Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Day in the Life (Part 4)

If you missed the last few entries in this series you can find them here:

The worst is when you have entire classes that misbehave.

On this particular day I was substituting in a grade 6 class. They were doing art and all they had to do was follow along with what this guy on the television was doing.

Now, I'll admit, the program that they were having to watch was ancient... the teacher could have definitely found something better for them to do. But as a substitute teacher I just do what the teacher had left for me to do. I told them they could sit at their desks or on the carpet with a clipboard to follow along and they could chat quietly to the person next to them so long as we could still follow the instructions on the television.

I'm not sure how far into the program we got... but the class got so loud that even the student sitting right by the tv couldn't hear it. So I shut it off.

Luckily, the teacher had obviously anticipated that it may not go so well and left me a bunch of grammar worksheets to do with the students. So out came the grammar (which they did and we corrected). Assuming they had learnt a valuable lesson about not making the substitute mad I turned the television back on.

Big mistake.

Once again, it didn't take long for the class to get loud. Out came the grammar worksheets and we corrected, again, and again, and again. Let's just say they did a lot of grammar.

Eventually, I even called in the principal. The class got nice and quiet for her... but as soon as she left... loud.

I honestly couldn't stand it. It wasn't just one rude, disrespectful student... it was an entire class!

Eventually, I just put the program on the tv said (okay, I didn't actually say it out loud) screw the noise and wrote the teacher a note about how horrible her class was for me. Once again, I never returned to that classroom (I did return to that school because I was able to remember exactly what class I didn't want to go back to).

Luckily, I've never sat on a tack, or had something added to my morning coffee... and I REALLY hope that day never comes!

To be honest, I don't really care if you change your name with the person sitting next to you, I don't care if you switch your instrument either... but for the love of everything I just want a little bit of a respect.

I've had classes that have made me want to go to my car and cry they have been so horrible. They chatter all day, they don't listen to a thing you say, and you are pretty sure they are all making fun of you behind you back.

I've had students running on top of desks, students shouting, students throw books out windows. It's been bad... real bad.

Now I know as a substitute teacher that I'm not going to get the same respect as the classes regular teacher would. These students don't know me and I haven't spent months getting to know them (I barely even know their names by the end of the day). But I really don't think there is any reason why anyone at any point in their lives has to be that rude to someone. Everyone has feelings, everyone wants to feel like they are doing their best at what they do, and no one wants to go home feeling like garbage at the end of the day.

Students can make or break your day.

Once again, I'm going to remind you of some of my lovely tips to at least attempt to get the classes attention

Next Week:  "So you've survived your day as a substitute teacher"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Maud Lewis - Folk Art

I found the idea for this art lesson at the A Faithful Attempt Blog

We basically did everything exactly as Miss laid it out (why reinvent the wheel.. am I right?)

Our computer time was always conveniently right before art class so after I had showed them some things on Maud Lewis I let them look up some ideas on landscapes and they did a quick sketch of their landscape while in the computer lab.

In the middle is a write up that I did on Maud Lewis (whenever we learned about a specific artist I always did a write up on the artist and shared it with the students.

We watched the videos that Miss posted as well... I don't recall why but I think we were missing a few students the day we did this project and so we ended up watching them not once but twice (by their request).  My grade 4's actually found it quite interesting and when we learned the measurements of Maud's house we measured it out in our (very large) classroom.  They were shocked that her house was smaller than our classroom was! Anywho, I'm surprised they requested to watch it a 2nd time... but we were a pretty advanced group of 4th graders (does their teacher get some credit for their advanced state?).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rules for Teachers

A friend of mine posted this to Facebook a while ago.

What rules have I broken (if it were 1914)
2)  I'm not exactly sure what that means... but I hang out with guys (not usually one on one but surely they couldn't have had a problem with hanging out with men AND women at the same time?)  I also take this to mean there was never, EVER any male teachers (because then shouldn't they have a rule about not hanging out with women?).
3)  I have to be home by 8pm!?!  Do we think this was just for school nights?  Or weekends too?  Guess all my friends would have to come to my place if the party was going to go "late" (which is apparently anytime after 8pm).
5)  My school is located outside of the city I live in.  So erm... that would be a problem because I either wouldn't be able to get home or to work.  
6)  Great, I'll just stop offering rides to guys.
8)  Bright colours!?!  Clearly they were not anticipating the 90's or neons.
10)  I'm not sure what a petticoat is but I'm nearly certain I don't own a single one (therefore I've never worn 2)
11)  What can I say, I'm a scandalous girl (I'm not really all that scandalous)
12)  Thank goodness I don't have to get to school for 7am... I would have to leave home by 6:20 (but I guess according to these rules I would also have to reside in the city my school was located so in that case it would only be a 2 minute car ride - it's a small town).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Day in the Life (Part 3)

Here is part 3 of the series... here is part 1 and part 2 (in case you missed them)

Then there are the students

Like most teachers I to have a list in my head (no, I have not written it down anywhere) of names that I would not name any future children I may have because of kids with those names.

