I have been doing most of these Saturday art posts from my WordPress library of images. I generally try to organize around a theme. Having exhausted myself at Vivian Field Middle School yesterday, school-ish pictures are my theme for the day.
I have a tendency to think in pictures, and these are all school thoughts of one kind or another.
Some of my favorite students over the many years in the classroom were major nerds.
I liked them mostly because they were the same exact species as I was when I was a monkey-house-aged student.
Monkey-house is a synonym for Middle School.
Wally shared my obsession with Japanese anime and could draw them better than I could. He was a major nerd. And a totally enthusiastic learner whom other students treated like he was radioactive. I always had time for him when he needed to talk to someone. He was a teacher’s kid at a time when my own son was still little.
Yes, I am doing Mickey stuff to recover from a multiplicity of bad stuff happening to poor ol’ Mickey.
My computer had a brain injury and is no longer capable of connecting to WiFi. I am now tethered directly to the modem via an Ethernet cable. It limits where I can do my writing, internet surfing, and other computerized gymnastics. My favorite writing space upstairs is now out of reach.
But I have moved to a location right next to the table where I set up my paints for miniature figure-painting. That leads to a temptation to do things besides writing.
I put paint on Princess Persimmons’s Castle while writing this very essay.
It is easy to move back and forth from table to couch. From tiny figures and paint to the computer keyboard and more Mickian wordification. (A made-up word that here means putting Mickian nonsense into the form of purple paisley prose. Like this comment as a convoluted, many-worded parenthetic expression.)
You can see that I even managed to paint the Princess herself as I switched seats between loopy paragraphs.
She is obviously eating a persimmon as I painted her.
As you may have read yesterday, I had a miserable teaching day on Tuesday, and a better, but longer and more tiring day teaching on Wednesday. So, yesterday for me was a rest and recuperation day, as well as a feel-sorry-for-myself and licking-my-wounds day. For my daughter, however, it was a creative day in which she wore the suit of armor she made for herself to school on Halloween.
I am impressed by her creative abilities. Wherever could such a thing come from? It must be from her mother’s side of the family. Me, my creative urges go into writing stories, painting little stuff, and playing with dolls.
Next week I intend to do another book promotion. I made $0.04 on book royalties in October. Of course, giving away free e-book doesn’t even make that much. But Mickey does what Mickey has to do. And he will continue to do Mickey stuff laced with both good and bad substitute teaching days until the day comes when he can do no more… of anything.
You know that old saying, “There are no bad students, only bad teachers?” Yeah, that one that Betsy DeVos keeps pinging off of Trump’s brain?
Well, only idiots and educational administrators actually believe that. And I had three full classrooms of proof of this Tuesday while subbing sixth-grade Science classes.
Yes, they were bad kids. And apparently, the last time they had a sub before me, they killed and ate her, after eating her lunch in front of her. They were not merely bad kids. They were vile and noxious, unrepentant Spawn of Hell.
They were, in fact, laying in wait for me, testing every way a vile and noxious sixth grader knows to get the sub off track, dazed and confused, and turned from teacher into a helpless prey animal.
The very first class in the door immediately chased each other around the room instead of having a seat. Jamika stole a package of pencils off the teacher’s desk, ate one, and threw the plastic package in the trash. Seferino chased her around three of the tables and pinched her on the butt. And Jaden threw three different pieces of a pink eraser in three different directions at once at about three different girls, hitting two, in about three seconds of time. These aren’t their real names. But I know their real names because I had them sign my sin-sheet with first and last names before I even went through roll call. I tell them, “Sign your name so I can report what you did and, hopefully, also leave a note for the teacher that you were much better behaved for the rest of the period.” Two of the three were actually better for a majority of the period. Jaden got the Golden Turkey award at the end of the fifty minutes.
The next class had four names on my list before roll call ended, and they never did completely settle down. In fact, the teacher across the hall came in at the end of the period and jumped all over them about “Unacceptable behavior!” and vent a little heat and hatred on a few of the star players whom she knew by name and had for Math class. It wasn’t just that she thought I was an incompetent sub, but she deeply disliked some of the bad behavior that was a part of both the varnish on the surface of these kids, and the taint in the marrow of their bones. Ah, sixth graders! Thy teachers do not love thee, and yet thou keepest on screwing aroundeth! And I know the teacher I was subbing for. She taught number two son and the Princess both. She is no slouch as a teacher and is not to blame for the condition of the class.
And then the last class sauntered in behind Mr. Evil-in-a-small-package. Yes, the last class of 28 kids was under the complete control of one self-centered, manipulative, emotionally-disturbed little man. The teacher I was subbing for had warned me about him and had arranged for the Special Teacher of Special Edwards to come and take him to his special quiet place because they knew he was so special and the special things he would do if they left me at his mercy. And, of course, something went awry with the arrangement. I was left at his mercy (of which he had none.)
