Thursday, December 22, 2011

I should run the world

When Sam was in eighth grade, I got an email from a teacher saying that she had been having some problems with him blurting out what he thought were funny jibes in the middle of class.  He was trying his hand at being a class clown.  I told him that if I ever heard anything like that from a teacher again, I would go with him to every class, every day and monitor his behavior until I was sure he had adjusted his attitude about school, teachers and what he was there to do.  I told him it would probably take a couple weeks.  He was terrified I would do it, and I would have.  (I was actually kind of looking forward to it. I love school.)  I didn't have to yell, or punish.  I just had to let him know in a way that he understood that I valued his education and it was my job as his parent to make sure he took full advantage of his opportunities.  We've never had another problem.  He takes school seriously now and is a successful student.  I'm not delusional enough to think I enlightened him to the importance of soaking up as much education as he could, I know it was because he was worried about his social status with his friends.  That's why he was acting out in the first place, to be "cool."  He apparently doesn't think that having his mom come to school with him and nag him all day every day is very cool so he adjusted his behavior. As a result of his mortal fear of humiliation, he has come to realize that he learns more with his mouth shut than with it open. Mission accomplished!

Of course, I am totally influenced to be a hard ass on this subject because I'm a substitute.  I see especially obnoxious behavior from students every day, and I have a special apprecation for parents who nip obnoxiousness in the bud.  But parents can't do anything about it if they don't know what's going on.  I regularly call parents when I have an especially difficult behavior problem with a student.  When kids have a sub they sometimes have the attitude that they will never have to see this lady again in their lives so anything goes.  They are usually pretty surprised when I produce a class list with parent names and phone numbers and ask the sixth grader to take five minutes out of their lunch break to call mom and explain why they thought it was so funny to yell out, "Never mind what my name is, you're not the boss of me!" while I was taking attendance.  Usually when I call parents I get a very positive response and when I go back to that classroom, I have very few problems.  But sometimes I reach a parents that is at their wit's end.  They don't know what to do.  They say, "You should see how she acts at home!"  What is a teacher supposed to do with that?

This is what I think they should do.  I think that if your child's behavior is something a teacher finds she is spending too much time dealing with, they should be removed from the class.  Why should a teacher have to deal with your obnoxious kid?  A teacher's job is to teach a large number of students at one time.  It's efficient and cost effective and if there weren't any behavior problems, it would work wonderfully.  Unfortunately I find I am spending more and more time dealing with the rotten behavior of a small percent, while the majority of students sit there and wait.  Why should teachers have to spend so much time on kids who don't want to be at school anyway?  Sure, they NEED to be at school, they NEED an education, but they don't know that.  They're too young.  They don't have the perspective to see what a wonderful opportunity they have.  All they know is that they are being "forced" to do something they think they are supposed to hate, against their will, and they will fight it any way they can.  It's the only way to express any power over their situation.   Schools are perpetuating that view by tolerating more and more outrageous behavior.

My solution?  KICK 'EM OUT!  Sure it's the law that students stay in school until they are sixteen but do you now how many problems a fifteen-year-old that doesn't have any rules at home and thinks he's being oppressed can cause?  Do you know how much damage just one kid can do?  It's a lot.  Why do we put up with it?  If they did that at a job they'd be fired.  If they acted that way while patronizing a business they would escorted out.  When I ask the kids who cause me problems what would happen if they talked that way to their mom, many of them get a glazed look on their face and say something along the lines of, "I don't talk that way to my mom.  She'd kill me."  When I ask the kids causing problems why they bothered to come to school that day they look at me like I'm stupid.  "We HAVE to come to school!"  When I tell the high school  kid walking around disrupting the class after I have repeatedly asked him to sit down and do his work, that if he doesn't participate and do what he is supposed to do, I will mark him absent (my most effective behavior modification tool for the older grades) they freak out.  They tell me that I can't do that because if they are physically present, they are working toward a passing grade and then they spend their time berating me for making such an empty threat.  They are counting the days until graduation and assume that if they show up and do a bare minimum amount of academic work, no matter how many problems they cause, no matter how much stress they put on other students and their teachers, not to mention the physical damage many of them do to the school; they will graduate and get their diploma.  Why do they think that?  Because they see people do it every year.  They brag about how little effort they put into their classes.  I had one freshman proudly show me his report card last report-card day.  I was baffled when I saw that he was getting a .85 grade point average.  Why would he show that to me?  Why wasn't he embarrassed?  Why did he think it was so funny?

