Thursday, October 22, 2020

A Very Different Evacuation

Desk with chair and two computers

I really, really hate emergency drills. But we're doing the distance learning thing with no kiddos, so we're exempt now, right? Uh. . . 

Every year, California does its Great California ShakeOut. The district I work for always does it. And last Thursday was the day. 

Usually, I know it's coming. But this year is so different. I didn't even realize it was the day until the assistant principal came over the speaker system beginning with, "Attention all teachers who are on campus. . ." 

I happened to be co-teaching on this day, so I let the other teacher know something was going on. As she was working from home, she kept going while I evacuated with the rest of the staff on campus. 

I wasn't the only one in my immediate vicinity, it turned out. Three other teachers exited classrooms in that wing. One got five steps away from her classroom, noticed that we were all wearing masks, realized she wasn't wearing hers, and turned around to go back and get it. (I think we've all done this once or twice this year.) 

When we got out to the evacuation staging area (outdoors, in the PE area), I heard more than one teacher say the very thing I was thinking. "I didn't realize there were this many people on campus." 

I'd guess there were about fifty of us. Now, compared to a student population of 3000ish plus 170ish teachers plus instructional aides plus security staff plus administration, that's really nothing. But considering how empty the place feels, it's really a lot of people who are actually around.

We hung out until we got the all clear. When I got back to the room, the class was still going. (I left the meet on.) It's amazing how long it did not take when we did not have the whole campus population to deal with.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Distant Musicians

chair and desk with two computers

Have you been wondering how they're conducting music classes distantly? Only me? 

Last Tuesday I was called in to cover band (and music appreciation). Last Wednesday I was called in to cover choir (at a different school). 

It turns out that the marching band is actually learning a parade march. I mean, that's what they always do every year, but they generally do that with the expectation that they're going to perform it while marching in various parades. 

Rehearsing distantly with the wonky wifi connection is odd. The drum major did the conducting while everyone else had their cameras and mics off. (I'm sure there's got to be a way that a band can rehearse this way, but the technology apparently doesn't exist yet.) The drum major had various section leaders play their parts, but not together. At least they'll know their individual parts when they can meet in person? 

It was a good thing the drum major was doing the work, because I got kicked out of the meet six times. Yup. Six. At least I was accessing the attendance software via a different computer, or I might have been kicked out of the meet more than that. 

The music appreciation class allegedly watched a video. They turned in the questions before the class was over, so they did something. (They were given the YouTube link for the video, so I didn't have to show it to them.) 

As for the choir, they were to do rehearsals via various websites, and then they were to record themselves via another website. So, unlike the band, their teacher could hear what they were doing. (Although, I assume the band director was having them play individually for him at various times. They had a "test" coming up where they were to have their parts memorized for various sections.) 

It'll be interesting when we get back to in person classes. I wonder if they'll be performance ready. It's a different way to learn their music, to be sure.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Missing a Day

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 woke up this morning with no memory of yesterday? (At some point after you woke up, you realized that it was a day later than the day you thought it was. This is not a case of quarantime, or you thought it was Monday but it's Tuesday. Nope, you've actually lost a day somewhere.)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Entrelac Scarf Progress

Last week I just knit along on the scarf for my sister-in-law's birthday. Her birthday was at the end of September. She got to choose what she wanted. 

Last Monday I showed you this. . .

Since then, I've progressed to. . .

Then. . .

And as of Sunday. . .

The color changes are all from the yarn. It's a simple enough pattern, so for now it's just a matter of knitting along until I finish it. 

I think right about now I need a project that I don't have to think too much about. This is that. 

I hope you have a good simple project to keep your mind off things. Do you?

Friday, October 16, 2020

75 of the Most Popular Films of 1980-1995

Since the horror movie list from last week went over so well. . . 

This is a quiz for those of you who are about my age. Well, I mean anyone can try it, but for those of you who are about my age, this is our movie sweet spot. 

75 of the Most Popular Films of 1980-1995

I got 52 of the 75, or 69%, mostly because I'm just contrary that way. There are very popular films (*cough* Jurassic Park *cough*) that I refused to see. (There are stories behind some of them, mostly long stories.) 

How many have you seen? Are there any on the list that you refuse to see?

Thursday, October 15, 2020


Period six was the biggest period of the day, thirty plus students. Because we are on a modified schedule for distance learning, I only had the class twice in four days. 

On Wednesday, I had gotten them started on the assignment. I went to input the attendance when, poof. Suddenly I was kicked out of the meet. 

The internet was still working, so I just rejoined the meet. And it was all fine.

The exact same thing happened on Friday. 

I think since more of them had their cameras on, it was taking up more bandwidth? Perhaps. And it only occurred while I was accessing two things online by taking attendance. 

This is why when students drop out of the meet, I'm not concerned. Especially when they rejoin a minute or two later. Because it has happened to me. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

An Obvious Fix

desk with computer

I got the Google extensions so I could see all the students on screen and so I could track whether they stayed in class all period. I was all set. Not so fast. . .

The prior week I included the attendance files in my email to the teachers. I thought the files went through. Now I know differently. 

Last week I covered a French class for four days. (The teacher's father passed away.) Because it wasn't a one-day thing, I wanted to save the attendance files and send them all at once. 

Upon attempting to save the files, I discovered a small, teeny issue--I couldn't retrieve the actual data in the saved file. 

After trying every trick I knew, I admitted defeat. And that's when I had the bright idea to take a screenshot. Not ideal, but it gets the job done. 

The attendance extension is really cool. It gives a graphic that looks like this: 

sideways bar graph with green bars

I cropped this to cut out all identifying information. The pink row is an absent student. Green means they were "in class". You can see who came late and who left early at a glance. There's even a student in the middle who left and returned. (He let me know it was a wifi issue upon his return.) 

Alas, those green bars did not make the transition when I emailed this to the teachers. And those green bars are kind of the whole point.

To get a bit technical, this thing saves as an .html file. But to save to Google Drive, it opens as a .doc file. I could not find a way to get it to open as an .html (the extension I tried wouldn't work on the school Chromebook), and if I tried to save it as a PDF, the green bars didn't save. 

And then two days later, I noticed a little note at the bottom of the screen. "If you want a printed copy of this report, make sure that the More Settings --> Background Graphics checkbox is checked in the Print dialog". 

The easiest way to save stuff as a PDF is to go as if to print the screen, but rather than selecting a printer, select "Save as PDF". No converter or extension necessary. 

At that moment, I realized I was an idiot. All I had to do was save the file via the print option as a PDF, and voila. The checkbox was very easy to find. 

Well, at least Thursday's and Friday's files were easily saved. And from now on, I can save those files as PDFs and email them to the teachers. 

I'm learning. Slowly.