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.