Friday, January 25, 2019

Just Call Me Chief

I got another high school call, for the Head of the Social Sciences department! I wasn't entirely sure what that meant. Of course, as a supply teacher, we really don't get to be the head of the department, but what were social sciences? Lucy said it included anthropology and sociology. Oh my. I didn't recall putting them on my form! The school was a very old one, with very limited parking. The message said to park in spot number 1. Wow, the teacher must be pretty important!

I got there and found the office. The school is old, with several additions. Where some of them join up is kind of an odd area but I had actually been to that part before. Then my classrooms were pretty much in the same area where I had dropped Lucy off for a band festival a few years ago. The secretary said parking spot #1 is a reserved spot for if the teacher's spot is still being used (like, they're in the school doing workshops but have a supply teacher). Thanks for bursting my bubble a little LOL.

I found the class, and the teacher came in. She was going on a field trip. She said the first class is good but the second class and the last period can be a handful. Okay. Oh, and it's Food and Nutrition courses. Cool.

The first period class was to go to the library to work on computers on a project. That was just a few doors down the hall. Would I ever see anymore of the school? I really had nothing to do except do a lap of the computers every 10 minutes or so, and chat with a girl who wasn't feeling well.

Second period. Grade 11/12 I think. I had to hand out a set of worksheets for them to fill in. Couldn't find the textbooks to go with them. And then a few students start telling me they've already done these sheets. What? These exact ones? Yup.

They wanted to watch a movie. A girl went next door to the workroom and asked a teacher in there for a laptop so they could watch the movie. She came back in with a anti-Semite comment about the teacher being stingy! A few kids were asking me questions to gauge my "coolness". One was if I had ever "smoked backwards". This was a new one to me and a text to Lucy didn't provide any answers. Finally a teacher came in with a laptop and hooked it up and started "Ratatouille".  I guess a Disney movie wasn't exactly what they had in mind LOL.

At one point, one of the rowdier boys asked to go to the bathroom. Fine. He left and a few minutes later his table mates, who had been on their phones, asked to go to the bathroom. I had seen them come towards the front so I went and stood in the doorway and said no. They got back on the phone. Then the first boy came back, there was a mini-conference and he dashed out of the room again. He came back a minute later with a full size Dominoes pizza!! What?!

Lunch was so long, then I had a prep, and that was dreadfully long. Last period came and it was in another room, but just next door. It was the cooking room so that was cool to see.
 This neat thing is to grow veggie plants inside. The arms that come down are lights.
 Oh my. I hadn't been told about that at the training session!

The kids had an assignment to finish online. Except that the interactive website they were to use wasn't interactive anymore. Some of the kids actually worked, but many just chilled out and played games. It was the last period before the Thanksgiving long weekend, so really, I couldn't blame them.

The teacher came back before the end of the class and I told her about the pizza incident. She groaned. The week prior, while they had a supply teacher, he came in with an entire Swiss Chalet meal and had been advised not to do that again!

I got out of there at a decent time but had to wait to get out of the parking lot. While waiting, I saw this same guy talking with a group of students at the exit, and then as he walked towards me I saw he was counting a big wad of money. Yeah. Some kids were going to have a lit Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

All The Ways a Day can Go Wrong. Almost.

I picked up a job for a Wednesday morning. This was good because on Wednesdays I have to pick up Megan from school by 3. So I have to factor in the possibility of an after school duty, writing the note for the teacher, and travel time. Plus, she needs a snack and all her gear and  I don't like leaving that in the truck all day (especially in the winter).

This school was all the way across Oshawa. The directions said it should take me about 20 minutes. Though I questioned Google because it wanted me to turn left at an unsignalled intersection on a large arterial road against all the Toronto bound traffic. No problem, I'd just go a smidge further to the next lights.

I was scrolling Facebook in the morning and saw there was a fatal accident on that large arterial road, half way between me and the school, so a large section of it was closed (it was on the edge of town so there are only the main north-south roads that bisect it, spaced about a mile apart from the days of pioneer surveying). I take the next main east-west road south of it so I thought I should be okay, and I'm going against most of the traffic. I added 5-10 minutes just in case, though Google didn't seem to think that was necessary.

