Monday, December 28, 2009

The Annual Calendar Quest

Every year I wait until after Christmas to buy my calendar. Hey, it's 50% off.

I went today. The pickings were pretty slim. I guess people were out taking advantage of the after Christmas sales over the weekend.

From what calendars were left, I deduced:
  1. Apparently, busy moms don't buy planners. There were many "busy mom" calendars and planners on the shelves. I guess moms are too busy to buy planners.
  2. However, other planners were popular, as I didn't find much of a selection of those (and I was looking for a good planner--that's how I keep track of my subbing schedule).
  3. Animal lovers weren't out in force either. I saw a whole rack of cat, dog, bird, horse, and other animal calendars. If there were that many left over...
  4. But I didn't find the usual bunch of castle and scenery calendars. Sigh. That's what I wanted.
  5. There were a bunch of Harry Potter calendars. I guess he's fallen from popularity.
Since I wait until now to go, I'm fine with choosing from what's left over. I'm satisfied with my choices.

The other thing--the shelves were a mess. I'm glad I wasn't shopping there this past weekend. It must have been a madhouse.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Crunch

Apologies for disappearing for the last week or so. It's that time of year again. Time for my annual cold!

It seems like I get something right around Christmas every year. I guess the timing is right. I am off work.

So, I've been trying to get my last minute Christmas stuff done (and since I procrastinated just about everything this year, that means all of my Christmas stuff) while trying to take it easy and not aggravate the cold.

Today I spent in front of the sewing machine. I was making a cape for my soon to be 4-year-old nephew (he turns 4 on the 26th). He was specific about what he wants.

I asked him what color. He said orange. Orange? He said it on two different occasions with different people present, so orange he gets. And he wants it to be long--down to the floor. To emphasize his point, he squatted down and hit the floor. "This long." Okay, then.

I still have to wrap all my presents. Well, I shouldn't say "all". It's not like there's that many. I left everything until the last minute.

I've probably forgotten something. At this point it'll stay forgotten. The goal is to get well. Hopefully I'll be able to get enough rest through the holiday. Yeah, I don't believe that either.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Movie Santas Quiz

I ran across this quiz about movie Santas. I tried it. I thought I'd share.

I got 9 correct. I know you can do better.

Monday, December 14, 2009

When Is Christmas?

It was one of those random snippets of conversation that caught my attention. I inquired further. It was the end of the day, and the class was filing out to go home, but the girl was kind enough to explain:

"I always thought Christmas Eve was December 30th and Christmas was December 31st. I wondered why we were getting out for break so early. I learned something new today."

Um, yeah. I probably should point out that this girl is in the 10th grade.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Don't Recall

I did not work today. The assignments have been fewer this year; all of us are feeling the crunch. I spent the day getting a few things done around the house.

Yesterday morning I already discussed. The following incident happened yesterday afternoon.

It was fifth period in the environmental science class. I walked the room to make sure they were on task. As almost everyone had their books open, paper out, and they appeared to be writing on the paper, I took my seat at the front of the class.

Watching students do work is boring. So, I pulled out my paper and started working on my novel.

I had written about a page when one of the girls walked up. She was curious. She wanted to know what I was writing. Actually, she wanted to know if I was writing about her.

I was a bit perplexed. Why would I be writing about her? She wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary. She had been talking a bit, sure, but other than that she wasn't doing anything note-worthy.

I asked her why I would be writing about her. Was she doing something I should note? Was she paranoid?

She told me that I had gotten her in trouble a while back. She had been suspended. I did not remember this. I asked her what she had done. She, of course, had done nothing wrong. I just had it out for her. Eventually, she gave me enough clues so that I figured out what had happened. (She was one of them.)

(And by the way, the girl who issued the apology was in class as well. She's still doing no work. She spent 20 minutes "in the restroom" and spent the rest of class staring at walls. So much for "on task".)

She spent the rest of the period semi-working. She did nothing that needed to be noted, so I didn't. For a while I tried to "watch" her, like I was angry or something, but I couldn't pull it off.

Sometimes it amazes me that I forget these things. I don't hold on to anger over such incidents. But the students remember. Most of the time, they behave better. And that is the point of it all, anyway.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Missing Assignment

It was 2nd period in an environmental science class at the continuation high school. I was sitting in the front of the room. A disagreement began in the back. When the disagreement didn't get resolved after a couple minutes (they usually work it out without my involvement) and the volume increased, I knew it was time to insert myself into the situation.

Jeff was picking up books and flipping through them. Ernie was getting more and more upset: "Give me back my sh**!" And three other boys were contributing to the chaos by "staying out of it" while offering unhelpful suggestions:

"Get away from me. I'm not in this."

"It wasn't me. It was Jeff."

"Don't get me involved in this."

After initial confusion, I got the gist of what was happening. Someone had taken Ernie's paper (he had been doing the assignment). Jeff and the other three boys denied involvement. No one knew where the paper was now, but Ernie was going to get his paper back. If he had to beat up someone to get it, that was fine with him.

Jeff looked through everything. He took up every book in the vicinity and flipped through it. He begged the other boys to tell him who had hidden the paper and to give it back. All the while, Ernie was getting more and more upset (Ernie threatened to take Jeff's cell phone from him and sell it to get retribution). Finally, Jeff started digging through a pile of books that had nothing to do with the class, and Ernie's paper turned up.


The other three boys laughed. They knew that game. They had done it themselves way back in elementary school. Then to magically have the paper turn up? That was classic, they said.

(Although, Jeff looked like he genuinely didn't know where Ernie's paper was, and he acted like he hadn't had anything to do with taking it. But he could be a very good liar. I have no way of knowing.)

This took long enough (5 minutes tops) that Ernie was no longer in the mood to do work.

The boys mellowed, and I was able to walk away.

Then, at the end of the period, Ernie asked the four boys again. Who had taken his paper and hidden it? All four professed innocence. They didn't want Ernie to beat them up.

I think Ernie was all threat, for no fights happened in class or after. But one of them did it. And they all lied very convincingly. This is why I don't believe much of what they tell me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Old in Coffee

12th grade AP English. They were working on some essay or other (I didn't have a lot of details, but they were AP kids and could be trusted to do their work without me having to prompt them). They were half working, half talking about random stuff.

One student started talking about coffee. He asked what people put in it. One of the girls mentioned cream and sugar. The boy said that no, that's what kids put in it. Adults put old in it.

That's not a typo. He said "old".

He continued with this reasoning. He said that coffee makes kids old. One girl complained that she drank coffee, but she wasn't old. The boy said that she might be 17, but the coffee made her older.

So, I asked what about older adults who did not drink coffee. He said that they just age normally, not extra aged because of the old in coffee.

It made only a smidgen of sense. Of course that was the point.

The stuff these kids come up with!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Accusing the Innocent

Freshmen. Grrr!

It was first period. I was walking the room, trying to get them to do the assignment (they had questions from the book they were reading, The Outsiders). Stubbornly, one boy in the back of the room had an empty desk. So, I attempted to get him to put something on it.

First, he had no paper. He managed to acquire some. Then he had nothing to write with. And finally, he hadn't gotten the packet of questions. He accused the girl sitting in front of him of keeping the assignment from him.

The girl in front of him? She was sitting quietly, reading. Minding her own business. She was offended by the accusation.

I turned to the girl. I explained one of the subbing facts of life to her: "I get this all the time. The one who is doing nothing always accuses someone who is working of some crime. Ignore him. I do."

That satisfied her, and she went back to what she was doing. I went and got the boy the packet of work. Then I continued walking the room.

I got back around to the boy. His assignment was on his desk. His paper? Blank.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Grapevine

It's been a slow week in subbing land. I guess that week off last week gave the teachers a case of the healthies.

Being a Friday at the continuation high school, not much happened today. I had a whole lot of "It's Friday; we don't do work on Fridays" going on. The students talked amongst themselves. I listened.

Apparently, one student was about to be suspended again. The other students in the class were surprised as this boy had just gotten back from a suspension. Since he never showed up for class, I guess he's gone again. What did he do? No one had any idea.

I heard way too much about which teachers the students hated, or as they phrased it: "That teacher hates me and is out to get me." The last sub they had in this class made the list.

