Monday, May 3, 2010

Second Chances, Part II

"Thus, with child to speak, and helpless in my throes, biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite: Fool! Said my muse to me, look in thy heart, and write.”

- Sir Philip Sidney

8:25 am. I am sitting on a floor.

In a hallway. At a school. In front of a classroom I liken to a terrarium, with its glass windows.

It took me thirty minutes to get to this spot.

Last night, I received the call for work. I was to report to the second-chance school again as a Special Education teacher. As usual, I copied the information and that put that sticky note… somewhere.

When I reported to the third-floor office, the principal asked me whom I was covering for. Blank. Where was that sticky note? Had I forgotten it? “Special Ed,” I said. He named the teacher I’d worked for last time*. Recalling the correct name in the recesses of my brain, I uttered it. “Report in on the first floor,” he told me.

I went to the first floor. There are exactly four active rooms:

The Family Resource Center

2 Special Start classrooms

1 Preschool

I didn’t even bother going to the Family Resource Center. I’m not that clueless. Special Start told me to go to the preschool. The preschool told me to go to Special Start.

Back to the third-floor I went. The secretary said that teacher hadn’t called out and that the second chance school was cancelled for students today and told me to go the second floor. As I made my way down the darkened hallway, it was clear that nobody else was here. I sighed a big sigh and called my husband. He couldn’t find the cursed paper to confirm the assignment. I made my way up to the third floor.

Sitting down in defeat, I began reading an article about building relationships with students or teaching content is pointless that sat on the table. Two pages in, the principal came in and said, “I’m sorry but those are for two teachers who didn’t get copies.” I handed mine over.

Then I pulled The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins out of my bag and realized by bookmark was the sticky note. Finally able to verify I did have the correct absent teacher, I signed in and was told to go to the second floor to the glass room. Turns out he was at school planning for next year and had called in a sub but the secretary didn’t know. And why the principal sent me to the first floor to sign in and work, I have no idea.

When I arrived on the second floor, I turned on the lights and tried the door. Locked. I trekked back upstairs to find out the secretary didn’t have a key and I had to wait for the other teacher. So, here I sit.

8:40am. The other teacher arrived, so I stood up and brushed off any dust off the back of my legs and butt. She advised I’d be dealing with a “transition” classroom of no more than thirteen students. These would be at-risk students. They’d gotten kicked out of the regular high school for discipline and/or attendance issues. It was being determined whether they’d go upstairs to the second-chance school or back to the regular high school. Oh, and classroom wasn’t in the terrarium.

I’d have homeroom, where they would just hang out. It’s a long homeroom. After that, they’d have Math. (No, please no. Why me? Why?) Then we’d take them to gym. Then lunch. I was told that they take a while to settle after lunch so we’d split them. Then it would be two periods of Social Studies. (Woo hoo!) The upstairs Math teacher would bring me work. (Please bring me an answer key. PLEASE!) And she would find some Social Studies for me to do. The students would show up when they got around to it.

8:45 am. No students yet.

9:05 am. Still no students.

9:23 am. The teacher came in and introduced himself. He’s upstairs planning for next year. He gave me the lowdown about the students:

“Even though it’s a behavioral school, most of the problems aren’t behavioral. Students are here because of truancy and marijuana. Many won’t show up. Some will work and some won’t work. If they don’t, let them be. If they are disrespectful, send them next door.”

I asked if the math packet had an answer key or I should look over it now. (So I wouldn’t sound like I’m a math illiterate.) He said, “Tell them if they don’t understand a problem, just skip it and we’ll go over it next time.” I’m saved.

9:33 am. The other teacher is taking them to breakfast. I decided to tag along and get to know them. “Take your pocketbook and laptop with you so they don’t get taken,” she warned.

10:04 am. My first students. I have six in total – three ninth-graders and one tenth-grader. I recognize one student from my subbing travels. They’re all working quietly. One is definitely stoned.

10:20 am. One student is in the bathroom. Four students are wearing headsets, listening to music. Three students are sleeping (two of them with headsets on). Nobody is working.

10:41 am. Three students are working. One student is writing on her desk. Two people are scrolling through their music players.

11:18 am. I’m home. How is this possible, you ask? At 11:00 am, I walked behind the students on the way to the lunchroom when the other teacher called me over.

“You can just go home. There’s nothing for you to do. So few students showed up and I just had an hour break. I don’t want you to sit with them bored and I’m teaching the afternoon anyway.”

“Are you sure? Do you want me to stay with your for lunch and gym?”

She shrugged. “No. I even checked with the other teacher. I’m fine.”

So, I left.

Now I’ll make lasagna, empty the dishwasher, wash and fold clothes, and finish ironing.

And write.

