Friday, May 30, 2008

She's Right There

It was the beginning of third period and I was doing the one duty I hate the most--calling out the roll.

Me: "Robert."


Me: "Jason."


Me: "I'm taking roll." I say this as I mark him present.

There's always one with the "what?" There are at least two who I have to call twice because they didn't hear me and didn't respond. (At some point I start muttering "Bueller, Bueller".) And there's at least one (but usually more than one) whose parents didn't think ahead to days like this when someone like me was going to attempt to pronounce the strangely spelled oddity without use of a pronunciation key (and all the subsequent snickers the mispronunciation always elicits).

So, I proceeded through the list...

Me: "Jasmine."


Me: "Chloe."


Me: "Jose."

No response. Jose was absent. And I was at the end of the list, but the two girls sitting in front of me had to say, "Chloe isn't here."

"Who's that over there?" I asked, pointing out Chloe.

I don't know why, but some names stick. I have had Chloe in many classes. When I see the name Chloe, I think blonde, blue-eyed, girly-girl cheerleader type. This Chloe is not that. Not that at all. Complete opposite, in fact. And that's why I remember her name.

"That's not Chloe. That's...that' twin!"

And what the two other girls could possibly get out of me marking Chloe absent? I have no idea.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Too Much Thinking

I'm back at the continuation high school, and the assignment is one of those busy work worksheets. It's keeping them busy, so there should be no complaints. They've been getting through the first four worksheets with minimal difficulties, but then they get to the 5th one, and they get stuck.

The worksheet is called "Some Even Harder Words in Washington". The idea is they are to use the letters W-A-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N to make words, and they can even use the letters more than once. Clues are given. But this has been "too hard", and the students want to give up (and they want me to give them worksheet number six to do instead).

Some examples:
Grind the teeth.
....a bet on or...a war on.
A deep cut.
An overhead window shade to keep out the sun.
To lightly color.
A dish made from leftover meat.
The person who gives the party.
Getting older.
Win over; as a man might court or win over a lady.
A large male deer.
A mean old woman.
Another name for "country" where people live.
What trains pull into.

I was mean and made three girls work on this for an entire period (there were 25 words they had to find). I even gave hints (first letter, last letter, second letter...). The hints finally helped.

It's just sad sometimes when they won't try. It's "too hard", so they stop trying instead of buckling down and working that much harder. It discourages me sometimes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Long Weekend

The district I work for was nice enough to give us Friday off as well as Monday. And I got a cold just in time for the four-day weekend. Nice, huh?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

ASB Election

Today the school was holding its ASB election for next year. I passed out the ballots in 3rd period as instructed, and the students spent some time going over them deciding ASB president, vice president, secretary, commissioner of assemblies, etc.

Unfortunately, the students did not know the students who were running. We had a senior TA in class, and she tried to describe the students running for office (one does the morning announcements). This I did not mind as she was not influencing their votes (she didn't get to vote as she won't be there next year). But her descriptions weren't helping much.

So, as one boy was trying to decide between two candidates that he did not know, the TA looked at me and said, "Can you imagine him at the polls?" I thought that was funny. The boy didn't get the joke.

The conversation turned to voting, so I asked the TA if she was 18 yet. Since she was, I asked her if she had registered to vote. I do this frequently with the seniors. Especially in a presidential election year, I encourage them to register and vote as soon as they can legally do so.

The topic turned to presidential politics at that point, but since the rest of the class won't be of voting age come November, and since the class assignment had to do with the Cold War (and it was a long assignment) I had to stop this quickly.

By the way, the senior girl had registered to vote.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Heckler

Today I covered 7th grade math (pre-algebra). The lesson plan instructed me to go over some problems about percents with them. No sweat.

Near the top of the period, a boy from another class came in. He was sent out of his class to complete an essay of some sort--probably a time out assignment. This didn't matter much to me. I gave him a spot in the back of the room and ignored him.

Then it was back to the class. And I had to figure out exactly how they were doing the percent problems. Sure, I could try to teach them to do the problems my way, but I'm only there for one day, and I'd rather not confuse them by teaching them a different method. By asking them the right questions, they gave me an idea of how they were doing the problems. It was a bit cumbersome, but I could deal.

The boy in the back of the room felt it was his duty to inform the class that there was an easier way of doing percents. Again, I ignored him.

We got through the six problems that we were supposed to. After we finished number six, one of the students stated that the answer I got was wrong. The boy had again commented, and the students sitting near him told me.

