Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Ever Ending Story

I went to see Up yesterday. I know, I'm a bit late and all, but there's nothing else in the theaters that I actually want to see. And I was in the mood for a movie.

I was late. The show started at 2, but it was more like 2:05 when I found my seat, and the theater lights were still on. Then the lights went down and the sound started, but there were only flashes of picture. I wondered for a bit if they were going all subliminal on us, but when the lights came back up, I was reminded of another movie I went to see a long time ago when I was still a kid.

The movie was The Neverending Story. It got a new title after we went to see it, because we had all sorts of technical difficulties. I think the movie stopped three times, though it could have been more. We missed a five minute portion of the movie due to what we thought was a break in the film. It was a disaster, and the theater was packed.

Although, this wasn't as bad as when I saw Candleshoe in elementary school. This was a school showing. Someone screwed up and switched reels on us, so we ended up seeing the ending before the middle.

So, the mess up with Up wasn't so bad. The manager came in and told us they were having technical difficulties--something about the bulb in the projector. They got it up and running for about a minute before the bulb "burned out" again. But the third time was the charm, and we got underway only 20 minutes late.

The wait was worth it. Good movie. And if worse had come to worst, there was another showing at 2:50, so we would have gotten a chance to see the movie anyway.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Related Story

Yesterday I went on a yarn run. I have a few projects in the idea stage, and they can't go any further until I have the yarn. So, out I went.

On the way to the store the radio broke in with news that Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital. On the way from the yarn store to Trader Joe's the radio announced his death. Everyone in Trader Joe's had gotten the news by the time I got there.

My first thought? I remembered the day that I subbed for the middle school choir over a month ago. Every subbing day I keep an eye and an ear out for a good story for the blog. Some days this is harder than others. Some days I have more than one good story. On this day the following was my other contender for the day.

The teacher left me a stack of DVDs to keep the class entertained. As usual, I was given the task of choosing, and as usual, I delegated this to the classes. (Most of the time I don't care what they watch so long as it's appropriate, and they're usually much more attentive if they choose the DVD.) One period picked Mulan. Another picked a different movie (I can't recall which one now). Fourth period picked Michael Jackson's HIStory. I was shocked. I thought that that was the last one any class would pick.

But, I let them pick, so I put it in.

Apparently, they had watched this before. And enjoyed it. These were 7th and 8th graders. They usually spend their time listening to more current music, so I was surprised that they knew who Michael Jackson was.

The next thing that surprised me was that they were singing along with the DVD. At first I couldn't figure out why the closed captioning was on, but then I realized that with the captioning they know the lyrics. If this had been another class, I would have been more concerned, but it was a choir class, so they should be singing.

We skipped around a bit. They liked "Beat It", "Billie Jean", and "Smooth Criminal". They had not had a chance to see all of "Thriller" before, so they got their chance this day. For a medley done at an MTV awards, half the class begged me to skip it while the other half wanted to see it. We watched it.

At one point I gleefully informed the class that a song ("Billie Jean") was popular when I was their age. I love messing with their minds. I don't know if they processed it.

Then the period was over and they went on their way. And yesterday I couldn't help but think of them. I wonder how they took the news.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Graduation Daydream Redux

Just in time for summer vacation I got a head cold. I've been miserable for the past couple days (the whole weekend, really). And as such, nothing terribly interesting happened. But as it is the end of the school year (we've been out for a week now), I thought it would be apropos to revisit a post I wrote last year about this time. I called it the Graduation Daydream.

It begins with the seniors. They're onstage in caps and gowns. They throw their mortar boards into the air. They cheer. Then, they hug each other. Some are in tears. And they all slowly leave the stage.

The stage isn't empty for long. The juniors, who had been watching all of this from the edge of the stage, run onstage to take the place of the departed seniors. They've made it! They are excited. They're jumping up and down, high-fiving each other, and running at each other doing chest bumps. They are so enjoying themselves that they don't see the scene before them, of all the lower grades lining up to take their new spots.

The sophomores now move into the spot just offstage that the juniors just vacated. They look around in wonder. There's this line behind them, but mostly they watch the new seniors in front of them. And the former freshmen also move up into their new spot.

The former 8th graders run into their new freshmen spot, and they're thrilled. They're in high school now, and they won't let anyone forget it. They're almost as excited as the new seniors, and some chaos ensues.

Now the 7th graders take over the 8th grade spot, and the former 6th graders are a bit in awe of their new position. They've finally finished elementary school, and they've come into this new middle school place. They feel a bit out of place as they look around.

