Before they get that way..

 

“You need to stop them before they get like that.”

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I was in a grade 2 classroom for half an hour today. Two of the students were going to be reading a book to the class and then they would be orally discussing questions with a partner afterwards. The class is a group of energetic young learners who have many different personalities and needs. Sometimes, they all can’t work together well in the classroom.

While their regular teacher was in the room gathering her materials, the kids were fine. We began reading the book. However, after she left the room, some of the students were loosing focus and fooling around. I got them back on track and then the kids finished reading the story. Then came time for the discussion with a partner. This was not something the kids felt like doing. There was screaming and yelling, sitting on the floor, refusing to work with partners and drawing on things. I think one group of partners were actually working. They were told to get back to work and I tried to stop them all and gather their attention. Two of them ended up leaving the room and the others managed to have part of a discussion.

When the teacher came back, she realized that things didn’t go well. As a result, the students didn’t get to go outside for recess. It was then that I was told, “You need to stop them before they get like that.”

I did try to stop them before they lost control. They know that I am not their regular teacher and they try to push buttons. I am not saying that this is an excuse, but it contributes to part of the events that happened. I also don’t know each student well enough or what triggers them when they act out. I tried my best. We did manage to get the story read and for them to at least read over and start thinking about the discussions they could have had. Some days, having a substitute teacher in your room doesn’t always produce the desired results the regular teacher wants, and that happens. I do think that all students still need to try their best regardless of who is teaching them. Today I don’t think this happened, and I’m sure I could have handled the situation better.

Sometimes you, just as the students do, get caught in the moment and things don’t turn out as intended.

 

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Interested In Reading

Today I was at the school where I taught for three months last year. A great school with great kids. I started the day off working with two students. We practiced sight words and whoever said the word correctly kept the card and they tried to collect as many cards as they could. I was watching struggling readers take the time to sound out the letters and to put them together. It was great to see how much they have progressed since I last worked with them, a few months ago now. They’ve improved and are becoming more skilled and confident readers.

The rest of the day was spent in phys ed class with grade 6, math in grade 8, word work and writing in grade 1, writing work in grade 2, reading in grade 3 and career ed in grade 8. I was able to support many students and to observe and learn from many as well. It is great seeing the people these students have grown into since the beginning of the school year.

A highlight of today was watching the grade 6 students find out who qualified for the next track meet. This is a community school where the students come from various backgrounds. Some have more opportunities than others and they all have different home lives, families, and learning needs. It was great to see the students cheer for those who qualified but I won’t forget the reaction of one girl. She was thrilled beyond belief that she would be participating at the track meet. She did not expect her name to be called. I think this was a boost of confidence she needed and I could genuinely see how happy she was.

I must say the my favourite moment of the day was in grade 3 when they were reading. I sat at the back table with some students and I just listened. I listened to a boy who receives extra reading support. I listened to a boy who has trouble focusing in class. I listened to a boy who acts out sometimes. I listened to a boy read. All of these boys are the same child and here sitting with him, I saw a different boy than I do when instructing a formal lesson to the whole class. I saw a student who loves space who chose to engage with me. I did not see the things he could not do, or the struggles he had, etc. These were not evident.

He was engaged in his reading. He shared his passion, knowledge and understanding of the topic of “space” and it was a great moment. These things were evident. We engaged in discussion and I asked him questions and he thought about things. Then we looked at a futuristic car book and talked about the types of cars that were in the book. I can’t say that this student is always engaged or fully demonstrates his understanding but through this love of reading books he was interested, I felt that we could take the topic of space and complete a science project or an ELA assignment or an art project etc. Because of his knowledge, passion and interest, this topic could be applied to many subject areas, and I bet I would see this student engaged and able to demonstrate his understanding through a variety of mediums. This was truly the highlight of my day.

Play

Today, there were certain mix-ups and scheduling and that we weren’t allowed to use the gymnasium because someone else had taken our time. So everyone was saying, “just take the kids outside”. Granted, today was a beautiful day and now that winter is now finished, we were able to go outside. We did end up going outside and it worked out fine.

playing outside

The kids had a chance to play. However, I said that they needed to be active and moving during the hour long period. The kids chose three different activities: touch football, basketball and tag. The kids cooperated very well with one another. They included one another and regardless of the varying skill levels, everyone was active and playing the whole time. Basketball and football were continuous activity and the students playing tag also ended up playing on the playground.

It was good to see the kids play. I was supervising the groups but I got to take a step back and observe the kids. Sometimes the school day can be so busy with many things to do and learn. How often do the older kids get to play?

