The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Posts tagged “Jury Duty


Today I was a 2nd grade (gifted/talented) teacher at Stratton Elementary in Champaign. With just 7 1/2 school days remaining before the end of the year, it is also quite possible that today was last day this year that I will have been with this class. In case you are new to the blog (hahaha – yes, I like to think that I have new people coming by), you can read my previous adventures with this class here, here, and here. I went to this assignment with an expectation that we would have another great day. Alas, I forgot to factor in the fact that the school year is almost over.

To be totally honest, the day wasn’t that bad. Compared to some of my other experiences at Stratton, the class was quite well behaved. But I have come to have higher expectations for them because I know what they are capable of doing. Still, I was somewhat disappointed that so many members of the class were constantly getting off task, talking when they were supposed to be working independently, and the petty arguments.

Oy vey, the arguments!

“He stole my pencil!”
“She took something from my desk!”
“He won’t work with me!”
“She’s making me do all the work!”
“She hid my shoes under the cubbies two weeks ago, and now I found them, and she was going to write on them, but she didn’t!”
“She kicked me in the gut! Well, okay, actually, my back, but she kicked me!”

Sure, the complaints were legitimate. Nobody was making things up. And yes, these boys and girls are only in the second grade. But they have spent a lot of time this year on conflict resolution. I mediated each complaint as it came to me. The boy who stole a pencil? He had already given it back. The girl who took something from a boy’s desk? All she had done was look at it; she didn’t actually take anything. The boy who wasn’t working? Well, okay, this was actually a legitimate problem, and the final solution was to just have his partner work on her own, with the promise that his mother was going to be getting a phone call later. The girl who was making her partner do all the work? They needed to come up with a division of labour. The girl who hid the shoes? It was two weeks ago; nothing I can do about it now. Nothing had happened to them, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. The boy who got kicked in the gut (actually the back)? It was an accident, and the girl had already apologised.

By the end of the day, I had most of the class working on their projects the way they should have been all day. I was thoroughly exhausted, but it was a good day. Who knows… maybe I will be there again before the end of the year. If I do, I fully expect to have a great day. And, knowing now that the class is becoming somewhat more whiny, I will address it from the beginning of the day. You live, you learn, you move on.

I find out about my job interview tomorrow afternoon! Wish me luck!

Food Fight!

Today I was a 5th grade teacher at Robeson Elementary in Champaign. It was quite the day, to say the least. The temperature in the classroom was probably somewhere around 80ºF, it was humid, and the students were tired. A few of them seem to have already mentally checked out of school for the year, but most are determined to slog their way through to the end. The student teacher was not there today, but tomorrow is her last day. I have one more assignment with this class, a week from tomorrow.

It is an odd realisation that that assignment may be my last assignment with the class this year. There will only be a couple of weeks left after that, and I know that my mother-in-law has hated missing as much classroom-time as she has. (The reason she’s been gone so much is that she is a member of the committee that is re-writing the social studies curriculum for the district, and they have been meeting during school hours.) Couple the fast-approaching end of the year with my growing desire to receive a full-time teaching position this coming school year, and it means that things are wrapping up far more quickly than I would like.

At the same time, I’ve worked with this particular class so much. Third grade, fourth grade, and then on to fifth. I know them better than I know any other of my thousands of students. I would like to think that we have a great working relationship. I know that, for the majority of the class, this is true. I worry about the few that I just don’t seem to have been able to connect with; is it something about me, something about them, or something completely unrelated to either? The student teacher, her university supervisor, and I were talking a couple of weeks ago about this, and the supervisor made a comment that, as much as we want to, there are some students that we just aren’t going to be able to reach. The realist in my says that this is probably true; the optimist in me says, “Stuff that! I’m going to prove that I can do it!”

Today I had an experience that, to me, says that I’ve reached some of them, at least. A few of the students were eating lunch in the classroom. Near the end of the lunch period, I told them that I was going to use the restroom, and that I was trusting that they would not set the room on fire while I was away.

Apparently, I needed to be more exhaustive in my list of things I trusted them not to do.

I came back to see six of my students lined up in the hall, backs to the wall, with two of the 5th grade teachers speaking to them. As I approached, I learned that they had had a food fight while I was out of the room.

I was gone for two, maybe three minutes total.

A food fight? Seriously? I didn’t think that such things actually happened. I’ve heard tales of them happening back in the day, but I’ve also heard of students putting thumbtacks on the teacher’s chair. Things like that just don’t happen in this day and age.

Alas, I was wrong.

The other teachers went back to their rooms and I looked at the six students. Two of them had just returned to the room from doing something or other with someone or other (possibly related to the enrichment program; I really don’t know, though). So I asked the other four what happened, and I did so in my super-quiet, super-disappointed voice that I have very rarely had to use.

One of the girls looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Valencic. It was me. I threw a carrot at [she named a student].” I looked at the named-student and said, “And then what happened?” He said, “I don’t know. I was just throwing my garbage away when she threw a carrot at me. But I didn’t do anything to her.” It turns out that one of the teachers happened to be passing the door just at that moment, and so the food fight quickly stopped.

I waited for about 15 seconds, which probably felt like an hour to these students, and said, “Okay. Go clean it up.”

It is amazing what happens when you don’t use many words. The few words and the soft voice seem to combine to say, “You know? I’m done. If you want to be a hooligan, go ahead.”

I was peppered with apologies for the rest of the day, and queries as to how this would affect their participation in Fun Day tomorrow (a school-wide event), and the class field trip to Chicago on Tuesday. I told her that I wasn’t able to to make a decision on that, but I’d let her teacher know what happened and let her decide.

