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Field Notes Visit 2

rbp13's picture



1-3:30 p.m., Monday


Mrs. Dolly told me during my last visit that there would be a substitute teacher today-Mrs. Dolly would be in the building but she was taking care of other business (she said that she would be back at the end of the day)

I was curious to see how the class behaved with a different teacher. Mrs. Dolly is very strict and expects things to be done a certain way; she has high expectations and the class knows that there are consequences for misbehaving. I wondered if they would be out of control with the sub because I doubted that she could enforce the same rules that Mrs. Dolly does.

Mrs. Dolly forgot to tell the sub that I was coming-I did not want to be in her way or interfere with her plans so I told her that I could just observe if that was easier


Class was excited to see me when I arrived


“Let’s everyone say hi so we can get it out”-this was the sub’s response to the class’s excitement

Good classroom management

Class is a little fidgety-they are having a little trouble following instructions (like what page to turn to in their work books and what information to copy off the board) and several of them aren’t raising their hands before speaking


Sub: “Guys we had a great morning and I think we’re gonna have a great afternoon”

Does my being in the room change the way that the students behave with the sub? (showing off?)

When the class is too noisy or the students are not focusing on the teacher, she pauses and waits for them to pay attention

Time efficient? The sub seems strict (not as much as Mrs. Dolly but she is able to regain the students’ focus)

In math, the class is working on adding two digit numbers. The problems were written on the board and every student has a personal white board. With each problem, the teacher asked if the problem required the students to regroup and the children were supposed to write “yes” or “no” on their boards


The sub was giving out pretzels and stickers to reward students who were following directions and doing what they were supposed to be

Is this the sub’s method, or did Mrs. Dolly tell her to do this?

Kaia is back (she was in Mrs. Dolly’s class during most of the fall semester but her family moved around thanksgiving)


Mariah is still in the class-Mrs. Dolly told me that to send her to a different school, the school needs to present two pieces of evidence that she lives outside the district. So far, they only have one-so she has been in school since September even though she shouldn’t be (apparently this battle has been going on for several months)


The class is full today-all of the students seem to be present


Mariah is all over the place today-walking around the room


Sub: “pencil in the air when you’re on page two, nine, seven”

I liked the way that she phrased this instruction. Instead of saying “two hundred and ninety seven” (which some of the kids might have understood, but others might not have), she said each number. This reduces confusion and saves time.

“Sitting for success” is a phrase that is used in the class to describe how the students should be sitting at their desks


“No thank you” is the way that kids are supposed to indicate that they do not like something that a classmate is doing


Mariah is not listening to the teacher’s instructions (she copied a math problem that the teacher was doing on the board into her book even though she was just supposed to be listening, not writing)


The class uses the strategy of drawing pictures to solve problems


While the sub was teaching the class, Mariah came up to me (I was sitting in the back of the room)

Me: “Mariah, if you have a question, raise your hand and ask the teacher.”

Mariah: “But I have a question for you.”

Me: “Then we’ll talk later, go sit down.”


Lots of kids are getting up during the lesson (three students who wear glasses got up to wash their glasses)


Mariah is talking to Leah at the sink while Leah is washing her glasses. The two girls are at the sink for about five minutes. During this time, Mariah is pretending that she is drinking from the water fountain. The sub is letting them be.

Does she not do anything because she doesn’t see them? Or is she ok with them being back there because even though they aren’t being productive it isn’t distracting the rest of the class? I know that Mrs. Dolly would not tolerate this but there is a different dynamic without her in the room-I am not sure of my role.

When Mariah is done at the water fountain, her shirt is wet where the water splattered because she was pretending to drink. She asks me to take her to the nurse to get a new shirt

Was this a plan?

Toward the end of math, it is very clear that the class is losing focus

Usually, Mrs. Dolly divides the class in half and one group plays math games with partners while she teaches the other group on the rug-then they switch. Since the sub was told to teach the class in a large group, the students are in their seats longer than they are used to.