Learning Environment

Over the past two years since graduating from the University of Regina in the Spring of 2012, I have been a substitute teacher in various elementary schools in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Also through that time, I was fortunate to have a 3 month full-time contract in a grade 4 classroom. One of the many things I like about being a substitute teacher is that I get to go into numerous different classrooms and see many different students. Over these past 2 years, and even before that when I completed my internship, I have been fortunate to develop positive teacher-student relationships with many kids.

One of the greatest feelings is walking into a school and having a student you’ve taught maybe once, or having kids who know that you’re a teacher say hi and get excited to see you. It has been great to see my internship class (grade 5 students) grow into mature, responsible, smart and caring 7th graders. It is great that they still say hi and that I get to see them every once in a while and to see how they have progressed as learners.

Sometimes, walking into a school can feel unwelcoming and that I don’t belong there. Some days, the staff are busy and doing their own thing and the kids are as well. On days like that, I don’t feel like being there. The school environment is not welcoming and I can’t imagine how a parent would feel in the same situation. Schools should be inviting and where parents and staff and the students feel safe, comfortable and willing to talk and engage with one another.

There is one school where no matter what is happening, I feel like I just don’t fit in. I am currently there this week for one of my friends, who teaches grade 5 and 6. I like being in her classroom because when I am with her kids and we are working and learning together, we have a great time together. The students are good together. They are welcoming and work together well. They are accepting of one another and inclusive of all, especially of those who don’t learn the ways that they do. The kids are energetic, talkative, and can have their crazy moments, just like all students and classes. So yesterday, the students truly made the learning environment. I must admit that this is one of my favourite classrooms to be in and groups of students to work with. Even though the school might not be the most welcoming, the students are.

I like when you let me “teach”

Being a substitute teacher, I have the luxury lets say, of not having to plan lessons the night before I go into a classroom to fill in for a teacher. This is often a good thing, as I am not normally given lesson plans or knowledge of what the students are learning until I walk into the classroom the morning when I am to be there. I miss this part sometimes though because I enjoy coming up with lesson ideas and I often think, this would also have been a good idea for a particular lesson that I see that a teacher has left for me.

I have been lucky to work in Kindergarten through Grade 8 classrooms and have seen numerous lessons in the subject areas of the curriculum. I am most comfortable with the grade 4 and grade 5 curriculums having taught them specifically during my full-time teaching position last year and during my internship. It is great to be able to see that the language skills students are learning in grade 1 are the foundations and skills that will help them in the higher grades. I can’t imagine having to learn each grade level and all of subjects in detail enough to be able to adequately plan lessons each time I would fill in for a teacher, as there is so much, and I am not a grade specific substitute.

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Having said all of this, I often find myself in a classroom and with a group of students where all we are left with for the day is busy work. Assignments that the students need to finish, reading sections that need to be completed, short worksheet assignments and other similar tasks. When the students finish these assignments early, sometimes the spend most of their day reading or simply getting caught up on other work.

Some students really benefit form this extra work time, or time when they are able to ask me for assistance and support in their learning. But for other kids and sometimes the substitute teacher, this can make the day really long and boring. Or it can leaving them longing for recess, they day to be over, or even for their physical education class so that they can get up from their desks and be active.

I understand possible reasons for planning like this: you may want a lesson taught the certain way, you don’t know if the substitute teacher will have the background knowledge, there might not be enough time to complete the lesson, will the students understand, or maybe you just did not have enough time to prepare a lesson for the substitute to teach. I don’t know for sure, and these are only possible ideas I have come up with.

This is why I am happy when I am able to go into a classroom and the teacher has left me lessons where I actually get to teach! I am after all a certified teacher, I have knowledge of the curriculums and what the students are relating, if not in exact detail, then I can draw from my own knowledge or do a bit of research at recess to catch myself up on the content.

Daily lesson plan, textbooks, teacher guides, lesson plans.

I have a few friends that I am fortunate to sub for when they are away. They give me the chance to teach. They give me the lessons and materials that I will use and I am able to read through them and teach the lessons to the kids. Sometimes I make minor adaptations if something is not working. I also provide comments for the teacher for each lesson we did that day. Not every subject I teach for them has a full lesson, sometimes it is a prompt and then a work period, and other times it is simply a work period / catch-up on assignments period. The lessons may not be taught exactly how the classroom teacher would have taught them, but they are taught. The students are learning. You are not falling days behind because you weren’t at school for a few days throughout the year.

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I am still a teacher even though I don’t have my own classroom.

I am still a teacher even though I don’t plan my own lessons when I come in for you.

I am still a teacher.

I like it when there are lessons that I can teach.