Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not Again!

Last time I was at the continuation high school I noticed the white binders on the front desk. There was on for every teacher.  I didn't think much of it (being a sub I didn't need one), but later it hit me.  They were going to do it again.

So, today when I saw in the lesson plans what I had to do fourth period, my worst fears were confirmed.  It was that time of year again.  And they were going to do it again.

It's a program about drugs and violence, as in saying no to them.  Lovely idea. But the execution is horrible.

This is the continuation high school, so many of the students already...ahem... well, you get the idea.  

Today's topic was about forming healthy relationships.  I kept to the script.  They fought me on everything.  No, they would not do the role playing scenarios.  No, they would not participate.  And they would not stop talking so that I could at least get through my script.

It was the same last year.  

It's too bad, too.  There's a lot of good information in the program.  It's just too bad that they aren't paying attention to it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Technical Annoyance

I had the same class as yesterday.  Since we're on block schedule (two hours a period), we're only seeing half the classes, but since this is special ed, most of the students stay in the class all day anyway.

Yesterday they were warned to bring in movies.  They did actually take finals, but not every period and not for the whole period.  There was some down time.  
Yesterday no one brought in a movie.  Today we only got one.  At least it was on VHS.

There was a problem with the DVD player.  (The IA borrowed movies to keep them busy.)  The remote didn't work (due to needing a new battery), and the front of the machine didn't have a chapter step capability.  This wasn't a terrible issue once the movie got started.

But then the movie froze.

It was near the end.  Suddenly the movie just stopped.  Froze.  The only thing I could do to get it going again was to eject and reinsert the DVD.  Of course that meant that the movie started over, so I had to fast forward through the whole thing.

This happened twice.  Yesterday and today.  And both times the class had to chime in on how to fix things.  Um, no, I can't step through the chapters.  No, the remote doesn't work.  Yes, I'm doing everything I can.

Special ed classes are just like regular ed classes in this regard.  I would have gotten the exact same reaction in any class.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Three Questions

"This would be question number two.  Do you really want to waste a question on that?"

It's day one of finals, and I pulled a two-day assignment in a special ed class.  This one student has a limit of three questions a class period.  The instructional assistant (IA) kept track and warned him before every question.

Because we were on block schedule (two hours a period), the IA allowed three more questions for the second hour.  And the boy didn't go over them, but that kind of depended upon how the questions were counted.  Some questions didn't count as questions.  And some unanswered questions did not go to the question total due to the fact that they weren't answered.  

I wanted to be helpful, but I found it easier to let the IA handle things.  It was much easier to answer questions for students who didn't have a question limit.

Monday, January 26, 2009

How to Log In

I got a call this morning to change today's assignment.  Once the information penetrated my morning brain fog, I realized that this was a good thing.  I got to turn over and sleep for an extra hour!

Today the classes were in the computer lab.  They were working on some learning software or other.  This was very familiar to them.  They've done it many times.  So why could they not remember how to log in?

Firstly, the log in does not change.  There is a specific formula of letters of last name and letters of first name with student ID number and birthdate.  This is districtwide and it has been for a couple years now (even I know formula without having to look it up, and I don't cover computer classes all that frequently).  And helpfully this was all written on the whiteboard at the front of the room.  But I found myself repeating the formula about five times a period.

Then they had to log onto the program.  This had a different formula, but again, this was all written on the board.  Yet, I had this formula memorized as well by the time the second student had trouble logging on in first period.

Once I got them all logged on everything went smoothly.  

I just wonder.  Am I so used to computer technology that I am being unfair to the kiddos (not picking this stuff up right away)?  Or are they just being oblivious?  Is it really that hard?  

Friday, January 23, 2009

Not Really Testing

Today I covered an algebra class.  They were taking their benchmark exams. These are tests that the district requires them to take once a quarter to measure their progress.  The tests don't count towards their grades, and the students know this.

Fourth period was obnoxious.  They wanted to know what they were to do after the exam, never mind that the exam could take the entire period.  They also wanted to know how many questions were on the exam.

So, I got everything passed out--scratch paper, pre-identified answer sheets, and the question booklet.  The class hadn't even settled yet.  I started reading the directions to them.

"I'm finished."

A boy in the middle of the room announced this.  I had not even finished reading the directions. I ignored him.  I continued with the instructions.

I mean, if you're going to bubble in random answers, the least you can do is pretend that you're trying.  "Finishing" before I've even said, "You may begin," is rude in the extreme.  

By the time I had told them to start, at least five of them were "finished".  I honestly don't know what they got out of this.  They had to remain silent until their classmates were actually finished, and that took about a half an hour (maybe a touch longer).  So, for that amount of time they got to sit, stare at the walls, and be extremely bored (one kept tapping his desk in frustration).  

This teacher is very strict.  She likes to call home.  I wonder what sort of consequence these kiddos are going to get for their behavior.  I'm sure it won't be pleasant.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Me Again

Remember that 8th grade science class I got stuck in for seven days?  (If not, see this post, another post, another post again, yet again, and finally.)  I do.  Today I covered their history class.

