Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Bad Time to Have a Cough

Cough, cough.

"SWINE FLU!  You've got the swine flu."

About a month ago I came down with a cold/allergies.  I was pretty miserable off and on through spring break.  I'm just about all better now except for this lingering cough.  A cough that is no way related to the current flu outbreak.  

I covered an English class today.  I had to do my introduction, take roll, and put in the CD (they were reading along with Night by Elie Wiesel).  I barely coughed for the majority of the period, but right at the beginning when I had to talk, that's when I couldn't not cough.  Ugh!  

Every class accused me of having the swine flu.  On the one hand, it's good that they're aware of this thing.  I've noticed an increase in students using hand sanitizer.  They're all being very careful.  But on the other hand, they're letting the hype get to them.  Being careful is one thing.  Being paranoid isn't going to do any of us any good.

I kept my coughing to myself.  And for the most part the students let my coughing pass.  

And now the jokes start.  One student claimed to have the swine flu.  He wanted to get out of school.  As he looked perfectly healthy and didn't press the issue, I doubt that he's sick.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Runaround

It's standardized testing time around here.  The subbing workload has been light.

Today I was called in to cover a science teacher, but I don't get to cover the testing.  During testing time we subs sat in the teachers' lounge waiting to be sent to various classrooms to relieve proctors for bathroom breaks.  The testing session lasted from the start of school until noon.  We subs were busy.

About twenty minutes before the scheduled snack break, the secretary asked one of us to go and cover Mr. O's class during that snack break.  I volunteered.  So, I made sure to eat something, use the bathroom, and then a couple minutes before break was to begin I headed out to the classroom.  I got there just before the bell.  I walked into the classroom so that the teacher could head out right at the bell.  I had it planned perfectly.

Mr. O intercepted me quickly.  The situation had changed.  He no longer needed coverage.  Okay, fine.  I turned around and headed back to the teachers' lounge.

The bell had rung by this time, so the campus was covered with students.  I still managed to run into one of the other subs on my way back.  She told me she was headed to Mr. O's class.  I told her that I had just come from there.  

Apparently, the teacher called the office to complain that a sub never arrived for snack.  I couldn't understand why.  I got there before the bell.  The other sub continued on her way, and I went in search of the secretary.

I told the secretary what had transpired.  She called the room to find out what was happening.  

That's when the teacher who was covering the testing for the teacher I was subbing for came up to the office.  As their tests were complete, it was my job to take the classroom for the remainder of the testing time (a room full of 9th graders with nothing to do for an hour--joy!).  

I headed out to my classroom for the rest of the day.  On the way I ran into the same sub.  She was returning from Mr. O's class.  He sent her back as well.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Be More Specific

I think this happened during 6th period on Thursday.  One of the students in class announced, "I hate Jose."  Being rather random, the other students questioned the statement.  "Which Jose?" was the question.

There were two Joses in the class.  A class of 10 students.  And we couldn't be sure that he meant a Jose from the 6th period class.  

Jose is a popular name around these parts.  

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rapt Attention

Today was day 2 with the opportunity class.  After they took their spelling test I was to put in a video.  They were excited that a video was on the lesson plan until they learned that it was a history video.  Then they were disappointed.  Oh well.

As usually happens, the video had not been rewound after the last viewing.  So, while we were waiting for the video to finish rewinding, I turned on the TV.  Usually all I get is a blank screen, but this time the TV had some reception, and Good Morning America was on.  

This story was on when I turned on the TV.  The entire class was mesmerized.  I had silence and attention.  The video finished rewinding, but instead of interrupting I left the show on.  I was not about to ruin that wonderful moment of them focused on something other than acting out.  

But the story eventually ended, and a commercial came on.  It was time to start the video.  All I got were groans.  And they proceeded to ignore the video for the remainder of the period (not even bothering to take the required notes).  

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Opportunity

Today and tomorrow I'm in an opportunity class.  I may have mentioned these classes before.  These are the kids that did nothing in their regular classes, so they've been given one last chance to stay in the traditional school.  If they don't take advantage of this chance, they may be alternatively placed.

Yeah, these are the kids that aren't very self-motivated, so I wasn't surprised when most of them spent the day writing their names in bubble letters rather than doing the history assignment.  More of them worked than I expected, though.

My lesson plan stated that they got a 20 minute break.  They told me that the break actually lasted all of 3rd period.  So, when I tried to get them back into the class after a half hour, they fought me.  Sigh.  

It wasn't as terrible today as I expected.  But those kids can be draining.  I just wish they would realize the opportunity that they are throwing away.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Unnoticed Meetings

Today the teacher left a little note for her students.  It said: "I am at my monthly meeting at CSULB."  Pretty clear.  I pointed it out to every period.  And every period said the same thing...

"What monthly meeting?"