I asked what I had missed, and it turned out that the boy had missed one crucial thing--there was a decimal in the problem that he had not noticed. The class then came to my defense, berating the boy for questioning me.

These sorts of things don't bother me. I'd rather know if I made a mistake so I can correct it. But I think the boy thought he knew more math than me, and he was just looking for an excuse to correct me. Ah, such is the lot of the lowly sub.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Four Rows Too Many

I don't knit many sweaters. I tend to run warm most of the time, so I don't need many sweaters. But this one I just had to have.

As I do many nights, I was knitting while I was watching TV (the season finale of Bones). I'm nearing the armhole decreases for the left front of the cardigan, so I pulled out my tape measure and measured. And I found that I was a half inch too long.

I had, of course, already completed the back. I pulled the back out, and I put the left front up against it. The left front was four rows too long. There was no help for it; I had to rip it out.

I call these my "rookie mistakes". These are the things I do wrong that I shouldn't do wrong, but I do them wrong because I am tired when I am knitting. That's when it is time to put the thing away and stop.

So, of course I missed most of the end of Bones last night. I was a little busy ripping things out and putting live stitches back on the needle. But the sweater is fixed. And I should be able to post a picture soon (as now the sweater is starting to look like something).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Short-Term Memory Only

"Oh, I remember you. You subbed for my Spanish class. We talked too much in 6th period, didn't we?"

Spanish? Right, I did that weeks ago. I barely remember last Tuesday. How am I supposed to remember how 6th period behaved weeks ago. That's what my sub reports are for.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Middle schoolers like to overshare. So, when a boy who was doubled over and moaning said that he needed some Lactaid, I gave my usual response: "TMI". Someone always says, "Huh?" and it gets explained to those who don't know. That's usually the end of it. Not today.

A girl: "LOL"

Then the class started getting unruly, so someone else called out: "STFU". This had to be explained.

The girl again: "LOL" (I guess in case I didn't catch it the first time).

So, to try to regain some control I called out: "OMG, settle down."

And then some joker had to say: "What the...?" It would have been funnier if he had said "WTF," but he didn't.

Yep, this was all my fault. I started it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rock and a Hard Place

Teachers who have (and leave) seating charts have their classes set up a certain way for a reason. They've been honing these configurations since the beginning of the school year. The three girls who can't be trusted to sit next to each other have been placed as far apart as possible, usually in opposing corners. If those girls were together chaos might ensue. So, when a sub enters the room, the first thing they try is to swap seats so that they can sit together. The savvy sub tries to prevent this from happening.

The weather around here just went from the 60s to the 90s in less than a week. The forecast was for 90 degree weather today, so I turned on the air conditioning early. The students complained. I didn't really care. I was right, and they'd figure that out eventually, but they were cold (insert whine here).

One girl just had to move. She was seated right underneath the air conditioning vent. It was too cold for her. But where was she going to sit? Right next to her friend, of course. No way.

And there was my dilemma. Rock: do not deviate from seating chart. Hard place: air conditioning vent. What to do? What to do?

We compromised (I allowed her to move one seat up from her usual spot). And it made no difference. Those girls? They talked to each other across the room anyway.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Brandishing a Meter Stick

Today I covered 8th grade science. They had group projects. They were making two models: one showed the relative distances of the planets from the sun, and the other showed the relative sizes of the planets and the sun. It was an interesting assignment, but...

Eighth graders. Group project.

This is a nightmare for a sub. They're already on sub behavior, and then multiply that by a factor of group project behavior. My head is still throbbing.

This assignment required the use of a meter stick (the distance from the sun to Pluto on their model was over 100 cm). Meter stick. Eighth graders.

"Stop brandishing that meter stick."

They used the meter sticks as swords for sword fighting. They swung the thing like a baseball bat. They spun it like a baton. They used two as an alligator mouth (or a Pac-Man). One boy even played with it like it was a Tech Deck.

There are certain sentences that I never imagined I'd utter. The brandishing one? I should have seen that one coming.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Evil Sub

"No, you can't copy his work."

I said this to a student. She balked. She argued. She complained. But I was adamant. One does not copy another student's work.

"You're just evil," the girl told me.

"Thank you for that lovely compliment," I replied.

The girl stopped copying the assignment. And I was satisfied. I didn't even mind the evil comment. I figured I was due. I tend to use that word a lot myself, so it was probably time that a student would throw it back at me.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Low Morale?

