Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Connection Issues

I got a new laptop for Christmas. I'd been wanting one for years now. Primarily it's for the novels that I work on all the time (but don't really talk about all that much), but with technology the way it is, I wanted the laptop to be able to do other things.

Okay, so the new laptop should connect to the Internet, right?

I went out and bought a router. My brother was kind enough to try to hook up the router. Notice I said "try". Turns out the modem would not connect to said router.

Right, so I tried just connecting the laptop directly to the modem. No dice.

Well, I needed a new modem, so why not get a modem/router? I didn't know such a thing existed, but then again, the term "router" was new to me too. The place I bought the router was very nice about doing the exchange (I learned from my days in retail--always save receipts), and so I brought my new device home and tried to get it to work.

The problem with technology today is that many times they expect us to know more than we do. There was barely any paperwork/instructions in the box, so I was basically flying blind. I easily hooked the modem/router up, and my desktop connected to the Internet lickety-split. But connecting the laptop?

After trying everything I could think of, I frantically called my kind brother who told me what I had forgotten to do (set up the wireless connection). I got that up and running, but while the laptop could see my wireless connection and while it was actually connected to the network (or so the computer said) I could not get anything to come up in my browser. This is where I lost my mind.

After running everything I could think of (the "help" went through to diagnose the problem, told me that the problem was fixed, and then said that it would send something or other to somewhere or other when I was "connected to the Internet"...hmmm...I thought that's what the stupid thing was trying to fix!), I finally gave up and had dinner. I turned everything off.

Now, understand one thing. I did restart my systems over and over again. Really. That's the one trick I know--restart the system and magically bugs get worked out.

So, after advice from kind brother (to make sure that the computer could actually connect to the Internet), I plugged the modem directly into the computer. Voila! Internet.

Then, feeling adventurous, I unplugged the modem, and tried the Internet again. And it was still on! And it's still working now (I'm actually typing this on my new computer). Success?

Well, I'll keep my fingers crossed. Hopefully whatever glitch I hit has been cleared up.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Let the Child Win

I've had a few busy days. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Yesterday the family came over to belatedly celebrate my nephew's 3rd birthday. It was his nap time, so he was conked out on the couch, but my niece was bored. She's seven, and staying quiet is hard at seven.

I decided that it was high time to teach her how to play Pente. It was probably not the best idea. It was probably a bit old for her. But she was willing, so we tried it.

The first game was all about the rules. I'd place my stone and then explain where her best moves were. At some point she got annoyed at my advice and wanted to play on her own. That happened by the second game. I kept quiet a lot, but I'd point out when she made a move that was not in her best interest. By the third game I knew I was losing her.

It was time to let her win.

It wasn't that I was gunning for her. I wasn't playing my hardest. But I've been at the game a whole lot longer, so I know a few tricks. In the second game I won by accident. Really. The winning move appeared, and I couldn't not take it.

The best way to get good at a game is to play someone who is a whole lot better at it than you are. That's the way I learn. The more I play, the more I learn, and the better player I become. But that's only when a player is ready to dig in and learn. A beginner needs a win or two under her belt before she's confident enough to lose.

So, I wasn't playing my best. And I kept winning. But I was able to convince the niece to play one more game, and I was bound and determined to lose.

She kept racking up the twos. It was all I could do not to capture one or two of them. And while I was actually playing, I let a couple opportunities pass me by. Then I saw it. She had her winning move. She placed her stone...and she didn't realize that she had won. I had to point it out to her.

Yeah, I think I ruined Pente for her. Maybe she'll try again in a couple years.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Just Venting a Little

I spent all of today making this. Not for me. It's a Christmas present, obviously. But it took way too long to get done.

Every year I swear I'm going to start my Christmas knitting earlier, and every year I don't get around to starting anything until September. (The sweater I started in August won't be finished in time for Christmas. How's that for terrible planning?) So, instead of knitting everyone (who wants to be knitted for) something, I had to resort to buying presents for some on my list.

So, again I'm frantically working on a gift that should have been done weeks ago. And I've got to go out and get wrapping paper. Plus I was told that I am required to bake cookies. It's just too much. Something's not going to get done.

What am I doing here, writing? I should be prepping for Christmas. Bad me. I'd best get back to it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trapped in an Elevator

I went to see The Nutcracker today. We parked and headed for the elevator. A crowd got into the elevator; there was no room for another person. But none of us knew exactly where we were going.

We were on level A. I did not see the controls, but I heard that there were only buttons for levels A, B, and C. There was no marking as to where we needed to go to get to the theater. As we were debating, the elevator doors opened. Level B. There was a crowd outside waiting to get on the elevator. We had no room for any of them.

So, the elevator next opened on level C. It looked like parking, so no one got off. We kind of debated, but by the time a decision was made, the doors had closed again.

We went back down to level A. A couple more people squeezed on. Then at level B we had to admit that we were all idiots to the same crowd that was still waiting to get on the elevator. Once again at level C we decided that we'd best get off the contraption. We turned a corner and found the theater. I heard several complaints of how there should be signs and the elevator buttons should be labeled better.

Usually there's one person who knows where they're going in situations like that. They must have missed the elevator.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Scenes from Shopping

Unfortunately, I went out shopping today. Things weren't as crazy as expected, but I was expecting things to be pretty bad, so it wasn't a fun day hitting the stores. Well, it was. It was all how I looked at it.

The mall parking was as bad as expected. But unexpectedly we had some help finding a parking spot. This couple that had parked right in front of us walked back our direction to point to a parking spot soon to be vacated. At the same time, the fire department was blocking off the entrance to the aisle, so we had no competition for the spot. Just goes to show that there are some kind people out there, even in the Christmas shopping mess.

There was this huge line in a department store. I ended up waiting behind a nun. I don't often see nuns out and about, so this was noteworthy.

And of course, there were some major sales.

I usually try to get my shopping done online (or I make stuff). I prefer to avoid the crowds.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Bad News

I am tired. I just did three days of 8th grade science, and I'm ready to collapse. Then this morning I found out that the teacher will be out the first week back from break, so I was asked to cover it.

On the one hand it's a very good thing. The first week back in January is traditionally light. There are some years when I don't work during that week at all. And 8th grade science is physical science. Take another look at the title of my blog. Notice anything? Yeah, I have a bit of an affinity for the physical sciences. I looked ahead in their book. The next chapter is on atoms. Score!

But now I feel like I have this thing hanging over my head, and not in a good way. I have to go back to those classes. Yikes! I may have mentioned my antipathy for 8th graders once or twice or thrice.

Although, it shouldn't be too bad. The other 8th grade science teacher is there to help with lesson plans (stuff I can actually teach as this is my field). And I only had issues with 4th period. Well, I had issues with 6th period, but they took their punishment on Thursday like good little kids, and today they were much better. Every teacher has one bad period, right?

I'm going to attempt to forget that I have an assignment to go back to after the break. I'm on vacation. I can worry about the 8th graders next year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


It's been a bad day. A really bad day. I can't quite talk about it yet. (That seems to happen a lot at this time of year.) But I had to check in.

Did you check out the test from a couple days ago? I'm still plugging away at it. I got two more today. So now I've only got nine more to go. At some point I'm going to cut this off, but not quite yet. I'm sure I can figure out a couple more.

Two more days until winter break. Here's hoping I make it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Heat Today

I'm not sure what annoys me more: that students assume I'm an idiot because I'm a sub, or that I'm bothered by this. I mean, it can be a good thing when students underestimate you. But sometimes the annoyances are more trouble than the benefits are useful.

It was rainy today. And cold. (Cold by Southern California standards, which, I admit, may not seem very cold to the rest of the country. I'd be surprised if we got out of the fifties today.) This, of course, created havoc at school.

It was a day for the heater.

I know how to work the thermostat controls. It's pretty simple. There are two switches on the bottom of the unit. Switch one to "heat". Switch the other to "auto" (if I just turned it "on", the unit would switch to vent--very cold--air when it wasn't blowing heat, and that would be counterproductive). There are two controls at the top of the unit. Switch the "cool" one to something over eighty degrees (so it doesn't accidentally cycle on). Switch the "heat" one to a reasonable temperature--something around seventy degrees. And then turn the timer dial (the unit automatically turns off after six hours).

So, I did all this, and I got nothing. Everyone assumed that I had no idea what I was doing. They all whined: "Turn on the heat. We're cold." When I explained that the thing wasn't working, everyone then attempted to "fix" it.

They spent time playing with the thing. Only then did they realize that I was right--it was broken.

It would be so much easier if they would just believe that I do, in fact, know what I'm doing. But I guess they have to prove it to themselves before they're satisfied that I was right in the first place.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

13 More to Go

Yesterday I came across the teacher's emergency lesson plans. Every teacher at this school is required to have these by about the second week of school. These are the in-case-the-teacher-has-to-call-out-at-the-last-minute plans so that the sub isn't left scrambling for something to do.