I once was teaching art. Can we all just agree that art is a great class (for students)? They get to be creative, draw, paint, mold with clay, and then clean it all up afterwards (plus, if you have me as your substitute teacher you will likely get music put on as well). I REALLY like substitute teaching for art. This was not one of those days that I loved though.

I had one student (one student can ruin your entire day). This one student decided to be the biggest jerk I have ever encountered whilst substitute teaching. He would not stop talking or wandering around the room. He refused to do anything. At one point he was making some kind of tower of all the stools that people were sitting on... at another time I'm pretty sure he was attempting to plank on the stool. It was awful.

Yes, I'm a substitute teacher. This means that I was not this classes regular teacher. But I don't think having a substitute teacher is any excuse to throw common respect out the window. This student had zero respect for me and made me feel like dirt. It was an awful day... because of one student (as far as I remember the rest of the classes were actually wonderful but what sticks out in my head from that day was that one kid). I actually never went back to that school because I didn't want to have to deal with that student again... that's how awful it was.

We've all had experiences with students who just won't listen.  You can find some tips I've come up with here on how to at least get their attention.  Any secrets you have for dealing with an unruly student?

Next week:  "the worst is when you have the entire class misbehave"

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What Makes a Great Teacher?

This question has been on my mind today.

Last school year I was thrown into the job very last minute and my entire first month was a hectic, crazy, (dare I say) waste of time.  I was trying to figure out my job, I was trying to figure out my students, and I was trying to figure out the curriculum.  But I survived and I know that by January I was feeling much, MUCH better about it all.

This coming school year I have time though.  I know that I will be teaching a grade 5/6 split next year.  I know the school and I would guess that I've already taught about 60% of my students already (because I taught a few different grade levels this last year).  So why not think about this last year, think of areas I could improve on, and think about what makes a great teacher?

In my search for the answer to this I have found many, MANY people have already written on this exact topic.. so I've narrowed down the reading list to 3.

1.  What Makes a Great Teacher?
This one was a good place to start.  A lot of good ideas like engaging students and being organized but I'm not sure I can get on board with "being an expert in their subject area" or *gasp* "communicate frequently with parents".

Here's the thing... we can't be experts in everything.  I know my weaknesses... I'm not too found of Social Studies and I don't have all the answers for Science does that make me a bad teacher?  I don't think so.  As for the communicating with parents thing?  To do that frequently would be a lot of work.  This last year I called one of my parents about every other week to inform her of things going on and I would email a couple of my students parents maybe once a month (I had a crazy schedule this last year though so this is speaking of my grade 4's... whom I never saw in the afternoon when parents may come to pick them up).  I would also occasionally write notes in agendas or make sure I was back at the classroom at the end of the day to speak with a students parents... but I did not make this a priority.  If I did these things for EVERY student I wouldn't have had much me time... and me time is very important to well... me!  (but I would also think it is important to my students because if I don't get my me time I'm going to turn into a grump).

BUT... before you figure out where I'm teaching and call the administration hold your horses ladies and gentlemen... I have a plan for this next year... remember how I got my job last minute last year... I didn't have time to think about parent communication (it was also my first year teaching).  This coming year I'm going to attempt a monthly newsletter for my classroom.  I'll tell parents what we are up to, what they can be working on at home with their children, what's coming up, maybe a photo or 2, maybe some student work.  I haven't quite figured out all the details yet but hopefully I'll have a template put together in the next couple of weeks so that all I have to do is input information.  The other part of this plan is to use our agenda books!  I think I'm going to have them write down what we did for each class at the end of the day (or as we go through the day... they are in grades 5/6... they could probably handle it on their own).  This way parents know what their child is doing all day.  Hey, it's a start... and a pretty good start I would like to think!

2.  Weigh In:  What Makes a Great Teacher?
Honestly, I included this one because 1) it was put out by Scholastic and 2) it included a lot of insight from superintendents.  If you are currently looking for a job you may want to take a gander at this.