After a little over a week with them not so long ago, I knew what I was in for. But I had the luxury of knowing this ahead of time (okay, only since 5:20 AM). I knew who I was going to see today.  They did not.

Oh, it was priceless.  I sat behind the teacher's desk as first period walked in. And I watched them come in and see me.  They were not happy.  A couple of them came in, walked out, and came back in again.  ("Not you!")  One even threatened to go to tardy sweep.  I did not react at all.  

They were good today.  Well, most of them were.  But since I knew them, I did not have to refer to the seating chart to call the "bad" ones out by name.  

It was fun.  It's these little things that really make my day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration in Opportunity

I got stuck in the opportunity class today.  It's been about six weeks since I saw these kiddos last (this day and this day), and they haven't changed a bit.

Opportunity is code.  It's kind of like the "success" class for those who needed to learn how to succeed in school.  Opportunity is a last chance for some of these kids to get some credits, and all of them have behavioral issues.  They've had run ins with the law.  Anger issues.  You get the idea.

Well, of course today was inauguration day.  And being on the west coast, that meant that the swearing in took place at 9 AM.  The administration of the school encouraged the teachers to show the inauguration on TV.  I knew that getting the students to do any work would be a challenge anyway, so maybe having the TV on might help.  It didn't.

How was the speech?  Any good?  I wouldn't know.  I couldn't hear any of it.  

I kept shushing the class.  They were having none of it.  They were having too much fun writing vulgarities on paper (at least not on the desks), calling each other rude names, and just generally acting up.  One student kept asking me for a dollar.  When I told him I had no money on me (it's generally a good idea not to bring in the wallet), he then asked me for change for a five.  Then another student told me that I had said something incorrect, and he insisted that I apologize (I wasn't incorrect, so I didn't apologize).  

It's too bad, too.  These kids aren't stupid.  They're just so angry at the world that they are unwilling to see the good things around them.  And they act out, as if that makes them cool or something.  It just makes me sad.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not the Drama

I had a whole plan.  I was going to read them the riot act.  I had a whole speech prepared.  "I'm sorry"???  I didn't see that one coming.

Today was day 3 in this class.  They've had subs all week.  It shows.  So yesterday during the video 3rd period went wild.

At the end of the period a girl at the back of the classroom attracted my attention.  She went and found paper towels.  She was wiping something up.  It appeared to be water.  (It's a science classroom.  There are working sinks.)  As the students left class, I noticed one faucet still running water.  I went back to turn it off only to find that the handle was completely broken off.

I looked about for a shut off valve.  The pipes went into the wall.  I couldn't find access.  And with 4th period streaming in, I had to come up with a solution quickly.  I called the office and asked them to send out a custodian.  He arrived and easily found the shut off valve.

Okay, crisis averted, but who broke the faucet in the first place?  I doubted that I'd find out.  But I could narrow down the suspect list.

Today as I was making my opening remarks, I turned to the back of the room and said, "You broke the faucet?  Seriously?"

And I actually got a reply: "Sorry.  I went to wash my hands and the handle came off."

There was the culprit.  No muss.  No fuss.  Easily identifiable.  If I'd've known it'd be that easy...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chewbacca Controversy

I was in the same class as yesterday.  The teacher's wife had a baby.  Today we got word of the usual statistics--name, birth date, weight, etc.  This was written on the board so all the students could see.

6th period was incensed: "But we voted.  Chewbacca won."

The child was given a nice, ordinary name.  A name that is probably one of the top ten boy's names.  Nothing wild.  Nothing crazy.  But apparently the teacher had taken naming suggestions from his students, and the classes voted on their choice.  6th period took this "vote" seriously.

"Well, you know, the wife has veto power."

I was trying to bring them back around.  Did they honestly think that their teacher would name his child Chewbacca?  One student just wouldn't let it go.

"We had a 3/4ths majority.  We override."

Um, seniors, so they are taking government and should know that it's a 2/3rds majority to override, but never mind.  I wasn't arguing the point further (as if I have any say in any of this).  I went up to the board, erased "Chewbacca", and I rewrote the actual first name (the one student had crossed it out).  Then I insisted that it was time to get to work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blowed It Up Real Good

The students had problems to work on.  I sat behind the desk, watching.  Then one conversation caught my attention.

Boy 1: "So, what are you doing in band now?"

Boy 2: "Nothing."

Me: "Why are you doing nothing in band?"

Boy 2: "I no longer have an instrument."

Me: "What happened to it [a trumpet]?"

Boy 2: "I stuffed it with a bunch of M-80s and blew it up."

Me (backing away slowly): "Oh, really?"

Boy 2: "I did that with the first one.  I used a catapult to destroy a second."

He promised to videotape blowing up a third.  I was sorry I asked.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pot, Meet Kettle

Certain students are memorable and not in a good way.  

The minute Ashley walked in I remembered her.  This girl is angry.  She behaves however she wants to, and consequences don't faze her.  But apparently today was a good day.

The class was working on questions (they are reading Huck Finn) when Ashley looked at me as if for the first time.

"I had you in Mrs. R's class.  Everybody hated you."

