Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It Happened After Lunch

Its 12:45 and I'm on my way back to my classroom after spending a relaxing hour and twenty minute lunch break eating free pizza at the Imo's where I used to deliver pizzas. On the way to my room I stoped in the bathroom to wash the pizza sauce from under my fingernails. As I was drying my hands a sixth grader walked into the bathroom. I threw away my paper towels and started to walk out. Halfway out the door I decided to go back in and blow my nose. As I reached for another paper towel I noticed that I've startled the sixth grader. He seemed to be checking which stall to use but then relized that I hadn't left and stood awkwardly near the sinks. Thinking nothing of it, I blew my nose, threw away the towel and went to my classroom.

About five minutes passed before the bell rang for 7th period. The halls filled with students and I went to my door to keep an eye on the hallways like subs are supposed to do. My classroom for today is the second to last at the end of a hallway. Imediately past my door is a set of five steps up to Ms. Lincoln's Language Arts room and across from that is Ms. Smiths vocal music room. With the halls full of students I started to notice that students keep walking past my room with their shirts over their noses, walking halfway up the steps and then turning around and running back to their friends talking about how gross it smells. I didn't smell anything. But one after another kids keeping asking who did it. The hallway is echoing with 'smelt it dealt its' and 'copped a squats.' Then One student asks me if know who did it. I told the kid that I didn't even smell anything. I'm thinking to myself when did 'cop a squat' start meaning the same thing as 'cut the cheese.'

Class begins and I'm trying to get the students in their seats. Now I'm hearing things like 'it was a sixth grader' and 'she stepped in it.' It a pretty small class and I'm subbing at the best middle school in the district. The kids here know me and love me so I decide to go ahead and ask.

"What are you guys talking about?"

I'm blinded by 20 eighth graders eyes lighting up simultaneously. The room erupts with energy. They tell me that during 8th grade lunch a sixth grader took a shit in front of Ms. Lincoln's door and when she left her room she stepped in it. My mind races. I picture a little pile of turds in front of the classroom door to my right. Then I picture hard ass Ms. Lincoln getting up from her desk making her way out the door and stepping in a steaming pile of 6th grader turds.

The fact is I believe it. Despite everything in my mind that says its not possible, not at this school. I still believe it, the kids seem so sure. Then theres the suspicious 6th grader in the bathroom. Was he deciding which stall he was going to use, or was he fishing for ammo.

Monday, January 29, 2007


"Mr. Lee, can I borrow your pen so I can bust into this cabinet?"

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Old Man in the Third Row

A 29 year old sex offender was recently discovered posing as a 7th grade student at a middle school in Pheonix. He was enrolled in the school as a student by a 61 year old sex offender posing as his grandfather.

Sounds impossible, right?

I thought so too until I had a 45 year old in my first period class today. I almost asked him if he was a co-teacher from the special ed department. Before I started subbing I briefly worked as a cashier at a grocery store. If this kid had come through my line with a case of whiskey and a carton of Marlboro Reds I wouldnt have even thought about carding him. As a matter of fact, if our store had had a senior discount, I probably would have given it to him without even asking.

The strangest thing was that he asked me to get involved when two other students took his pencil and wouldn't give it back. The kid looked like a hard drinking highway worked who had spent the last 25 years busting concrete with an air hammer. I'd like to think that looking like a grizzed old man would be enough protection against bullies stealing your pencil. Apparently not. No one is safe in this district not even veteran highway workers in the magnet schools.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

One for the History Books

Thursday January 18th, 2007. Central Vision and Performing Arts High School. Piano Teacher. A day for the history books.

1st period: Room 418. 45 kids (two classes) in a room with about 25 chairs, two pianos and various assorted string instruments. One student stepped on a violin. The assistant principle called the room twice after hearing stampeding noises to make sure I was ok.

2nd period: Room 320. 2 students in a room with a baby grand piano and 11 electric pianos. Brandon, Kiara and I had conversation. An actual conversation mostly about why I have a college degree, work as a substitute teacher, am 25 years old and still live with my parents.

3rd period: Room 320. At least 3 electric pianos going at one time for the entire fifty minutes. For the last ten minutes or so Darius was singing freestyle R&B to the skillfull accompaniment of Sean. Students would shout out something like "Valentines Day" and Darius would just wail on some hilarious made up lyrics. The entire class was in stiches.

4th Period: Had a student named Yassir. All the other students call him "Yes Sir."

