Sunday, September 28, 2008

Substitute Academics for Mediocre.

Recently, I have been substituting at the High School Special Education class during the day between routes. So far, it has been very interesting and gotten me thinking on why our schools are performing so badly academically. We live in a society where teachers don’t teach. (Of course, this is a broad sweeping generalization, there are several teachers out there who love to teach and actually DO teach – so this is excluding them) Some teachers teach only to cover the “testing” standards that all schools must achieve. It’s a wonder we even MAKE AYP – Adequate Yearly Progress – in our schools.

I have had the honor of following “wrestling boy” around to his classes at the local high school. Most of his classes are pretty good; they’re all Special Ed classes with very low numbers (max of 8 kids in a class). All was going well until I spent time in his Math class. The teacher who was supposed to be teaching basically droned on about the topic for about 5 minutes, explaining in one example how to do the school work, and then insisted on using the rest of the hour period to catch up on social gossip with the other Para-pro who follows another child around all day along with checking his email incessantly throughout the period. These kids are basically allowed to sit in class with limited or no instruction and are expected to learn the material. So I worked one on one with wrestling boy. I then also turned my attention to quiet girl and socialite girl (who had asked me for help once I helped quiet girl understand the material) The other Para-pro did Sudoku the whole period and chatted with the Teacher who was SUPPOSED to be teaching the students. Annoying boy slept the whole period. The previous Friday, the students had a test. Even kids who got ALL the questions wrong STILL got a 50 percent for writing their names and “showing up”. I would have been embarrassed as a teacher when 2 students got 100’s on a 5-question test. (One of which was wrestling boy, but only because wrestling boy had supervision from me, the use of a calculator, and we drilled on the material the day before.) One got an 80 and the rest of the kids (3-4) got 50 percent. Why did any of them not get a zero? Because of the whole “We don’t want to hurt kid’s feelings by giving them a grade that they EARNED, so we’ll assuage them and their parents by saying they failed, but… not by much….”.

I console myself with the knowledge that I’ve gotten to know “Cola boy” and “Helpful boy” this week. Cola boy is autistic and has a generally sweet personality. He amazes me with his ability to remember anyone’s birthday. He is obsessed with his birthday and the months of the year. He can recite them in order, including the numbers. Oh, and he loves to put money in the Coke machine to get a drink. Helpful boy has been a joy to work with this week, although his behavior is similar to herding a class full of two-year-olds. He is a hoot to talk to and asks questions incessantly. He and I share a “secret” handshake and we also “high-five thumbs”. He is truly a happy-go-lucky kid. He makes the best out of life and what it’s given him. On Friday at lunch, he pulled out a chair for me. He makes me believe that chivalry is NOT dead.

Somehow in my crazy schedule, I still drive a bus with insane parents and even more insane co-workers. There are also some things going on in my personal life with some crazy neighbors, but I’m going to have to save that soap opera for a whole other post. We now begin the season of “Useless Field Trips” as I have blogged about before. This year it’s the Pumpkin Patch, the Rodeo, and the ever-popular Disney on Ice show.

Riding the Short Bus,

The Bus Driver.


Pissedoffteacher said...

You sound like a great teacher in the making! Those special ed kids need people like you.

The Bus Driver said...

Thanks PO'd... I've often thought about becoming a teacher, but then realise the standards are set in such a way that either you have to teach to test or not teach at all. That would frustrate me because of the box they try to shove all kids into.

ChiTown Girl said...

Wow, I so enjoyed this post! This is EXACTLY what goes on the special ed rooms in our school. It's so ridiculous!! The teachers are busy sneaking out together, who knows where, and the assistants are left to basically babysit all day. There is NO teaching going on whatsoever. It's heartbreaking for these kids. It was nice to get an "outsider's" view of it all.

SaphiraNienna said...

I love this blog! It's so interesting and funny. And you really understand how ro really teach people.