Friday, December 28, 2007

Before the Break

It no longer feels like trauma.

The last week before winter break is an interesting time in the schools. The students are already mentally on their break. This is why many substitute teachers refuse to work during that week. Me? I'll take as many days as I can get.

I had a two day assignment for Wednesday and Thursday at the continuation high school. The break started on Friday, so Thursday was a "combined day". And the last day before the break.

I should explain the concept of the combined day. Students at this school are either "morning" (they attend from 8-noon) or "afternoon" (they attend from 12:15-3:15). To make a shorter day so that the teachers can get out early, they combine the morning and afternoon classes so that 2nd period and 5th period happen in the same hour, 3rd and 6th attend class together, and 4th and 7th do the same (1st period is on its own).

Since I had these groups individually on Wednesday, I got a chance to get a feel for them. Not too horrible except for periods 4 and 7. So, combining those two groups on Thursday was the worst possible thing.

I spent the period trying to keep order. I mostly failed. They were supposed to do work. On the day before a break? Besides, they didn't do any work on Wednesday. Did I think they would do anything on Thursday? Not really.

I was fighting battles all period. No, you may not write the F-word on the chalkboard (they didn't ask permission, but after writing "F" and then part of the "U" I got where they were going with it). No, you may not look at scantly clad women on the Internet (how they found a way around that particular filter I don't know). It was a long hour.

Then the bell rang. And as they made a mad dash for the door, there was a puff of dusty smoke. Oh no.

I should have realized what it was sooner. It was during my first year subbing--tough group, and then the back of the room went up in dusty smoke. "Did you guys light the trash can on fire?" They thought this was hilarious.

I propped open the door so that the smoke could clear. This attracted the attention of other teachers and the custodian. The custodian figured out what it was. Some idiot had pulled the pin out of the fire extinguisher.

Thanks, guys. Now I have to explain all this to the front office.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Strange Car Problems

I caught a cold just in time for Christmas. So, I've been miserable for a couple days. All I wanted to do yesterday was to breathe without effort. Well, that and not do anything except rest. But there was one errand that I was obligated to run.

This all started last Wednesday (the 19th). I was at home, minding my own business when I got a frantic phone call from my mother. The bumper to her car had fallen off, and she needed me to come and pick her up.

She had not gotten into an accident. She had not hit anything. As far as she and the friend who was with her could figure out, she must have scraped the curb when she drove in or out of a driveway (her car is low, but she compensates for that). This should not have damaged her bumper, but then again, this was not the first strange thing that happened to this car.

A few years ago I was riding along with her. We were driving along an ordinary street when this (for want of a better word) bum came up and jumped on the hood of her car and made funny faces (and a growling noise) for no apparent reason. And then Mom had to take her car in to get the dent on her hood fixed.

Then a couple years ago we were going south on the 605 (I was with her this time as well) when some freeway debris came flying at the car. It looked like the bottom part of one of those yellow cones that work crews put out to divert traffic. When we later went to inspect the damage, we found that the license plate had been sheared off and that the underside of the car was damaged.

Actually, that time they had to replace the front bumper--the very same bumper that fell off last week. Hmmm.

And come to think of it, that last incident happened around this time--after Christmas but before January 1st. The bum incident? January. Wow. This is not a good time of year for Mom's car.

Yesterday I picked Mom up from the car rental place--she wanted to return her rental car. She's supposed to get her car back today.

I am grateful for one thing though--I wasn't with her for this particular incident.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I had a very interesting week. I'm just not ready to talk about it. I'm sure I will be once it stops feeling like trauma.

So, today I've been avoiding wrapping my Christmas presents.

I haven't really been avoiding it. I've been preparing to do it. It's just taken me all day. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

First I needed to wash my knits. I spent a lot of time handknitting these items. I figured that it would be nice if they didn't smell like my sweaty hands. And while I was doing that, I was figuring out how to make labels for all of my presents. That part took all day.

I'm not a complete idiot when it comes to the computer, but I'm no expert either. Today it was all about learning how to get clip art to work. I got the clip art easy enough--it just took forever to type the "to" and "from" bits and get them to line up properly.

So, the gifts are ready. I got them all into one place. The wrapping is in one place. The labels are ready. Now I can sit down and wrap. But am I? No. Instead, I'm writing this blog.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

'Tis the Season

...for cheesy TV Christmas movies.

I rewatched my favorite one last night. Though, being my favorite, I wouldn't exactly term it "cheesy".

(Sorry, I have no good subbing stories at the moment. I've been working. I just don't have much to say about the classes.)

Right, so the movie... It's called "The Christmas List". Luckily, they replay it every year now on ABC Family (I think they've rebroadcast it three times this season already). I highly recommend it...if you're into that sort of thing.

I'm not sure why I love it. No, not true. I have a pretty good guess. When it originally aired, I was stuck in a stupid retail job at Christmas, and the whole making-a-list thing resonated with me.

Though, that job of hers--not very true-to-life. I mean, there's no way that she had that kind of time during working hours during the Christmas rush. No way.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Quiz Backlash

I kind of had a mishmash of classes today. I had two periods of AP Human Geography which is an AP class for freshmen (I didn't know such a thing existed). And today they had two quizzes.

The first quiz was on the chapter. The second quiz was a vocabulary quiz on the unit. A student made up the quiz.

If a student creates the quiz, then he or she gets an automatic 100%. Even so, according to the students, no one really wanted to create the quiz. But then the teacher got a volunteer.

The student who made the quiz was in the first group that took the quiz. As the other students got into it, they started to have questions. They wanted to know if they could ask the quiz creator, which I thought was a reasonable request. So, for about 10 minutes, this student was doing my job, answering numerous questions.

Apparently, the quiz was very hard.

Then the second group came in. They heard. And when I passed out the quiz, they complained loudly. And they wanted to do harm to the quiz creator.

