The daily musings of a substitute teacher in East Central Illinois.

Up, Down, Up, Down, Up, Down…

Today I was a 7th grade cross-categorical special education teacher at Edison Middle School in Champaign. As such, my job today consisted mostly of assisting other teachers work with students in need of special supports and/or services. It also consisted of walking up and down several flights of stairs repeatedly throughout the day. I have a pedometer that I occasionally remember to bring with me to work and learned that today I took about 1,600 steps in all. By comparison, yesterday I only took about 850 steps.

Despite the repetition of walking from the first floor to the third floor and back down again several times, I had another excellent day at Edison. The students I worked with were generally on task, focused, and fun. There was one student who refused to do any work with me, but I learned quickly that he is like that with everyone, so I didn’t think to take it personally. Also, the student body has been gradually getting used to seeing me in the hallways and in their classrooms. Instead of calling out, “Hey, you again?!” they greet me with, “Hey, Mr. V!” or “Hey, Mr. V, what’s up?” Others are brave enough to try my last name and I am glad to be able to give them the verbal reward of acknowledging that they said my last name correctly.

This last bit has brought to mind a wonderful secret of teaching: students can and should be rewarded for successes, but these rewards do not have to be tangible (although it is certainly not unappreciated). A boy today picked up a trash can that had been accidentally tipped over by another student. When he picked it up, I thanked him for assisting. He smiled and walked out of the room a bit taller, or so it seemed to me. It is a great tool to use as a teacher: compliment students and acknowledge their positive behaviour. In fact, this is a key element of the PBIS management system used by many schools. It works! It is a great joy to see how happy students are when I acknowledge that I remember them and that I recognise that they have been successful in remembering me and my name.

I’m going to be at Edison again tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what the day will bring!


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