I didn't hear the best gossip. The students make sure they are out of earshot before they discuss that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The teacher was out sick, and she didn't want her algebra class to get behind. Did she ask me to teach the lesson? Of course not. She asked a nearby teacher to come in on her prep period and briefly give a lesson.

The class got settled, and the neighbor teacher was about to begin. That's when she saw the boy with his mp3 player. I don't know if he was getting it out, putting it away, or if it slipped out of his pocket. The teacher demanded the mp3 player (they are forbidden in class). The boy refused.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has this problem.

The boy refused to turn over his mp3 player. The teacher insisted. She told the boy that he would get a referral if he did not comply. He said he'd take the referral. I went looking for referral forms.

The teacher then told him that she would have to call security. Suddenly, the boy rethought the referral. (I'm not sure why that made a difference.) The boy was finally willing to let his mp3 player be confiscated.

At the end of the period, the boy asked for his mp3 player back. Um, no. When it becomes that much of an issue, it's going to the office. He can get it back from them.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Corporation

One of the things I like about my TiVo (and miss in the other DVRs) is that it'll record programs that I might like. Many times these programs are things I've already seen, but sometimes, it finds something that I would never have noticed on my own.

Last week sometime, my TiVo recorded a documentary from LinkTV. It was called The Corporation. I finished watching it this morning. And I just had to share. (It has its own website here.)

It's one of those things that makes you think. Of course it's not on again in the near future (I checked). Look out for it. It's worth it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Every year at this time, I think back to my retail days. The nightmares should start soon.

I mostly worked evenings. So, when the whole Black Friday/doorbuster thing started, I barely noticed. At this time of year, I'd end up working until 3 AM (if I was lucky).

One year, though, I got to be there for the early opening. The crowds were wild. The store was packed. And things were going fine, until the customers went to check out.

The fairly new manager had done all the scheduling for the week. She scheduled all the new cashiers for the doorbuster opening. Disaster followed.

I still have not-so-good associations with this time of year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Waiting Room

We're out of school for the week. It was very nice of the district to give us this whole week off. I think it was worth it to start the school year before Labor Day.

Today was my day to get some errands taken care of. First on the list was taking my car in for its oil change.

What is it about waiting rooms? Why is the news always on? I guess it's better than morning talk shows, but it seems like every time I'm waiting for my car, I'm watching CNN. Well, I wasn't really watching it. I was working on some more beads.

While I was knitting, I was watching the others waiting with me. Every man in that waiting room had a laptop computer. The guy sitting next to me pulled his out, and I thought he was working on something important. I glanced over...he was on Facebook.

The other women in the room were reading. So, the TV wasn't really needed. Well, at least it wasn't silent in the room. That probably would have been worse.

My car didn't take as long as I had anticipated, so I ended up getting all my errands done much more quickly than I originally thought. Now, here's hoping I didn't forget anything else at the store. I really don't want to brave the grocery store crowds tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Algebra 1. First period. They had a packet on writing equations of lines. Most of them weren't doing it, so I was walking around the room in order to keep a closer eye on them.

I noticed a student writing on his desk. At least he was using a pencil. Unfortunately, he was drawing a gun.

I called him on it. I told him to clean it up.

First, he claimed he didn't do it. Since I witnessed him drawing, that excuse didn't fly. He continued by telling me that he was a designer, and if he cleaned the desk, his design would be gone. I didn't care, said so, and walked away.

Upon my return, I was surprised to find that he had still not cleaned off the graffiti. When I repeated that he needed to clean the desk, he claimed that he had.

The boy's hand was over the spot where the drawing was. I told him to move his hand. He did, keeping the doodle covered. I ended up telling him to move his hand three times before he revealed that the gun was still there.

As this had gone on way too long already, I asked the boy if he really wanted this incident in my note to his teacher. He said that he didn't. He argued a bit more, then finally wiped his markings off the desk.

I did put this in my note. If he had just cleaned the graffiti off the desk when I asked the first time, that would have been the end of it. I shouldn't have to repeatedly ask him to correct something that he shouldn't have done in the first place.

Freshmen! Sigh.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unexplained Technical Difficulties

Today was Turkey Day at the continuation high school. We sit in class, wait to be called, go eat, and then return to class. Dismissal is at noon. And I get paid for this.

This is the kind of day where no work gets done. (My students had today as a make up day for any work that they had not finished. So, surprisingly, some actually did work.) To pass the time, the administration puts on a movie for all of the classes.

There is a cable connection in each classroom. Since they only do this once a year, that connection is not connected to the TV. But I knew where it was, so I went about getting that set up.

I verified that the cable was connected to the wall. I verified that the cable I was using was the right one. And I tried to connect it to the TV. No luck.

After connecting, disconnecting, and reconnecting that cable, I finally got a picture. It was a little snowy, so I tried to tighten the connection. That's when I lost the picture entirely.

I finagled the thing some more, and I got it to work. Everything went fine for about 15 minutes. Then for no explicable reason, the picture went to snow and the sound went to white noise.

I managed to get it to work again. I went back to my seat. Then after another few minutes, the picture and sound went out just like they had the first time.

I was nowhere near the connections. The students had not gotten out of their seats, and they were nowhere near the TV. I lost the movie for no reason.

Not that it mattered. They weren't watching the movie.

Finally, after doing this three or four times, they called us to eat. After we got back, I didn't bother trying to get the movie back on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


7th grade. I was covering a "core" class, meaning that I had the same group of students for two periods. One period was devoted to English, the other to history.

The English period didn't go well. I was late to class (long story), so they were already wound up. Then the assignment was something that wound them up even further. I was so ready for the history period and a video.

I spent a good five minutes talking to the class about appropriate behavior during the video. Mostly it was this advice: "Don't talk." That's when I noticed that a boy in the corner of the room was bare chested.

The boy had removed his shirt.

Suddenly, the whole class was watching him. One girl turned her head and blocked her eyes. She couldn't look. The rest of the class watched as he got his shirt back on, found it was on the wrong way round, and twisted it around his body. That's when the class told him the shirt was on backwards.

I wasn't sure how to react. I think my mouth was hanging open. My face must have said it all. They knew I wasn't amused.

But the thing to do with middle schoolers is to get them on to the next thing (such an incident can ruin the rest of the period if I'm not careful). I had to get the video started. Luckily, I had no more unclothing issues after that.

What is it with 7th grade boys? This is not the first time such a thing has occurred in class. At least this time it wasn't his pants.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Boy Versus Girl

It was an odd day in the 8th grade classroom. I don't usually get 8th graders to work silently. So, while I didn't get full periods of silence, I did get silence for a large portion of the period, and that was enough to impress me.

Fourth period. I was called over because the girl had poked the boy with a pencil, so the boy had taken the pencil from the girl. The girl wanted her pencil back. The boy wanted the girl to stop pestering him.

I used to tell them to just date and get it over with, but since that statement usually gets protestations so loud that the entire class gets disrupted, I told the boy to give the girl her pencil back. While they pestered each other some more that period, they kept it quiet enough so that I didn't notice.

Then at the end of the period, they attracted my attention again. And here is the only reason I'm mentioning them. The boy said this:

"That is a girl-shaped chunk of evil."

Great line. Cutting and snarky. Bonus for it not being vulgar. I give it an A.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Yesterday was not a good day.

7th grade. English and history. These were "sheltered" classes--classes with students who know enough English to be out of English language development classes, but who aren't fluent enough to be in regular classes.

I'm not sure if it was just the age. These kids were all over the place.

They were supposed to be listening to someone read "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling. Usually that's an easy lesson. They follow along in the book while the CD plays. But they were having none of it.

The first group would not stop talking. I tried my usual tricks: the look, proximity, and flat out telling them to be quiet. I stopped the CD several times. Nothing worked.

"It's boring." "It's too long." These are the usual excuses. It doesn't matter if they don't like the story; they still have to follow along.

Then I had to give them a history test.

The teacher was going to be out for two days. She had two days of good lesson plans. But I was dreading today. The students asked if I was returning, and I told them yes. They groaned. A couple claimed they'd be ditching class today.

But then this morning I got a call. The sub caller needed me for another assignment. Hooray!

I hope today's sub is doing better with them. Maybe they'll like him/her better. Who knows? I'm just happy I didn't have to do battle with them today.

