“C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me,
Oh, cookie, cookie, cookie starts with ‘C’”
- From “Sesame Street” show, sung by Cookie Monster. Songwriter unknown.
On Sunday evening, I received a call to sub at the high school for Community C. I’ve never subbed for C. The main reason is that it’s the technical school – mechanics, cooking, and other classes I’m not qualified to teach. I’m not even strong enough to change a tire, and that’s where my car expertise ends. As for cooking, I don’t want to be in charge of a class of minors using knives and stoves. For a few years when I was an assistant, a non-profit group came in to teach the fifth-graders about nutrition and cooking. Problem kids wielding knives…
I wondered what Community C would be like? C for calamitous? This gig was for English as a Second Language (ESL). Unless my broken Italian skills were required, I was hoping they all spoke English or there wasn’t much I could do to help them. The weather was warm enough that I almost rode my bike. Almost. Since I woke up three or four times due to hacking, I was in no mood to use an aerobic form of transportation. As it was, climbing the stairs to the fourth floor office was a feat in itself (My heart was tattooing rather quickly).
C is for Carcass
I received skeleton plans:
Monday, March 8, 2010
Period 1 – MSAN Sociology
Ask the students to read pages 98 to 106 and 107-109 and answer the questions in the textbook.
Period 2 - ESL Advanced
Please take students to the Computer Lab in R410 for MEPA exam.
Period 3 – ESL Beginning
Please take students to Computer Lab in R410 for MEPA exam.
First period, two upper-classman “teaching assistants” came in, but then left quickly for the library, saying they’d be back to check up on the class. They never came back.
C is for Confusion
These were the questions I couldn’t answer:
“Are we supposed to answer the questions in the beginning of the section AND the end of the section?” I took a gamble and said that the beginning questions were to frame the reading, and to just answer the questions at the end. At least they knew which textbook to use, since I didn't.
“Do we take this home for homework if it isn’t done?” There weren’t enough textbooks for the entire class, so unless a few students finished the assignment, I couldn’t send the books home. Nobody finished the assignment.
“Are you going to collect the assignment at the end of class?”
“Does she usually collect the assignments?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“Then, yes, I will collect them at the end of class.” I sounded sooo professional.
SURPRISE! I HAD A HOMEROOM! Just as I was about to run to the bathroom, students streamed into the classroom.
I was concerned about the next two periods. What exactly is a MEPA exam? Will there be another teacher in the room? What if the computers are down? WAS THERE A PLAN B?
C is for Crash
Second period, if something could go wrong, it went wrong. It was a big class with a mix of intermediate and advanced English language students. They were supposed to take two different tests, but because of the language barrier, all of the students tried to log onto the first one. Then some of them weren’t handed personal codes to use for the test, so the computer teacher had to scramble to find their codes on another computer. The next problem was that even when students had all of the proper information, some tests wouldn’t start or take their answers. A “technology integration specialist” was pulled in from his Math class in order to save the sinking test ship.
If you could’ve seen the four of us, you’d think we were filming a deodorant commercial. Never let them see you sweat.
After about forty-five minutes everyone was finally taking the test. By the end of the period, only two students had finished, so one of the other teachers was going to stay and let the students finish during lunch. Within seconds of the lunch bell, every computer simultaneously and mysteriously logged out of the exam. Nobody knew if what had been answered was saved or all had been lost. Hear of the lost generation? This was the lost period.
C is for Calm
Inexplicably, the next exam for all low English speakers went off almost without a hitch. Everyone’s sign in code had been printed and only a couple of students couldn’t log in, which was quickly remedied.
During the exam, one student called me over.
“What is the opposite of rough?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you.”
She waved her hand. “Then I don’t need you.”
My students completed the test with thirty-minutes to spare. We went back to the classroom and hung out. I found out that there were students from Ethiopia, Haiti, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Germany, India, and China. Maybe C stands for Culture.