Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Breakfast With the Kids

I get a note from the local school system asking if I'll continue as a substitute teacher for the '09-'10 school year. I haven't responded, although I'll write or call as we near the beginning of school asking them to take me off the list. Not that it matters.

They pay me for a half day when I drive to town for a one-on-one assignment with a student who was removed from school. The dispatcher tells me the student was "naughty". He doesn't show up in the designated meeting spot and the dispatcher calls me on my cell as I wait in the parking lot of the technical school. She asks me to report to the special ed. classroom. I beg off on the assignment making excuses. The aide and the teacher in the special ed. class are feuding. The teacher has little control. The previous time I spend the afternoon in the classroom, I loiter most of the time. The few students who are in the room refuse my assistance. One in particular goes on and on about the nasty food they serve for lunch. The students are specialists in avoiding any kind of classwork and expert in verbal bantering.

I decide that I'm blacklisted for refusing an assignment, since I'm not called for the remainder of the year. One class I taught was an AP history class. The students are bright and self motivated. The teacher is low key and capable. I know him from my days working at Wal-Mart. To make ends meet he works for a specialty company stocking shelves at Wal-Mart. The salary for teachers in this area is pitiful. Both he and his wife work full time in addition to working Wednesday evenings and Sunday filling shelves with potato chips. He's also a coach.

The news on NPR reports of a plan to match teacher salaries with student performance. The ridiculous idea has been tossed around for years. I'm certainly aware of poor performing teachers, however, to link student performance and salary is phenomenally backward. As a teacher I successfully managed my classroom with little support from administrative staff. Teaching materials were absent or old and outdated. I often innovated with my curriculum. Granted I've been out of the classroom for awhile, but indifferent parents, social and economic factors, aging school buildings, drugs, alcohol, vandalism, and theft occupied too much of my time.

The history teacher tells me of a substitute they hire to take over his classroom. I'm peeved they didn't call me since I know the students and am familiar with the routine. The older man is assigned to follow the history teacher around for the day in advance of taking over his classes. When I bump into Stan shopping at Wal-Mart, he tells me with a grin about the sub. His students take pictures with their cell phones as the sub falls asleep in class, snoring. What an affront to me.

The Pooch wakes me at 6 am with his usual tactics. My day begins with feeding the kids and taking them both outside. Two hours of fun with the Pooch stalking the Pup, Mandy chewing on everything in sight including the rungs on the kitchen chairs, Mandy trying to dig up the spot on the linoleum floor, the Pooch jumping on tables and chairs to watch the Pup's antics and frequent trips outside to pee(the dog). I end up with Mandy sitting on my lap. At first she's alert to everything around her. She watches the traffic on the highway. She listens to bird sounds. Slowly, her head begins to droop. The with a kerplunk, she falls asleep on my lap. I bring her inside and put her a a chair next to me while I begin the blog for the day. She may appear to be clumsy at times, however, she makes an expert leap from the chair and cuddles up next to my shoes, gnawing on old socks. It is too quiet. I check on her frequently. She looks up each time I sneak a peek, wags her tail and her eyes say, "Are we going somewhere?" I think it's time for another backyard romp and then today's task. Digging carrots with Mandy.

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