Category: Substitute Teaching Journals

It’s not the teacher’s fault that your son or daughter is failing. It’s not the school’s fault! It’s not a lack of teacher training or a lack of strong teacher evaluation system! It’s your fault</strong. It’s your child’s fault too.

At the end of the school week and when the attendance sheet looks like this-

That blaming teachers becomes a disappointment. Teachers can’t teach your child ifyour child isn’t there.

Think about it and look at the image again.


Sadly, this attendance sheet isn’t the worse I’ve seen. But on Tuesday, half the class wasn’t even in class. That lesson introduced or that skill practiced that day didn’t get learned.

It is asinine to blame the teacher for a student’s inability to do something when the student didn’t do the most basic thing that they could do, which is, show up.

The above sheets were for a class with special needs classified. There were less students so the teacher can hopefully give more support. But how can a person be taughtor supportedif students don’t show up.

This was supposed to be brief. Sigh.

When I hear stories about how teachers make calls home at 7 am to make sure kids come to school that day, I think what the hell? The things that sometimes go into lesson planning? The hours grading and making assessments and wondering how to grow students up to being confidant and capable adults….what of a teacher had to make a wake up call for every student they teach or worry about?

The system is rigged.

[Chester Arthur Kent]


(I posted the following as a response to a question on an NYC teacher chat page.)

Hi, I noticed this issue a few weeks ago, I rarely use the phone system because it just calls me for jobs that I don’t want to accept (even thought I’ve answered that I’m uncomfortable with the assignment location) and I also would just like to know something about the school like say it’s proximity to me or the age group that the system is calling about. Thus, the online thing has always been a mixed bag- I often times find that only the undesirable schools will open….randomly if that. There have been a few times when I’ve been requested and I can’t get the job because it is “in callout.”
A few weeks ago, I noticed that not one job opened up online. Luckily, I work with a few schools closely! and they call me directly and I’ve worked 9 out of 10 days….but there are only so many more days left of high school left, and so I’d like to work at the places that I find I can work with.
I too called the woman, but she got an attitude with me, telling me that there was nothing wrong and that I must not know anything, She rudely asked for my file number and told me that she would call me back personally if she found a job I was a match for. At that time, there were at least 5 pages of open jobs on Subcentral. I wanted to call her back but I in fact just started cold calling schools because I figured that they would taken the job listings offline when they got filled.
If I encounter this problem tomorrow morning, Im going to call back and insist that I speak with her manager or Peter Ianello (the director of Subcentral,) I know the school I want to work at will be a rough guess to get into tomorrow, Most teachers who care about their careers don’t take off extra days after a 3 day weekend- so maybe a trip down to court st might happen.


On 5/19/14, MM wrote:

Are there any subs out there that have had difficulties
> getting jobs on SubCentral recently?
> For the past few days the jobs that have been on SubCentral
> do not appear to be opening up online. Usually when the
> system calls a substitute (listed as being “In Callout”)the
> job opens up for a substitute who is viewing SubCentral
> online(listed online as “Details”). Usually the jobs
> fluctuate from being “In Callout” and being available but
> the past two days, the jobs have been stuck “In Callout”.
> I’m also not sure the system is actually calling anyone.
> Usually I receive anywhere from 10-15 calls per morning,
> whether I accept the job or not but I haven’t received any
> calls from the SubCentral system in the last two days and it
> seems as if none of the jobs that are getting posted are
> being accepted by anyone. Yesterday, I couldn’t even accept
> a job by one of the schools that has me listed as one their
> priority subs. I understand that there’s always a few jobs
> will not be accepted but lately there have been about 3
> pages worth of sub jobs on SubCentral everyday that are
> stuck in callout and have been online for hours.
> I tried calling the SubCentral help desk and was basically
> told in a nice way that I was crazy by a woman who seemed to
> have a bit of an attitude and that they did not notice any
> problems with the system but I know that I’m probably not
> the only sub who has missed two days of work during the
> busiest time of the school year because of this.
> Are there any other NYC substitutes who have been having
> this problem or is it just me?


