Saturday, April 30, 2011


As my dear readers know, I teach mostly high school but in a wide variety of schools, from alternative high schools for inner city near-drop-outs, to a high school in a district populated mostly by rednecks, to a high school in "the hills" of suburbia with the kids of lawyers and professors who are just one step down from sending their kids to private school.

Anyways, I was at this rather well-off school this week and had the math class FROM HELL. I think the most infuriating thing about it is that these kids are supposed to know better. Demographically, they have been raised in 2-parent homes, gone to nice schools with high standards since Kindergarten, are likely to go on to college, and have been exposed to the value of an education (family, friends, and neighbors who are doing well thanks to their degrees.) Even if they don't match these demographics, they are going to a school where these attitudes are the norms and the predominant culture. So it makes me angry when they are rude, off-task, loud, and openly hostile to learning because they are squandering the opportunities that my other students don't have.

Since one of the purposes of this blog is to vent, and because I can't say it to their faces, I will say it now: YOU ARE AN IDIOT.

Yes, you, white male Soph-o-moron. You are ruder than the middle schoolers in the special education class for kids with behavioral disorders at AK-8.

Yes, you sassy girl. You think you are soooo street when you listen to your headphones during class and bop along to the words instead of listening to my explanation in math, but a know a few single moms on the north side that can kick your butt in work ethic. And they will, and I will laugh.

Yes, you, Junior in Algebra 1. You think you are delightfully, counter-culturally average. In a school with over achievers, you revel in not achieving. You wear your C's with pride. Let me tell you, there is a world beyond this high school. A world where lots of Juniors are in Algebra 1 because they have been hampered with sub-par schools their whole life, because they don't have parental support after school, because they don't believe college can be a reality for them. Stop wasting your time on sitting around, your parents' money on weed. Or don't. I really don't care, because tomorrow I'm going to go to a different school and expend my energy on kids who need it. Right now, as you graffiti the table and tear your worksheet up into little pieces, I'm imagining you pumping gas for all the students who clawed their way out of poverty by using all the opportunities provided to them at school and beyond.

OK, that feels better.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


This week I taught newcomer ESL at OHS for four days. It was really interesting and exciting and a new challenge. My day went like this:

Per 1/2 - Language arts block with all the students.
Per 3 - Prep
Per 4- ESL Math with half the students.
Per 5 - ESL Math with the other half of the students.
Per 6 - Duty
Per 7 - Language support with all the students. (Computer reading programs, reading time, conversation practice, HW help, etc.)

At OHS, they have the ESL kids divided into two sections - those who had school in their country of origin and those who didn't. I had the kids who didn't, which makes life even more interesting.
One thing I learned really quickly is that these students are not reflected in mass-produced ESL curriculum. One passage that we read was entitled "My English Class" and listed all the people in the narrator's class. They were from Mexico, Puerto Rico, China, Japan, and France. My kids? They were from Somalia, Chad, Kenya, Burma, Indonesia, and Vietnam. It's really hard explaining to kids who just learned the English alphabet in September (or more recently, since immigration plans don't really take into account our school year) that the "J" sound is totally different if they are reading about "Juan." Another bizarre thing was that while the curriculum did include a nice variety of foreign names, all the "American" names were old-fashioned ones like Frank, Loretta, Patty, or Margaret. Really, how often will today's generation need to stumble over "Margaret" rather than "Jessica?" Also, I totally skipped the reading lesson that wanted them to try and decipher cursive. That's just cruel.
The last period of my last day there, I gave them a little break - we watched shorts from "Shaun the Sheep" by Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit guy) and I made a little handout to answer questions using this week's vocabulary and sentence structure. Nick Park's stuff is awesome for this because there is no dialogue - all the plot is shown with action and expression. It makes everything very universal. Here's one that we watched:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Prep Period

As a sub, sometimes you really need your prep period. Getting the lessons ready, pre-reading the book or assignment, using the computer to arrange/confirm future jobs, going to the bathroom, cleaning up from previous students - these are all important activities. Sometimes you just need to chill out from the crazy classes or mentally prepare for the next.

But sometimes, you are really, really bored. This is especially true if there is no computer available or if you can't log on. Unnecessary prep periods can be a great time to earn gold stars as a sub. Some stuff to try:

-Go to the library and offer to shelve/organize books.
-Go to the art room and offer to clean painting supplies or organize materials, or to hang up work in a display or bulletin board.
-Go to the staff room and do any dishes in the sink.

Any others?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We Wish You Were Our Teacher All the Time!

This statement is a double edged sword. Just as you get all happy and proud that a student said that to their substitute teacher, you get the follow-up:

"... because you let us talk all period."

"... because we never get to watch movies with our regular teacher."

"... because you're pretty."

Today, though, I got a great comment:

"I wish you were our art teacher all the time because instead of just telling us our paintings are bad, you show us ways to improve them and tell us when we do it well."

Aw. Thanks kid. I try.