Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Noise Level

Can I keep every class quiet? Notice that I used the adjective "every" in the preceding sentence. Therefore, the answer to that question is absolutely not. I am a substitute, not God. Besides, the mix of "outgoing" personalities negates a hundred percent score, even a 60/40 score. What I can do, with the more difficult classes, is to keep the volume down to "small party" level and not "mass hysteria" level. How do I do this? By walking around the classroom...constantly. And perhaps standing in a group of students' space. You see, they don't want me to be a part of their conversation. I do not wish to be a part of their conversation. In fact, I am trying to tell them, both in words and through actions, to have their conversation later, like after classes or at lunch.

This type of student conversation is different from the necessary student conversations of math classes when one student assists another with class work, but even those conversations need to be kept to a low conversational, or rather instructional, volume. And those students understand, although they may need to be reminded from time to time. No, the personal conversations are the ones that interrupt the flow of education in the classroom, for there are usually several personal conversations going on at once, and they all seem to compete for listeners. These conversations interfere with my relaying the educational instructions to the class and then my individual assistance to various students. I literally can't hear myself think.

However, administering tests is different. There I try for about a ninety to ninety-five percent control. How? Again, by walking around constantly, watching everyone's eyes, standing in a student's space, or if necessary, sending a student and test to the internal suspension room or principal's office for the test duration depending upon school rules. As a last resort, after quietly telling students in an area to keep their eyes on their own papers but meeting the student in question's eyes, after showing the good student how to cover his or her test paper, I may need to take the test from a student and inform the teacher of the situation and let that teacher decide the next step. Luckily, students learn to understand that I mean what I say, and cheating is almost non-existent. I bet you noticed that I said "almost." I told you I wasn't God.

Monday, May 3, 2010

High School P. E. Class

It never ceases to amaze me, when I substitute for a high school physical education class, that the students dressed in their gym uniforms, shorts and white tee-shirts, never want to play basketball, volleyball, or floor hockey. However, students not in the class who are walking in the hallway and noticing what I am trying to do with the P. E. students somehow get their friends to push open the locked hallway doors and come into the gym to engage in my sport. The funny thing is that these non-P. E. students can't understand 'how' I know that they are not part of my P. E. class because I am 'only' a substitute. I calmly explain to the male intruders, as they are usually male, that I did not need my college education to be able to see 'who' is wearing gym clothes and 'who' isn't. I quietly escort the intruder to the nearest gymnasium doorway to the hall, thank him for his visit, and promise to bake cookies next time, and then firmly snap the door shut behind him.

This brings me to the next point in substituting for a P. E. class. It is a scary thing turning your back on a P. E. class of 40 students to escort an intruder to the door. Forty students in a single gymnasium are deafening, and sometimes there are two P. E. classes in one gym. Yes. There are two P. E. teachers, but we are vastly outnumbered. This is where a whistle comes in handy. There is no way to get everyone's attention to take attendance, check who's prepared for class, and set up the games without the use of a sound ten times my own personal volume.

Participation is an important part of P. E. class. A class of this size negates 100 percent participation at all times, especially when we have half a gym [when we share the gym with another class]. This is understood; however, there are always a few who simply do not wish to participate in P. E. class. They are easy to spot. I choose a few students to lead the warm-up session as they know the teacher's rountine better than I. I can observe all the students participating in this, and sometimes I join in. But when I set up the equipment and teams to begin play, I find students slipping behind the bleachers and folding doors of the gymnasium to become invisible. So I've discovered a way to get even the most sluggish individuals to 'participate' somewhat in P. E. As the teams play the sport, those who refuse to play walk around the outskirts of the playing field--continuously during a particular session of team play. True, they seem like exhausted bison trudging through the tall prairie grasses, but at least they are moving during physical education class.