Sometimes what they don't know surprises me.

Today I was covering U.S. history at the continuation high school. I mention the "continuation" part in case it makes a difference. They are currently studying the Civil War.

Their warm up on the board said:
  1. Approx. how many Northern troops died?
  2. Approx......".......".....Southern......."......?
Number two stumped them, but not because they couldn't find the answer. They didn't know that the marks meant repeat the above words. Once I translated they were fine.
Then number two of their worksheet asked "What is 'morale'?" They had no idea. They were pronouncing it "moral", and they could not figure out what it meant from the context of the paragraph. And unfortunately, there were no dictionaries in the classroom for them to look it up themselves.
Am I being unreasonable? Are these things that kids don't know? (They have issues telling time using the analog clocks, too, but that's for another post.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

1313 Mockingbird Lane

It was one of those online IQ tests or quizzes or something. I got through all the questions, but to get the results I had to fill out a questionnaire requiring personal information like home address, income level, etc. At this point I was curious, but there was no way that I was giving this site my actual information. I didn't know who they were. They didn't actually need to know this stuff.

So, for address I gave them 1313 Mockingbird Lane (thanks, Chris). For the city I said something like Nowheresville. For state I would have used "of denial" or "of confusion", but it had one of those drop down menus, so I couldn't get away with that. I gave other equally bogus information for the rest, and then the site finally released my results.

The results were pretty general, mostly incomplete. To get the complete results I would have had to fork over $19.95 (or some amount like that). The come on for this quiz was "are you smart?" Clearly, not smart enough to avoid that trap.

I hadn't thought about this in a while--two or more years. I wouldn't even be mentioning this, but today I got a spam email, and the subject gave the address 1313 Mockingbird Lane. I remembered the quiz thing, so I opened the email just to see what the scam was. It was all about a loan or refinancing or something; I didn't read enough to get the details, just the gist. I reported it as spam right away, but it got me to thinking.

Clearly, it was all computer generated, because if any human had looked at that address, he would have realized that it was bogus. And I did this a while ago, so I wonder how long it took that site to sell my "information". Or how long has my "information" been floating around the web? And how many people fall for this sort of thing? I mean, some have to, otherwise what would be the point?

I guess the moral of my story is: don't answer online quizzes. At least, don't answer the long ones that want you to fill out a questionnaire to get the results. If it looks like a scam, it is.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Doin' Nuthin'

I don't usually harangue students about not doing their work. I may ask them if they're going to get anything done. I may give them the look. I may stand over them until they get their books out. Okay, so maybe I do harangue the students sometimes, but mostly I just want to make sure that they aren't so idle that they find other ways to entertain themselves (these are the things that make my days so much more interesting--not in a good way).

I probably wouldn't have even noticed this student if one of his neighbors hadn't said something first. She asked the boy if he was going to work. At that point I felt it was my duty to ask something similar. That was my first mistake.

First I got excuses. No paper (so the girl found a sheet of paper and handed it to him). No pen (the same girl procured a pen for him). No book (that was under his desk, and both the girl and I pointed that out to him). So, he doodled all over the paper, wadded it up, and threw it out.

I had this class for two days. The next day, the boy asked to work outside. Seeing as he had done no work the previous day, I didn't believe that he would actually do work, so I denied his request. He had just gotten back from taking 10 minutes out of class to use the restroom (which was not more than 20 steps from the door of the classroom) and he returned with chips! He finished the chips and needed a napkin, but of course I didn't allow him to leave the classroom again.

Sometimes the excuses just bore me. Eventually the boy sat down, but of course he did no work. Fine. If he doesn't want to graduate, I can't make him want to graduate. I'd rather spend my time helping the students who do want to get done with high school.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Bad Assignment

Today I was covering 10th grade English. During one of the periods I got a call from the office. Would I cover another class during my prep period? This is not an unusual request, so I agreed without thinking. Then I was told whose class it was that I was going to cover.

There are certain classes that I avoid. I've mentioned the middle school band on a couple of occasions. This class is worse.

Let me see... The school was on lock down, and two boys were wrestling in the middle of the floor. One day the class went on strike (refusing to do work). There was the chain letter fiasco (girls passing a chain letter around the room--they quickly ran out of new links for the chain). And one girl expressed her worry that the boy who stabbed her when she was in the 5th grade was getting out of juvie soon.

But it was only one period, and I've been having good luck with the 7th grade. Besides, I hadn't covered these classes in a while. Maybe they'd changed.

