Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Dinner Party

Whenever I sub for grades 6-12, I almost never have to actually teach anything. I am there to make sure the kids do not injure each other (or me) and they are given busy work or a movie and I get paid to sit there and stare. Yay!

But when I sub elementary school, I have to teach. And this should be easy, since I passed the test that says I am not a moron and I am smarter than a 5th grader.
Only I sometimes forget the basic stuff because I haven’t thought about it in YEARS. Stuff like multiplying fractions and the science terms. The hip-bone’s-connected-to-the-knee-bone, that kind of stuff. I actually got Ds in every high school science class I ever took because I do not possess a scientific mind, and also you have to actually turn your work in (who knew?) to get grades. I just do NOT understand the goings-on of biology and chemistry and forget physics. Just forget it. I’m an emotional thinker. I wonder about motivation, inspiration, and feelings. And science just doesn’t have that. I can’t answer “what causes sunlight to refract into color?” with “the light had a sense of purpose in doing so, and knew it would bring happiness to everyone it touched…”

So one day, I was subbing for 4th grade so their teacher could run tests, and as I skimmed through the lesson plans, I saw: Teach them about the parts of an atom. OMFG THE PARTS OF AN ATOM?! WHAT ARE THE PARTS OF AN ATOM QUICK GOOGLE-FU. Oh yeah! Protons, electrons, blah-blah-blahtrons! But the charges, too?? THIS IS HARD I’D RATHER BE SHOPPING. I skimmed through their science books and got the basics back into my mind. I could do this. I could teach them the parts of an atom! I am a Substitute Teacher Extraordinaire! *cue trumpets*

Their teacher decided to stay inside the classroom and test her kids individually, which made me super nervous because I had this fear she would stop me in the middle of the lesson and say OMFG YOU ARE SO WRONG HOW DID THEY LET YOU NEAR KIDS?! and I would be horrified. So the science lesson began, and the kids got their books out. And I nervously started talking about the parts of an atom.

I turned the atom into a dinner party. And I turned the parts into anthropomorphic beings. I was like “So Electron…he’s negative. What else does negative mean? Right, always thinking the worst, no fun to be around…so that’s why he can’t be in the party in the nucleus, because he’s such a bummer. He hangs out outside of the nucleus. We don’t invite negative electrons to this raging nucleus party, right?”

This is what Electron looked like to me.

And here were the others:

Proton (who’s so positive) and Neutron (the neutral one, who’s very chill) and just as I was about to continue, their teacher said “Excuse me, just a second.”

I froze. She was going to yell at me for turning science into some lame dinner party. I KNEW IT I DON’T KNOW SCIENCE I FAILED!! I JUST WANT TO TEACH HISTORY! OMG I AM SORRY!!

She turned to the kids and said “Boys and girls, I really hope you’re writing this all down just like she’s saying it, because this is awesome! You really need to pay attention to this!”

Me: 0_0

Really?! Awesome?! The Atomic Dinner Party was a hit?! A HIT?! I TAUGHT SOMETHING IN SCIENCE?!!!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Seen on a 3rd grade poster, "All About Me"

When I grow up, I want to be a bartender.

Bless his heart.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I was reading a wonderful book to the little ones on the carpet in my best reading voice. I glanced out to them as I showed them the illustration when one little boy with big ears flashed me a giant grin.

He was wearing plastic vampire teeth.

I did not stop. I did not even skip a beat. I gave him a look, he sheepishly removed them and put them in his pocket and I kept right on reading so no other kids notice. My look that said You will take those out of your mouth quietly, and you will put them away, and you will sit quietly and listen to my fantastic rendition of The Cat in the Hat. My eyes totally said it all.

Better teaching through Jedi mind powers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

We had a bad day....

"I'm a nice guy but sometimes I can't control myself. I'm very very very very very...sorry."

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that one....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I don't need you after all but...

10th grade history class; 4th period.

Can I have someone take this to the office?

Girl raises hand to volunteer.

Me: Okay----oh wait, there's a TA? Oh. Okay, TA will take it, I guess. Sorry! Your earrings are really cute!


kosher enough?

I was browsing the school teacher-search site and found a listing for a middle/high school history teacher at a Hebrew school. I applied. It didn't say you had to be Jewish, and it's a small school and I would definitely want to work at a small school. I'm assuming if I was hired, I'd be teaching only girls (it's a K-12) and I'd have to be tznius-- modestly dressed. Not that I go to work in public school dressed like a $2 hooker, but this would entail no pants, skirts under the knee, elbows covered and nothing form-fitting, depending on the strictness of the school. It sounds like a neat challenge. I do love my jeans and short-sleeved tops but I would sacrifice them for a job.

