I Don’t Do Elementary

As some of you know, some of the time I work as a substitute teacher. I had a rule: I don’t do elementary. I’ve done middle school and high school, but until yesterday I had never done elementar

It’s not that I have any grudge against elementary school teachers or that I have some problem with elementary schools. It’s an issue of personality. I’m not really the nurturing type. I didn’t want to have to wipe kids’ noses and tie kids’ shoes.

Yesterday I realized what I was missing. I received a call asking me to teach fifth grade. I’ve done 6th grade before. I thought I could handle fifth grade. But about ten minutes into my day, I was told that they had an internal sub for fifth grade but needed someone to do first grade. That made me uneasy. Then the school secretary said, “It’s a good thing you subs are so flexible.” Yeah. That’s a good thing. Talk about your bait and switch.

So for a day I was a first grade teacher. I don’t want to bore you with the minutia of my day so I’ll just hit the highlights.

It’s really cool how open the kids are with you. These kids had never met me before but because I was their teacher they told me everything about themselves. One girl told me about a dream she had where her dad made her family his slaves. One boy told the class that he loved Hannah Montana.

Kids get hurt every day and unfortunately some of my kids got hurt. Two girls hurt their fingers and needed band-aids. One boy fell and started limping, but I knew he was faking. But there was no permanent damage.

There was so much drama. It made me wonder why there isn’t a TV show about first grade. One girl said that she had five fights with her friend that day. One boy threw a pencil at another boy and hit him in the eye. The boy who has hit started crying. I talked to him and I think I made him feel better.

One aspect that was interesting was the different levels of ability I saw. One girl told me she had read a book with over 200 pages on the weekend. Some kids had trouble reading a page. Some were already budding writers and some struggled to put words on paper.

It was definitely a learning experience. I have a new respect for elementary teachers. But for the future: I don’t do elementary.


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  1. #1 by FreetoBe on May 15, 2008 - 4:32 pm

    But Asad, you had fun–drama or not, those little kids are fun in small doses. Notice the word “small.” I understand. But great that you overcame and did.

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