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 you...you 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.