Okay, it's April.  This is the 8th month of school.  If this teacher has been out once a month all year, you would think that the students would have noticed.  I'd wager that she has mentioned the meetings to the class at some point or other.  

Teenagers.  Sigh.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yes, It's Hot

I had the local news on last night.  It was on in the background as I was cleaning up the kitchen, so I wasn't paying much attention to it.  I was kind of half listening to the weather report.
It's been hot.  Very hot.  Record breaking heat.  For April.  
There was this one interview that caught my attention.  Some random woman was talking about how this weather is normal in the summer, but now it was unseasonably warm.  Um, really?  I had no idea.  (The station won't let me embed the video here, so the link to it is here and it is the Featured Story for April 20th at 5:36 AM.)

You'd think that there would be other news to report.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I wonder how long it'll take for everyone to say "twenty-ten" as opposed to "two-thousand ten" when referring to next year.  It seems that right now it's about half and half.  
I actually had this conversation with my mother the other day.  Hey, it was something to talk about.  And since it's been on my mind...

I know that everyone will convert at some point.  "Twenty-ten" has three syllables while "two-thousand ten" has four.  One syllable difference, sure, but we'll always go for the shorter, won't we?

I wonder if it's a hundredth monkey thing.  Or will there still be holdouts into 2011.  It's something to watch.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eye Exam

Today was the day for my annual eye exam.  

I have been seeing the same optometrist since I first got contact lenses when I was 14.  So, he knows my eyes.  He knows that I'm quite blind without corrective lenses.  Yet, every couple years the staff has to get funny.

First they check my vision with my contacts in.  They use the usual chart.  I'm usually in the 20/20 range.  Then they ask me to take out my contacts (to do other tests).  I put on my glasses, and they check my vision with my glasses.  

Today the assistant had me remove my glasses and read the chart.  

At the top of the chart is a large E.  I know this.  Unfortunately, I can't see this without the help of glasses or contacts.  The top of the chart is graded to be read by someone with 20/200 vision.  My vision is more in the range of 20/700.  

What I can see is where I should be looking.  I see the light.  And if I squint just right, I can sort of, kind of see a couple horizontal stripes, but they're very indistinct.  When the assistant asked me to read the chart, I laughed.  "There's an E there someplace," I said.

She quickly realized the futility of that exercise, and she let me put my glasses back on.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Greatest Feeling

There are some things that I like about teaching.

I had the same group as yesterday.  They were working on factoring (trinomials).  Some of them "got it" and finished things quickly.  Some of them were still struggling with the concept.  I helped those that I could.

One girl had a question.  I helped her.  She seemed to catch on.  So, I moved on to walking the room and making sure that everyone was okay with the assignment.

A couple minutes later I passed the girl that I had helped.  She was talking to her neighbor.  She was explaining how to do the problem that I had just helped her with.  She was explaining how to do it correctly.  I walked on.

That's the greatest feeling--to know that the girl understood the concept well enough to explain it to a classmate.  That's when I know I'm doing my job right.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Next Section

There's nothing quite as panic inducing as coming into a classroom to find only a vague note from the sub from the day before.  No lesson plans for today.  No lesson plans for yesterday.  And no idea where to go from here.

The good news was that it was a math class--Algebra 1.  I can do algebra 1 (for that matter, I can do geometry, algebra 2, and I know enough math analysis and calculus to get along for a day).  

So, I did the only thing I could do--I found out where they were and I taught the next section in the textbook.  

Luckily I had a cooperative group of middle schoolers.  (A group of high schoolers likely wouldn't have let me take control of the class.)  They went along with the lesson.  They even did the work that I assigned.  So, score one for me!

The teacher is out with some mysterious illness.  No one in the office knows anything.  I'll be back tomorrow, but at least I have a plan for tomorrow.  And next week is spring break, so hopefully the teacher will be back then.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Jerk

I didn't notice him at the beginning of the period.  I didn't have to.  There was a student teacher, so all I had to do was sit back and relax.

The first time I noticed the boy, the student teacher was asking him to sit.  He protested.  "One, two, three, four, five other students are out of their seats!"  So, that makes it okay, then?

Then he asked the student teacher if he could go and get his homework which was in the resource room (five doors down).  By the time he returned, the class has finished correcting the homework.  He was upset.  He wanted to know why the 35 other students in the class couldn't wait for him.  Maybe it had something to do with how long it took him to get back?

The class was U.S. history for 11th graders.  Today's topic was the counterculture of the 1960's.  The student teacher finished up her lecture by playing a couple clips of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.

Most of the class was interested.  So was the boy.  I overheard him telling his neighbor that Hendrix was rollin' (this is synonymous with trippin', meaning Hendrix was high).  I concurred.  "I wasn't talking to you," the boy snapped.  Gee, I was just trying to be helpful (and agreeing with you!).

