Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Well, I'm still alive.  I've been a "real" teacher for about a month and a half, and it hasn't killed me.

What follows below is heavy on dialog.  All of mine is in bold.

I had a fun experience a couple days ago.  As regular readers might recall, I have taught summer school classes the past three summers.

Earlier this week I was walking around the local big, blue, box-store, when I noticed one of these students behind me with her mother.  I never know what to do in situations like that, so I pretended like I did not see them, and turned a corner.  The next aisle over, I heared the student loudly yell,
"No, mom, don't!"
I think, "okay... this should be interesting."
The mother turned the corner and quickly moved to stand right behind me, not saying anything.  This seemed a bit weird, and now I really wasn't sure what to say or do, so I ignored it and walked further down the aisle.  She followed, and stood silently behind me again.  Now I turned and asked,
"Hi, can I help you?"
"Do you know who I am?"
"Well, I saw you with [student], so you must be with her?"
"Yes, I'm her mother, and I'm also black."
I did not respond to this.  At first I wasn't sure that I had heard her correctly, or even where she was going with the statement.  After a few seconds of silence she continued,
"You kicked my daughter out of your class because she is black."
"I did ask her to leave my classroom.  She wasn't registered in any of my classes."
"You let other kids stay in the room"
"At first I let my kids have guests in my room.  They couldn't handle it, so I revoked the privilege.  After that, I kicked a lot of kids out of my room."
"You're a liar."
"Okay... what would you like to achieve here?"
"I want you to understand that not everyone has to live by your petty, elitist  little rules, and you're not king of the world.  I also want you to know what it feels like to be humiliated and singled out, like you made my daughter feel."
"...alright.  Well, it was nice meeting you."  And with this I turned and walked away from her.  It turned out she wasn't done though.  As I walked away, she followed me while singing at top volume, "this guy harassed my  daughter!  This guy harassed my teenage, high school daughter!  This guy hates black people!"

So, what do you do in a situation like this?  I thought about calling the police, but what good would that have really done?  I didn't want to escalate this, or take up any more of my time.  I also couldn't imagine that she would stick around long enough for the police to be any real help anyway.

I decided to call my mentor teacher.  She's someone who's always been able to give advice/suggestions when it comes to academic related stuff.  I figured she might have some words of wisdom.  As I pulled my phone out to dial, the woman chides,
"I think the number you're looking for is 911.  Maybe the police can help make this 'scary black lady' go away."
I ignored her and dialed.  By the time she picked up, the woman had ran away.  Once I explained what had happened, she assured me it was a "once in a lifetime experience."

When I told my administrator at the alternative ed school about this, he told me I should have filmed her and put it on YouTube.  Maybe if this sort of thing ever happens again, I'll think to do that.  Maybe.

Probably not.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


For a while I forgot this blog existed.  My previous post was just over a month ago, but it feels like a lot more time has passed.
As I discussed in previous posts, I've accepted a full-time teaching job.  We're on week three of school.
Periods 1,2,3 I teach 7th grade history.
4,5,6 I drive down to the alternative ed. school to teach English.
7th hour I drive back to teach high school current events.

So, I'm out of school sick today.  I went in yesterday with what I thought was just a minor cold, something I could just muscle through.  Without going into detail, things got much worse as the day went on.  Come 7th hour, I was more focused on seeing a doctor than getting things around for the next day.
When I got home, I posted for a sub.  Someone I don't know, teaching my kids?  It's a bit nerve wracking.
Because this was last minute, I had to completely re-do my lesson plans for the day.  With that said, though, I think I wrote pretty good sub plans.  I've got a pretty good idea what subs want to know to make their lives easier.

I cannot wait to see how things went.

I've got another sub coming in on Friday because I'll be out of town for a conference.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A "Real" Teacher (Summer 2013 - Part 3)

Session 2 of summer school is well underway.
I've got 14 American History B students, and one World History student.  This is a much smaller and more manageable group than session 1.

