“I’ll see you after school….” (An entry into Substitute Teaching Journals)

Wednesday, after two grueling days of different school, hard kids, I accepted a job from Subcentral accidentally.  Well, not accidentally considering I need the money but I would have preferred to have accepted a job at a school I knew or  at least one where I didn’t have to make the West to East transition via subways and buses.

The teacher was nice enough to leave an assignment via text  instructions on the system message board.  Unfortunately I don’t have a printer, nor did I have enough time to copy all the questions down; I left with hopes and dreams that I would reach school and the questions would have already been printed out, or that I would have at least 5 minutes to do so.

Wrong.  So wrong.  The office staff albeit congenial, informative, and encouraging had printed out instructions completely different than what was posted online.  My schedule began with 803 and began with a back to back double period.  (Assessing the situation, I began thinking – Period 1- silent reading, gather bearings absorb the type of children then Period 2 – teacher work “to be collected.”) During that first period, I could print out the instructions online from one of the nice computers provided by Bill Gates.

Wrong. So wrong.  The classroom was locked.  My buddy teacher didn’t have a key.  There were a Smartboard, white board, and plain ole chalkboard but no accessible writing utensils for any of them.  I dare not search my backpack for fear that any student think I had something valuable inside.  I had a City Year/Peace Corps assistant who promptly told me “I’m sorry, Mr. Kent but  Mr So and So has problems with them, as you will see.” Oh, the foreshadowing.

Boy did I see.  Adjectives and nouns to describe the situation include but are not limited to fidgety, unruly, IEP heavy, behavioral problem’d, disrespectful, IPOD owning, jerk faced and oh so rude. City Year screamed names over and over again, we had to call the main office who then called an Assistant Principal, and 2 (two) kids were taken to the SAVE room for being rude to her.  Not even 2 (two) minutes after she left the room, all hell returned.  On the plus side, I made it through attendance on the Section Sheet, and was able to print out 22 copies of the questions from the CPU.  A quick survey on the return (which I had warned was to be graded via Mr. So and So…-)2 kids finished the assignment completely.  10 attempted, making it through question 4 and the remaining however many turned in at least wrote their name on a blank sheet of looseleaf paper.  City Year said that was much better than she thought it’d be.  What, had she expected me to have been shot?

802- Not as evil.  A little more work turned in, but after 10 minutes I had already mentally jumped out the window, broke my ankles and crawled home.

4th period, on my schedule I had something called Library duty?  No idea what it meant.  Neither did the office staff or another AP.  So I got a free prep.

Then suddenly emerged 602.  Yes…Sixth grade.  Even the emergency sub lessons hadn’t even acknowledge 6th grade class. But I had this already covered.  On the chalkboard, I wrote out on “Do now – Brainstorm everything that you did after school yesterday.  Make a timetable.  List in Order.”  The intent being that we would write a 3 paragraph narrative of what they had  done after school yesterday, and revise it with a peer editing  rubric I had typed up during Library/Prep.  Another City Year had to call their adviser because of behavior and ultimately I found out that she took away their free period she had promised them some time ago.  In this class, even the nice kids were somewhat a-holes to me.  It’s ok, I’ve got tough skin.

However during after my lunch period and the subsequent prep following…I heard a commotion in the hallway.  So I peaked out through the door window, leaving the lights of my class off.  Children?  This early?  I had had some of these kids in class earlier today, but  being how those went and that I don’t know these girls from Eve, I took a moment to consider potential actions.  I’d already been shown how mean and vile they could be; thus the decision had been made -I wasn’t stepping on the scene.  It’s not in my contract to take any such additional abuse from them.

(Here’s what I witnessed…. )

A semi-circle crowd of girls.  In the center, two uniformed Hispanic girls, eyeing each other until one finally said “Bitch, your pussy smells like oatmeal and dry, dead fish.”   Whoa. What? All I could think was, Wow, you’re 12 years old and this came out your mouth, at school. Shenanigans.