He would not sign his name to the paper. Or sit in his assigned seat. Or stop talking. Or stop saying inappropriately sexual things to the girls. I tried to phone the office, but the number of the assistant principal’s secretary would not ring through. I asked the teacher across the hall, also a sub, to call for me. The science teacher next door came in just in time to see Mr. Evil give me the one-finger salute. He immediately began arguing that he would not be removed from “his” class. He wanted me removed instead. Then an assistant principal showed up. He began hollering and screaming about being touched as the AP shoved him out of the classroom through the lab door. It was a total meltdown. And the fumes and melted wax of it affected the behavior of the rest of the class for the rest of the period. I yelled at them (a pointless thing to do, but it made me feel better). The science teacher next door came back in and yelled at them for making me yell at them. And everybody ended the day feeling terrible. A couple of well-behaved girls apologized to me for the behavior of the class, saying that that kind of thing happened almost every day. A cute little black kid who got in trouble too that period ended the day by almost crying and telling me that he was basically a bad kid. I told him I knew him just well enough to tell him he was not, that he only needed a little more self-discipline and he could be among the best kids in that classroom. (And I don’t believe that was completely a teacher-lie either.)
So, I had a bad day at being a sub. Not merely a bad day, but the kind of bad day that makes a teacher want to give up and never sub again. The sub that got eaten before me probably did that very thing. But, me… I’ve had bad days like that before. Worse ones, in fact. So, I will not give up.
I had an excellent day teaching yesterday at a different school. I can still teach, no matter what lasting scars Mr. Evil gave me. And there really are bad kids in the world. Somebody needs to actually feed them to alligators, not just threaten them with being fed to alligators. Then they will finally know how their substitute-teacher victims feel.
Friday, October 25th was my first full-day substitute teacher job. I was supposed to cover for the assistant band director at Barbara Bush Middle School in Irving, Texas. It was a long day of work, but it was supposed to be an easy day, watching the band director conduct his classes and doing whatever little helpful thing the band director asked me to do.
Easy is not a word that is normally associated with teaching. So, naturally, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, and a few things that couldn’t go wrong went wrong just for good measure.
The day started with rain. It was a slogging jog from home to my daughter’s high school, dropping her off early to get some extra project work time in before school. Then I had to drive all the way through Coppell to the eastern edge of Irving which somehow gets to be in our school district even though it is two cities to the west away. Dallas drivers in the rain… eeeyaaah! I almost died on the road twice, missing only by inches.
And, of course, when I got there, the secretary in charge of subs was not there. I was given the wrong sub folder by the other secretary. It turned was out that the band director himself was out too. So, there were two non-musical subs for six classes of music and a homeroom. And band directors have no idea how to provide work for kids when they can’t use their instruments. We were given an assignment online for kids to do on their Chromebooks. It was an assignment that, at best, would last for five minutes out of the fifty-minute class periods. Well, they did tell us to let them amuse themselves with games on the Chromebooks when they were finished (because, of course, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders never misuse the internet, meaning lots of walking around looking at screens to identify those things that SHOULD NOT BE THERE).
My co-sub was a very polite Indian lady who was working her first sub job and had no teaching experience.
So, with the potential for total chaos and disaster set, I had to basically take over and manage the baby-sitting festival for the day. We did get one significant break. The high school band director from the high school associated with Bush came in to direct the two concert band classes, and they worked on their music. Band directors of high schools are all masters of the art of teaching. We watched him work for two hours, 3rd and 4th periods. It was fantastic. He could stop off-task behavior with a mere look. He only had one horsey bunny give him any trouble, and he basically stapled that kid to his tuba with mere words and threats of that special band-director-kind that only band students can truly imagine to the full extent of its potential horror. Both of us subs congratulated him on his impressive teaching skills and thanked him for the pain and sweat he saved us from.
In the meantime… that mean time when we had to keep sixth graders full of bouncy-bunny Friday energy in their seats and unable to damage anything, kill anybody, argue with pocket knives and stabby pencils, or any other nightmarish thing that fevered little bunny brains could potentially conceive, we kept them in their seats (mostly), settled disputes (without yelling at them or hitting anybody), dealt with uncharged and non-working Chromebooks (mostly thanks to band hall outlets and the chairs near them), and kept them busy (at one point challenging kids to drawing contests in which I gave them paper and shut them up with my cartooning skills).
It was an exhausting day. But also wonderful, in its own way. One girl thought I looked like Santa Claus on the old Coca-Cola Christmas ads. Two or possibly three kids were smart enough to laugh at my jokes. And the day was completed with no casualties. I look forward to doing it again next week.