Recently I overheard two girls arguing about which of them was "more redneck."  The deciding factor ultimately balanced upon which of the two hated tofu more.

I'm not sure which of them won, but I fear society as a whole may have lost.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Employed Full-Time

It finally happened.
I've accepted a full-time teaching position.  It is in a small, rural district.  I've subbed there a LOT, and many of the postings in this blog have come from there.  I completed a couple long-term subbing assignments there, including the art position that I blogged about.
I feel as if I know the school's culture well, along with much of the staff.  I'm much more excited about working in this district than I would be elsewhere.

I believe I will be teaching three blocks of 7th grade social studies, one "to-be-determined" social studies elective, and two blocks of alternative ed.  I go in on Thursday to fill out paperwork.  I'm hoping that I'll know more then.

I'll still be teaching the last session of summer school starting August 5th, until August 22nd.

I'm not sure what direction my blog will take after that.  I might take this one in a new direction, or I might start something new.  I guess we'll see.

Monday, July 1, 2013

a "Real" Teacher (Summer 2013 - Part 2)

Session 1 of summer school, 2013 has ended.
This is my third summer teaching in this program, and this has been, by far, the most challenging session yet.  I had never encountered such a large percentage of students who absolutely refused to participate in the class in any way (meaningful or otherwise).
Luckily for them (and me?) most of them decided to get their head in the game the last couple days, once they realized that if they didn't, they would fail my class, and have to either retake American History during the regular year, or take it in summer 2014.
A couple days before the end of the session, I put together lists of missing assignments for all of my students. This prompted the following exchange with one student, who had an exceptionally long list.
Student: What is this?  You expect me to do all this in two days?
Mr. C: No.  I  had expected you to do all this over the past two and a half weeks.
On Friday, when I finally got all my grades in, I found that most of the students I was most worried about had managed to squeak by in the low 60% range.  Only two failed, both in the 20% range.

When session 2 starts up again in August I'll be teaching the second half of American History to a much smaller group.  There are several familiar names on the roster, but not many.  We'll see how it goes.

On a completely unrelated note, if you're interested in teaching related blogs, check out one that a friend of mine recently started.  I quoted him once before, when he was living and subbing in Alaska.  Today he is teaching in South Korea.

I suggest starting with his introductory entry, A Long Time Coming.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A "Real" Teacher (Summer 2013 - Part 1)

I'm teaching summer school again this year.  It is my third year teaching in a credit-recovery program.  These kids are with me because they failed their class the first time around.

My class is MUCH larger than in the past.  I've got 24 American history students, and 1 world history student.  In the past I've had not more than 12 kids at a time, though at least right now I've only got two classes happening, instead of four.

With a group this size, all taking the same subject, I feel like I should be able to treat this as a "normal" class. However, I discovered very quickly that such a tactic does not work.  Those 24 kids are with me because they failed American history for first time around.  I have to keep reminding myself that I've got EXCLUSIVELY the kids that "don't want to be there."  This session started Thursday of last week, and every day I've had to remind students about what's at stake.

I love teaching American history.  It's fun, interesting, and (frankly) really easy to make relevant.  However, with this group, I find myself just telling them, "if you fail with me, you'll have to do it again, for an entire semester."

Enough seriousness.

Today I had a student eat three grease-bomb breakfast sandwiches during our first morning break.  He bragged loudly about it at first, but it didn't take long for him to turn white and sit quietly holding his stomach.  When I asked what was up, he said he felt really sick.  I didn't have any pity.

Later, while in the hallway during a break...

Random Girl:  "Oh God, I'm gonna have to pee like a banshee after all that coffee."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Math Teacher

The following conversation happened in math class today.

Student 1: Hey, what's the square-root of 64?
Mr. C: Uh... *looking around for a calculator* I have no idea.
Student 2: Eight. *said very casually, without looking away from something else she was doing*
Mr. C: Go with eight.  She seems very confident in her answer.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Biology Teacher

I "taught" high school biology today.
This mostly consisted of showing movies.