3.  What My Students Think Make a Great Teacher
I liked this one because it was what students actually thought... honestly, it doesn't really matter what your administration thinks, your teaching partner, the teacher across the hall, or the teacher across the country... you are there for your students and if they think you are great (and you are managing to get some knowledge in their heads) then I say you are doing a great job.

and what do I think makes a great teacher?
Well I'm going to keep it simple with my top 5 reasons (confession: I tried to make it 3 but I just couldn't do it!).  So in no particular order....

1.  A teacher should be there for his/her students.  Talk to them, engage with them, listen to them.  This doesn't mean you have to be their friend.. lay down the law when you have to... the classroom can't be a circus no matter how badly the class wants it that way.
2.  A teacher should be a good role model.  If you have a wild and crazy weekend your students don't need to know about it.  You're students should look up to you and that means that you make good decisions.  Sure we all lose our cool in the classroom every so often but (I think) what a good teacher would do after he or she loses his cool is apologize or be able to calmly talk about what happened.
3.  A teacher should be organized.  My first month of teaching last year I felt so disorganized and frazzled... I'm going to really try to be organized this year... not just with my stuff but with my room as well.  I have big plans for the way I want it to look and I really REALLY hope it doesn't look like a disaster after a month (or week)... I might cry.
4.  A teacher should be engaging.  I think it is okay to *gasp* teach from a textbook.  Someone paid a lot of money for those textbooks so why not use them?  But they shouldn't be the only way you teach.  I used our math textbooks a lot last year but I also had them do a graphing unit on the olympics (which wasn't at all from the textbook).  We made area and perimeter names and people and played different games to practice division and multiplication.  Sure you have to get some knowledge into those heads but you can have fun while doing it... that's definitely allowed!
5.  A teacher should love what they do.  If you don't love what you do maybe your profession isn't for you (this could be for anyone by the way... not just teachers).  This doesn't mean that you should love what you do every single day.  You are going to have bad days, you are going to have days that you want to go home and cry, you are going to have some horrible, terrible, no good, very bad days.  That doesn't mean you don't love what you do.

Anything I should be adding to the list?
What do you think makes a great teacher?

I found this link after I had written this... Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher  I think they really hit the nail on the head so to speak... the article is a home run.. I feel like my list above is so inadequate.  Gah... just check out the link.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Day in the Life (Part 2)

In case you missed it... This is part of a series and you can find part 1 here

As a substitute you never really know what you are getting yourself into.

I have shown up at a school expecting to teach in a classroom only to realize that I was the phys-ed teacher.

I have shown up at a school only to find out the teacher doesn't teach there anymore and I should go to the school that he currently teaches at. THEN, when I got to that school I found out that yes he taught science like it said online but he also taught a couple of sections of phys-ed (good thing I was wearing a skirt this day).

I have shown up to a school and found out I had recess duty... and decided to wear a dress... in the middle of winter.

I have been a divisions go to music sub. But not only was I their music sub but I was their go to French music sub. We played a lot of games and watched a lot of movies because I am not fluent in French nor music.

I have "taught" violin class... and no I do not play violin.

Have you ever found yourself in a surprise teaching situation that you weren't expecting?

Come back next week to read Part 3 "Then there are the students..."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

For the Classroom

I've been doing a lot of shopping lately.  Most of my shopping has been for things that I need for my place (okay, maybe I don't NEED floating shelves... especially now that I have firsthand experience as to how difficult they are to put up) and while I've been out finding stuff for my place I've found some stuff for my classroom as well.

Item #1 I found at Target
Tissue Paper

The plan is to use this to make pom poms to hang from the ceiling... 
I've been doing a lot of pintresty type things this week and so far 2 have been nearly flops that I've somehow managed to salvage... hopefully these turn out.
If all else fails I can buy pre made ones from Party Stuff AND I get a teachers discount there.

Item #2 I found at JYSK
Plastic Table Clothes

The plan for these is to use them on the backs of my bulletin boards.  Since they are plastic I hope they will withstand the wear and tear from this year (and maybe a few others).  PLUS, as a bonus they won't fade like construction paper will.
I plan to do one bulletin board the black and white one (I must admit I find it a little busy so I'm a little concerned how it will end up looking) and 2 bulletin boards with the gray and yellow one (I must admit, I wish the yellow were turquoise... it would be perfect then!)
I don't recall exactly how many bulletin boards I have but I know I have more than 3 so for the others I'll go out and find some cheap turquoise fabric (hopefully in a solid colour).