I had to defend the quiz creator, basically because I could not allow them to talk like they were talking. There was talk of violence. There was talk of sabotaging the student's grade. There was general talk about how they did not like this boy. But since these are the smart kids, they couched their terms. "Strongly worded essay"--that's my favorite.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Eighth graders are evil. By ninth grade they've mostly grown out of it. But some take a little longer to mature.

Today I covered ninth grade health. For the most part the classes were okay--on task and reasonable. Then 4th period arrived.

A student had crutches. I don't know why as there was no obvious injury. No cast. No bound up ankle. No limp. Actually, I can't say for sure who the crutches belonged to, for two different students walked in with one crutch apiece. But they were put aside before the period started.

In a reasonable class, the students remain seated. Today I had roamers. They went right for the crutches.

"Leave those there!"

I said that. Unfortunately, I had to repeat that command several times. First they argued. Then they complained. Only then did they reluctantly comply.

Sigh. I wish there was a way to ban crutches. At least from immature ninth grade classes.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Heat Wars

I had a quiet day. I needed a quiet day. I'm getting over a migraine.

It's been rather chilly. I run pretty warm, but it's been cold enough that even I wanted the heat on. So, I had it set at 72 degrees. This is a fairly reasonable temperature, warm even. And things were fine most of the day.

There was this one boy, however, who complained. He was wearing a t-shirt (part of the problem), and when he complained about the cold I gave my standard answer: "The heat is on". He checked and sure enough, I was right.

The temperature controls are located on a wall opposite the teacher's desk. They are also out in the open. So, when at 1:30 PM the warm air started blowing again, I got curious. Sure enough, the boy had set the heat at 80 degrees. Grrrr!

I set the temperature back down to 70. I got complaints--not about my turning it down, mind you, but because the heat had been set too high. I pointed at the boy and told the class that he had turned it up. He denied this. I informed him that I had seen him do it (he was over by the controls just before the heat went back on--hmmm). The temperature controls were not messed with for the remainder of the period.

The next period, same story. The boy thought he could get away with turning the heat up again! Well, I had a change of class form stating that he had been dropped from the class, so I sent him away. And I had no more problems with the heat.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

In Between

I have not discussed my knitting yet. That's because I've been underneath a beast of a project, and I didn't want to get into a moan and groan session about it. But I'm now doing a happy dance--yesterday I finished it!

It was a Christmas present (I was beginning to wonder if I'd get it done in time), so I'm not going to say too much more about it. But to divert myself (as the beast got to me and I needed something else to knit to keep my interest) I was also working on a scarf. And I went and finished that today.

The scarf is the standard garter stitch number. However, I knit it lengthwise rather than widthwise, so I didn't have very many rows, but those rows were long. I switched yarn every few rows making it stripey. And the first and last seven stitches of the last row I dropped making instant fringe (in the colors that corresponded to the stripe I was on). It's cute.

But no happy dance. I'm currently between projects. This is where I scream.

Christmas is fast approaching. I have a couple other projects I want to get to (though I wonder how much I'll actually get done). However, it's kind of late in the day to start a new project, so I get to spend the rest of the night actually watching the TV (as opposed to listening to it while working on my knitting).

My fingers are already starting to itch.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Look Like You Mean It

I was at the continuation high school today. Fridays are pretty laid back. We get out at noon.

Today the lesson plan was a movie. They were to write a paragraph about the movie and turn it in at the end of the period. Otherwise it was pretty kick back. Of course, that's where the trouble begins.

I had several students think that since it was sub + movie + Friday that they could relax the rules. They thought that they could bring out their cell phones. A warning is usually enough.

However, there was this one student who didn't like my answer. When I told him to put away his phone, he argued. I wasn't in the mood. I told him to stop arguing and I glared at him.

"That look--you look just like my moms."

Wow! What a wonderful compliment.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


The other day I spent some time lamenting that I missed the premiere of Hogfather on ION. I should have known. It would turn out all right in the end.

First, I complained that I had not seen and ads for the thing. Well, I hadn't. That doesn't mean they didn't exist. It was much later in the week (like Friday) when I finally got around to watching the previous Saturday's Torchwood (on BBC America), and sure enough, there was an ad for Hogfather. Whoops. That's what I get for taking a week to get to the shows recorded on my DVR.

Second, I complained that Hogfather wasn't going to be on again. It wasn't going to be...for the two weeks following the first airing. I did another search more recently and found that they're going to be replaying it over two nights: the 12th and the 13th. I have my TiVo set and I'm ready.

Now I have something to look forward to (especially since many shows have gone on their now annual winter break). And I hope it'll live up to the book. It's a great series; I recommend it highly.

Monday, December 3, 2007


I just got done with a three-day assignment. 7th graders. Ugh.

Today I was to give the assignment, tell them that it was due at the end of the period, and then at the end of the period I was to tell them to finish whatever they had not finished for homework. That's kind of dishonest, but I've been subbing long enough to know that that was a good plan, and I stuck with it.

Usually, if I tell a class that the assignment for the day will be due the next day, the class spends the class period playing (thereby making more work for me as I have to keep after them), and when I tell them to get to work, they tell me that they'll do it at home. I have heard every excuse. These are generally some variation of, "I don't have anything else to do at home".

So, telling them that the assignment is due at the end of the period makes good sense. But these kids decided to be contrary.

At the end of the period I gave them the news. And they were upset. "Why didn't you tell us this before?" I was asked. "If I had known it was due tomorrow, I would have done more in class."

Now you tell me.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Rainy Day

It's been a crazy week. I've been busy with Christmas decoration preparation and dental appointments and migraine headaches. Next week has got to be easier.

Yesterday it rained. I like the rain. I like listening to it on the roof when I sleep. I like watching it out the window while I'm under some knitting project. I even like walking in it under an umbrella. But I hate it at school.

I wonder about when they built this school. Was it a dry decade? Did they not know what rain was like? I wonder, because they built this school in the worst possible way to deal with the rain.

There are no covered walkways anywhere. They only recently (within the past two years) built a covered lunch area (and it isn't all that large, especially compared to the size of the population of the school). And when enough water is around, the grassy areas between buildings flood. One year the flood waters were up to the doorways of some of the classrooms.