*My last and only other job at this school:


  1. Whoa! In both the years I've been subbing, I've never seen anything like that. How are you feeling after that? Sounds easy, work-wise, but frustrating. Glad you found your sticky note as your bookmark -- that's something I would do!

  2. Your descriptions paint slightly surreal pictured of education... Which brings to mind Koushun Takami's description of the school system at the beginning of Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale).
    Remember, if they take you on a trip with the kids, don't kick up too big a fuss when the men with the guns show up!

  3. Your sub days make me exhausted! I don't know how you do it. I truly admire for your stamina. The places I go to always have lesson plans and teachers who are willing to help. The only problem I have is that they THINK, they can run the classroom and tell me that is not what Mrs....... does.

  4. I hope they still pay you for a full day! That sounds awful. I can't imagine the fate of society is in this new generation's hands. How can you go to school and not do work?!

    Good luck with the next job! Maybe it will be better.

  5. Shelley, I'm mad at myself for not having the note easily available. 99% of the time I stick in my lunch bag. They may have still sent me to the wrong floors, but at least I'd have been sure about the name.

    Alesa, these days I feel like I'm teaching in a surreal environment. Maybe teachers and staff have spring fever too. Or perhaps I'm contributing with my own spring fever.

    Choices, most of my jobs are better than this. See above (spring fever).

    Oh yeah, I've gotten a lot of "Mrs. ... does it this way. Mrs. ... never does that."

    Aubrie, I hope they pay me for a full day too. If I've been called in, I think they have to. I felt funny about asking.

    I think the students were did as little as possible because the second-chance students didn't have to come in, so many transition kids skipped, and the ones who were there didn't seem to be there.

  6. Oh dear!


    What a day. It's like no-one knew what to do with you but you were definitely needed and so I wonder why these group of kids were as unclear as the institution that's supposed to be teaching them?

    Sorry that was a silly long sentence but if they school can't even sort your day out and you are doing them a favour, what more these kids who just seemed to have wasted your time?

    BTW, I hope you got paid for the full day?

    My goodness!! At least you had time to write - Yay!

    Take care

  7. Theresa, I am definitely treating you to a large coffee and maybe even a cake when you get to Dublin. You are one cool customer,
    "They’re all working quietly. One is definitely stoned."
    You should definitely get paid for the full day, glad you got time to write.

  8. At least you got to write. That's something. :)

  9. Old Kitty, they shouldn't have bothered calling me. Most of the students didn't have to report anyway. The other teacher could certainly handle six kids. I basically showed up to provide her with a prep period.

    I assume I'm getting paid. It didn't seem professional to ask.

    Brigid, I'll definitely drink a coffee with you. And I love Irish scones, so maybe we can work that out as well.

    Sarahjayne, the writing time was great. I'm near the end of my edits. As soon as I'm done, I'm writing something new.

  10. I can't believe students would come to school stoned; that's really sad and disturbing. And what was up with that principal not letting you read that article? Sheesh.

    It always frustrates me when students sleep in class. I always wake them up; a few years ago, one student criticized me for daring to wake one of the students up during class. She said I was being too harsh.

  11. This is a picture of my first class period every single day. They are quiet (some of them stoned, probably) and "working." I like that they are quiet but when they turn in what they've done, it's nothing. It is so frustrating!

    So I know how feel. I wonder why he told you not to worry if they weren't doing their work. Isn't that the whole point of them being at school? Ughhh, spring fever, indeed.

    Nice that you go to leave early, though! Hope dinner was brilliant!

  12. Another day at work! Its great that you manage all of it. Its sad to see those kids. Coming there for odd reasons is very disturbing!

  13. Neurotic Workaholic, when I taught regularly, I never allowed sleeping. As a sub, I'll try once or twice and then just leave them alone. I pick my battles, especially if it's a one-day assignment and they've just been given easy work or review.

    Having the article taken made me sad. I'm missing out on workshops and training and new technology being a sub for so long.

    Tiffany, he told me he'd deal with it the next day if they didn't do their work. I think he wanted to give me an easy time. If I'd been there for the Social Studies, the geek in me probably would've coaxed them to do the packet and I'd start waxing poetic about whatever they were studying.

    Mr. Stupid, this alternative school lowers the dropout rate, so it's a good thing. I hope it gives them more opportunities in the long run.

  14. Whoa, what a day. Glad you got to have lasagna in the end!

  15. Suzette, I'm glad I finally had time to make a lasagna during the week!

  16. What a day for you! But thanks for dropping by my blog and writing w your gratitudes, especially after such a day you had!

  17. Lynn, I try to keep the good things in mind. These sub jobs are temporary. At least that's what I tell myself. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  18. Thanks for following our blog! I don't think either of us have ever experienced anything like this adventure quite yet--what a truly awful school. Hang in there, and we look forward to reading more posts!

  19. I'm glad you both have been having better sub jobs. Normally, mine are better than what I've had lately too.