I was going to blog about this yesterday when I got home from work, but I was too exhausted to think straight.
Yesterday, I subbed in a 5th grade classroom in a school that's not in the best part of town. So the day's about to start and there I was, standing with authority so the kids knew that I meant business, when the bell rang and everyone came bursting through the door.
The first thing I hear is from the little gangsta-wannabe boy who says to his buddy, "Dude, I hate my dad cuz he went back with that hoe again!" He didn't care that I was standing just a few feet from him, and in fact, none of the kids cared! To them, that is just part of their everyday language (as were a few other choice words that I probably didn't even know when I was that age).
As I stood there watching the kids as they put away their coats and unpacked their backpacks (what few kids that actually brought a backpack) and listened to their conversations, I came to the realization that this was going to be the longest (and probably toughest) day ever. I was right.
Besides gangsta-wannabe boy, there's wannabe goth girl who is wearing skin tight leggings, a tank-top (yes it's the end of March, but this is Michigan, it's still cold here), and Madonna-like fishnet-looking elbow length gloves. But, she still is one of my few that actually completes the work for the day and doesn't talk back, so I like her. Then there's grunge girl, who is quite proud of her greasy hair and unwashed self, wearing an oversized zip up sweatshirt over top of a spaghetti strap white tank and a bright pink training bra (she's not modest at all). She does not do her work, but spends the entire day rocking back and forth in her seat and singing to herself. Oy!
Before the day actually started, I had already picked out the several kids who were going to be my toughest challenges for the day, and had already learned their names (as a sub, I always say that if I know your name at the end of the day, it's probably not a good thing!).
This class goes to their special class, which happened to be music on this day, first thing in the morning, right after morning announcements (which I totally didn't hear because I couldn't get this class to quiet down enough to save my life!). Normally I don't like having specials classes first thing in the morning, because I like it to be able to break up the morning or afternoon a bit. Today, I didn't mind though, because I could use the time to pull out my "Smile Cards" and get ready for my long day ahead.
I went down a few minutes early to wait for the kids to be dismissed from music. As I'm walking down the hall, I see one of my students being sent out of class to stand in the hall while he's yelling at the teacher. He continues yelling at her even after she has gone back in the classroom and shut the door.
I get the class back to our classroom and finally get them to quiet down enough to hear me and explain to them what my "Smile Cards" are and how they work (when I catch someone doing good, doing their work, not being disruptive, not being disrespectful, etc. I give them a Smile Card. They write their name on the back, put it in the basket, and at the end of the day I will pull 5 cards out to pick a prize out of my prize bin). I also remind them that the more cards they get, the better their chances of getting their name picked. Most of the kids seem pretty receptive to this idea, so I'm hopeful.
We get through math with LOTS of stopping to wait for everyone to be quiet and listen, and then it's bathroom break time. My sub notes say that there is an assigned boy and girl to be the monitor for the boy's and girl's bathrooms respectively and then the entire class is dismissed together to use the restrooms while I stay in the room to wait for them. With what I've witnessed so far, that's not gonna happen. So I decide to dismiss half the class at a time. Boy do they all get mad! Remember that boy who got kicked out of music? Yeah, well he gets so mad and starts yelling at me so loudly that a teacher from down the hall hears him and comes down to pull him out and talk to him. I don't know what she said to him, but he came back in about 3 minutes later and is completely calm and tells me he's going to be good the rest of the day. I love that teacher, whoever she is!
Indoor recess went really well, actually (I was really worried letting this class have unstructured time inside the confines of the classroom, but I was pleasantly surprised!)
Then comes Spelling. I tell the kids what they have to do, which is an assignment they do every week, with every set of spelling words. There are about 5 kids who flat out refuse to do the assignment and want to argue with me about why they shouldn't do the work. I hear the same thing when I give them their Social Studies assignment. Is it time to go home yet? I'm worn out!
The kids go to the gym for a fitness program and all goes well there (and I'm hoping this has tired them out a bit for the afternoon! A girl can hope, right?). Then it's lunch time! 30 minutes of piece and quiet all for me! It's bliss!
The kids eat lunch so late in the day that they just do reading in the afternoon. We listen to the reading story on tape and then the kids have a worksheet to complete about the story. The worksheet asks questions about the story and even tells them what page in the story that answer can be found on. Can't get much easier than that. And, aside from a few, 'I don't wanna' and 'I don't get it' complaints, most of them work pretty nicely on this. Then comes handwriting, and again, several refusals to do the work. They only have to write the list of spelling words in cursive, 3 times each. It's not a long list, and they spent more time complaining about it then it would have taken to actually do the work, but whatever, I'm exhausted, and there's only 45 minutes left in the day.
Then we hear the sirens. The nearby high school has has been dismissed and the kids are walking home. My kids run to the window to see where the cop car is headed and of course, it stops right outside our 2nd floor windows (thank you very much for another reason to be distracted and off task!). There's a big crowd of high schoolers and police and an ambulance. It is apparently so commonplace that the kids casually announce that there was another fight and they had to call the cops again (that may or may not be what actually happened, that's just what these kids assume since it happens so often). One boy even announces that he heard gun shots. "No", I tell the class, "there were no gunshots, go sit down and get back to work." 25 minutes to go. I can do this!
I managed to give out several Smile Cards throughout the day, and a couple of times the fact the I had the cards in my hand were motivating enough to help some kids get to work. We drew the names (and my kicked-out-of-music-class-and-fight-with-me-about-bathroom-break-kid even managed to get his card drawn for a prize) and class dismissed. I'm done! I'm going home! Good-bye!