There aren't even any overhanging roofs over doorways. The eaves hang just far enough so that when one is entering a room, one is standing right at the edge of the eaves. That means that I have water dripping on my head as I'm trying to unlock the door. Well, water would be dripping on my head, but I'm usually holding an umbrella, albeit awkwardly.

If there's even the slightest chance of rain and I'm subbing at that school, I make sure to have my umbrella with me. Just getting from the office to the classroom would be a drenching experience without the umbrella.

Now imagine this place filled with students getting to and from class. Oh, I've got a better image...

Imagine everyone packed closely, trying to get out the gates in a deluge of rain. One year someone pulled a fire alarm in the rain.

I hope it rains again. Though, I hope I'm working at a different school.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Knowledge Gap

6th period I was covering an English class. They were finishing up a short story. One of the main characters' names was Marilyn, and the students couldn't pronounce it.

"Marilyn, as in Marilyn Monroe," I explained.


"Isn't there a teacher named...?"

"You've never heard of Marilyn Monroe?" I asked the class.

They claimed that they hadn't. This surprised me. I thought she was an icon.

Earlier in the day, I happened across two students having an argument. I got pulled into it.

"She doesn't think that Bruce Lee is the best martial artist of our generation," the boy explained.

"Your generation?" I asked. "Isn't Bruce Lee dead?"

(Note: this boy was born no earlier than 1993.)

"Fine, in this century, then," the boy said.

"Didn't he die in the '70's?" I asked.

This exasperated the boy. I let him have his initial point, though. If he thought Bruce Lee was the best, then so be it.

So, same day. They know Bruce Lee, they don't know Marilyn Monroe. Scary.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Careful, Teacher Is Watching

I don't know what it is. For some reason, the students think that we substitute teachers aren't really there. I know sometimes the students talk like there's no adult in the room. And sometimes they do stuff that they just shouldn't do.

I was covering this computer class (not today, but a while ago). They were working on some project that involved searching for information on the Internet. No big. This one boy was instead working on his English assignment. Again, no big. They know what they have to do and when it's due, so if they feel like another assignment takes precedence, then unless there is a compelling reason to stop them (like a test), I don't.

Anyway, the assignment was about the novel the English class was reading. They were to make up study questions about the various chapters (and there was a shoebox diorama involved as well). What the boy was doing, however, was copying questions off of a study website. He informed me that the teacher knew about the website and had encouraged them to use it. Fine. But the assignment was to make up study questions about the chapter, not to pilfer them from somewhere else. This I explained, but he ignored me.

Somehow I found out what teacher this was for. (See, I ask questions. What's that? For which teacher? I was just curious; I had no idea I'd need the information later.) So, when I got a chance, I called the English teacher and told her what this student was up to (and I gave her his name).

They would call that "snitching". They forget, I'm a teacher, too. (I only remembered this incident because I was subbing for the English teacher today. It's amazing what memories come up when I sub for different teachers.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007


It was about 7:30 this evening. I was flipping through the guide on the TV, looking for something to turn on when I saw Hogfather on ION. Hogfather?

Hogfather sounded like the title of one of the Discworld novels written by Terry Pratchett. It couldn't be! Could it?

I called up the information on the show, and sure enough, it said "based on a book by Terry Pratchett". About then I would have been jumping for joy except that the "miniseries" started at 4, and it was 7:30. There was less than a half hour left.

I went about searching for when it would be on again, and I got nothing. I then searched online, found this on imdb, and just about lost it. Notice the "premiere" date?

So, what I want to know is: did they want anyone to see it? I'm a huge Discworld fan, yet I had no prior knowledge of this premiere. I found out about it way too late to see it, and it's not scheduled to be on again. And I'm pissed. Where were the advertisements?

I guess I'm out of the loop here. You'd think that they'd have advertised this thing someplace that I would have seen it. I would have made a plan to watch it (well, I'd have recorded it, but still!), and I wouldn't be this upset. But none of that happened (I only saw announcements for this when I searched online for the show after I found out about it). Way to go, ION!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Website Link

Today was one of those boring video days. So, instead of watching Squanto: A Warrior's Tale again, I decided to surf the Internet.

Now, before you go thinking that I was neglecting my subbing duties, let me explain. The computer was in the front of the room. I was at a perfect vantage point: I could access the computer and watch the kiddies at the same time. And it gets really, really boring watching the same movie over and over. I need something to keep me awake and alert.

I looked at all the things I usually look at when I'm online. (All the while keeping after this one boy who just would not sit still. I was multitasking.) Then I started surfing blogs, and somehow I ended up on this website.

I've discovered that it's really addictive. Well, it was better than watching that boy reach into his backpack again (something he would stop doing when he saw my eyes on him). So, anyway, I thought I'd share.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oh Crap!

Upon leaving school today, I found the above on my windshield. And I thought...well, you know...

Monday, November 19, 2007


"I'm driving to Alaska for Thanksgiving."

I wasn't really paying attention. I was trying to make sure that the students were on the program they were supposed to be on in the computer lab and not engaged in some forbidden activity (surfing the Internet, playing in Paint, etc.). But I got called into this one.

"How far away is Alaska?"

Having never made the trip, I didn't know. I did know approximately how long it would take to drive to San Fransisco (8 hours) or Eugene, OR (day and a half, with an overnight break). Other students nearby knew how long it took to drive to nearby states.

So, they asked the boy when he was leaving. He said Wednesday afternoon. And he was going to make it to Alaska by Thursday's Thanksgiving dinner.

Now, I don't know for sure. It could be possible. If the boy had claimed that he had done this before, if he had some argument to give, I would have believed him. But here his story really started to fall apart (and it was due to the incredulousness of the other students, not me--I promise). Each neighboring student had a different question, and the boy's answers got less and less plausible.

Then I asked about his passport. You have to go through Canada to get to Alaska, right? And I know that you need a passport to cross the border now. His response: he looked at me blankly. I asked if he needed to take a ferry, and he said he was going to sail on the Queen Mary.

