to sit with their friends, but if my higher learning students is slowing down my lower learning student because of some gossip then I need to separate the two and put them in their proper groups. This is how I can maintain somekind of control here.
I start with a whole group discussion and lesson, sometimes note-taking, for 15 minutes. Then allow them 30 minutes of work. We move on the next day, but I allow students to complete any necessary work for a final grade. I let my students talk, occasionally raise my voice to get them to refocus. I do a countdown of 5,4,3,2,1 (yes, they’re high school students) and though sometimes I don’t even know what I will do by the time I get to 1, the students seem to quiet down.
There are still some things I need to figure out, like my grading scale, my rubrics, and things like that. Sometimes I am told to “do whatever” because I have special education students. Yes, they are special education students, and each student is different, but I hold each of them accountable for their learning and will grade accordingly. I’d like to create a standard of learning and I expect them to meet them however way they feel fit.
My classes did well today, including my rambunctious 5th period Algebra class. I am thankful that this class cooperates with me when it comes to moving them around and asking them to do work. All my classes are done with numerical expressions and we’ll be moving on to algebraic expressions. Whew.
I need to think of a fun Friday activity…
I am a little behind on my adventures.
For the past two days I have come home exhausted. Subbing in the Special Education class that I am familiar with is not difficult, except when there is a new student and I do not know any information from her Individualized Education Program (IEP) or anything else for that matter. On her first-day of school she made a positive impression on the teacher so he had nothing but nice things to say. On her second day (when I first met her and started my three day subbing gig) she decides to steal something from the mall and I had to make a phone call to her parent informing them of the matter. On the third day, well, she pretty much had a tantrum.
What is a Guest Teacher to do? Protect the students.
Based on my prior experience, we leave her alone, as in do not bother her. My Instructional Assistant for that day was also a substitute so it was just me and her trying to work with this student. Eventually the student got a little aggressive on the Instructional Assistant and the Adaptive Physical Education Teacher.
Based on this information alone, I had to make a decision and the best decision I could make was send the student home. I KNOW that going home is what the student wanted. Her poor attitude and refusal to do any activity (I mean, c’mon, we BAKED cookies AND played tennis! All the other students enjoyed it!), but she sat and pouted. If any other student had behaved as such, a student whose background I knew with an IEP I was already familiar with, I would not have given to such behavior.
How would any substitute teacher have handled this? I had to handle this as if I did not know any of these students.
But this, THIS was different. Her aggressive behavior was something I was not familiar with and I was not going to put these students, myself, or the Instructional Assistant at risk. On top of that, because she has been unresponsive except with mumbles, pushing, and slapping hands, I would not know if she would get up to go to the school bus when her bus arrived.
In the end, the student responded to our male Assistant Principal and he escorted her out of the room and to the attendance office where the mother would pick-up the student. Why does it matter that I point out that he is a male? She did not respond to me, the Instructional Assistant, or the Adaptive Physical Education Teacher - all women. The student lives with her divorced mother, and I am assuming the student’s mother is the ONLY female in her life she is willing to listen to.
The mother is upset that she had to come to the school and pick up her daughter. She was on her way to work when I made the phone call and I calmly explained that her unfamiliar behavior will put the students at risk and be a challenge when it is time for her to go home.
The Instructional Assistant felt like a failure that day because she felt we let the student “win.” I explained, because she too wants to be a Substitute Teacher, that when I know I am responsible for a group of students, I had to look at the larger picture and I was not willing to put the other students at risk. Fine, she was aggressive toward us, but what about the other students? And what if she did not get on the school bus? And, if she did go on the bus, what if her aggression took place with the other students on her school bus? As a substitute we HAVE to look at the bigger picture because for that one day (or two, or three, or an entire semester…) someone has allowed us to take responsibility.
I know I will be asked to sub this class again, and so will the Instructional Assistant, but we now know a bit more about this student and when we return, we will know even more.
I worked in a CAPA/Special Education class today, the same one I used to work in when I was a Special Education Instructional Assistant two years ago. I get to sub the class for the next three days.
When I walked into the classroom this morning, the Special Education Instructional Assistant I subbed three months for asked why I was there, not in a condescending way, but in a sincere curious way.
ME: I am the Substitute Teacher. I am subbing for Mr. Smith.
SPECIAL EDUCATION INSTRUCTIONAL ASSISTANT: Ohhh…
I later found out that other staff members on campus only knew me as a Special Education Instructional Assistant so the thought of being a Substitute Teacher never occurred to them. I am glad people remember my face and name, it is sort of flattering, but now I have a different role and my next challenge is to make my name and face memorable under a new title: Guest Teacher.
Guest Teacher. This is the title the district wants our schools to recognize us as, and you know what, I think I should work that when I introduce myself. You know, “Good morning. I am today’s Guest Teacher for Ms. Smith’s class.” Sounds positive, right? I think so.