I am basically a teacher at heart. It was the culmination of 18 years spent in school learning all the stuff it takes to be a teacher. And of course, when I got my first teaching job, I had to unlearn most of that and learn a whole new set of skills. Being a teacher is a juggling act, using fifteen different balls that will explode if you don’t keep them in the air all at the same time. And if you drop one, you will likely drop them all. You will become Reluctant Rabbit Fricassee, thoroughly over-cooked.
And the bad news for those who want to be a substitute teacher… that job is not easier unless you already possess all the teacher-juggling skills at the start.
Friday I performed a half-day of teaching, four classes of sixth graders supposedly learning history with their Chromebooks and current-events lessons online. So, the teaching was a matter of keeping them quiet and focused. I only got to use classroom management skills and a little bit of conflict-resolution skill. Not really the fun stuff. Not really the interactions and back-and-forth thinking-out-loud that I really enjoy about teaching.
But I love working with kids just like those. 90 percent Hispanic, with one black kid, one Vietnamese kid, and one handful of white kids. The whole school has the same demographic.
I did most of my teaching with the classroom door open. It helps when the kids know the assistant principals wandering the hallways and trying to look useful can hear what’s going on in the classroom. That worked for all but the last period class.
The second to the last period was the practically perfect class. No hassles. Only one lethal stink-eye used by me to quell a couple of the boys who apparently say hello by punching each other hard on the shoulder. The Vietnamese girl was a perfect little darling, the kind a teacher wants to keep and take along to the next job. But that would be kidnapping, and she was too smiley and sweet for that. And I never actively plan a kidnapping during a school day, only murders. And those, like the ones I planned in the next class, are only carried out in fiction.
The last class of the day is the nightmare class that puts the exclamation point on every day for poor Miss W, 6th Grade History teacher. Thirty-two kids, more than half of them boys, and at least five that I knew right away were hyperactive, hyper-kinetic, and rocket-fueled by the fact that it was the last period of the day on a Friday afternoon. They thought it was fun to throw things across the room at each other. So, I tried to collect them all in one table by the left classroom wall (it is always easier to watch one problem spot than four corners of the classroom at once). But multiple kids, even the few who were quiet, had forgotten their Chromebook chargers and the ones who did have theirs needed recharging at the end of the day too. So, practically everyone was plugged into the wall. And all the other boys in the room were willing to toss stuff back at the five musketeers whenever I wasn’t looking in their direction. Those are the real fun times. Notice the italics for purposes of conveying sarcasm. My first teaching day in over five years ended with a class that did not really accomplish anything but cleaning up the chaos before the last bell. We spent a good ten minutes at the end putting up and cleaning up and sucking up (especially the ones who wrote their names on my list of perpetrators. Only one of those tried to put someone else’s name. Thankfully, hyper-active boys will snitch on each other without prompting and I could triple-check the names of perpetrators before leaving a “please-execute-these-kids” note for Miss W.)
So, my first day back doing typical-Mickey stuff was a success. I enjoyed it. I didn’t kill anyone, so I didn’t have to worry about where the assistant principals bury the bodies every day. And I discovered a bunch of cute little learning-bunnies that I wouldn’t mind teaching again. (Especially that last class, so I might have a chance to get even a little bit.)
I am now actually pursuing a return to the classroom. Even worse news… I am seriously looking at returning to the campuses where they pursue calming of the hormones in the monkey years, grades 6 through 8.
Yes, I have foolishly applied to become a substitute teacher for Carrollton-Farmers Branch School District. So, in this essay, I intend to successfully talk myself into a final adventure in bunny wrangling.
It is fairly obvious, if you look at today’s Paffooney, that Reluctant Rabbit is me. I am the wackadoo with the big pencil, whether I am in full carrot-eating mode or not. Absolutely necessary now is earning extra money, since life is only going to get more expensive now that I am permanently on a fixed income. And Uber driving is only going to get me killed now that the fees have gone down and the expenses have gone up. Too much driving in heat and Dallas traffic is wearing away my limited health points indicated by the red bar that floats above my head. And yes, I know that only happens in video games, but driving is like a video game, except you only have one life to lose in collisions.
And teaching is what I know best. I know I do not get the chance to get to know the kids like I did as a regular classroom bunny wrangler. But I still get to work with kids. And I don’t have to do lesson plans or grade papers. I do not have to work on days when I am too ill to cope. And I can make better pocket change each month than I can driving for less than slave wages.
So, I found the one person from the Garland district that knew me as a teacher and is still not dead, fired, or retired to give me a letter of reference, the one required to be a sub. The application is in. And there is a way-better-than-even chance that they will hire me. I have a lifetime teaching certificate. And schools around here are so desperate for subs that they kidnap drunks in back alleys to have enough of them to cover all the classes.
Now I must prepare myself for spitball and booger flinging, bizarre insults about my supposed rabbit ancestry, and ugly-face standoffs between hate-filled little bunnies. The monkey years. And Reluctant Rabbit has been away from them for too long.