Chester Kent. 5/27/2014

Today’s quote –

Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others


When I read this quote the first thing I said to myself if “Who knew that Plato would be into Inclusion and Inclusive education?” For those not in the know, “Inclusion education” is exactly what it sounds like. Children of all different abilities (or some with disabilities) are included in the same classroom. The textbook definition of Inclusion education will tell you things about the “Least Restrictive Environments,” ratios and “IEP’s.” What anyone needs to know is that it’s a way to merge general education and special education.

I’ve seen some classrooms where inclusion works. The children work together to help each other, and the weakest members of the class or those classified as disabled work well with each other. Two years ago, I built an a truly inclusive class. I poured hours over an oversized class roster. I checked the list of IEP’s and considered the student without them. The 21 students in my class rocked and rolled. They cared about each other and their assignments. They worked pass language barriers.

And then I’ve seen classes where the teacher is overworked, and the class size roster is near its limit and the amount of education being done amounts to snapped pencils and frustration by all.

But focus not be good, right? Especially since all education is moving to inclusion being the norm. Plato’s quote is something for all teachers really. Who doesn’t believe that all students have the capability to be good students. Good teachers do. They worry and stress that maybe they haven’t gotten their points across to their classes. Students do know genuine good teaching. They look forward to the test and sense of accomplishment that Continue reading

“True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation.”

― George Washington

Often times I smile a secret smile when I hear the chatter of high schools students. The urgency of their relationships with their friends these kids have. Every student is an archetype for one of the characters on DeGrassi; each of their problems the thing that is stopping today.
Right now I’m attempting to force myself trying to recall was I like that? Did I act like the typical self important teen and if so, have I learned how to use that experience with others, with my students. I know there were some serious trials and tribulations in high school but they seem so long ago. I have a few journals (about like 15 maybe 20) but when I read back through them I feel disconnected from that kid. I feel like telling him “buck up buddy…these things you are going through are just training exercises.”
I set out wanting to write about friendships but I think that there’s nothing good to come down from examining from this angle. Maybe tomorrow’s prompt will be a better starter.

Shame. Shame. Shame. (1)

Cleaning off my hard drive, and my photo cache and felt like unloading some things. I’m a strong believer of discipline and so when I see things like colored pencil marks on a desk after I handed out the color pencils, I feel disappointed in myself.

I mean….look-


I couldn’t find the colored penciled picture I wanted but look at the floor…it’s a total mess. And though I’m not contractually obligated to clean up messes like that I still think it’s wrong.

Double horrible fact of note – this floor was wrecked by high schoolers- not 3rd graders.

Chester Kent

Thoughts of a Teacher  I

I wrote this reflection a while ago…..I just went back to revisit it.  I’m going to split it into parts.   Not sure if it’s any good but I found it cathartic.

When considering the needs of the classroom environment,I have to give accolades to anyone who bears in mind the importance of “Good Morning”  or “Good Afternoon”  “Ladies and Gentleman” and “Boys and Girls.”  I’m impressed with any who can approach  29-37 different critics every 45 minutes.  I’m even slightly impressed by people who can  attempt to do it, a year, or few months of their lives.  Imagine a broadway actor performing multiple one matinees- back to back.   Or watching a Diane Walters delivering the news interactively, and then being responsible for the graphics and the updates.  Every person who enters the classroom and calls themselves a teacher is suddenly a performer who might have to walk a high wire, but maintain a smile for the audience.  Despite frustrations that may arise, it’s important that we keep a positive environment facilitated.

When every day is full of new attitudes and  memos, or late buses, or apathy, It’s taken a lot of guesswork how to keep my stress from being palpable .  The disparity between what my chosen career that I’ve accepted, and what I find when I get to most schools now has irony written all over it.  As it is, I wake up and figure out some way to completely backwards plan a lesson with a group of kids with unspecified grade levels, and keep it interesting but not too interesting that any random evaluator doesn’t think its slacking off.  I mean, the first judges are those next to the time clock.   Those office people so often sullen.  Not only do I have to smile and get them to notice me.  I also have to figure out a way to sell that it ‘s gong to be a great day for me, for the birds, them school office slavers, and ultimately the kids. It is because of such organizational and radical uncertainty that I prefer not to work with younger students.    With it’s a one man show, and they all want autographs.  Unless they don’t because they are too busy getting ready to perform the knife throwing acts!   All these things race through my head before GMA or the Today Show roll credits, and a 9-5 worker has even bid their sweet dreams goodbye are large plates that each part of the meal (the school day) rests way too much upon their classroom teacher.

