Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bad Beginning?

So, this morning I didn't have to be to work until 8:15am. That's a damn sight better than the 7:15am I did last week. This was in Wapato again, about 12 miles away. I decided I could leave a few minutes before 8AM and be there on time. As I was filling my bag with a few Pepsis and some candy bars the fish tank light started buzzing. I glanced over to find the fish tank dark. The fans were buzzing, but no spark of light at all. I shook it and I tapped it. I turned it on and I turned it off and on again. I plugged it in a different socket. Nothing. It appears to be dead. I put a smaller lamp next to the tank. And the coffee pot was empty. I glanced at the clock and I had to leave.

I got in the truck...8:08am. I jammed my foot on the accelerator and pushed the speed limit, only to follow a slow car, then I was free to speed. Then I got stuck behind a bus. And then another slow car. And this was my first time teaching at this particular school. As if my choices were not bad enough, I turned left when I should have turned right. "Ahhh, the teacher's parking lot is WAAAYYYYYY over therrrre." "Crap, I have to follow three more buses and wait for five different cars." I looked at the time, oh, 8:28m...nice and late. "Good way to make an impression."

I walked in after parking in the student drop off parking lot. It saved five minutes I am guessing. I checked in and she did not have my roster...I had to wait for that. I made it to the classroom and discovered a lady coming out. I inquired as to her nature, wondering if she was the teacher, she was the substitute for Thursday. I was scheduled for today and Friday strangely enough. I get territorial, so I was wondering why she was in my space. She did not know the Teacher had another sub today. And, apparently, there was one there yesterday, too. I thought it did not bode well.

The morning with the kids began well enough, until we got to the math packet...it was then that I realized in the intervening years since my last math class, I have forgotten a lot of unimportant things about math. The one that stumped me for awhile was: 5k+2k=42, solve for k. I was totally, like, "WTF?" These are fifth graders! Who would teach them such things!?!?!? This is just asking for Atomic Bomb Science Projects in junior high! I remember the movie "Men in Black," where Will Smith shoots the little girl in the shooting gallery and points out that those physics books are "Way too advanced for a girl her age." After a few attempts I began to remember a few things about algebra, and was able to match my work with the answer sheet. So, except f0r a fair bit of worry at the start, math went well.

I took them to music, but they were very noisy in the hallway, we stopped five times while I explained to them my expectations of them in the hallway. Over and Over. On the way back from music, I explained to them my expectations again. This time I promised to keep those who were uncooperative in from lunch recess. They complied!

The wonderful teacher left me a science experiment...yayyyy...NOT! Science experiments are usually messy, this one promised to be doubly so. We were testing several liquids for starches. The use of iodine was in order...and we all know how iodine can stain. I thought it was only a matter of time before someone took a pipette of iodine and squirted it at another. I spent a full fifteen minutes going over my expectations and veiling threats to any who might decide to try my patience. Surprisingly, I think the kids learned something (Why am I always surprised that kids learn something when I am around?) from the whole thing. Even more surprising, no one spilled anything of note. No one squirted another...I was amazed.

Then I sent them off to recess and lunch. I had my own healthy lunch: candy bars from Halloween and Pepsi. About two minutes before the kids were to come back the most piercing, sharp, intense, and painfully searing sound I have ever heard began issuing, or perhaps the better word is SCREAMING from the walls. It was a fire alarm. I usually get a little warning. People are usually just nice like that...not today. I grabbed the little emergency book thingy and headed for the place where all the hallways meet, hoping to find someone from my class.

When I got there, I found a few slightly disoriented teachers and a taller lady with a nametag that I took to be the principal. She gave me a searching look that seemed to sear into my soul. I busied myself looking through the emergency book confidently until her eyes went elsewhere. By coincidence or luck, I am not sure which, one of my kids walked by and said, "There's my teacher!" Which gave me an excuse to move out of the principal's piercing gaze.

I followed the kid out to the fence and found my class leaning against the fence looking bored. I began calling role. Everyone was there. I asked them to line up. Then I told them to line up. Then the neighboring teacher chewed out one of my students for sitting on the ground. Then I chewed him out. Then I chewed them all out for not being in a line, the whole time unsure why I wanted them in a line, but certain that was the best place for them. We finally were cleared to walk back in.

They needed to clear their table before heading back to class, so I walked in with them to the cafeteria. The Principal was in there...looking severe. While my kids busied themselves clearing off their table I introduced myself. She smiled warmly at me and I figured out why she had been so searching. I told her today was my first day subbing in her school...She explained that this was her first year as a principal and their first real fire drill. She had thought I was the fire marshal guy, beginning to check off how bad her school was in his book. I thought she just didn't like subs. We snickered over that and then my class was ready and we left. She seemed like a really nice lady.

It was nearing the end of the day and I had managed to mangle nearly everything, yet it all turned out o.k. Then this lady walked in the door. She said she was going to grade some papers in the back, and not to mind her. I said, "By all means!"

She asked how the day had gone, I said, "Fine, apart from the fire-drill." She asked how the science lesson went. I said it went extremely well, even though I had expected a mess and a cluster. She laughed and said, "Sorry." It was then that I realized she was the teacher.

I chatted with her while the kids did their thing. Then I began to get them ready to leave. I joked with one of the kids and then called them to attention and reminded them of my expectations in the hallway. I came back to get my stuff and the teacher asked me to leave her my contact information because she liked the way I interacted with the kids. She said my approach was nicely balanced. I was laid back enough to joke with them, but I was stern enough to get them to do what I wanted them to. I think I may have blushed.

I enjoyed the rest of the day! To top it off, Cora had a good day, too!

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