I found these adorable little guys sitting on a table in the back of the room.

Monday, May 20, 2013

In Demand

Friday was the last day for the Seniors at [City Withheld]  High School.
This is a school that I have subbed at many, many times, including a couple long-term jobs.  This year's Seniors were Freshmen when I first started working there.  This is the first time I've ever really been able to see a class through their entire high school career (even if I wasn't there every day). 
Knowing that Friday would be their last day, I decided weeks ago that I would not accept any other jobs for that day. A early last week I started to notice a LOT of job openings.  One school had 10 posted positions for Friday.  I began hearing teachers complaints at other schools about how their posted jobs were not being taken.  I felt reasonably confident that if I did not get into my school of choice, I would easily be able to land a job elsewhere.  There were so many jobs that the staffing agency I work for sent out a mass email telling all their employees to "please make yourselves available" to work on Friday.  That's something I'd never seen before.
Thursday morning I accepted a job at [City Withheld] High School.
When I arrived, I discovered a couple major things.  First, the teacher I was subbing for was actually around and in her classroom all morning, and only needed a sub for the afternoon.  It was unclear why the job had been posted for a full day.  Second, a posted job for a different teacher had gone unfilled.  This kept me very busy all day.

Why was Friday such a popular day for teachers to skip?

Also, one of the Seniors gave me a Senior-photo.  I felt special.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A History/P.E. Teacher

I subbed today for a Social Studies/Gym teacher.

Most of my gym classes today played soccer.  I guess this was injury day.  One girl pulled a muscle in her leg.  One girl twisted her ankle.  Two boys tried to catch the ball with their face.  Luckily there was no blood or broken limbs.

The seventh grade history class had an awesome assignment.  They were given a fictional report on a 4000 year old archaeological dig site.  They had to draw pictures of all the items described in the report, and suggest how the items may have been used.  Once they finished, I gave them a picture of the dig site.  It turned out that the scene they read about was a modern motel bathroom, where someone had died in the bathtub.
I thought the assignment was fun.

The final image.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A 12th Grade English Teacher

I subbed today in a senior English class.

We watched Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  At the same time, there was a strong thunderstorm going on.  On more than one occasion, a climatic scene in the film was punctuated by a BOOM from outside.  It was pretty cool.

Also, apparently this is "Teacher Appreciation Week."  I didn't think teachers were EVER appreciated.  They had pizza in the break room for the staff.  Usually I won't eat the "for staff" munchies, but there were only five of us in the break room, and there was something like 4 large pizzas.  It was much better than the lunch I had brought with me.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Business Education Teacher

I subbed in a business/computer class the other day.

Computer classes might just be the single most boring class to sub for, especially when the kids are good.  All day the kids sat silently and typed away.

In fact, this may have been the most interesting part of the day...

Student: "Hey, is this vocab sheet double-sided?"
Mr. C: *picks up his copy and flips it over, showing a blank side* "Nope."
Student: "Oh, I guess I could have done that."

A US History Teacher and a Special Ed Teacher (plus a BONUS rant!)

Today was exciting.
I excepted a job posting to teach high school US History.  When I arrived at the school this morning, I found out that, despite what the job posting said, I was only getting a half day's work (and pay).
Something similar to this happened a month so ago in this same district.  I had planned on registering a very firm complaint about this at the end of the assignment.  Before that could happen, though, I was asked if I could fill in the rest of the day for another teacher, who's sub had not shown up.  I was told that if I accepted I would be paid for two half days, rather than one half day.
I probably should have complained anyway, on principle, but by the end of the day I just wanted out of the building.

