Thursday, January 28, 2010

Classroom Management

OK, this will not be very well thought out, but some thoughts on being a "guest" teacher and classroom management.

First of all, in my regular classroom, I am a very relationship-based teacher. I like to get along with kids, and I want my classroom to be a different sort of place. Power struggles just don't do it for me. To start the year I will stick pretty sharply to classroom rules and the like but as the year progresses, each student becomes an individual.

As a sub, though, you don't have a relationship or prior knowledge of the kids. They might have pre-conceived notions about you, and might be oh-so-ready to play games with an "evil" adult. And you, as this stranger, are a great target.

I have been reading "Love and Logic" and find that a lot of what it contains describes the way I like to teach. But as a sub, it's difficult to follow any classroom management techniques that build trust over time because you only have an hour with the kids. To combat this, I try and present myself as a friendly, easy-going person. I start off with a quick introduction of myself, the assignment for the day, and something positive like "so let's relax and get this Math work done so there is one less weekend assignment!" If it is possible within the lesson plan I do not yell out roll call, I circulate the desks and ask each kid their name. If I can, I add one personal interaction to each one "oh, that's unique," "did I meet you in your science class last week?" or "what is your project topic?" I try and give solid reasons for any restrictions I put on them such as "I'm only letting one student out to the bathroom at a time because I don't know everyone well enough yet to keep track of any more than that. As soon as the pass comes back you are free to go." And I smile, smile, smile!!!

I have found over time that trying to pull power plays on unfamiliar turf will just bite you in the butt.

What types of classroom management techniques do you use? What personality do you try and project?

Monday, January 25, 2010

More found objects

OK, to lighten the mood after Friday's disaster of a day ...

Why does emo Jeff draw vaginas? The world will never know ...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Grr, argh

Two words:

Stink. Bomb.

Three more:

In. The. Classroom.

Monday, January 18, 2010

First Day Ever

I keep a subbing journal in my bag. It's a habit I picked up in grad school, where "reflections" were the main assignment for every class. It does help me reflect on successes and challenges, to note where I can improve. It also serves as documentation of days worked so I can verify my paycheck, a record of things to know about each school or classroom (bad parking, rude secretary, when the prep period is, etc) and a handy place to keep contact info. And it provides fodder for the new blog!

Sub calls were slow when I got started. Finally one of my colleagues called and made an appointment and I got really excited - I knew she would leave a great project and that her students would probably be pretty good. What a great way to start!

The day before that assignment, however, I got a last-minute call from the sub line. Groggily I punched all the numbers - ID, PIN, yes I do want to hear a job. I rolled out of bed and raced through my morning, then jumped in the car to try and find a mystery school. When I arrived I nervously handed over my time sheet, got the sub folder and keys and tried to find the room. I then had 10 minutes to prepare for first period. The teacher's desk looked like a hurricane went through and I couldn't find the book of warm-up exercises. I totally panicked and started pawing through everything like a madwoman. Finally one of the students came up and offered to help, then handed me the right book.

Lesson #1 - The kids know how the classroom works. When in doubt, ask a helper!

The first two classes of social studies went OK. About 80% of kids were on task, with just a few really irritating ones. I got initiated into the lying about classroom procedure game, the name-switch game, and the general off-task game. The schedule then said, "Per 3-4, English" and left a bunch of activities. I raced through every activity on the list, but was surprised when kids didn't jump up and grab their bags when the bell rang for the end of 3rd period. "Well, don't want to be late, do we?" I asked. A kid looked totally confused. "We have a double period. This is just a break for us."

Lesson #2 - Learn to think on your feet.

Well, now I had a whole period to go and had raced through my curriculum. I had 5 minutes to figure out a plan. I ended up having them go through the writing project we had rushed, self-editing and then peer-editing their work. Then they could have SSR time to either finish the assigned reading (that I had of course rushed them through) or to read ahead. That got us to lunch.

Already fatigued, I headed downstairs to find a teacher's lounge and microwave. I then took the time to double-check the schedule and computer-lab policies with the secretaries, because I was tired of surprises. "Oh, go talk to Raoul about the computer lab. He's supervising the playground right now. Black coat." I thanked them and headed out to find Raoul.

Raoul the Brazilian male model-turned-computer science student. Neat.

Raoul was very friendly. And very helpful. "I will come to the computer lab with you sixth period, just to make sure everything goes alright." Yay!

Lesson #3 - Schools are filled with educated adults who have similar interests to yours. Some of them happen to be former models with adorable accents.