After I got home I searched for this thing on the Internet--and I found it. And that's the point of tonight's blog. This thing has been messing with my brain since yesterday.

First, take a look, but before you do, promise me you won't look at the answers on page 2. Do I have your word? Better yet, just print the thing, but only print page 1. The answers will still be there later. Okay? Fine, now go look.

The first one I figured out was #9. It just seemed obvious. #11 followed soon after. About an hour ago #18 popped into my head. But #14 is giving me fits (I have no idea what it is...yet). I could easily find it out now since I know where the answer key is, but I'm not ready to put it down yet. I'll give it another day or two.

So, if you don't hear from me for a couple days you know where I'll be. I'll be working on that "test" or I'll be frantically trying to finish my Christmas knitting. Both are probably fool's errands.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The AP Difference

AP class. Cake, right?

AP stands for advanced placement, and these are fast-paced college-level courses. At the end of the year the students can take the AP test, and if they pass it they get college credit (if you've never heard of this, see here). So, the students in these classes are a fairly bright, motivated bunch. That should make my job easier, right?

The thing about AP classes is that they can get just as crazy as any other class if they have too little to do. And the "I'll do it for homework" excuse is not an excuse--they really will finish the work for homework. Luckily, today they had a quiz.

Fourth period. They came in rather loud. They were roaming around the room. They were talking to their friends. The bell rang, and they basically ignored it. But then the AP difference kicked in--when I called for their attention, I got it.

I passed out the quizzes. The students continued to talk. Did I mention that they were loud? But once the quizzes were out, I reminded them that they were taking a quiz, and in less than ten seconds the class was silent. (This is unusual. It usually takes a good two minutes to get a class that was that loud to settle.)

The quiz didn't take the entire period. They had a different assignment for after the quiz. And then the noise level... Well, let me just say that they could compete in a loudness competition with the tenth grade class where I almost had a fight a couple years back. That class was so loud that the teacher next door called for backup as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day Two

As sometimes happens, as I was leaving yesterday the secretary told me that they were "retaining" me. The teacher called. She was going to be out another day. Which gave me day two in that self-contained class. Oh goody.

I didn't have new lesson plans, but I had enough to work with, so I cobbled something together. Yesterday hadn't been too bad. Today? Today they went crazy.

They started the day with an essay. Yesterday? No problem. Today? They were having none of it. I had to threaten to take away their movie (they get to watch a movie to end the day) before I could get half the class to do their morning work.

And still it was a trial to get them to do anything. I had two girls who refused to not write on the board. One boy got called up to the office, so he had to kick the door open (he was not in trouble; he was going home early) and make a big commotion as he exited. Then two other boys mock attacked a third boy in the class. A couple times.

It was like being in a special ed classroom, except that when they would do work, they had no trouble with it. They just spent so much energy avoiding the classwork. But when I would explain the assignment to someone, the student would catch on right away and do the work correctly.

I understand why the teacher needed two days off. I don't know how she deals with these people every day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I was back at the continuation high school today. As I walked in the door Princess greeted me with, "Oh no, you can't sub here today." Apparently my reference to her in that note got back to her, and it offended her. Oh well.

Luckily, I didn't have Princess in class today. I had a self-contained class (the "bad" kids). The day went better than I thought it would (not ideal, but we got something done). The best part of the assignment--the teacher got done two hours early. Nice!

The teacher's prep periods were 6th and 7th. She normally uses those periods for preparation. But I'm a sub--I don't need to prepare. So, I get to go home early.

I headed up to the office to check out, and the secretary had gone to lunch. 10 minutes prior. And my time sheet wasn't done.

We have to carry our time sheets with us (this district might do this differently from others). Each day we give our time sheets to the site secretary, and during the day she inputs the day's hours on the sheet. At the end of the pay period we turn this into the district. No time sheet, no paycheck. So, it's vital to get the thing back at the end of the day.

Well, there was nothing to do; I had to wait. I checked my email. I ate my lunch. And I called the sub caller (good news: she found someone else to do an assignment that I just knew was going to turn into a long-term thing, and I did not want to get stuck with it). About an hour later, the secretary got back. And I was free to go.

I really shouldn't complain. I still got to leave an hour before the end of the school day. That's something.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ninja, You Trippin'

There were a lot of new faces at the continuation high school today. I heard the office staff talking about how they had booted a bunch of the "super seniors" (5th year seniors) in the past couple days, so that's probably why. Now I have new names to learn.

A knot of students were having the usual sort of conversations that they tend to have when I'm there. Unfortunately, most of the time their sentences are laced with profanity. I try to curb it as much as I can, so when they started using that racial epitaph that starts with "N", I made my displeasure known.

The boys had known me for some time, so they complied with my request. They used "ninja" instead.

So, the first boy then explains to another student: "It's like saying 'close the front door'."

Well, the phrase he was looking for was "shut the front door". They say that instead of shut the f*** up. The other students knew this and called the boy on his mistake. But he denied using "close" instead of "shut". I was waiting for the conversation to get heated, but it didn't. They quickly moved on to other topics.

Ninja? Well, at least it's a step in the right direction.

Friday, December 5, 2008


My two day assignment turned into three. The teacher I covered on Wednesday and Thursday was out again today.

Yesterday during sixth period, one of the boys told the class a story. It was about how he was dating two different girls at the same time. The girls both knew each other. They lived close to one another. They had two classes together. But somehow he was able to keep it from each that he was also dating the other.

Today in fifth period he spent the entire period chatting up a girl. (I'm not sure if it was one of the girls from the story or not.) I know that that's what they were doing, for every time I walked by, their papers were still blank.

Oh how I wish I could have said something to the girl in fifth period. Warn her away. But I can't do that. Can I?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Familiar Faces

Today was day two of a two-day assignment. Oddly, fourth period was much better, but third period was much worse. Oh well.

This teacher had the best of all fringe benefits--6th period prep. Yesterday I got to go home early. Today I was asked to cover a math class 6th period. Ah, nuts!

The class was just steps away from the previous class, and I recognized several faces as they stood outside waiting. I recognized outfits, too. Every student save one had been in one of my classes earlier in the day.

Once class started, I introduced myself to the one student who had not met me today, and then they got to work.

It is not unusual to encounter a couple students from previous periods when I cover another teacher's class on the prep period. But the whole class? That was new. Of course, these were both special ed classes, so the chances were greater.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Playboy Bond

A boy in fourth period came up with that today. One boy introduced himself as, "Bond, James Bond". Another boy asked to pass by me by saying, "Please let the playboy pass". Then the "playboy" combined both. I would have said something about that being a good porno name, but that would have been way too friendly to a class that was behaving not at all how they should have behaved.

Today I covered a special ed class with a teacher who is the polar opposite of a leslacker (his lesson plans were so detailed, they were a thing of beauty). The day had gone pretty well. But fourth period would not work. I asked them to work. I told them to get to work. Four of them were working on a quiz. Only one (the one who had been absent yesterday) made any progress on it.

Then the boy who was seated at the back of the room ("James Bond") came up front to rifle through the teacher's overhead marker collection. I got him to put the markers back, but shortly thereafter I noticed that my pen was missing.

It's a cheap pen. I've learned not to use fancy pens at school. But it's a point of honor with me--I never lose pens. And this one is just about out of ink. I kind of want to get to the end of the ink with this thing. But it was gone.

I looked about for it. Many times it'll fall to the ground. But I knew that "James Bond" had swiped it when he was rifling through things earlier. I couldn't accuse him, though. Then I never would have gotten it back.

To the class I said that my pen had gone "missing" and I hoped that someone would "find" it. As usually happens, it found its way to the floor. An innocent student found it. She, of course, was then accused of the crime, but I knew that she couldn't have possibly done it even if she would have been so inclined. So, I got my pen back, and the students spent the rest of the period accusing everybody of swiping it.

If only they would put that kind of effort into their work.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Texting in Rehearsal

When I checked in at school today, the principal asked if I could cover an extra period...of middle school band. (Insert scream here.)

Now, the principal doesn't usually check in subs. That's a secretary's job. But she was on the phone when I arrived, and the principal was in her office talking to her about something, so since he was there... He's also been known to check in subs when the secretary is out sick, but I digress.

I have horror stories about the middle school band (I've blogged about it here and here). I even dreaded covering one period. But I was not about to refuse an extra period's pay (not that I would ever say no in this situation anyway), so I went in expecting the worst.

It turns out that the middle school band director has an assistant this semester. Which meant that the little darlings could rehearse, and I didn't have to fight with them all period to keep them from tearing the room apart. Score!

