“And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon”
- Song “Cats in the Cradle” Harry Chapin
Last night at 5:30pm, I received a call to sub a Pre-Kindergarten class. Although Pre-K jobs are usually exhausting, I wasn’t too worried because I’d be working with another teacher and I knew the kids because I’d recently subbed them in gym* (two days last week) and Music**.
I almost called and turned down the job since part of our roof blew off in the storm last Thursday night. The last few days were spent talking to the other two condo owners (who don’t live here) and making appointments with an insurance adjuster and contractor to assess and fix the damage. Both were supposed to come today, so I felt bad to work. Since the third-floor tenant was going to stay home, I decided to sub.
Truthfully, if I didn’t sub today, I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself. I’m mentally in a bad place now, so doing any productive writing or editing is out of the question. And I needed to feel useful. (This is all for another post.)
When I arrived at work and gave the secretary my name and whom I was subbing for, she said, “We already got a sub for ---.” I was told that she was supposed to have jury duty, but she’d been dismissed, so she was coming after all. Now I could join the substitute teacher who was filling in for the assistant, but they’d have to figure out what to do with two subs when only one would be needed. Fabulous.
I met the other sub, and it turned out that she'd been in there the previous day, so I knew that I’d be the one to be moved. After all, it would make sense for the students to have consistency. We ran the class choice time and morning meeting. During meeting, the other sub and I were assaulted with constant corrections over what we did out of order. Several boys needed a constant reminding about how to behave:
“Don’t call out.”
“Don’t kick your friend.”
“Don’t cut in line.”
“Don’t squeeze his hand too hard.”
The teacher still hadn’t arrived, so we took the wee ones out for recess. While there, a boy bumped his head, so I took him to the nurse. It was funny watching her try to go through the routine to make sure he didn’t have a concussion, but he was shy and little, so he had a hard time answering her questions (What’s your last name?) and following her directions (Walk in a straight line).
After the teacher arrived, I went to the office to determine my fate. I was assigned secretarial work: filing and photocopying, and then answering phones and buzzing in visitors while the secretary took a break. Afterwards, I was assigned to fill in for a six-hour aide who was absent in a first/second-grade class.
I entered the classroom just as the teacher read a book called, There’s No Place Like Space, which is part of this whole nonfiction set of Dr. Seuss-type books narrated by The Cat in the Hat (Would the Dr. approve of this?). Because it is also Dr. Seuss’s birthday, the teacher wore her own Cat in the Hat hat, which the students found hysterical. One student asked, “Can we change your name to Catina?” (They go by first names at this school.)
After the book, reading workshop stations began, and I had assists kids who were creating an alphabet book about space. This entailed helping them choose a letter and word to write about, checking spelling and what they wrote about, guiding them with their illustrations, and making sure all the directions were followed for the “book”. Sounds easy, right? Let me tell you, it’s challenging to keep track of five students doing this at once. There wound up being A LOT of erasing and rewriting.
When I asked a boy which letter he wanted to choose, he replied, “P for poopie.” Lovely.
“You have to pick a space word,” I said.
He chose, “Planet.”
Then it was time for my lunch break. By 11:15, I already felt like I’d had a full day. You’ll be happy to know that I didn’t steal/borrow any books and paid for my coffee, except that there were no cups left so no coffee, and I took back my change. Did this mean I had to bring my own travel mug? At that point, I was feeling sorry for myself. I could make it two-and-half more hours without coffee, right?
When I returned, the students were working on posters about planets. They had a sheet of facts they’d researched and had to take turns adding a sentence on the poster to tell about their planet. I was given a group of five unfocused boys and two posters.
Then it was time for math. I was in charge of helping students find addition combinations that equaled twelve. The teacher gave me the most challenging group (thanks), so I spent A LOT of time trying to keep the students focused AGAIN.
Lastly, library. The librarian read two Dr. Seuss books while we watched the students for signs of distraction. Did I mention that they were allowed to bring stuffed animals this particular day? The result was a lot of nagging for students to refrain from playing with the animals they were holding. Yes, you read that right. Whatever subject they were learning that day, they had their fuzzy animals by their sides or on their laps or over their heads or interacting with their friends’ fluffy creatures. Some were Beanie Baby size, while a couple of ‘em were half the size of the students. When children were reprimanded for getting distracted more than twice, the animals had to go to a “take a break” chair, which I think was unjust punishment for the poor stuffed things.
The day finally ended. The hardest part of the class had been when I watched the teacher read, and I could feel my eyes tempted to close because of caffeine-deprivation. I helped clean up, said my goodbyes, and drove straight to Starbucks for a tall, toffee nut, nonfat latte.
“But it’s bad for my hat
and makes my eyebrows
get red hot.
reading with my eyes shut
I don’t do an awful lot.”
- Cat in the Hat in, I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! By Dr. Seuss
*Last week’s gym posts:
** Previous Music post: