Friday, May 29, 2009

Occupational Hazard

"I've seen this movie fifty times."

Yeah, but have you ever watched the first 55 minutes six times in a row?  Then you have nothing to complain about.

I'm feeling a bit snarky as well as cranky.  It's 5th period, and this is my fifth time through the first 50-odd minutes of The Outsiders.  (Six periods in a row doing the same thing.)  I'm slowly losing my mind.

This is by no means the first time I've experienced this.  I know the drill.  The first time through is when I'm interested.  Period 2, I get to see things I missed the first time through, and I catch on to other nuances.  By period 3 I'm a little bored.  By period 5 I have to have something else to do.

To make this viewing more interesting, I have two girls who will not shut up. I've asked, shushed, cajoled, and threatened.  Fine.  If they won't listen to me, then perhaps they will listen to their teacher.  I've listed their names (with *s next to them) in my note. 

The period is nearly over.  I know because I just looked up and the church was on fire.  (No need to consult a clock anymore.)  Finally.  

I only have to watch this thing one more time.  What am I going to do?  I need something.  I.  Can't.  Watch.  This.  Again.

And the worst part?  First 55 minutes: 6 times.  Last 35 minutes?  Not at all. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bad Attitude

She walked into class angry.  "She better not sit here.  I will mess her up."  Oh, great.

I kept an eye out for "her".  This second girl didn't seem to notice that anything was wrong at first.  The first girl found other things to complain about.  

Later I learned what had happened.  Girl #1 had bumped girl #2, and girl #2 responded in a manner not proportional to the offense.  Girl #1 was still mad. Luckily, girl #2 stayed away from girl #1.

The first girl was angry about everything.  The class was boring.  It was even worse because I was there ("Regular teachers are always better than subs. Subs don't know anything.").  She said that right in front of me, but she acted like I wasn't even there. 

Not ten minutes after this she asked me for favors.  After dismissing me as irrelevant?  No, I'm going to leave the air conditioner on.  No, you can't use the restroom.  (Petty?  Sure.  I get petty when I'm insulted.)

Other than that I did not react to the girl's rudeness (except to mention it in the note).  What use would it have served?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Very Long Short Day

I didn't expect to work today.  It was way past the usual time when I got a call for an English class.  It wasn't until after I hung up the phone that I saw how late it was.  (It was 10 minutes before I should have been out the door to get to the school on time, and I was still in bed.)  Uh oh.

Even with rushing to get dressed et al, I still left the house 25 minutes after I should have.  With a half hour cushion...  Well, I made it to the classroom before the tardy bell, but just barely.  And that's where the fun began.

I had a room of unruly 8th graders (double uh oh) and no lesson plans.  

So, I tried to get the class settled while looking for something, anything to give them and roll sheets.  I found roll sheets.  I took roll.  I tried to call the sub secretary to see if lesson plans had been emailed, but her line was busy.  And the natives were getting restless.

Luckily, the assignment from the previous day was on the board.  They had just read a story from their literature books.  I flipped open that story, and I found a lesson on similes, metaphors, and analogies immediately following (it was linked to the story).  Score!  That would work.

I spent ten minutes explaining the assignment, and then I had them work on it.  It was then that I got a hold of the sub secretary.  The good news: it was a minimum day due to open house tonight (I did not know this when I arrived at school).  The bad news: the teacher did not email lesson plans and was unreachable.  Well, at least I had figured out something for them to do.

As the minimum day progressed, the classes got more manageable.  They were loud.  One period spent the period playing trash can basketball when I was helping other students.  In another class, two boys got into a heated discussion over a girl ("She asked me out.  I did not start it.").  And few of them did the assignment.  

Minimum day?  Bah!  It sure felt like a full day to me.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What a View!

I was up late last night (no school today--four day weekend!), and I caught this on the news.  Go ahead, watch the video.  I'll wait...

I want to ride on a zeppelin.  I was salivating over the idea, until I heard the price of a ticket.  Ouch!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

No Limbo

Sometimes the things that come out of my mouth surprise even me.

"Don't play limbo in class."

The boy was walking down the aisle to his seat.  A girl had her feet up on the chair across the aisle, blocking the path.  Her legs were about a foot off the ground.  Rather than step over her or ask her to move, the boy said that he could go under her.  He started preparing to lean back, and that's when I issued the above warning.  

But I'm not the only one who says crazy stuff in class.  

I had the air conditioner on all day.  It wasn't a hot day, but the room got very stuffy.  The A/C wasn't working all that well.  It was blowing air, but the air wasn't very cold.  I got several complaints.  "Turn on the A/C," to which I replied, "It's already on.  Can't you hear it?"

The period after the limbo incident, a boy walked into class and told me this:

"It's hotter than a slave ship in here."

Okay then.  That beats my limbo comment and then some.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Today went sideways right from the start.