So, I found a seat and watched the rehearsal. The trumpet players could not sit still, and many times were not ready when the band started playing. One percussionist couldn't keep a beat. And one french horn player kept texting on her cell phone.

We did not have cell phones when I was in band. Well, they existed, but they were so prohibitively expensive that a normal teenager wouldn't have one. And as I watched the girl text between playing, I wondered how that would have gone over if any of us had tried such a thing way back when. Not good, I'm sure. I had one band director who got upset if anyone yawned.

Technology. If teens weren't fidgety enough before...

Monday, December 1, 2008

On Call

I called my sub caller today to get some assignments for the upcoming month. She gave me some bad news. There were none. I have to wait for early morning wake up calls (and you know how good I am at those).

Apparently last year at this time she had a lot of sick cough, cough teacher-needing-a-day-off-to-finish-Christmas-shopping cough, cough calls, and she didn't have the sub manpower to cover them all. So, this year she has disallowed all school business for the month of December. I can understand her reasoning. It just makes it difficult for me.

So, for the month of December I am on call. Well, I'm on call all the time, but usually the "on call" means I call ahead so that I know where I'm going and what I'm doing. But where's the fun in that, right?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quiet Week, Sort Of

I haven't worked this week. This isn't usually a slow time of year, but I was on jury duty. I needed to be available to report, and I only found that out when I called in the evening (too late to get a hold of the sub caller).

I am terrible at early morning wake up calls. Kind of a silly line of work to go in, isn't it? My job is dependent upon teachers who for whatever reason must take a day off. I should be used to having the phone ring at 5:45 AM. But I'm not. I'm much happier when I can call ahead and line up jobs a week or two in advance.

So, no early morning wake up calls, and I didn't have to report to the courthouse. It's been a peaceful week. Well, it would have been a peaceful week if I hadn't gotten sick (a little head cold) and I wasn't busily cleaning house for company (Thanksgiving, of course).

Next up, December craziness.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rats' Nest

The last time I attempted color work was more than ten years ago. I was young and naive then.

Christmas is quickly approaching. I need to get some of my presents done. It's not that I've been putting it off, exactly. It's more like I've been busy with work and various other things, and I haven't had the time to devote to figuring out what I'm going to knit, let alone find time to do the swatching and the math that goes along with it. But Sunday I finally started on the dinosaur cardigan that I've been thinking about making for my soon to be 3-year-old nephew.

Since the boy is dinosaur mad, I thought a dinosaur sweater would be perfect. I searched through my stash of knitting magazines. I scoured the Internet. But there are no dinosaur patterns. Well, there are, but one was from Germany and one was from the 1980s. Neither were locally available. So, I am obliged to design something. Ugh.

So, on Sunday I started knitting up the design that I cobbled together from various sources. And I remembered how much I hate color work. Every couple rows I had to detangle myself as there were strands of yarn twisting around other strands of yarn.

If it turns out okay it'll all be worth it. I hope it turns out okay.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Finding Names

Today I covered three periods of government (for seniors) and two periods of world history (for sophomores). I'm guessing that the teacher was new. Her lesson plans were pretty sketchy. She didn't have her own classroom (which meant I spent the day traveling from one room to another all day). And she didn't leave me any seating charts.

Generally, classes average around 32 students. 5 x 32 = 160. If I average around 160 students a day, how am I supposed to retain any names? I can't. I need the help of the little cheat sheet called a seating chart.

Funnily enough, earlier in the day I was talking to another sub, and the topic of finding names came up. It happens sometimes--I need a student's name. I need to mention some idiotic thing that some random boy or girl did in my note. But I've developed some strategies to get a name when I need one. Since some of these ideas came from other subs, I thought it was about time to share them.

Firstly, I never let the student know I want to know his name. As soon as I do that, the student will make sure that I don't hear it. But if he doesn't know I want it, I can find it out sooner or later.

Most days the students are assigned book work. That book work is due to me, and they will put their names on their papers. As long as I'm walking around the room, I can just peek over their shoulders and voila, I have a name. (And as long as I have a roll sheet, I can compare. That way, if the student's handwriting is horrible, I can still figure out the correct name.) If the student's name is not on the paper, I can "remind" him.

What if they don't have book work? What if they're working out of notebooks or something similar? Then I look for notebooks or such. Many times they have names on those. Or on their backpacks. Or belt buckles. Some girls wear earrings or necklaces with their names on them. And most times the students are oblivious to this fact.

But the surest way to find out a student's name is just to listen. The student who's being an idiot is most likely a fairly popular student, and at some point someone will call out her name. It's simple. I just wait for it. And when the girl turns to respond, I've got her.

There's nothing quite like the look of astonishment on a student's face when you call him by name. "How do you know who I am?" he'll ask. My reply: "I pay attention."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Turkey Day

Today was Turkey Day at the continuation high school. They serve the students (and the workers in the district office) a turkey...um...meal (way before noon, so brunch?) the week before Thanksgiving every year. And since three of the teachers are in charge of the thing (setting up, supervising, etc), subs are needed for the day. Bonus: we get to eat, too.

I have been to Turkey Day a couple times now, so I know the drill. I also know how the students react. It's the same every year.

First, the students don't want to do anything because it's Turkey Day. Then, after they've refused to do the activities assigned (nothing too taxing or terribly academic), they complain that they're bored. Oh, and did I mention the school-wide video? That's on in the background, but they don't watch it.

They complained about being at school, and they complained that the food is never any good. Then, when our turn wasn't called, they got anxious and upset. They seemed to think that the office forgot about us. Never mind that the office called (on a loudspeaker so every student heard this) and told us that the schedule had been changed and that we would be going a bit later than our assigned time. I assured them that we would be called, and eventually we were.

I enjoyed the meal. They seemed to enjoy it as well. When our turn had finished and it was time to return to class, the complaint was that they didn't have enough time to eat. I offered to let them take back a plate to the class, but no one took me up on that offer. And then the students moaned and groaned about having to be in class until dismissal time (noonish).

During clean up (subs had to help clean up, but that was cool as we were being paid for our time) I talked to the teacher from next door. We compared notes for the day. And her students had the same complaints as mine. Why am I not surprised?

But I do love Turkey Day. Free food. Early dismissal. And I got paid for this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Verbal Report

Yesterday's 6th period class was loud. Really loud. I got a sore throat trying to speak loudly enough to get their attention (I had to get their attention first before I could get them to stop talking and listen to me). And they spent the period talking loudly. It irked me greatly.

The bell rang, and the noisy ones departed. I started to pack up my stuff. Then the teacher walked in.

She had an after school program that she was running. The first question she asked was, "How were they?" I vented about how loud 6th period was.

I generally leave pretty detailed notes. But telling the teacher how things went is so much better. Things I may not put in the note (such as this) generally come out of my mouth before I realize it. And I can go into much more detail.

I've subbed long enough that I know many of the teachers by sight. I suppose I should mention this to the students. Maybe it'll make them think twice. I may just have to talk to their teachers about them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Missing Directions

"Write out the question as well as your answer choice."

The assignment was test prep. I had 8th grade history classes.

I repeated the above instruction using different words a couple times. Most seemed to get the point. We finished the first reading passage, and then we moved on to the second one.

"What? We have to write out the questions?" one boy asked.

A chorus of students replied that he did.

"You should have told me," he said to me, accusingly.

"Um, yeah, I suppose I should have," I replied.

I'm not supposed to be sarcastic in class, but sometimes I can't help myself.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shoes Not Required

Today I covered a severely handicapped special education class. It was a very long day.

First period I was working one on one with this one boy. He had to read a short story (by short I mean it wasn't more than 20 words long) and answer five questions. It was an easy enough assignment, but he was having none of it.

For twenty minutes I had to repeat myself over and over: No, read this. No, actually read it--don't just underline each word while reading every third word. Now, answer the question. No, you can't skip to number two, you must first answer number one. No, no period there, finish writing the sentence. And on and on and on.

Classes like these have instructional assistants, and they know the kids. So, two of the instructional assistants backed me up by coming over to try to push the boy to get some work done.

One of the IAs had a punishment for the boy. "We're all going to take off our shoes and socks." This frightened the boy enough to get one question done. Then the threat had to be repeated.

Throughout the day, the IA would start to unlace his shoes. Not the student's. The IA's shoes. A couple times he got one shoe off. And this seemed to work.

I never got a chance to ask. Why was the boy frightened of bare feet? How did they discover this method of motivation? Were there days that they had to go barefoot to get the boy to work?

It was a great motivator, but unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to apply it to other classes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Power Games

"We don't like you."