Happy Friday the 13th.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The F-Word

Same class today as yesterday. We're still reading Animal Farm.

It was 3rd period. One girl had a wad of tissue on her desk. She was coughing and she looked miserable. She had been absent yesterday. She probably should have stayed home today.

I don't remember why I said it. I'm sure something prompted it. I asked if she was sure she didn't have the flu.

The class was rather loud. Everyone was talking. So, I was surprised when the room went silent after I said it.

A couple students glanced sideways at her. I saw a boy go for the hand sanitizer (every class has a bottle of the stuff now). No one got too close.

Well, I guess we're all being careful. Even the teenagers.

And I couldn't let today pass without commenting. It's reverse sequential numbers day. 11-10-9.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Making Plans

I was back at the continuation high school today. I know, I live there.

I was back in the English class. They were reading along with a tape of Animal Farm by George Orwell. Then they had to write a paragraph summarizing the chapter. All in all, the day went pretty smoothly.

I walked the classroom to make sure that they were doing their paragraphs and to answer any questions. I noticed that one boy had not done any writing. We got into a discussion about the chapter. Then I got distracted by another question and I walked away. I don't think the boy ever did write his paragraph.

The only reason I mention him is that I noticed something on his desk. He and a neighboring girl had been exchanging notes. I assume that they were doing this while the story was playing (at least they weren't talking).

I managed to acquire the note. I thought I'd share (the grammar, punctuation, and spelling are theirs):

Girl: hey we should go to disneyland this week

Boy: |0| okay maybe Wednesday? (^-^) But we have to talk to [name redacted] (-.-) I don't have my cell phone so I cant text her! (-.-)

Girl: okay ill text her today when i get home and ill ask her.

Boy: alright then...But what day? ey? Buay? |0|
What day are we going to drink?

Girl: Well we should go wednesday b/c we don't come to school and we should drink on friday didn't your mom invited us over for her b-day this Saturday

Boy: AAAA (-.-) NOOO!
you really want to be w/my Moja?

I think what I find the strangest is the writing out of the emoticons. I think I translated them correctly.

Now I know why the boy didn't write anything. He wasn't listening. He was planning his week.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Ringleader

Friday was my last day in the opportunity class. I was grateful to be done with it. I was grateful to have had the work, but I was so happy that the week was over.

The day started out a bit like Thursday. All the students walked in. I handed them their first assignment. They settled and got to work. Then Enrique walked in.

I had had five students all week. The class had eight students enrolled. Three had been absent all week. The instructional aide and the probation officer had both told me that one of the missing was the instigator. I hoped that he would be absent all week. I almost got my wish.

As soon as Enrique walked in the room, the energy of the class changed. Everyone greeted him. And suddenly, none of them were doing any of the work.

Enrique had been sick all week. But now he had an audience, and he wanted to make the most of it.

He told a story about how he had spent the week with a girl. Jake's girlfriend. Jake didn't seem too upset. I could tell that it was all freshman bravado. And eventually I directed them all back to the assignment.

By the end of the day I had written one referral, sent three students to the probation officer, and sent three students too cool off outside. It was a trying day.

I am so glad that their teacher is back next week.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chasing a Raccoon

Today was day four with the opportunity class.

First thing this morning, they came in, sat down, and did their work peacefully. A minor miracle.

As they were working, Jake had a story to tell. I thought I'd share:

Jake had a run in with the police last night. He was out late, and he was running. The police pulled up beside him, flashed a light in his face, and asked him what he was doing.

Jake explained that he was chasing a raccoon.

Jake saw the raccoon earlier. He tried to take its picture with his cell phone, but it was too dark. Then the raccoon took off. Jake decided to chase it.

("Why?" I asked. What would he want with a raccoon? "I wanted to kick it," Jake replied. I tried explaining why this was not a good idea, but Jake didn't see my point.)

The cops told Jake that this was dangerous. The raccoon could attack and scratch him up badly. Jake could get rabies. Then the cops let Jake go ("I didn't even have to get in the car," he marveled).

Jake was relieved. He is on probation. He could have gone back to juvie.

Was any of this true? I have no idea. Jake told it convincingly. It could be true.

I'm never sure what to believe, so I listen and reserve judgement.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Teacher's Chair

Today was day three in the opportunity class.

The instructional aide (IA) has a nice office chair. Cushioned. With wheels. So, of course when the IA is out of the room (she works part time), all the kiddos want to sit in it.

Sean had claimed the chair. As he was working peacefully (a rare occurrence), I let him be. But Sean has a roaming problem, so after a while he got up to do something.

Santiago decided it was his turn to be in the chair. Sean returned. He wanted his spot back. Since Sean had been working so well, I told Santiago to go back to his seat. Unfortunately, Santiago has not been following my directions very well.

A battle followed. Santiago wouldn't get up. He wheeled the chair out the door. Sean pushed him back inside. With prejudice.

Oh, did I mention that there's a small step between the doorway and the outside?

There are five wheels on the chair. Only one broke. It snapped off when the chair hit the step. The chair almost toppled over. And both boys knew that they had gone way too far.

The boys scrambled to find glue, tape, or anything to fix the chair. In the end there was nothing they could do.

I got the task of explaining to the IA what happened to her chair. Luckily, the custodian was able to fix it, but only after the incident had been reported to the office.

At least this mellowed Sean and Santiago. For a little while.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Do the Math

Day two of the opportunity class.

I've got a mix of 8th, 9th, and 10th graders. First thing in the morning the high schoolers come in. Then an hour later the 8th graders show up. At about noon the high schoolers leave. The 8th graders stay until one.

It was the first hour. The high schoolers were doing some math--some 4th grade math. And they were having trouble. I had to demonstrate how to do long division. Then they could do it.

During the last hour I gave the 8th graders a math review sheet. It was probably from pre-algebra. Susan (the only girl) couldn't figure out four of the problems. I mentioned that they were done just like percents. She was fine after that. I didn't have to do anything else. She knew exactly what to do.

Getting any of them to do anything is hard. But I'm starting to get the picture. The older students don't understand. The younger students... Well, they have issues.

(Today they told me that they had all been to juvie. I think I was better off not knowing that.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week in Opportunity

I don't cover opportunity classes often. I try to avoid them. But this month our time sheets are due over a week early. This was not the time to turn down five days of work.

I never know what I'm walking into with these classes. I have had mellow groups. Usually, they're more on the crazy side. While today they weren't exactly mellow, they weren't as bad as they could have been.

They have some time carved out for PE. They got out a basketball and a football. Sean threw the football to Jake. Jake wasn't ready, and the football hit him in the face. Ouch!

Now, Jake wanted to throw something at Sean, and Sean was willing, feeling that he deserved to be hit. I was the only one who thought that this was not a solution. Eventually, they relented. They didn't actually play basketball or football, but they stopped throwing the ball at each other.

Well, for a while anyway.

It was a bit later that Jake managed to hit Sean with a ball. And since it was deliberate, he got a consequence. But it "wasn't fair" since Jake had been hit with the ball as well. Okay, fine. Both of them got the consequence.

As luck would have it, their probation officer was in the office when they were sent up. And she wasn't pleased...

I have a feeling it's going to be a long week.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Plumbing Problem

I am sitting here waiting for a plumber to arrive. Why do they always give you a four-hour window when they don't get here until that last half hour?

So, basically I feel like an idiot. I found this and thought I'd try it (the toilet only started running recently). Looks pretty simple, right? I thought I could handle it.

I got all the way through it. I replaced the part. I connected the hose back up. Then I turned the water back on. And that's where my troubles started.

The thing that lets water in? That started dripping. A lot. And then the place where the hose connects to the toilet was dripping too. So, I turned off the water, tightened everything, and tried again.

In the end (after several attempts), I got it so that it wasn't dripping much. But it was still dripping. And rather than screw it up any more, I figured it was time to call a professional.

I'm not sure what lesson I'm taking away from this.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poe-try for Halloween

Today I was back at the continuation high school. In honor of Halloween, they were reading Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven".

But instead of reading it aloud or listening to it on CD, we watched The Simpsons' version. Remember it? (I wish I knew how to embed videos. That's the next Internet trick I plan to learn.)

The classes went very well. They usually ignore videos. This time I had rapt attention. I guess a cartoon is all it takes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

To Makeup or Not to Makeup

I was back at the continuation high school. Today was their first day back after a three-week break.