(Wait…Wait…It gets better…)

The second one retorted  “Why you care about that?  You want to taste it, you nasty bitch! I should let you…all the boys said you give good head.”  Wow.  Funny-ish, but damned strong.  Harsh.  Seriously.  No words to fully describe it….The response to that from the other girl (who was being restrained by her friends) was a glaring “I’ll see you after school, bitch.”  As an adult, and guest teacher, I should have stepped in, and tried to do something, but again, if they don’t like each other, then I had no hopes of being anything other than cannon fodder or even worse, a unifying target.

(Wait…Wait…It gets better…)

We can do this now.”  And then they did.  Clawing. Scrapping. Kicking. Punching. Screaming.  Circling.  Indecipherable threats.  Kids blocking the door.  Oooo’s. Teachers rushing.  Children cheering.  Children screaming.  Again, this is my first day guest teaching here ( and probably my last after this shit.)

(Wait…Wait…It gets worse…)

Finally separated by school safety officers, the taunts continued.  Suddenly, ONE OF THE GIRLS BROKE FREE.  Soaring towards the other girl, she was caught by a female teacher who had simply  stuck one arm to stop her from reaching the other girl.  School safety  (police officers assigned to schools as security) took one chick somewhere unknown, the other to the SAVE room AND THE TEACHER to the Principal’s office.

(And finally…)

After my next class, I went to place collected papers into Mr. So and So’s mailbox in the office.  Upon entering the room (again, mind you, the main office) I could her SAVE room fighter complaining that her mother had been too lazy to come to school and get her transferred out.  “My mother…” this, and “my mother….” that.  Always about her mother, but never accepting her own personal responsibility when asked about her language or suggested actions to take to avoid the fight.  Anyway,  I had lingered long enough and walked into my next awkward situation- the female teacher who had reached her arm out was being consoled by another staffer; the principal had no choice but to charge her with corporal punishment and thus she was being Rubber Room’d or wherever they put teachers on time out (since the Rubber Rooms supposedly all evaporated in June of 2010.)

So in summation, the teacher who broke up round 2 (two) of the fight was being sent out the school immediately, to languish in purgatory somewhere, uneasily aware that there’s a chance that her career could be over, yet the two girls (or rather hard bitches, but I shouldn’t call them that…) were getting detention or a minor suspension.  Their cases would be decided by a school led investigation and ultimately decided by the administration.   Potentially, they’d be back in no time flat,  while the teacher (again, whose only crime was actually to quickly stick out her arm and prevent more violence) is just poof, gone, lickety split.

And this is why I stood by and did nothing but watch.  My health and career are not worth it.  Breaking up a fight between students once it has started is probably one of the worst things you can do in this school system other than  smacking the ish out of a foul-mouthed brat.  This week, a female teacher attempting to get between students was punched in the stomach and had a miscarriage.  That kid who did it probably wont be charged with anything, but I’ll bet that that teacher will suffer even more.  Already having lost a child, she’ll be reassigned from students that she has gotten to work with daily, and adopted as part of her routine.  Will she lose them too now?

Does that song go “it’s like a jungle sometimes, it really makes me wonder…what keeps me from going under….”  Why  have I’ve placed time and money out of my own pocket for certification tests to be locked out of a full-time job because  of a hiring freeze that will seemingly never end?  Why have I elected to have paper thrown at me by a child in 6th grade (there was more to Wednesday after the fight….)Please, Chancellor Black, resolve this!  Show me the reason your waiver has been granted, while others who have educational experience were passed over. I mean since you worked as a head in the publishing industry well I’m certain you must have read a book on how to remedy this situation.  Please, do something, and make it matter.

Otherwise, for the time being, while  I may want to  fight for students and reform, well when the students fight each other (and I’m not talking about in debate...) I’m going to follow in the immortal words of the rapper Trina and “Let them hoes fight.”

[Chester Kent.]

[ChesterintheRye @ ChesterintheRye.wordpress.com]

Ps…if any other Sub teachers out there would like to add some interesting stories of their own here, I’d be more than happy to give you access to the blog.