Friday, June 01, 2007

A day in the life of a P.E. teacher

Because I am a stunning specimen of health and physical fitness...

Since finishing my student teaching and returning from Florida, I have been working as a substitute teacher. It has been interesting and I have learned a lot. Like, for example, I would rather chew off my own arm than teach kindergarten...or first grade. I love kids, and if all I had to do was play and make art projects, I would be there in a heartbeat. But teach? Meet benchmarks? Those people deserve sainthood, as far as I'm concerned.

Today I subbed for the P.E. teacher. This was also an interesting experience. I had 2 groups of 3rd graders in the morning and then 2 groups of 2nd graders and one group of 5th graders in the afternoon. I think, maybe, by the time the second group of second graders rolled through, I had finally perfected how to give them directions to correctly play my version of dodge ball and I had also finally found the balls that wouldn't send them home missing more teeth than they came in with. It only took me 4 classes! Also, I have never in my life told more kids that no, they did not need to go to the office for ice/band aids/TLC unless they were risking life and/or limb by remaining with us in the gym. In my world, "but I think I can feel the blood pulsating and pushing and trying to break through my skin" means slightly less than "my toe itches." Come on, guys, the secretaries have more important jobs to do than kissing boo-boos. I am such a hard ass...

But my biggest experience of the day had to be dealing with my first physical altercation resulting in a suspension. The 5th grade class was playing soccer - a bad choice on my part. The no-personal-contact game of dodge ball was MUCH better. Anyway, a young man informed me upon walking into the gym that he had been gone for so long he didn't remember which squad to line up with. And I kind of blew it off because kids are always trying to screw with subs and because before I could even address his question, his classmates reminded him where he should sit. I thought it odd that somebody would be gone for that long, but, well...whatever.

So then we began our "friendly" game of soccer. Which, as it turns out, was not so friendly. As I was on my way to speak to the same young man (the same one who did not know where his seat was) about the fact that he was receiving his one and only warning against calling his classmates "whore" (the next time, you're out of here, man), when he went after her, kicking at her shins with such force that both of her legs flew backwards and she landed, head-first, on the floor. He then kicked her again and in my abject terror, I did not see exactly where the second kick landed. I am not exaggerating. And the thing that was so horrific was not that he had just kicked her harder than anyone I have ever seen kick another person outside of the Sopranos. What was so shocking to me was the absolute calmness and placidity with which he executed his maneuver. It reminds me of that scene in Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal Lechter attacks the guards in Memphis (allowing him to escape) and literally beats one of them to death without so much as a facial expression, good, bad or otherwise.

After I had told him to go to the principal's office, he chuckled and smirked as he moseyed his way along. I, in the meantime, was seriously worried we were going to have to call an ambulance. But the young lady seemed to be pretty much okay other than being a little banged up. She went to the principal's office as well, and stayed there for the rest of the class period.

When I was finally able to dismiss the class, I immediately went to the office myself. One, because I was worried about the poor girl (and the office staff, for that matter. For all I know, I could have found him eating their livers with fava beans and a nice chianti.), and two, because I was mortified that such a thing had happened on my watch. I apologized profusely to the secretary (while also looking around for the principal so I could apologize to him too) and told her that I was horrified that this had happened. But she just smiled and waved it off.

"Oh, don't worry," she said. "This is the first time he's been allowed back into gym class in months. He's E.I. (emotionally impaired - and I could have diagnosed him myself. E.I. with a side of sociopathic tendencies), you know, and he does this kind of thing all the time. The normal gym teacher won't even take him if the principal isn't here to come get him when he gets kicked out." GREAT....I think to myself. This is the kid the ex football hero/gym teacher refuses to deal with and you send him back to gym for the first time with a freaking SUB???

In retrospect, I think I am quite lucky that he actually left the gym when I told him to. I wonder how my liver tastes...

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