Usually with a student teacher I stay out of the way.  And I leave little in my note (it is the student teacher's class, after all).  Today, however, I had to mention Mr. Attitude.  But I had one problem.  I couldn't find the right word to describe him.  

Well, see the title.  Was I being too harsh?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Deny It Like You Mean It

Today was International Day.  It's a tradition at this school.  On the last day of the 3rd quarter (a minimum day) all the clubs set up booths for food or games, and the whole school goes out and plays (half the school 1st, 2nd, and 3rd periods and the other half 4th, 5th, and 6th periods).  

Subs are required for those teachers who are club advisors.  They can't come back to class when it's their classes' turn to be in class since they are supervising their booths.  For 4th, 5th, and 6th periods I got stuck with middle school band.

I watched as two girls walked in 25 minutes late.  They had all their International Day paraphernalia (in this case balloons) with them.  I had taken roll already, so if they wanted to be marked present, they had to check in.  Then one of the girls did come up to me.

The girl explained that one teacher had told her she could stay outside, but then another had sent her to class.  Whatever.  Things were so crazy that I just accepted the story, noted her as late, and told her to have the other girl check in with me.

I watched the girl walk across the room to the other girl.  Just about the time she got there, a boy threw something at one of her balloons and it popped.  The girl spun on the boy and yelled.  I went over to try to diffuse the situation.

The girl was understandably angry.  The boy denied popping the balloon.  He told me that it wasn't him.  I told him that I had seen him do it.  He still denied responsibility.  

Then two boys behind this one boy backed up his story.  Fine.  Then who did the deed?  They hemmed and hawed but gave me no other name.  

I mean, I saw this happen.  Yet, the boy still denied responsibility.  He was pretty convincing, too. 

I tried to settle the girl down, telling her that I saw everything, and the boy would be reported to the band director.  (I didn't write him up since it was the end of the period and the day was so crazy that he would definitely fall through the cracks on this.)  Since no actual fight ensued, I considered this a success.

I just don't get it.  Even when I witness these things, they still deny everything.  I wonder if they think they can convince me to doubt my own eyes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Panic in the Woodshop

At first I didn't even notice the helicopters.  I was busy observing the woodshop class.  They were not allowed on the equipment, so they had bookwork to do and they weren't happy about it.  I was trying to keep things from getting too wild, and for the most part I was succeeding.

Then a student drew my attention to the sound of hovering helicopters.  "We're going to go on lockdown," he informed me.  A couple other students then were sure that we already were on lockdown.  I assured them that we weren't.  They announce these sorts of things.  There had been no announcement.

So, a couple students had to run outside just to see the hovering helicopters.  I had to chase them down.  What were they going to do?  What could they see?  It was just an excuse to run outside (they were bored, and they refused to do the bookwork).

Well, sure enough, the announcement came.  Something about police activity near the school, so we were going on lockdown as a precaution.  I made sure all the students were inside, and I locked the door.  Then the paranoia began.

The first boy (there were no girls in this class) got upset about missing lunch.  Lunch was over a half hour away.  I explained that they would get a full lunch even if it was delayed (I know this from experience), but that only upset him more because that would cut short football practice (I should have known he was a football player, too).  

Then another boy said I needed to do something about the windows.  The windows were all covered.  He was sure that a stray bullet would come through the glass and do some damage.  I reminded him that no intruder was on campus, no guns were involved, and we were on lockdown as a precaution because of something off campus.  He still wasn't satisfied.

I looked back up at the first boy, and he was on his cell phone.  Apparently he called someone who knew what was going on.  Not that he had details after this call, though.  I'm sure he just used it as an excuse to use his cell phone.

Finally, the principal announced that the lockdown was over.  A boy approached me for a restroom pass.  And I noted the time.  We had been on lockdown for ten whole minutes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Squeaky Floor

Today I was covering a middle school algebra 1 class.  They had to take their benchmark tests (to make sure that they're learning what they should be learning).  Generally, algebra 1 in the middle school is a pretty good class (as opposed to high school...algebra 1 high school classes generally have the lowest of the low).  

Once I passed out the tests, my main task was to remain awake.  I circulated throughout the room just to make sure they weren't doing anything they shouldn't while testing (they weren't).  

The floors of the classrooms at the back of the campus all have squeaks in them somewhere.  I found several squeaks in this class.  These weren't cute little squeaks but loud and low monster noises.  I found them early.  And I kept finding them.

There's nothing quite as bad as walking over a squeak when a class of thirty-odd students are working silently.  So, I tried to avoid the squeaky spot.  But it's hard to judge just where that squeak is, and so I managed to hit it a few times every period.

Of course, then I'd try to minimize the noise by stepping carefully, only that made the squeak worse.  And I flinched every time I hit it.  

I should bring masking tape with me to school.  Maybe then I'd figure out how to avoid the squeaks.