Friday, October 24, 2014

The Wrong Key

I was to cover a 7th grade science class for three days. I had some time the first day to scan all the lesson plans so I'd have some idea of what was to come. All was in order. Or so I thought.

Day 1 they were to work on a study guide for a test on day 3. It was on line graphs, bar graphs, and pie charts. Easy enough.

But one girl called me over to help her with a question. And I wasn't sure what the question meant.

This happens sometimes. I walk in cold to these classes, and I haven't been there when lectures were given. Sometimes I'm not exactly sure what the teacher is going for. I usually mask this by having the students consult their notes and ask them leading questions so that they can figure it out themselves. This works 99% of the time.

This was not one of those times.

It was a simple question, but which simple answer did the teacher want?

Oh, right, I had the key.

Day 2 we were to go over the study guide, and I was given a key for this purpose. (Some teachers remember to provide keys for assignments. Some don't.) All I needed was to go into my materials for day 2...

I found the key. For chapter 1.1 & 1.2. They were working on the study guide for chapter 1.3.

Panic time.

But then I remembered that the science teachers all do pretty much the same thing. And the teacher next door might just have what I needed. So I called her. And sure enough, she was able to answer the student's question.

(And a short time later, she sent a student with the correct key. Whew.)

I am so grateful to that student, though. Because if she hadn't asked the question that sent me scurrying to the key, I would not have known I had the wrong key. Until the next day when it was time to go over the study guide with the whole class.

That could have been ugly.

It's nice when things work out.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Not Going to Do It

"Is this homework?"

I had just passed out the worksheet, explained to the 8th grade math class that it was their assignment for class, and told them to get started.

"It's classwork," I said.

I know this game. If I tell Maria that what she doesn't finish in class is homework, she hears that the assignment is homework, and then she does nothing in class. Because the assignment is "homework" so she should do it at home.

Maria persisted. "Do we have homework?"

Yep, not falling into that trap.

I met Maria the prior week in her science class. I noticed that she hadn't started working on her assignment, so to give her a little push I asked her to make sure her name was on her paper. It wasn't. She then refused to write her name on the page.

This is one of my tricks. If I want a student's name and I don't want them to know I'm looking, I check the name on their paper. Student never realizes how I figured out who they are.

But this time I wasn't looking for her name. I just wanted her to write something--anything--on her paper. Because she refused so vehemently was the only reason I made sure to learn who she was. And her name did go in my note that day.

I answered Maria by telling her that I'd discuss what their homework was at the end of the period.

Maria goofed off all period. She tried to get her friend to sit next to her because she "needed help". I was not allowing any students to move from their assigned seats. I offered to help her myself. I asked her what she needed help with. She got sucked into a conversation happening on the other side of the room.

Fine. I walked away, but I came back several times to "help". She wasn't taking me up on my offer. She wrote maybe 3 answers all period. (The assignment had something like 50 questions.)

(Others did take me up on my offer to help. So, I wasn't entirely useless all period.)

The end of the period rolled around, so I got the class's attention and made the announcement. Anything they hadn't finished in class was homework.

Maria was incensed. "But you said it wasn't homework."

"No, I said it was classwork. Now, what you didn't do in class is homework."

Maria: "But you didn't say it was homework. If I had known it would be homework, I would have done it in class."


No. No she wouldn't. I know she wouldn't. It's all just an excuse to do nothing.

But it's frustrating just the same.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Unintended Consequences

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, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

What if you (or your main character) executed a silly prank, but then those around you totally misinterpreted it and turned the incident into a major issue/problem? Would you come forward and own up, or would you hide in the shadows? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Long Walk

10th grade world history. They had a worksheet on the Revolutions of 1848. (Should that be capitalized? I'm not sure.) It was one of those fairly easy days where the kiddos did their work (mostly) and all I had to do was to pass out worksheets and collect worksheets.

Well, except for the restroom passes...

(I swear, I'm not trying to turn this blog into the restroom pass chronicles. But it seems like this is the big issue with the kiddos currently.)

