Friday, November 15, 2019

Just a Few More Minutes


Integrated math 1 (what used to be algebra) for eighth graders. (They expect them to take this class in ninth grade, so these are the advanced math kiddos.) They were solving systems of equations.

After I got class started, I noticed a bunch of yellow passes on their desks. That's when I remembered something that had happened on Wednesday, the last time I had been on this campus.

A stack of yellow passes had been delivered during second period. The co-teacher was the one to receive them, so she passed them out. One of the recipients happened to be absent, so I had a chance to look at it.

They were perfect attendance awards. As a reward, the kiddos were to be released ten minutes early from second period on Friday.

So, there would be a few dismissed early from the group in front of me. I was glad I had seen the pass on Wednesday or I would have been completely blindsided.

At the appointed time, I dismissed the pass holders.

"I need a couple more minutes."

Nine of the pass holders left. But the tenth was still working on the assignment.

It was one of those assignments where whatever they hadn't completed in class became homework. So there was no penalty for not finishing. The students could just go.

But the boy wanted to finish before he left.

This is unusual. Most of the time, when an assignment can be completed for homework, I struggle to keep them on task. They'd rather play in class and "do it for homework".

The early dismissal was a reward. I'm not going to "enforce" a reward.

The boy spent about five more minutes working quickly. Then he packed up and left.

See, some of them do truly care about their work. Not all of them are slackers. (It's just that the slackers make much better stories.)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Bad Combination


Sometimes students fight. But more of the time, students mock fight. That is, they go at each other as if they were going to hit each other, but they pull punches and they're laughing about it.

Stopping a mock fight is usually simple. I tell them to cut it out.

With Jordan and Daniel, it wasn't that simple.

Monday at the continuation high school, I was covering the social studies class. They were supposed to be reading Martin Luther King, Jr's Letter from Birmingham Jail. Mostly they were playing Krunker.

Fifth period. Even though Jordan and Daniel sat a distance apart, they found excuses to get up and "attack" the other. Or, they both got up and pounced on each other.

So, I kept having to intervene. It was annoying, but it didn't escalate any further.

Tuesday at the continuation high school I covered an English class. Guess what pair was in third period together.

And it happened again. They played at fighting. I told them to cut it out.

Then something unexpected happened. I was asked to cover the social studies teacher's class fifth period as she had an IEP meeting to attend.

Deep sigh. I knew that meant Jordan and Daniel again.

Alas, this time it escalated. The boys sat next to each other. And while I stood over them, Daniel "punched" Jordan in the kidney.

Daniel felt my kicking him out of class was unfair as Jordan had "slapped" him in the face in the second that I had turned away. I wanted them separated, so sending them both to the same room would have defeated the purpose.

Because the social studies teacher was on campus, I wanted to let her know what had happened. It turned out she has the exact same problem with them. She doesn't let them sit together because of it.

Thursday at the continuation high school I covered the computer class. Guess which pair was in fourth period.

So, seriously? These two kiddos have all their classes together? No wonder they spend all day playing.

Jordan and I got into it when I wouldn't let him sit next to Daniel. (I learned that lesson.) At least they didn't attempt to punch each other again.

After that class, I happened to run into the counselor. I asked her nicely if she could possibly in the future maybe make sure those two boys did not have any more classes together. Because, seriously, it was ridiculous.

I wasn't the only one complaining.

Perhaps they might find other outlets for that energy, like, perhaps doing their schoolwork, if only they didn't have each other to feed off of every day (and in every class!). Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Not Quite Right


Seventh grade English. They were reading The Hobbit.

The day's assignment was for them to finish reading chapter eight and answer comprehension questions.

I explained the assignment to first period.

"But we listen to the book..."

Sigh. Of course they do.

The great thing about listening to literature is that they get to hear words they're not familiar with. Many are struggling readers. They might not even try without the help.

But leaving a sub the audio is tricky.

It used to be that there'd be a CD, and I'd play that on a boombox. Nowadays, all of the classrooms have installed speakers that one connects a computer to. The audio is a digital file.

The teacher can leave that all for a sub, but that means leaving their laptops and/or their login information. Sometimes it's really not worth the trouble.

So, knowing all this, I informed the class they were going to be doing things differently that day. And it's not a bad thing to have them change things up once in a while.

However, middle schoolers hate change.

Before I had a chance to give my "you can read it to yourselves today" speech, my co-teacher spoke up.

