Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Chaos

It was Friday at the middle school. On Thursday, I had run into the teacher and mentioned that I was his sub for Friday. He told me he was chaperoning a field trip (to Raging Waters--end of year reward for the well-behaved), and he'd see me in the morning. So, when I arrived to his room to find no lesson plans, I wasn't worried.

The warning bell rang. I was still alone. So, I opened the door to let the kiddos (7th graders) in. I stood at the door, looking for the teacher... 

"Oooh, get it away..."

"Get what away?" 

"It's a spider." 

"That's not a spider..." 

It wasn't a spider. It was a cockroach. And it was on the floor next to a girl. To her credit, she wasn't freaking out. The rest of the class, however... 

Since it was an "advanced" class, the kiddos problem solved, and as a team managed to do something about the insect. Loudly. This is why I didn't hear the phone ringing, although someone helpfully told me that it was. 

The teacher was on the phone. He was on his way, but he wasn't going to get to class before the bell, so he wanted to let me know what first period was doing. 

Somehow I managed to get the class' attention, and I told them to get their computers. (Naturally, they had a Google Classroom assignment.) A couple more students then walked in. It was then I realized that the bell hadn't rung yet. Oops. 

I was curious, so I asked how many of the students were going on the field trip. (They were leaving after first period.) 60-70% of the class. No wonder they were wound up. But still, they logged into their Google accounts and got to work. Eventually. 

It took some time, but the chatter gradually subsided. Slowly, the room crept towards silence. And at about the moment they achieved it, the teacher walked in. 

Way to make me look good, kiddos. 

(I did admit to Mr. F that the silence was a recent thing. The students told him all about the excitement.)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Rolling Starbursts

It was fifth period science at the continuation high school. The day had started off pretty good, but at this point, the students weren't all that into the doing of work of it all. Three of them put their heads together as one of them pulled out some Starbursts.

I caught snippets of the discussion. Something about "striped sides". It sounded like they were going to treat them as dice. Um, okay...

I pulled out my daily note. I started writing.

"Are you writing down that we're rolling Starbursts?" one of the boys asked.

Well, no. Actually at that moment I was finishing up my notes for period four. But I wasn't going to tell them that.

"Of course," I replied.

I made a mental note to myself. "Rolling Starbursts." Brilliant description. I went back to writing my period four notes.

The idea that I was writing it down upset them? Before I pulled out the note, when I was telling them to get to work, they informed me they would after their game. Their game that they play all the time. So, if they play it all the time, why would their teacher be upset?

The boy wouldn't let it go. "But, you're going to get us into trouble. He'll drop us from the class. Why you gonna play us like that?"

Huh? I always leave notes. I always write these sorts of things down. They know me. This shouldn't come as a shock.

He continued to argue. He told me that I should delete the mention from the note. He asked me exactly what I had written. (As I hadn't written it down yet, I hedged.) When I wouldn't, he said he was so upset he wasn't going to do any work. (Not that he had been doing work. But now, somehow, him not doing work was my fault.)

He went back to his game. I went back to my note. I finished up period four and wrote down what the boys were doing. What the boys were still doing.

The protester returned to argue with me a couple more times, between rounds of the game, I imagine.

The end of the period arrived. Had he finished his game and done any work? Of course not. The boys finished by "disposing" of their playing pieces. (Read: they ate the candy.)

If they would only put that sort of effort into their schoolwork, they would graduate in no time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


I saw his name on the seating chart. Nah. Has it really been two years...?

I was covering a chemistry class, which means sophomores and juniors. But Oscar was just in the 8th grade, wasn't he?

Apparently not. I checked the class roster. He's in the 10th grade now.

Oscar... I vividly recall his 6th period math class from 8th grade. He was one of the challenging ones. He wouldn't sit still. He wouldn't do his work. He was a perpetual motion machine. I remember bellowing his name repeatedly to little effect.

(I went looking in my archives to see if I had written about him before. I hadn't.)

I was dreading seeing him again.

He arrived along with 1st period, and...

He sat in his assigned seat with no prompting. He did his work. If his name hadn't jarred unpleasant memories, I probably wouldn't have noticed him.

The assignment was of the due-at-the-end-of-the-period variety. Guess who came in at lunch to finish it?

When I say that some of them grow out of the crazy, I mean it. Case in point. Oscar grew up and mellowed.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


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 ;)

So, let's suppose that someone has perfected artificial intelligence. The promise/threat of so much near future sci fi has been fully realized. Now what do we do with it...?

What if we sent probes equipped with artificial intelligence to Mars (and beyond)? How do you think they'd react? Would they help our exploration of our solar system? Or would they behave like petulant teens...?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Jellyfish No. 20

Last week I did my jellyfish inventory and showed my current jellyfish in progress...

I finally got it completed Thursday night. Not that I had all that much to do. It was just one of those weeks where I'd get home and would be so out of it that I didn't have the energy to do that final bit of detail work--the face.

(The pattern gives great detail in where the eyes should go. Unfortunately, getting the smile right and in the center between the eyes is always a bit of a challenge.)

So, now it's finally finished...

And I posted a short video to Instagram (because I like to see it move)...

A post shared by Liz A. (@zizirho) on

Friday, May 19, 2017

Complete 5-Letter Words

I found this quiz on my Facebook feed via Mental Floss. You're given a five-letter word with one letter missing. Only one letter will complete the word, and each letter of the alphabet can only be used once.

But beware. You only have 1:30 minutes to complete...

Complete the 5-Letter Words 

It took me three tries to get to 100%. The first time I got 73%. I missed one, and I ran out of time. The second time I got up to 80%, again missing one and running out of time. It goes quickly. 

Try it. Some of the words are obvious. Some are a bit more tricky. Good luck.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pointless Lie

When students leave their "home" schools and transfer to the continuation high school, they first take a class called orientation. It lasts about a month, and it covers how the continuation high school works. It's also an opportunity for them to earn other credits in various subjects. (They get sent to the continuation high school because they've failed several classes, so they do need these credits.)

As I've covered orientation many times, I'm familiar with the routine. So, when I noticed Kendrick was off task, I gently prodded him about getting to work.

"I only need five credits."

Yeah, orientation is worth five credits. But they can earn more if they put the work in. (They can earn less if they do nothing.) I explained...

"No, I only need five credits."

I was confused. There's no way the continuation high school would take a transfer from a student who was only five credits short. There's a waiting list for entrance. Besides, five credits can be made up in summer school or credit recovery which is offered before and after school at the high schools.

"I'm not new. I've been going here for years."

And only then did I catch on. He was lying to me.

I get lied to all the time. Blatantly, sometimes. About all sorts of things. But this lie caught me completely unawares.

I guess it was because it wasn't even a plausible lie.

I suppose he saw a sub, thought he could play it off like he was about to graduate, and figured he'd con me into letting him do nothing. Ah, how little he realizes how badly he misjudged the situation...