The Golden Toilet Seat Award

IMG_3960-0.JPGHere’s the coveted award on display above the winning restroom in one of the schools I substitute in. Awarded by the school custodians, classes compete for the cleanest restroom nearest to their classroom. Now, that’s a switch from traditional responsibility and neatness training. And it seems really effective, not to mention fun.


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From A Student


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Another Satisfied Customer

I was so happy when I picked up the phone and heard the excited voice of a fifth-grade teacher calling to ask if I would sub for her this coming Friday. I subbed for the teacher next-door to her last week and her kids had been in my class for reading. She said they really loved me, and that’s why she was giving me a call. She was so glad I had left my business card so that she could get in touch with me. After checking my schedule I told her I had the day free. She sounded really tickled and said that her kids would be excited to hear that I was returning. Now that’s the kind of call I like receiving.

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From the classroom of a wise teacher.

From the classroom of a wise teacher.

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Peas in a Pod

podI’ve seen some creative use of the central meeting spaces, or Pods, in schools with this really cool design feature. For those of you who don’t know (and this would have included me before I began subbing), some large schools have classrooms arranged around these meeting spaces. Depending on the size of the school, some Pods are the size of a classroom like the one pictured, some are the size a large assembly space at more traditional buildings. Some schools have five or six such Pods that simulate the more intimate feel of a smaller school community.

In one school in the amazing De Soto school district, 3rd grade teachers wanted to present a dramatic introduction to an immigration unit that would help children see immigrants throughout American history as being people just like them and their families. So, here’s what they came up with:

Teachers had posted immigrant photos from a national historic archive that they’d printed on 8.5 x 11 paper around the walls of the Pod. All three classes met there as a whole group and were given twenty minutes to tour the “gallery” with clipboards sporting a T-chart on which they were to write observations or questions based on the historic photos. At the end of this period, we reassembled and had a discussion based on their notes. It was really very powerful.

Then we all began reading a short article about immigration while highlighting important information. Kids were really focused until one girl threw up in the middle of the crowd. We beat it back to classrooms where we completed the article and continued the discussion a bit longer. These students were psyched to learn more about immigrants!

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Dr. Suess, I Presume

There was a rumor goiDr-Seussng around the lunch room the other day, that I was actually Dr. Suess. Several 1st and 2nd graders shyly asked if I was really the famous author. One time I replied that I was. The questioner replied that I couldn’t be because Dr. Suess was dead. I guess the grey hair and beard were a bit confusing for these cuties.

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My New Best Friend

I had a wonderful day in third grade today, in one of my favorite schools. I had a really good student teacher (who moonlights as a KU cheerleader). She had an amazing way of creating an air of serenity in the classroom, barely raising her voice much above a whisper. I was in awe, and wonder what great things she’ll accomplish during her future in education.

I had one little guy who en50-brown-crayontered the room, then sat on the floor in the corner, so obviously having a terrible day. I made a point of asking him where a couple of things were that were mentioned in the lesson plan for the day. He showed me, then picked up his coat from where he’d left it on the floor and went to his seat. He was back a few minutes later asking if there were other things he could show me. I replied by asking him what he thought I should know about. So, he gave me a tour of all the important things around the class that a substitute had to know. I thanked him profusely for his helpfulness. He was beginning to perk up a bit, to come out of himself and to leave his bad morning behind. He continued to be my helper during the day, occasionally relapsing into what I found out later was not an uncommon mood for him. But, I was generally able to joke him out of it. I sharpened his pencil for him, then told him he owed me a dollar for the service. I asked why he had a marker and a crayon of mine that had my name on them (brown). All in all, he had a pretty good day. And I have a new best friend.

When I got home, I found this e-mail message from the classroom teacher who I’d been filling in for:

Mr. Brown,

Thank you so much for taking care of my students today. My student teacher said you were excellent and the students responded very well to you.  I am so pleased. Also, thanks for the detailed note, correcting papers and being a great presence for the children.

Then she asked me to fill in for her later this month when she’ll be at another training.
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Return Engagement

So, as I was reviewing, highlighting and underlining the classroom teacher’s plans yesterday morning before school, the teacher from next door stuck her head in. She just wanted to introduce herself and to tell me how much my teacher LOVES having me sub in her room. Well, that was a shot in the arm and a great way to start my day.

We had a few extra minutes before leaving for lunch, so I told the kids I’d read to them from the teacher’s read-aloud novel. They were so disappointed! Since I’d been in this room before, they really wanted me to read from Sideways Stories From Wayside School, the book I bring with me each day… just in case. I was happy to oblige and flattered that they remembered it and liked it so well. They were also hoping to play some of the group educational games on my iPhone. I had to tell them that we might not have time today.

While checkdiceing over the plans in the morning, I found that for math, the plans said, “Play three math games”. The teacher said that she would  be working in the building, so I went looking for her briefly, knowing it was probably too early for her to have arrived. Having taught for decades, I’ve learned and invented lots of math games. So, I went on a scavenger hunt of game materials. Luckily, I found dice and playing cards. Perfect! After teaching them the games, I split the class into groups and had half play Diciplication while the other half played Royalty, two multiplication practice games I invented years ago. Half way through the period, they switched tables and played the second game. You can find those games here on my site under Tips for Parents > Math, or just click here. When I ran into the teacher later in the day, she was thrilled at how I’d handled the situation. She was also surprised that she had decks of cards!

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How to Request a Specific Sub

I had a good teacher day in a fourth grade classroom I’ve been in three times already this year. I also taught these kids several times last year in third grade. Really nice group, though as usual, there were one or two who needed some behavioral guidance. This teacher has been requesting me by text, using the phone number I’ve left her on my business card. I’m pretty sure that sub phone numbers are also listed within the program. When I OK the date, then she gets onto AESOP and requests me specifically. If you’re a teacher wanting to try this, here are directions from AESOP.

You may have someone in mind to sub for you for a future absence. If that is the case YOU will need to notify the substitute before entering the absence into Aesop, confirm that they can work. Once the sub has agreed to fill your absence, you will create your absence on Aesop, select “yes” when asked if you need a sub. Next you will click the box “SAVE AND ASSIGN”, which takes you to a screen to select the sub. Find the substitute and click “Assign” by their name. CAUTION! This option should ONLY be used if you have spoken to a substitute first and obtained confirmation that they will fill that job. Aesop WILL NOT notify the substitute for you and no reminders will be sent.


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