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.