As I've mentioned before, I have my own restroom pass policy. Ms. B actually took the time to write hers down, so I made sure we followed it. The students get timed. The students then owe Ms. B double the time they took after class. So, if a student is gone 3 minutes (the average for the day), the student owes Ms. B 6 minutes after school. Simple enough.

6th period a girl asked to go. No problem. A bit later, a boy asked to go. The girl hadn't returned. That's when I noticed she'd been gone a long time. I checked the timer. 12 minutes. Yikes.

Eventually she did return. After being gone 22 minutes.

I told her to write down 44 minutes. She looked at me questioningly. I explained that she owed double the time she took, and I even showed her the timer to prove that she was gone that long.

A bit later I heard her complaining to her neighbor. About how if Ms. B got upset with her...

Um, okay...

Because it's Ms. B's fault that the girl roamed campus for 22 minutes?

(The girl said something about a broken bra strap, so it could all be innocent.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Senior Superlatives

It was Friday in the senior government class. They had an assignment, but most ignored it in favor of the other things I passed out to them.

First, they were to write their senior quote. They get to pick a quote that goes along with their picture in the yearbook. They were limited to 125 characters.

Then, they got to vote for the senior superlatives. You know what I'm talking about. They used to have "most likely to succeed". Nowadays, they have things like "class clown", "best hair", "most likely to return as a teacher", etc.

Helpfully, they included a list of every senior on the page. But this didn't help the group.

In 5th period, one of the students came up to the board to put up "suggestions" for the class. Decided by her and her group of friends. The other seniors mostly ignored her, although she was open to their suggestions as well.

I warned her that she was making a case for "most likely to return as a teacher". She didn't like that. She wants to be a teacher, but not at this school. (She might have mentioned elementary school.)

At some point she got done and went back to her seat. But a bit later she rushed to the board. There was one name she just had to add.

A boy chased after her. He absolutely, positively did not want her to put his name up.

What did he not want to be remembered as?

Most likely to become a millionaire.

Really? He did not want to have this in front of his name?

After a bit of back and forth, I had to step in. If the boy didn't want to be "most likely to become a millionaire", then the girl had to back off and not put his name up. And eventually she relented.

No, I did not ask why not. I should have. I know that. Now.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Different Phone Systems

It's that time of year again. Blog Action Day...

Download me and add me to your Blog Action Day post. Please make sure you link back to Blog Action Day

And I've been scrambling about what to write. Some years the topic is easier than others. This year is not an easy year for me. So, apologies in advance...

There are a couple different high schools I sub at. One is in a slightly better part of town than the other. Neither are in "dangerous" neighborhoods, but one has a slightly more "ethnic" population. When the students at either school ask where I prefer to go, I answer that it doesn't matter. What matters is the teacher I'm covering.

(Or, I'll say I prefer the continuation high school. To mess with their minds. And because it's true. If I have to choose solely on school. Because the teacher I cover makes all the difference, really.)

A couple years ago, school A got a new phone system. And these phones are cool. They have caller ID, so I can tell if it's the attendance office calling (because they need a student) or the secretary (because she wants me to cover an extra period). There's even a nice button where I can send the call directly to voicemail (which I'd only do if the call is from the outside, like from a parent. Parents don't want to talk to the sub).

School B--still on the old system.

Just this year, school B got new phones. Which means that they're now on the same system. So, if I want to call the district office from either school, I can dial directly. (I wasn't able to do that from school B until they got the new phones.)

But there's a difference. School B's phones don't have the caller ID. And the teachers have told me that they're not sure how the things work. (I clued them in to some features that teachers at school A told me about.)

Teachers at school B said they're treated differently than school A. So, how they finally got the new phones wasn't a surprise. Or that they got them so much later than school A.

Why would the district treat the schools so differently? 

Remember how I said one school was in a slightly better part of town. Yeah, that's school B.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Picture Fail

Ages ago (I just checked. It was February) I talked about selling some lacy fingerless gloves just as soon as I got some pictures of them. And, well, I'm still working on it.

I got some pictures taken, but there was an issue...

Wouldn't you think I'd've noticed the pronounced shadows when I took the pictures?