Teresa very engaged-she is constantly participating and asking questions


Mariah is dancing in her chair


Sub: “Some people aren’t giving Teresa nice respect” (when people are talking while Teresa is trying to give an answer)


The sub threatens to take away dollars (the class’s reward system) when the class isn’t paying attention

This threat is most effective when it is given while she is standing physically close to the dollar chart on the wall. Although she threatens to take dollars away three times throughout the afternoon, she never does (could this be problematic?-maybe for a permanent teacher but understandable for a sub)

Mariah comes up to me while the sub is teaching the class to show me that she did the problem herself

This made me think about the difference between my role as an observer/helper in someone else’s classroom and as a teacher in my own class. As an aide should I look at her work and tell her that she did a good job, or should I just tell her to sit down because she did not follow directions.

After the sub is done with the math lesson, the students are supposed to be doing three problems on their own-the teacher circulates to check their work

If kids aren’t doing what they’re supposed to, but aren’t distracting the rest of the class, should I ignore them and work with the kids that are focused? (especially considering kids like Mariah who have the potential to derail the entire lesson)

Mariah gets out of her chair again and comes up to me in the back of the room (“Ms. Rachael, I can’t breathe”)

I could tell that she was lying. This was a desperate attempt for attention. I told her that I thought she was okay and told her to sit down.

After math the sub gives the students 10 minutes to relax. She has them stretch-“Put your hands to the sky, shake it out”

She has them do this while they are sitting at their desks-doesn’t this defeat the purpose?

During the break, Mariah takes a pile of books off the shelf and tries to write them all in her reading log so that she can participate in the reading celebration on Thursday


For reading, each student has an assigned spot on the rug


Jeremiah does not get up from his desk to join the class on the rug (apparently the sub had to speak to him about acting inappropriately in the bathroom)


“turn and share”-talk to a partner about a time when a friend helped you


Class is having a tough afternoon (turning around and talking to each other on the rug, can’t sit on their bottoms)


Mariah sucks her thumb

Oral fixation? (she also puts things like pencils and erasers in her mouth); just pretending to be a baby?

Jenny and Teresa are making faces at each other while they are listening to the story

Teresa was well-behaved during math-is she bored?

Lots of kids get up to get tissues during the story

Lots of time spent sitting down and listening today-the class is not used to this

Jeremiah is doing his homework at his desk (the sub tells him to stop)


Sub: “I will not read over you, you need to be quiet”


Jenny keeps getting up during the story; she can’t keep her hands to herself


During the story, the phone rings and the teacher has to walk away from the class to answer it-when she gets up, the class gets noisy


Mrs. Dolly comes back-class is immediately more attentive to the sub


After the story, the class does an art activity (making a mobile about how to be a good friend to your friends, family, animals, and the community)


Class is quiet during art

Because Mrs. Dolly is back?

Mrs. Dolly to Daniella: “When she [Mariah] isn’t doing what she’s supposed to be, we pretend she’s not here


Mariah says she is done with her mobile after using only one crayon to color it

Attention problem? Bored?

Mrs. Dolly takes lots of opportunities to teach (when she is passing out napkins for snack at the end of the day, she notices that one is larger than the others-someone ran the machine wrong); class has a discussion about the importance of doing jobs properly


Mrs. Dolly to sub: “We’re not here to be their [the students’] friends”



-During the whole class lesson, I was thinking about George and John (the two ELL students) and wondering how effective this was for them-is teaching them with the whole class a waste of their time? What do you do in a situation where you know that students require individualized attention but you don’t have the resources to give it to them?


jccohen's picture

the sub and Mariah


The two threads that seem to me to run throughout this post are the sub -- what she's doing or not, how her decisions reflect or not the usual classroom culture, and how the students respond to her -- and Mariah.  M seems to have difficulty throughout the day and I have a sense that this is not just about there being a sub.  Rather, she seems edgy, uncertain, and in some sense aggressive -- what do you think of those as interpretive terms based on your description here?  And because you note early on that she's in a kind of ongoing 'not-belonging' situation, I find myself reading her through this lens.  What do you think?  Also, I'm wondering about M's race/ethnicity/class and whether her identity is in some way different from the dominant identities in this classroom...?

These notes make good use of the double-entry method, and also nice interplay between macro and micro perspectives on the classroom.  I wonder whether you could take each column a bit further, e.g. in some instances give a fuller description in the left-hand column and do more reflecting in thr right-hand column.  For example, how DOES your role shift w/o Ms. Dolly in the room?  What do you think M is asking for from you?