I don't get the whole apply-makeup-in-class thing that many of the girls do. I always thought that it made more sense to do that at home, before school. And who wants to do touch ups all day? But many of the girls pull out their makeup during class.

One girl was doing her makeup. She was seated next to a boy. Neither were working on the assignment. The boy was talking to the girl, and he was doing it loudly enough for me to hear. He wanted to know why the girl had to wear makeup.

The girl didn't get much of a chance to give him an answer. The boy kept talking. He complained about how when his family is going out, he has to wait for his sisters who take forever to get ready. He explained--an hour in the shower, an hour to do makeup, and hour for hair... His thought: this stuff was unnecessary.

The boy tried to get the other boys in class to agree with him. (The rest of the class was working on the assignment.) The other boys remained silent, focused. "Agree with me. Just say yes, you agree." No one did.

I don't know if anyone won that argument. The girl finished her touch ups and put her makeup away. And the boy moved on to other topics.

Did either of them turn in any work today? Of course not.

Friday, October 23, 2009


It happens.

I was just settling in to my prep period when I got a call from the secretary. She needed me to cover another class. So, I trekked across campus to cover an 8th grade English class.

After that, I went back to the art class that was my assignment for the day. They were watching a video (the less said about that...). The middle schoolers were a little antsy, but nothing to worry about (especially considering the video).

It was the end of 5th period. The video was over. I had turned on the lights and collected the students' notes (they always take notes for a video, otherwise they won't watch it). That's when one of the students mentioned that he had me twice. He had been in the English class, too.

Never fails. Unless the extra period I cover is something completely different (I have freshmen all day, and the extra period is a class of seniors), there are bound to be a couple students who end up in both the extra period and the class I'm covering all day.

In that situation, I tell the students that I'm following them. While it may not be deliberate, it's true.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Puppy Paper

Today I covered a high school special ed. English class. Each period was doing the same thing--they were working on a writing assignment.

They had gotten the writing assignment on Tuesday. They should have already finished it. Today they were supposed to learn how to peer edit. And for those that did the assignment, it worked out fine. But not everyone had done the assignment.

The instructional assistant (IA) went over the editing process with the students that had done the paper. I was supervising the students who had not.

There were two groups of non-completers. Group one was made up of students who had been absent. Those students needed a bit of an explanation ("A puppy followed your sister home. You need to tell her how to take care of it so that Mom and Dad will let her keep it."), and then they were on their way.

Group two was my main problem. They hadn't done the paper on Tuesday because they didn't want to. And they were having none of it today.

There is nothing quite so exhausting as watching students not work. Their lack-of-work ethic is strong. They would rather stare at a blank sheet of paper than write something on it. They would rather spend 15 minutes telling me how boring the assignment is, and then spend the rest of the class telling me that they don't have enough time to finish the thing now.

So, occasionally I would walk over, say something they ignored, and then go, sit, and watch the IA conduct class with those that put some effort into their schoolwork.

I am now ready for a nap.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

At Long Last

I get a lot of catalogs in the mail. They're fun to look through.

The other day I saw something that I had given up ever finding. The Day the Universe Changed is finally on DVD. Yeah!

I have been looking for this forever (okay, only since my Betamax tape became obsolete). I've wanted it so much. But then I saw the price.

So, I'll be waiting to acquire this a little bit longer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Listen to the Directions

6th period. 7th grade world history. They had a map of Latin America to label.

It was a busy work assignment. The teacher's absence wasn't planned, and the teacher next door had left me a bunch of activities for the kiddos to work on. Coloring a map? It's a nice way to kill a period.

The directions on the map said to label all the countries, the major bodies of water, and the equator. But the map also had been numbered, and the numbers did not correspond to the things the instructions said to label.

This is confusing for 7th graders (older students can usually look past such inconsistencies). So, I spent some time explaining the inconsistencies of the map.

I explained that #6 corresponded to the Amazon River which they did not need to label. I explained that while the Pacific Ocean had a number (14) the Atlantic Ocean did not, but both oceans needed to be labeled. I explained that South America was on one map in their book and Central America was on the map with North America (the previous page). I also explained that they could write names of countries on the side of the map if they could not fit their writing in the countries' outlines.

"What is #6 pointing to?"

"Why is there a 14 here but no number for this ocean?"

"What if I can't write the country's name in the space?"

"Where can I find these countries?" (The Central American countries.)

"Is that Alaska?" (The girl was pointing to Mexico.)

I answered none of these questions (except for the Alaska one). I kind of glared at them. I spent five minutes giving instructions which they did not hear. And it gets to me.

I got the class quiet. I warned them that I was going to answer many of their questions in the instructions. But I might as well be going "wah-wah" sometimes. Sometimes they just don't hear me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change Questions

Yes, it's that time of year again. Today is Blog Action Day. This year's topic is climate change.

About the time they announced this year's topic, I was subbing in an environmental science class at the continuation high school. Coincidentally, the chapter they were studying was about climate change. (I already mentioned this day here.)

One girl raised her hand. The question had to do with the effects of climate change on the planet. She asked me if polar bears not finding ice was an effect of climate change. I said that it was, and I moved on, surprised that she knew of this.

Then later in the day, a boy was answering a question about what individuals can do to stop climate change. It really didn't take a lot of prompting from me for him to come up with three. Recycling was the first thing he thought of. He also came up with conserving water (especially since we're in a drought here). I had to prompt him to have him come up with driving less.

Sometimes what they know surprises me. Teens do pay attention. It may not seem like it sometimes, but they do actually care.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


He's a character in The Crucible.

The Crucible is one of those works that I frequently come into contact with. It's kind of like To Kill a Mockingbird and The House on Mango Street. I've read all of these in different classes so many times that I'm sure I've read the whole thing, albeit in random out-of-order chunks.

Today was like all the others where the class was reading The Crucible. No one knows how to say Giles' name.

I've heard all sorts of interesting pronunciations. With a hard G. Sounding like the things fish breathe with. Rhymes with eels.

I always thought it was pronounced as if it rhymes with miles. So, that's how I say it.

I try to head them off. When finding who is going to read the part, I make sure to say the name. Yet still, I get every weird pronunciation of the name. I gently try to correct them, but they don't get it.

It's a minor irritation. But it happens every time it's on the lesson plan. Every time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Can't Multiply?

I have one more CAHSEE story. I promise, this is the last one until the next testing session.

It was Wednesday, the math day. It was before they had started the test, and I was walking the room. I found that one student had a calculator out. Calculators are not allowed, so I went over to tell the boy this.

The boy was surprised. He wanted to know how he was going to pass if he couldn't use a calculator. I informed him that the test was testing his arithmetic skills, so using a calculator would defeat that purpose.

The boy then informed me that he had never taken arithmetic. And the boy who was sitting at the same table told me the same thing. I reminded them that they had both passed elementary school (an assumption, but since they were sitting in a high school...). They learned to multiply and divide in elementary school.

The second boy told me that he had just moved here from Arkansas. He told me he hadn't learned to multiply and divide in Arkansas.

I wish I had a dollar for every time a student hold me he couldn't read. I hear it almost daily. Telling me that he can't multiply or divide? Different discipline, same idea. The assertion is ludicrous.

I told the second boy that I was sure he learned what he needed to know in Arkansas. And then I walked away before they tried to tell me that they didn't know how to count.

Later in the testing session the second boy had to be moved. The two boys were not acting as they should have acted in the testing room. I was not surprised.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Ordinary Pencil Caddy

This is my 400th post!

On Friday, I was sitting in the teacher's lounge 4th period. I was knitting beads. Another teacher walked in. She saw me knitting, and then she announced that she knew who I was.

This teacher taught two periods of CAHSEE English. So, she discussed how her students did on the CAHSEE on Tuesday. How well they thought they did. Was it hard? Did they think they passed?

Apparently, they wanted to talk about my pencil caddy.

pencil caddy

One of the jobs of test proctor is to give students newly sharpened pencils when they need them. I hated carrying around the pencils, so I made a container. I wear it across my body, like a purse. I can pull out pencils at will.

Now, not one student commented upon my caddy to me. But the English teacher told me that students couldn't stop talking about my caddy in class.

