Confession #27

I am as smart as a fifth grader.  Not because I went to college, but because I am a substitute teacher.  When it comes to math, however, I am probably as smart as a fourth grader.  Jumping into lessons plans at the elementary level can be daunting for someone new to common core.  To put things into perspective, when I went to school, teachers told us to sit in politically incorrect Indian style on the carpet.  I have no idea in which year criss cross applesauce became the norm.

Of course students pushing limits and outright lying comes with the substitute territory.  There are classes though, where all hope is not lost due to a few respectful students.  I’ve encountered a multitude of students – geniuses, autistic, smart but they don’t apply themselves, and low IQ.  What frustrates me are the kids that I know have the brains but choose to misbehave.

Typically, the low achievers come from dysfunctional households.  I can spot them a mile away now.  They’ll either be the next Bill Gates or living in someone’s garage. It’s a real toss up which way they will go.   I find a lot of these types of kids in Title 1 schools.

You feel the difference walking into a Title 1 school immediately.  You see it in the classrooms, with bare bone materials, run down equipment and even the lighting.  The lighting, you ask?  Yes, I say.  The other day I subbed at a non Title 1 school and the teacher used subtle multi-color lights instead of the harsh fluorescent ceiling lights.  It created a calming atmosphere, not a harsh institutional feel.

When I sub at a Title 1 school, I need my handy whistle at times to get the kids to focus at the front of the room on me (I never could figure out how to do the finger whistle).  The whistle was intended for herding the kids when their outside recess is over.  But I’ve found it works indoors to startle the children into silence so I can tell them what to do next.


Only in Title 1 schools have I been told by a teacher, if said child wants to walk out of the class when he feels like it just let him or he might throw a desk at you.  Only in a Title 1 school have I heard tales from a second grader who was enmeshed in subjects beyond her years such as her drug addicted father she wasn’t allowed to see.

I am not saying family dysfunction does not occur in Non Title 1 schools.  I just notice the dysfunction manifests itself more overtly within the Title 1 schools with violent and disrespectful behavior.

As a sub, my job is to educate my class according to the teacher’s wishes.  Discipline becomes a huge part of that role when students perceive you as a pushover and/or family background obstructs academic achievement.  To be perfectly honest, there are days I leave a school thinking I feel sorry for the main teacher and for those kids’ parents.  I only had to spend 8 hours with them.  I can wash my hands of it and choose to never step foot in that classroom again.  But I also feel bad for the kid who is marginalized and criticized to the point where he has lost belief in himself.

Don’t even get me started on middle school and high school.


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