Well. Although my direction was definitely better than the Toronto bound direction, the problem is that most of the lights aren't set up with advance left turn arrows for east bound traffic. This is so Toronto bound traffic can flow smoother. The problem was that there were more cars going east than usual and they'd get really backed up at the intersections, especially when westbound cars would block intersections. The left turning east bound cars would extend past the end of the left turn lane (and in a couple places, they don't even get a left turn lane). It took me 20 minutes just to do a stretch than I can do in 5 if I hit the lights right. I was getting stressed.

Finally cleared the backlog and got to the school. Not a lot of parking for the size of the school!! Head in, all flustered because now my pre-start prep time is down to 20 minutes. It took long in the office because the secretary was dealing with calls from teachers who were stuck in the traffic back log. Finally got the key for a portable. Really? I was told it was a grade one class and the school website confirmed that. Oh no..."they must not have updated the sites" because she teaches grade 3. In a portable.  And by the way, there's a kid with special needs who will probably stay in the school as he doesn't do well with supply teachers. But he might come out for a while.

Y'all. I love grade 3 kids. I don't love grade 3 classes. They are much better than grade 6, but grade 3's are so needy. Fine when dealing with a kid or two, but not a whole class. And you start to get a noticeable division between abilities. Oh well, it's just half a day.

I headed out there found the portable, and the key wouldn't work. Argh. Instead of running all the way around to the front of the school (because they also did not give me a door fob to open the back doors), I went in through a kindie room and oops, the door slammed really hard behind me. Sorry!! Got to the office and the secretary basically ignored me. The clock is ticking! The custodian came over and realized the problem--the portables had been renumbered (there were 12!) and I had been given the old key! I rushed back out and made it in. I was down to about 10 minutes before the bell.

First thing I see is a safety plan for the kid I was told about. He's a "runner". And in a portable with a door you can't lock from the inside. And, there was another kid with a behaviour reward chart, but not really any information.

Okay, time for the kids. Wowza, are they loud. I immediately figure out who the behavioural needs kid is but he seems to be nice, just easily off task. I try to get through lessons but it was hard since they were so loud. Like, just could not figure out their inside voice. And chatty. And messy. So even though I'd tell them what to do, many weren't paying attention, so I resorted to yelling. I hate doing that but there was no way to get heard above their racket.

The SERT called to tell me the one boy would not be out. The SERT teacher was Lucy's first music teacher when she learned to play trumpet. She's really nice.

Then there was conflict between that boy and another girl. I was letting him sit in a chair as a reward/incentive for doing work. But apparently it was her day, or no one was allowed, or something totally unfair and unjust to a 8 year old. I couldn't quite figure it out. Get a kid who normally doesn't do much work to actually do work, but upset another student? Or, enforce what seems to be a rule though I have no way to know if it is or not and risk him going off the walls? The girl ended up laying on the floor under a table, refusing to do the math. I was able to finally coax her to do a bit of it.

By recess, my head was buzzing. And I had outside duty. No break for me. I'm not sure if I even got a prep period. It was a very long morning. At the end, because they eat in the portable, I didn't even get a break to write the letter. Finally got the key back to the office and said to myself "At least you don't have to go back there".

Haaaaa!! I've been back three times for another teacher.

Starting Off October

The last week of September I had to cancel a half day because I was sick. I was disappointed because a good friend from high school teaches at that school and I haven't seen him since high school. But I just couldn't muster the energy.

To start off October I picked up an afternoon at a French Immersion school in town. So happy for it being in town. When I got the call and heard the name, I wondered if it was the mother of two girls that are in our neighbourhood, went to our schools, and figure skated. The oldest is a year older than Hugh, and the younger is in between Hugh and Lucy. And my husband has a bit of a bro-mance with the dad (don't want to say why because he's a bit of a celebrity in his field and saying it will lead to identifying the girls very easily).

I got to the classroom, and sure enough, there was a picture of the girls on the teacher's desk. She came in (doing an in school thing) and I mentioned our kids' connections. The girls totally take after her in beauty and poise and smarts, which is kind of funny because of their other sport besides figure skating.


It was a grade 6 class and they had a math test. The desks were separated but the kids could not remain quiet. And some of them had so many questions. There were terms I wasn't very familiar with, so I wasn't much help but gee...they just studied this unit! It amazes me how difficult it is for kids these days to sit in individual desks and do individual work. I see it over and over. There's been such a push for collaborative work, inquiry based learning, flexible seating, but they're losing the ability to think independently, sit quietly, work alone.

