Friday, May 22, 2015

It Rained

The rain started just after lunch on Thursday. The kiddos got into class, and the period went normally. Then the bell rang signaling the end of the period.

As the students filed out, various screams erupted around the middle school.

Student: "What is this, elementary school? It's just a little rain. You've seen it before. It's not like you're going to melt."

She pretty much nailed it. Saved me the trouble of saying it.

(Contrary to popular legend, it does occasionally rain in southern California. While it's been a while--undoubtedly you've heard about our drought--it hasn't been so long that middle schoolers would have not experienced it. And not even that long ago.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

King Charles

Charles' seat was at the back of the room. He had no neighbors to either side. In front of him was an aisle.

I call is the iso-seat. The kid that sits in the iso-seat is the kid that's been isolated from the rest of the group. Generally with very good reason.

Charles could not sit still. On the one hand, I feel sorry for him. He probably has issues. But on the other... The boy was breaking out dance moves--in his seat--for no reason whatsoever. And he wasn't doing the assignment. At all.

(I was in this 8th grade U.S. history class all week. They had an 11 page packet to complete. Charles wasn't making much headway.)

He whined about doing the work. He got out of his seat for the most spurious of reasons. And when I'd go to stand next to him, he got really uncomfortable. (This worked well for me. I could leverage him into writing something on his paper by promising him I'd leave as soon as he did.)

Then on Thursday a miracle occurred. I didn't notice right away. Sometime in the passing period, I noticed Charles. Or rather, I noticed the absence of Charles. I held my breath...

The bell rang.

Charles was absent! Hooray!

According to the online attendance, he had an "illness". Not that I wished him sick, but it was amazing to not have to chase after him for a day.

Unfortunately, he returned Friday. Sigh.

As for the title of this post, it comes from Charles' backpack. He had King Charles written on it. Um, okay...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pocket Universe

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 could create your own little world--a pocket universe that only you could enter and exit? What would you put in it? How much time would you spend there?

Monday, May 18, 2015


8th grade U.S. history. For a week. The teacher was chaperoning the annual Washington, D.C. trip.

His lesson plans were genius. For half the period, they had a packet on the chapter about the Civil War to work on. For the other half, we were to watch a movie on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

It was perfect. They weren't stuck doing anything for too long. Just about the time they'd had enough of the bookwork, it was time for the movie. And we never watched the movie for so long that it would tax their attention spans.

It would have been a perfect week. If not for the ubiquitous technical difficulties.

I thought I was prepared. I knew the sound trick. I got the projector working. I got the movie started. And everything was going swimmingly on Monday. Until we got 3 minutes 41 seconds in. That's when the movie froze.

I managed to get it going again. Then the same thing happened 2nd period.

Long story short: the DVD was scratched, and at that particular point the movie was broken. If I fast forwarded past the point, I was okay, but if I didn't get past that point before it stuck, I was stuck. As I learned the hard way.

There's nothing worse than having a group of 8th graders waiting for you to try to fix a movie. For 20 minutes. In the end, I had to restart the computer...

So, 4th period I was prepared. I stood over the computer before that point... And missed it by thatmuch. Seriously. I was going for the fast forward just as it hit 3:41. I'd get it right 5th period, you say. Not so much. In fact, I barely missed getting it right 6th period as well.

Sigh. Well, at least nothing froze after that point. Problem solved. Sort of.

Yeah, I had other issues. Sound issues. Starting the movie but it not starting issues. The whole week the DVD was glitchy. It wasn't playing well with the computer. But somehow, we got through the whole thing.

I kind of miss the days of insert tape, push play.

(Not really. Those days we had issues with rewinding to the right point, and the TV was small and sometimes hard to hear, so I'm not that nostalgic.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Room 401

It was one of those crazy Fridays. A couple teachers weren't covered, so I walked into this 4th period 7th grade math class cold. And the lesson plans were a little sparse.

The kiddos finished the worksheet in 15 minutes.

Well, I do have a math game...

It's a pretty simple time killer. I put them into teams (in the past I've let the teams pick their own names), and then each team gets a chance to guess the number I've thought of. It's a three-digit number with no repeating digits (a number such as 982, 670, 251, etc). I let them know if they got any correct digits as well as if any are in the correct spot in the number.

Once they get the idea, they really get into it.

So, I had to come up with a number. And since I had just arrived to the classroom, the classroom number was on my mind. But they'd figure that out in a heartbeat, right?

Um, no.

It took them more than a dozen guesses. They got close a couple times. One team guessed 409. When I gave them that 2 of the digits were correct and those 2 digits were in the correct spots, I was sure someone would get it. But first they guessed 405 (they were sure 5 was in the number), 406, and 402. And in the midst of this, one team gave me 509. (They wouldn't let go of that 5.)

Finally, at about guess 16, one team gave me the number.

And I pointed out that the number was the room number.

Of course, most of the time the kiddos have no idea what room number they're in. Seriously.

(A student asks for a pass to go back to a previous class to retrieve something they've forgotten. I ask what room. They hem and haw. I ask which teacher. That they usually know. And I'll write the teacher's name on the pass. Or I'll know the room number from the teacher's name. This happens so frequently that it's barely worth remarking about.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015


No, this is not his real name. I never use real names. They are minors...

I've known Cesar for a couple years now. He's... distinctive. He stands about 6' 2" and he wears his hair in a huge Afro which adds at least another 2 inches to his height. He's not African-American, though. He's probably Latino, although I can't be sure.

It was the computer class at the continuation high school. I approached because Cesar was not on task. He had other things on his mind. He asked me if I was familiar with a local comedy club. Familiar might be overstating, but I was aware the place existed.

Cesar had gone to see a show. He thought it was hilarious that the comedian had gone after him for probably being high. He said it was ironic as he had been high.

I tried to explain this was not irony. Irony is when something is the opposite of what's expected.

I could see how the comedian had chosen Cesar to go after. He was ripe for mocking.

"What did he say about your collar?"

Cesar wears a dog collar. I once asked him why. He said he liked it. His uncle bought him a dog license for it, and so now his dog collar has a dog license on it.

Cesar: "I had my head down. He didn't see the collar."

Too bad. Perhaps if the comedian had looked a little closer, he would have also noticed Cesar's hands. All of the fingernails on one hand are filed to points, kind of like claws.

Yet, with all this, he's a very easy going guy. I don't generally have issues with him in class. He never talks back. He's never rude or disrespectful. Getting his work done, however...

Ah well. (I've wanted to write about him for a while, but he's never given me a good reason to. Finally, I have a reason to mention him.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Immediate Consequences

12th grade English at the continuation high school. They had a movie. (They had just finished reading Night, and this was a companion movie for them to compare and contrast in an essay that was upcoming.)

No technical difficulties. No major issues at all. Although, a couple students would not stop talking during the movie.

Fine, I can write down names...

The next day, I'm at the same school but a different class. One student storms in. He's really mad at me.

"You said I was talking during the movie."

Me: "You were."

"Ms. M wouldn't sign my buyout..."

Yeah, well, I told them they were to watch the movie. He wouldn't have been talking if Ms. M had been there, I'm sure.