The second half of the day was spent with a special education class.  I had a lunch period separating the two parts of my day, and I ate in the special ed room so that I could go over the lesson plans.  The remaining two class periods of the day were rather vague.  They simply talked about taking the kids to the library, with no mention of what they were supposed to do.
Near the end of lunch another teacher came in, asking if I knew about the trip to the library.  I told him that I had seen it mentioned, but no specifics were given.  At this point he explained that my class was meeting up with two other special ed classes, and they were all taking a public bus across town to the public library.
The trip was really very easy.  I was told that the teachers usually just spread out around the building and read, trying to set a "good example" for the students, who pretty much just screw around the whole time.
We returned to school with about 25 minutes left in the day.  The kids were wound up pretty high, and I was not left with any material to fit the situation.  I told them to "sit and read quietly."  Most did, the rest sat and talked, thinking I couldn't hear them.

Okay, so, here's my question to all you other subs out there...
If you accepted an assignment online which was posted as being an entire day (at a full-day's pay), and when you arrived you were told that the assignment was only a half day... would you be upset?  Would you feel cheated?  Am I being melodramatic?

Personally, I won't accept partial day assignments unless it is the day of, and there are no full-day assignments available.  I feel like the district is cheating me - a "bait and switch" sort of deal.
As I said, I had a similar problem with this district a while back.  I didn't write about it, and I probably never will.  I usually try to keep the material here positive and funny (or at least light-hearted).
Suffice it to say, I was under the impression that the district understood why posting jobs incorrectly (in regard to the pay scale) was not in their best interest.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Pretend 7th Grade Band Teacher

I subbed for a middle school math teacher today.  However, during what would have been my prep hour, I had to cover for a middle school band class.

The whole class period involved the kids watching the Original Star Trek episode, The Return of the Archons.   They even had a worksheet to fill out as they watched!

I don't know how this fits into the curriculum for a music class... but that's not for me to understand.  I just follow directions.

A Pretend Gym Teacher

Last week I had two separate assignments as history teachers.  During both of those assignments I was asked to sub for a gym teacher on what would have been a prep period.

The first day I was in a very large class being co-taught with another gym teacher.  She was there that day, so I just needed to supervise.  The class was having a badminton tournament.  About 15 minutes in the other teacher asked me if I wanted to be her partner against a pair of students with no one else to play.  I agreed, and quickly discovered two things.  1) I am HORRIBLE at badminton (though the teacher and the students were cool about it.... going so far as to let me re-serve shots when I missed the shuttlecock entirely) .  2) Badminton is a surprisingly athletic game, and wearing a button-down shirt and tie while playing is a very bad idea.
On a side note, the other teacher and I DID end up winning a very close game.  I'm pretty sure if I hadn't been given an unofficial handicap we would have lost.  Also, she nailed a kid directly in the eye with a shuttlecock, then laughed at him once she realized he hadn't lost any vision.

The second day was a much smaller gym class, and the students were playing Pickle Ball, and I also joined in on a game the last 10 minutes of class.  Despite all appearances it was much more difficult than badminton.  It was good that the group I was playing with weren't really keeping score.  In fact they were not all that interested in the competitive aspect of the game period.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A High School Biology Teacher

Yesterday I subbed for a high school biology teacher.  It was the last day of the trimester, and two of the four class periods were taking an exam.

About 10 minutes into first period, when all the kids were silently working, the feeder crickets in the back started to chirp.  It was so perfectly timed that at first I thought a kid was playing a sound effect from their phone.  It was pretty funny.

Twenty minutes later a chair (which had been put up over night) fell off an unused table in the back.  It was very loud, and very unexpected.  After a few startled screams, most of the kids started laughing, and saying that the classroom is haunted.  A few others started saying that it was a bad sign, and that I should cancel the test.

Later in the day, one of the class periods had already taken their exam, so we watched an episode of the BBC documentary series, Planet Earth.

The segment below really freaked the kids out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A 7th Grade Science Teacher

I picked up a four day block for a local seventh day science teacher.  This is very odd, as most teachers/districts will hand-select subs for such a long period of time.
It turned out that the teacher has been gone for the past three weeks, and they've had a string of different subs in to cover for her.  This has had a very strong impact on the kids.

