Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hell on Earth

I stupidly took a job at the Catholic middle school.  It was stupid because A) they only pay about 2/3 what I could get anywhere else (believe it or not, my prime motivation for substitute teaching is the money.)  B) They told me about two days before the job that it wouldn't be a full day, it would be a half day, and paid for a half day.  C) The day before the job they told me there would only be two regular classes, the other THREE HOURS of the day would be an outdoor basketball tournament.  D) my job during the basketball tournament would be bathroom monitor.  By the time I got that email that told me all this, it was too late for me to cancel or else I would have.

It was worse than I could have ever imagined.  The first hour, however, wasn't bad at all.  I was subbing for a math teacher and she was very organized, although over-prepared which I think teachers think is a good thing, but I don't have time in the 15 minutes from when I get to school and when the kids come to read multiple three-ring binders about all the minutia of how the class is run.  I just need a list with times on it that tells me what you want me to do, seating charts, page numbers and worksheets.  That's it.  Oh, and maybe a post-it telling me if you have a crazy kid in your class and what to do with him when/if he loses his mind. Six inch thick binders I get; the thousand-times-more-helpful post-it, I never get.  Anyway.  The kids were very nice.  They were helpful and polite and as good as you can ask seventh graders to be.  The first hour was math class and we learned how to convert numbers of things to degrees to make a pie chart.  It was pretty fun. 

Then it was time for the stupid tournament.  At first I thought the Catholics were kind of cute because I read the info I was supposed to read to the kids and it said, "Boys report to Mr. O's room, and girls report to Mrs. L's room to change into your costumes,"  and I thought there would be some kind of play or skit or something, but it was referring to the basketball costumes.  Gym clothes.  (lol you silly Catholics!)  The note to the teachers about the tournament logistics said,

9:00 - 9:15 - kids change into costumes
9:15 - 9:30 - give kids directions for tournament
9:30 - 12:00 - have 12 seven-minute games
12:00 - 12:30 - have lunch with the kids outside

I've never been to this school before so I was in no way going to point out what I thought were the obvious flaws in the schedule because apparently they do this four times a year, but this is what I was thinking:  No way does it take kids 15 minutes to change into gym clothes.  It takes them about 3 minutes to do that.  Then what do you do with the other 12 minutes?  I'll tell you what they did:  they all came back to my homeroom and hung out, which was fine, but I started having ominous thoughts right then about the schedule.  Next we went down to the courts for the fifteen minute giving directions portion of the day.  It was 40 degrees outside.  That might be a warm winter day but it is a mother-effing cold spring day.  I didn't look how long it took to give the directions, but it felt like 15 minutes. 

Then the first game started.  I was told to stand on the outside stairs and keep the kids from going in the building.  Basically it was my job to watch kids freeze to death and then deny them shelter.  It told them they could go in the building, in the little space between the outside doors and the inner doors.  I was then scolded by a teacher (who was inside the building) that the kids had to stay outside.  You should have seen their little hands.  Red, stiff, frozen solid.  They were forced to change into their "basketball costumes" so they were all in shorts and t-shirts, with a sweatshirt or jacket.  Not warm enough!  I looked at my watch, thinking it must be at least 10:00.  It was 9:30.  I couldn't believe it.  It felt like a punch in the stomach.  But being the bitch-they-never-met-that-is-making-them-stay-outside-on-a-stupidly-cold-day really takes a lot out of a girl and time was going torturously slow. 

About six hours later, at 10:00, the teacher who told me I have to keep the kids outside said that the library was open for kids who wanted to warm up, but they had to be silent.  Yeah, that's realistic.  Was I supposed to enforce that too?  No, he stayed in the library with the warmth and the chairs.  I had HAD it with standing outside in the freezing cold and figured I could just as easily shoo kids out of the building from the inside as I could the outside so I stepped in the inner doors and watched out the window.  Then library-enforcer came out and told me I had to do my job from outside.  What the hell is the difference?  He said I should try to keep them from running in and out.  Seriously?  Has anyone taken into account that these are KIDS we were dealing with?  Running in and out is WHAT THEY DO.  I felt like they were picking on the sub because none of the other teachers seemed to be doing the shitty shitty job of denying kids warmth and shelter so I was just trying to ignore it (and stay inside) and occupy my mind with something else. 