While Guest Teaching (substituting) a few years back, I accepted a call for a special education spot, and while it was not disastrous,  had there been another hour in the school day, it would have been overwhelming .  I had done my research on reviews for the school, and saw that they had a lot of CTT, and Resource Room Classes.  I had assumed that since my designation was Special Education that I would be the assistant, or lackey to the general education teacher.  I imagined that I would drift, and make sure learning was focused, and that different kids who seemed lost could be re –directed into another direction towards understanding.  What I found in actuality that occurred was that the classroom teacher may have had a dual certification, because there were tons of differently abled learners in the class.

[Continued in Part II]



Chester Kent

Magic and Love

Much has changed since I last posted, and I’ve been lax, idling on spending the rare few moments that it would take to do. Grr.

I have to revisit posts, but I don’t know if I mentioned this school I’ve been at quite frequently. I call it ‘The School of Magic and Love.’ And it really is such- Magic in what happens daily, and love for what it feels like to be there.
At this school, everything is done damned near right as far as school organization (structure and functional day to day existence.) Mr. APorg has it down pack and he runs a tight ship, where everyone knows what they should be doing, and seemingly no one- students and teachers alike are afraid to ask. The Head AP, Mr. Guiding Hand- he hovers, and is seemingly omni present but never in a way that is overbearing or as if he is looking for a way to say “Gotcha.” I have only heard one teacher make a valid complaint about either of them, and wel, the oly thing I can think in regards to that is to say that sometimes we all deal with bureaucracy

Slowly, I’m getting the staffs personalities down. I only want to smack one, and that quite possibly s because I can’t figure it her age so that I can tell how much I want to hit her. She makes chatter chatter, chatter, Penelope (Kirsten Wiig) on SNL style. All the other teachers come and go; all havd been very polite or at the very least, they haven’t rudely stared over me. And even if they don’t know my name, they have seen my fave and proffer a smile- perhaps generic but at least in earnst. And th office support staff never walks by without saying hi.

But what makes the real magic and love are the students. They may not always come ready, but damn they get around to learning. Even the freshman work hard to finish things early to get a sense of revision. This is not a screened school where students test into. And even though District uh and who have first or preferential status in regards to being selected- there are probably more students from Harlem, The Heights, Fordham (from the Bronx) and parts of Brooklyn. I almost confiscated a girls phone because it was out, and thought she was goofing off- but she said to me “I wrote a daft of my paper, the way you showed me on my phone on the way back to The Heights yesterday.” And indeed there on her phone was a paper that she drafted ion her long way home.

Let me reiterate- it is the inquisitive nature of the students, who are that right mixture of mature while still being in high school. They are never too hood too saved by the bell, and I’ve not seen play fighting or any bullying. They all somewhat get along, and don’t mind helping out or working with other members of their family.

More on this school, when its not 3 am, But everyday there Is….

Fuckng amazing.

-Chester Kent

DISCLAIMER. This becomes relevant because my official chancellors hearing about this matter happens at the end of the month. The matter is technically already resolved. My U-ratings have been rescinded by the school but I would really like my back pay. The principal that I had issues with and that made my life hell for weeks has early retired. As of last week. This truly shows that this chick was there for the children.

This letter is to serve as a response to a letter to file dated January 17th, 2012.

