Saturday, June 26, 2010

Will We?

In my second year of subbing, I was placed in a kindergarten class. Kindergartners are a tricky group. To me, they are the hardest age to work with and I avoid them as much as possible. They are perpetually sticky, toothless bundles of crayon wrappers and energy who all need their teacher’s attention at the EXACT SAME TIME. This is all I see when I sub kindergarten:

On this day in kindergarten, I took the children to the carpet with their white boards and markers. We were going to practice writing and reading together. Kids get the biggest kick out of whiteboards. I’m serious, I have never met a child who didn’t practically pee their pants at the chance to use a whiteboard. So I tell the kids that I will write a word, and then I want them to copy the word on their own board, and sound it out.

We go through several words that they know: you, the, see, we, me, to, at….and then I decide to make simple sentences.

I start with “We” and they copy. I add “Will” next to it. Out loud I read “We will…” Before I can add the third word, a little voice shouts out “ROCK YOU!”

Giggles ensue, and a few other voices pipe in: “We will…we will ROCK YOU! WE WILL WE WILL ROCK YOU!!”


Suddenly I have an entire carpet of kindergartners singing along. I could do nothing but laugh.

Somewhere, Freddy Mercury was smiling.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Assembly Line

Last week, a 3rd grade teacher asked me to take down students’ work that was displayed in the room and give it back to them. It was a daunting task, but I had been through about a gallon of coffee that morning and felt like running laps around the school, so I knew I could get the job done (and possibly climb the walls while I was at it). Also, I could get the kids to help!

Here is where I totally forgot that I was talking about 3rd graders.

I asked for volunteers, and I got 20 of the most excited 8 year olds swarming me like I was made of free candy and stickers and I realized right away what a dumb request that was. I had to be organized. So I regrouped and made up jobs for them. I went to the white board and wrote down the titles and who was doing what. Here is where my special talent for BS comes in handy.

The children who I could depend on to pull things off the walls and not damage/tear/eat the paper were Taker-Downers. That was their only job. Gently take things down. Also I like made up/jumbled words.

They then handed the work to the Sorters, who had to remove staples/tape and sort the work into piles. Staple-pullers.

Then the Passer-Backers took the work and placed it on the desks of the students it belonged to.

I described these jobs like we were responsible for safely launching a spaceship. I'm surprised I didn't get a Ground Control crew to chart us.

Now, I had to create a special category for 4 boys who I did not trust to do anything without being monumental pains in my ass or bothering other students. They were given the Very Special task of being Supervisors. I told the Supervisors have to walk around and make sure everyone is doing their job correctly, and if they are not, to quietly write their name down, and then secretly hand me the list so I could speak to the students who were not doing their jobs. (in reality, I did nothing, but kids love to rat each other out). This was mainly so the Supervisors stayed out of my hair while I took down the work from the highest parts of the walls and could be assured that they were not holding classmates in a headlock or breaking pencils.

What I got at the end looked something like this:

Slowly but surely, we did it.

And so it was this way that we took down an entire school year’s worth of work, together. Teachers need to be creative and flexible, and also kind of good at BSing.The Supervisors still think they got half their class in trouble for not pulling staples correctly. LOL on them, right?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Google It

Every day I am in a new class, having to teach new things. And these are all basic things, it's not like I'm subbing for Quantum Physics or anything. I'm just getting kids to understand ABC order or subtracting double digits (go next door, borrow 10 more!). It's simple, simple stuff. And when I honestly do not know (like when a little 4th grade smarty pants asks me where electricity comes from and I want to say "uhhh, when you flip the switch?") I usually say "Well, let's find out!" I just don't want to say "I don't know." I feel totally inadequate and like the children will start crying and attack me with their pencils for my pathetic ineptitude. So when I don't know, I prolong the question, by asking more questions around it.

And I google.

I google like a madwoman. I've googled things I already know, just to be sure. I am obsessed with google. I'm naming my firstborn child Google.

One day, I did not have google. And a child asked me a basic question that I DID NOT KNOW and I panicked, and gave the kid the wrong answer.


The 2nd grader asked me where George Washington was born. I froze. Where was he born? OMG WHERE WAS HE BORN?! HOW DO I NOT KNOW?!!! Was it England?! The colonies?! WHICH COLONY!?! My eyes immediately searched for the computer but that one day I did not bring it. I could not access the teacher's computer.