I didn't realize I was that much of a distraction. All I wanted to do was make my proctoring time easier.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Punishing the Victim?

It was 6th period. I was warned. I had to watch out for this group. (This was the history teacher for the same kids in this math class.)

I don't know what I did, but the class was pretty mellow. They weren't as loud as the previous two periods. Unfortunately, they weren't doing any work. So, I was walking the class, trying to get them on task.

And I was soooo tired. I've been dragging all week. Then last night I tried to go to bed really early (like 8 PM early), but the neighbors thought that Thursday night was a good night for a party and that 9:30 was a good time to take it outside and get very loud. No nice long night's sleep for me.

I don't know exactly what I was doing, but I happened to look up and catch a girl chasing a boy across the back of the classroom. Uh, no. I put a stop to that, and I assigned a consequence (a "think sheet").

The girl wasn't having any of it. She claimed she was the wronged party. The boy had smelled her hair!

I tried explaining that chasing the boy in a classroom was wrong. I told her that I had given the boy the same consequence. But that wasn't helping.

Apparently, another boy did the smelling of the hair at the behest of the first boy for a bet of $1. At least, I think the first boy was in it somehow. He might not have been. Honestly, I didn't care. All I knew was that two students were up and running around the room, and I couldn't allow that.

The alleged hair-smelling boy? He was studiously ignoring all of us. He was working on the assignment.

The girl refused to do the "think sheet". She was the victim!

I wrote this all down in the note. It was near the end of the period. And if the girl was going to refuse to follow my directions, so be it.

See, this sort of thing is what is going to get her into more trouble. Refusing to follow my directions? Her teacher can milk that all the way up to a referral.

I have no idea if I'll know how this turns out. If I find out, I'll pass it along.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dangerous Delivery

UPS no longer knocks. So, before locking up for the night, I poke my head out the front door just to make sure nothing was delivered, even if I'm not expecting anything.

Last night I was surprised to find a box. I was just about to bend over to pick it up when I saw movement in the planter next to the front porch. At first I thought I was imagining it, but I took an extra couple seconds to make sure and get a good look.


Yep, the skunk found my front door. It was about two feet from my package. And it was looking at me.

I closed the door. I uttered a few choice expletives.

I waited.

I didn't want to leave the package outside all night. I also didn't want to have to de-skunk. After a couple minutes I decided to chance it. I slowly opened the front door again.

The skunk had fled.

Box retrieved safely. Whew!

Considering how often I get a whiff of eau de skunk on the wind, I think I've gotten off pretty light. But I would still like to stop adding entries to skunk sighting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Looking for a Loophole

It's that time of year again. CAHSEE time.

I've become quite the expert at this. I can handle most of the questions that they throw at me.

It was first thing in the morning. The students were checking in. I was handing out their answer booklets. One student was concerned. There was something marked in the math box. (Today was the English Language Arts test.)

Me: "You've passed the math part, right?"

Student: "Yes."

Me: "That bubble just means that you're done with the math. Don't worry about it."

Second Student: "So, if I mark that bubble, does that mean that I won't have to take the math part tomorrow?"

Because, I guess, if he tells the testing service that he's already passed the math section, he will be believed? It's not like they keep records or anything. Wait, they do! And they know perfectly well that he hasn't passed the math.

I explained, patiently, that while he might get away with missing the math part this time, they would make him take the test again. He does not get a diploma without passing both parts of the CAHSEE. So, he might as well show up tomorrow and get it taken care of.

Besides, there's a list of students who need to take the test. If they don't show up to the testing location, the administrators go looking for them. They pull the students out of class. The students end up with us anyway.

If it were that easy to get out of taking the test, everyone would do it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Anxious to Leave

Yesterday was my last subbing day at the continuation high school for a bit. They are out for the next three weeks for their fall break (they did start their school year in July, after all). Apparently, they were anxious to start their vacation.

It was the last class of the day (on a Friday, that meant that it ended at noon). Same class as yesterday. We were finishing up the movie.

The teacher had given them 18 questions to answer. These questions referenced things that happened in the movie and the questions were in order. (Students tend to ignore videos of any type if they do not have something to do that makes them pay attention. Even then, many don't.) Question 18 happened about three minutes before the final credits.

The periods before did the same thing. Once they had answered the last question, they put their notebooks back, sat back down, and watched the movie until the end of the period or the end of the movie (some classes didn't finish the movie). This was acceptable behavior.

The last class? They packed up, and then many of them walked out the door. We still had five minutes of class left!

I went to retrieve these boys (all boys as no girls pulled this). I told them to go back inside, sit down, and finish watching the movie. They whined. But eventually I got most of them back.

Just when I got them settled, the final credits rolled. And all the boys got up, went to the door, and many of them went through. I shooed them back inside and closed the door.

"The bell rang."

Um, no, it had not. I know because I didn't hear it, and I didn't see any other students walking out of their classrooms.

Luckily, the argument didn't last long, for then the bell did ring. "Now you can leave," I said to them as they filed out.

Now that I think about it, this sort of thing happens every time I'm there before a break. So, I shouldn't have been surprised.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Making Bracelets in Class

I've been knitting all day. I had to do something. Watching The Grapes of Wrath over and over again was making me go a little crazy.

(I've been working on beads. Turns out that they're a great take-along project.)

It was 4th period. I passed out the question worksheet, took roll, and started the movie. Once I got fully settled, I looked up. There was a girl making those beaded bracelets that all the kids seem to be wearing these days.

I probably should have told her to stop. But as long as she was quiet... (I don't much care if they have other work, draw, or do something else while the video is playing. Just so long as they aren't talking.)

It all started out well enough. But then her neighbors wanted to make their own. And somehow the conversations started. Uh, no.

I completely understand the need to do something with your hands while watching a movie. However, I had instructed them to remain quiet and attentive to the movie. So, I had to keep after them to shush.

Sigh. Do I have to go after them for crafty things, too?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fear of a Bad Note

I was warned.

10th graders. After lunch. While looking over the roll sheet, I found several familiar names (and not in a good way). So, I knew that I was in for it.

They had an assignment. (It was an English class.) I explained it to them. I pointed out that it was written on the board. Yet, still I got, "I don't know what to do," whines from them.

I walked the room. I asked those that did not have the book open, paper out, and work done what they were doing. I got all sorts of creative excuses. I repeated that they needed to get to work. They didn't.

After making the circuit several times, I found that I tended to remain standing over the same students over and over. They'd made no progress on their assignment. They were playing around. They were playing Rock-Paper-Scissors (sorry, RoPaSci) across the room.

I went back up to the front of the room. I started writing down names.

Suddenly, I had their attention. ("She's writing the note! Everybody, stop talking.") It was half way through the period. They'd had plenty of time to settle and work. Instead, the noise level had increased. Yet, my writing the note struck fear in them. They tried to settle.

They failed.

I'm not sure why they suddenly cared. The teacher had been having problems with them (hence, the warning). They didn't care when I asked them to do work. But me writing it down somehow struck home. For a few minutes, anyway.

10th grade is the year that most of them mature. I can't wait.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Filed Away

I worked in the library today. I wasn't called to be a library helper. I had a two day assignment for today and tomorrow. Turns out that the teacher will be out tomorrow and Thursday.

Classic Mercury retrograde screw up. And I thought I was going to get through this one without an incident. Oh well.

I was put to work re-alphabetizing the fiction section. It's not that the library wasn't alphabetized before. In a week, the students have managed to mess up the stacks. Apparently, they can't be bothered to put a book back where it goes if they decide they don't want it after all.

It was kind of a tedious exercise, but I did it anyway. I'd get through a couple shelves and then take all the books that didn't belong there and put them where they belonged. (Example: I found Dostoevsky in the M's.) I started with the A's and got through the Q's.

Before I left I checked in with the library assistant. She told me the trouble they'd been having keeping the books alphabetized. Not only that, the students were having trouble finding books in the fiction section. Apparently, they don't understand the whole alphabetized-by-last-name thing. That, or they don't know their ABC's.

Sometimes it shocks me the stuff they do not know.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The 51st State

Thursday's post brought to mind an old incident that I blogged about before (July 28, 2007, to be exact). At the time I was posting my blogs elsewhere. So, I thought it was about time I reposted this here.

