Friday, March 12, 2010

Hey Yo

“Testing, attention please…

A nuisance who sent? You sent for me?”

- Bass, Jeffrey Irwin; Mathers, Marshall; Bell, Kevin. Song “Without Me” Eminem

I’m afraid that Operation Write hit another snag. Since its inception on Wednesday, paying jobs on Thursday and Friday have thwarted it. The gig was for the same school, but instead of Spanish, I’d be teaching 7th and 8th-grade, subject unknown, since I was only given the teacher’s name. Upon reaching the school, I found out it was Math. The woman is VERY pregnant. She came into the Spanish room several times to pick up photocopies and we even chatted a little.

The day was to be spent giving two eighth-grade classes an exam and two seventh-grade classes a quiz. She left them extra credit work if they finished early. That’s good because if students have nothing to do after a quiz, they tend to talk and even act up. They also had homework, should they finish the extra credit. I’ve worked with these middle school students a number of times, and they’d always been pretty good, considering their age and the fact that most of them live in a giant housing project down the street.

Turns out that I had my biggest break in the morning and then all the classes would be in a row, except during lunch. Fifteen minutes before the students were due to arrive; I regretted not having used the time to get coffee. Now I’d have to wait until school ended in FIVE HOURS. gasp

While I was recording this job on my “Sub Work” document, I realized that yesterday was my one-year anniversary of subbing. How could I forget? While this bothered me on March 1st, I’m over it (Although I’m shocked that the district didn’t bake me a cake and sing). Yesterday was my 99th day and today is my 100th day subbing. (Yeah, I’ll probably receive the cake today.)

The first group of eighth-graders came with a teacher for support for the SEI (Special Ed. Inclusion) students, and she said she’d be there for seventh-grade last period as well. While this was a nice bonus, soon it was clear that she was DESPERATELY needed. These students were lost. The exam required them to do equivalents, write equations in their simplest form. They needed to use FOIL (first, outside, inside, last). Remember that? Thirty-minutes into a fifty-five minute class and most students were on the first page of a five-page test. Five minutes later, half the class made it to the second page.

Those who follow my blog, know how weak I am in Math*, but during a test, I’m not supposed to give them the answers anyway. Many didn’t have the foggiest idea of how to begin tackling the equations.

For the first group of seventh-graders, a Math support teacher arrived. These students were more math savvy, but a little more talkative, so they had to be watched like a hawk. This was not a sit back and watch the students while I get to read, type, or check my e-mail kind of day.

After lunch, my second group of eighth-graders was much easier, although about four boys were tall enough to be high school students, but I didn’t let that intimidate me. This was the class that had Enigma** in it, along with a student who never does any work. A few minutes into class, The Workless One broke the (relative) silence:

“Hey yo, Teacher!”

I walked from across the room, sat down and said in a low (but authentically street) voice, “Hey yo, what?”


“I’d appreciate if you used my name without the ‘Hey yo,” or if you raised your hand.”

“Oh. Okay. Ms…” He squints to read the board. “Milstein, can I go to the bathroom?”

As expected, by the end of class, he didn’t do anything but write his name on the test.

Last period, the second group of seventh-graders was as lost as the first group of eighth-graders. All class:

“Hey, teacher.”

“ Ms. Milstein.”

“Ms. M.”

“Ms…. What’s her name?”


“I don’t understand this.”

I felt relief when the day ended. It wasn’t about behavior – they were fine. But to be pestered with the same questions all day when I’m not even allowed to help them because it was a test, was exhausting. Some anniversary.

I’m sure there will be a card waiting for me in my mailbox when I get home.

* Not such a stellar Math day:

** This is a funny and tragic post:


  1. Hey yo, Happy Anniversary!!! Sorry it wasn't a great day. :(

  2. Happy Anniversary. And yeah, it is exhausting to watch these kids who simply don't have the skills or knowledge base keep getting tested over material they simply can't do and don't get. My math teachers pull their hair out all year. It's a nightmare.

  3. My oldest son is a teacher for Kipp Schools. Have you heard of them? it's a whole different world there than in our public schools. I wish our school systems would take a lesson from what Kipp does.

