Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Turn?

It's that time of year. It's STAR testing time.

Around here, the district designates this week as their "dead week", meaning that there are no meetings, no conferences, no school business reasons for a teacher to be out of class. But teachers still get sick, so we subs still can work, although the likelihood isn't very high. That is why I happily accepted the assignment to cover a health class today.

Today's schedule had testing all morning and three half-hour classes in the afternoon. Subs aren't allowed to proctor the tests, so for the morning testing session we were designated as breakers. That is, when a teacher needed some time out of their classroom, we were sent to relieve him/her.

The testing session was 4 1/2 hours. During that time, six of us sat in the teacher's lounge and waited. Someone from the office would poke her head in and give us a room number. And we would look at each other daring each other to get up and go.

Nah, it wasn't that bad. Someone had the bright idea to make a list, and every time one of us went out to relieve a teacher, we put a hash mark next to our name. We were supposed to go in some sort of order, but that fell away pretty quickly (when I had just gotten back from relieving someone, it was my turn again?), and we were kind of on an honor system. Though, judging by the hash marks on the sheet, we each did our share.

I was grateful when it was time to start the teaching part of the day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

These 7th Graders

I've been having pretty good luck with 7th graders lately (knock on wood!). Take today for instance. I was warned that 5th period was a bit wound up. But somehow, they got to silence. (Well, they came in wound up, but once they got working they did it silently.) And this has not been unusual.

I had two days in a 7th grade class last week. Sure, the teacher specified silence, but they complied. That's kind of amazing. Too many times classes that were supposed to be silent weren't. And as I think over it, most of my encounters with 7th graders this year have been similar. Sure, they've been doing the middle school thing (poking each other, silly games, whining), but they've been surprisingly compliant. They've even gotten to silence most of the time.

Each year seems to have its own personality. By "year," I mean graduation year (the 7th graders are the class of 2013). Some years are better than others. Could we be in for an amazingly well-behaved year? Possible. But they'll be 8th graders next year (insert scream here).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sharpening Pencils

Today I covered middle school Spanish (a class I usually avoid since I took the wrong language when I was in school) and their assignment was one of those vocab color-and-sentence things (I've seen a lot of this sort of activity). It was a pretty straightforward day.

It was 5th period, and this one boy was spending way too much time at the pencil sharpener. I was just about to make a snarky comment about that pencil being beyond hope when I looked at what he was doing. He was sharpening all of his colored pencils. I was glad I held my tongue. As the assignment included coloring in pictures, what the boy was doing was completely reasonable. (Although, another student did comment upon how long this sharpening took.)

The boy went back to his seat (and the other boy got up to sharpen his pencil--only one this time), and then he raised his hand. He asked me, "Can I use markers for this assignment?"

Me: "You spent all that time sharpening your pencils, and now you want to use markers?"

I guess I should have made that snarky comment after all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Con Job

Never ever let them swap seats. There is a reason for this. A classroom goes from a good working environment to a party atmosphere the minute they get to sit just where they want. I've seen it happen too many times, so when they ask, I always say no.

Today I had a group of mostly 9th graders. And they really wanted to sit next to their friends.

"Let us, and you'll be our favorite sub. You'll be the coolest sub ever!"

Oh wow, really? Because I live for the approval of a class of 14-year-olds. I think I actually said this to them, albeit with heavy sarcasm. The sarcasm was heavy enough for them to feel it. They stayed in their assigned seats.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Today I covered 10th grade English. They had a warm up on the board asking a question that related to Earth Day.

"Who cares about Earth Day?" one student asked.

You should have seen how fast the rest of the class got on her case. I almost got whiplash.

It's nice to see that the teenage generation is getting the message.

Monday, April 21, 2008

No Humor

It all started with a joke. I listened to the joke with trepidation. Student conversations can go from innocuous to wildly inappropriate in a matter of microseconds, and this is especially true at the continuation high school. Luckily, the joke was innocuous. It was also not funny.

The student was disappointed by my lack of response. He told me that I need a sense of humor. He said I should smile. What a wonderful compliment!

I try very hard to seem dour. I need the classes to behave. If I seem too friendly, they might be tempted to act up, and that'll make my job that much harder. (There is a middle ground to this--if I'm too dour, then they could fight me more on things--but that's for another post.)

As for the joke--a duck walks into a bar and orders drinks. The bartender wants to know how the duck will pay for them. The duck says, "Put it on my bill".

See, not funny.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

No More Doorkeepers

A while ago I commented on the girls who sit in the main office and let us subs in (in case you've forgotten). They haven't been there the last couple times I was at that school. I think I know why.