We were all done at this point. But I wonder. Why lie? What purpose does it serve?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Name

When I log on to check my email, I usually run across a couple news stories that catch my interest. This one did today.

It got me to thinking about this site. And since I have nothing to interest to talk about today, I thought I'd re-explore it. Yep, the tally is the same as last time:
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

I guess my name is pretty unique. Clearly, it didn't make the top ten.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Greatest" Hits

It's been a little slow lately. I've been working; it's just that my jobs haven't been all that interesting. That's a good thing for me (read: easy days), but the blog suffers.

It's not like the time that I had a group of 7th graders steal the phone. This was last school year in a science class. I didn't even notice that the hand receiver had been swiped until after the little darlings had left class. I had the embarrassing task of going to the office and admitting my failing, though I had a list of suspects. During the last period of the day, the school counsellor brought in one of my suspects, and he retrieved the phone from behind an armoire (hey, I looked there!). This teacher is not teaching at that school this year.

Or there was the time that I had a group of 7th graders go "on strike". There was this big brouhaha about some secret assembly. No one in the office gave me a head's up nor was it in the lesson plans. But the kids insisted upon going. I called the other office, and they had no idea that any sort of assembly was occurring. So, we didn't go, and they were upset. They went so far as to write "On Strike" on the back of their math work and hold it up (I got as many of those papers as I could--they were short-sighted enough to have put their names on the fronts of those papers).

Then there was the time that I was giving a final exam for a group of seniors. The teacher had been out all week, so they were so on sub behavior. I could not get testing conditions. And, they had to take the test that day (they were done after this).

I like having these kinds of lulls. It makes up for the more interesting days.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Career Survey

"Maybe I should put down 'prostitute'," the girl said.

This perked up my ears. I inquired further. The students were supposed to be doing this careers survey thingy. One of the questions had them listing careers and how these careers fit into the three criteria that they had already listed as being most important to them. This is the question the girl was referring to when she said the above.

I was against. She was kidding. She wanted to write down something that would get a rise out of the person correcting the assignment. I got that immediately, but I wasn't so sure that the person who was correcting the assignment would see the joke. The girl agreed with me. She figured that such an answer would blow up in her face.

So, the discussion turned to other careers that would be twisted enough to make the girl feel like she was playing with the assignment but wouldn't come back to haunt her. Taxidermist. Mortician. Artist. Artist?

"What's wrong with being an artist?" I asked.

The girl explained that she actually did want to be an artist. This was a train of thought that I encouraged. If she wants to be an artist, then why didn't she just do the assignment as given? Explore becoming an artist.

That would be too much like doing the assignment, I guess.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Annoying Poll

I don't usually answer the phone unless it's someone I know. (I love caller ID.) But unfortunately, one of my callers is always an "unknown caller", so when that popped up today I unthinkingly picked it up.

I should have known better. It was the wrong time of day for a call from someone I knew.

I got suckered into responding to some sort of marketing poll. Even my phones didn't want me to continue. I went through two handsets going all "low battery" on me (and beeping throughout the way-too-long questionnaire). But persist we did.

I covered 8th grade history today. They were doing a read-aloud-and-answer-questions thing. They read better than this guy on the phone with me. It was painful.

Revenue. The 8th graders could have said it (they were able to pronounce much harder words today). The guy on the phone? He pronounced it re-venue. So, I sat there, correcting my living room.

That's what I get for picking up the phone. I should let all calls go to voicemail.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Real Teacher

Student: "When are you going to become a real teacher?"

Me: "I am a real teacher."

(I knew what he meant. I wanted him to word it properly.)

Student: "I mean, when are you going to get a real class?"

Me: "This is a real class. Your class. Don't you think it's real?"

Student: "You know what I mean. When are know..."

Me: "When am I going to become a full-time teacher?"

I knew I had made my point, so that's where I bailed the student out and answered the question.

I get similar questions daily. I'm not offended by them. But sometimes the point needs to be made--substitute teachers are real teachers. We just don't have our own permanent classroom.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bilingual English Test

It's CAHSEE time again (that's the CAlifornia High School Exit Exam in case you were wondering), this time for the juniors.

So, most of the students were there (there were a couple no-shows), and they had their testing materials. The students were receiving their instructions. And they heard the instructions in English and Spanish.

This was an English test. They have to pass this test to graduate. It's the usual sort of standardized test--read passage and answer questions based on passage. There were also the usual grammar questions. And they were required to write one essay. In English.

Which all leads to one question: if they need instructions in Spanish, how could they possibly pass an English test?

The logic escapes me.

Monday, November 5, 2007


I didn't really think about it at the time. It was last week. I was talking to the sub caller and getting assignments for this week. We were discussing Thursday, and she said, "No requests for you today..."

And now that makes sense. The teacher I was covering today will be out tomorrow as well. But I won't be back because I was requested somewhere else. So, I'll be at that someplace else tomorrow even though the secretary at the school had hoped I would come back.

I am torn. I liked my assignment today, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow's assignment. I am only one person. I can only do one thing a day. At the moment I am in demand, and that's a good place to be.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bubble Gum Physics

As you know, Wednesday was Halloween. And I covered an 8th grade science class.

The teacher left them a lab assignment. "Bubble gum physics." The object was... Well, I think the ultimate object was to learn about speed (measuring it and figuring out how to find it) and all the calculations that go into it. What they actually did, though, was to chew gum.

Gum is not allowed in school. So, using gum in a class experiment was a treat. It's just that it would probably have been a better treat if the assignment wasn't overseen by a substitute teacher!

Well, all thinks considered, it went pretty well. I actually spent the day reminding them how to round numbers and how to take averages. And I had to make sure that they didn't take more than one piece of gum. Unfortunately, at that I failed. How do I know? I was given 380 pieces of gum. By the end of the day, I had four. 35 students per period, 5 periods... The math just doesn't work out, kind of like most of the math they were trying to do.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Seven Joses

The teacher I covered yesterday and today is also the boys soccer coach. So, 6th period I was out on the field "supervising".