After school, I had to go to the front entrance and basically be a crossing guard at the sidewalk. A little daunting when I don't know how they usually do it. I just tried to be safe!

It was hard to get an impression about the school from just that afternoon. It's a totally French school which is new to me, having been at a dual-track school. Even looking for the "Staff Room" was a challenge LOL. Luckily the test was in English. This school starts very early--7:55am. They're done at 2:30 but after school duty meant I still wasn't out early. It'd be a good school for Wednesday afternoons when I have to be back to get Megan by 3. But in the morning...I'd be leaving home at about 7:15. I'm just not a morning person LOL.

Friday, January 18, 2019

A Turnaround

I got a call for a half day, instrumental music, for the day following the horrid afternoon.  Finally, a school that was close by. I knew nothing about the school. It was on the newer side, but that's all I knew.

I got there, and was let in by an older student in a safety vest. Our schools have buzzer entry systems, but usually in the morning, the door is unlocked. However...this school is very close to a large psychiatric hospital which also houses criminally insane people. So maybe that's why? The young man was friendly and polite and pointed me in the right direction. The teachers all seemed pleasant and engage with the kids, though I still felt invisible.

The kids were mainly going to be doing drumming, on various drums available in the classroom. These kids were great. They stayed on task, were respectful of the instruments, and were good audience members when each group performed. Even though I was clearly getting sick now, the morning flew by. I left a note saying what a great morning I had and would love to be back. I haven't yet, but I did get called for the primary music teacher. So, this post is a little boring, LOL, but after the two previous jobs, boring was AWESOME!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A "WTF" Day at Work

I wrote about my 4th job of supply teaching and how it wasn't as good as the first 3 days. The honeymoon was over. I had no idea what was coming with the 5th day (a half day, thankfully). I got the call for instrumental music and I thought it was for a school in an old neighbourhood of big homes. Then I looked at Google Maps. Ugh. Not that income equals attitude, but in the schools here, this often happens. Though I have had lots of experiences where kids from "rich" neighbourhoods are terrible and lower income schools have been wonderful. But around here, it seems that the schools in the lower income neighbourhoods have really terrible issues with violence, special needs not getting met, and lots of other issues.

And the school, though on the smaller side, had only 20 parking spots and at least 25 names on the staff list. It was on the edge of the business district, so no side street parking except with parking meters. And it was raining.

I  got there 30 minutes early. There was a spot! I get to the office and the secretary was so friendly. The few kids there were quiet and polite, one showed me where to go. There were two teachers leading a girls' club. All good signs, right? There wasn't much on the dayplan. No problem. One of the periods was actually going to be "music". And prep last period which was great because I had to scoot right away to get Megan. So after a few minutes I really didn't have anything to do. About 5 minutes before the bell, another supply teacher comes in for the teacher who shares the room. Of course I questioned why I came 30 minutes early.

So the kids come in for the afternoon. Math, gr 7/8. They had to start with an "exit ticket"--a math problem to show that they understand what they've been working on. It was pretty straight forward. Yet right off, many kids were struggling and some where down right refusing to do it. I had noticed on the day plan that the teacher had written that some kids would get a different one with their name on it, but that had been erased. One of these kids, Black Hoodie,  was acting out and crumpled up the paper and threw it at me. I brought it back to him and said "You missed. The blue bin (recycling) is by the door." A minute later, a girl sitting near Black Hoodie asked to go to the office. She wouldn't say why but since she wasn't working anyway and was being a bit distracting, one less body in the room was fine. She came back and then Black Hoodie was called down to the office. I thought nothing of it until after he left, she approached me and said "He called you bitch and whore so I went to tell the principal".


Of course, I don't take the insults personally. They're just words he thinks he can use to insult me. They don't, because he doesn't have anything to base them on other than knowing they're typically insulting. I was insulted by the fact I really hadn't done anything to deserve to be insulted.  He couldn't just sit there and not cause a disturbance. I don't really care if they do their work. Their teacher will know.  But just stay quiet and let others work.

I thought maybe he'd have to apologize. Or that the principal would speak to me. Nothing.