It was near the end of the day. I had two students just sniping at each other as much as they could (though, to be fair, they spent most of the period quietly working). The boy was calling the girl stupid while the girl was berating everything the boy said.

It was a government class, and they were studying Congress. I tried to draw the conversation back to the topic at hand by asking where the largest congressional district was (it was a question on "Jeopardy" a little while ago). The answer: Alaska.

So, the girl comes back with, "That's our 51st state."

Now, I hate to have to side with the boy here. I was trying not to take sides. The girl wasn't really that stupid (she was on task, after all). But...

I explained that Hawaii is the 50th state. I explained that there are only 50 states. But the girl insisted. She was sure that there were 51.

"Count the stars on the flag," I said.

But then the bell rang, and she was out of there.

Sometimes, the students scare me a little.

And since this happened two years ago, I can tell you that the last I heard, the girl had graduated. The last time I saw the boy, he was in the reentry class, and he had to be booted from class for returning to class late after the break. I have no idea if he has since graduated.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Which State?

The class: environmental science. The section: climate change.

It's day three of a three-day assignment. For the most part, the students have been on task. At the beginning of each period I tell them that if they get stuck, need help, or need a tie-breaker, I am available. But most of the time, I have to insert myself into the conversation when I hear students having difficulty.

I heard two students debating, so I went to investigate. They were looking at a map. The caption read: "As sea level rises, shorelines could shift inland many miles." The question: "Which two states would lose the most area if sea level were to rise by 3 m?"

The map had shaded area that would be under water if the sea level were to rise. Unfortunately, the map did not have any states labeled.

One student wanted to write Miami. The other student pointed out that Miami is not a state. This is where I entered the conversation. I agreed that Miami is not a state.

The one student had written Miami and New Orleans. He knew that Miami was in Florida, but he did not know which state New Orleans was in. Once I hinted that the name started with an L, he got it.

Now I was curious how the rest of the class tackled this question (as no one else had asked me for help). I found some interesting answers. For those that got it right, I had all sorts of interesting spellings of Louisiana. Florida they could spell. I got Florida and New Orleans. I got Miami and Houston. And I also got the United States and Mexico. Huh?

I don't think that they're stupid, necessarily. I think many just rushed through the assignment. For most frequently, that question was just skipped.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I'm all discombobulated. I need to get my head together.

I went into my school bag for a drink of water. I was surprised to find the thing empty of all but the frozen portion (I freeze half the water so that I have cold water all day). I only took one swig before 1st period, and it wasn't yet 2nd.

Then I realized what happened. I looked for a crack in the bottle...and found it.

It was the passing period into 2nd period. If my water bottle was cracked, the water went somewhere. Sure enough, it was all in my bag. All over everything.

I keep a towel around the bottle to catch most of the day's condensation, and the towel got most of the water. But my calendar/day planner was sopping wet as well (at least it was only the bottom of it). And there was glitter everywhere as well.

I didn't have time to figure all of this out. As students were coming into the classroom, I found a convenient chair to drape my towel over (so that it could dry). I got the class started, took roll, and then forced myself to walk the classroom and not obsess over the water. It was hard.

Once the class was working (well, sort of working) I went back to combing through my bag. Luckily, the classroom had a sink, so I moved the bottle there (melting ice slowly leaking), and I examined my bag. I removed my calendar/day planner and set it out to dry. And that's when I figured out the glitter--the bottom of the calendar was covered in gold (not real gold, obviously).

I was useless 2nd period. I couldn't stop thinking about the mess. But I forced myself back into the present and tried to concentrate. At least they were making a pretense of doing the assignment.

At least there's a water vending machine at school. I got some. I won't go thirsty today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Apology

Last Friday I had some difficulty with 3rd period. I left a note with names. (Well, I left two names and two descriptions as I was unable to get names for the other two.) Today I was subbing in the room next door.

The teacher next door recognized the miscreants from their descriptions, and all involved had a nice little talk with the assistant principal. Two of them decided that they weren't going to listen to the assistant principal either, and they got suspended. I'm not sure what happened to the third except that he received some consequence.

The fourth, a girl, owned up to her part in getting named. She got off with having to write me a letter of apology. It read:

Dear Ms. A,

Im writing this letter of apology to you for being disrespectful, loud, and abnoxtious with you in 3rd period on friday September 17, 2009 in Ms K's class room. If I ever have you as a sub again I promise you this will NOT happen again, Im going to try to best I can be and help other students stay on task as well.

im sorry for the inconvinience,
(name redacted)
please accept this apology.

(Note: the spelling and punctuation are all hers.)

She had me in class today. She did no work, but she was called out of class. She knew this was coming, so I can't fault her for not starting something she was going to have to put away after five minutes.

So, what do you think? Should I accept her apology? (I'm prone to, as she owned up to her part and took her consequence seriously.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Citizenship IQ

I'm a sucker for quizzes, especially ones that I figure I can do well on.

So, today I saw this on AOL. Try it. Scroll down to the 10 questions (the article is standard stuff about the poor state of education today).

I'm feeling pretty good. I got 10 of 10. I guess I'm learning something in all the government classes I cover.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I saw this the other day (sorry, I can't get the video to embed). And one thing kept running through my head. Why?

Friday, September 18, 2009


They were supposed to be watching the movie Anne Frank. Instead, they were talking, so I was walking around the room. I caught a boy with his cell phone out on his desk.

"Put it away," I said. (I was being nice. I could have just confiscated the thing.)

He mumbled some excuse and put it in his pocket. He attempted to pull it out again when he thought I wasn't looking. I informed him that if I saw it again, I was going to confiscate it.

"You can't do that!" he informed me. "You're just a sub. You can't take my cell phone."

I can't, can I? I don't have the authority? The office won't accept confiscated cell phones from a lowly sub? Silly boy. I have done this before, and the office is more than happy to take the devices off my hands. And you will give it to me, or I will get security, the principal, or both involved, and then it will get really ugly.

I said none of this. I just thought it. I thought it as I looked at the boy. I must have had a "he didn't just say that, did he?" look on my face, for the boy quickly recanted.

"I was just kidding. You won't see it again. Could I just reply to this text first?"

I didn't see that cell phone again. (I told him to reply to the text after class.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Can't Look Away

I just started watching Hoarders. I think I'm hooked.

I don't know what it is about shows like this (Clean House fascinates me too). It's not like I'm a messy person. I'm more of "a place for everything, and everything in its place" person.

Maybe I'm just bored. Work is slowly starting to pick up. And then when the new fall season starts...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sharing the Assignment

It was 3rd period at the continuation high school. Government class. They had a two-page worksheet. About 10 minutes before the end of the period, I looked over and found a student copying his classmate's assignment.

"Do your own work," I said.

He had his excuse ready. The boy and the girl were "working together". He had done the first page, she had done the second.

Um, no.

The boy argued. It was easier for him to copy (naturally). He could read the question, see the answer, and understand what he was supposed to learn. Searching the text for the answers would only confuse him. And take too long.

I've had these sorts of discussions before. This boy was notable in that he continued to argue long after most students give up. I think he thought I would eventually relent.

Finally he returned the worksheet to his neighbor. He didn't get much done after that. The period was just about over. But then again, he didn't get much done before that. He had used the period to talk to his neighbors, mostly about braces, retainers, and such.

Some day they're going to figure out that "working together" does not mean each does half and copies the other half. I hope.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Too Tired

Why is it that when I have to get up at 5 AM (on a Saturday!), my oh-so-considerate neighbors decide to hold a party?

It's not the party that bothered me. It was the loud and incessant laughing that kept me up until they finally got quiet--at 12:30 AM.

Nothing quite like operating on four hours of sleep.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


It's the beginning of the school year doldrums. Getting to work the first week was a nice change. But this week is traditionally slow. Things will pick up in a couple weeks. So, I've been keeping myself busy doing other things.

Here's what I've been working on...

Knitted Cuffs

I'm not big into bracelets, but I had some pieces of metal, and I couldn't let those go to waste. I covered the metal in duct tape (the edges were sharp!), and then I knit a small sleeve to go over them. Finally, I bent the metal into a bracelet shape.

So, now I have two cuff-style bracelets that I will never wear. But at least they were interesting to make.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Watch List

Yesterday was my last day with the 8th grade math class. Next week they get a long-term sub. But I'm sure I'll see them again. I work at that school so frequently that it's a near certainty.

