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

Scrabble and Being Awesome

Today I was a 4th grade teacher at Lincoln Trail Elementary in Mahomet. I had originally been assigned as a floating substitute for the day, with the plan that I would be teaching 4th grade in the morning and 5th grade in the afternoon. The teachers for both classes were going to be in the building, busily administering DIBELS tests to their students. I arrived in the morning, was shown where I needed to be, and got started.

The students at Lincoln Trail continue to astound me with their training and self-motivation. They entered the room and immediately went through the morning routine of selecting lunch choices, reciting the pledge, taking attendance and the lunch count, and running messages to the office. All I did was stand by and wait for them to notice that they had a substitute. (Okay, so they noticed right away, but it didn’t faze them.)

Lincoln Trail has a program called LEAP, which allows students to receive specialised instruction in different areas. I don’t know what the needs are of the students I had today, but they played Scrabble during the 30-minute period. It was really interesting walking around the room as the students played games of Scrabble in groups of three or four. Many students favoured short words (3-4 letters), but a few attempted longer words. They also played with 9 tiles at a time instead of the traditional 7. I was impressed by how well they played against each other and how intent they were on monitoring one another’s spelling. Of course, there were a few times that a misspelled word made it onto the board, such as tumb instead of tomb, sagga instead of saga, and neel instead of kneel. All of these are words that do not fit the typical phoneme-grapheme conventions that are taught in the early grades, though, so I wasn’t too surprised.

In the midst of this, I was informed that there had been a change of plans for the day. The teacher for whom I was subbing had to leave unexpectedly to travel to Peoria to visit her father in the hospital. I was asked to stay with the class for the day. No problem. After all, this is me. I wouldn’t say that I am the best substitute ever (although several students would), but I do not hesitate to say that I am the Grade A Top Choice of substitute teachers. Heck, I’m the guy who is known as being one of the few subs willing to return to certain buildings in Champaign that rarely have the same sub twice. I’m the guy who once subbed three times in the classroom of a teacher who had, quite honestly, the worst class I have ever seen in my life. The response of her colleagues when I came back: “Wait, haven’t you subbed for her before? And you came back?!” So yeah, over the past three years, I have come to acknowledge that I have a particular knack for this job.

So even though I had no lesson plans for the afternoon, and the teacher’s plans for the day were somewhat vague, as most teachers’ personal plans are, I managed to have an excellent day with my 26 young charges. I even had several of them give me a high five on the way out the door and ask if I was going to be back tomorrow. Alas, I am teaching at the high school tomorrow and, besides, the class is going on a field trip to Chicago and, rather than throw a sub to the wolves, the principal is going to go. Still, I’d be glad to return to this class again. I’d totally take the entire class on in an epic game of Scrabble. It would be awesome.

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