Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Difficult Day

I had a really difficult day today.  The job I took said it was third grade, which is the youngest grade I usually sub for.  But it turned out to be a second grade.  OK, I can deal with second grade for a day, I thought. 


This was one of the most difficult classes I have had all year.  It wasn't that large - only 24 students and one was absent, but about one-third of the class had huge problems in focusing on their work.  And about two-thirds of the class could best focus on which rules the other kids were breaking and which rules they could get away with breaking because I was a sub.  Talk about tattling.  Sigh. 

The morning wasn't terrible - they started out with a "social studies" assignment, drawing food groups on plates.  Indoor recess was not great, and then came their literacy block.  They were supposed to write a summary of a book they read yesterday, then move on to a list of activities (spelling, read to self, computer work, read to partner, read to teacher).  They all insisted that they had read the book yesterday and we went over how to write a summary.  Only half of the class wasn't listening - they were busy trying to kick their neighbors.  And by the time they got to their seats to start writing, most of them couldn't remember anything about the story they insisted they knew.  Fifteen minutes later, they were finally settling down to writing, and then some students started finishing - everyone was distracted again. 

The afternoon was worse.  I was supposed to teach a math lesson to a smaller group, when the better math students left for a different math class.  Only this group of about a dozen couldn't focus on anything.  Even more of a disaster.  One kid kept putting his hat on as an ammo belt.  Another kid kept putting his shirt over his head like a hoodie.  One girl kept moving around and annoying everyone, then complained that they were "mean to her".  One boy who was supposed to sit next to me to work, insisted on sitting by himself.  A girl who was supposed to sit next to me got NOTHING done, unless I was working with her directly.  And on and on.  I finally had to send Mr Shirt Over His Head Distracting Everyone to the office.  Another gigantic sigh.

Then came library.  I was relieved to see that the library teacher also had trouble getting them to settle down and pay attention - even for a short time.  And finally computers.  Over half of the class had trouble logging on (and I had no passwords to help them).  Some finally managed to do so, but 8 students never could log on. 

Back to class to get ready for dismissal.  Little Miss Get Everyone Angry at Her is hitting people, because they said something unkind about her sister.  They, of course, insist that they didn't say that.  Little Miss Get Everyone Angry at Her then gets mad at me, because I tried to do something fun for dismissal.  Sigh. 

Never again.  Their regular teacher is a saint. 

Kids and Wastefulness

Why is it that, when kids need a circle about an inch in diameter, they cut that inch-sized circle out of the middle of the piece of paper they are given?  Why is it, when a girl has a runny nose, she takes two tissues to dab at her nose and then throws both of them in the trash?  Why is it that kids will cut through several sheets of paper to make a construction and then minutes later throw the whole thing in the trash?  Why do they use up a whole tape roll putting together pretend wallets and then pretend that they are not theirs when they are later found on the floor?  Why is it that, given brand new pencils, one of the first things kids do is to pull the eraser off of the top?  Why do kids cheerfully grind new pencils down to stubs in electric pencil sharpeners? 

OK, so I understand the grinding down of brand new pencils.  It is rather pleasing to let the sharpener grind away, for some inexplicable reason.  But, in general, why are kids, at least American kids, so wasteful of what they have in their classrooms?  How many times have I found complete sheets of paper in the recycling containers, just because they have one pencil mark on a corner?  Why do kids grab a whole handful of index cards, when they need just two? 

When kids have to provide their own pencils, colored pencils, highlighters, markers, and paper, you get the constant complaints that they don't have the supplies that they need to get their work done.  If the teacher provides the supplies (often out of his/her own money), the kids have no concern whatsoever for being conservative in their use.  At the end of the school day, I ALWAYS find pencils or markers on the floor - even if I have had the students clean the room, until it is spotless just before they leave.  Somehow, the mere movement of children through the classroom causes pencils to jump out of desks and boxes and place themselves on the floors - optimally in a hard to reach place under a desk. 

And, what is the solution?  How do you get kids to think about all the stuff they are wasting?  In one classroom I went to, the teacher put the student's initials on each pencil that the child was given out of the classroom supply.  At least then, you could tell who was constantly leaving pencils on the floor.  Maybe you could set up a class economy, where they have to 'buy' supplies by doing classroom jobs.  Alas, that doesn't work for a sub, but it might make me feel better. 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Difference between Respect and Esteem

I hear the aphorism, "Respect has to be earned," and it makes me discouraged.  This idea is a source of some of the bad manners and disruptive behaviors I see in students, especially middle school and older students.  It conflates two attitudes toward authority figures and I think we need to use two different words for these ideas. "Respect" can be used for the decent treatment we give to everyone - the honorable treatment of those in positions of authority, especially, regardless of our knowledge of that person's behavior. This meaning is embodied in the aphorism, "Treat everyone with respect."  

"Esteem", on the other hand, is what needs to be earned. We give esteem to those who earn it by their exemplary behavior.

I think it would help to make the distinction.