I was scheduled to cover an English teacher.  I wasn't looking forward to it. His students don't like him, so they tend to take this out on me.  Since I was dreading the day, I got up early (5:30 AM) to get going.  I had made my bed and put in my contact lenses when my phone rang.

The sub caller wanted to change my assignment.  Cool.  Then she told me she wanted me to cover the reentry class (which didn't start until the afternoon). Uh, okay.  But it would have been nice if she had called me before I made my bed.

I took out my contacts, unmade my bed, and tried to fall asleep.  I got in a couple more hours.  I got up, had breakfast, and then it was time to get ready. Then I noticed my cell phone had a message on it (I could not hear my cell phone ring from the kitchen).  

Turned out I was supposed to get to school 45 minutes earlier than the sub caller had said, and there was no way that I was going to get there.  So, I called the school back to say that I would be running late.

The reentry class went smoothly.  Reentry is an afternoon class for young adults who did not graduate when they should have.  The continuation high school "super seniors" (5th year seniors) end up here.  They tend to be motivated, especially at this time of year.  

They were working.  I was correcting papers.  Then I felt a little jolt.  And a rumble.  I looked at the aide.  She looked at me.  We looked out at the class. We waited.  It didn't get any worse.  Whew!  Small earthquake.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A New One

I've lived in Southern California all my life.  I'm used to earthquakes.  I've been through them at home and at work.  High school was punctuated by many earthquakes (aftershocks of a larger quake).  So, I thought I had experienced all there was to experience in an earthquake.  I was wrong.

I was in the shower when this one struck.  I had conditioner in my hair.  I had soap all over my face.  That's when the first rumble started.  And I realized that I didn't have a contingency plan for this situation.  

First there was a small rumble.  Then there was a jolt and everything really started shaking.  The shower doors rattled.  My shower head shifted to the right.  And I might have run from the shower except I was all soapy.  Ick.

It was all over in moments, so I finished up my shower.  Then I surveyed the damage.  A picture fell from a shelf (but did not break).  I had a bottle fall from my medicine cabinet when I opened it.  All my drawers had opened one inch.  And various items had fallen over.  So, no damage.  No damage except my nerves.  

We haven't had all that many earthquakes lately.  But it all comes back to you when one hits.  

Friday, May 15, 2009

Begging for $25

"Teacher, do you have a dollar?"

It is my policy to never lend money to a student.  I'll never get it back.  The student asked other students until finally one boy gave her a dollar.

"Good.  Now I just need 24 more."

In dribs and drabs I got the full story.  The girl was trying to scrounge up enough money for a prom ticket.  A prom ticket was $75.  The girl had to purchase the ticket today.  Their prom is tomorrow.  So, this was all very last minute.

One boy offered the girl $30 (he took it out of his pocket and everything), but he was kidding.  The students didn't have a lot of sympathy for the girl.  Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

Then I got a call.  The office wanted me to send the girl up to them.  Her parent was at school to pick her up and take her home.  So, I have no idea if she ever got her prom ticket.  

This girl is going to graduate in about a month.  I hope she's not planning her after high school career like she planned for prom.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

An Extra Period

Some things are so common that I rarely comment upon them.  Frequently, I'm asked to cover another class during the prep period of the teacher I am subbing for on a given day.  Teachers sometimes are only out for a period or two.  Sometimes there are not enough subs to go around, so a teacher may get a different sub for each period.  

Some teachers don't have their own classrooms (there are not enough rooms for each teacher to have one).  They have to live like gypsies, packing up and moving to a new room each period.  They use the classroom of a teacher who has a prep period that period.  

Today I had an interesting synchronicity of events.  I was asked to cover an extra period, and the teacher I was to cover used the classroom that I was already in.  

Some things are so common that I rarely comment upon them.  But some things never happen.  You'd think that with the prevalence of covering extra periods and roving teachers this would happen more frequently, but it does not.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Still a Pawn

Last week I finally got some assignments booked ahead.  Today was the first of these.  When I got to the school, however, I was told that I had been switched to another site.  Oh great!

Two assistant principals were in the office at this time, and both of them complained.  One said that I couldn't leave, and the other said to tell the sub caller that I was out of gas and couldn't leave.  (It's nice to be appreciated.)  Unfortunately, they were overruled, and I got in my car and went to the other school.

I was late, of course.  It isn't that the schools are that far apart.  But it was drop off time, so the traffic was crazy (I'm usually early enough to avoid this traffic getting into the school parking lot).  

I got to the secretary at the other school only to be told that I was supposed to have stayed at the first school (the sub caller found someone else to fill the second school's gig).  Insert scream here.

Some days I'm just the pawn.  

Rather than have me run back, the sub caller had me stay at the second school as an extra sub.  This means that I was there for extra duties.  Library work.  Instructional assistant stuff.  It's nice to break the job up a little, but it's a little irksome when I had an assignment already lined up.  

At least today I didn't have to strain my voice trying to get kiddos to behave.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I had a rough day today.  7th graders.  