The following conversation manifested without any prior context.  In fact, all the other kids were working on an assignment.
A student walked up to me...
Student: "Hey, you know how they dumped Osama in the ocean?"
Mr. C: "Uh...okay..."
Student: "That must make for one messed up Spongebob."
Mr. C: *long pause* "......sit down and get back to work."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A High School Art Teacher

I spent 3 days this week as a high school art teacher.
The teacher's absence was very sudden and unexpected.  I was left with instructions that pretty much consisted of, "keep working on existing projects.  If someone finishes, have them start a new project of their choice.  If all else fails, have them work on homework."
I managed to keep kids working on artsy stuff for the first two days, but by day three nearly all kids were exclusively working on homework.

Friday morning was especially bad.  We had a pretty good sized snow storm, but because of the number of snow days already used this year, school was not cancelled.  I left home about 15 minutes early, expecting to be slowed down a bit.  Twenty minutes out, I knew I wasn't going to make it on time, so I called the school to let them know.  When I finally arrived, 15 minutes after school started, they were happy that I manged to show up at all.  Several subs had been scheduled that day, and all but one other had cancelled outright.

One student, right before lunch, decided he was going to channel Jackson Pollock.  Despite setting up several safety measures to prevent making a mess, he managed to get a few small red drops of paint on the bright white jerseys of several varsity basketball players.  Needless to say, the athletes were a little upset.  They held themselves in check very well, and the situation did not escalate, but for a few moments I thought there might be real trouble.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Band Director

I recently subbed for a band director.  I had both middle school and high school classes.

The middle school band got to watch a movie.  The picked The Land Before Time.  A large number of them (mostly boys) laughed loudly when Littlefoot's Mother died.  I know they were just trying to show off how "tough" they are, but it was still disturbing.

One high school "Music Appreciation" class picked Star Wars: Return of the Jedi over the other Star Wars movies.  This isn't a choice that I can understand.

I started this blog in March 2011.  Just recently I passed 10,000 hits.  I think that's pretty good for just shy of two years.

Thank you all!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A 7th Grade Math Teacher

A few days ago I subbed for a seventh grade math teacher.
There was a student teacher, so I expected the day to be pretty easy.  It was still early in her semester, so she was a little green, but over all pretty good.  In fact, the only real issue I had was that she never explained who I was.
Now, just to be clear, I am not trying to "steal her spotlight," nor am I looking for extra attention.  With her Master Teacher gone, it was her time to shine and be a Real Teacher in the eyes of her students. I've been there.  I get it.  However, the concern I had was that I'd only been in the building once before, and the kids didn't know me.  They kept watching me.  I heard many whispers of, "who's that guy?"
A quick, "Mr. Stevenson is gone today, and this is Mr. C subbing for him, but I'll be teaching today" would have been more than enough to keep my presence from being a distraction.

The main teacher showed up during lunch.  He kept saying, "I can't stay," but he was there the rest of the day.  I proctored some tests for him.  He didn't introduce me either.  He just told the kids, "go with that guy."


7th Grade Girl: Do you like Justin Bieber?
Mr. C.: Never met him.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A 7th Grade Science Teacher

I subbed for a seventh grade science teacher the other day.  It was my first time in the building, and I've only subbed in this district a few times.
When I checked in, the secretary asked me to trade her my car keys for a classroom key.  This was clearly the "norm" for that building, and I handed my keys over.  I wasn't thrilled, though, with the reassurance that my keys were "safe behind the computer monitor."

The kids themselves were awesome.  I had five seventh grade classes, and only one of them caused any sort of problem.

We were watching an episode of the BBC documentary series Planet Earth.  I've got to say, some of the film work was incredibly impressive.  Even the kids appreciated the cinematography.

The scene below was one of their favorites.  It cuts off a bit earlier than I would like, but it is still pretty cool.