Miss Bennett in the Bay

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 16 2008

Subbing and Shipping

I took last Friday off to go to Chicago to visit my grandmother, who had a stroke. (Believe me, we are far from the bliss of mental health days just yet.) I spent a long time on Thursday afternoon getting a lot of things ready for the sub. I was worried, since having a sub this early in the year could be challenging since the kids aren’t even used to my routine yet. Change even one little thing and it’s chaos for the rest of the day.

In my haste, however, I realized that I had forgotten to set out the weekend homework sheet. It’s only one page, front and back, which is not at all unreasonable for a 2-day hiatus from school. I asked Jess if she could take a minute out of her Friday to let my sub know where I keep my copies, and thus, know where to get the weekend homework from.

On Monday, I returned to a classroom full of students complaining about the weekend homework “packet.” They didn’t know how to do it. It was too hard. They didn’t understand. The list goes on. I was still jet-lagged at that point so I couldn’t remember if Jess and I had had a conversation about making our homework packet longer or not. Something told me that I would have remembered such a conversation, but I had the kids turn in their homework as it was.

Then, at lunch, I asked Jess about this homework.

Me: Did we randomly decide to send home a giant packet over the weekend?
Jess: No… Just that one sheet.
Me: Somehow my kids ended up with 6 page packets.
Jess: OH, no. The sub must have thought that he was supposed to send home all your extra worksheets!

What really blows my mind about this is that the sub somehow found the time in the day on Friday to sit down and make those 6 page packets out of my extra copies. No wonder the kids couldn’t finish their homework; I hadn’t taught them how to do it yet.

So much for that. It would have been better if they hadn’t had the homework at all. I sent home a note on Monday explaining the mix-up to families. I push my students hard, but I don’t think they should have to do huge packets over the weekend. They should get to take breaks too.

The ongoing saga these days is the story of over-enrollment. Each class in second grade had 5 or 6 extra students, which is a far cry from last year. (A note: the teacher who moved down to kinder last year moved back up to second. Even after re-opening a 6th class, we were still over-enrolled.) So, since technically the law states the classroom ratio should be 20 to 1, some of our kids had to be shipped out.

There is some bureaucratic clause somewhere that states that we can’t move kids out of classrooms until we have 15 days of “warm body counts.” That means, 15 days of proving that your class is actually over-enrolled, and not just that you have too many names on your roster. Extra kids need to show up every single day during this period, or the district won’t do anything about the enrollment problem. Do we get extra curriculum material during this time? Of course not. Are we expected to pretend with the kids, the parents, and ourselves that the entire school year will be like this? Absolutely.

It’s ridiculous. They went through the registration lists and determined kids who had registered later than everyone else, and who therefore should have to be sent to a different school first. 4 from my class were identified. They were to be sent to the new school on Wednesday. The parents were notified of this change the Friday before it was to occur. They were upset, to say the least.

If you’ve done the math, you’ll realize that even with those kids sent out, I’m still 2 over the state-mandated cap. Now, I really don’t mind having extra students in the room. We’ve all gotten used to each other by now, and since my management is so much better this year, I haven’t had any real problems. The real issue is that I don’t have enough curriculum materials for everyone. So, that means I either need to photo copy the textbooks (and we all know how I hate the copy machine) or kids have to share. Either way is less than ideal, and really, if we’re going to have extra students, we ought to have enough books for them. It seems so simple to me, and yet these kinds of simple solutions are exactly the kinds of things that don’t happen when left up to bureaucracies to implement them.

So, on Thursday before I left, I went to investigate on my own. I went straight to the one person who I knew could solve my problem: our secretary. She told me that they had decided to just keep our extra students and that we would be getting new materials for them either Friday or Monday. Perfect.

However, while I was in Chicago, I got an email from the principal that no, in fact, the district had decided that the extra kids actually had to go. Ok, fine. I write back, who are they, and when will they go? We don’t know yet. More details next week.

Then, on Monday morning, the teacher from next door comes over with a giant load of extra materials. “For our extra students,” she explains. Oh, really? Apparently, after much debating and flip-flopping, we will keep the extra students. They have given us extra books. Hopefully no more students will enroll because I don’t even know where we will put them. At least, for now, things seem to have stabilized, and we have what we need.

2 Responses

  1. The homework packet story cracks me up. My subs generally wont even give the kids that work I leave for them to do during the period. I guess it is too much work for them to actually try to get the kids to do something.

    It is amazing to me that CA has such a stringent cap on classroom enrollment; or is it just your school district? I remember my high school classrooms (in San Diego) having as many as 37 kids in them.

  2. chrisb

    It’s a cap on K-2 classrooms. The upper grades can have as many as…. 35? I think. Significantly more than 20, at least.

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