Monday, February 26, 2007

The Plan of No Plan

Every sch0ol is different. Every classroom is different. Every class is different.

I spent all day today in a 9th grade physical science classroom. I had six different classes over the course of the day and in the process of interacting with them I experienced the complete spectrum of human emotion. Unfortunately since seventh period just ended, the only emotion I can actually recall is seething visceral annoyance.

An inherent danger with this job is finding yourself in a confined space with 30 fourteen year old students who are actively trying to piss you off. When I find myself in this situation I try to keep cool, remain objective and devise a plan. I'm not a yeller. Well, that's not true. I yell in joy, not in anger. I don't thrive on conflict and I don't gain any pleasure from getting people in trouble. Most of the time, ignoring the problem seems to be the plan that works out the best for me. Its amazing how sitting at the desk, opening a book and pretending like all is well with the world can take the vinegar right out of a problem class. This is not a plan that is going to incite the students to do their work, but as a sub that is hardly your concern. Your concern as a sub is to avoid 'oh shit' situations. Sadly it is in these 'oh shit' situations that the plan of no plan is definitively not appropriate.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Do you have $30? Do you want to live?

Its 7:15 and it looks like I won't be working. Then the phone rings. The system offers me a job teaching gym at my favorite school. Its light outside and the first bell rings in 5 minutes.

I get to school about 7:40 and go to unlock the gym. Mr. Thompson's schedule shows that I don't have any students until 9:30.

When I was out of town this weekend I spent every afternoon flying Air Hog R/C planes. I discovered that it is the greatest thing in the world. The entire time I was yearning for the day I would have the opportunity to fly one inside the gymnasium.

By 8:45 I'm back from Target with a fully charged Aero Ace. The air is calm except for the bumble bee whine of the twin electric propellers. Gracefully the Aero Ace carves the placid air. My spirit soars on Styrofoam wings 5, 10, 15 minutes at a time. I'm getting paid $91 dollars for LIVING.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Doubt It

Student: "Congratulations man, you're the most boring sub in the world."

Its my job to entertain the students? I always thought it was the other way around.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


It snowed today.

The cafeteria served lunch at 9:30 a.m.

Toasted ravioli at 9:35.

At home in bed at 10:45.

A good day at the office.

p.s. I'm taking a 6 day weekend in D.C. this weekend. See you rubes on Tuesday.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Line of Fire

Yesterday, for the first time in two and a half years of subbing in one of the worst school districts in the country, I was scared.

I was standing in front of a girl with a pair of scissors in each hand. She had both scissors fully opened gripping, with each hand, one blade and one handle so that they could be used as a slashing weapon. She was blindly going after the much bigger girl that had just come into my classroom and called her out for talking shit.

It has occured to me before, but never so clearly, that as a substitute teacher, you are powerless. In the event of some sort of disturbance your options are: 1) Call security, this supposes that you know the number and that the phone in your classroom actually works. 2) Go to the next door classroom and ask for help.

The thing you are never allowed to do is to put your hands on a student.

With this in mind I watched a 130 pound freshman girl grab two scissors from a tupperware container, open them, wrap her fingers around the blades and walk out of my classroom. As soon as I realized what was going on, I ran into the hallway, yelled for security and positioned my body in front of the armed, purposfully walking freshman. I don't know what I said to her, but I know she was unresponsive. Luckily, I was able to keep my body between her and the other girl for about 20 seconds before most of my class and then the neighboring teacher spilled out into the hallway. When the bigger girl who had instigated the fight by comming into my classroom saw the other teacher she took off and the other girl with the scissors didn't chase.

For two or three minutes afterwards, even as she was talking to the teacher from next door, the girl couldn't let go of the scissors. Finally a security guard came to the room and soon after the assistant principal and they took the girl to the office.

No blood was spilled. I'll be waiting for some sort of medal of distinction.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Mr. Awesome, Esquire

Second period I had a student leave the room on a hallpass to the assistant principals office. When she came back, she handed me the pass and asked me, "Mr. Lee what is 'pressing charges?'"

At that moment, if only for a second, my job felt like it had actual gravity.

I shared with her my basic understanding of what it means to press charges. Then she told me that she had been in a fight with 4 other girls almost a month ago and had just been informed by the assistant principal that one of the girls was pressing charges. I told her that as long as no one was seriously hurt it probably wouldn't amount to much outside of the school, but if anything did come of it, to try and get a lawyer.

How much is legal advice worth when its comming from a substitute teacher? I don't know exactly. But amatuer legal advice comes included in my $91 day rate. That much would buy you about a minute and a half with an actual lawyer.