The 5th graders kind of act like the 7th graders--now they're at the top of their school. And the lower grades all take up their new positions. The kindergartners slowly leave their initial position to take up the 1st grade spot. And now there's this big hole that the kindergartners have left, but it's not empty for long.

Along come the young 5-year-olds, some pulling their parents while others are being dragged. There are tears in the parents eyes as they place their children in that new spot--the future class of 2022. The parents look at the line of kids, and they see the seniors off in the distance. They are a bit awed by it all, and they wonder if they'll ever see the end of that line.

As the new kindergarten parents stand there, they see the graduates with their parents, celebrating. One of the graduate's parents passes by. She pats the young mother on her shoulder. The young parent wonders how the older one got through it all. The older parent explains that it seems like no time at all that she had been where the younger one was, and she wonders where the time went. They both shake their heads.

Yep, it's summer. It's time to repost my weird daydreams.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Slow News Day

Since I usually hear about these things last, I'm sure you've already heard about this (it was on The Countdown last night).

That got kinda ugly, didn't it? So, in case you didn't know...

You can call me Liz.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Brief Update

Yesterday was the last day of school, and now I'm beat. Suddenly, I have a touch of a cold. Again. Ah, the first day of summer break.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Day two as an assistant. Today I understood why my help was needed.

Most students enter a room calmly. Andres announced his presence. He headed right for the teacher's desk, and he sat in the teacher's chair. As this was the chair I had been using (I was standing as the class entered), I told Andres to find another seat.

"But Mr. D always lets me sit here."

A glance at the teacher told me this wasn't true, and the teacher told Andres to get to his own seat. He did, but then he started talking loudly. Humming. Rocking in his chair. I told him to settle down or he would spend the period in a not so nice place.

Then another student rushed across the room. Andres stood. They started menacing each other. I got right in the middle of the two of them and told them to settle down. No fighting.

"We're not going to fight. We're going to have a jerking contest."

Also inappropriate, and I said so.

I got busy dealing with other students in the classroom. Then I saw Mr. D kick Andres out. I wasn't at all surprised. But Andres was.

"But I didn't dooooo anything..."

Monday, June 15, 2009


Occasionally I get the weird ones. Today I was sent to a class to help the regular teacher give the final exam. There have been classroom control issues. (This is the science class that all who failed science last year take. It's a classroom control nightmare.)

It's the last week of school, so I'm game, I guess. Of course, no one told the teacher that they were sending him some help. I got to do that. Lovely.

There's nothing quite like explaining something that you don't fully understand yourself. And I spent the day feeling completely out of place. The teacher was there. I just sat around and watched the class.

Then again, I'm getting paid to sit and watch the class. It's better than not working, I suppose.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Big Oops

On my prep period today I covered a psychology class.  During the passing period I had enough time to get to class, get in the door, and locate the lesson plans.  After the bell I called out roll (skipping the seniors who are all gone--that was about half the list), and then I started in on today's lesson.

The teacher left the final for the class with a brief note.  The final was 100 questions, multiple choice.  I was to read out the answers to the final, but I was not to read out the letter of the correct choice.  It was very clear in the note, but sometimes I miss things.

I read out the first question and then I read out "A" followed by the answer.  Then I saw what the students had.  They had a study guide with all the questions but none of the answer choices.  (I heard a couple students whispering, "She's giving us the answers," which clued me in.)  They were to have gone through the questions, found the answers, and my job was to help them check to make sure they got the correct answers on their study guides.  

It happens.  I screw up sometimes.  I misread the lesson plans or I misinterpret something, and I do it wrong.  That's when I have to pay attention to the class--they usually clue me in to my mistake.

Once I caught my mistake, I made sure not to read out the letter answer.  I only read out the first one, so that's one point I gave them (out of 100 won't impact their scores that much).  And it sure got the class's attention, so that's a bonus.

I made sure to own up to my mistake in my note to the teacher.  It's not the worst thing that's ever happened while I was subbing for him.  That would be the fight between two girls (actual punches thrown), but that's another story.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An Elephant on Campus

The school year is just about over.  Today was "check out day" for the seniors--after today they are no longer at the school (although their graduation is next week).  We're getting down to it, and it shows.

I arrived at school early as always.  As I walked to my classroom for the day, I noticed that there were a lot of gawkers standing around.  They were all looking up.  And as the teachers were the ones who seemed the most interested, I stopped and looked around as well.  I didn't see anything.

