Thursday, January 19, 2017


It was a clever assignment. One I hadn't seen before.

7th grade life science. They were learning about photosynthesis. And how it related to cellular respiration. The project was relating the two by making a "poster".

The "poster" had two halves. One half showed photosynthesis. The other, cellular respiration.

The class was broken up into partners. Each partner did one half (either photosynthesis or cellular respiration), and then they put the halves together to make a whole.

Cordelia came over to me. She wanted to do the photosynthesis part of the poster. Um, okay. But not my call. This was between her and her partner, Jessica.

But, Jessica wanted to do photosynthesis, too.

Nope, I was not making that decision. I informed the girls that they needed to work it out themselves. I suggested flipping a coin or rock-paper-scissors. They went back to their seats. For a time.

Jessica returned. She told me that they had done rock-paper-scissors, best two out of three (and she even told me what they'd thrown), and Jessica had won. Okay, great. Jessica would to photosynthesis.

But then Cordelia came back. She claimed she had won rock-paper-scissors, best two out of three...

I am terrible at spotting liars. Students lie to me with straight faces all the time, and I can't be sure if they're lying or not. But this time...

Jessica was a very sweet, very quiet girl. I get the impression that if she lost the tiebreaker, she would have accepted the outcome. Reluctantly, but she would have. Cordelia, on the other hand, was the type of girl who was going to get her way no matter what. A louder personality. She was going to bludgeon her way into doing photosynthesis.

(I set up the partners, so these two would not have chosen to work together.)

Cordelia had already titled her paper "Photosynthesis", and she insisted that that was what she was going to do.

I think she expected me to make Jessica do cellular respiration. But I'm not built that way. I felt the need to stick up for Jessica. I'd give Cordelia a new paper. Cordelia was going to do cellular respiration.

Yeah, well, Cordelia wasn't built that way...

After a day (they had two and a half days to work on the project) of Cordelia running to me to complain, I had had enough. Fine. They could both do photosynthesis. They were no longer partners.

(The assignment was set up so each half of the assignment could be graded separately. So, unfortunately, that wouldn't penalize Cordelia. But, luckily, it wouldn't penalize Jessica, either.)

7th graders...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Getting Back Up to Speed

Winter break was over. I got an early morning wake up call. Guess who would be out another week?

I was not shocked by this. The teacher I covered before the break had been out due to shoulder surgery. I half expected her to need more time to recover. So, back to it, the same group I had before the winter break.

Deep sigh.

The teacher was prepared. She left lesson plans for the entire month of January, just in case. So, I knew we were covered. The first day back, they had an assignment in their packets.

All the classes received packets for the unit. The first pages were fill-in-the-blank notes. Then there were pages of various assignments that they would need to complete. These packets were passed out the first couple days I was in the class. They all had them.

After the initial explanation that their teacher would be out another week, I told them to get out their packets...

"What packet?"

"I lost it."

"I left it at home."

I was not shocked. I wasn't even surprised. Since they came to school with their binders and folders and backpacks and such, I figured the packets would have to be in their stuff somewhere. Presumably, it would be with the other school stuff they hadn't looked at in two weeks. (They didn't have homework over the break, so they shouldn't have even needed to take it out of their backpacks.)

Most managed to find their work, and we got underway. Well, except for one notable exception. Blaine.

"You never gave me the packet."

Um yes, yes I did. And you know how I know? He had scores recorded for assignments that were in the packet. Which he couldn't have done if he didn't have the packet.

But he protested he'd never received it. This went back and forth for a bit. Until he realized, "Oh, that packet."

Yeah. That packet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Different Biological Clock

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 our bodies were made to have healthier babies later in life? 

(I know this isn't the way things actually work, so the idea is to flip what is. What if the younger you are, the less healthy your offspring would be?)

Monday, January 16, 2017

A 2000th Post

Back in August, I noted my 1900th post. And I said, "I'd wait and say something when it hits #2000, but knowing me, I won't even notice until that occasion has passed and I'm on post #2003 or something". Turns out I was wrong.

Well, to be fair, I've been paying attention since then.

Yup, this is post #2000.


And to honor the occasion (since the Star Wars beanie isn't quite done), I thought I'd post my blogging "tips". Not so much tips as the things that I do in blogging that work for me.

People post these sorts of things from time to time. I like to peruse them as sometimes they have something that'll work for me. Or, it can be modified to work for me. It is in this spirit that I offer this list. 