It's great that I'm applying to a school and the only thing on my mind is what I would wear. Priorities, I do not have them.

I should walk into the interview and say the following:

Hello, Hebrew school. I know a lot about Judaism, probably more than the average Gentile, and I love learning about it. I studied a lot of Jewish history in college. I love challah bread. I can say the first part of the Shema in (heavily accented) Hebrew. When I was at UCLA I was constantly asked to join the Jewish Student Union. My orthodox friend Yael named me an honorary Jew. And I hate pork.

Hire me Hebrew school, plz?

Monday, May 17, 2010

13 Again...

This was so sweet. Usually, when someone tells me it's like I'm 13, they don't mean it in a nice way. But when you're 7, 13 is like the epitome of cool. And she thinks I'm the coolist.

Friday, May 14, 2010

X: The Sequel

Remember X? The little girl who was supposed to be the spawn of Satan?

I subbed for her class again yesterday. She walked behind me and noticed my laptop background, and said "You like Glee?"

I turned and said "Oh I love Glee! Do you?"

She lit up and said "Yeah!"

"Who's your favorite character?"

"I like the blond one." [Quinn]

We started talking about how much we liked the songs and I told her how I got to see them live at the Grove during a pre-screening of an episode, and she was so excited. We had a connection! A bond! This child isn't so bad after all...I mean, she's a Gleek. She's got to have some good inside!

She behaved extremely well again yesterday, and I even gave her the task of passing out papers, to which the other kids exclaimed "She can't! She makes bad choices!" I looked at her and said "You'll make good choices, right?" and she promised, though I watched her like a hawk to make sure she didn't maul a classmate or set something on fire. And she did well.

X exceeded my expectations.

Glee contains the power to make even demon children like their teachers.

E-2, D-2

Well, I just got the best morning greeting ever from the world's most insane 2nd graders. I was late to pick up my class from the blacktop, and a TA was walking a lone group into the hallways. I saw them and said "E2?" and she said "Yes." The kids saw me and YELLED "MISS P!!! MISS P!!!" and I was mauled in a swarm of waist-high hugs. I recognized these kids. Wait a minute...


"No, D-2."

"Oh, sorry guys! I'm not your sub today, I'm with E-2!"

They let out a collective disappointed "AWWWWW" and my heart melted. They like me! I know why. I'm very calm with children, so calm I'm almost comatose. I'm calm because there is no other way to react to small people so high on life they would literally climb the walls if you let them. This is why I end up with stickers on my face and ribbon tied into my hair. I'm also very huggable. And I wear earrings that look like little strawberries. I smile a lot. I gave them popsicles for being good. And they know me. I'm Miss P. I'm their Miss P.

This job pays very little. It is not glamorous or prestigious. Many days I am frustrated. I have a degree from a top school and I am just a sub. I don't even have my own classroom. I'm just a sub.

But mornings like this make up for all of that.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What page?

Today the 4th graders have taken it upon themselves to be even more irritating than they naturally are, and the majority of it comes from the 234,664,112,345 questions they ask, 99% of them are TOTALLY UNNECESSARY AND MAKE ME NEED TO TAKE DEEP BREATHS.

"Okay guys, books out, page 143. [I write it on the board VERY LARGE]. Quickly and quietly, please. Page 143."

*children scamper and get books out of desks*

This is literally how fast it went:

Miss? What page?
Page 143.
Miss? What page?
Page 143. Everyone, for the 3rd time, turn to page ONE FORTY THREE.
Miss? I don't have a book.
Then share with your neighbor. I can't make you a book right now.
Miss? What page?
Miss? Can I sharpen my pencil?
Why would you need a pencil if we're reading? No.
Miss? Can I go to the bathroom?
Miss? Can I use my ruler?
What? No.
Miss? What page?

I then gave a short speech on common sense.

"You guys, you don't have to ask me for every little movement you make. You know what to do if you don't have a book or a pencil. You ask your neighbor. I do not have these things in my pocket. Use common sense. You know what that is right? If you didn't hear the page number all 340 times I said it, quietly ask your neighbor."

What page?


Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I have subbed for this 4th grade class once before. My first time, their teacher met with me before class and gave me a rundown of the day, which I always appreciate, and then told me to watch out for one girl in particular (I’ll call her X cause for real, her name starts with an X and it’s not Xanadu). I was like “Oh okay...” and she got wide-eyed and serious and was like “NO. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. SHE IS THE DEVIL. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAAAAND.” She proceeded to tell me that this child is not allowed to be ANYWHERE without a fellow student escorting her and that she is close to being arrested. (WTF?!) She told me to lock up my stuff and keep my eye on her. Luckily for me, that day X left very early. I was like WHEW! DODGED A BULLET and my day was fine.

