Friday, October 30, 2009

Plumbing Problem

I am sitting here waiting for a plumber to arrive. Why do they always give you a four-hour window when they don't get here until that last half hour?

So, basically I feel like an idiot. I found this and thought I'd try it (the toilet only started running recently). Looks pretty simple, right? I thought I could handle it.

I got all the way through it. I replaced the part. I connected the hose back up. Then I turned the water back on. And that's where my troubles started.

The thing that lets water in? That started dripping. A lot. And then the place where the hose connects to the toilet was dripping too. So, I turned off the water, tightened everything, and tried again.

In the end (after several attempts), I got it so that it wasn't dripping much. But it was still dripping. And rather than screw it up any more, I figured it was time to call a professional.

I'm not sure what lesson I'm taking away from this.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poe-try for Halloween

Today I was back at the continuation high school. In honor of Halloween, they were reading Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven".

But instead of reading it aloud or listening to it on CD, we watched The Simpsons' version. Remember it? (I wish I knew how to embed videos. That's the next Internet trick I plan to learn.)

The classes went very well. They usually ignore videos. This time I had rapt attention. I guess a cartoon is all it takes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

To Makeup or Not to Makeup

I was back at the continuation high school. Today was their first day back after a three-week break.

I don't get the whole apply-makeup-in-class thing that many of the girls do. I always thought that it made more sense to do that at home, before school. And who wants to do touch ups all day? But many of the girls pull out their makeup during class.

One girl was doing her makeup. She was seated next to a boy. Neither were working on the assignment. The boy was talking to the girl, and he was doing it loudly enough for me to hear. He wanted to know why the girl had to wear makeup.

The girl didn't get much of a chance to give him an answer. The boy kept talking. He complained about how when his family is going out, he has to wait for his sisters who take forever to get ready. He explained--an hour in the shower, an hour to do makeup, and hour for hair... His thought: this stuff was unnecessary.

The boy tried to get the other boys in class to agree with him. (The rest of the class was working on the assignment.) The other boys remained silent, focused. "Agree with me. Just say yes, you agree." No one did.

I don't know if anyone won that argument. The girl finished her touch ups and put her makeup away. And the boy moved on to other topics.

Did either of them turn in any work today? Of course not.

Friday, October 23, 2009


It happens.

I was just settling in to my prep period when I got a call from the secretary. She needed me to cover another class. So, I trekked across campus to cover an 8th grade English class.

After that, I went back to the art class that was my assignment for the day. They were watching a video (the less said about that...). The middle schoolers were a little antsy, but nothing to worry about (especially considering the video).

It was the end of 5th period. The video was over. I had turned on the lights and collected the students' notes (they always take notes for a video, otherwise they won't watch it). That's when one of the students mentioned that he had me twice. He had been in the English class, too.

Never fails. Unless the extra period I cover is something completely different (I have freshmen all day, and the extra period is a class of seniors), there are bound to be a couple students who end up in both the extra period and the class I'm covering all day.

In that situation, I tell the students that I'm following them. While it may not be deliberate, it's true.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Puppy Paper

Today I covered a high school special ed. English class. Each period was doing the same thing--they were working on a writing assignment.

They had gotten the writing assignment on Tuesday. They should have already finished it. Today they were supposed to learn how to peer edit. And for those that did the assignment, it worked out fine. But not everyone had done the assignment.

The instructional assistant (IA) went over the editing process with the students that had done the paper. I was supervising the students who had not.

There were two groups of non-completers. Group one was made up of students who had been absent. Those students needed a bit of an explanation ("A puppy followed your sister home. You need to tell her how to take care of it so that Mom and Dad will let her keep it."), and then they were on their way.

Group two was my main problem. They hadn't done the paper on Tuesday because they didn't want to. And they were having none of it today.

There is nothing quite so exhausting as watching students not work. Their lack-of-work ethic is strong. They would rather stare at a blank sheet of paper than write something on it. They would rather spend 15 minutes telling me how boring the assignment is, and then spend the rest of the class telling me that they don't have enough time to finish the thing now.

So, occasionally I would walk over, say something they ignored, and then go, sit, and watch the IA conduct class with those that put some effort into their schoolwork.

I am now ready for a nap.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

At Long Last

I get a lot of catalogs in the mail. They're fun to look through.

The other day I saw something that I had given up ever finding. The Day the Universe Changed is finally on DVD. Yeah!

I have been looking for this forever (okay, only since my Betamax tape became obsolete). I've wanted it so much. But then I saw the price.

So, I'll be waiting to acquire this a little bit longer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Listen to the Directions

6th period. 7th grade world history. They had a map of Latin America to label.

It was a busy work assignment. The teacher's absence wasn't planned, and the teacher next door had left me a bunch of activities for the kiddos to work on. Coloring a map? It's a nice way to kill a period.

The directions on the map said to label all the countries, the major bodies of water, and the equator. But the map also had been numbered, and the numbers did not correspond to the things the instructions said to label.

This is confusing for 7th graders (older students can usually look past such inconsistencies). So, I spent some time explaining the inconsistencies of the map.

