Monday, March 8, 2010

C is For...

“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:

Lesson Plan

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.

Lunch A

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.


  1. I hope you showed those "plans" to the administration! Unbelievable.

    I suppose that student thought you would be an inexperienced substitute and help her....sheesh.

  2. VKT, I didn't mention the inadequate plans. I made it clear in my letter to the teacher that I didn't know what she wanted me to collect or have the students take the assignment home. I also reiterated the chaos of 2nd period.

    That student wound up being nicer in the classroom afterwards. I'm sure she was frustrated and took it out on me.

    Rebecca, more and more state tests are moving to computers. I think the GRE is now done by computer too.

  3. C is for courage under fire!

    Hi Theresa Milstein

    You know I so vividly remember Cookie monster singing the Cookie song - him being my favourite Sesame Street monster!

    I think you did fabulously with those sparse notes left for you. I always marvel at how you have to be so quick and think on your feet because there just isn't room for any indecision especially infront of a class! But you are always let down by locked doors and computers crashing! Good grief! It was worth it though for me for the introduction of the "technology integration specialist"! :-)

    C is for cold and the rotten one you have!

    You poor thing - I hope you are now resting and taking lots of Vitamin.... C!

    Take care

  4. C is for computer crash. They always crash when you need them most, it's like a law or something. My daughter's friend just told me that Cookie Monster is now called Vegetable Monster. Is that true?

  5. Old Kitty, I love all of your C's. You should've written the post! In the lab, I started to cough, so I had to leave the room during the test to get some water. But I'm definitely better than yesterday.

    Susan, when I saw it was two periods of tests with no alternatives, I KNEW the computers wouldn't cooperate. It's like they sense desperation.

    As far as Cookie Monster, he's only been made partly politically correct:

  6. Sounds like an interesting experience....

  7. The GRE is on a computer now, btw. You take it and get your results right then (except for the writing part). It's less fun than ever.

    I am totally with you. Every time I see something at the Tech school, I skip it. Culinary Arts? No. Automotive? No. I am so with you. I am enough trouble as is. Though, oddly enough, I worked at the Tech school today, too!

    Glad the rest of the day went well for you!

    Veggie Monster just makes me sad...

  8. Thanks for the comment, The Ashes. It was indeed.

    Tiffany, it's nice to know that they found a way to make the GRE less fun.

    That's funny that we both worked tech.

    Veggie Monster makes me sad too. Ridiculous.

  9. Wow, those substitute plans would never go over where my husband works. I'm glad you got through it! Phew! And I love that C is for cookie song. :)

  10. Aubrie, these may be the vaguest plans I've ever received. Tomorrow should be easier.

    C is For Cookie has been in my head ever since I decided to use the quote. Goodnight!

  11. A is for amazing! Which you are, smart lady. I want to see your teaching experiences compiled in a non-fiction book. Thanks for a fascinating post.

  12. I just checked out that link, thanks Theresa! When I heard about Veggie Monster, I had very serious doubts, so now I know I was right to doubt. That was so funny they had an interview with Matt Laurer!

  13. Hi Theresa,
    You really come across so dedicated and as a mother I am really grateful for people like yourself who are so committed to their pupils.
    Fascinating insight into the everyday world of school, loved the C for culture at the end.

  14. Roxy, thanks for the comment. I've been thinking about compiling my experiences in a book. That's one of the reasons I need to focus my writing time.

    Susan, I thought the Matt Lauer interview was funny too. I think it was the first or second to link to come up when I put in "Cookie Monster" and "Veggie" and "Urban Legend". Who would've thought there'd be an urban legend about Cookie Monster?

    Brigid, thank you for the compliments.

  15. Your intro made me laugh; I love the cookie monster!

    I'm so impressed you can roll with all the uncertainty of a substitute teacher's day.

  16. Thanks, Talli. Grover is my favorite Sesame Street character.

  17. That's just crazy! C is for crazy!