When I began my time at Mott Hall High School, the 10th/11th grade English classes were absolutely in disarray. School support staff, and the students informed me that they had several teachers during the year, two somewhat long term, and several ATR’s. Despite the lack of any formal structure or objectives, I assumed role of lead teacher for several weeks until Ms. Jones arrived as their formal appointed English teacher. At that time, I had been informed that two of the classes were to be ICT/CTT classes, which came as a shock because for the duration of the time I served as the students teachers, I worked alone. After handing over the classroom to Ms. Kooky, I often times worked with her in the 5th and 8th period classes. The 5th period class became more of a regular mainstay because the 5th period class was problematic, in more than one way. In the subsequent paragraphs, I will detail a few of the main issues that I have encountered teaching at this school, emphatically without support

The most major problem with 5th period was the impossible task of teaching a class with 44 students (see attachment.) Room 409 does not have adequate space for that many bodies. Sometimes we didn’t have enough chairs. Other times, classroom management was quite frankly impossible; circulating the room was nearly impossible, and being attentive to the needs of the various groupings that I had planned for the students was near impossible, and any sort of group work for the students often times broke out into deafening proportions, even when it was good talk. The arrangement of tables was not mine or Ms. Jones to define as we were only in that room for one period of the day. Clearly, that decision would be for Ms. Awesome Spanish as we all acknowledge that to be her classroom.

The second problem with period 5 was the high concentration of serviced students. I had not been informed of which students had any IEP’s. At the original roster of 44 students, there were at least 21 students receiving services. As it were the array of IEP’s or serviced students ranged from ELL students to some students with IEP’s clearly stated that they were defiant to authority.

Finally, the only time that Ms. Kooky and I shared in common were during Professional Development or during the classes we shared together; when I was prepping, she was teaching and vice versa. Even when we both stayed late after school, there would be no time for common planning, she had students that were below credits that were assigned to her and even if there had been time when they hadn’t show up, it would be futile because she was still adapting to our student body and any preparation or extra time when she didn’t have to take work home was reasonable , as I would provide coverage for teachers who were out. Inside the classroom, this also became something tough for the children students to comprehend as often times, two strong individuals were weakened because a lack of unified direction. The lessons I prepared, which I gave to Ms. Kookjy with annotated points, and reference materials often were not reviewed, and rarely would Ms. Kooky take the lead for a multitude of reasons that I can not speak to. In any event,

When things somewhat become consistent, I and Ms. Kooky etched out a plan. Well rather I, but she didn’t object mostly and those objections that she raised were answered whole heartedly. The overall conclusion being that the only way to achieve a more functional, and meaningful environment was to lessen the number ofI asked AP Wishy-Washy if I could locate a classroom not being utilized would it be ok.

Before the actual schism happened, I was given coverage for a teacher who had a family emergency. Immediately this meant that Ms. Kooky would be left without a SpEd or ICT teacher for the oversized 5th period class. Upon seeing the student roster for the 5th period class that I would be covering, instantly I knew that I had a light bulb cartoon-ishly appear over my head. This was a chance for me to be able to give my students a chance to demonstrate who they were and their abilities in a setting that wasn’t chaotic. The 23 or students that I rotated out of the library were either ready or willing or not able to show that they really wanted to be there. I could see them under a microscope Some This was tried out during a week where I covered a SETSS class of 2 students. The SETSS class were students were also studentsI taught in other classes; the ones I didn’t teach were happy to have a study period to tackle homework or other assignments. All the SETSS students seemingly had no qualms with me staying out of their way for the period. In fact, one student even joined in to covered their needs while dually taking half of the students out of 413. In the library I was able to rotate the students who in fact wanted me to fail and the ones who knew that my only desire was for them to be prepared for life. After this micro experiment (which might I add was encouraged by Mr. Wishy-Washy, who’s title was AP of Security, I can even recall him saying to me

“That’s a lot of fucking kids in that room.”

Had I known that the AP’s had different tasks under their purview, I would have also sought out Ms. Cleo. Who editor’s note has apparently retired before the end of the year permission or assistance. However, with the chain of events as they were, being- Mr. Wishy-Washy’s approval, Ms Kooky’s blessing, the Main Office’s hope for a quieter day and having identified room 413 as available, a plan was devised to separate the students into two groupings based on what we found to be our strong points in instruction. Differentiation was called for in the most bad ways.