2nd Lunch and 5th period: 90 minute lunch at the White Castle on South Kingshighway with the Dirty Old Man Coffee Club. I got a #1 with a medium Coke and an extra White Castle. Total $4.98.

6th Period: Room 320. A very difficult class. Ms. Mckay, a soft spoken older white woman, was in the room as a co-teacher. One student asked Ms. Mckay why she "was all old and wrinkled," another student called her "blood." At one point i sat down behind the teachers desk and my chair bumped a treble clef white board causing it to fall on my head. Every student in the room was literally on the floor laughing. This was the singular moment of my entire subbing career. Devistatingly hilarious.

7th Period: Room 320. A very well behaved group of four students practice silently with head phones while i write this.


Wednesday, for the third time in two and a half years of subbing, I had a fight start in my classroom. Girl vs. Boy, One flipped over desk, no blood and no phone in the room to call security. They were in the hallway and not my problem in about 45 seconds. The security guard told me later that the two kids who were fighting were girlfriend and boyfriend so there was no need to worry. It was a nice gesture on her part, but the district doesn't pay me enough to worry.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Continuing Education

The key to success as a substitute teacher in the St. Louis Public Schools is an ability to understand todays High School student. In most cases, the better a sub understands their students the easier their job will be. Accordingly, from time to time, I engage in activities that give me a better understanding of the the lives of my students. Whether this means disscussing cell phone planes in mind-numbing detail, listening to 100.3 The Beat, or having Tony Montana airbrushed onto the back of my jacket, I am willing to do almost anything to improve myself as a substitute.

Last friday, in the interest of professional development, I went to see the opening night showing of Stomp The Yard at The Esquire. All I learned for sure is that somebody at the district office owes me seven dollars.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Letters to the Editor

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Post today at school. Keep your eyes peeled for it in this weeks Metro section. The story was about a kid at Farmington High School who got suspended for wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt to school. Everyone knows the Confederate flag is not cool, unless it appears on a flaked out 1970's motorcycle helmet.

Here is my letter in case it never appears in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Kudos to Bryce Archambo and Robert Scaggs, the freshman freedom fighters of Farmington High School (Confederate flag case leads to second suspension, Jan 11, 2007.) Its about time somebody blew the whistle on that oppressive Yankee jail house.

High School is supposed to a place where students and faculty alike are allowed to express their each and every feeling, no matter how unpopular or offensive. It’s unfathomable that Farmington High feels it has the power to restrict what its students might wear to school. Such restrictions amount to a thinly veiled dress code. A dress code in a school? Is this Farmington or Nazi Germany?

I encourage all the High School students who may be reading this, all five or six of them, to follow Bryce and Roberts lead. Does your school restrict what you wear and how you act at school? Are you required to wear a shirt and shoes even in July when its 90 degrees and there’s no air conditioning at summer school? If so, your school is flagrantly trampling your freedom of expression. Call the ACLU, hand out some fliers and start litigating. It’s the American way. And It’ll be more of an education than you could ever get in four years of High School, or even five.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A History of Greatness

In the 1930's my Grandfather went to Soldan Highschool. He was a star athlete who won All State honors in four sports.

In 2007 his Grandson went to Soldan Highschool. He was a substitute teacher. There are no All State honors given to substitute teachers. If there were, he certainly would have won at least one. Probably for "Most Handsome." Or Possibly for "Patchiest Beard."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Grim Realities

All break long I knew it would happen eventually, I just wasn't sure when... My phone started ringing again at 5:30 on Tuesday morning.

Gerald Ford was dead and the entire nation was remembering him on a federally sanctioned day of mourning. The entire nation except for the St. Louis Public School District. We were open for business.

Superintendent Dr. Diana Bourisaw had this to say about it on the SLPS website, "While our students will be in school during the national day of mourning for former President Gerald R. Ford, I encourage teachers to discuss with students the accomplishments of our country's 38th president."

If I had been asked to make a comment on the districts decision to stay open against the will of the federal government it would have read:

"It comes as no surprise that the St. Louis Public Schools flagrantly shit on the memory of the only American President never to be elected into the office of President, or Vice President. Several months ago when Gerald Ford became the longest living of all American Presidents, The District commemorated the occasion by showing an Americas Funniest Home Videos style video montage of President Ford tripping over things, falling down, and generally humiliating himself. The special assembly was called 'Proof That Even an SLPS Student Could Be President Some Day."