I battled them all day.  They were supposed to look up their spelling words in the dictionary and write out the definitions.  They didn't want to.  Unfortunately, they found other ways to occupy their time.  

One boy kept moving from the back far corner that was his assigned seat to a seat closer to the front.  He did this like three times.  Each time I asked him why he had moved.  Each time he replied that he couldn't see the board from his seat.  And each time I told him that he did not need to see the board.  You'd think he would have gotten the hint!

It amazed me how long and hard they'd argue with me about the assignment.  If they had spent half the energy doing the assignment that they spent resisting the assignment, they would have been done in no time.

I'm tired.  I need an easy day tomorrow.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ye Ol' Seat Swap

The boy's seat was near the door.  He wore his hair in cornrows, and before the period started he yelled out the door to someone he called Musclehead.  I noticed him.

When the boy got up and moved to the other side of the room, I noticed.  I told him to go back to his seat.  He argued, but eventually he did as I instructed.

Of course, he was not the only one who attempted the swap.

Freshmen.  In some ways they are very like middle schoolers.  Keeping them in their assigned seats is vital.  They don't have the maturity to sit near their friends and behave.

Brandon's big mistake was asking for a hall pass.  After he left I wrote his name down (I keep track of who leaves class), and he had left a seat labeled Raul on the seating chart.  An African-American named Raul?  Not likely.

I looked around the room trying to locate the real Raul.  That's how I figured out what Brandon's real name was.

I went over to Raul and asked him why he had moved.  He claimed that he was Brandon.  The neon green "Raul S." emblazoned on his backpack told me that he was lying.

For the rest of the period Raul and Brandon called each other by the other's name.  At this point they knew they weren't fooling me (they were in their actual assigned seats), but it had become a game to them.  

The games they play.  Sigh.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Empty Sixth

The middle school choir went to Six Flags today.  (I heard later that there were three field trips today.  Classes were empty.)  Although, not everyone got to go.  Any students with discipline issues or grade issues weren't allowed out of class.  This is why they get subs on these days.

The choir teacher told me that more than half of his students would be with him at Six Flags.  That meant that I had incredibly small classes.  I had seven students one period and ten students each in two periods.  The classes were so small that rather than call out the roll, I asked each student his/her name, and I marked them present accordingly.  

So, I kept a running tally of students.  By my calculations, 6th period I should have had four students.

The bell rang to dismiss 5th period.  I waited.  The first two minutes of passing I wasn't worried.  The classroom was far from most of campus.  But when the tardy bell rang and the room was still empty, I was shocked.  No students?  Really?

What is the protocol for such a thing?  I waited ten minutes wondering if any student would wander in after being in another class (in an earlier period I got a call from another teacher who told me that he had one of my students finishing up a test, so this was possible).  But no one ever came.

I probably could have checked out.  I have left early when a teacher returns to school and tells me I can go.  I have left early when a coach comes to school to coach his team.  But I was stuck.  This teacher's 1st period was a guitar ensemble, and I had promised to be around after school so the students could retrieve their guitars.

So, I waited.  For nearly an hour.  

It was after the bell when I started to worry.  No one was there.  Did I stick around all 6th period just to have no one pick up his/her guitar.  Two minutes later, they all ambled in.  

It's these easy days that balance out the horrible ones.  

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Class That Would Not Start

Before snack at the continuation high school, the principal got on the PA to make two announcements to the students.  (1) As a fundraiser, the student council would be selling nachos.  (2) The "lunch" was free for Cinco de Mayo and as a thank you for them doing well on testing (which was Tuesday and Wednesday).  

Never mind that if some food is free, the likelihood that the students will buy the other food is slim.  Snack was busier than normal.  And when the bell rang to end snack, the kiddos weren't moving.

About half my class hovered at the door.  Since more students were outside than in classes, I couldn't convince them to come inside.  Rather than fight a losing battle, I decided to wait it out.  

Then the principal came back on the PA to say that there was more food if anyone wanted it.  Third period should have started five minutes prior, but 90% of my class left.  

About a half hour after third period should have started, the principal announced that all students should be in class.  Then the students returned, and I could take roll.

Did they do any work after this?  Of course not.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It Makes Sense

"We're so happy you're here.  Mr. L is mean.  He gave me 5 referrals this year.  He throws us out for no reason at all."

A student in 4th period told me this.  As he was talking to me, there was a group of students sitting on top of the desks in the back of the room.  When the bell rang, I had to insist to get them to sit in desks and to go to their assigned seats.  I had to ask for attention a couple times before I got it.  

1st and 2nd periods were completely different.  They came in quietly.  They were not talking when I gave instructions.  They did the assignment (busywork--read magazine, write summary) quietly.  When they finished the assignment, they found other work to do.  Two perfect classes.

The boy with the 5 referrals?  He spent time roaming the classroom until I insisted that he remain seated.  Two girls tried to swap seats.  A group of students sat and visited all period.  And this group was loud.  

I understood why Mr. L was so hard with this class.  What's sad is that they don't.