Of course, if we expelled kids for behavior problems, we'd have a lot of obnoxious minors running around during school/work hours causing problems AND they wouldn't even have a chance to get some education by osmosis.  Okay, how about this?  If your child gets removed from class for a behavior issue, he will not be allowed back in until he has a meeting with his parents, teachers and school administrator, and arrangements are made for that student to have a behavior aide with him at all times until it is agreed upon between the student, parents and teachers that a behavior aide is no longer needed.  The parents would be responsible for paying the aide's salary.  If they can't afford it, they or the kid could work off the cost by volunteering at the school.  Sure, being a freshman at a new school and having a babysitter with you at all times would be embarrassing, but so what?  The aides would be invaluable to the staff and other students, and I would guess that general behavior problems would virtually stop after two or three kids were seen sulking through the halls with their aides.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I'm losing it

I have a two day job teaching the worst second graders on the planet. I know what you're thinking, "How can seven-year-olds be horrible? They are just adorable children!" To that I say, "Where do you think grown up assholes come from? They come from adorable asshole children."

As I was trying to coax one little boy out of his locker this afternoon, I was fondly remembering how nice it was to work at the jail with rapists and murderers. Sure they had their annoying moments, but at least I got a good recipe for toilet wine out of that deal. I also learned what an eight-ball is (it has nothing to do with billiards)and where I can score one. Useful information! Tit for tat! What are these second graders giving me? A big fat load of bullshit, that's what.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2nd Grade

I've been subbing this week for a second grade teacher.  I love second grade.  I love kids.  I love teaching.  I love school.  The kids are so fantastically weird, and if I let them, they would talk to me all day and tell me crazy stories.  ALL DAY.  I am already too indulgent with them because I crave their crazy stories, so I'm afraid that there is a good chunk of our day spent with me sitting at the teacher's desk and the kids lined up under the pretense of getting individual help with their math or reading, but we actually all know that they are only lined up to tell me something strange that they dreamed about, or that they saw on TV or that their parent's did.

Yesterday I got a scene by scene retelling of a movie about a girl who got her arm bit off by a shark while surfing.  Surely the synopsis was a million times better than the actual movie because the girl that told it to me was so intensely involved in the telling, dramatic gestures and all.  This morning a boy told me all about the show Terra Nova.  Dinosaurs! Blood sucking worms! The jungle! Violence! Terror! (I can't believe what parents let their kids watch.)

This afternoon one boy was tired and had a bit of a meltdown that landed him in the hall.  I got so much secretive, unsolicited advice about how to handle it.  One girl told me she didn't want to see me get my feelings hurt so I should call the principal and let her handle things.  Another kid told me to make him sit in a time-out during afternoon recess by the bee hive.

The only thing I don't like about teaching is the hard schedule.  And the only reason I mind that is because (and forgive my bluntness) when a girl has to poop a girl has to poop.  And a girl can't say to 25 seven-year-olds, "Talk amongst yourselves for ten minutes or so while I drop the kids off at the pool," because it only takes about 90 seconds for them to devolve into a Lord of the Flies type scenario (re: time-outs by the bee hive).  So teaching makes me constipated.

I saw something incredibly strange today.  There is a student teacher working with another teacher and she is young and thin and beautiful, but today she was wearing the strangest thing.  She had on a normal, properly sized, oxford, button down shirt.  No pleats, no puffiness, nothing special.  What was weird was that she was wearing a thin leather braided belt around her rib cage.  Right under her boobs.  It looked so uncomfortable, and so weird!  Is this a new thing?  I've never seen anything like it so I was staring at her under-boobs all day wondering what-the-hell and I'm sure she just thinks I was staring at her boobs, which I kind of was.  So who's the strange one?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My blog is my sty