I thought I could manage without google. And I obviously could not.

I smiled and said "Well....he was to me, come to me)....the country of....well at that time it was known as...(COME ON BRAIN, WOOOOORRRRKKK!!!)...


The kid said "Oh."

As soon as I got home, I googled. That man was born in Virginia. HOW DID I FORGET?! I have damaged that child and being a sub, I will not see him again tomorrow to rectify my mistake and now UCLA is going to revoke my history degree and HOW AM I SUCH A FAILURE?!

I know one day someone will ask that kid "Where was George Washington born??" and he will say "England!" and that person will say "Uh, no. Who told you that?"

And the kid will say "THAT DUMB-ASS SUBSTITUTE MISS P!"

Sorry, kid. :(

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sub Report

Subs have to leave a report for the teacher telling them about their day. When I sub for my best friend, I like to get creative. I've left her notes in pictures, in dramatic illustrations, and simply a run-down of my inevitable emotional breakdown as the day progressed.

One time, I left her this form, filled out. It's my Generic Sub Report.


Hello ________________!

I am so _______ to be in your class today! I’m looking forward to a ________ time.

Morning: We did___________________ and it was __________________.

Noteworthy Moments:

Mid-Day: We worked on_______________________ and it was ___________.

Students who deserved a beating needed extra attention:_________________.

Lunch: I raced to my car in _____ seconds.

Afternoon: We worked on____________________ and it was ___________.

Your students make me __________________ and __________________.

Things You Should Know:

Absent Students:____________________

Detentions Assigned:________________

Number of Tylenol Consumed:_________

I beg God that you are not out again hope you feel better soon! Your students were behaved ________________________. Hope everything was__________________.

[ ] Request me again
[ ] Don't you dare

Sincerely, The Substitute

Friday, June 11, 2010


I love answering kids’ questions when they relate to something we just studied. It makes me feel like I’ve piqued some interest in their little heads and now they are off on a quest for more knowledge! That kind of stuff gets teachers HIGH. For serious, if kids knew how excited their teachers get when they show a real interest in learning more…they’d probably not care too much, actually. But teachers? WE GET HIGHER THAN KITES.

But sometimes, it backfires. We get a kid that literally cannot control their verbal diarrhea and since it's related to class, you must answer so as not to extinguish that precious fire of curiosity in their soul but OMFG YOU WANT THEM TO STFU ALREADY PLEASE.

During “free time” in 3rd grade (which incidentally is not so free, because you can either finish your work, read a book of your choice, or finish more work, but calling it free time gives the students the impression that they are in charge, which they are most certainly not, kind of like how the least democratic countries call themselves Democratic Republics, lol) a bespectacled little boy with spiky hair began reading a book about volcanoes and came up to me to ask a question. We had just studied the earth and its features. His word vomit began:

“Could the volcano erupt, on the first day of the new year, with lava and cover everything, like on the first day, with a volcano and it’s erupting?”

Me: o_0

I tried to understand his question, but he was lost in a mental corn maze, clearly terrified about volcanoes and the images of lava spewing everywhere in his book. His cute little face was so anxious and serious. I reassured him that here in Los Angeles, we do not worry about volcanoes. We can worry about earthquakes and mudslides and having to share the freeway with Lindsay Lohan, but not volcanoes. He nodded and went back to his seat, only to return no less than 5 minutes later with another anxiety-ridden query.

“If the lava exploded here, could I run faster than the lava?”

Me: Yes, you could. (idk, really, you're probably screwed, kid.) But it won’t be exploding here.

Kid: Could a baby crawl faster than lava?

Me: Yes. But there will be no eruptions. So the stray babies are safe.


He sat down, read some more, furrowed his little brow and looked up at me.

I sighed. “Yes, pain in my ass,, sweetheart, what is it?”

He showed me a map in the book that listed all the active volcanoes in the world. I was about ready to just take it from him and give him “The Cat in the Hat” before he needed a Xanax, but I showed him how we were still very far from any of them. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW, KID?!? DO YOU WANT ME TO CALL BILL NYE (we’re facebook friends btw)?! DO YOU WANT ME TO BLEED?!? (idk what that would do but I always like to dramatically add that in my head).

He sat down quietly, staring at his book. He looked up at me again and said "If it erupts, I'm probably faster than the lava."

I promise you are.