One girl (who I'll call Princess) greeted me with this comment 7th period yesterday. Her friend then told me that I should become a "cool" sub. They said that they prefer their teacher (which is as it should be), and that they are disappointed when they discover that it is me who is covering their class. These are the comments I remember; they had other things to say as well.

None of this bothered me. I'm not sure if I was surprised by this or just happy about it. The girls were playing me. I saw that right away. And they were not going to win.

Princess held her book in such a way that I could tell that she was texting on her cell phone. When the time was right, I indicated that I knew perfectly well that she was on her cell phone. She replied that there was no way that she would let this cell phone be confiscated.

Princess spent the period challenging me, but she was doing it subtly. Well, she thought she was being subtle. She wasn't. When I started writing things down for the teacher, she instantly got defensive. She told me that I had better not be writing her name down.

What I was doing was tallying up the day. Each period is ranked according to which class was the best behaved. Princess didn't know this, and I didn't tell her. But every time I took pen to paper, she started a new story to distract me.

She told me about how upset she was the one time that I wrote her name down for a teacher and how she was going to go after me, but she didn't see me for a year. (I don't recall having written her name down before.) She told me about the time that a class had made me cry. (It wasn't me. I've never cried in class. I would remember that.)

So, apparently I had some power there. Princess spent the period trying to convince me that I didn't. But I wasn't in the mood for a power play. (I could have easily written her up or called for back up if I had wanted, say, to confiscate her cell phone.) And I wasn't a bit frightened, even when she threatened but did not threaten me about writing her name down in my little note.

Before I left for the day, I wrote, "Princess was very angry today". I wonder how that went over.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I just don't get it. Would someone explain this to me?

It was a biology class. The assignment was to select a region (such as a desert, a rainforest, or something similar) and to write a page about the seasons in that region using the Internet for research. I wrote all the instructions on the board. I read through those instructions. They seemed to understand what it was they were to do.

Last period I gave the instructions, took roll, and then I walked around the room. I stopped at each student's computer and told each student to get to work. As I stood behind each student, he or she got onto a proper search engine and found appropriate pages. Good, right?

From the teacher's desk at the front of the room I could easily see each monitor. I could see exactly what they were doing. So, after roaming the room, I went to sit down. And every student was on something that had nothing to do with the assignment.

Two students were researching cars. Another student was watching BMX tricks on some video site. Still another student was on myspace.

This is what I don't get: why bother to look like they're working when I'm there? It's not like I can't tell that they aren't working when I walk away.

This class is notorious for lack of a work ethic. If I had had a choice of assignment, I wouldn't have picked this group.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thinking About a Christmas List

It's that time of year again... Time to make out Christmas lists. Oh joy!

I've started my knitting list, I've been making my shopping list, and now I need to make my greedy list--you know, the stuff I want to get. It's usually a challenge, but this year I actually have a list, and with the wonders of the Internet, I thought that I should make it linkable.

It's a great idea, but there are two big hiccups. (1) My HTML skills are next to non-existent. I got the linky thing down, but beyond that... And, (2) where oh where would I post it? (Yes, I have the blog, but I don't think it belongs here.)

So, first I pulled HTML Goodies back up. That's the site that taught me all about "the linky thing". And that's enough for the writing portion.

I guess later I'll figure out where to put it. It's not like it's finished yet. Besides, it isn't even Thanksgiving yet. I have time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Day Off

So far this pay period I have worked every day, but I did not work today. The schools were closed today. They are closed tomorrow as well (for Veteran's Day). Ah, a four-day weekend!

I'm beginning to like November. Although, it'll never be as good as February.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

One More Row

I've been working on this project off and on since August. I had to take my car in for routine maintenance, so I brought the knitting along to pass the time. I was just about out of the latest ball of yarn, but I didn't think I'd be waiting long enough that I'd need to bring another skein with me.

CNN was on in the background. I finished two rows. Since I'm using a fairly thin yarn on small needles, the rows are pretty long, so when I say I finished two rows, I'm talking about approximately a half hour's worth of work.

I pulled out my book and read for a bit. Then I sat there for a while. And then I picked the knitting back up.

I was getting a bit bored with this project. I figured two more rows and then I'd do no more knitting in the waiting room. I finished the right side. I started the wrong side. I got to the last two stitches, and I just finished that row when the guy came in to tell me my car was done. What timing!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


All this week I had been covering for a teacher at the continuation high school. He had surgery and has been recovering. He was out last week and will likely be out next week as well. I was contracted to cover this whole week. So, today was a surprise.

I got to the school and I got all set up. I was sitting in the classroom organizing things for the day when the assistant principal walked in. She informed me that I had been pulled and I was being sent to one of the regular high schools. What the...?

It made me feel a bit like a pawn on a chess board. I get moved from place to place to fill holes, and it doesn't really matter what happens to me. I'm expendable.

The class at the continuation high school? The school had to find a way to cover the absence. As I was leaving (just as the tardy bell rang and a half hour after the other high schools had started) the students for the class that I was to have covered were standing outside, waiting for class.

The reason I had been pulled was because there were a bunch of teachers out at the regular high school, and there weren't enough subs to cover them. So, it's not like I wasn't needed and busy today. I just felt kind of strange about it. Like I was letting people down even though none of this was my doing. I have to go where I'm told to go.

On the bright side, I'm on track for another bonus day this month (I already have a half day).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Who Are You Going to Vote For?

...is what I've been hearing all day. On the one hand it's a good thing. It means that the kiddos are interested and invested. On the other, it means that I have to come up with a way of deflecting the question. Teenagers don't take deflection well.

It's not that I don't want to get into an educational discussion. I want them to think and learn. I just don't want to argue with them, and many of them do have political beliefs that are opposite of my own. Also, I don't want to turn into one of those blowhards who trumpets her opinions to the world and won't brook any dissension.

Although, it was very interesting. More often than not, when I deflected the question, the questioner (or another student in the room) then mumbled the name of the candidate that I will not and did not vote for. I found that reaction fascinating. And I had to bite my tongue not to correct them.

So, we got into other discussions. Many of them had to do with Proposition 8. The students were either confused by it ("So, a no vote means you're for it?") or they had very definite opinions about it.

And a few of them could vote. Since I was at the continuation high school, there were a few 18-year-olds. And some of them had registered. But for the most part, it was a hypothetical discussion. (Although, I did encourage them to vote in the next election when they will be old enough.)

I wonder what the discussion will be tomorrow.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Extra Work

There are not enough subs to go around. How do I know this? Frequently I am called upon to go to another classroom on my prep period to cover for another teacher. This other teacher may also be out for the day, but the district was unable to get a sub to cover for that teacher. There can be two or three (or more) classes in this predicament. The more teachers out on a specific day, the greater the chance that I will get an "extra" period.

Today I was at the continuation high school. I figured I was safe.

I never (okay, there was that once) have covered an extra period at the continuation high school. All the teachers get covered. But not today.

So, I wondered about my luck. Friday I got an extra period, and there were not all that many teachers out (the teacher had to leave school early, hence needing coverage). And I kind of had that kind of week. The pay period was 9 days old (as of Friday), and I had worked enough to be paid for 10 days.

On the one hand, it's a good thing. I do get paid for that extra hour. But on the other, I kind of like having that period break. Especially when I'm fighting off a cold like today.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Clever Costume

It's been a long day and it's not over yet, so I'll make this brief.

Best costume of the day: high school aged boy, wearing a red shirt with a big gold bow on it. From the bow hung a large tag. It read: "To: Women; From: God". He dressed up as God's gift to women. Brilliant!

Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Taking Names

Today I covered a 7th grade "core" class. I had the same group for two periods--one period for English and one period for world history. They were supposed to work quietly. But quiet working for a sub is hard for kids that age. I needed to give them a bit of an incentive.

Some of them just kept talking. So, I wrote their names on the board. It's amazing how well that works. The girl wasn't facing forward, but her neighbors helpfully pointed out that I had listed her. So, she turned around and stopped talking. That's all I wanted.

6th period I did the same. I only had to list two students to get the whole class to stop talking and get to work. I intended to erase the girls' names after class and leave it at that.

The teacher I was covering was on a field trip. I talked to her before school. So, I shouldn't have been surprised that she arrived at the end of 6th period. And she immediately noticed the names on the board.


The girls got detention. The rest of the class got a talking to (for too much talking and not following the sub's instructions).

I shouldn't feel guilty. It's not like they didn't deserve a consequence for not behaving as instructed. But I feel a little twinge all the same.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sub Behavior

The 7th grade teacher I covered on a Friday and Monday a couple weeks ago had a meeting 4th period, and by sheer luck I was sent to cover her class on my prep. The kids seemed to remember me, calling me by name even though I didn't put my name on the board.

When I got there their teacher was going over instructions. The room was silent. Then they got to work and the room continued to be silent. Then the teacher left.