  4. Happy Subbing Anniversary! Hope next week is better for you...

  5. I hope your next anniversary is as a published writer or teacher with her own classroom.

  6. Happy Anniversary Hey teacher! Hope you celebrated with a really big gooey chocolate cake. Oh and wine, lots of wine.

    Enjoy your weekend and hope you have a happy writing Monday.

  7. Theresa Milstein said...
    Hey yo, thanks, Susan!

    Sarahjayne, you're right. The Special Ed. teacher I worked with was disheartened to see how confused the children were.

    KarenG, I haven't heard of Kipp. I'll look it up.

    Sheila, I hope so. I'd much prefer to make money from a regular teaching job or writing than substituting when I hit year two.

    Thanks, Ann. No cake, but I did have wine and opened a fortune cookie that promised of riches.

    I'd love a writing Monday. You too!

  8. Happy anniversary--you are one day closer to your own classroom :)

  9. Happy Teaching anniversary, We just had a week of world maths day, do you have that? Kids enter an online maths quiz, seems to work really well, they love maths when presented differently.
    Hope you celebrating next year with a new book. Although I think those kids need you.
    Maybe set up a private creative writing course for children, combine both talents and make lots of money?

  10. I'm so weak in math, I don't even remember "FOIL". Congrats on your teaching anniversary!

  11. Happy subbing anniversary! Um, FOIL? Whaaaat?

    I think you should pour yourself a giant glass of wine, kick back and relax all weekend! (Maybe along with a spot of writing?)

  12. Aubrie and Talli, you can refer to the "Special" post if you want to see FOIL in action. It has to do with order of solving Math problems when there are parentheses. Remember "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" - parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction.

    My husband will laugh when he reads these comments.

    Thanks for the congrats, Aubrie. I'm not sure what I've accomplished. A year of underemployment?

    Talli, I hope you get some writing in too.

  13. Yo, 'sup?

    Happy Anniversary!!!!!!

    I am having some freakish 'follow' google glitch at the moment...trying to figure it out.
    BUT, I now have you in my feed reader, and I am following you that way.

    Great blog.


  14. Sheila wants it noted that she meant "and" instead of "or".

    Lola, whassup with you? Thanks for putting me on your feed reader and for the compliment.

    I want to know why my "Fan on Facebook" and visitor map is cut off on the right. Blog issues!

  15. I'm glad your day finally ended. :)

    Happy anniversary & thanks for the follow. Write on, girl!!

  16. Terresa, thanks for the comment and the follow. You keep writing too! As I said on your blog, the spelling of your name is much better than mine.

  17. Happy Anniversary Theresa! Sounds like you deserve a cake and a card after Friday gf! Maybe a glass of wine to go with the cake?

  18. Aack - Tiffany, I meant to comment back. I hope I am one day closer to my own classroom!

    VKT, thanks! My husband, daughter, and her friend just made cupcakes, so I'll count those. A maybe I'll have a glass of wine later.

  19. ******************
    To the bestest substitute teacher on this planet:




    You totally ROCK! Especially in the face of such obstacles as wo Especially in the face of the dreaded M word: M-a-t-h(s)!!! Especially in the face of the Workless One.

    Oh and you can so do authentically street! Yo!

    Take care
    p.s. thank you, thank you, thank you for your beautiful words and thoughts for my loss today, thank you.

  20. Thank you, Old Kitty. Students love when I do street because I'm so glad at it.

    You're welcome Old Kitty. I know you're going through a tough time. It's good that you can reach out to blogosphere. You take care too.

  21. Hey, Yo.

    I love it when kids act too cool for school. It makes me want to harrass them all the more. Which you probably can't do.

    Maybe next week will work better for Operation Write? I hope so!

  22. Jackee, I harassed the student to work the first time I had him. His reply? "Teachers already know that I don't do any work." Since then, it's just my project to keep him from distracting others.

    Sheila, I knew you'd love the map.

  23. HaPpY AnNiVErSaRy!
    Yo-Yo Subbin' aint easy but somebody has to do it!

  24. Thanks, Barbra. And here I am at 5:52 am, waiting for a sub call.