Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Problem Day, Hell Night

“It takes a village to raise a child.” - African Proverb

I’ve been spoiled two days in a row with evening calls for next day jobs. Again I was to report to a third-grade class, but this time at the Inclusion School, in a classroom I’d worked (and blogged about) once before*.

A friend, who recently moved away, came to visit last night, and I was up much later than I should have. I went to bed after 11PM with a stomachache, and woke up around 4AM because I still wasn’t feeling well. Because I couldn’t fall back to sleep, I rose before my alarm sounded, wishing I could take a coffee IV to work.

I went to the office to sign in, and noticed that the board had eighteen absent teachers. Most were because of staff on assignment or training (apparently there hadn’t been communication to prevent these occurring on the same day), and they didn’t have coverage for all of the teachers. It’s too bad when they don’t coordinate because this was a day that probably every sub in the district was called, and other days my phone is silent.

The teachers remembered me, and I recalled the routine. In fact, I think I may have even subbed the same day of the week because it was the exact same schedule. I cringed when I saw Science, because I didn’t want a repeat of “Slug Paradise”*, but they were doing an indoor experiment – observing rocks and writing their observations. I wasn’t off the hook entirely – I was getting the outdoor recess assignment on a cold winter’s day while another teacher took lunch. At least it was sunny.

After morning work, we met on the rug. This time it was a stand up, singing and moving kind of greeting:

Hello neighbor

What do you say?

It’s gone be

A wonderful day.

Clap your hands

And boogie on down.

Give you a bump

And turn around.

While three teachers and the students participated, I watched, conserving my energy (And my dignity).

The three “problem” students that I remembered from the last time had changed. The girl was now calmer and more focused, though she did have a meltdown during the above greeting. There’s also an autistic child in the class who has a full-time aide, and is frequently pulled out to work with specialists, but he interrupts less than another boy. This boy had as many impulse control problems as I remembered, but now he also acted out for attention, making him harder to handle.

This student’s disruptions were incessant, and teachers used verbal cues, quick reminders, and back touches to remind him. We worked hard to keep his distractions to a minimum, and offered praise when he remembered to raise his hand before blurting out. He even has a reward/consequence chart and “reminders” on his desk. The result was that the class could carry on learning in spite of him.

During Science, this student stood when he wasn’t supposed to, and when the teacher called on him, asking him to describe the rock, he replied, “It looks like granola.” When she asked him to be “more scientific” he couldn’t come up with anything. He constantly called out and often wandered during lessons. His pencils had to be confiscated on a couple of occasions because he kept using them when he wasn’t supposed to. He has a rubber cushion on his chair, but I doubt he’d be any worse without it. He’s also allowed to squeeze a ball during rug meetings, but he kept getting it taken away for throwing it. The boy is intelligent, but has little self-control, so I can’t imagine how he’d do if he weren’t in the Inclusion School.

I spent much of the day watching him, but staying far enough away that he didn’t act out to get my attention. The paraprofessional kept an eye on her autistic student, but also helped the other children. The main teacher ran the classroom, and often stood in front of the room to lead lessons. Then the student intern graded homework, helped with discipline and academics. Four teachers for twenty-students – it takes a village.

When I left the school, I was wiped out from the previous night and spending the day being mentally alert. Then I remembered that I’d be going to Hell Night** at East Coast Grill in Inman Square this evening. A few times a year, almost their entire menu has various stages of heat, on a scale from one to ten peppers. My husband has gone a few times, but I only went once. Ordering from the wimp menu, I could feel them judging me, so this time I vow to be more adventurous***. They make a spaghetti dish so hot that nobody can take more than one or two mouthfuls before they resemble a chili pepper and sit still and silent. If the heat becomes too much, the staff has an antidote – a creamsicle, and when they bring it to you, the staff chants, “Wimp! Wimp! Wimp!”

Yeah, Hell Night will be a breeze.



*** stupid


  1. Wow, 4 teachers for 20 students! I can't imagine having to teach that class with just one teacher.

    Hell night sounds fun! I like spicy food, but I fear I'd still be near the wimpy end of the spectrum. Even if I wasn't, I think I'd fake it for the Creamsicle. :)

  2. I love your titles, after I read the blog the titles always become very clear.

  3. Surfie, that class would be chaos with just one teacher. This school is designed to have three adults in each class, and there just happens to be a student intern.

    I may write a post about my Hell Night experience.

    Sheila, thanks for the compliment.

  4. any sort of Circle Time makes me totally uncomfortable! When I would be somewhere that they would do it, I'd always say I needed to make a quick phone call or something. I try, I really do, but it's just so goofy!

    (also, I don't wash in the winter either!)

  5. You better stay away from elementary ed, Lora.

    And for the record, I do bathe. Every day. Don't start rumors!

  6. Hi

    I too am so amazed that it's a class with four teachers - it's such a great idea so all the children do really feel included.

    And I've just had a browse at the Eastcoast Grill link. Food must be good! LOL! Do they really shout "wimp, wimp, wimp"??! Oh dear.
    Hope you enjoyed the meal anyway.

    Take care

  7. Old Kitty, yes they do shout, but it only happened one time last night. I think my next post will have a paragraph about Hell Night.

  8. I bathe, but I don't lather! I totally didn't mean it that way!!


  9. Hmmmmm? Hell Night & Slug Paradise...
    Your life doesn't sound too granloa....
    I am enjoying your blog, Theresa.

  10. I'm glad you're enjoying my blog, Honorable Mention. Being a sub does give me rich material to write about, if nothing else!

  11. Huh... hellnight sounds like fun! In our house, we drink tabasco and cry chili oil - for breakfast!
    Sounds like our kind of joint! ; j

    Seriously though, the burn is only good if it complements the flavour... How is it at that grill? Even after reading your post (the next one) I'm still not sure... Sounds like they're mostly pushing capsicum... But that plate of pasta looked good!

    Say, have you ever had Szechuan cuisine? The best burn dish I ever had was Szechuanese, it was bursting with flavours (beef, star anis, cardamon, chili, chili, pepper, Szechuan pepper, broth, vegetables) but hot enough to draw and instant sweat in January.

  12. @ Alesa, I think it's a genetically engineered pepper. I don't remember the name. I'll have to ask next time we go, which I think is March 6th. Though I may not be able to go because my son will go and I'll probably have to watch my daughter.

    I have had Szechuan cuisine. I like it, but I'm not that daring to have things too spicy.