I got there a bit before the bell, and I found kids hanging out the door. No, the class hadn't changed. The sub before me looked haggard. I knew what I was in for.

Luckily, the group was small, and I bluffed enough to keep them seated. I could not curb their eating, however. Then one boy stood up and started doing "YMCA"--yeah, the Village People one. I even had one boy slip out of class and not return (but I did get his name!). I saw him go out, but I could not get to him before he had vanished.

No work got done, but at least they didn't trash the room any further. A success, sort of. And a reminder that I should never cover that class.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Most Hated Teacher

It's usually obvious pretty quickly. First one student exclaims "Yes!!!" when he sees me. Then this sentiment is repeated as others come into the room. When I mention that their teacher might be sick, the class cheers. And then they start to tell me about all the things that their teacher does that annoys them.

Sometimes I can see why they don't like their teacher. I may have met him/her. I may have seen enough in the lesson plans to get the sense of it. But sometimes the anger is a mystery. Whatever. All that matters is that I have been thrown into the midst of this battle, and I need to keep from becoming a casualty.

Today I covered one of those teacher's classes. I dutifully tried to get through the lesson plan, but most of the students did not have books (they were supposed to check them out of the library), and they fought me about the story. It was "boring" or "confusing". But they wouldn't let me explain things. (I get so tired of talking over their conversations because they don't hear me anyway.)

Teens can be so judgemental. It's amazing that they like anything at all.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Designing on the Fly

I joined Ravelry about a month ago. I linked this blog to my account, yet I rarely comment upon my knitting. I might as well do that now.

I have been knitting most of today. Currently I'm working on a short sleeved cardigan sweater. And I'm doing some things that I never do.

First, I never buy yarn just because I like it. That makes me different from most of the other knitters I hear about (I hear about these massive stashes of yarn). I have a stash, but it's not that large. It consists of yarns I inherited from Gram-Mavis and leftovers from my projects.

But last time I went yarn shopping I found a color of yarn that I just loved, so I bought some without a project in mind. I set the yarn aside thinking that I had just bought stash yarn.

It wasn't more than two days later when I was flipping through some catalogs that I had gotten in the mail (I'm on way too many mailing lists). This sweater caught my eye. I liked the look of it, but it wasn't quite right (not the right color among other things). That's when I remembered the new yarn I had just gotten. That would be perfect.

So, the second thing I never do I did next: I started knitting the back without a full pattern in mind. I just cast on some stitches (well, after swatching and using the template from a template book) and began.

The back is nearly done. I should finish it up this week. And today I also spent some time looking at cable patterns for the front. Which brings me to the third thing I'm doing that I never do: I'm only about one step ahead of myself with this project. I only have a vague idea of where I'm going. I have no idea if this will turn out okay.

If it comes out, I'll post pictures. I should finish the sweater just in time for summer.

Friday, May 2, 2008

More Fake Names

Students sometimes borrow classmates' names. I've commented about this before. Remember?

Today I was at the continuation high school. It's a pretty small campus. I'm there all the time. I've picked up a few names...well, maybe more than a few. I know enough of them that I can look at various lists (good ones and bad ones) and picture faces to go along with those names. Yet, they still lie to me about who they are.

For example, I had one boy claim that it wasn't his name on the not-out-of-class list. His name was there, in bold print. Yet, he still tried to get out of class. Uh, no.

Some of the students had make up tests to take. I was passing them out.

"I'm Dean," Eddie said.

"No, you're Eddie," I replied. "Dean is behind you."

"No, really, I'm Dean. Please give me my test," Eddie said.

This argument went on for about a minute more. I was not sure why Eddie wanted to take Dean's test as Dean looked quite willing to take his own test. In the end I gave the test to the real Dean.

I guess I understand why they try these games, but I don't get why they still try them on me after all the times I've subbed their classes. Don't they get it? I know who they are.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mini Vacation

Yesterday I mentioned that my district is on its "dead week". So, the jobs have been fewer. I did not work today.

This is the first time in a while (I guess since spring break) that I have had two days off in one week. It's been nice. Subbing can be a grind after a while. It's easy to burn out. We see kids at their worst--usually they want to play when they see us subs coming. That gets old.

But the reason that I'm enjoying this rather than fretting is because I know that this is just one day off. I have an assignment for tomorrow and I have more assignments all next week. I've been warned that May is going to be a busy month. I'll be ready for that after today.