I explained that #6 corresponded to the Amazon River which they did not need to label. I explained that while the Pacific Ocean had a number (14) the Atlantic Ocean did not, but both oceans needed to be labeled. I explained that South America was on one map in their book and Central America was on the map with North America (the previous page). I also explained that they could write names of countries on the side of the map if they could not fit their writing in the countries' outlines.

"What is #6 pointing to?"

"Why is there a 14 here but no number for this ocean?"

"What if I can't write the country's name in the space?"

"Where can I find these countries?" (The Central American countries.)

"Is that Alaska?" (The girl was pointing to Mexico.)

I answered none of these questions (except for the Alaska one). I kind of glared at them. I spent five minutes giving instructions which they did not hear. And it gets to me.

I got the class quiet. I warned them that I was going to answer many of their questions in the instructions. But I might as well be going "wah-wah" sometimes. Sometimes they just don't hear me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change Questions

Yes, it's that time of year again. Today is Blog Action Day. This year's topic is climate change.

About the time they announced this year's topic, I was subbing in an environmental science class at the continuation high school. Coincidentally, the chapter they were studying was about climate change. (I already mentioned this day here.)

One girl raised her hand. The question had to do with the effects of climate change on the planet. She asked me if polar bears not finding ice was an effect of climate change. I said that it was, and I moved on, surprised that she knew of this.

Then later in the day, a boy was answering a question about what individuals can do to stop climate change. It really didn't take a lot of prompting from me for him to come up with three. Recycling was the first thing he thought of. He also came up with conserving water (especially since we're in a drought here). I had to prompt him to have him come up with driving less.

Sometimes what they know surprises me. Teens do pay attention. It may not seem like it sometimes, but they do actually care.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


He's a character in The Crucible.

The Crucible is one of those works that I frequently come into contact with. It's kind of like To Kill a Mockingbird and The House on Mango Street. I've read all of these in different classes so many times that I'm sure I've read the whole thing, albeit in random out-of-order chunks.

Today was like all the others where the class was reading The Crucible. No one knows how to say Giles' name.

I've heard all sorts of interesting pronunciations. With a hard G. Sounding like the things fish breathe with. Rhymes with eels.

I always thought it was pronounced as if it rhymes with miles. So, that's how I say it.

I try to head them off. When finding who is going to read the part, I make sure to say the name. Yet still, I get every weird pronunciation of the name. I gently try to correct them, but they don't get it.

It's a minor irritation. But it happens every time it's on the lesson plan. Every time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Can't Multiply?

I have one more CAHSEE story. I promise, this is the last one until the next testing session.

It was Wednesday, the math day. It was before they had started the test, and I was walking the room. I found that one student had a calculator out. Calculators are not allowed, so I went over to tell the boy this.

The boy was surprised. He wanted to know how he was going to pass if he couldn't use a calculator. I informed him that the test was testing his arithmetic skills, so using a calculator would defeat that purpose.

The boy then informed me that he had never taken arithmetic. And the boy who was sitting at the same table told me the same thing. I reminded them that they had both passed elementary school (an assumption, but since they were sitting in a high school...). They learned to multiply and divide in elementary school.

The second boy told me that he had just moved here from Arkansas. He told me he hadn't learned to multiply and divide in Arkansas.

I wish I had a dollar for every time a student hold me he couldn't read. I hear it almost daily. Telling me that he can't multiply or divide? Different discipline, same idea. The assertion is ludicrous.

I told the second boy that I was sure he learned what he needed to know in Arkansas. And then I walked away before they tried to tell me that they didn't know how to count.

Later in the testing session the second boy had to be moved. The two boys were not acting as they should have acted in the testing room. I was not surprised.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Ordinary Pencil Caddy

This is my 400th post!

On Friday, I was sitting in the teacher's lounge 4th period. I was knitting beads. Another teacher walked in. She saw me knitting, and then she announced that she knew who I was.

This teacher taught two periods of CAHSEE English. So, she discussed how her students did on the CAHSEE on Tuesday. How well they thought they did. Was it hard? Did they think they passed?

Apparently, they wanted to talk about my pencil caddy.

pencil caddy

One of the jobs of test proctor is to give students newly sharpened pencils when they need them. I hated carrying around the pencils, so I made a container. I wear it across my body, like a purse. I can pull out pencils at will.

Now, not one student commented upon my caddy to me. But the English teacher told me that students couldn't stop talking about my caddy in class.

I didn't realize I was that much of a distraction. All I wanted to do was make my proctoring time easier.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Punishing the Victim?

It was 6th period. I was warned. I had to watch out for this group. (This was the history teacher for the same kids in this math class.)

I don't know what I did, but the class was pretty mellow. They weren't as loud as the previous two periods. Unfortunately, they weren't doing any work. So, I was walking the class, trying to get them on task.

And I was soooo tired. I've been dragging all week. Then last night I tried to go to bed really early (like 8 PM early), but the neighbors thought that Thursday night was a good night for a party and that 9:30 was a good time to take it outside and get very loud. No nice long night's sleep for me.

I don't know exactly what I was doing, but I happened to look up and catch a girl chasing a boy across the back of the classroom. Uh, no. I put a stop to that, and I assigned a consequence (a "think sheet").