The best part? I've already learned the names of some of the troublemakers.

3rd period was showing signs of becoming difficult. On Wednesday there was a knot of girls in the back who I had to keep bringing back to the class discussion. As it was the first day, this was not a good sign. Luckily, when I revamped the seating chart, they ended up right in the front.

On Thursday, I started giving them notes on the first section of the book. The leader of that pack of girls (Paige) started sighing loudly. I ignored her. But I could feel her losing focus. When she asked for a nurse pass, I let her go, hoping the time out of class would help her attitude. It didn't.

On Friday, Paige was a lot more vocal about her dissatisfaction. She asked if we could do nothing in class. Then when I started the lesson, she complained about how easy it all was and how bored she was. With Kayla and Justin also complaining, I had a mutiny on my hands.

I finished the lesson (on the number line and absolute values) and passed out the assignment. And I made sure to give the long-term sub a heads-up about that trio. I'm sure they can be reined in. They just need to be dealt with early.

So, in future I know Paige, Kayla, Justin, and in 6th period I had a Luke. Maybe this familiarity will help me deal with them in the future. I'll keep you posted.

And as an aside, I just looked up the top baby names for 1996 (the year they were born). For the girls I had like 30 of those names. For the boys I had like 35. And some of those names were repeated.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sisyphean Seating Chart

It's the second day of school. And I was bound and determined to get that seating chart right.

I don't know if I mentioned this yesterday or not. Getting all the students seated alphabetically was a challenge. The online roll was down (they were upgrading the system), so I had to use the roll sheets that they had printed out before school began. Unfortunately, by 1st period yesterday those roll sheets were already out of date.

As the school year begins, students request schedule changes. And things get modified for all sorts of strange reasons. So, 1st period I had two students on my roll who were no longer enrolled, and three students who were in the class but not on the roll. Eek!

Today I placed the "new" students in the proper place by their last names, but that meant that the entire class had to shift (yesterday I just added them to the end, seating them after the Zs). They wondered why, so I explained. I told them that getting an alphabetical seating chart as students were being added and dropped was a Sisyphean task. As these were 8th graders, I had to explain the reference.

Just when I thought I had gotten it right, I hit two other snags. First, there were more schedule changes. And second, a couple students who had been seated in the back needed seats closer to the board (vision issues).

So, I got those squared away, and then 6th period I had this joker who thought it was a good idea to play around while I was trying to present the lesson. He couldn't be trusted with a seat near the back. No, he needed to sit near me.

Okay, so now I give up!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Setting the Seating Chart

Yesterday, I was surprised to get a message from the sub caller. I didn't expect to hear from her. I never work the first day of school. (Well, there was that one time at the continuation high school, and it was in July, so I don't count it.) Never say never.

Today I started the 8th grade math class.

At first I let them sit where they wanted. Perhaps this was mean on my part, but I had a plan. Get the kids into class, do my intro, and then deal with the chaos of moving them to assigned seats (the teacher wanted them seated alphabetically).

They couldn't believe their luck. They got to sit where they wanted. There was a lot of maneuvering. "Come over here." "No, you can't sit there, my friend is sitting there."

Then came the switch.

"Like where you're sitting?" I asked. "Enjoy it for another couple seconds, and then I'm going to tell you where your actual seat is."

Oh, they begged. "Can't we sit here today." And they pleaded. "We can move tomorrow." But I wouldn't budge.

As I didn't have the teacher's syllabus, I spent much of the rest of the period playing get-to-know-you games. It was an easy day. Yep, ease them back into the school year. Then tomorrow the work begins. (Oh, I forgot to mention, this is a three-day assignment for me--the first three days of school.)

And tomorrow I'm going to move them again.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Another Slow News Day

Things have been slow. I'm choosing to enjoy the last little bit of my summer vacation.

So, just to keep the blog updated, I thought I'd share one of my favorite blogs. Bad Parking usually is good for a few laughs.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

More Orange Knitted Beads

More pictures from the dyeing project...

rust beads

In this case I had used a rust-colored yarn originally. Because I could safely put 30 beads into the dye mixture, I also added a couple beads of different colors just to see what they would do.

The three beads in the back are the original color. The two beads in front went through the orange Kool-Aid. The dye process brightened the color just a bit. I kind of like it.

I also tried pink beads, black beads, and gray beads.

After the dye process the pink beads were indistinguishable from the white beads (they all turned the bright orange of the last post). The black beads got a bit more of a shine but still looked the same.

The gray beads...

gray progression

...turned an interesting shade of brown. Very Halloween. (Far left: before felting. Middle: after felting. Far right: felted and dyed orange.)

What color should I try next?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Orange Knitted Beads

Yesterday I promised to post pictures of my dyed beads. I had a chance to take pictures today. Here is how it all turned out...

white to orange beads

Near the top left-hand corner are white beads before felting. In the middle are the felted white beads. And then near the bottom right-hand corner are the white beads after being dyed using orange Kool-Aid.

It was a very easy process. I can't wait to try more.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Where Did All the Kool-Aid Go?

Remember my crazy project? Since then I've been accumulating beads. I've got containers full. And I have ideas on what to do with them.

The main problem with the project is finding wool yarn in pretty colors. There aren't many colors in the yarn store. The next step was to go online, but I have been too lazy (or busy) to do this.

I mentioned the color issue to my sister-in-law, and she suggested using white wool and dyeing the beads later. Genius.

I've never dyed anything before. But I remembered reading this article a while back. I didn't think too much of it at the time for I didn't really work with wool. But wool is necessary for felting, so suddenly this method was feasible.

Using Kool-Aid to dye wool? Brilliant!

So, I went to the grocery store in search of pretty Kool-Aid. What did I find? Red and purple. Um, if you go back and look at the picture, you'll see that I have those colors already. Although, I did find orange, yellow, and pink, too.

However, I did not find green or blue. Drat!

I bought the orange, and today I thought to try it. It turned out better than I expected. The orange is so day-glow, and I mean that in a good way. I'll post pictures soon. First I need to let the beads dry.

Now, I'm on the hunt for green and blue Kool-Aid flavors. I've looked a couple places. No luck. I know they exist. At least, they existed when that article was written.

I have no idea where else to try. Anyone have any ideas?

Monday, August 24, 2009


Yesterday I spent some time hanging out with my 8-year-old niece. We did a jigsaw puzzle.

She used to like jigsaw puzzles when she was younger. And I thought that she still might. A few visits ago, I tried to get her interested in a 500 piece puzzle, but she balked at it. So, I went in search of a puzzle that wouldn't be too hard for her but wouldn't be too easy either.

Yesterday we worked on the 100 piece puzzle that I did find. It didn't take too long.

I kind of want a 300 piece puzzle for us to try. I figured that I might be able to entice her if it has a picture that she likes (the 100 piece had a picture of Tinkerbell and her fairy friends), so I went online in search of solutions.

What I found shocked me. Puzzles with more than 6000 pieces! Yikes!

I've done my share of puzzles with 1000 pieces, 1500 pieces, and even 2000 pieces. But 6000? I don't even think I have a spot big enough to leave such a beast, and I would have to leave it for a while for it would take me a while to finish. And my niece wouldn't even come near the thing.

The other schools start up next week. Good thing. I have way too much time on my hands.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mistaken Identity

Remember the class I had last week that was reading The Crucible? I had the same group yesterday and today. (Their teacher doesn't miss that much school, so this was unusual for her.) Yesterday they finished the movie version of the play.

Being combined day Friday, the lesson plan was for them to finish any unfinished work or work on extra credit assignments. (The reasoning is that if a student couldn't buy out and legally miss the day, then that student has work to finish.)

A girl in 2nd period had missed yesterday's finish of the movie, and she asked me if she could watch it. Since I still had the tape, I didn't see a problem with this. I put it in, and she watched.

After the movie, discussions ensued. The girl recognized one of the actresses. "Isn't that the actress from Pirates of the Caribbean?"

So, I got to explain that no, in fact it wasn't. Winona Ryder is not Keira Knightley. I was surprised, actually. I never noticed any resemblance between the two.

To prove this, I went online and found Winona Ryder's IMDb page. The student's reaction: "Wow, she's old."

