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

Running with Scissors

Today I was a 4th grade teacher at Robeson Elementary in Champaign. This was the first part of a two-day assignment. The class has had me a number of times now, and many remembered what things were like the last time I was there. Some of them even commented on it, and made it very clear that they did not want a repeat of that. A couple of the boys even approached me a number of times and said, “Hey, Mr. V, are we doing good, or are you getting stressed out like last time?” I was rather touched by their concern for me, and their understanding of the connection between their behaviour and my stress levels.

The day started on an incredibly high note. At Robeson, the students receive points for their behaviour in Specials (Art, Music, PE, and Library), and they are used to teaches using the 5-point scale to gauge how they are doing. Some days are so good that they rank even higher. They earned a 6 in PE today, which was awesome. I let all of them know how impressed I was, and how I hoped that they would continue to show their self-control throughout the day. I also told them that they could earn an afternoon recess by having a 6 day.

Unfortunately, things were kind of a roller coaster ride. We had some great peaks, but there were a lot of valleys, too. Most of the day the hovered around a 4. I finally had the thought to draw the scale on the board and use a little neon green magnet man clip to show their progress toward the 6. That helped to some degree, but they never quite made it to the end to earn the recess. We had a pretty good conversation at the end of the day about what they would need to do tomorrow to earn the extra recess. I will be sure to review this conversation again tomorrow. Also, the scale will stay up to make it easier for me to show them where they are.

There were a couple of incidents, today, though, that really caught my attention in a kind of horrified way. During morning recess, the district’s food services truck arrived with the day’s lunch. The truck has to back up to a door, and it happens to be the door near the playground. As a result, the children have to keep out of the way. All of them are used to this by now, and one would think it would not be a big deal. Alas, one boy (not in my class), apparently forgot the rule that you should NEVER be playing with a ball when a vehicle is moving toward you.

The kickball fell out of his hand and rolled in the direction of the truck. One of the teachers yelled at him to NOT pick up the ball and get OUT of the way. Instead, he ran AFTER the ball and right in the path of the truck. She yelled again and ran over to pull him out of the way. You’d think the boy would have been grateful. Nope. He got mad at her and insisted she told him to get the ball. Because, you know, teachers definitely think kids should run behind a large truck that is backing up.

* sigh *

During the afternoon, I had the students working on vocab words, which included cutting out words and gluing them to the appropriate spaces on a sheet of paper. So they needed to get scissors and glue. They are in the fourth quarter of the fourth grade, which means they’ve been in school for almost five years. And, once again, you’d think they would know not to run with scissors or throw things across the room. Today was the day I realised that I should never make assumptions about what students do or do not know. I had to remind a group of boys to not run with scissors or throw glue sticks across the room.

* double sigh with a face-palm *

I fully expect tomorrow to be a much better day, though. The students know what is expected of them, they know what my expectations are, and they know that I know that they know what to do. Let’s hope that it is as great as we are expecting!

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