One of my duties is to take roll. This I delegated to two of the older boys on the team.

I was watching over them as they went through the roll yesterday. I barely noted it when they had called out for two different Joses (Jose is a popular name around here). It was at about the fifth that I started to wonder. Exactly how many Joses were on this team?

Seven. I counted.

There were 55 students on the roll sheet. That works out to nearly 13%. Nearly 13% of the soccer team is named Jose.

Oh, and I got to say three words that I never thought I'd ever say (as I avoid covering P.E. classes as much as I can): "Take a lap".

Monday, October 29, 2007

Paint Fumes

...or The Class That Wouldn't Be Distracted

It's one of those boring bookwork assignment days. Today they were to define chapter vocabulary. And this being the class of a teacher who usually gives such assignments when he's out, I expected one of those we're-going-to-sit-here-and-talk-and-do-no-work days. So, 2nd period I was very pleasantly surprised when they got to work, and they were nearly silent.

We had already started off at a deficit. 2nd period is when they do the morning announcements. So, after the students talk through that (which they did today), they usually keep on talking. But today after the announcements they got right to work. Shocker.

So, it was silent in the classroom. That's when I heard a strange sound. It sounded like someone was sandpapering. I looked around for the sound, and the students in the vicinity weren't doing anything odd. That's when I realized that what I was hearing was sandpapering.

I think I forgot to mention--they're repainting the school.

Anyway, the sandpapering continued for a bit, and then the painter opened the door. He sandpapered some more, and then he got to painting the door.

Remember: I have a room full of students (around 30 juniors and seniors), and they have an assignment. Did they budge? No. I was very surprised. They made no sound--barely even acknowledging that anything unusual was going on (in a room of 8th graders I probably would have had chaos).

I'd dodged a bullet. But then the canned food drive ambassadors came back (November--the canned food drive time of year) and they had announcements. The usual stuff: bring in cans (please!!!), competition, list of prizes of the top givers, etc. So, they finish, and I wait. And the class gets back to work!

I had no more interruptions. And the class continued to work until I instructed them to pack up.
Amazing. Sure, I get classes that work, but this group had plenty of distractions, and yet they continued to work. 4th period--no distractions, and very little work. Crazy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Time Management

"I do actually have a life!"

This was uttered a little over half-way through 5th period by a senior girl. She then went on to complain about the amount of work assigned. I tuned her out. I had no sympathy.

Up until this time, she had been entertaining her neighbors. I know this because they frequently laughed. There was too much conversation going on to have it all be assignment-related. But this was a 12th grade class. They knew what they had to do, they knew they had a test tomorrow, and they had the whole period to use to get some work done. If they decided to fritter away their time...

Though, there were other moments of entertainment.

Occasionally I'd walk the room, just to keep them honest. One boy had the decency to look chagrined, grab his book, open it, and pretend to work when I walked by his desk. Awww. A student who didn't come up with any long winded excuses. How nice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The light is just wrong. The color. The quality. It's a little disconcerting. At least today I was in a room with no windows. That helped.

Special ed, again. I seem to go through these phases. For a while I'll follow 10th grade. I'll hit the history, the English, and the science. A couple kids will accuse me of following them. Then I'll move on to another grade. So, for the moment, my theme is special ed.

Not that I mind the themes. I think they're funny. It's kind of the cyclical nature of things. If I pay attention, I can get some interesting things out of it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I'm sitting here checking my email and other stuff online, and I'm listening to the fire news in the background. There's a reason I've been avoiding the news. It's not very good.

I'm lucky. My area hasn't been threatened by fire. But it's still impacting me.

I've been keeping the house closed. It smells like wildfire outside. The light is weird. It's kind of hazy, though there aren't many clouds in the sky. And the sun has more of a reddish hue.

There's a dusting of ash everywhere. And the world just feels ashy.

Ah, October in Southern California.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Scenes from Special Ed.

I'm exhausted. I had two days of intensive special education. Not that I mind. It's nice to change things up now and then. But these kids needed more attention than your average class.

Yesterday a girl had a meltdown. She didn't want to do her assignment. The adult assistant in class was trying to get her to work. The girl freaks out because I was "looking at her". So, I turned my head, told her I wouldn't look at her, and shielded my eyes. For some reason that helped.

Today the math class was doing multiplication bingo. (Did I mention these were high school aged kids?) Every time I'd call out a number (i.e. 8 x 7), one boy had to look at his cheat sheet to figure out what the answer was. Even for things like 2 x 3.

Journal topic: What would you do if you could fly? One boy had issues with the topic. He couldn't fly, so it was a stupid question. It had to be explained to him to pretend that he could fly. Five minutes of discussion later, he was finally able to come up with five sentences.

I tried to make innocuous conversation. About the weather. "But I don't care about the weather." This was followed by a lecture (by the assistant) about how making small talk is something that people must do.

Special education teachers. They have to deal with these people every day. They have my utmost respect.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


The first time I met this girl, the adult aide in the class told me that this student lied about absolutely everything. Most of what the girl said that day proved that the aide was giving me a good heads up. The only specific example I can offer is that the girl told me it was her birthday. Then others in the class challenged her as she had claimed it was her birthday the previous week. I guess it had to be her birthday too, as it was actually the birthday of another girl in the class.

I got to see this girl again today in 6th period. Within the first five minutes of class she had told me these things: she had no homework, she had not been at school yesterday because she was suspended, her father passed away yesterday, she was getting ready to move to Texas, and she was tired and wanted to sleep.

She doesn't like being called a liar. One of the aides had called her a liar, and she is now wary of this aide (according to the girl). My hands were kind of tied. There was no aide in the room to vet whether or not any statement was true, so all I could really do was sit there and nod. And I had to tread very carefully.

About the death of her father I expressed sympathy. She has made outrageous claims in the past, so whether or not it's true... ??? Then later she told me that this man was "like" a father to her. Ah! So the death part is true? I can't really tell.