So today I am back in her class and there’s little X, who is as cute as can be, sitting at her desk in the corner, staring at me. And I’m staring at her.

Me: 0_0

X: o_o

The Sub Note reminds me about her behavior and what to do if she gets out of hand. The thing is, it is near 2:00 now, and she hasn’t done anything wrong all day. I know; I’m watching her. I’m watching my purse, my laptop, my pockets. My eyes are going to shrivel up and fall out of my head I’m watching so hard. And I’m just waiting. X is making me nervous. I’m waiting for her to do something bad so I can catch her but she hasn’t moved. She came up behind me and said “Miss?” and I jumped and said “Yes?!” and she asked if she could get water. Was she going to poison the water? Was she going to walk by and cut off a lock of my hair or stick gum in it or OMG THIS CHILD IS MAKING ME NERVOUS AND more IRRATIONAL.

But no, X just sits there…smiling at me.

Me: 0_0

X: :)

She’s been so good today, I’m wondering if she’s just gotten extremely good at hiding her bad behavior. Maybe she’s like a ninja, and she’s doing things so fast I can’t even see her. Because her teacher warned me like I would be working with Hannibal Lecter and she’s just sitting and smiling.

Me: 0_0

X: :D

I’m going to get home and see she’s stolen my TV, aren’t I?

The Hero

Every once in a while, when I sub for high school, I will have to deal with teenagers fighting. Not fighting like me and my sisters did, which was just yelling and swatting the air in front of each other like lazy cats, but serious fighting. Street Fighter karate-chopping/punching/ouch my nose! fighting.

I would rather watch the grass grow than watch this.

I am not a fighter. When I see fighting, my first instinct is to run for cover. I’m not trying to be a hero by breaking it up. Some teenage boys have this weird urge to show who’s more aggressive, like mountain goats ramming their horns into each other while the female goats just stare into the distance, chewing. Wanna know my motto? Make love, not war actually don’t do that either, kids. Just don’t touch each other. At all.

When I did my student teaching at a high school in East LA, two girls began fighting in class. One girl was passing out textbooks, and she lifted one to chuck it at another girl’s head. Immediately the class erupted and as I stood at the front gathering papers, I saw that book go flying and my first thought was to head for the door. I wasn’t even finished paying off my invisalign, I was not about to lose a tooth! Or worse, my nose! I thought of the bandages and bruising while my classroom went wild. Luckily my master teacher ran to break them up and immediately escorted them to the office. I stood there, like a traumatized mouse, and then said the first thing that came to my mind, which was “So….ummm….can we talk about the French Revolution now?”


The only way I know how to prevent fighting is to say something really stupid to distract the heated students. In my art class (I taught for 5 months at the local high school while the regular teacher was off reproducing) two boys began discussing something that gradually got more and more serious. I could see the tempers flaring so I said “Hey! Guess what? I really, really don’t want to fill out a referral form for either of you, so if you’re going to start boxing, I’d appreciate it if you like, waited until you were nowhere near me, so I don’t have to get involved. Is that cool? Just wait until I’m gone. Okay?” The class started to laugh and the boys relaxed a little, if only to wonder how anyone let me in charge of them.

So this brings me to yesterday, where I see two boys about to get to punching in the parking lot. I was in my car, so I did the only thing I could think of, which was to honk my horn. It startled them, and I did my best I’M A TEACHER AND I’LL CALL THE PRINCIPAL even though I don’t know the number so I'll just hold the phone to my ear and pretend look and they stopped. They parted ways, the crowd dispersed, and the fight was over. It was awesome.

See, I guess I can be a hero, with my stupid comments or my car horn.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunshiney Day

Little kids always draw suns with glasses and smiles. It cracks me up. Like the sun must be happy and also nearsighted? And the two of us, wearing crowns. I normally don't wear crowns to work (I save them for grocery shopping). Also, the sky is always only on top, just a blue strip hovering above the earth. I remember very clearly when my 1st grade teacher said to me after seeing my sky-strip, "Look outside. Is the sky only a strip of blue on top? Or does it come all the way down as far as you can see?" And my mind was blown.

I was like this: :o

It was one of those WOW moments of my life, like when I discovered Michelle on Full House was played by twins. (swear it, my neighbor told me and I was like omg no way!)

I didn't say anything to this little girl except express my joy at being given such an amazing drawing with a beautiful note. It's little things like this that make being a professional subsutoot really fun sometimes.

And I'll let someone else give her that WOW moment when she discovers the sky in fact comes all the way down. ;)