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 (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? 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.