I looked up in the trees.  Nothing.  But the two custodians in the cart were looking at something.  Then I saw it.

On the outside of the school theater is a large painting of the school mascot.  The face had been replaced with the head of an elephant.

Students were taking pictures.  Adults were wondering how anyone had gotten to the mural (it's a good ways up).  Who had done it?  Why?  None of the local rival high schools' mascots is an elephant, so why an elephant?

I had to get to work.  Luckily, my classroom was in viewing range of the modified mascot, so when one of the students said that the elephant head was washing off, I could look and see that indeed, the elephant head was coming off easily.  A custodian was on a huge ladder, and he appeared to be scrubbing at the artwork.  The gray easily yielded to show the mascot's face underneath.  

By the end of first period the elephant was a memory, only living on in students' cell phones.

Only once during the day did I hear any speculation about who had done it.  I may never know.  That's the thing about subbing.  I'm here one day, there another, so sometimes I don't get to hear all the latest news.  I hope I do though.  I am curious.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Responsibility Lite

It's been a long three days.  I haven't really talked about the 7th grade history class, and that was on purpose.  I didn't know where to begin.

This is the penultimate week of school.  The kids can smell summer.  And it shows in their behavior.

The assignment for the week was a study guide for their final.  I clearly stated at the beginning of each period what part of the study guide needed to be completed for a stamp on their stamp sheet (this is their credit for having completed the assignment).  I said at the end of each period what I needed to see finished the next day for the stamp.  And yet, I still got arguments.

For Monday they were to have completed the first section (there were four sections total).

"If I finish it for tomorrow, will you give me a stamp?"

They did not understand why I would not give them credit for finishing the assignment late.  Besides the fact that they spent the class period throwing things, running around the room, and just generally goofing off?  I should reward them for playing around for three days?  I don't think so.

Then today I had kids surprised when I actually enforced the same rule.  For today they were to have completed sections two and three, and yet I still got arguments about them not having completed the assignment.

"But you didn't tell me that we had to complete both sections!"

Um, right.  I said it three to four times each period.  It was written on the board.  And it's my fault they didn't know what the assignment was.  Plus, I still got kids asking me to stamp their sheet for Monday's assignment (the one that they didn't finish on Monday).  


It's the age, I think.  They're not accustomed to being held responsible for their actions.  Some of them actually do grow out of it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It's That Time

I'm still battling 7th graders (it's a three day assignment).  I'm not sure why I've been asking them these questions.  It's probably because I'm trying to distract them from whatever inappropriate conversation they're having en route to getting them back on task.

Today's topic was Ghostbusters.

I've seen several students wearing this image on T-shirts lately.  By lately, I mean since at least January (though I might have seen them as early as November).  I thought this curious.  The movie is 25 years old and not really all that "cool".

But everything '80's seems to be "cool" again.  The cut off jeans (although this was a throwback to the '60's at the time).  Rubik's cube (I see kids with these all the time).  And '80's theme dances and dress up days are way too frequent.

The boy told me that there are new Ghostbusters video games coming out.  Ah ha!  That makes some sort of sense.  Although, I wonder why they'd bring this franchise back.  

I guess we're due.  It's time for the '80's revival.  Why???

Monday, June 8, 2009

The New Thing

I noticed them all day, but it wasn't until 6th period that I thought to ask about them.  Everyone, including the boys, was wearing beaded bracelets.  They weren't especially pretty bracelets--they looked like something I could do with some plastic beads and elastic.  

I wasn't sure if it was a 7th grade thing (I hadn't noticed them in other classes) or if it was something new.  I asked where they got them.  One girl admitted that she made some, so apparently it's a middle school crafty thing.  Most of the girls had multiple ones (it looked a bit like the '80's were back) while the boys only wore one (on each wrist).  

I like to see that the kids make things.  At least they do some work.  Today's history assignment...not so much.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Under Siege

I knew I was in for it the minute I walked in the room.  There was something in the air.  The desks were arranged nicely, the room was neat, but the front of the room was too barren.  This was the classroom of a teacher under siege.

It was a very long day.  The class was 7th grade math--four periods of pre-algebra and one period of algebra.  7th graders in algebra tend to be the brighter of the bunch, but this group barely held it together.  I had no idea a class that was ostensibly doing its work could get that loud.