"Can I go to the bathroom?"

Then five students needed a dictionary, three others needed to sharpen their pencils, and the boy over in the corner reminded me why the story about the teacher who duct taped a student to his chair wasn't such a horrible idea. And I got several questions about the assignment--questions I could answer because I had been listening when the teacher was giving directions.

I wasn't in there for the full period. I had them for about 40 minutes. They got louder and louder. I shushed them, but that didn't work for long.

Then their teacher returned. She barely said anything to me as she took back over. "Put your books and everything away," she began. She sounded angry.

They knew she was returning. So, they did it to themselves.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Taking Roll

The computer in the classroom was ancient in terms of computers. It looked like it had been built circa 1995. And it was sloooooow.

What do I need a computer for? Attendance.

The olden days of Scantron roll sheets are gone. Nowadays, the teachers can go online to input the attendance. There is a website. And we subs are given a temporary password. We log on, click "A" for any absent students, and submit. Easy.

Usually it's easy. Not so much today.

1st period's roll went fairly smoothly, considering. It took me about three tries to log on (I kept getting blank screens), but eventually the roll was input. But then a student arrived late. She had a pass, so all I had to do was go back into the screen, mark her "P" for present, and submit. Her absence would have been eliminated. But I couldn't log back on.

I tried every trick I knew. Then I moved on to my sure fire way of fixing computer problems. I restarted the computer.

A period is almost an hour long. For reference.

So, about halfway through 1st period I sent the computer into restart mode. About halfway through 2nd period, since it looked like the computer was completely frozen in shut down mode, I manually turned the computer off. It took the rest of 2nd period, all of 3rd period, and part of 4th period for the computer to boot up. Then it took the rest of 4th period (more than a half hour) before I could even attempt to find the Internet.

At the beginning of 5th period I had Internet. I attempted to get to the attendance website. Then it took me all of 5th period to input the roll for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th periods. I had to log on multiple times before I could get the screen, and every time I had to submit something, it took nearly 5 minutes before I could do anything else.

Just for comparison, last Thursday I had no trouble. The students had a 5 minute warm up assignment (reading). In that 5 minutes, I could check the roll from the seating chart, go and input the roll into the computer, do a head count to double check, and get to the front of the room, and I still had 2-3 minutes before they were finished.

But I'm stubborn. Today, I won that battle.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lawn Signs

I was out and about, riding in a car. I was looking at the scenery. Many houses now have those lawn signs, proclaiming to the world at large who the occupants are voting for. One house attracted my attention.

This one house had three signs on the lawn. The first sign was for a presidential candidate (the one I'm not voting for). The second sign was for a proposition (one I'm so voting against). The third sign, however, was for some local something with a candidate that I'm unfamiliar with.

Now, wasn't that nice? I no longer have to research that candidate. Because, if that person is for them, I am most definitely against.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Future Actor?

The sun just went into Scorpio (last night about 6 PM on the west coast). No wonder I've been feeling resentful and retaliatory. But then again, I had 8th graders today.

They were reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, a book that I loved when I was about their age. But of course they were having none of it. And I spent the day giving them cold stares in the hopes that they would settle down and actually follow along.

Listening to students, especially middle schoolers, read anything can be painful. They read in this boring monotone. They mangle words. They don't get into the spirit of it. So, when one boy actually got into his reading--giving the words a bit of a Southern inflection, reading for meaning, and giving us something interesting to listen to--I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the class thought it was hysterical and they laughed so loudly that the boy had to stop reading. Sigh.

I guess that's the start of it. The apathy. Because when they do get into something, they get laughed at. It's sad.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I really should watch what I put in my notes to the teacher.

Last week I covered a geometry class. It was a pretty straightforward day. They had workbook pages to do. They did them. The day was pretty unremarkable. I didn't even blog about it.

As luck would have it, today I was to cover that class again. As I was walking to the office this morning, I ran into a student from that class. He asked if I was there for his geometry teacher. When I said I was, he commented upon my comment for his class. "You told her we were goofy."

5th period. They were a bit strange, but in a good way. They had odd conversations. They made strange jokes. But they were on task, so it didn't concern me too much. However, I did comment in my note that they were "goofy". And today I paid for that description.

"We won't be goofy today. [Random student] is missing."

"Oh, careful. Don't talk about that. We'll be called goofy again."

Some teachers read the sub report to the students. It's especially useful if the class misbehaved. I guess this teacher gave them a bit of a hard time about the "goofy" comment.

So, today my note about 5th period read in part: "I had no idea that calling them "goofy" would cause so much drama..." I suppose I shouldn't have. That just might make it start all over again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Saved by the Plans

I was a bit early this morning. I got to my class as usual, and I looked for the lesson plans. They weren't on the teacher's desk. They weren't on the podium. And so I started to worry. This teacher is not a leslacker. Was I there in error?

I found the teacher's calendar. On it was written that the teacher had a meeting today. So, she was due to be out. But she had left nothing for me. Since she had a meeting, I figured that she'd be by to talk to me. I hoped.

Not five minutes later the teacher next door appeared (there was a door that connected the two rooms together). The teacher I was covering had asked the teacher next door to leave the lesson plans, and she forgot. Oops.

So, I had lesson plans. And I felt a whole lot better. Subbing is hard enough. Subbing when the students have nothing to do is near impossible.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Identifying the One

Shortened period/long assignment. They were allowed to talk, but most of them were too busy to engage in conversation. The inevitable lull occurred.

"Why did it get so quiet in here?"

I looked at the boy. "Oh, so you're the one," I said.

He didn't get it. I didn't explain. The jokes are mostly for me anyway. They never see the funny.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day Links

It is once again Blog Action Day. This year's topic is poverty.

This year's topic was announced in August, and since then I've been trying to come up with my contribution. Unfortunately, I can't think of a nice, pithy story that'll go along with this topic (last year it was easy).

So, all I can do is call attention to Blog Action Day, and post a couple links:

Stand Against Poverty
Our Day to End Poverty
Make Poverty History
...and other resources here

Monday, October 13, 2008


This morning, the sub caller offered me two choices of assignment--either history or special ed. It was about 6:15 in the morning, but I was conscious enough to know that that wasn't enough information. I asked for teacher names.

The history assignment was for a teacher who I don't really like to sub for. His students aren't exactly motivated. They tend to do little to no work, talk loudly, and play with their cell phones. It's a boring and frustrating day for me.

However, the special ed teacher is a leslacker. (I covered his class for one period two weeks ago. Lesson plans? No, of course not. I had to guess what they were doing by what was written on the board.)

History it is!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Remember the subbing book I mentioned last week?

They used another term that I found apropos. Leslacker: a teacher who fails to leave lesson plans. It's a great term, and one that I'm going to adopt. But it doesn't describe the teacher I covered today.

I'm going to back up a bit. For most of the day I had an art class. Great group. Good lesson plans. I've had a tiring week. It wasn't the students; it was one of those weeks where I had to be on my feet all the time. Today I got to sit back and rest a bit. But then I was asked to cover an extra period (on my prep period).

It was a math class. 7th graders. And they were to do a worksheet. 21 problems. Adding fractions. And all the problems already had common denominators. It took them roughly 10 minutes to finish the thing. The periods are about an hour long.

I get this more frequently than the leslackers, and they need a name. Teachers who leave assignments that take no time at all are a sub's worst enemy. We are already at a disadvantage--we are subs. Then we have to control a class that all finished the assignment?

This teacher has done this to me before. So, on he goes to the "no, I won't sub for him" list.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Big Freaking Cockroach

First thing in the morning in the gym, the assistant principal (AP) found a cockroach as she pulled back the curtains. It was huge and fast and, well, ewww! The AP and the other proctor got the thing out of the gym. And then it was on to the CAHSEE (like yesterday).

The students got through the first part of the math portion of the exam. They got a break. They came back in, and they heard the instructions for part two (same as part one, really). And then they got started.

I was hovering at the front of the group when I saw another huge cockroach climb over the ledge and onto the floor at the front of the testing area. It scurried along and then disappeared. It had my complete attention.

Bugs in classrooms are very bad things. Any creepy crawly thing will disrupt a class no matter how well behaved that class is. The girls start screaming. Some boy has to be the hero and tromp on the thing. And then trying to get the class back to some semblance of order takes forever.

There were more than 60 students testing today. I didn't even want to think about what could happen if the cockroach got their attention. Did I mention it was huge? (5-6 inches long)

The other proctors saw the beast as well. One "helpfully" pointed it out to me. And I suppose it was my turn. I took the top from the box that we had transported the tests in, but that wasn't going to work. So, I looked about for something. (I wasn't going to step on it. The splat and crunch definitely would have alerted the testing students.)