I was standing in line waiting to check in with the site secretary. I heard a commotion behind me. The girls found something funny (they were laughing and carrying on loud enough to attract attention). And the receptionist had it with them and kicked them out.

That was a pretty good run. They lasted a long time. But high school students can't keep it together forever. And besides, the weather is warming up. They don't really need a warm place to hang out so much anymore.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Free Time

Some days I wish I had a video camera.

It's Friday at the continuation high school, and things are pretty laid back. If they have been on task all week, they get a "free day" (and this being a computer class, that means Internet). Although, many of them are taking a "free day" anyway, but that's for another post (and rant).

Of course, the thing about the "free day" is that they are still stuck in class, and they are at the mercy of the school Internet connection. They complained frequently that all the "good stuff" was blocked (games, music, youtube, myspace, etc.). So, some gave up the Internet search in favor of entertaining themselves.

Try to imagine this. Two high school students. One male. One undetermined (female name, dressed masculine). Playing "patty cake".

I'm going to let that sink in.

Seriously, they were doing that clapping thing that elementary age girls usually do (usually with some sing-song rhyme). I stood and watched for a moment in amazement.

"I wish I had a camera. This would go on youtube."

Yes, I did tell them that (as I had no camera, there was no real danger). And they stopped immediately. Too bad.

Although, high school is the age when everything young child is cool again. So, perhaps they would have performed for my wished-for camera.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Opt Out

I was stalling. I had some writing to do, but I didn't want to get to it. So, I was looking at news stories that interested me. That's where I found this.

Credit card offers annoy me. I'm not going to get another one. I'm in enough trouble as it is. And with each offer I have to open it so that I can shred it because I don't want to tempt identity thieves.

It's a waste of my time. It's a waste of paper.

Why don't they tell you that you can opt out? Or did they tell me before and I just wasn't paying attention (I was so paying attention when they told me that I could opt out of telemarketing calls).

That is my public service for today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Growing Up

The following conversation occurred today. However, since I wasn't transcribing as it happened, this isn't exactly what was said. It does capture the gist.

"How long have you been subbing?"

Me: "A while."

Student: "About a year?"

Me: "More than that. I first met you when you were in the eighth grade." (Note: the student is now in the 11th grade.)

Student: "I was pretty awful in the eighth grade."

I agreed with the student. For some reason this offended her.

Student: "I've grown up since then."

I again agreed with her.

This student used to ask for passes every day. Many times I'd be walking around campus on my prep period and I'd see her roaming campus as if she had no place to be. She would argue with me in class. She was loud. She was obnoxious. And I wrote her up a couple times for her rude behavior.

The next year it was as if some switch flipped, and she became a different person. Sweet. Pleasant. I haven't had a lick of trouble with her since.

Sometimes they do mature out of it.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I don't get it. Do they think I'm stupid?

Today (and the rest of this week) I covered a computer class. Business. They're supposed to be working on their typing. If they can type, then they work on learning the various software programs. There's plenty to do.

They are not supposed to be playing on the Internet.

It's not like the screens are similar. I can tell at a glance what is schoolwork-related and what is not. Yet, many of them kept going onto the web instead of doing their work.

I guess that's the nature of the business. There's a sub, so why do work?

But this is the continuation high school. They get to buy out on Friday, but only if they are productive this week. I already have a list of about a dozen students who won't be buying out this week.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Beware of Student

Thursday and Friday I covered 7th grade math.

The teacher left detailed lesson plans. He was very clear in what behavior he expected from his students. He also knew what the usual excuses were, and he covered this in the plans (they were not to "do it for homework"--a usual excuse I hear).

After I read through the lesson plans, at the back of the packet the teacher left, there were several pages of students to watch out for. No, he didn't list the entire class. He had left pictures. Next to each picture was the student's name and what I needed to watch out for.

Now, those are detailed lesson plans.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


It was one of those days. I needed to do something to keep my mind active, so I plotted stitch patterns. I keep a clipboard with paper on it (for notes about the class), so I doodled on it. I've been working on cell phone cozies (pictures coming soon), and they need something a little more interesting than stockinette stitch.

I also have a little collection of unusual student names. I'll go through the roll sheet and jot down any new ones. I have a list. (No, I'm not going to share.) I had time to add to this list today as well.

I had some issues with fifth period. They were juniors, so they should have known better. At the end of the period, they descended upon me and the podium up front. They wanted to know which names I'd taken down.

On the clipboard I keep the class notes at the bottom. On top--my knitting doodles. But they were sure that this was code.

I explained that it was a knitting pattern. "But it says 'row 1' & 'row 2'." Yeah, row 1 of the pattern followed by row 2. Then they found the list of names.