I thought the rest of the day was pretty bad, but I couldn't even get 6th period to quiet long enough so that I could introduce myself and explain the assignment (review questions for a benchmark exam that they're taking next week).  Usually I can stare the talkers down until they are shamed into silence by the rest of the class.  Not this group.

There was this one boy seated at a table at the front of the room.  Never a good sign.  I told him several times to get out a book and get to work.  He rocked in his chair.  He threw things across the room (accusing classmates of the act). He play acted kicking another kid when he was down.

That was it for me.  I went looking for a referral form.  I could not find one.  I was writing something out on notebook paper just so I'd have something to send with the boy when he decided that then would be a good time to turn on the TV in the classroom.  Someone "helpfully" turned out the lights, and the students prepared to watch a soap opera.

That was when the security person walked in.

She just poked her head in to check up.  Clearly the class was so loud that she felt the need to check in.  Perfect timing!  I told her that the boy had to go.  And she took him with her.  Hooray!

Somehow word got back to the middle school principal that the class was out of control, so he drove by in one of those golf carts.  The class had mostly settled by then (what a difference kicking one distraction out makes!), but the other boy who was on my radar called out, "Hi, Mr. K."  And Mr. K. pulled him out, too!  Oh, happy day.

Of course, it would have been happier if this had all happened earlier in the period.  As it was, by the time the two boys had been removed, we only had ten minutes left.  I was so relieved to hear the final bell.

I understand why the teacher was out.  She was obviously taking a mental health day.  Although, I don't know how much of her mental health still remains after dealing with those people all day.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Nap Time

Some days my biggest challenge is staying awake.

Most of the students in the art class were gone on a field trip.  These classes are usually very good.  Today the classes were very small as well.  I spent the day mentally rearranging my living room furniture.  

Third period they were supposed to be working on a particular program on the computers (digital art), but they were unsure of what to do.  If it was November I might have been more concerned, but since it's June, I let some things slide. Some made valiant efforts.  Some others surfed the Internet (one of the things they found).

It all balances out in the end.  Today balances Tuesday.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My Knitted Box

I've been working on a lot of little knitting projects lately.  I thought I'd show off one of my latest creations:

knitted box

...and here's another view:

knitted box too

It's simple garter stitch stripes.  I made it long enough to go around one of those strawberry baskets (that's what's making it stand up like a box), and then I sewed the cast on end to the bind off end (mostly because I hate Kitchener stitch). 

I sewed the sides to the top and bottom of the basket, and I glued fabric on the bottom and the sides of the inside.  And voila!  

Of course, now I have no idea what to do with it.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


The bell had barely rung when the 8th grade girl asked to use the restroom.  I was busy trying to get the class to settle so I could introduce myself and get them started on their assignment.  I didn't need someone distracting me from this process.

The longer I let a class sit and goof off, the harder it is to get them to act like a class and not a party.  I have to get right in there and get them settled or all is lost.  Students who absolutely, positively need something right at the start of the period get in the way of this process.  Whatever they need can wait.

I told the girl "not right now", and I tried to get the class's attention.  The girl argued with me, the upshot being that I wanted her to wait until I had the class under control.  I got the class's attention, and the girl walked out the door.

Huge mistake.  That is my one major pet peeve.  Students do not leave the classroom without my permission.

When the girl came back she claimed that I had given her permission to use the restroom.  Um, no, I hadn't.  She took a non-response to a question as tacit permission.  So, she just left.

I had other problems with this group.  I had two boys who could not sit down. They were either throwing things, dancing, or battling each other with rulers. Plus most of the class would not do the assignment.  

So, I meant to write the girl up, but I never got around to doing it.  She needed to be thrown out.  It was just so crazy that I didn't get the time.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Intricate Project

"What project is 1st period working on?" 6th period asked me today.

This teacher taught a different section of math each period.  On the board she had a grid with each period's assignment written out.  1st period had "project" written as the objective.  

"They're playing Monopoly," I told the class.

"Monopoly?  I thought they were playing Risk," one boy said.

I guess it was Risk last week.  

1st period was AP calculus.  They took the AP test in May (either the second or third week).  They are done.  So, at this time of year, all AP classes go into free time mode.  Some teachers show movies.  Some let the classes be.  This group is playing board games.  (Well, there's only five of them, so why not?)

However, they weren't playing Monopoly today.  The two boys who were winning had Spanish homework to finish, and the rest (who weren't doing so well) were ready to be done with the game.  (They were continuing a game that they left off on Friday.)

Yep, sometimes I'm just the babysitter.