Then I saw some mini cones that had to have been used at the volleyball game last night. There was no hole in the top, and the size was about right (just slightly bigger than the icky insect). So, I chased the cockroach. It took a couple tries before I got the cone over the thing. It was fast. (And I couldn't holler and scream and swear. The students were testing. It was quiet in the gym.)

I went to slip something underneath the cone. I first used the testing instruction booklet. But that was too thick, and the beasty escaped. Once I caught it under the cone again, I figured that paper would work better. Another proctor helpfully gave me some "shhh, we're testing" signs. And I was able to get the roach between the paper and the cone. But the sucker was so big that the paper wouldn't keep it in, so I got the instruction booklet again, and I put that under the paper.

From there I took the creature outside. The kids in the PE classes didn't notice me even though I yelped as I released the roach. It touched me! Ewwww!!!

I returned to the gym. Only one student had watched this process. The rest, thankfully, were oblivious.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Not Following Directions

It's CAHSEE time again...

We started off the morning as per usual. Once the answer sheets had been passed out and the students had found seats, the assistant principal (AP) gave the usual instructions. Work only on the current session. No cell phones. Do best work. Yada, yada, yada.

A girl raised her hand to ask for a restroom break. We were barely a half hour into testing, and she was on session 2. A major no-no. She explained that she was going to do the essay last. Um, no. Not allowed. Time to get the AP involved.

The testing instructions are very specific. They work on the first session, get a break, and then they work on the second session. No working on session 2 early. No going back to session 1 later. And these are in the instructions. But someone always has to test us to see if we're serious.

The other proctor then caught a boy on his cell phone. Texting.

We can't know what the boy was texting. This is considered cheating. The boy was booted from the test. Better luck next time.

Perhaps he just wanted out. It was like ninety degrees today, and the gym had no air conditioning. Yikes!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Kitchen Accomplished

The kitchen is done. The remodel is complete. Whew!

Actually, we mostly finished a week ago. Last Monday (9/29) the tile guys came and finished grouting the back splash. The Friday before that (9/26), the last tiles went in (the purple glass ones), and the appliances were reinstalled. So, we've had a complete kitchen for two whole weekends (and the week in between). But I've been so slammed with other things that I haven't had a chance to update the pictures.

First up, the tile has been "enhanced" and the appliances are in...

Then the purple glass tiles were added (they took a while to arrive)...

And finally, the tiles were grouted, and the kitchen was finished...

Not the best picture, but it gives you the idea. At the moment all the counters of the kitchen are covered with stuff that needs to find homes in the cabinets. When the kitchen is all put back together, I'll try to get a better pic and post it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Yesterday I had a freshman English class. They were studying transitive and intransitive verbs.

It was the passing period into 4th period. I was up at the front of the room watching the kiddos come in. Many of them recognized me. I had subbed for one or more of their teachers last year.

"Great! It's the sub that hates me."

I looked up (she didn't say it all that softly) to identify the girl. It took me a moment. Then I remembered her.

Last year I covered three different teachers who all had the same group of 8th graders within about a week (this group and this group). This girl? I threw her out of all three classes. I wrote her up three times.

Do I hate her? No. I barely even remembered her.

I suppose I should explain. I don't spend a lot of time harboring anger towards students who misbehave. It's not worth the time or effort. They may make for an interesting post. Then, I concentrate on my next assignment. Sometimes I barely remember Friday what I did on Monday. Why then would I hold on to a grudge against a student I may not see for months?

4th period was the best class of the day. They participated. They worked when I told them to. And when they worked they were silent. A dream class. And the girl? She sat in her corner and did little to nothing.

Oh well. I wonder if she never works or if she chose not to work because I was there. But I won't wonder for long.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Crazy Week

I got slammed this week. I barely even had time to check my email. My Facebook and MySpace have been neglected terribly. So has this blog.

The thing is, while I've been too busy to check in on my computer concerns, I've been having days with some very bloggable situations. They finished the kitchen. Last Friday (well, except for the grouting of the back splash which happened on Monday). I have pictures. And I worked all week (I've got a beaut of a story about today).

So, I'm going to cheat.

I've cheated from time to time. A Tuesday was a mess, so on Wednesday I'd post the blog I would have written on Tuesday had I had a chance, and I'd put Tuesday's date on it (usually I'd post for the Wednesday as well). I don't do this very often, but when I do, I'm only one day off.

I last posted on Monday. (I'm not sure how I found the time to post then...) Now I'm going to go back and fill in the rest of this past week (well, as I find the time today, tomorrow, and Sunday). Consider this full disclosure.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Today I covered a special ed. middle school language arts class. They were watching The Secret Garden. They were supposed to be describing various elements of the story: plot, setting, conflict, climax, and resolution. I thought it was a good lesson for this group.

I've been reading through The Substitute Teacher's Survival Guide (STSG). I've had the book for a while, but I hadn't gotten around to reading it before now. I've been busy this week, but I do have some downtime, and I'd gotten through most of my usual reading material.

So, it was fourth period. I had not had any problems with the previous groups. This class, however, was bored by the movie. They explained that they had seen the movie last year, and they weren't having any of the assignment. I continued to shush them anyway.

The girl whose desk was directly in front of me had her back to me. She was talking to the girl behind her. I told her to turn around. She did for about thirty seconds, and then she turned back to her friend. I warned her that if she continued to turn around, talk, and generally disobey me, I would have to move her away from her friend. She turned around to talk again.

I am generally an easygoing person. But these were eighth graders. And I was being ignored. I told the girl where she needed to move to. She took her time getting there.

They play this game. They s l o w l y pack up their stuff in the hopes that I will tire of waiting for them. Then, when my attention is diverted, they sit right back where they were before and play it like they've forgotten what I told them to do or they act as if they're getting there eventually. ("Oh, you were serious about me moving?") So, when another student told the girl to sit down, I informed the other student that the girl was moving with an emphasis to the girl that she had better get moving.

STSG is a very funny book. I'm not getting a lot of advice out of it, but I identify with the situations that the authors describe. When the girl finally did move to the seat that I had told her to go to, she turned to me and shot me such a look of jaditude that I just about lost it to laughter.

The authors of the book have their own vocabulary. Jaditude is a junior high school bad attitude. Since the schools in my district are middle schools... Well, I like jaditude so I'm going to use it.

In retrospect, I probably should have laughed out loud when the girl shot me her jaditude. She thought she was being so tough, so cool. A little laughter might have... Well, it probably would have backfired anyway.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Repercussions of the Note

I was back covering the teacher that I had covered on Monday. It was pretty much a replay of Monday. This I expected.

I do leave notes for the teacher. I leave names. I leave funny incidents. And when I'm sure a student is lying to me, I make sure to write down what they said and who it was that said it. If they're not lying, no harm done. If they are lying...

So, on Monday, three students told me that they had no work to do in the class. I wrote their names down along with the quote. On Tuesday the teacher found me (it's not a big campus; I wasn't hard to find) and told me that those three were in trouble. They did have work to do, and they knew it.

Upon further discussion with the teacher, I told him that I knew that the students were lying, and that I get such things all the time. The teacher appreciated my note. Then he thought he should use the whole note thing to his advantage.

During one of the afternoon classes, a student asked me why I had written down his name and snitched on him. He told me that his teacher had come right up to him and busted him for something or other and "why did you play me like that?"

I wasn't sure of this student's name. I didn't remember what he could have done. But whatever the teacher had called him on had been accurate, and remembering that the teacher had said he was going to use my note to his advantage, I played along.

I informed the student that I did not "snitch". I am a teacher. I tell the regular teacher what happened in his class during his absence. That is not "snitching". That is reporting.

I wonder what the student did. Nah, maybe I don't.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Sometimes the students just don't have that great a grasp on reality (although, neither do I, but that's a topic for another day...). I was at the continuation high school (again) in the basic math class. Barely anyone was doing any work. Well, at least the conversation was interesting.

There was this one student. He was complaining about how short he was credit-wise. Perhaps I should explain this a bit...

The main difference between the traditional high school and the continuation high school is how the students acquire credits. In the traditional high school, if the student gets a "D" or above, he/she gets the 5 credits for the semester. At the continuation high school, the students get credits for what work they turn in. So, if they do no work for a semester, they get no credits. If they do a lot of work, they can get 5 (or sometimes more) credits.

The student who was likely a senior (he was 17) had less than half the credits he needed to graduate. He was nowhere close to graduating. And he spent the period doing no work. Hmmm...

Anyway, the student talked about how he was planning on getting his GED instead. He was grumbling about how he wasn't getting credits fast enough.

And then the conversation got interesting. He told me that he wanted a job where he didn't have to work weekends. I explained that retail jobs and food service jobs were all going to require weekend work.

