Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Substitute Diaries

Grams spent the last two days substitute teaching in second grade. I love kids this age. They're still young enough to be wide-eyed and innocent, but they know how they SHOULD behave in school.

Substitute teaching has reinforced for me that I don't remember much of the math I learned "back in the dark ages" in school. It's also shown me that math is taught vastly differently than it was when I was a kid. We weren't even encouraged to count on our fingers. These kids are taught to use tools like hand signs, rhymes, songs and charts.

For the past two days we worked on learning how to use a "hundreds chart." Basically, a hundreds chart is similar to a number line (which is what we used). Students learn to add and subtract by moving left, right, up, or down on the chart. When you move left and right you add or subtract by one. When you move up and down you add and subtract by ten.

Keep in mind that many second graders don't know which direction is left and which is right. And although most of them know how to count by tens, doing it on the chart was beyond their comprehension. With a couple of them, I felt like I was banging my head against the wall. I thought I had made real progress with all of them on the first day, but at least five of them didn't remember how to do it on the second day. I worked one on one with all five of them and I think the last one finally grasped the concept on the very last problem.

This class has three or four little boys who are "a handful." They challenged me several times yesterday with their behavior. In fact, they pushed the limits of my patience at every opportunity. One of them got in trouble with the language/social studies teacher and had to sit-out for the entire recess period. In fact, yesterday the entire class had to sit out the first five minutes of recess because they were too noisy in the cafeteria. Grams is NOT a fan of making kids sit out at recess. I think they need to burn off their excess energy. If they've misbehaved, they should not sit out. In my opinion they should run laps or at least walk, not just sit silently at a table.

I took a different approach today. I started out the day telling the class that I expected better behavior today. I took the challenging students aside and gave them positive reinforcement and encouragement. Before they left my classroom to go to language/social studies, I made it perfectly clear that I expected better behavior today.

The result was that, in my classroom, their behavior was vastly improved. The other teacher expressed that they were not as well behaved in her class, but there were no major infractions and no one had to sit out for recess.

Then they went to lunch! Teachers take their lunch break while the students eat lunch under the watchful eyes of the cafeteria aides. Then second graders go to recess and the teachers meet them on the playground. I was the first second grade teacher to arrive on the playground today, the others were only a minute or two behind. But, when I arrived, another teacher was leaving the playground with three boys in tow ... two from my class and one from another class. It seems that a fist-fight had broken out as soon as they got onto the playground.

As we supervised the remainder of recess, several more pushing and shoving incidents occurred among the second graders. From this point on, for the rest of the day they were noisy, argumentative, and difficult.

When we went back to class, we moved from math to science. The science lessons this week were about magnets and compasses. We showed them some Bill Nye, The Science Guy videos on the subject. We had several different examples of magnets and lots of items to test for magnetic attraction. The kids loved this part and handled all the materials carefully. They shared and passed them around without any troubles or complaints. It was fun for them and for me.

I love the rush I get when I see a class really enjoying learning and when I see one kid finally grasp the lesson I'm teaching. I really do love it, but this day wore me out. And, here's the best thing about being a substitute ... I don't have to work the next two days unless I want to ... and I don't want to.


  1. Kudos to you for being a substitute. I don't think I could ever do it. I remember how nasty the kids in my classes were to the substitutes. I am glad they were better the second day. Sometimes it floors be what the current generation of children is allowed to get away with.

  2. I love subbing! But ONLY at the elementary level...LOL I am tutoring some students this semester and was just using the same chart with the first graders today! I have had my share of the 'handfuls' too. It's amazing how 'worldly' some of the little kids are these days. Sounds like you have a good handle on things!

  3. I need to give you a big cyber hug because sounds like you had a rough day...or better yet the kids had a rough day. My daughter's teacher makes everyone sit out recess (1st grade)if they misbehave- which I don't feel is fair. I feel the kids who are doing it should be the ones sitting out or taken out of the situation. But I am a parent so I keep my opinions to myself- its her class! My son's teacher (3rd) grade allows everyone to go out but misbehavior requires EXTRA work and parents have to sign it. I like that! Keep up the great work- kids need teachers who love to teach!