Most of the kids moved on to the math assignment. Many were frustrated and lacking in some basic math skills. The grade 8s didn't care it could affect their gr 9 course selection which leads to if they can apply for university or college (different types of schools and programs in Ontario). It was sad. Black Hoodie did nothing.

Finally it was time to go the gym for music class. They had to research a Canadian composer on their Chromebooks. Black Hoodie claims his Chromebook doesn't work and wants to play basketball. Well, I couldn't allow that with all the other kids sitting around with their Chromebooks! It was a bit of workout to keep him away from the basketballs but then I found him some beanbags. That kept him distracted. Then of course I had to deal with all the other kids asking why Black Hoodie wasn't working. I asked them if they were surprised. No.

Then a teacher came into the gym and blasted the class for leaving the classroom a mess. A few of them had to go back to clean up.

It was called an indoor recess. I had NO instructions on what to do for an indoor recess. No duty list, nothing. The kids said they stay in the gym. Sure. There was no way I was leaving them alone in there. I let them get a couple basketballs. Some of them got really active and Black Hoodie was chasing someone twice his size. I had to keep intervening. I was really trying to be neutral to him and pleasant and respectful. His issues obviously run very deep.

I don't remember what happened after recess. Maybe my prep was after recess and not last period. Anyway, I was asked to go to a gr 2 room to help the teacher who was doing some testing. I walked in and it was chaos. The room felt tiny--probably because of a large cabinet blocking some of the view. Kids were everywhere. There was a boy at a desk facing the wall, tucked in beside the cabinet. He was obviously ASD and he was somehow matching flags with countries, with no guide or anything. There were kids colouring, reading, wondering. The teacher gave me no direction so I interacted with the kids and helped them spell words. At one table group there was a boy rolling around on the floor annoying others. The teacher asked him to stop. He went under the table. He started pressing up on it so it would move. I asked him repeatedly to stop. Finally, I looked him in the eyes and said "You are being rude and we don't like it. You need to move now."

He looked at me with such a death stare my blood went cold. Grade 2. I ended up moving him out and standing so he couldn't go back under. I was so glad when that period was over. Most of the kids were adorable but the class was just so busy!

When I headed back to the office to turn in my key, the secretary was still charming and lovely. There was someone standing nearby who could have been the P/VP but they said nothing to me. The secretary said to come back in if I'm blocked. I went out, and indeed, someone parked infront of me. I waited a couple minutes, hoping it was one of the parents waiting for their kids. No. I had to go back, wait to get buzzed in, head to the office, wait, etc. I was so happy to finally get home. Luckily my husband had been able to get home to pick up Megan for her appointment.

I was quite down after getting home. I didn't take it personally but it was still depressing and scary to think of the things that can and do happen to OTs (I'm in some Facebook groups for OTs.). I never had this type of behaviour when I worked before having kids and I never had it when I was the emergency supply teacher. I know I'm good at what I do and kids usually respond well to me. I also was starting to not feel well. I looked into if I should fill in a report but I couldn't find enough info. Two days in a row of foul language and kids who obviously knew there were no consequences. How many more?

Luckily, the next day helped to turn things around for me.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Work Surprises

The second week of work started with a half day (afternoon) for an intermediate instrumental music teacher (gr 7-8). I got to the school and the teacher was still there. There were a lot of great resources in the music, but today was not a music day.  He let me know they'd be doing "art", language and a social justice type group project. No music. Had I had recess duty. I did get a 30 minute prep though.

These kids were not into it. Some kids were so unengaged. They were to colour a picture with a sort of Celtic theme that was aligning with their language projects (you know those high detail/stress relieving colour sheets?).  It had some interesting aspects but most kids, despite being told to look carefully, plan ahead, and do their best, just coloured willy-nilly.

Recess involved a physical altercation with kids going to the office and another kid refusing to come back inside at the end.

The group projects included another class. There was a lot of noise, some kids worked and some kids didn't. There was a lot of conflict and competition and criticism between groups. When it was time to clean up there was a boy from the other class being rather noisy and defiant. He used the F-word towards me (not too my face, but in response to what I asked him to do). I mentioned this to the other teacher and she sort of brushed it off "He thinks he can talk that way...". I learned later that I could have filled out a report. Is it worth it for a couple of sentences? On the one hand, no. Not much changes, it stays in their file for only a year, there's unlikely to be an actual consequence. On the other hand, YES. There definitely is no consequence for actions that don't get reported and the kids tend to escalate their behaviour. And the union and board will get a better picture of what we deal with.