Item #3 I found at Michaels
Fake Flowers

They just so happened to be on clearance and they just so happened to be the colours I plan to do my room in.  I don't have a plan for them yet.. Maybe I'll find a plastic vase somewhere to stick some in or maybe I'll cut the flower part of and stick it on some pens... I'll figure something out.

Since my post on my Writing Folders I have not gotten anymore of them done.  My plan is to have them done by the end of this week (unless I run out of glue).

Something to think about:
What to do with completed art projects?
I noticed this last year some of my students would throw out their art projects as soon as they got them back and I want to figure out a way to have them appreciate what they accomplished in art class more.  My plan is to use an art portfolio of some type.
The only problem?
I don't have space to store those large folders you would get students to make out of 2 big pieces of paper stapled together... so I was thinking something more along the lines of duotang size... then when we make something larger than that size we could take pictures of the art and glue it in there.  I would also have them write about the process, what they liked, didn't like, etc.  

Anyone out there have any art portfolio ideas?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Day in the Life (Part 1)

to see the intro to this post click here
FYI:  I did not get cake on my birthday (so hopefully you had some for me) but that may be because I was busy waiting in lines at Six Flags on my birthday.

Getting Started

My morning as a substitute teacher always starts just before 6am. Why 6am? I thought I had figured out this subfinder system ( Subfinder is an online program that most school divisions/districts use to help find substitute teachers for different jobs - it is much more effective than having a person call each individual substitute). I thought 6am was the prime time for a teacher to call in sick to work. So if 6am was the prime time to call in sick to work it was when jobs would get posted online and I could job shop whilst every other substitute teacher was still snoozing waiting for their phone to wake them up with their job.

Just so you know, jobs were rarely posted at 6am. So after hitting refresh for about 10 minutes I would give up and go back to sleep for about 20 minutes. Then I would wake up and search for a job all over again. Still nothing? I would make one more attempt at 7am.

As a substitute you never know how much you will work in a month... I mean you can make guesses but you could work 5 days or you could work 20 days... so as a veteran substitute I tried to do everything that I could to make sure I was accepting as many jobs as I could. You may not know this but substitute teachers have bills too. I had rent to pay, a cell phone bill, groceries to buy... often times substitute teaching just barely covered my expenses for the month (sometimes it didn't cover them at all and I was very thankful that I'm good at saving money) there were times that I would take on a 2nd part time job in the evenings to help.

Sometimes you don't have to search online for your work for the day... sometimes the Subfinder system will call you. On these lucky occasions you will get woken up somewhere between 5-9am to find out where you are working that day (and decide if you want to accept the job or not).

Let's be honest, 5am is REALLY early. Often times you aren't thinking clearly at 5am. It could be the best sub day in the world and I might actually hit 2 on my phone and decline the job instead of the number 1 to accept it. Then there are the days you get called at 9am when that school started at 8:45. I'll be honest, I was not the kind of substitute to actually get up when I didn't have work. If I wasn't going to be working that day I was going to stay in bed as long as possible. This often meant that I got really good at getting ready and out the door within 15 minutes. It was amazing.

Chances are you've had a substitute that has accepted the job to sub in your classroom last minute. She or he may have gotten ready and out the door in no time at all. If they look a little dishevelled or like they just rolled out of bed... it might be because they just did!

If you didn't get all of that... or maybe just skimmed through it... substitute teaching can be hard before you even get to the school. What makes it even more difficult is that where I live there are an abundance of people graduating with their education degrees every year. Since there aren't even close to that amount of teachers retiring every year this means that there are also an abundance of substitute teachers. So you better be proactive about getting your sub day lined up or you may not be working at all.

I suppose the silver lining to all of this is that if you are an amazing and awesome substitute teacher (such as myself) you will get requested for sub days a lot of the time. This means that sometimes I know exactly what school, teacher, and class I will be working with that day. This is an amazing feeling. I can get up to my alarm and not my phone ringing at 6am and take my own sweet time getting ready!

I've had many interesting situations as a substitute teacher that make me laugh all the time. But this is about the stresses of substitute teaching... so next Thursday we will delve into some stressful substitute teaching assignments I've had.

Be sure to come back for Part 2!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Writing Folders

I'm back!

Summer vacation started a little over a week ago and I immediately jetted off (in a car) to South Dakota and Missouri for a bit of a vacation (since when do vacations involve a 16 hour car ride... and that didn't even get me back home!)

It was nice to take a break from being the teacher and be the student for once...

Can you guess which city this was taken in?

ANYWHO, writing folders!