The class was a study hall, so luckily she had lied about not having homework. She didn't feel like doing it, but we eventually found that she had work to complete. And then she told the other student in the room that she didn't have a cell phone (one was attached to her belt). Of course the other student didn't believe her, so she changed her story--she had four cell phones. (I saw two. Does she have two others? Hard to tell.)

She told so many stories that it's hard to remember them all. She found some gang bangers, took them to church, and now they're back in school. She was required to write a note of apology for the assistant principal about her suspension. She couldn't understand her science teacher. She had no homework to make up (even though she had been suspended).

I'm exhausted. It's hard to keep up, especially when I'm dealing with uncredible students.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Shopping and Bags

It's Blogger's Blog Action Day. This year's topic is the environment.

Isn't it interesting how concern for the environment has become so mainstream these days? It wasn't too long ago when concerns about such topics as global warming were relegated to the "left-wing fringe". It seems to me like things reached critical mass around last Earth Day. That must have been when we got our hundredth monkey.

So, it was about April, and I was grocery shopping. I frequent my local Trader Joe's, but they don't have everything, so I must also venture out to the grocery store. Anyway, I was thinking about reusable bags.

Bags that are used once and thrown out are so wasteful, so to stop that waste, I started using bags that I can use over and over (Trader Joe's has several options). But that was only at Trader Joe's. I was still wasteful at the grocery store.

Anyway, this April day I was thinking about this waste. Being the kind of person I am, I wasn't about to use one retailer's bags at a different establishment. So, I made a "promise"--as soon as this store offered bags, I'd use them.

Same shopping trip, ten minutes later. It was time to check out. What did I find at the checkstand? A large display of reusable bags.

Well, I had made a promise, hadn't I?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More Technical Difficulties


I'm not a huge fan of "Stargate: Atlantis". I greatly miss "Stargate SG-1" and still mourn its passing. Its spin-off hasn't pulled me in like the original show (the movie is a whole different topic altogether), but I still watch it. And since I have a DVR, of course I record it so that I can watch it later.

So, today I go to turn on the show, and I get nothing. Upon further investigation, I find that my recording was "partial", and the time on the recording is 0:00. All the DVR did was to put up the information that the show existed, but it recorded none of it.

Was the DVR broken? I've been having DVR problems--an error message that says my service is "not currently active" (which is curious since my programs have been recording). When I went to watch "Stargate: Atlantis", I had just finished watching two other shows that had recorded, and I had no issues with them. But then did the problem start on Friday?

So, I went through and made sure that the other Friday shows had recorded. The only other problem I found was with "Flash Gordon" (and since I'm not that into that show, no big loss). But that gave me an idea. Was it a Sci Fi Channel thing?

That's where the issue turned out to be. For some reason, the program information said that the show was on from 6:00-6:02. And since the DVR thought it recorded this first 2 minute showing, it didn't attempt to record the show later. I looked--no replays. So, I've missed the show this week with no way to go back and see it later.

Stupid &%$@! Mercury retrograde!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Cut it out, Gary Glitter."

It was 6th period. The 7th grader in the seat to my right was humming "Rock and Roll, Part 2" through his rolled up assignment. I expected a quizzical look. I got nothing. (He hadn't heard me.)

You know the song. It's the one that they play at basketball games.

Since the boy hadn't heard me, I repeated myself. "You didn't get that reference, did you?" I asked. He hadn't. Why would he? He doesn't remember the '70's. He was born in 1995!

I found out that he's in the middle school band--a trumpet player. They learn a couple songs that they play all the time. One is "Louie, Louie" (yes, that "Louie, Louie"). The other is a song they call "The Hey Song". That one would be "Rock and Roll, Part 2".

I know this because I have subbed for the band. Luckily, there was a very nice man who rehearsed the group (so I didn't end up with chaos). And that's where I learned about the band's repertoire.

Did I get the boy to stop humming? Well, no.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Surprise Ovation

I'm not working today. Sure, I was disappointed not to be called, but there are things that I need to get done, and a day off is the perfect opportunity.

So, right after I got up I turned on the TV. For background noise. Of course the TiVo was taping two things. One was a western (goodbye) and the other was a version of "Pygmalion" that I'd never seen before (not "My Fair Lady" which I have seen many times). I was curious, but not curious enough to sit and watch it.

I assumed that the movie was on Turner Classic Movies, but it turned out that I was wrong. It was on some channel that I had never heard of before. Since DirecTV adds channels from time to time (this is a good thing), I figured that it was time to go through and see what might be new.

Since there are so many channels, and many of them are channels that I never watch (sports, pay-per-view, sports, religious programming, sports, shopping channels, sports...) I have the box set up so that the only channels visible are the channels that I've designated as "favorites". This is fine for everyday, but until I know a channel exists, I can't designate it a favorite.

The last channels I "found" were Chiller and Sleuth. I went through the programming, and on Chiller I found "American Gothic", a show I loved and a show I missed when it was axed due to poor ratings (too bad, as it was a great show).

As it turned out, the channel that "Pygmalion" was on was a channel that I was familiar with. But I did find a channel that I did not know we got. Ovation.

We used to get Ovation. Then the Evil Cable Company (that's a topic for another day) discontinued the channel. Though, to be fair, it wasn't something I watched all that often. I only really liked one show.

It was an interesting show (I recommend it if you get this channel). It's about certain important developments in music. I've probably seen all of them already. But I was still so excited to find out that it's on.

So, it looks like it all came together for me today. I got the day off to discover that I needed to check my channels to discover that there was a channel that I wanted to see. Though, it would have been nice to work today.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


I feel a headache coming on. And I feel a bit icky. It's my own fault. I did too much.

I had a long week, and I had a long Friday night. Then I got up early today and did a bunch of stuff. I overtaxed myself, and now I'm paying for it.

It's a bit of a shock to my system. I have all summer to do little to nothing, and then school starts. I wait. No work. Then the work starts.