I'm having a great morning.  I got a job teaching for half a day for a health teacher who I get called for every spring when she is teaching something totally awkward and embarrassing.  I don't think she is embarrassed by it at all, in fact, I think she's totally immune, but I have to wonder at her needing a sub in the spring and never any other time.  Hmmm...  Anyway, today the kids have guest speakers talking about date rape.  They are doing a unit called "One by One: Teens explore Date Rape"  Just the title alone is enough to cause a 15 year old to claw hopelessly at the ground hoping to dig him/herself a giant hole to climb in.   I LOVE that ninth graders, who can be pretty obnoxious at times, are reduced to looking busy and interested in the most insignificant scribble on their desks when someone asks, "What are three ways a girl might say "no" in a date rape situation."  Is there any good answer a 15 year old boy can give to that awkward, potentially incriminating question? -- "Well, when I dabbled in date-raping, I found girls usually just said, 'WHAT do you think you're doing?'"  -- No, there really isn't a good way a kid can answer that question,  so they stay silent and still, knowing that the guest speaker can only see movement, and if you stay still, avert your eyes, and blend in, they won't even know you are there.  

I needed a good job today.  Yesterday I taught kindergarten again.  I only sub for one kindergarten teacher and only because I like her, but I might have to break the news to her that I HATE kindergarten and can't do it any more.  She's kind of a big shot and is gone to meetings a lot, and that means a lot of work for me, but I don't know if it's worth it.  Yesterday three kids peed their pants.  My mom, who was a kindergarten teacher for many many years said that she thinks it is because they are afraid of me, but I know that isn't it.  Two of them are best friends and both peed their pants during a bathroom break after lunch.  They peed their pants together in the bathroom.  Like it's what all the cool kids do.  Another one came out of the bathroom that is located in the classroomwith pee all over her pants.  Excuse me, aren't you six years old?  WTF is with all the peeing?  

One girl came in to class first thing in the morning and told me that she needed a student to assist her for the day because she went blind. Here's our conversation:

Girl: Can Ava sit by me and help me today?  I need help because I went blind.
Me:  You're blind?
Girl: Yes.
Me: When did you go blind?
Girl: Yesterday after I went bowling.
Me: Do you mean you can't see anything, or you can't see well?
Girl: Yesterday I couldn't see anything.  Today I can't see well.
Me:  Did you go to the doctor?
Girl:  No.
Me: Did you tell your parents?
Girl: Yes. 
Me:  Do you have a headache?
Girl: No, I'm just blind.
Me:  -----
Girl: So can Ava help me today?
Me:  ...........  Yeah, sure.   

I agreed to teach that class again tomorrow.  New class rule -- NO DRINKING LIQUIDS ALL DAY LONG.

I have to say that after my last post, exposing to the world my true nerdiness (and my sister's true nerdiness) that I am loving the comments!  My aunt emailed me and called me a big nerd, and then went on to give me her opinion on which Hogwarts houses she thinks the Founding Fathers would be placed in. (NERD.)  Diary of a Mad Bathroom made me crack up this morning when I read her comment that kindly suggests I find like-minded nerds to talk to, like if I don't find an outlet for my nerdiness I might do something dramatic and irrational.  Of course, this is all happening on my blog, which in itself is an indication of my immense nerdiness.  I embrace my nerdiness and roll around in it like a pig in a sty.  My blog is my sty. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's all bitching today

I have subbed the last two days.  Yesterday I was in a third grade room that I've never been in before.  I was only there for the afternoon and because I got there early enough to look over all the notes, I got to talk with the teacher before she left for her meeting.  She was a nice enough lady, maybe 15 years older than me.  The class was finishing up a story about a kid in Harlem.  She had great control of the class, and the kids were nice and respectful so I don't have issues with that.  (In fact to be fair, I shouldn't really judge anyone from watching them for 10 minutes, BUT...)  This is what she said that astounded me: They were talking about this story which takes place in Harlem and some kid in the class asked where Harlem is and she explained that it is in New York and it's a poor neighborhood, probably someplace you wouldn't want to go because it's dangerous.  She said it had a lot of poverty.  Some other kid asked what poverty was.  She said, " dirt and litter all over the place."  What???  That's what poverty is?  Come ON, LADY!  The story they were reading was called "Me and my friend Max" or something like that. She asked the class, "What is wrong with this title? And they said that it should be, "My friend Max and I" to be proper English. She said that it's okay though because it's a title and people there don't speak very well. WHAT???  I just stood there dumbfounded that this woman would paint such a horrible and racist picture for a (an) historic place like Harlem.  If she doesn't know what it's like shouldn't she say, "I don't know much about Harlem.  Let's look it up."  I was tempted to blurt out "WHAT ABOUT THE GLOBETROTTERS, LADY!"