So, in no particular order:
  1. I write this blog for myself. While I appreciate those who take time out of their busy days to stop in and read my words (and I especially appreciate those who take the time to comment), when I sit down in front of my computer, I'm writing for me. If I didn't do this because I wanted to, I wouldn't still be doing it.
  2. I have a schedule. But it's not too terribly rigid. It's a guideline of what to post when, so when I don't know what to write (school's not in session or the classes are too well behaved), I have a place to start. (I do have the schedule posted if you're interested.
  3. Even though I have a plan for each day of the week, I don't feel the need to post each day of the week. Some weeks I'd rather only do three posts. And some weeks I have enough stories for five. It just depends. 
  4. My plan changes as my life changes. At the moment, I'm still trying to figure out a good theme for Wednesdays. (Which is why if I'm skipping a day, that day is usually Wednesday.) At one point my "what if?" questions were on Thursdays. And I had three or four themes for Fridays until I happened upon the quiz thing. 
  5. I write my posts for the following week in one or two sittings. By Thursday I like to have an idea of what each day's post will be. (Although I tend to save the Friday post for what transpires in school on Friday. For some reason, some crazy stuff tends to happen on Fridays.) I usually sit down and write out the posts over the weekend. (If I'm lucky, I might have time to rough out a post or four during the week.) 
  6. As for my subbing stories, I let those happen. Some things jump out in the moment as "blog fodder". Others only occur to me after I'm contemplating the days I had. 
  7. I tend to work most school days. I only tell subbing stories three days a week. I leave out a lot. I edit out the boring stuff--i.e. the stuff where the kiddos do what they're supposed to do, the classes that work silently without too much effort on my part, and the days when I barely feel like I'm working. There are a lot of these instances. 
And as with anything, this is a work in progress. What works for me today may change over time. My blog must adapt to this. Otherwise, I'd have stopped doing this ages ago. 

What about you? How do you blog? What works for you?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Excellent Timing

The last day before winter break was a minimum day. And as with most minimum days, they scheduled a fire drill.

Insert eye roll here.

I do not like fire drills. They are disruptive. I never know which students are mine, so I hope that they're showing up where they're supposed to be. And then when we get back to class, they're all wound up.

I understand the importance of fire drills. I do. Emergencies happen. We've had to evacuate due to earthquakes and actual fire incidents (that were minor). But that doesn't mean I have to like participating in them.

But, it was a lovely, wet day in SoCal. It had rained much of the night before. And we were expecting more rain later that day. So, they'd surely cancel the drill, right?

Nope. Drill as scheduled.

*grumble, grumble, grumble*

I did luck out in that the drill fell on my prep period. When the alarm sounded, I was to report to an assistant principal to "assist". (Read: stand around.) We got out to the athletic fields, and then we were promptly sent back to class...

Back in class, I got back to the setting up for the day stuff I needed to do. I heard all the kiddos arrive back in class, and when things settled down, I figured it was a good time to hit the restroom before I had a class the next period.

I walked outside... And it was pouring down rain.

We missed getting rained on by minutes. Now, that was some good timing.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Ms. D had warned me about her class before I filled in. But I didn't realize how many familiar faces there would be. Blaine was there...

He wasn't as bad as he was last year, but he was still a handful. If I had a dollar for every time I had to ask him to sit down... And he was out of class once every day to use the restroom. Which might not sound like an issue, but one has to wonder why he can't remain in class for a full period.

The last day I was in class they were to watch a video. Blaine approached asking if he and a girl could go and take care of something having to do with the school's annual canned food drive. Turns out he and the girl were in student government.

As it was the last day before break and I knew he wasn't going to sit still for the video, I allowed it.

A short time later, I got a call from the office. Blaine was needed in the front office because his probation officer was there.


It was then that I realized I didn't have a clear idea of where Blaine said he was going to be. There was something about a class getting extra cans that they got credit for and... It was vague. (And I don't usually let students out of class without knowing exactly where they're going to be.)

After some hemming and hawing, I realized he must be in the ASB room. I called over there. Only, he wasn't there. The office also called there and called me back. I was to send Blaine up as soon as I saw him.

(This is a headdesk moment. I should have known where he was. I had to remind myself that usually when the office calls, I send the student right away. This was an anomaly.)

Blaine did return a short time later. So, I sent him on his way again. This time, I knew exactly where he went.

That's what I get for being a little lax before a holiday.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Inappropriate Mirth

For the last seven days before the winter break, I covered a science class. I had been warned the classes were difficult. Luckily, the teacher gave me a few tools to try and keep things moving along.

One of the days (and at a certain point, the days started running together), the afternoon classes were to answer 20-odd questions on photosynthesis. They were true/false. They got ten minutes to do the paper, and then we were to correct them together.

Many of them were playing around rather than doing the work, so I wanted to get them thinking at least while we were going over the questions. So, I pulled out the name cards. (I was so glad to have name cards. Not every teacher leaves those for us subs.)

I announced what number we were on, pulled a card, and had the student read the question and their answer. (I got volunteers, but I insisted on the cards. That way they all had to pay attention. Besides, they had a 50/50 shot at getting it right.)

Since many had not done the work, some of them made wild guesses when called on. (This is better than when they have to fill in answers. Then if they haven't done it, they'll freeze up or refuse to answer.) And there were a couple times when they gave a wrong answer that should have been obvious.

So, the class as a whole would laugh at them.

Which was not cool. Nope. Not at all. It's hard enough to be called on.

So, I made a blanket rule. If someone wanted to laugh at a student for giving a wrong answer, they could very well answer the next question.

That stopped the laughing right quick. (I only had to follow through on that threat once.)