Even though I spent the majority of my life thinking that I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, I am most certainly not cut out for it. I have assisted in classrooms before and I paid off my college tuition by working as a tutor or a summer school instructor at a Chinese school. Oh, and waitressing, but I like to pretend that part of my past never occurred.
It was an absolutely draining experience. There's so much I want to tell you about my day, but I'm afraid that this post will be extremely long if I include everything. I have trouble editing, you see.
I arrived at the school about fifteen minutes early with my heart racing. I signed in, was given a name tag and was given complicated directions to get to the classroom. This elementary school was enormous! I climbed so many stairs today and was lost in the maze of hallways.
When I entered the classroom, the teacher was beginning a lesson on Texas landmarks. I am from California. I do not know anything about Texas landmarks. Heck, I don't even remember any California history. Hence, I was screwed. The students stared at me and I heard things like "That's the substitute" and "She's a Chinese one." Instead of paying attention to the teacher, they tried to secretly wave at me while I signaled for them to watch the board.
I was a bit disappointed by the way the teacher was acting towards her students. I really did not appreciate the way she was speaking to them and how annoyed she seemed when she had to explain something again. Also, she did not greet me or introduce herself. She also slipped out of the classroom without saying goodbye.
So I feigned confidence and immediately took over the task of teaching the students about The Alamo and the John F. Kennedy Memorial. Basically, the students were given a handout where they had to fill in the blanks of certain phrases. We went through each bullet point together and I wrote the answers on the board. Somehow, copying down words was still too difficult for the students. "Which line do I write it on?" "There's no room!"
There was always some kid talking. And then that lead to complaints from other students saying how they can't concentrate because everyone was talking. "Jonathan talked!" "Matthew isn't sitting in his seat!" "He's making fun of me! Can I sit on my own?""Can we work with a partner?"
So I tried to play ninja mind games and I would say something like, "Oh, thank you class for being sooo good and quiet!" This worked three times. Then came the threats.
"I have asked you to please be quiet three times. How many times should I have to tell you this? You're being very impolite. I am going to say 'quiet' one more time and the next person who talks will get their name written on the board. I don't want to do that, but I will."
For kids this age, your name on the board is the equivalence of a death sentence. I didn't even tell them what it meant to get your name on the board, but this shut them up. Except for Matthew. Oh, no. Matthew would ask every five minutes, "I'm behaving now. Are you going to take my name off the board?"
The absolute worst was when we had to line up to go anywhere, and we did this several times. No matter what, this would cause us to be at least ten minutes late for everything. The students had an assigned order of how to stand in line. They knew this. But they fought and pushed. Just like riding a roller coaster, the first and last positions in line were the ideal spots. They ran, talked, stomped their feet, complained, etc. It was endless.
"I can't stand next to her! We need to have at least two people in between us!"
So we were late for lunch and I had to take two minutes away from their recess because they could not
Then we line up again to go back into the classroom, but every other child complained about needing a drink of water or having to go the bathroom. So we did a bathroom/water break on the way to our classrooms, which took way too long because all the boys wanted two long drinks of water and they all took forever peeing. Don't EVER drink from a school drinking fountain, by the way. I won't tell you how many tongues and lips have touched those faucets.
We get back to the classroom and we're behind fifteen minutes. No more than two minutes after stepping back in the room did I have kids asking for water or bathroom breaks. I have this fear of kids peeing in my classroom because I refused to let them go so I always said yes, but one at a time. "Can I go with a buddy?" No, you can't, you little punk! I know all your tricks.
It's math time and we only get through one simple worksheet even though the teacher left two. I don't know if these kids just didn't try or they really didn't get it, but I had to help them with every single problem. The teacher had wanted them to work on their own, but that really did not work.
Math over. Time to line up yet again for science class led by a different teacher. Except when we line up for science class, there is no assigned line order so there was fighting over who was first and whatever else they could think of. These kids were so incredibly noisy and rowdy going down the halls that no matter how many threats, bribes, glares, or whatever techniques I could think of worked.
That is until we ran into a hall monitor who completely kicked their tiny asses into gear. "Which class is this? You are disturbing my halls. This is unacceptable!"Great. I'm going to get fired. And I'm also late to the science class and the teacher is obviously peeved. But before I can introduce myself and apologize, I am asked to escort a student back up to my classroom, grab his things, and take him to the office as he was leaving early.
The students were also misbehaving for this science teacher. Demon children, I tell you. There was some confusion about who had their science journals. The science teacher made some backhanded remark saying, "If you had your journals, you would be drawing this. Now you have to make up your work."
At the end of class I apologized to her about being late and for not having their journals. I made sure to let her know that the teacher never wrote in her notes that they needed them. She told me not to worry about it, but I don't know how sincere she was.
Back up to our classroom and I have ten minutes to get them to pack up their things and line up again in a different order depending on whether or not they go to daycare, ride the bus, get picked up by their parents or walk home. This was disastrous. I'm pretty sure I lost a few kids.
After all the kids left, I limped my way back to my classroom (my new dress shoes gave me horrible blisters) and took the time to write a detailed note to the teacher and to neaten up her classroom. Then I signed out and gladly left campus.
So, that was my day...
I'm so glad I decided to start off with just a half day because I don't think I would have been able to survive a full day. I have the most experience with third graders, middle schoolers and high schoolers. I don't think I will do anything younger than third grade after this day.
The good news is that the kids loved me and told me that they wished I would be their teacher, although I'm sure that they say that to all the subs. They told me I was pretty and that I was nice, and I didn't even give them any stickers or anything. The teacher next door stopped me at lunch time and asked me in a very concerned voice, "How are you doing?" I panicked and thought maybe my classroom was being too loud, but she just explained that I had a really loud group. Phew! It wasn't just me.
I am proud of myself from showing that I was flustered and for never yelling at the class. Again, I really hated the tone of voice the teacher used with her students so I told myself to be aware of that. Because when I get mean, I get mean. Not many people have heard my angry voice and it is a force to be reckoned with.
Other things I learned about second graders:
1) If you give them a date, say February 23rd, they will say something like, "My brother's birthday is in February!"
2) If you say a name they will say, "My name is John!" but then another student will retort with, "No, your name is Jonathan!"
3) Don't wear a bandage or wrap your sprained ankle. You will get five students asking you what happened, even though they've already heard my answer before.
4) There is no shame in telling on someone and being a little rat fink.
5) If one person sharpens their pencil, EVERYONE must sharpen their pencil as well.
6) They have no clue when they have to pee until they're about to burst and do the little pee dance.
7) Raising your hand isn't enough. You must also shout "Mrs. Min! Mrs. Min!"
8) Little girls like to hold my hand and call me pretty and I will never object to this.
I guess I did end up telling you everything. Good work if you made it through this. Just so you know, I did not pull this kind of crap as a child. This is not like "what goes around comes around" karma mumbo jumbo. Have a greater respect for educators, folks!
FYI, I totally had ice cream when I got home. I think I deserved it.