I'm sure that there's a job out there that would work for him. I don't want to be a downer. But he's not exactly inspiring confidence in his future.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not Needed

I got up at 6 AM. Got dressed. Had some breakfast. And then I drove to the school. A usual morning.

I was not expected. The teacher that I was scheduled to sub for had not left lesson plans (and this teacher always leaves lesson plans). I knew what was coming.

This is one of my biggest fears any day that I sub. The dreaded "Sub? What sub? I don't need a sub." I was sent in error.

This has happened to me quite a bit. If I find no lesson plans from a teacher, I don't assume that the teacher neglected to leave them. I assume that the teacher is going to show up any minute and be startled by my being in his/her room. A couple times the teacher did show up to tell me the lesson plans since he/she was going to be on campus (chaperoning a field trip, going to an on campus meeting, or carpooling to a meeting with teachers), but that's the exception rather than the rule.

I called the sub caller. She got her dates mixed up. I wasn't needed, so I went home. (And I was so rattled that I left with classroom keys. I turned around and went back to return them.)

I suppose if I wasn't so paranoid about this, it would happen less frequently. It's just one of those things. People make mistakes. I get caught in the middle of them.

(Oh, and Mercury is retrograde, so this sort of thing is to be expected.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Favor

"Ms. A., you've known me since I was 12..." the student began.

True statement. I covered his class for six weeks back when he was a 7th grader (he's now a senior). He was one of the difficult ones. But, I barely had time to acknowledge that his statement was correct before he continued...

"...So, could you do me a favor?"

I heard warning bells. What could he want?

"Would you write us a good note, even if we're bad today?"

I relaxed.

"Um, no," I said.

Sometimes I just don't get students. Do they really think that I would falsify my note to their teacher so they could spend today playing? This teacher rewards the good classes and punishes the bad, so while I can't blame him for asking, there is no way that I would lose that particular tool that I had to keep them in line. Especially not at the top of the period.

So, the class got to work, and they worked silently for the period. After the student's question, I was sure that I would have had a harder time than that. I guess they were just seeing how much they could get away with. Maybe?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Markers Redux

This morning I was at the mercy of the early morning wake up call. I lucked out and got a good assignment. Art.

It was 4th period. They were making portfolios--that is, they were decorating the folder that would contain all of their work for the school year. They started this yesterday, and they were to finish it up today. Most were less than half way finished, so they had plenty to do.

I walked the room, and then I sat. The girls in front of me discussed various topics (their piercings, dying their hair, one was allergic to chocolate, etc.). Nothing that required my attention, so I sat and watched the class.

Then I saw it.

Most of the classes used computers (digital art). So, 2/3rds of the class was filled with computer desks and Apple computers. The other 1/3rd of the class had three tables put together to make one long conference-type table. All the students in 4th period were gathered around this.

So, when the boys at the other end of the table had connected all the markers end to end so that it was long enough to reach to the front, it was a very long chain. Longer than the class that got the markers to reach from the floor to the ceiling. Impressive, sure. But unlike that earlier class, this group had work to do.

I went to find the builders. I looked at their portfolios. They weren't getting that much done, and it was nearly the end of the period.

I told the teacher about this in the note. So, when he asks them tomorrow about why they didn't finish their portfolios, they'll have no one to blame but themselves.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Comedy of Errors

Friday I got home from work to find the electricians working in the kitchen. Lots of progress was made. But of course they had to come back for something. The pendant lights we had bought (even though they were the same pendant lights) had a slight difference, so they had to be replaced. (Oh, and they had the wrong light bulbs for the overhead lights again.)

Then the painters came. We are deciding on a paint color. From the paint chips, we narrowed it down to four possibilities. The painters came by to put up squares so that we could see them on the wall.

The colors are in the purple family, but very pale. So, when the painter put up something that looked sea green/blue, I was puzzled. We did not pick that color. We wanted colors 6259, 6266, 6546, and 6553. Two of the colors were correct; two were not.

So, the painters got out their notes. Sure enough, the numbers were written down correctly, but the twos looked like sevens (really, I saw it myself). So, instead of 6259, they got 6759. Big difference.

They put up the two correct colors and then they left. I spent the next half hour laughing. It was pretty funny.

They're coming back tomorrow with the right colors (fingers crossed).

You'd think that Mercury was already retrograde with these kinds of mistakes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rock, Paper, Scissors Test

Today I covered special ed. Fourth period was the "monitoring" class, which meant that any students who needed to take a test in a resource room did it with me watching. I figured that since it's Friday, there would be a lot of students taking tests. Nope. Just one.

"Which amendment has to do with being able to try a civil case in front of a jury?"

Yeah, nice try. I told the student that he'd have to figure it out on his own. It was a test, after all. So, then he asked me what grade he would get if he got 7 wrong out of 25 total. He figured that was an acceptable grade, so then he went about guessing on those seven that he did not know.

How do you guess when you have four choices? First he asked for a coin. When I told him that I did not have one, he came up with another way to guess: rock-paper-scissors.

I'm not sure how he reasoned it. Something about I was a/b and he was c/d. So, we played. I threw scissors; he threw paper. So, then I was a and he was b and we played again. Sorry, I forget who "won". He did this for three different questions.

Should I have helped him guess? I've been thinking about this. He would have made random guesses with or without my help, and it's not like I was steering him in any particular direction (I didn't even look at the test). I was kind of like a Magic 8 Ball here or a random number generator.

It didn't matter for long. He figured out a way to eliminate answers (which is much better than random guessing). He got some scratch paper, and he managed to finish the rest of the test on his own.

I wonder what grade he'll get.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Making Progress

I have been promising and promising to post new pics of the kitchen, so it's about time I do it (if you don't remember where this started, look here).

Here's the same kitchen as before, only now the plastic has been removed from the cabinets...

Then the granite counter tops went in...

And then the back splash tile went up (along with the microwave)...

The only difference now is the under cabinet lighting which doesn't look all that great when photographed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Drinking Game

The electricians came back today. The kitchen has been without light since they first came the first time. Since the backsplash tile is mostly in, it was time to get the electricity flowing again.

They worked for a little over two hours (they didn't arrive until about 2 PM). They installed under cabinet lighting. They got the plugs installed. And the microwave, which had to be bolted into place yesterday so that the tile guy could tile around it, now has power so we can use it.

But, the overhead lights? Well, they had the wrong bulbs, so they could not finish that.

Today it occurred to me that I've got a drinking game here (if I was into that sort of thing). Every time a workman tells me that "we'll have to come back and finish that" or "we forgot/broke/got the wrong thing, so we'll have to bring that back next time", take a drink. This has happened so many times...

Overall, this has been a good experience. The workmen are all very professional. They all clean up after themselves before they leave. The kitchen is beautiful so far (pictures, I know, I promise, soon). But things like this never do go completely smoothly.

Well, we're in the home stretch. The plumber is supposed to come tomorrow to hook up the sink. The microwave is installed. It's getting there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Know-It-All Teens

I have subbed for this particular teacher many times before (recently this time and that time), so I know that the newspapers in the office are hers. I grab them without really thinking about it anymore. I got to the classroom, put the papers down, and then I read the lesson plan. "Current events presentation preparation." I had everything they needed.

It wasn't even ten minutes into the period when a student accused me of failing to get today's newspapers. Um, they're right over there. Then I looked. All the papers had been taken. The student said that there had to be more in the office.

Arguing with a teenager is a pointless exercise. No matter what I say, the teen has an argument for it. We could spend a half hour debating the color of the desks, and I would not be able to convince the teen to even agree to disagree. So, I avoid these "discussions" whenever possible.

I told the student that I had picked up all the papers. She wanted to check the office. I knew that she'd need the proof of her own eyes, so I let her go "retrieve" the "rest" of the papers.

The student returned with no papers. She told me that the office ladies had said that I had already picked them up. (See, I was right!) She was still doubtful, but she had no other recourse, so she took her seat and stopped complaining.

They think I lie to them. They think I don't know anything. Such is what a sub gets to deal with every day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

That New Kitchen Smell

It's been a little while since I updated on the kitchen progress. No progress to report. Well, that's not exactly true. The last pictures I posted had half-done cabinets. Not so much anymore.

Things came to a dead stop while we were waiting for the granite. Now we're waiting on the backsplash tile. Turns out that it's going to take a little time to get the tile that we liked. But "a little while" means maybe a week more. And by "the tile that we liked" I mean the sparkly bits that'll make the backsplash shine. The rest of the tile is in now. It's due to go up tomorrow.

What I've noticed is how the house smells now. There's a faint odor of cut wood and half-dried paint. There's the lingering of the burning smell from when they cut into the granite for the faucet. There's the glue they used to tack down the granite. The old sink was leaking, so that smell is gone. And it all just smells... It smells like a new kitchen.

