Friday, March 16, 2012

Math Class

I subbed in a math class this morning.  There was a student teacher in there and he was wonderful.  He was patient, kind, and knew his material backward and forward.  (I think I may have learned the distributive property!)  Of course even the best student teachers don't feel the confidence that they need to completely master a class, and you can't blame them.  It's not their class to master, the teacher is usually sitting right there watching (which is ominous and intimidating even if you have the best cooperating teacher), they are not that much older than their students, and the students can sense all this and take advantage of it.  Every teacher knows that on days when you are not feeling your best, students sense it; much like sharks smelling blood in the water, and go in for the proverbial kill.

When I find I'll be working with a student teacher I ask them how much they want me involved and I offer myself up for anything they need.  Most of the time the student teacher is happy to have an opportunity to be the lead teacher in the class.  That's how I felt when I was a student teacher.  I was so relieved when my cooperating teachers were gone and there was a sub.  Now I'm the sub and I tell them they are the ones who know what is going on, so I am there as their assistant, willing to help in any way I can.  Need me to play bad cop to your good cop in classroom discipline? No problem.  Want me to correct papers?  Give them to me.  Need a break and want me to teach?  Sure thing.  Usually they say they want to do it all.  That's my favorite because then I can sit back and read a book.

Like I said, the teacher I was with this morning was very good but the kids could have been nicer.  They did some of my absolute worst pet peeves and because this man hasn't seen it ten thousand times already, he dealt with it with too much patience and kindness.

Pet peeve number 1:  A student wanders in to class just as the bell rings.  He has NOTHING in his hands.  He sits down at his desk.  The teacher gets started with the lesson saying something along the lines of, "Today we are going to correct your study guide and then have the chapter test.  You may use your notes on the test." The teacher tells everyone to get their study guide out and get ready to correct, and waits a minute or two so everyone can get ready.

As the teacher is reading out the first answer, the boy who walked in with nothing meanders up to the front.  He interrupts the correcting by asking the teacher, "Can I go to my locker and get my study guide?"  The patient young teacher says yes.  The kid leaves, the teacher continues with correcting the test.  They finish correcting.  The kid who left meanders back in with a blank study guide.  The rest of the class is getting ready for the test.  The kid with the blank study guide, who missed all the answers because he took ten minutes going to a locker a few yards down the hallway, wants the teacher to now take time out of class to give him the answers on a study guide he didn't even attempt to do.  The nice teacher says they really don't have time to go over the whole thing again, sorry, they have to get started on the test.  The kid acts put out and slumps back into his desk.

The test is passed out and the kids are told to begin.  The same kid wanders up to the teacher again and says, "I don't have a pencil."  That scenario drives me crazy.  Why would anyone come to math class without his work and  a pencil?  It would be the same as a house-builder going to work without his ladder and his toolbox.

Now I stand at the door between bells and tell anyone coming in to make sure they have their materials and something to write with.  I still get kids who come up to me after class starts asking to go to their lockers for materials, but I usually say no.


Pet Peeve Number 2:  The patient young teacher gives the kids ten minutes at the end of class to get started on their homework assignment.  He wants them to use this time to look over the assignment and get started so they can see if they have questions about anything.  The kids work on it (or at least pretend to work on it) for five minutes and then pack everything up and stand by the door.  Why are they standing by the door?  What's the rush to get into the hallway???

The patient teacher asks them to sit back down and they accommodate him by walking a lap around the room, pushing their friends around as they go and then beeline it right back up to the door as soon as the teacher is preoccupied with someone who is actually doing their assignment.

They won't be satisfied to simply stand by the door either.  They get tired of standing by the door after about 30 seconds so they say, "Can we go?"  No. Wait for the bell.  They wait another 15 seconds and say again, "Can we go?  NO.  They wait another 45 seconds and say, "There's people in the hall.  Can we go?"  No, I said wait for the bell!  They watch the clock like it is a starter's pistol and then ten seconds before the bell rings they run out into the hall.

If you let them do that, then they will pack up a few minutes earlier (and run out into the hall earlier) every day. My method for dealing with that now is that I address these things at the beginning of each and every class.  I tell them that if they crowd around the door before the bell rings, they will be sitting at a desk and have to wait until the very last person leaves before they are excused.  I still get kids who try it anyway and they get so mad when they have to sit and wait until after every slowpoke has left the class.


Today while the teacher was going over their warm up problems that are on the board when they come in every day, one kid was totally ignoring what was happening in class and was talking and laughing loudly with his friend.  The teacher tried to wrangle the kid back into the fold by asking him a question about the problem they were working on.  The kid said, "I don't know, you're the teacher, you tell me," which got a big laugh from his buddies.  Do you know how hard it was for me to bite my tongue, stay seated and not jump up, disrupt the class, (effectively undermining the teacher) and yell, "ZACK!  Apologize to Mr. D. and if you don't get your assignment out and follow along RIGHT NOW you and I will go to the referral room and CALL YOUR MOTHER!"  It was really really hard.  But I held my tongue and Mr. D., although briefly flustered by the unnecessary rudeness, handled it well.

What do you do when you sub in a class with student teachers?

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