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.