I do, though, have to be thankful for the Special Instructional Assistants for today’s class. I know I was one once, but being the classroom teacher this time around makes the switch a bit…appreciative toward those who know their own students. It has been two years since I worked with these students and the regular classroom teacher has done some great things that have allowed these students to grow since I last worked with them. The current Special Education Instructional Assistants know who these students are now, today, and this has posed to be helpful while I worked in the class. Hell, I did not know how much they enjoyed Yoga:
They knew personality traits, abilities, and how to work with the student when a behavioral challenge occurs. It was awesome seeing how the Special Instruction Assistant assisted when I could not get through to the student. Awesome.
If you have a Special Education Instructional Assistant, thank him or her. I was thanked when I was an assistant, and I return the appreciation with sincere gratitude.
I never thought I would be the type to participate in these sort of charitable events. Sometimes I think just a monetary donation would be all I need to support such a cause, but when you actually walk with people supporting a cause, the donation becomes so much more.
Originally, and I will be honest, I thought this walk would do two things: (1) support my friends and their son Ethan, and (2) be able to see if I can walk this distance (last year, on this day, I was released from a week-long stay in the hospital and have spent this year rehabilitating).
And yet, both brought more meaning than I ever planned.
My friends often feel alone in this world when dealing with their son Ethan. They feel awkward when they get unfamiliar facial expressions from strangers in public. I did not know that until yesterday. Ethan is autistic and communication is difficult for him. Sometimes Ethan will act up in public and my friends would not know why or wonder how to handle the situation. My friends have difficulty communicating with Ethan and have gone through various therapy programs before finding the one that they and Ethan like. They do what they can, have their good days, and move on, but for the most part feel like they are the only ones with such a child.
Then, you attend this walk, and you see other children like and different from Ethan. You see children smiling, supporters cheering kids on, and it makes you think that there are people who are like Ethan and there are people who support children like Ethan. And my friends feel a lot better about who they are as Ethan’s parents. I mean, I do not have children of my own but I do not need my own children to acknowledge that parenting, in general, is a tough gig. My friends appreciate the support of their friends, and to be among other supporters makes a world of difference for them.
All my friends want is for people to be aware that Autism makes their child different and that Ethan is still a child. Accepting differences is just one of the many challenges our society faces, and his parents want nothing more than for Ethan (who may or may not be aware of this) to be himself and society accept him.
In the end, I walked to support Ethan and my friends, who fight for Autism awareness.
Next year, I am bringing bubbles!
That’s right, I almost cried.
I came home after subbing an 8th grade Middle School Math class almost wanting to cry. I stress ate (not good: a bowl of cereal, left over lasagna, and two cookies within an hour), vented to my elder brother, and had a self-debate of whether to head to the gym or take a nap.
I napped and so I am here to recount the adventure of the day.
I was offered the opportunity to sub at three schools and asked which opportunity I would take. I turned down two high school science classes to sub in a middle school math class because I rarely have the opportunity to sub in a middle school. Though math is not my best subject, I am familiar with algebra with the exception of a review of simplifying radical expressions. And look what today’s worksheet looked like?
I am confident enough in finding the solution, but lacked the confidence to teach it. In a block schedule of having students for two class periods instead of one, I spent 90 minutes attempting to review and teach radical expressions. The first block period the students either resisted reviewing the lesson or truly did not know how to do it (then again, it could be both). The second block of students were willing to learn and review. They were also higher-level special education students (which is, in my experience, always a pleasure to have). Lastly, the third block of students just did not care, attempting every manipulative way to avoid work or have a really mean attitude about everything, including me giving the opportunity to earn a prize. At one point students managed to spit water at each other!
This was a case of poor classroom management! I was disappointed in myself. Thankfully I kept my cool, raised my voice when necessary, and stop the chaos before it ensued into a riot. Yes, started the day off not-so-well and that third block of students disappointed me and which lead to disappointing myself.
But, being a sub, I can not take such gigs personal. I remained professional. I still left a note for the teacher with my business card if he should need a substitute teacher again. If he were to contact me to sub for his class, I would at least know what to expect.
Oh, and get this! The school doesn’t have a school bell. By choice.
It allows students to take responsibility for their own choices and time. Interesting, huh? For a sub new to the school, I had to constantly look at the clock and the school schedule to see when to dismiss the students. This choice also plays on the “the school bell does not dismiss you, the teacher does” type of rule.
My bag of tricks did not work with these students, and that’s unfortunate, but I learn as I go on.
I subbed in a CAPA (California Alternate Performance Assessment) class today and I just did not have my bag of tricks today.
Though I have worked in this class before as a Special Education Instructional Assistant and I am familiar with the students, I just did not have it in me to teach or instruct exciting activities as I would have liked. I explained this to the Instructional Assistant I have worked with before and though she said it was okay and that the students did not mind doing the regular lessons that they are used to, I was not used to it.
And, the classroom teacher gave me permission to deviate from the regular schedule. When I worked as his Instructional Assistant, I always had an activity to introduce and teach. This time? Blank.
The highlight of the day was when the students were given the opportunity to meet with a group of students called Peer Group and they hosted an Egg Hunt with my students (most of which were not able to participate in any sort of festivities this past weekend). These Peer Group students also socialized with the CAPA students who normally do not get much of that on a regular school-day.
Overall, the day itself went well. It is just me holding my own standard over my head that adds pressure to these shoulders.