Thursday, December 18, 2014


I was surprised to see John arrive for the computer animation class. I met him previously in various special ed classes, and this class seemed to me to be a little more advanced than that. Apparently I was wrong.

But, when John reacted to the rest of the class talking, I knew where it was coming from. They were distracting him, and he wanted it to be quiet.

I was kind of stuck. On the one hand, I understood John's frustration. But on the other, the rest of the class wasn't doing anything that they shouldn't. Sure, they probably didn't need to talk, but it was the sort of assignment where I usually permit the level of talking they were doing. In fact, they were quieter than what I would normally get in that situation. And more on task.

But it was too much for John. He finally lept out of his seat, pretended to flip a book shut, growled, and ran out of class.

If I hadn't met John before, I would have reacted completely differently. Because I knew him, I let him go.

A few minutes later I went to check on him. He was outside, fuming. (At least he took it outside rather than taking it out on a student. For that I applaud him.)

I let him vent at me. He told me of his frustrations with the class. I understood. Eventually he calmed enough to return to class.

It's an interesting situation. The class has excluded John, and he feels it. Which is too bad.

I, of course, left this incident in the note. Not for John to be punished. The teacher is probably already aware of the dynamic, but he should know about it anyway.

(The next day, the first thing John did on entering class was to apologize to everyone for his behavior the previous day.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I warned the class about cell phones. They are supposed to be put away and silenced so that the students are not tempted to use them during class. But I think some students are so used to having them in their hands that they can't seem to relinquish them.

English class at the continuation high school. They were given a sheet with their assignment on it--the usual sort of read-a-story-out-of-the-book-and-answer-questions deal. I went through these instructions point by point.

Part of the assignment was to copy the vocabulary words for the story. This is common enough that the students copied the word and definition even though that's not what the instructions said. They were to copy the word, the part of speech, and write one synonym for each term.

"What's that?"

(Synonym was helpfully defined in parentheses on the instructions page.)

I indicated thesauruses. Some used those. Some figured out synonyms from the definition. Some didn't bother to do the assignment.

One girl was struggling. I mentioned thesaurus. But her phone was on her desk...

I shouldn't have...

"Or you could type 'define appreciate' into Google..."

Because synonyms pop up, too.

She did. Completed that portion of the assignment.

And I hang my head in shame.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Brain Wave

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, all I ask is a thank you in the acknowledgements.

"Some day we'll all be able to beam information directly into our brains."

I don't know what conversation prompted the student to say this, as all I heard was this statement, but now he had me hooked. I've seen such ideas in science fiction before, but it requires hardware to be installed into a person's brain. I mentioned this, but the boy didn't see that. He thought that such a thing could work kind of like Google Glass.

Still, I don't think our brains would just absorb information in the way he said.

What if we could beam information directly into our brains? How would that sort of thing work?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Grammar Check

English class at the continuation high school. Before they read the assigned story, they were to practice the highlighted vocabulary by using each term in an original sentence.

I'm not sure what attracted my attention to the two girls. But once they saw that I was paying attention, they enlisted my opinion. Was the sentence that one wrote grammatically correct? The girl who wrote it said it sounded different in her head...
Did him rolling his eyes at me imply he didn't want to listen to me talk anymore?
Um... I'm not sure. The girl arguing said that the "him" should be "he", but that I know is wrong. So, the girl who wrote the sentence was vindicated there.

I think it's okay, but I'm not sure (which is how I answered the girls). When I look at it now, I think perhaps "him" should be "his" instead.

So, what say you? What do you think? Is this sentence correct? Or how can it be fixed?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Reading Them the Riot Act

It was day 2 of the terrible, awful, no good 7th grade math class. Periods 1/2 (I had the same group for two periods) was actually kind of cooperative. At least, they were easier to deal with than on day 1.

4th period went nominally better. That could have been because I kicked one girl out fairly early. Unfortunately she returned...

Between the periods, the kiddos get to get up and walk around. They go outside. It's a nice break, and I'm more than happy to let them have it.

But something wasn't right. I can't tell you exactly what it was. A mood. A feeling. The kiddos were outside on the lawn, and they were all focused on the same thing.

A fight was coming.

I didn't hear the argument. But I've been in this situation a couple times before, and I recognize the signs.

It was almost time for the passing period to end, so I waved them all inside.

And it got worse.

There was an argument happening, and one girl was pretty upset. The others weren't helping matters. So, I did the only thing I could do--I called the office.

The classroom was fairly close to the office, so within seconds, the kiddos saw the principal coming our way. Suddenly, silence.

When she arrived, I let her know that a fight was imminent. She let the class know she was not pleased with their behavior. And she got to the bottom of the incident. Turns out that the troublemaker girl I threw out the previous period was angry at another girl over a boy.


Issues removed from class, and things settled. For a bit.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Horror

You know it's going to be a bad day when you get to class and there are no lesson plans. Then the counselor walks in, explains the emergency the teacher had, and lets you know that not only did the kiddos have a sub the previous day, but also things had not gone all that well. And the kiddos in the 4th/5th period block (yep, had the same kiddos for two hours) are so over-the-top out of control that they're revamping the group. Next semester.

Oh, did I mention that these were 7th graders? In math?

Now, math's my subject, and I can totally knock out a lesson on this so long as the classes cooperate with me. These kids? Not so much.

(The counselor also came in with lesson plans, so I wasn't totally winging it.)

The lesson should have taken the whole period. It took me the whole hour to get through part of the first third.

And you see those streamers hanging down from the ceiling in the picture? The students have been warned not to bother them. They are too high for them to reach, really. But what do they do as soon as they get a sub?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All Wet

The assignment was for two days in a special ed middle school math class. During the rainstorm.

Did you hear? We had rain in SoCal. For two days. It was a nightmare.

(No, actually, it was kind of nice. We really need the rain, and so long as you weren't on the roads, near a burn area, near a potential mudslide area, or near an area prone to flooding, it was kind of nice to watch the water fall.)

Fifth period. The boys were all soaked.

Um, why?

Now, I get wet. Our schools are open to the elements, so when students go from class to class, they do so outside. No buildings. No hallways. Walkways. Open. With few overhangs.

But this wet was more than that.

"We were jumping in the puddles."

Of course.