My second assignment is a far cry from Park Avenue South. It’s on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Henry Street School for International Studies
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
“And The Week Drags On”
It’s 8:45 am. I arrive at the teachers’ lounge. First period starts at 9 am. The gloomy school secretary comes in and hands me a paper with a grid. Three classes are circled. They must be mine.
“Here’s your schedule for today,” she grunts.
“Good morning,” I say, trying to acknowledge our common membership in the family Hominidae. Getting no reaction I continue. “Who am I subbing for?”
“I don’t know. Let’s see.” She grabs the schedule from me. I look over her shoulder. “It says ‘Abraham.’ ”
With no more info forthcoming, I ask, “What does he teach?”
“I have no idea!”
“You have no idea?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well, it would be nice to have a subject and lesson plan…you know, like a normal school?” I try to keep it light. She is not amused.
“You can ask Mr. K. You know who he is?”
“I have no idea.”
“The programming teacher.”
Another sixth-grade class. Jeeze…
“Yo Miz. You our sub?” A small, energetic boy is excited to see me.
“Yes. Hi. I’ll write my name on the board.”
“Yo, you seen this Zombie commercial, Miz?”
“No. I don’t think so,” I say as I turn from the board. Just then, another boy sitting next to the first blurts out, “Miz! You come to my house and I’ll get out my gun. I got one there.”
“A toy gun?” I ask him. As a teacher, I am mandated to report anything that gives me reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment. My ears are up.
“Naah. It’s a real gun. My pop’s gun.”
“It’s loaded?” I ask quietly.
“Yeah. He showed me how.”
“You need to stay away from guns. You could hurt or kill someone or yourself.”
“Naah, Miz. You should come over. I’ll show it to you.”
As soon as this class is over, I’m heading to the AP with my report. For now, I’ve got five sixth graders, special-ed kids, no lesson plan and no idea what the subject is. “So what are you guys learning about?” I ask them. They’re already starting to get restless, jumping up, moving quickly around the room.
“I’m sure you’re learning something,” I say, smiling. “Please come back to your desk!” I call out to the Zombie-phile.
“Naah. Our regular teacher left last week. We got our new teacher on Monday but she absent today.”
“OK, then.” I’m thinking fast. I’ve got 40 more minutes with these kids. “You must have some homework. Could you do your homework now? Then you’ll have more time after school.”
“I ain’t got no homework.”
“Well…do you guys have any games or art projects you’d like to work on?”
“Yeah!!” Zombie prince runs to the back of the room.
“Please walk, don’t run,” I call out, trying to sound like a sixth-grade teacher.
“We got these!” He pulls some Sharpies and construction paper from a shelf.
“OK. Those of you who want to draw may do so. The others may read.”
“Can we listen to music?”
“I don’t think the school wants you to.”
“Come on, Miz. Please.”
“No. I can’t let you do this.” Wish I could. It’s a great babysitter. In a couple of minutes, several students have helped themselves to art supplies, one is drawing in chalk on the board and one is listening to music. I have no complaint. I make a note to give the AP immediately after class:
1) These students need more homework.
2) Latif may have a loaded gun at home.
I never did find out this class’s subject.
© Elizabeth Rose