It's not like a gradual work-up-to scenario. The work starts, and boom, I'm working every day.

I'm going to go and get some sleep now. I need it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hi There

It was 5th period, and the high schoolers were at lunch. My group of 8th graders were watching a video, and I was watching them to make sure that they were watching said video and not doing things that might later turn into a problem. I spent much of the period shushing them.

Then I noticed a hand in the window. And then another. I should mention that the windows are up high, probably about 5'6" above the ground. So, if a hand was in the window, someone was deliberately waving it. Then I noticed someone's face peering in.

After that, one of the hands leaned against the window, and the window tilted open. Then the whole class heard some maniacal laughter. So, I got up, went to the door, and leaned out.

"What are you doing?"

I found a gaggle of boys hovering outside. Since it was their lunch, all I wanted was for them to stop antagonizing my class. The boy who had opened the window gave a very pitiful excuse--something about his hand "accidentally" leaning (the window is up high, so I doubt that his opening of the window was in any way an accident). I shoved the window closed with a thunk (the window is high, but not that high), and I closed the door.

I watched the windows closely after that, but the boys did no more after that than discuss whatever boys discuss at lunch. Though, when one girl from my class was called to the office later, I heard them comment to her that the class was dark. Well, sure it was. We were watching a video!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Blog Under Construction

I suppose I should put a "site under construction" sign up somewhere. I'm still learning my way around this thing. I just learned how to make subscriptions possible (see the new link on the side).

Yeah, so I've been away. Lazy. I spent the weekend away from the computer. Though, the computer wasn't really that far away. It was just off.

There are things that I want to add on to this blog. I will get around to them when I find the time (and figure out what they are). Though, first on the agenda is to get a picture posted. I just have to find one that I like. The only one I really like is two years old. I can do better than that!

So, I apologize for the fairly bland look around here. It won't be permanent.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Saggy Jeans

I'm again over at the continuation high school. I hear the most interesting things here.

So, I'm watching the art class. They are supposed to be working on drawings, and in fact some are. But some aren't, and they are the ones that talk to me.

The topic up for discussion: the dress code. Students always seem to complain about the dress code. There's really nothing in it that is terribly unreasonable: nothing too revealing, nothing promoting anything inappropriate for school, and nothing gang-related. It's the third one that gets tricky. Besides the fact that some "gang attire" is fashionable, what is and is not gang-related changes.

Today, the students were complaining about the sock issue. It is against dress code to wear socks hiked up high, especially under shorts. If a student is wearing shorts, some of his leg must be visible. Why? Gang-related.

Now, I'm just taking their word for this. As I am not cognizant of the gangs, I leave these determinations up to those who know more than me. So, when the kids complain about the rules, all I can do is listen to them vent. (And enforce the rules, of course.)

Then they started complaining about sagging their jeans. This has been against dress code for a while--about as long as it's been the style (and it's been the style for a few years now). Though, every boy in the room was wearing sagging jeans (I believe the dress code states that we should not see their underwear, and I didn't).

So, I finally asked the question. "How do you keep your pants up while you're walking?" I can't tell you how many times this particular question has come up when no one of that generation was around. I finally got a chance to ask it.

They didn't see the point of the question, however. They don't have an issue with it. They either wear a belt tight enough to keep the jeans up, or they hold them up ("gangster style") as they walk. And they're so used to this that it doesn't bother them at all.

I just want to be around when the next generation comes along with their weird styles. And I want to see how these saggy-jeans kids react. That should be interesting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Technical Difficulties

It's a video day at school today. Oh goody.

Turn on TV and VCR. Insert tape. Push play. Simple, right? It is if after doing these you get a picture. All I got was a blue screen. Not good.

Okay, now it's time to troubleshoot. Is everything plugged in? Yes. There is a wire going from the VCR to the TV. Is it connected correctly?

The TV is mounted on an arm that is attached to the ceiling. Usually I can get this contraption to turn. Not today. And of course the back of the TV is in an awkward position. Over a filing cabinet. Do I have a step ladder? Of course not.

Luckily, there is a stool in the room. That would do. I remove the stuff that is stored right in my way and I take a look. It looks like it's hooked up correctly. But no picture.

Next, is the TV set on the right setting? Playing around with the buttons on the front of the TV doesn't help, so I must go in search of the remote. That I do find (finally, something going my way!), and I try to get the TV to the right mode only to find that it was in the right mode.

Now I'm getting desperate. It shouldn't take 20 minutes to get the VCR to play. I try rewinding the tape. Yep, it needs rewinding, but that's not the problem. What is there left to do?

There is another VCR/DVD combo sitting under the TV. This is not plugged in. And the plug is out of reach (the stool won't get me up that high). But this machine has an RCA cord attached. Will it work?

So, I take the cable, attach it to the VCR at the "out" plugs, and I attach the other end to the TV. I push play. Still, blue screen.

But then I take the remote and switch the feed. Video-1. And poof: Bill Nye is speaking. I can even see him. YEAH!!! Success. Finally.

It was a good thing I went to see if the video would play during my prep today. I don't even want to think how this would have played in front of a roomful of sophomores and juniors with nothing to do but watch the fun.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Laws of Gravity

I suppose I should explain myself. I mean, I go and name my blog "Laws of Gravity" for no apparent reason. Well, there is a reason, but it's not terribly obvious.

There was this movie that came out more than a decade ago by that name. It's not a favorite movie--I never even saw it--but the title stuck with me. I have no idea how I ran into it, but I liked that title so much that I used it as the title of my personal journal. And when it came time to name my blog, it just seemed like the right choice.

Yes, I named my personal journal. I compose it on the computer (I work better typing than I do trying to hand write anything), and the file needs to be saved as something. "Diary" or "journal" is just too boring. That's just the kind of person I am.

I suppose that I liked the title because it's a physics thing. (I majored in physics in college--long story.) I studied Newtonian physics and quantum physics and all that goes with that. So, the title just caught my imagination, and I've used it since.