I did a little quick math in my head:  12 seven-minute games = 12x7 = 84.  Allowing two minutes for transitioning between games makes that 12x9 = 108.  This tournament should take no more than an hour and 45 minutes.  They had allotted two and a half hours.  I asked a teacher walking by, one of the many who said, "Hee hee, It's not usually like this!!  You must hate us!!"  You're fucking right I did.  But I didn't say that.  I asked one of them:  What do the kids do after the tournament is over?  Surely they weren't going to make them stand outside with nothing to do for 45 minutes.  She said, "They have lunch.  But we decided to let them eat inside since it's so cold!"  Then I said, "But what about the time between when the tournament ends, and lunch begins at 12:00?"  She didn't know what I was talking about and looked at me like I was an idiot, (what did I know?) and walked back outside.  She was wearing a blanket. 

Sure enough the tournament ended about 40 minutes early.  The kids ran upstairs back to their homerooms.  I was so happy to be back in a room with heat and chairs I could have cried.  Then another teacher came into my room and started barking orders at the kids in my class.  Apparently we were all going to be sitting there for 40 minutes until the cafeteria was free.  She wanted ideas for what the kids wanted to do.  One kid said he wanted to watch a Magic Schoolbus episode and this teacher told him it would take him about ten minutes to run to the library to get one so it probably wouldn't be worth it.  First of all, a seventh grade boy can retrieve a dvd from a room two floors down in about 90 seconds (what is with these teachers and their total lack of knowledge about how long things take?) and for another thing, they had a smartboard and Youtube.  No need to run anywhere.  I found a full-length episode of Magic Schoolbus and started it up.  I thought that teacher would leave my room and go back to her own, but she didn't.  She sat down.  Why?  Was I done?  Why was there another teacher with me? Who is watching her class? Is it because I let the kids in the stairwell when they were hypothermic against "orders?"  She sat down in the chair next to the computer and bumped the keyboard.  The movie paused.  She got all flustered and tried to fix it by turning the volume all the way down.  When she saw that didn't fix the problem, she came to the conclusion that the "internet was probably broken."  I pushed play and it started again to her utter amazement. 

One of the most frustrating things about the day was that people thought I was so stupid. I know I'm not exactly a genius, but when stupid people think I'm stupid, that's discouraging.  Needless to say I will never go back there again.  Oh, and another thing:  I was told I would be paid for a half day: four hours.  I was there from 7:15 to 12:00 and I was supposed to stay until 12:30 to eat with the kids but I ducked out.  That is 4 hours and 45 minutes.  If I don't get paid for that 45 minutes I'm going to raise a stink.  I normally wouldn't, I'd just make a note not to do the half-day for them again because it isn't really a half-day, but this time I'm going to make a big deal about it because the day was so incredibly shitty.  I've already gotten the bit about how the Catholics don't pay as much because they just don't have the money:

To which I say, "Bullshit."


  1. That sounds really harsh. I hate it when schools treat me like an idiot, just because I'm a sub. I've got more than one school on my "never work there again" list, just for that reason.

  2. love it...glad you were allowed to use the computer

  3. Hello. I recently starting subbing after 30+ years as a music specialist and classroom teacher during my career. I cannot understand why the home room teacher uses technology EVERY day. However, subs are not allowed access to the technology unless they are long term subs. I had one school where the teacher had all the tech lessons ready to go. What a successful day for the kids and me.
    Then, I have been at schools where there are only worksheets. I have an example to cite as to how this is regressing in the learning process and does not make sense to me or for more engagement for the kids.
    Do you work at schools where you are denied access to technology?