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Now You See it, Now You Don’t

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First Jim Piculas had a job, then he didn’t. The Florida substitute teacher claimed the Pasco County School District rubbed him off the substitute list because of complaints that he had practiced “wizardry” in the classroom, The Tampa Tribune reports.

Piculas, who was working toward teacher certification, said he thinks his disappearing toothpick trick—involving a toothpick, transparent tape, and sleight-of-hand—may have been interpreted by one of his middle school students as “wizardry.” The student was so rattled by the trick, according to Piculas, that the student’s father complained.

District officials said complaints from the classroom teacher that substitute Piculas didn’t follow lesson plans and lacked classroom control were the actual causes of his removal. “The toothpick demonstration was minor compared to the other problems,” said Renalia DuBose, assistant superintendent. The principal asked that he not return to the school.

Although Piculas says accusations of “wizardry” were his classroom ouster, the word never appears in the district letter he received, according to the Tribune. Piculas said the additional complaints were “window dressing” to mask the real reason for his removal. “I think she [district official] was trying to downplay it because it [classroom magic] sounded so goofy,” he said.

13 Comments

Why did you publish this story. There is no substance to it ... just allegations. Who knows who to believe, and, since we don't know, why is it important?

The most alarming thing is the amount of impact a parental complaint had (IF that's what happened). Helicopter parents ....

Tha fact that a teacher is no longer working gives the story substance and makes the issue 'important' Of course we do not know what to believe. Isn't that always the case? Given two sides individuals make personal decisions. Doing a magic trick to catch the children's attention sounds like a good idea. A posible solution at this schol is to incorporate team teaching for the optimum development of collegeum including substitutes. Team teaching would also put more power in the hands of educators when faced against sometimes less educated parents.

To be honest,I don't think a magic trick would put him out of a job. I think there are other allegations that aren't in the limelight. This is a case that probably has been working itself to his job parting.

It's amazing how much impact parents can have on teachers and yes, substitute teachers.

Substitute teachers should be cautious of their actions and reactions when they are in a classroom substituting. The important thing is to follow the teacher's lesson plans and know the limits as to what he/she can do within the classroom atmosphere.

Parents have a right to be concerned about what happens in their child's classroom. We influence their children for six hours a day, 180 days a year, for 12 years. As I watch what some of my collegues do in the name of teaching, parents need to be concerned.
As educators we often complain that parents aren't involved in their child's education, and if they become involved they are labeled as "helicopter parents". We can't have it both ways.

I think the important information in this article is not the magic trick or who we should believe. I think the bottom line is that teachers and schools have a set of expectations for substitutes who are often not properly trained. While this gentleman was in a teacher certification program he wasn't a teacher yet. One must ask if the lessons left throughout his "sub-ing career" were easy to follow, for classes he understood how to teach, and if the students were actually giving this sub trouble or not. While it is certainly a concern that this substitute was fired over potentially silly reasons...ultimately was this man trained to do this job?

We really shouldn't be judging this teacher. We were not in his classroom as an evaluator nor do we know all the facts. It is unfortunate this substitute doesn't have due process rights to explore whether or not he was a good teacher.

So what was the trick? I would like to learn it.

Even if that sub failed to follow lesson plans, that's no reason to terminate his employment. How many regular teachers are fired for not leaving lesson plans for subs, not leaving seating charts, or even a roster? That was the rule, rather than the exception in a large district I subbed for, several years ago. Unless the sub chanted a "wizardry" incantation (to quiet the class), or drew a magic symbol on the board, firing him for that reason is nothing less than unreasonable.

There are two expections of substitute teachers--follow the lesson plans and maintain order in the classroom, i.e. enforce the school's rules. If the charges are substantiated, then yes he does deserve to be fired. I've been subbing for 4 years now and I can't believe the number of times that I have heard that subs didn't follow the lesson plans. One person sat and talked on his cell phone. Another one sat and knitted. Some people believe that they are only glorified baby sitters and that they don't have to do anything more than keep the kids from harming each other. I have even had students (who are know outside of school)tell me that a lot of subs just let the kids sit and talk all hour. I am in high demand because I follow the lesson plans as written, complete them in the time allotted, and require little to no checking on by the principle. If all of my varied sources are correct, not all subs are this way. Hence, I can believe the school district that he was a poor substitute and hence not a benefit for the school. I would also tend to believe that if he was a decent to excellent sub, they would have overlooked his poor judgment and kept him on as a sub with instructions for no more magic tricks to be performed. The parent complaint just may have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

I did substitute teaching for a while. What shocked me was that the teacher's lesson "plan" had the kids changing activities every 10 minutes. Somehow I thought it more important to actually teach the lesson and ensure the students understood it. Later on, she complained because we didn't spend enough time gluing cotton balls to a winter art project... I actually asked the class what they wanted to do: use 20 minutes to finish their art project or 20 minutes for math homework. I was surprised -- but they wanted to finish their homework rather than take it home over Christmas break. Can you imagine giving kids homework over vacation? Why? This lady's classroom was a mess too -- half the room was used as a storage area, with the kids crammed into the remaining space. A better use of our time would have been study hall and throwing out poiles of junk this lady had accumulated in her classroom sionce heaven only knows when! They asked me to come back later, but I had already secured other employment.

It is more work to be absent than it is to come to school sick, sometimes, so I try to avoid sick days whenever possible. It drives me crazy when I go through the time and trouble to prepare detailed lesson plans for my absence, and return to find none of the work done. Good substitutes are hard to come by, and many poor subs have returned to my classroom, despite my request that they do not. With pressures, testing, political, and otherwise, mounting ever higher, we cannot afford to have substitute teachers who do not do their job.

I'm with Tim-why was such a speculative story posted? There's no way to discern the facts, or know that any of the comments are truly relevant to what really happened.

I wonder how the parent found out about the magic trick-did the "rattled" student come right out and tell him, or was it a parent who actually asks his child what happened at school and refuses to take "nothing" as an answer? I rarely encounter "helicopter" parents.

I'm a school secretary, and I often hear from subs how hard it is to maintain control of unruly children. The problem as I see it is children seem to have little respect for teachers, and even less respect for subs. That needs to be addressed by the parents, but I've seen some parents who are openly contemptuous of a teacher who tells them their little angel is anything less than perfect.

I'm wondering if the sub in this case didn't do a little magic trick to re-focus the students, and one (perhaps?) fundamentalist child told his parent the sub was "practicing wizardry." I was born in the Bible Belt, and this type of thinking was/is rampant.

Having been a sub, and now a regular teacher, I know the job is tough. Kids are cruel, and torture subs on a daily basis. I take the critique by my sub seriously, and punish my students for not following the lessons. They know better than the sub what the lesson is to be, but they do what they can to interfere at every turn. Helicopter parents are also a menace. What ever happened to parents supporting the teachers!

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  • Markatjac: Having been a sub, and now a regular teacher, I read more
  • Jean: I'm a school secretary, and I often hear from subs read more
  • Susie: I'm with Tim-why was such a speculative story posted? There's read more
  • Gail Thompson: It is more work to be absent than it is read more
  • Mary: I did substitute teaching for a while. What shocked me read more

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