Hey, it's not like I'm all that good with coming up with titles anyway. I should hold on to the good ones that I already have.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Restroom Passes

"Please do not allow anyone out of class."

It's a standard request that teachers make. I understand the logic behind it. They don't want their students roaming the halls. To a student, having a sub means taking the day off, and getting to go and find a friend in a class on the other side of campus is too good an opportunity to pass up.

A student can't ask to go and talk to a friend in another class. That sort of request would be instantly shot down. So, instead the student asks to go and use the restroom.

That is part of the reason why teachers tell us subs to not allow restroom passes. And I get that. But it puts me in a difficult position. What if the student actually has to go? What if the student has to go badly?

Of course, I allow emergency restroom passes. But what constitutes an emergency? Are they taking advantage of me? I wish that there was a Magic 8 Ball or something that I could use to suss out the liars. ("Does this student really need to go?";"Reply hazy, try again.") So, since there's not, I have to err on the side of caution. I give them the benefit of the doubt.

Today I ended up leaving this long list of students who "had" to go. Okay, so it only averaged 2 students a class. For a "no passes" rule, that's a lot. It's just that I don't want to be the sub who ends up vilified on the 6 o'clock news for not permitting a student to relieve himself. I don't think the "but the teacher said not to let anyone out" excuse would get me off the hook.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How to Be a Memorable Student

I'm in the same class as yesterday. The teacher is sick. I wish her well.

There was this kid yesterday. He is in the later periods, so I haven't seen him yet today. He caught my attention. That generally is not a good thing.

This is one of those classes where I basically sit around and watch. My job is to monitor the class and make sure they are doing what they're supposed to be doing. Some days this is a more difficult assignment than others. Yesterday and today, it has been a pretty boring assignment, but that's a good thing.

So, I sit in my chair and I watch. And I try to keep my mind occupied. What I should see when I look out across the room is a classroom full of students with their heads in their work. I should not find anyone looking back at me.

He was.

More often than not, I'd look his way, and he'd be looking back. Not good. I started with the motion I make to indicate that the student should be looking at his book and not at me. That worked once. After that I played the stare game. I'd stare at him until he would go back to looking at his assignment.

But he had his own game. He decided to have fun with my stares. He'd smile, or he'd play like there was someone behind him (and I must have been staring at them the way he played it). He even took out a paper, wrote a phone number on it, and motioned for me to "call".

He thought he was being cute. What he was being was memorable. One should not be memorable for the sub. When I remember your name, I'll write it down, and the words following won't be complimentary.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Late Call

I work as a substitute teacher. I don't think I mentioned that.

So today, like every day since school started (on the 6th in case you're keeping track) I was waiting for an early morning call. (Usually I call ahead to get assignments, but as this is the beginning of the year, planned absences are light.) When I awoke at 6:38, I figured that I was not working again today.

I laid in bed, and I panicked. It's getting close to the end of the pay period, and this check is looking mighty light. But what can I do? All I can do is wait.

Then the phone rang.

I was astounded. I figured that the sub caller must be looking ahead. So, I was pleasantly surprised when she asked, "Are you available today?" Hell, yeah! Though, I was going to be late.

School starts at 7:55 AM. If I was to get there on time (and by "on time" I mean a half hour early) I would have to leave by 7 AM. I got the call at about 6:50-something. This is very late. Usually I get called some time between 5:30 and 6. Factor in the time it takes to get ready, and that meant that I was leaving the house at the time that I should have already been at the school.

Nothing to do when you get called late. It happens. If the sub caller gets the call late, then I'm not getting the call any earlier.

I got there as quickly as I could while still getting my morning routine done (I do need to get dressed, after all). And I got there at about the same time as the final bell. What a way to start the day!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Migraine Excuse

Saturday I went to the Harvest Festival. Yes, I'm one of those. I love craft shows.

It was crowded, but I expected that. And I didn't go crazy. I only ended up with a barrette and a bag. I had fun. I like to look at all the stuff that they show.

But, unfortunately, I did too much. Sunday I paid for it.

For years I called them three-day headaches, but I was told that I could refer to them as migraines. So, I do. Sunday I had a migraine. Well, I had part of one. It started Saturday night, continued a bit on Sunday, and today I'm just about over it. I hope.

Don't get me wrong. I wasn't in pain for all that time. Mostly I was in pain Saturday night. Sunday I was more in an awareness of the possibility of pain. And today I feel like I'm on the other side of it.

It used to be that all I could do about the pain was to sleep it off. But I've found some miracle homeopathic stuff. It really helps. So, the pain wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Anyway, that's my excuse. I didn't post because I had a headache. And if that's not a good enough excuse, you've never had a migraine (lucky you!).

Friday, September 14, 2007


Myspace is really beginning to annoy me.

I had wanted to start a blog for a while. A couple people I knew had one. And as I was in the habit of writing anyway, I thought that it would be fun. But starting, that was the issue.

So, I hemmed and hawed about it for a while. I plotted and I planned. But nothing came of it. Then my brother introduced me to myspace...

After exploring that for a while, I discovered that myspace had a blog feature. Well, I'd wanted to start a blog anyway, so that made it easy. And for the last year or so, I posted fairly regularly.

But I've reached my limit.

First it was little things. I'd write something, spend time composing it and getting it just right, and then I'd try to post it, and POOF! Gone. That was annoying, especially after attempting to post something two or three (or more!) times. But I could handle that. And it didn't happen that frequently.

Now, though, it's gotten worse. The formatting sort of vanished. One day I got onto the blog and discovered that my date formatting was different. Okay, no big deal, I went back in and fixed it. But it wouldn't fix! And the font size was too small and other options wouldn't do what I wanted them to do (and I went in to fix them numerous times).

That's annoying. Actually, that's more than annoying. That's reason enough to jump ship.

So, here I am, finally. I meant to do this for the longest time, and now I've finally done it. See, the myspace blog was the trainer. I always meant to come over here. I just needed a push. So, I suppose I should thank myspace for that push. I should, but I won't.