It was decided or agreed upon that the students under my charge would be receiving instruction in lessons designed primarily focused on literature and creative writing based lessons, and Ms. Kooky’s lessons would be focusing more on grammar, and shorter literature pieces. At some unidentified point, we would rotate groups, if were felt that it would be beneficial to the students. Thus, I spent days looking at the list of students, and with Ms. Kooky approval or requests for students, the groupings for the differentiated and separated classes were cemented. The matrix of students would include all levels of students according to their abilities and their demonstrated capabilities according to cooperative work and groupings which I established even before Ms. Kooky’s sudden appearance. To reiterate, each grouping would have similar numbers of mainstreamed and IEP/serviced students.

In room 413, my students were put through their paces, with an intensive unit I had crafted about the perception of self in society. Students under my charge were given challenging, and socially relevant readings and assignments that allowed them to explore themselves. In the smaller setting, the 17 or 18 students were given the chance to read aloud, ask meaningful questions; they could really roll back their sleeves and dig into the materials. Every student was included.

Thus the direction to unify the groupings was both disappointing, and quite frankly impossible to plan considering the pacing of each unite grouping.

At the meeting of ICT teachers (which did not include teachers of all classes that should receive ICT instruction,) I voiced concerns about class size and room to instruct, lack of common planning, lack of adequate teaching materials, and access to the files detailing what the student”s IEP explicitly were. After Ms. Morgan offered suggestions as to models of Co-Teaching, I again voiced concerns regarding the level of planning that the model of Alternate Teaching would take, considering mine and Ms. Jones’s schedule, but this again was unanswered. After the meeting of ICT teachers, we attempted two instances of unifying the classes, and each time was an utter disaster. I acknowledge that on these two occasions there was a disappointing lack of instruction, and the students pleaded with Ms. Jones, and I to separate the groupings.

During this time, I was finally granted access to the IEP folders in Ms. Grammerican’s office, and discovered information that was left me in a quixitic situation; several of the students IEP’s state explicitly services that would simply not be possible in the unified class. While they may be recommended for ICT services, their IEP’s directly state that large classroom settings such as the one that would occur in room 409 would be completely damaging to their development and goals. Also, until Ms. Kooky was apprised of the specific needs of the IEP/serviced students and what differentiations and adaptions would be needed to lessons (which had not even been discussed nor mutually planned out) well joining the classes would be harmful to all students, gen-ed and disabled alike.

Furthermore in regards to Commissioner of Education’s 200.6 Continuum of Services, it is declared that in an ICT the number of students with disabilities should not be more than 40% of the classroom or at a maximum limit of 12, or in extreme cases, 13 if granted state notice and approval. The number of students on the original class roster totaled 20, and never dropped below 15 for the entire semester. In this situation, there was not a clearly defined “right” answer.

That is to say, on one hand, It would have been much easier and less of a risk to my career to rejoin the groups and do my best to avoid the deplorable situation that lead to the split. While on the other, I could continue the less obtrusive approach of instructing students while continuing to search for a method of instruction that would best service all the students in the classroom. While I would have still searched for viable options to instruct students in the unified classroom, I fear that by the time I found one, the damage may have been done. As it stands, the past four days in room 409 have been a nightmare for everyone involved (as I feared it would.) Despite requests for Ms. Kooky lesson plans, or time, I received neither. At some point unbeknownst to me, I would have designed something but as I assumed that as the Gen-Ed English teacher that she would take point. And when I tried to assist even with writing a do now, I received a letter to file.

Given the directions received and the level of support I received, I decided to choose the that allowed me to create a learning environment that provided meaningful and positive impacts on student learning This was not a decision made to be oppositional or defiant. It was not a decision made without angst or careful personal evaluation. Had I received more assistance in strategies that could feasibly allow me to follow instructions by my supervisors, and effectively achieve the best educationally fostering space of the students in my charge, I would have chose differently.


Raving Lunatics (Part 2 – The school for awful girls academy)

The first thing that I noticed at the school was that all the teachers had their doors closed. The halls when empty where quiet. But inside the rooms, it was hell.