Two things happened in connection to this that made me think that maybe I have reached them. One, the offender was honest about it, apologised, cleaned up the mess, and prepared herself to face the consequences of her actions. The other was that another girl, who had been in the room during lunch, approached me later and said, “Mr. Valencic… I’m sorry. I threw a carrot into the trash can from across the room just as [the other girl] threw a carrot at [the other boy]. I am so ashamed of myself.” I told her that I expect her to tell her teacher what she had done tomorrow morning, and that I was going to follow up to see if she did.

And you know what? I think she will.

A Day of Much-Needed Rest

I did not teach today, nor did I have jury service. I had been given the day off by the judge yesterday, but there were no assignments available for me yesterday. This is not particularly surprising, as it was only the third day back from the Winter Break. So I was able to get some much-needed rest today. It also gave me a chance to tackle a few projects that I had had lying around waiting for me to take care of.

I spent a considerable amount of time this morning trying to get an old IDE hard-drive to work on my computer as a back-up drive. Usually, this is as easy as hooking the second drive to the ribbon for the first drive as on the slave plug. Unfortunately, my computer’s current drive is an SATA, and while the two are theoretically compatible, I just couldn’t get the computer to read either drive when I booted up the computer. I am sure there is some easy solution to this problem, but I couldn’t figure it out.

After conceding defeat, I began work on one of many Top Secret Projects that Gretch and I have. When we are ready to announce the project, I will let everyone know. I will let you know this, though: it is going to be awesome! I also applied for a few more jobs, including one in Mahomet that would start in just two weeks! There have already been several applicants, but I am going to keep my fingers crossed. It would be a full-time job for the remainder of the semester at Lincoln Trail Elementary School, teaching 4th grade. It would be an amazing blessing in my life to get this job, but I know that there have already been several applicants for the position.

Throughout the day, I watched more episodes of The X-Files on Netflix, which was entertaining, as always. I just learned that I will not be needed as a juror tomorrow, so I am hoping to pick up an assignment for the day. We shall see what we shall see!

We the Jury

Today was my second day of jury duty, and my first day on a jury during a trial. It was an interesting experience, and one which was quite gratifying. I learned a lot about the realities of the judicial system, and how juries actually work. As I said yesterday, I have no intention of discussing any of the details of the case, including what it was about, who was involved.

I will say, however, that my fellow jurors and I apparently reached our verdict quite quickly, so much so that the officer of the court was shocked to learn that we had reached a verdict when he came in to check on our progress. I believe we spent approximately half an hour deliberating, most of which was discussing questions we had about the case, and the burden of proof that had been placed upon the State. We also spent some time discussing the lack of meaningful questions that we would have liked to have had answered, and our disappointment with both the State and the Defense to provide a strong argument one way or the other.

What ultimately informed our decision, however, was the realisation that the presumption of innocence trumps all in our judicial system. The defendant may very well have committed the crimes for which he was being tried. The Defense did not convince me or the other eleven jurors otherwise. But the State failed to convince us that he was definitely guilty. We were told to convict only if we believed he was guilty without reasonable doubt. There were many doubts, and therefore none of us felt that we could, in clear conscience, convict the defendant of the alleged crimes. And so it was that we voted not guilty on all accounts.

The interesting thing was to watch his reaction at the end. I don’t think he heard it at first–in fact, I think he was expecting to hear a guilty verdict. All of a sudden it hit him, and he slumped forward and just rested his head on the defense table. I would not be surprised at all to know that he was crying with relief. My thought was that he was a young man being tried of a crime for which he was innocent, and yet everyone felt he was guilty.

Afterwards, we all congregated in the jury room, gathered our belongings, and were escorted out of the courthouse by the officer of the court. And thus the trial ended.

One thing that really struck me at the very end was how well that we all worked together as a jury. I was reminded of the stages of group development that I teach teens at the Illinois Teen Institute: first, a group forms, then they begin to storm. Eventually they create group norms and they are able to perform. At the end, they adjourn, and move on. Our small group of twelve (fourteen, actually, if I include the alternates who were with us throughout the trial), did just that. We formed, we stormed, we normed, and then we performed. We did what we were brought together to do, we were satisfied that we had done what was expected of us, and then we adjourned. I may see some of them again, I may not. I don’t know. But I do know this: I have enjoyed my experience serving on a jury, and I would be glad to do it again.

I Have Been Summoned

Way back in July, I was sent a questionnaire in the mail regarding my availability for Jury Duty. I had indicated that I would prefer to serve jury duty in the summer but, alas, ’twas not be so. I received my Petit Jury Summons in the mail in December, and began jury duty this morning. After sitting through an orientation for about an hour or so, I was released until 1:15 pm, when I was called to sit through jury selection.

There were about 40 or so of us called to sit through jury selection. The first twelve were called, and, of them, the judge and attorneys began the screening process, four at a time. Of the first three, one was excused. It took three tries to find a juror agreed upon by all, and they moved on to the next four. One was struck from the panel by the defense attorney, one was struck by the prosecutor, then two were excused by the judge. So we were up to 19 called when my name was randomly selected. So I was the 20th juror called, and selected as part of the second batch of four. If we have numbers as juror on the panel, I think I am juror number five, though.

I won’t say anything about the case, of course, but this is just to record some of the non-confidential information relating to my current adventures in jury service that will be taking the place of my adventures in substituting this week. This is my first time being summoned as a juror, and it is kind of cool that I have already been selected to serve on a jury. I know that it won’t be anything like they show on TV, and I have a hunch it will be a bit different from what John Grisham portrays (although, to be fair, the jury selection process was fairly similar to what he describes in his numerous books). I do know that it will be an interesting learning experience.

I’ll keep you posted with the limited information I can share. New adventures in substituting to resume next week (I hope).