Luckily the bell rang, and they were no longer interested in what was on my clipboard. Although, if they had dug around long enough, they would have found my note to their teacher, and they would have learned that their note wasn't all that bad. (Later I amended the note, telling of the issue that I had.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Badge of "Honor"

Today the subject was math, specifically algebra 2. They had a worksheet on logarithms to do.

We were well past the beginning of the period, and I was walking the room. I found a student sitting and staring into space. I asked him to get out his assignment and get working. He then told me that he did not have the worksheet.

Funny. At the beginning of the period I stood in front of the room with worksheets in my hand and I asked if they all had gotten the worksheet. I waved the worksheets in the air. "Anybody need one?"

So, I got the slacker a worksheet, and I stood there for a bit to make sure he got started. He didn't. Neither did his neighbor (though he had the worksheet out and on his desk). I tried to prod both of them along.

The first slacker then explained that he did no work in the class. He got out his latest grade check. It said that he had 22% in the class. 22%!!! That's an F. That's a pretty low F (though I have seen lower before).

Then the second boy got out his grade check. He was doing better. 40-something percent. That's still an F, but it's a slightly higher F. With the quarter ending shortly, there's no way that either of these boys will be getting anything but an F on their report cards.

The sad thing is that they were both kind of proud of their grade. Sigh.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Due East

It was an 8th grade class. There was a debate raging. Which way was east? (They'll get into throw down arguments about anything.)

At least the door was open (I can figure out north and from there east, but only if I can see where the street is). I determined where east was, and one student was happy while the other was disappointed.

Problem solved? Well, not quite. Now they had to discuss this. And they had to debate how they found their east. N-->E-->S-->W going clockwise.

"Never ever smoke weed."

Well, I guess that's one way to remember it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Locked Door

There is a group of girls (mostly cheerleaders) who sit in the waiting area of the front office of the high school in the mornings before school. They started this last year, probably because they hated sitting out in the cold. Since they don't bother anyone, no one has asked them to leave. They have become sort of like a fixture there.

First thing in the morning, the front door to the office is locked (usually until the receptionist gets there). But subs have to enter the office--we have to check in. And we don't have an office key (we only get assigned keys after we've checked in). We used to have to wait out in the cold until someone noticed our plight and came to let us in. Then the girls started sitting there.

I like that the girls sit there.

There's usually one who gets up to let us in. Of late she's gotten more and more cranky about it. So today, there was a bag left propping the door open. Problem solved.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

First Day

It was one of those science classes--the classes where they put the kids who failed the previous year. Most of the names on the roll sheet were familiar to me and not in a good way. So, my job was to keep them contained, and I was resigned to that.

Third period we got a new student. She wasn't just new to the class; she was new to the school. And all I could think was, poor girl. What a way to be introduced to your new school!

One of the troublemakers noticed her and asked her if she was new. I watched nervously. She replied that she was, and the next question was could troublemaker see her schedule. I breathed easier. Several students then chimed in with similar requests (they wanted to see if she was in any of their classes and/or if they could tell her something about the rest of her day). They were being nice to her! Whew.

But for the rest of the period one channel of my mind was watching the class through a stranger's eyes. What must she have thought of this group? The boy who accused another boy across the room of stealing his pencil (it was found on the floor near the first boy's desk). The two who tried to start a mock fight. The boy whose backpack constantly went missing (several others kept "borrowing" it). The boy and girl who were battling over the girl's umbrella.

The new girl's fourth period class was in one of the odd locations on campus (in one of the extra rooms set up on what used to be the parking lot). I was trying to explain where it was (as it wasn't close and there were several turns involved) when another student volunteered to show her where it was. He said his next class was close by.

I guess it's just me they antagonize. A new student? She's one of them.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

8th Grade Nonsense

8th graders are a strange breed. If they're not fighting with me and if I watch very closely, I get entertained.

Today the subject was history. I've subbed for this teacher before. It's generally a good assignment (she's got good classes).

First period had four students who would not stop. The new quote from "overheard in class" (see sidebar) is from them. They spent the period cracking each other up (the quote in the sidebar made the whole class laugh).

Fifth period one boy purported to talk for another. Oliver asked me, "Timmy would like to know where you went to college." Strange. I was sitting between Oliver and Timmy, and I did not hear Timmy (who was not in any way shy) wonder aloud where I had gone to college.

I introduced myself to the class at the start of every period. Second period's reply: "Yeah, we know who you are." I can't convey in print the tone of voice the girl used, so let me just say that the girl was probably rolling her eyes as she said it. I was not sure whether to be offended or flattered.

And in sixth period someone threw a note across the room...

All in all, an entertaining day.