Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Locked In. Locked Out.

Its starting to look like I have a job at Gateway everyday until Christmas break.

<Fire Alarm is Pulled. After about a minute the principal comes on the intercom and announces that it was a false alarm. The first floor is already outside. Ten minutes later the shouting outside subsides. I guess the first floor is back inside the building if not inside their classrooms.>

Currently I am supposed to be subbing for a teachers aide in the autism program who is out recovering from surgery for the next few weeks. Its a pretty good assignment. The ratio of adults to students in the autism program is about 1:4 as opposed to 1:30 in the rest of the school. Other perks include free cafeteria breakfast and lunch, air conditioning, getting paid to color, regular field trips to the YMCA and an 18 minute shorter school day. Drawbacks include, occasional boredom, much less Internet surfing and novel reading, semi regular outbursts of screaming and violence from the students, and one student who has his hand down his pants for pretty much the entire school day.

I am no expert on autism. But it seems to me that the number one symptom autism is quirkiness. Interesting quirks on display by the students of Gateway's autism program include, memorizing the TV guide, talking in a cartoonish voice at all times, memorizing the flavors and sizes of sodas available at every fast food restaurant, pouring entire cartons of milk on the floor and laughing hysterically, talking in the third person, not talking at all, humming, spinning in circles, pinching substitutes, and intentionally falling down and then accusing the nearest person of tripping you, just to name a few.

Yesterday when I arrived in the morning one of the teachers in the Autism program told me that a student was outside in the parking lot and refusing to come inside the building. There was already a real teacher outside dealing with the situation but he thought I might be able to help.

The student was one of the two in the program that speaks at all times in a cartoon voice. As I approached the situation I heard, "I Hate Gateway. You stupid teachers," in a helium sing-song that could only sound natural coming from a cartoon squirrel. The student had sat down on a set of outdoor stairs and was grasping hold of the banister making it known that he would not be moved. After 15 minutes of coaxing and countless unconvincing outcries of cartoonish dismay, we managed to bring the student inside.

The free cafeteria breakfast of biscuits and sausage had the delicious taste of a job well done.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Everyday's a New Day

Monday was Labor Day.

Tuesday was a half day because of excessive heat. For the entire first period (a quarter of the shortened day), the principal, vice principle and I took turns trying to find a key to open Ms. Mcdonald's room. For the entire 50 minutes we tested every key on three comically over sized key rings. When none of them worked, we tried them all again. When none of them worked again, I moved to an empty classroom that wasn't more secure than Fort Knox.

Yesterday I played a game of chess against an autistic student. I won. Barely.

Today, for the second time in my subbing career, I got payed $93 dollars to follow a student named Steven to all his classes. Steven uses crutches to get around but he is perfectly self sufficient. Nonetheless The District demands that someone shadow him at all times. Being a substitute shadow is like getting paid $93 to go to one day of High School. And you don't even have to pay attention.