We didn't have any students the last 2 days of school and since I was moving into another teachers room (who may or may not be coming back in April) I felt like I didn't have too much to do in the ways of getting a bunch of stuff ready just yet (that's what my summer break is for!)  So I spent some time instead thinking about writing folders.

I made one prototype at school to see how it would go, printed off a bunch of the labels and spent an hour this evening gluing them onto folders (I'm a quarter of the way through).  I also taped all my folders together at school on those 2 days off.

So without further ado... here are some photos of my writing folders

I found the cover to my writing folders on Teacher Pay Teachers by Just a Primary Girl.  This girl had a few different options using these colours (I'm not giving my students an option... they are all getting this one - I choose the one with the least amount of purple in case I hear complaints from the boys). Anyways, it was a free download (my favourite kind) and when I checked back last night they were still free (maybe they always will be).

I taped 2 folders together and reused a bunch of blue ones from my 4th grade class this last year... but we didn't have a single blue folder left in the school (that I could find) so the other half of it is yellow.  That's okay... maybe they will think it's Blue Bomber inspired (our CFL team).
Sidenote:  My 6th graders are getting 2 yellow folders instead of 1 blue 1 yellow... I really didn't have enough blue but wanted to reuse what I could! (my 5th graders are getting the one above... I'm teaching a split class)

I printed off 2 pages of writing prompts and glued them onto the folder.. I plan on giving them writing prompts a lot of the time but if they have issue with the prompt I give them or want to write more but don't know about what... this is a good list.  The original list that I found online was at least 4 pages long... I pruned it down because I didn't want them wasting time reading things they could write about.

Well isn't this a super hard to read photo... 
On the back of my folder I put a checklist for editing.  I found it online somewhere and edited it so that 
1) it would be portrait instead of landscape and 2) used the language I wanted my students to know.
There is a self edit column and a peer edit column... they can use whiteboard markers to check things off and erase them when they are through.

Here is the inside folder part.

So in the first slot they will put any work in the pre writing stage, 2nd is rough draft, next is editing and revising, and then good copy.  I wrote down what each stage means and the things they will need to have in each stage.  

I came up with the 4 slot ideas by looking at this (this is also where I got my definitions for each stage)

When everything was glued down I laminated them and used a knife to slice open the folder section... this one is ready to be used for a long, long time.

For the prototype I wrote the name on the folder before I laminated it... I showed it to my cousin who is also a teacher (she loved the idea by the way) and she suggested I write their names on the outside with crayon, wash it off at the end of the year, and reuse them.  The reason I wrote their names before laminating was because I figured they would scratch off their names if it was on the outside.  In an ideal world they would always write their names on everything anyways... but let's face it... that won't happen and then folders will go missing!

What do you think?  Should I continue writing their names on the inside or switch to crayon after laminating?

My plan for these folders is to give my students some writing time every morning (or at least 3 times/week).  The following week they will have to pick one thing that they started writing about and work through the editing process... I'll let you know how it goes.

Want to know the best part about these folders?  
They double as a privacy screen type thing.
A lot of my students this year liked using noise canceling headphones while reading and I don't recall seeing any in my classroom for September... so I either have to use some of my budget to get some OR maybe just maybe this will be enough.  
My students will be working at tables with 3 other people.. so when they need their own space I hope this helps!

On the last day of school we had a loonie carnival. 
Basically all the students brought in a dollar and they played games and did crafts.  Apparently the bracelet making booth was popular amongst some of my students and 2 of them gave me one each... they survived my trip.  Not sure when I'll take them off... when they fall off or for a wedding I'm going to in August... whichever comes first.

Hope we are all having a fantastic summer!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

A Day In The Life

... of a Substitute Teacher

A while ago I received an email from a reader who wanted to teach their grade 8 students what it was like to be a substitute teacher.  The hope was for her students to see substitute teachers in a better light and not to give them a hard time or take advantage of them.  So she asked me to write up what a day for me (when I was a substitute teacher) was like.  So I did!

It ended up being 5 pages long!

So check back over the next 6 weeks to get the full story on what a day as a substitute teacher (for myself) was like.  I know not every division/district is run the same way so others experiences will definitely be different... feel free to add your own stories to mine!

Also, if you want a copy of my original write up I would love to pass it on to you!  Leave me a comment or send me an email at and I will be sure to send the entire thing off to you!

But today.... today is my birthday!
and I'm somewhere in the states (more specifically Missouri)
I'm sure I'm having a blast and enjoying my time.

So have a piece of cake for me today (just in case I don't get one) and remember to come back next Thursday (and the next 5 Thursday's after that) to read about a day in the life of this substitute teacher.
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