Old? She's my age. Ouch!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No Pictures, Please

I've been working a lot for August, especially considering the only high school open in my district has 14 teachers total. And I'm not the only one benefiting from this largess.

Today was school picture day. Every so often there was an announcement over the PA system calling for groups of students. They did this alphabetically.

They called the first group. The right number of students left. Then they called the second group, and a couple of the D-G students remained behind.

A few minutes later, another teacher came to the door. She called out the two students that hadn't gone. While buying a picture package is optional, the students still had to be photographed for their student IDs. One girl went. The other refused.

The teacher told the girl that she had to go and get her ID picture taken. The girl told the teacher that they should just use her photo from last year. The teacher threatened to get security involved. The girl still wouldn't budge.

Security did not appear to remove the girl from class, but as it was only 2nd period, the girl could have been removed from a subsequent period.

The following announcements calling students to the picture room then stated that appearing was mandatory. As I didn't see that teacher again, I guess that there were no more issues with students from my classes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Outdated Technology

I am dripping with sweat even though it's a cool day (75 degrees in August?) and there has been a cool breeze all day. I've been hard at work.

This week, on the promise of an upcoming garage sale (it's still on, Chris, isn't it?), I've been going through all of my, I mean stuff to see what I want to get rid of. Yesterday I cleared out half of my books. Today I went through my closet.

I have a small closet. But it's packed with stuff that I haven't seen since moving in. I found a couple surprising things.

First, I found my old Nintendo Gameboy. I don't know why I ever bought it as I rarely used it. I found games still in the boxes that I bought them in. And I wonder: who's going to want to take these off my hands? No one owns a Gameboy anymore.

I guess that's why I held on to it for so long. I don't want to throw it out (not environmentally friendly). It still works (I assume--the batteries are long dead). But I don't play it, and I won't play it again. What do I do with it now?

The other thing I found I forgot I had. Sometime in the late '80's I got a handheld TV (it was a birthday present). It's got a two inch screen, but it is in color. Last time I tried it, it worked, but now with the digital conversion the antenna won't work.

What do I do with it?

It's still in pristine condition (I didn't watch it very frequently). I guess it could be used as a monitor for something, but with laptop computers, cell phones, and mp3 players with video screens, who needs such a thing?

On the other hand, I can now see the floor of my closet. At least I accomplished that much.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August TV Viewing

This time of year is so bad for TV viewing. I've gotten desperate. I've been watching educational programs.

It's not that bad, really. I like watching stuff that teaches me stuff. And since the blog's been suffering through the same doldrums as the TV schedule, I thought I'd share what I've been watching.

It all started with Stephen Hawking's Universe. Some of the stuff I knew (yes, I get that gravity bends space), but some of the stuff was new to me. I like this sort of thing (see title of blog).

So, then I started scouring the listings for stuff to record to my DVR, and I came across The Universe on the History Channel. Oooh. More fun for me.

I had gone through all my recorded shows, and I was looking for something to watch (I was knitting, and I needed some background noise). That's when I found The Ascent of Money on PBS. Since economics is a weak subject for me, I figured I might as well see if I could learn something.

The show is your basic history show, but the focus is on business and money matters. It was just the sort of thing to make business stuff make sense to me--sort of. I actually understood it, and that's a bonus for me.

Last summer I found The Adventure of English on History International. It's on at like 5 AM during the weekend, so it's strictly DVR viewing, but it was fascinating.

And then, I've had more time to watch new episodes of something that isn't very educational. But it's fun, and I need some fun. It's Clean House. I only discovered this show last summer, so I'm still catching up on episodes. It'll take me some time. Once the fall shows start, I'll forget all about Clean House only to find it again next summer.

Any other good shows that I should know about?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Passing By

I’ve been neglecting my blog terribly, I know. I just haven’t had anything to say. But the strangest thing just happened…

I was sitting on the couch in my house, writing. (I write a lot. I’m working on a novel. I don’t talk about it much because there isn’t much to say beyond that.) I heard voices outside. None of this was unusual. Then I could make out the words, and this is where it got strange.

A girl was talking. In French.

I’m pretty sure it was French. I had enough high school French to recognize pronouns and assorted words, but not enough to have any idea what she was talking about.

I live in Southern California. I’ve never heard French in general conversation just out on the street before. (I do hear Spanish sometimes.) It’s unusual enough for me to comment upon.

Then a male voice joined the girl’s. They sounded like father and daughter. The conversation went on for a few minutes more as they were getting out of a car. They continued to talk as they walked away.

And then just outside my balcony a squirrel ran along the telephone wire.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Um, Sure, I Guess

It was fourth period. The class was journalism (yes, the continuation high school has a school paper). They were working on articles for the next issue of the paper (or an extra credit assignment). The room was silent. They were all on task.

I was seated at the teacher's desk. It was nice to sit, as I had been standing all day. A student came up to the desk in search of something or other, and he talked to me.

Student: "It must be boring."

Me: "What?"

Student: "Are you here all day?"

Me: "Of course." (I was not sure what he was getting at. He knew his teacher was out all day.)

Student: "It must be tough."

Me: "What's tough?"

Student: "Dealing with these kids all day."

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Understudy

I was back at the continuation high school today. English class. They were reading Act II of The Crucible.

It was a pretty common lesson plan. Students "volunteered" to read parts, and we got through several pages. Then they answered questions about the section that we read.

It was 2nd period. I was trying to drum up volunteers (before I volunteered them into roles). I explained that John Proctor had the most lines in the section we were reading. Yet, I still got an actual volunteer for the part. Score!

Reading aloud is kind of interesting. Sometimes (especially at the continuation high school) we get readers who don't read very well. It makes for a painful experience. And it takes forever to get through anything. So, I was happy that our John Proctor was a pretty good reader. Things went smoothly--for a while.

Slowly, John realized that I wasn't kidding when I said the role was a large one. And he had just about enough. I could tell he was losing steam. Then, suddenly, another boy was reading John Proctor's part.

I hadn't noticed anything. We had been reading, and the students had kept up with their parts. John 1 read one line, then Elizabeth Proctor said something, and John 2 read the next line. I had no idea how the two boys communicated the switch in parts. We had not planned for such an eventuality. And I was in front of the class the entire time, watching the class (well, okay, I was watching the book more than the class).

Since it made little difference to me, I just went with it. At least the flow of the play continued (I've had readings not go so smoothly). Unfortunately, John 2 wasn't as accomplished a reader as John 1.

We got through Act II. They answered their questions. And I get to do this again tomorrow.

Friday, August 7, 2009


There was a time when this would have been unremarkable. And it wasn't so long ago. But with the explosion of the Internet, email, social networks, and blogs, my admission might be a little shocking.

I did not get on my computer yesterday. I did not check my email. I did not read my usual blogs. I didn't even turn the thing on.

And the world didn't end.

Of course, I'm back today...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Boring Video

Bad: Watching the same video 5 times.

Worse: Recognizing video from a previous lesson plan.

The worst: Knowing that it's not a very interesting video.

The good news: I got to work today.

I suppose I shouldn't complain. It is the middle of summer. The only school open is the continuation high school. Since there aren't that many teachers there, it's lucky that I'm getting any work at all.

Today I covered the U.S. history classes. The teacher left a video on Thomas Edison. As soon as I started it I remembered it. I had shown this video to this teacher's classes last year.

On the bright side, it was only 55 minutes long. And I got to see the whole thing.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Open Letter to My Neighbors

Dear Neighbors,

Apparently, all of our garage door openers are on the same frequency. This becomes a problem if someone's garage door remote is stuck on, for then it jams everyone's signal, and no one can open or close their garage doors.

At first I thought it was me. Really, I did. Mine wasn't working, so I went and replaced it. But when I got home, the new remote didn't work.

I got a repair guy to come out. He checked the system. And you know what happens when you get someone out to fix something. Even though you've checked everything. And it didn't work for you. So my remote works. It's not jamming the system.

I know you've all noticed the problem. Someone managed to open the gate and leave it open. So, it wasn't just me.

Check your remotes. Is the little light thingie stuck on? Is the button permanently pushed down? If it's you, please, please, remove the battery. Then go and get a new remote.

Your neighbors will thank you.

Your neighbor,