February 13, 2009

Just Babysit

Have you heard my rant about substitutes who monopolize the classroom to the point that students do not get their work done? I can't find it, so maybe I've been holding back. Or maybe I mentioned it in a comment on someone else's blog.

Yesterday I had to go to a special luncheon for one of my students, so I was out of my classroom for two periods. One of the classes was publications, and I left them the feature article from a recent Time about print newspapers. They knew what to do, but they probably weren't going to do it until I threatened their grades. Whatever. With only 18 students in that class, even if they are off task, they are a peaceful bunch. The other class is my biggest, yet smartest English class, which is right after lunch, and they really needed to get some instruction on adverb clauses before our big writing exam on Tuesday.

And that instruction did happen. I didn't expect the sub to do it. I expected the sub to direct the students to the information on the board and in the textbook, and give them the assignment. In fact, the sub could have been a mute because all the instructions were on the board. Or, he could have simply read everything to them and made it look like he was doing his job. This lesson was hardly ideal on a day when I was going to be out of class, but I figured I could pick up the pieces today.

Of course, the students all claimed they didn't know about the writing assignment they had to do, and they only knew about the exercises. Seriously? It was all on the board. When the best student in the class came up, freaking out that she didn't know about the writing assignment and wanted to know if she could do it, I knew something had gone wrong. It's okay. We are going into a three-day weekend, and when we come back, we are going into two days of the writing proficiency test. It's not worth the headache to make them do the writing assignment when we won't have a normal class until next Thursday. Irritating, yes, but I can let it go.

Apparently, the sub read every single part of the board and gave multiple examples for everything, and the students were irritated because they didn't need that much instruction. That's okay, though. I didn't expect him to do anything, so it was nice that he was trying.

(I guess he didn't get to the part where he read them the whole assignment, but seriously, I'm over it. I'll let it go.)

But then...the students started telling about how he was talking about memories, and then something about the speakers. What about the speakers? Did he need to audio enhancement? I didn't leave out the mike. No, he was playing music. What?! What music? Oh, great, the music from my computer, and I guess that triggered some memories--and he was probably hoping to get the music to go through the speakers, but that's a technical issue that still hasn't been resolved in my room. Did I ask him to play music from my computer? No. Did I ask him to reminisce about his childhood while my students should have been practicing using complex sentences? No.

And what's even more troubling, is that 70% of the music I have on my computer is for my enjoyment while I am on my prep or after school, and I would NEVER play it for my students. Now, if he was remembering the good ole days, he probably wasn't playing Beethoven. I hope he was playing Lynard Skynard or the Eagles and not Metallica or The Dead Milkmen. The latter two aren't censored Wal-Mart versions. (They aren't completely obscene, but there are probably some random F-bombs.) Our administrator has warned us about playing music that does not have educational merit in our classrooms, and since I'm a rule follower, I generally stick that. Okay, sure, I might play some mellow jazz or classical music on quiet writing days, and that has little to do with educational merit, but I think we can all see the difference. And I think we can all see how HappyChyck could get her bum in a tangle because some idiot decided to play her iTunes playlist during class time.

Regardless of what my playlist might have, I didn't need him wasting my students' time. Sometimes I'm imperfect, and I might tell a little story here and there, but I have a point! You won't catch me reminiscing on grammar days! What would be the purpose in that?

I guess I need to start leaving explicit notes in my lessons to the substitute that say, "Do not waste their time! They have work to do! You are not a guest speaker today. You are a guest teacher, and really that is a euphemism for babysitter. Just make sure nobody gets hurt."

That's already setting the bar lower than I usually do.

I need a good sub.

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