The girl wasn't having any of it. She claimed she was the wronged party. The boy had smelled her hair!

I tried explaining that chasing the boy in a classroom was wrong. I told her that I had given the boy the same consequence. But that wasn't helping.

Apparently, another boy did the smelling of the hair at the behest of the first boy for a bet of $1. At least, I think the first boy was in it somehow. He might not have been. Honestly, I didn't care. All I knew was that two students were up and running around the room, and I couldn't allow that.

The alleged hair-smelling boy? He was studiously ignoring all of us. He was working on the assignment.

The girl refused to do the "think sheet". She was the victim!

I wrote this all down in the note. It was near the end of the period. And if the girl was going to refuse to follow my directions, so be it.

See, this sort of thing is what is going to get her into more trouble. Refusing to follow my directions? Her teacher can milk that all the way up to a referral.

I have no idea if I'll know how this turns out. If I find out, I'll pass it along.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dangerous Delivery

UPS no longer knocks. So, before locking up for the night, I poke my head out the front door just to make sure nothing was delivered, even if I'm not expecting anything.

Last night I was surprised to find a box. I was just about to bend over to pick it up when I saw movement in the planter next to the front porch. At first I thought I was imagining it, but I took an extra couple seconds to make sure and get a good look.


Yep, the skunk found my front door. It was about two feet from my package. And it was looking at me.

I closed the door. I uttered a few choice expletives.

I waited.

I didn't want to leave the package outside all night. I also didn't want to have to de-skunk. After a couple minutes I decided to chance it. I slowly opened the front door again.

The skunk had fled.

Box retrieved safely. Whew!

Considering how often I get a whiff of eau de skunk on the wind, I think I've gotten off pretty light. But I would still like to stop adding entries to skunk sighting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Looking for a Loophole

It's that time of year again. CAHSEE time.

I've become quite the expert at this. I can handle most of the questions that they throw at me.

It was first thing in the morning. The students were checking in. I was handing out their answer booklets. One student was concerned. There was something marked in the math box. (Today was the English Language Arts test.)

Me: "You've passed the math part, right?"

Student: "Yes."

Me: "That bubble just means that you're done with the math. Don't worry about it."

Second Student: "So, if I mark that bubble, does that mean that I won't have to take the math part tomorrow?"

Because, I guess, if he tells the testing service that he's already passed the math section, he will be believed? It's not like they keep records or anything. Wait, they do! And they know perfectly well that he hasn't passed the math.

I explained, patiently, that while he might get away with missing the math part this time, they would make him take the test again. He does not get a diploma without passing both parts of the CAHSEE. So, he might as well show up tomorrow and get it taken care of.

Besides, there's a list of students who need to take the test. If they don't show up to the testing location, the administrators go looking for them. They pull the students out of class. The students end up with us anyway.

If it were that easy to get out of taking the test, everyone would do it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Anxious to Leave

Yesterday was my last subbing day at the continuation high school for a bit. They are out for the next three weeks for their fall break (they did start their school year in July, after all). Apparently, they were anxious to start their vacation.

It was the last class of the day (on a Friday, that meant that it ended at noon). Same class as yesterday. We were finishing up the movie.

The teacher had given them 18 questions to answer. These questions referenced things that happened in the movie and the questions were in order. (Students tend to ignore videos of any type if they do not have something to do that makes them pay attention. Even then, many don't.) Question 18 happened about three minutes before the final credits.

The periods before did the same thing. Once they had answered the last question, they put their notebooks back, sat back down, and watched the movie until the end of the period or the end of the movie (some classes didn't finish the movie). This was acceptable behavior.

The last class? They packed up, and then many of them walked out the door. We still had five minutes of class left!

I went to retrieve these boys (all boys as no girls pulled this). I told them to go back inside, sit down, and finish watching the movie. They whined. But eventually I got most of them back.

Just when I got them settled, the final credits rolled. And all the boys got up, went to the door, and many of them went through. I shooed them back inside and closed the door.

"The bell rang."

Um, no, it had not. I know because I didn't hear it, and I didn't see any other students walking out of their classrooms.

Luckily, the argument didn't last long, for then the bell did ring. "Now you can leave," I said to them as they filed out.

Now that I think about it, this sort of thing happens every time I'm there before a break. So, I shouldn't have been surprised.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Making Bracelets in Class

I've been knitting all day. I had to do something. Watching The Grapes of Wrath over and over again was making me go a little crazy.

(I've been working on beads. Turns out that they're a great take-along project.)

It was 4th period. I passed out the question worksheet, took roll, and started the movie. Once I got fully settled, I looked up. There was a girl making those beaded bracelets that all the kids seem to be wearing these days.

I probably should have told her to stop. But as long as she was quiet... (I don't much care if they have other work, draw, or do something else while the video is playing. Just so long as they aren't talking.)

It all started out well enough. But then her neighbors wanted to make their own. And somehow the conversations started. Uh, no.

I completely understand the need to do something with your hands while watching a movie. However, I had instructed them to remain quiet and attentive to the movie. So, I had to keep after them to shush.

Sigh. Do I have to go after them for crafty things, too?