For high school students, these girls had no self-restraint. They couldn’t even listen to each other. They refused to do anything. I tried different approaches to rally student I would meet a different student each day that was slightly more insane, disrespectful, and in some cases more ignorant. When a student who had been intent on ruining my lesson on Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” remarked

why I care about what was happening to dem Niggas during segregation. Segregation is over. Anyway, I’m Dominican, and I wouldn’t need to walk through the same door as Niggas.”

I thought I might walk out then and there. But I stayed my ground and dove into that “I’m getting paid for this…life ambition…calling, etc place.

I would come to visit that happy imaginative place many times over the next few days. Hell, I lived there.

The behavior and I guess hygiene of those girls was so bad that the school actually had an Ethics class. In this class, it taught them how to be ladylike. To comb their hair and get pretty at home. The woman actually had to lecture these Beautiful Intelligent Talented Creative Hoochies because too many of them didn’t know not come to school raggedly and do their nails during class. (Fail and Fail. One girl decided that she needed to do her nails, and moved her seat every time I asked her to stop. Did she really think I was that stupid that I would think she was different girl each time?) During that class, in which besides me there were two other teachers, and 3 paras. One would think that this was overkill and simply too much firepower, and one would be wrong. I actually had to sit my chair next to a group of especially chatty girls, and then after that, I had to make them play musical chairs. The presenter had allowed breaks for student exercises and involvement. I compared notes with her on the general school environment, as she was as much a guest as I was;our conversation involved how some children just shouldn’t be allowed to detract from others especially in cooperative groups. As always, we wondered what happened to self discipline. There was no need for the excessive chatter. In my day and age, we passed notes. But guess that would count on this girl to actually form a complete sentence.

As I was on the way to the bus after school, I ran into the two girls. One of them said “We aint at school, so what you goin say to me now, Mista.” I put my earbuds back in and listened to another song on my Ipod. I had nothing to say to her. I mean, what I wanted to say would be quite informative in what she could do to herself, but that alas would not be professional.

Never going back there again!

[Chester Kent]

No Confidence In Them (subtitled I tried.)

The job assignment was for a few days. Couldn’t really turn down the opportunity to be a real teacher, to build rapport with students, to gossip and have chit chat with colleagues in the teacher salvation panic room and just be stable but not stationary.

The job assignment was English. Not common branches. There were no assignments or notes in the system, which is not any different than how it normally is. I did my research on, and I looked at similar schools in the area. I grabbed my lesson plan template, and looked at what other teachers across the nation had posted in reference to that age group. 6th grade for a week or so. Just girls. I coached myself to it, but knew that the only way to really know, would be after the first day there.

The morning of, I donned a tie and even considered wearing a blazer, or sports coat underneath my winter coat. Sure, I’d probably be burning alive on the train, and for the quick walk that I’d have to take, but all would be well.

As the third alarm of the morning shrieked from my phone, I became anxious. The third alarm is the proximity to the door alarm. The third alarm is meant to remind me that my bag should be packed, and that everything that i need better be in their because when that fourth alarm goes off, it’s all “GOOO.” As Lady MacBeth said to to MacBeth to encourage him to do something most would consider crazy, I know that the forth alarm is screaming “Screw thy courage to the sticking place.” (Just do the damn thing, yo.) And I got ready to leave, I realized that I had been the one screwed. The school address of the one to which I would report was different, and incredibly much farther than the one that I had anticipated going to. By about an hour and fifteen minutes.

The tie was in my pocket as I hurried to the subway, and pondered how I could make this mistake. The answer…..Easily I Hadn’t. The school which I reported to had been originally been something else. But for whatever reason they had that name taken from them because of performance and another school was publicly using it. The school of “Raving Girls who DOn’t Care” thought used the name in the system still because it sounds better than the school for “Raving Girls Who Don’t Care” and because of such they were able to still recruit people to come there. The payroll secretary shrugged her shoulders when I mentioned the mix-up and address in the system. She said she’d need to get around to it, but year afterwards is “C’mon, who are you fooling?> Especially when you meet the girls.

Part 2 is coming…..