22 March 2011

Displaced Southerners

So, I usually don't do back-to-back blogs, but today just called for another one! Today marked the beginning of my "substitute career" in the Canutillo ISD (Independent School District). It's on the westside of El Paso, about 30 minutes from home...it's currently the only district hiring subs, so I jumped on it!

So, back to the story.  I started off my subbing with a 1/2 day assignment, meaning I went in around 11:15 and stayed til 3:50, when the bell rings to release the masses. I liked that I went in for a half day, because the teacher didn't leave me too many instructions online (they use an online system to book/inform subs here--it's really cool). Basically, it said "take the students outside and allow them to play basketball". Mind you, the periods here are 75 minutes. Oh, but this gets better!

I meet him, and he's super nice, and gives me a little more guidance and some names of some teachers I can go to if I have questions...after all this subbing, I'm going to leave superb notes for my future subs! Then, the bell rings, and in walks another teacher and students...I soon realize that some of these teachers share classrooms, and with this class now in what I thought was his classroom, I have to find somewhere to go, since the next 2 hours is his planning period...So, I walk downstairs, and find an empty room, which I believe is the conference room for the counselors. Thankfully, none of them were there, so I camped out at a table, slowly reading the one article I found in my folder that I took with me...After about 20 minutes, I started to feel quite awkward, so I headed to the teacher's lounge...here I met some other sweet teachers and substitutes, and the rest of the time seemed to pass more quickly than I expected! I headed to hall duty and then split from that early so that I could locate the gym and the other coach, who turned out to be an angel. Here's the deal: I really like to have very detailed plans, so that I don't have to question what to do...not the case today! Thankfully, I found the coach and we basically babysat about 60 kids for the next 75 minutes, including trying to keep them inside the gym...After that period ended, I got my last period of students. I was advised that they were a handful, but there was another teacher who would be outside with me and the students, so not to worry. As it turns out, that teacher had a sub too, soooo, yeah...not too successful of a class. We headed out to the outdoor basketball court, which is NOT good for retaining students, as it has a back gate that's wide open. I didn't realize this, and after I called roll and put my head down to mark the absent students, half the class had escaped (I had about 35 kids). Thankfully, they were around, and most were in my line of vision, buuuuut I know I had about 5-10 who definitely disappeared. So I rolled out the basketballs, football, soccer ball, and wall-y balls, and they set about to entertaining themselves for the last 75 minutes of the day. Here's deal #2: I don't like chaos when I'm supposed to be in control of a situation. I like things to be ordered, and I don't mind chaos, but it has to be with people I know, and if I'm in a leadership position, I want to know that they'll listen to me and follow my guidance...and as a subsitute, I usually get lucky if I have 3 students who respect me enough to listen! Not that these kids were bad--it's just that they knew they were about to get ultimate freedom, and they just couldn't wait!

Today (with my 2 hours of free time to think, and really another 3 when I had my students...), I started to reflect on what one of the teachers said during lunch. She said something about "oh you know, these kids..." in a pretty deragatory sense with a hopeless tone to her voice. This happened when I was a student observer and when I student taught at a middle school, and it really annoys me. Here's why: it seems to tell me that the teachers, who I believe should be empowering, encouraging, and challenge their students, don't feel like their students can amount to anything. And that annoys me! Now, I'm a die-hard optimist and idealist, so while I often get disappointed, I also feel like my positivity helps me to see potential, even if it's not manifested to my expectations. When I student taught at the high school during my undergraduate, I had an incredible supervising teacher and was surrounded by a slew of teachers who believed their students could accomplish things, even if those things weren't what we had in mind. We knew their potential and these teachers encouraged and pushed the students, all while showing them how much they cared, and I loved that! My time there helped me to realize that while not every student will go to college, that doesn't mean they can't be successful in other areas of life, and I think that was a really important lesson to learn. It just breaks my heart to see and hear teachers who don't think that A) they can't make a difference, and B) that their students won't improve or capitalize on their potential. From my first impression today, the students were relatively good! I mean, I didn't have to go through a metal detector, multiple students were incredibly polite and kind to me, and no one gave me much of a hassle! Now, I also remember the grind of being in the classroom daily with students, and I know it's easy to lose your drive, especially if you have a difficult group of students. But that's not enough to give up all hope...I feel like this verse helps me to remember that while I don't always see immediate results, the Lord is good and I can trust that He is working through me:

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1: 4-6

So while I know there will be days (probably this week!) that I get frustrated, my constant prayer is going to be that the Lord is able to work through me to show these students love, discipline, stability, and encouragement. Not saying that I'm perfect at these...because I'm definitely not! Especially that discipline one...it's easy to do in my head, but I always get nervous before I put it into action! I think it's because I often doubt my "authority status" with students...I just feel too young still! Maybe I'll grow into it...

Moral of the story: be encouraged! Encourage others! :)

On another note...so I read the student handbook and familiarized myself with some of the policies, especially with dress code and technology...basically, they can have cell phones, but they have to be off. No mp3 players/ipods, etc...and dress code is basically what we remember: no shorts, no spaghetti straps, all those rules we wished we could break. Imagine my surprise when I saw students on their phones in the hallways, watching girls walk by with shorts on that rival a bathing suit bottom...I was floored! I almost went Dr. Davidson on them all! (Sorry, only the high school friends will get that reference--she was the epitome of a dress code stickler.) It was really bizarre. In addition, during PE, they all had them out as well as their musical devices and what I think was a condom-turned-balloon...grrrreat.  Also, the kids were ALL OVER EACH OTHER! I mean, I remember there being PDA in high school, but my goodness! I think I saw at least 15 kids making out! Another thing that was weird to me was that there were always kids just lounging in the hallways...not in class, and not doing anything...At Bob Jones, no one got away with that! If you had a pass, you were usually the only one in the hallway...it was really strange. I don't know how they keep track of them all! Heck, I hardly could--pretty sure I had a few sneak off during last period...but hey, the lesson plan had them go outside and basically run wild...feel like I did the best I could! I just kept praying none of them got caught skipping and then got me in trouble...that's terrible, isn't it?

Also, all I heard all day was Spanish! True, this was kind of music to my ears, and it also made me realize how much I need to practice! But what was funny was that students (and some adults) just assumed that I knew Spanish! I had at least 2 students come up and start talking in Spanish--it was so funny! I think pretty much everyone in this school is bilingual (which probably means they don't need me as a Spanish teacher...), and it just surprised me when they thought the sub spoke Spanish! Little did they know... :) It's actually really fun, because when 3 sassy girls roll their eyes at you and mutter a "compliment" under their breath, you know exactly what they said about you...Ha! I'm working on my Spanish comebacks ;)
Finally, on to the title...I feel like every time I tell someone where we're from, they also question how we're liking it (well, I tell them!). They also point out my "Southern" accent. I mean, I know I say y'all, talk real fast ;), run my words together, and use "fixin'", as well as some other collquialisms, but man, do I sound that redneck?! I don't really think so, but once I say I'm from Alabama, they're always like "oh yeah, I knew it; I knew I heard an accent!". Oh well, I don't care. I love being a Southerner. Or as we say, a "suh-the-nah". Love it.
Sorry, my Southern phonetic abilities are lacking...will have to work on that!
I have two more sub positions this week...I'm sure I'll have more stories to come!

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Loved this post, Becca; keep up the positive attitude!