It was one of those lovely co-caught classes where a number of the students are special ed, so there's a general ed teacher as well as a special ed teacher working together. Both teachers were out, so we two subs were supervising the class. This is a very good thing as many times those classes can be more challenging behavior-wise, especially when there's a sub (or two).

The co-teacher said he could try to find the book on YouTube. I figured, why not?

After dealing with some technical issues, he did manage to find it. He got it all connected and going...

"But that's not what we've been listening to. He's not doing the voices..."

*headdesk*

Seventh graders... We just can't win.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Hidden Among Us


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. 😉

One day I sat down to write a bunch of "what if?" questions to get a bit ahead on the blog. A theme emerged...

What if extra terrestrials were to reveal themselves to us tomorrow? What if they revealed they'd been living among us for thousands of years? (In other words, the opposite of last week's question.)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Dropping a Lifeline

I started this scarf one year ago today. Aannndddd... I'm just about finished. I think.


It's almost wide enough. Although, what is wide enough? It's probably okay right now...

But I could do another pattern repeat. Maybe. Possibly.

Does it look like I have enough yarn for another pattern repeat?


If I had been thinking and planning ahead, I would have weighed the yarn before and after a pattern repeat. Then I could determine if I have enough yarn left.

But no. I didn't. So, I'm eyeballing this, and I'm notoriously bad at that.

I'm going to go for it. I might make it.

But, I'm hedging my bets. I've dropped a lifeline.

What's a lifeline? It's a strand of yarn strung through all the stitches of one round. So, if it turns out I don't have enough yarn to complete the pattern repeat, I can frog it back to the lifeline and bind off.

I may have enough yarn, though. In that case, all I have to do is pull the lifeline out.

Wish me luck. By the time you read this, I might already know if I made it. The next time you see this scarf, it will be finished one way or the other.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Grading Me?


It was Friday. Twelfth grade English. The school is starting a study hall period, and this was the day all the teachers were to explain the concept via PowerPoint to the students.

This is new to me, too. We did not have study hall when I was in school. I have heard of it, but I've never experienced it first hand.

Of course, I was informed about all of this when I checked in that morning.

My job is pretty much winging things with no prep whatsoever, so I wasn't too concerned. I had access to the PowerPoint slides. I know how to work the in class projector and computer. 

Yes, reading the slides to the students is dreadfully dull, but what else could I do?

So, the class came in, the slides were loaded, and the projector worked. I even had a group that sat quietly while I droned on. Success!

I was about five minutes into it when the door opened. In walked an assistant principal and a counselor.

Administrators walk in from time to time. They may be doing a dress code check or they may be looking to talk to a student for some reason. But this time they just stood in the doorway and watched.

Eeek. I didn't know I was getting graded.

I tried to up my game, but I was doing the presentation cold. And the slides were pretty detailed. There was nothing for me to add to make things more interesting.

The administrators were there for a couple minutes before they left. That's when I breathed a sigh of relief.

It is likely that they were making sure everything was working. But in my mind, I felt as if they were watching and judging. And I was sorely lacking.

We always judge ourselves way more harshly than the world sees us.

The administrators said nothing to me. So, I'm sure it was fine. It must have been fine, right?

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Dancing AP


Some days are just strange.

It was Thursday. Halloween. I ended up covering Spanish. (The teacher had taken the Spanish club to Olvera Street for Day of the Dead celebrations.)

Fifth period was an AP (advanced placement) class. The lesson plans had them "joining" their class on the CollegeBoard website (which, of course, hit some technical glitches) and then going outside to practice their song.

Luckily, the smell of wildfires wasn't as bad as it had been earlier in the day. And the winds had died down somewhat.

When I saw "practice their song", I assumed they'd be singing. But when I finally joined them outside, I discovered it was a dance they were doing.

A couple students got stuck "joining" the class. First, most of them had to create an account, and they had the usual issues with the log in then not working. You'd think kids that age would know all the tricks, but they had the same issues we all do with these things.

This dance? They were really bad at it.

Apparently, they were to perform it the next day. So, they badly needed the rehearsal. Things did not go so well.

They were not in sync with each other. A third were at any given time not doing what the others were doing. And until someone started calling out the steps, most kinda stumbled through the whole thing.

Deep sigh. At least they were aware of how not ready they were.

What dance were they doing? I bet most of you are familiar with it...


And in this video? They're way more in sync than period 5 ever got. (The first minute and a half is what they did. At the two minute mark, they switch into the fast version. Period 5 attempted the fast version. Train. Wreck.)