Today I'm subbing in a class that I've been in a lot, and there is a student teacher and she is in charge today.  Every morning they go over 5 vocab words.  She mispronounced two of them.  Oh jeez, come on, these are FIFTH GRADE VOCAB WORDS!  The ones she mispronounced were compartmentalize and irrepressible. 

Why don't I have a job?  Am I WORSE than this?  I don't think so.  I mean I know I make mistakes, but not glaring ones like painting whole neighborhoods of cities with a racist brush and mispronouncing common assigned vocabulary words.  Maybe I need to apply for jobs to get one.  Hmmm.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why I Love Third Graders

I have been teaching in a third grade class all week.  I love them.  They are so fun and cute.  Sure, they have their annoying moments, like the three (or five) kids I call "the questioners" (in my head) because they walk up to ask me a question about absolutely everything.  Like this: 

Questioner:  Mrs. Lindahl, what do we do with our papers when we are done?
Me:  What have you been doing with your papers when you finish them from the beginning of the year?
Questioner:  Put them in the done basket?
Me:  Yes.


Questioner:  Mrs. Lindahl, what time are we having lunch today?
Me:  What time do you have lunch every day?
Questioner:  11:45?
Me:  Yes. 

Today we brought the kids on a field trip, which is usually a sub's NIGHTMARE because what if you don't know the kids in the class?  What if you don't know the logistics of the field trip?  What if the field trip is to a swamp with kindergarteners, and you only wore some cute little maryjane shoes, not knowing that you were going to be fishing kindergarteners out of a freezing swamp most of the morning?  See what I mean?  (seriously, it really happened, but they didn't call it a swamp, they called it a "nature center."  It was a swamp.)

Our field trip today was to the symphony and it was so fantastic!  There were about 2000 kids there and the program was geared to the elementary school student.  The kids had a great time and so did I. 

Anyway, one of the reasons I love third graders so much is because they are so weird.  I told them yesterday that it is customary to wear nice clothes to the symphony.  A girl came this morning, worried, and said to me, "Mrs. Lindahl, is it okay if I keep my sweatshirt on at the symphony today because I forgot to take off my pajama shirt when I was getting dressed."  She was wearing a pajama shirt, dress pants, and a sweatshirt.  How adorable is that?!

All week a bunch of them have been singing the words "salty nuts" in a very dissonant, sing-song voice.  It seemed a little strange, and slightly inappropriate, but I didn't say anything because I liked it, and obviously it is something they learned in school.  I learned about it today.  At the symphony the trumpet player talked about Dizzy Gillespie and how he wrote a song called "Salt Peanuts" and they played it for us.  Ohhhhhh!  Salt Peanuts!  I'm sure glad I didn't say anything about the inappropriateness of singing "salty nuts" and then having to explain to nine-year-olds why I find the words salty nuts inappropriate. (Here's why.)

I got a picture from a student today (I get pictures every day), and this one just sums up the wonderful weirdness of the typical third grader.  Here it is:

It's a picture of a girl and her giant dog, Bob.  Bob is apparently 100 feet tall and judging by his eyebrow and his speech bubble, he's not a very friendly 100 foot dog.  A squirrel (squerl, OMG!) is talking with the girl and complimenting her 100 foot, growling, angry dog.  Okay, for one thing, why would anyone want a 100 foot dog.  Can you imagine the poops?  Yuck.  And another thing, why is that masochistic squirrel anywhere near a hundred foot, angry dog, and where did it learn to speak English?  It doesn't look like Bob is tied to anything, so I imagine that in the split second after the snapshot of this picture, the squerl was torn to gory shreds.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I worked last week in a second grade room and they were so noisy and out of control I lost my voice by the end of the day.  That hasn't happened in a while!  The only way they would listen to a word I said was if I made them sit in their desks and put their heads down.  Otherwise it was like I was talking and nobody could hear me.  I had a microphone and had it turned up as high as it would go without giving feedback.  You know what, School District?  Thirty three 7 year olds is too  many kids for one small, echo chamber of a classroom.  I don't know how the regular teacher can stand it.  I'm still recovering.  This week I have to do a day and a half of kindergarten, half a day of 1st grade and a day of third grade.  I'm not looking forward to it.  This is the same kindergarten class that I taught last time when the kid stuck his hand in his mouth and puked down his arm. YUCK.