Me: "Um, okay?"

I wasn't sure how to respond to that.  Was I supposed to be upset?  Angry?  Apologetic?  I wasn't sure what reaction Ashley was after, so I gave none.  She moved on.  I guess she didn't get what she was after.

In the class following, Ashley's name came up.  She had left behind something of hers, and her name was on it.  


"Oh, her."

"I hate her."

"She's so loud."

And the comments got worse from there.  I directed the class back to their work, and Ashley was quickly forgotten.

Oh, so okay.  Ashley was projecting.  I get it!  

Friday, January 9, 2009


I heard my alarm.  Really, I did.  But I still managed to sleep through it, and I got out of bed at 5:45 AM.  Oops.  (I was about 10 minutes late.)  Then because it's Friday and I'm exhausted from my week in the 8th grade science class, I managed to leave the house 25 minutes late.  Yikes doesn't even cover it.

So, I was late this morning.  Very late.  So late that I never heard the warning bell.  I wasn't even on campus when the warning bell rang.

I ran into the office.  Since I had been at the school all week, my paperwork was there, so it took me about 30 seconds to check in and get the room key.  I nearly ran to the classroom.  I got there with enough time to get the kiddos in the room before the tardy bell rang.  And I'm pretty sure that the tardy bell rang late (that's a discussion for another day).  

Of course, this was the morning that getting there early would have been best.  They were doing an "investigation" on the atom--like a lab, but with no data collection.  And there were all sorts of things to set up.  

Yeah, things didn't go so well today.  By third period I had settled into the day, but those first two periods...  Wow, what a trial!

I'm so glad it's Friday.  Tomorrow I'm going to sleep in so late that I doubt I'll see morning.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Written Up

I'm still in that science class.  It's getting to me.  I don't have craziness--just students who won't stop talking amongst themselves.  I am so ready to be done.

There is a solution to my problem.  I need to kick students out of class.  It's pretty simple.  I just write them up (and excessive talking is a valid reason), and poof, they're gone for two days.  

I have done this.  I've given three students the boot--one Tuesday, one Wednesday, and one today. And while this does help a bit, it isn't having the impact I would like.  I'm still dealing with all the talking.

So, I stare at the classes.  And I try to narrow down my choices.  Sure, I could boot five at a time, but that seems rather excessive.  I don't want to end up with writer's cramp.  It's just so hard to choose.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Yesterday as I was standing by the door as 6th period was filing in, one of the girls asked if she could go to her band class.  This is not an unusual request.  Usually with a sub the students are doing mostly busy work, so missing class won't hurt the students.  But since the teacher is out for the week, and it's a subject that I can teach (in fact, the lesson plans have me introducing them to the atom), it was not a day that this student could miss.  I told her no.

Today, same period, same girl, same question.  I would think that after yesterday (when I actually lectured on a topic new to them and they actually took notes), the girl would have figured out that she can't miss class.  Apparently not.  

Earlier in the day today, another girl commented upon my makeup.  She told me I looked funny.  Um, okay.  So, with a sweet voice, I replied that I appreciated how she took the time to tell me that I didn't look all that good, and how kind she was to comment, etc.  She was offended.  

Sigh.  8th graders.  They just don't think.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Remember yesterday how I was switched into a math class?  Well, today I went back to the science class.  Can't keep this straight?  Neither can I.

Today they were getting their introduction to the atom.  We did the rub-the-balloon-on-the-head-to-make-the-hair-stand-up bit.  I made the stream of water bend.  And I went over the proton, neutron, and electron stuff.  The basics.

But this all reminded me of college.  I used to sit in my college chemistry class and try to stay awake.  Taking notes only did so much.  I used to let my eyes wander, and they'd see the periodic table that was posted behind the professor.  And my eyes always rested on lithium.

This was the early '90's.  So, a certain song would go through my head.  "Lithium" by Nirvana.  

To this day, when I think of the Periodic Table, I think of Nirvana.  Silly, I know, but it entertains me.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Today I got a lovely surprise. When I showed up at school, I was told that I was subbing for a different teacher than the one who I thought I was going to sub for. Yeah!

Previously, I mentioned how I was not looking forward to this assignment. So, this morning when I was told that the teacher had made a miraculous recovery and was back at work, I was thrilled. Then I got a good look at the new assignment.

You know the 8th graders that I had in the science class that I did not want to go back to? Well, today I was covering for their math teacher. She's going to be out all week, so I've basically got the same students, just in a slightly different configuration.

Oh well. At least math is a subject that I'm comfortable with. And the assignment is for the week. I was serious when I said that this week is traditionally light for subs.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Foggy New Year

It was just after midnight and time to go home. The fog had rolled in. Visibility was...well, nothing was very visible out there.

We could see a few feet in front of us. Luckily, the way home was well-known, so familiarity helped a bit. That and slow driving. Because you just know that there is some idiot driving out there with a death wish.

We found him within a couple miles of home. Stop sign? Nah, he didn't have to stop at the stop sign. And sure, why not blow by it at 40 miles an hour?

I'm glad I don't live someplace where fog is a common problem.