I'll post update pictures in a day or so. We're coming in on the end of this thing!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

This Week's Quiz

It's that time of the week again. AOL News Quiz time. I did better this week than I've done in a while. I got 12 right! For me, that's fantastic.

I guess I was paying attention this week. Either that, or I'm getting a bit better at guessing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scenes from Biology

I finally got a 5:45 AM wake up call. Yeah, I think. So, I had a day at the continuation high school. I don't have any good full-blog stories, but I have a couple scenes to share.

The first bell hadn't rung yet, but I had the door open, so various students were ambling in and out. One boy sees me and comments, "Mr. P's not here today? Do we have a sub?" He asked me. He asked me if they were having a sub today. I was too stunned to come up with an appropriate sarcastic remark.

It was Thursday at the continuation high school, and that means one thing--buyouts. So, at the start of the period, I told them that they would have to complete today's assignment before I would consider signing their buyouts. Two boys crumpled up their buyouts then and there. Hey, I wasn't asking for much, just for them to complete the day's assignment. They weren't willing to do a little work to get tomorrow off?

Today they were to write two paragraphs about whatever biology topic the teacher had left. This had most of them working on the classroom's computers. So, from time to time I'd roam the room. As I was passing behind this girl, the boy next to her poked her. She had her cell phone out, and the website on her computer was nowhere near the assignment. She hit the boy back. "Why did you do that?" she asked. "Because I'm right behind you," I replied. She then had the decency to put away her cell phone.

Teenagers. They can be so much fun sometimes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Color Test

I've been spending way too much time on the Internet lately. Today someone posted a link to a color test. So, I figured, why not?

Before you click on the link and try it yourself, make sure you have some time to devote to it. The first time I didn't take my time and I ended up with a 16. Kind of a poor showing, so I went back and tried it again. The second time I got a 4. I'm gunning for a 0 (the high score). Not right now, though.

Here's the link.

I'd love some comments with your scores.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Wait

School started last week. It's a touch too early for teacher inservices, so I get to wait for that wonderful early morning wake up call. I haven't gotten one yet. But I will soon.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

She Asked What?

Since the kitchen has been down, we've been going out to eat a lot. It's easier than trying to wash dishes in the bathroom sink. Tonight we ended up at Chili's.

I was fighting off a headache, so I was a bit more cranky than usual. Unfortunately, we got seated right behind a group of girls who were out to have a good time. Loudly.

Chili's is normally loud. These girls were louder. And they were cackling like they had had a bit too much to drink. When they laughed, they just had to hit the back of their seat which was right up against my seat. It was worse than the day I was at Ruby's behind the young child who would not sit still. (At least in that case I could forgive the child for not knowing any better.)

Because our tables were back to back, we had the same server. After he had brought us our drinks, he went to take their order.

I guess the girls thought he was cute. They were very obviously flirting. They asked if the server was married. He was. Then they asked his age and how long he'd been married. These questions were getting more and more personal. And then one of the girls came out with this impertinence:

"Have you cheated on her yet?"

Seriously. They asked that. My jaw just about hit the table. (I was so astonished I did not hear how he responded. I hope he gave them a very rude answer.)

Some people. I mean, really.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Weekly News Quiz

I don't know why I bother. I'm paying attention, really. But somehow I manage to do poorly on these things.

So, here's the link to this week's AOL news quiz. I got 8 correct. I bet you can do better than me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Kitchen Cabinets

It's been a little while since I last updated on the kitchen's progress. (And in case you need to remember where this project started, the pics are here.) I've been taking pictures of the progress. I just didn't upload them to the computer until today.

This is what it looked like as the cabinets were installed...

And here are the cabinets are all (well, mostly) complete. The plastic is up to protect them while the walls were being painted...

And here's a shot of the just-installed floor...

So, progress is being made. Now we're just waiting for the granite.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bookmark Update

I've been finding all sorts of interesting things on the Internet. I guess I spend too much time on the computer. This week I discovered Delicious.

I spent a day getting all of my old bookmarks up on the site. There is a way to import them, but I couldn't figure out how to use it. Besides, I was able to add my own tags as I did it. And I spent some time learning to navigate the thing.

What can I say? It's been a rather slow week.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Silly Quote

I had lunch at Ruby's today. Yeah, I know, you don't care what I had for lunch, but there's actually a point to this. They're doing some sort of contest. They're giving away a Schwinn.

So, as I walked by the poster advertising this, I flashed on The Muppet Movie. "If frogs couldn't hop, I'd be gone with the Schwinn."

It's really odd what things stick with you. Just think of all the useful information I have forgotten, but 20-odd years later, I remember that one quote.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cell Phone Patrol

I believe that I've mentioned the classroom cell phone problem before. The students are supposed to leave them turned off and put away. Mostly, they sneak around with them, thinking that I don't see.

Today I was at the continuation high school. Being Friday, it was kind of a lazy day for them. Those that had been on task all week got to work on extra credit. Those that weren't had to finish up the work they hadn't done. Neither group felt like doing what they were supposed to be doing. So, I was on cell phone patrol.

Oh, the looks I got! This girl had her cell phone out on her desk. "But I'm not doing anything." She wasn't. But a teenage girl with a cell phone in easy reach continuing not to use said cell phone? Not likely.

Then another girl drew my attention. She was frantically texting away (at least she was hiding the phone inside her purse, but the motions are pretty distinctive). So, when she was questioned on this, I got the full story.

Someone was in her house. Her mother was out of town. Her friend was "crashing" there until she got off school (with permission) and the friend contacted the girl to say that some unknown person was in the house. The girl was frantic.

Some things were easier without cell phones. The girl wouldn't have even heard about this incident until she got home. All she could do at school was worry, because she wouldn't call the police.

I suggested having her friend call the police. The look I got! It was as if I had suggested dousing her house in cow manure.

I will, of course, never know how this turns out. I left a heads-up for the teacher. By the time I see the girl again, this will have all blown over.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


The cabinet makers have been here for two days. Progress is being made in the kitchen. But I'm about ready to lose it. There are flies in my house.

It's been years since I've noticed a housefly problem. I guess I've been busy fighting the ants. But the cabinet guys were in and out all day, and the screens stayed open. That made it easy for the flies to get in.

I keep reminding myself that this is a temporary thing. The cabinets should be finished tomorrow. They look good (I'll post pictures in a day or so). It's just that when I go to open the refrigerator door, a fly should not fly in and land on the egg carton.

I've shooed a few out since the cabinet guys left for the day. And at the moment I don't see any others. But I just know I haven't gotten them all, and that worries me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Blank Slate

The drywallers came today. Now the kitchen looks all smooth and new. So, here are a few pictures to show the progress.

First up, the light fixture that we had before (without the plastic covering it)...

Then the electrician came and replaced the fluorescent tubes with something a bit more modern...

And today they smoothed out the walls...

Tomorrow they start to install the cabinets. Woo-hoo!

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Waste of Paper

We just got another bill from the cable company. It seems like they send us one every month. It's weird, because we got rid of cable and got a satellite dish in 2004.

The cable company was horrible. I have stories about missed service appointments and service appointments that they showed up for but forgot to tell me about (so I was not home when they arrived). They got rid of the Sci Fi Channel in the middle of a "Stargate SG1" season, but we could not upgrade to the package that had it because our complex was not wired for digital. And the complex didn't get wired for digital until two years later. And I'd better stop now or I'm going to start screaming again.

They were horrible. We fired them. We love DirecTV. (And by the number of satellite dishes in the area, I don't think our horrible experiences were unique.)

But here's the thing. Our condo complex has a deal going with the evil cable company--a monopoly thing. (So, they have the monopoly, but they don't upgrade the service? Let me move on before I start ranting.) And somehow, our home still has an account.

There is no name on the account (it's addressed to "RESIDENT RESIDENT"). The bill is for $0.

We get three pages mailed to our address. So, they're wasting money (paper, postage, time, computer space, etc.) sending us a bill every month. See why we got rid of these idiots?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


It's the third day of the kitchen remodel, and all I want is to have my breakfast in peace. Is that too much to ask?

We got an egg cooker since there would be no kitchen. Add in the toaster that we already had, and we've got breakfast covered for the duration. The problem is, every time I get to making my breakfast, the workmen arrive.

I had a definite start time on Monday. Unfortunately, they were early. Tuesday the time that they'd be coming by was a lot less definite. Still, they managed to arrive just as I was getting my breakfast. And today the same thing happened. As I'm setting stuff up, the doorbell rang.

Yes, I knew it would be inconvenient. I expected to have to find ways to stay out of the way. Now, if I could just figure out when they're coming, I can get my breakfast first. I hope.