Later on, I got another call for this teacher. It didn't really work with my schedule, so I was happy to refuse it. I could have ended up with totally different classes and subjects, but you never know. I just brushed this day off as on the low end of normal, and looked forward to the next day. Which was much worse.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Third Day of Work!

I had been hearing in the chat groups that work was a little slow for supply teachers--but it was still very early in the year. So I was stoked when I got a call for a THIRD FULL day in my first week of work! Instrumental music at a school where one of my cousins works. It was 20-25 minutes to the north east of me, a little further than I really wanted to be going. And, every time I had to turn north, it was against all the westbound (Toronto bound) traffic, and NO advance greens.

I arrived and signed in and was told "Be prepared for potentially, most likely, definitely, a lock down drill at 8:45". Yikes. I read all the notes and closed the windows early. The kids pretty much knew we were having the drill already. I couldn't hear the announcement but someone noticed suddenly any kid in the hall was going into a classroom. I got the class where they needed to be, covered the door window, and waited. 

Well, I was really disappointed. This was a grade 6 class and a few of them could just NOT keep quiet and still. Some kids were a little anxious too. How hard is it really, to just close your mouth? I was not happy with them during the drill and I left that in my note to the teacher. I never had to do lock down drills when I worked 20 years ago. We had tornado drills (don't think I ever did one). I think it's so sad this is part of the school routine now. There's never been a significant issue out here, but sometimes they do have "hold and secure" which means something is happening outside the school.

The rest of the day was a pretty typical day. Some issues at one point with a girl looking at a boy (long standing history between them and the boy potentially had a "label" but nothing was left for me). At lunch I went to the staff room. It was a small room for a big school so I sat at a table with other women. One looked familiar but when she spoke, I knew that I knew her. Took me a minute, but I remembered she's a mom of girls in Lucy and Megan's classes. Megan and her daughter are friends so it was nice to actually chat with someone. That connection wasn't quite enough to fill the whole time. No one else tried to include me in their conversation. In the halls though, teachers were friendly. I also recognized a teacher from the kids' school a few years ago. In one class there was a student I had as kindie student when I did lunch supervision and he had been in a class I supplied in last year at that school I was lunch supervisor in. He remembered me (it had only been a few months really LOL). And yes, I remembered him!

I had to rush out to a portable for one period and I went the wrong way around the square school. Then I got there, and the class had gone inside to the music room. Argh. So they had be retrieved. Not off to a good start. The portable was so hot. They tried to have the door open but there was a strong wind. I think the kids were just done. I know I was. Not a good class.

The classroom got hotter and hotter as the day went on. It was a corner room with lots of windows, but the ones that opened were very narrow and not getting a breeze. It was so hot that by last period, when I had a prep, I just went and sat in the staff room. There was an assembly going on but I could not handle going in the gym with the entire student body. I was getting a headache.

Right after, I had to boogie out to go to an interview for a LTO position! All the way over into central Ajax. After I had accepted that interview, I got a request for another one at a much closer school, for the same time. I was disappointed but in the end it was okay because that one included science.

I felt rather dull in my interview. I was tired, and not feeling great. I'm sure I showed my excitement for the primary grades, but I also said I was excited to hear it wasn't a grade 6 class but a grade 2 class instead, and I expressed a few concerns with one class that had medically fragile students. Not so much a concern, but I just said I didn't have experience with them (have some experience with Down Syndrome and ASD and other developmental delays) and what would the class be doing. I also said technology isn't my strong area but I am definitely upgrading my skills. When he called to tell me I didn't get the job, he recommended not saying much, if anything, about my weaknesses (though, I think they ask what is your weakness!). I just wanted to be authentic!

It was a long day. Three full days in one week is intense, especially for the first week back. All new schools, new kids, new subjects. However, since then, this pace has not kept up. The school board hired a lot of new OTs and stopped offering daytime PD courses. They also changed how specific OTs can be requested and how teachers can put in OT requests. Oh well, I'm still working!