So, sixth period in the computer lab rolls around, and Raoul does indeed see how I am doing and check up on a few kids he knows to be trouble makers. "By the way," he said "we're going to have an earthquake drill this period." We looked over the emergency folder together and he showed me the correct turns to get out the door and to the field for kid-inventory. I grabbed the roll sheets and sub folder and kept everything in my arms so I wouldn't have to scramble during the drill.

Sure enough, about 20 minutes later a bell goes off and I shout "EARTHQUAKE!! EVERYONE UNDER THE TABLES!!" Kids duck under, except a few stragglers. "OH NO! TIMMY GOT CRUSHED BY FALLING COMPUTER EQUIPMENT! IF ONLY HE HAD LISTENED TO MS. GT!" We waited a few minutes (for falling debris to settle and in case of major aftershocks) then went out the door and to the field. I had kids facing the fence, in line, within seconds. I saw teachers holding up giant construction paper and asked a neighboring adult what that was all about. She rolled her eyes at me and said in a huff, "It's a red/green card. You're supposed to have it with you. Red means you are missing students and green means you are all there. It's required." I stuck my thumb up in the air as an "OK" signal and responded "well, we just came from the computer lab, and I'm new here. Isn't it also required to have kids lined up and quiet?" OK, I didn't say the last part out loud, but boy was her line a mess.

Lesson #4 - Most people are really nice and helpful. Some see subs as less-than-human, especially young ones.

As I checked out at the main office, the secretaries asked me how my day went. "Well, not bad, considering it was my first day." "It was your first day?!? Well, we never would have known, you were very professional." Yay!

So in my first day I faced a horrible mess of a desk, misbehaving kids, a whole period with no curriculum, an earthquake drill while I wasn't even in the regular classroom, and one rude staff member.

I also got Raoul's phone number.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trouble Maker

Today in 2nd period ...
"Hi, I'm Cody, and I'm the worst troublemaker in the class."

"Hi Cody, nice to meet you."

"No, seriously, I'm the worst troublemaker here. Ms. W throws me out like 10 times a month."

"OK, then."

"Don't you believe I'm the worst troublemaker?"

"I can believe you are the worst troublemaker in the class. Heck, I'll even believe you are the worst troublemaker in the school. But I highly doubt you are the worst troublemaker I've ever met, and I bet we can just have a nice, relaxing, productive class period."


Later on I saw li'l Cody at lunch with his buddies. "Hey Cody, you didn't even crack the top 10. You'll have to try harder next time!" I got a huge smile in response.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Running down the clock

Have you ever gotten a classroom with skimpy (or no) lesson plans?

Thankfully, this does not happen to me very much. However, when it does, you can feel very panicked and worried about losing control of the room, especially when dealing with younger students who need structure and direction all the time.

There are some basic time fillers:
-Study Hall time
-Heads up 7 Up

These are great because students all know how to do them and it requires no extra materials on your part.

If you feel like lugging them around you can have emergency supplies like:
-Worksheets and puzzles
-A nerf ball for a round of silent ball
-Story book for youngsters

One of my favorite time fillers? Paper airplane contest! You can use binder paper or old paper out of the recycle bin. Students work in pairs or solo to create the best airplane they can, with a time limit. For the end part of class, you can either move furniture to create a flight path through the room or take them into the hallway and have them compete for distance. Any students who chose not to make a plane can be judges or write down the names of winning teams for you. You can also assign extra awards for "coolest trick" (for the plane that just looped or crashed spectacularly) "most innovative design" (for the pair that ripped, folded, and torqued their plane in unexpected ways) or "prettiest design" (in case anyone decorated their paper in addition to folding it.)

Do you have any favorite emergency lesson plans???

Friday, January 8, 2010

More found objects

I do not remember being this smart in high school.
(Found at my old high school, which has an unfair reputation for being "ghetto" and underperforming.)

Great week so far!

Wow, I have never been so glad for Christmas (oops, I mean Winter) break to be over! It ended up being a 3-week break for me because the calls stopped on Tuesday the week before break and I didn't get a gig until the day after they came back. Luckily I have a part-time retail gig that keeps me busy in the weeks before Christmas, but ... I'm a teacher, dammit! I want to hang out with kids!
Anyways, my first gig back was a three day stint in a friend's special education room back where I used to teach (OHS). Because the curriculum for these classes is so complicated (they work from a special textbook and workbook that seems like it was written in another language, there are so many routines and jargon words), the teacher and I worked out an alternate arrangement. Pretty much for the three days we would read part of an article about the British graffiti artist Banksy (image above, but your own google search is highly recommended), then work on our own stencils. It was awesome, combining special ed literacy with ART ART ART! By day three we were in an abandoned shop classroom spray painting our stencils. The kids got really creative with color combos and special effects. I really love doing these fun projects with kids and it makes me even hungrier for my own classroom!