Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Corporation

One of the things I like about my TiVo (and miss in the other DVRs) is that it'll record programs that I might like. Many times these programs are things I've already seen, but sometimes, it finds something that I would never have noticed on my own.

Last week sometime, my TiVo recorded a documentary from LinkTV. It was called The Corporation. I finished watching it this morning. And I just had to share. (It has its own website here.)

It's one of those things that makes you think. Of course it's not on again in the near future (I checked). Look out for it. It's worth it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Every year at this time, I think back to my retail days. The nightmares should start soon.

I mostly worked evenings. So, when the whole Black Friday/doorbuster thing started, I barely noticed. At this time of year, I'd end up working until 3 AM (if I was lucky).

One year, though, I got to be there for the early opening. The crowds were wild. The store was packed. And things were going fine, until the customers went to check out.

The fairly new manager had done all the scheduling for the week. She scheduled all the new cashiers for the doorbuster opening. Disaster followed.

I still have not-so-good associations with this time of year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Waiting Room

We're out of school for the week. It was very nice of the district to give us this whole week off. I think it was worth it to start the school year before Labor Day.

Today was my day to get some errands taken care of. First on the list was taking my car in for its oil change.

What is it about waiting rooms? Why is the news always on? I guess it's better than morning talk shows, but it seems like every time I'm waiting for my car, I'm watching CNN. Well, I wasn't really watching it. I was working on some more beads.

While I was knitting, I was watching the others waiting with me. Every man in that waiting room had a laptop computer. The guy sitting next to me pulled his out, and I thought he was working on something important. I glanced over...he was on Facebook.

The other women in the room were reading. So, the TV wasn't really needed. Well, at least it wasn't silent in the room. That probably would have been worse.

My car didn't take as long as I had anticipated, so I ended up getting all my errands done much more quickly than I originally thought. Now, here's hoping I didn't forget anything else at the store. I really don't want to brave the grocery store crowds tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Algebra 1. First period. They had a packet on writing equations of lines. Most of them weren't doing it, so I was walking around the room in order to keep a closer eye on them.

I noticed a student writing on his desk. At least he was using a pencil. Unfortunately, he was drawing a gun.

I called him on it. I told him to clean it up.

First, he claimed he didn't do it. Since I witnessed him drawing, that excuse didn't fly. He continued by telling me that he was a designer, and if he cleaned the desk, his design would be gone. I didn't care, said so, and walked away.

Upon my return, I was surprised to find that he had still not cleaned off the graffiti. When I repeated that he needed to clean the desk, he claimed that he had.

The boy's hand was over the spot where the drawing was. I told him to move his hand. He did, keeping the doodle covered. I ended up telling him to move his hand three times before he revealed that the gun was still there.

As this had gone on way too long already, I asked the boy if he really wanted this incident in my note to his teacher. He said that he didn't. He argued a bit more, then finally wiped his markings off the desk.

I did put this in my note. If he had just cleaned the graffiti off the desk when I asked the first time, that would have been the end of it. I shouldn't have to repeatedly ask him to correct something that he shouldn't have done in the first place.

Freshmen! Sigh.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unexplained Technical Difficulties

Today was Turkey Day at the continuation high school. We sit in class, wait to be called, go eat, and then return to class. Dismissal is at noon. And I get paid for this.

This is the kind of day where no work gets done. (My students had today as a make up day for any work that they had not finished. So, surprisingly, some actually did work.) To pass the time, the administration puts on a movie for all of the classes.

There is a cable connection in each classroom. Since they only do this once a year, that connection is not connected to the TV. But I knew where it was, so I went about getting that set up.

I verified that the cable was connected to the wall. I verified that the cable I was using was the right one. And I tried to connect it to the TV. No luck.

After connecting, disconnecting, and reconnecting that cable, I finally got a picture. It was a little snowy, so I tried to tighten the connection. That's when I lost the picture entirely.

I finagled the thing some more, and I got it to work. Everything went fine for about 15 minutes. Then for no explicable reason, the picture went to snow and the sound went to white noise.

I managed to get it to work again. I went back to my seat. Then after another few minutes, the picture and sound went out just like they had the first time.

I was nowhere near the connections. The students had not gotten out of their seats, and they were nowhere near the TV. I lost the movie for no reason.

Not that it mattered. They weren't watching the movie.

Finally, after doing this three or four times, they called us to eat. After we got back, I didn't bother trying to get the movie back on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


7th grade. I was covering a "core" class, meaning that I had the same group of students for two periods. One period was devoted to English, the other to history.

The English period didn't go well. I was late to class (long story), so they were already wound up. Then the assignment was something that wound them up even further. I was so ready for the history period and a video.

I spent a good five minutes talking to the class about appropriate behavior during the video. Mostly it was this advice: "Don't talk." That's when I noticed that a boy in the corner of the room was bare chested.

The boy had removed his shirt.

Suddenly, the whole class was watching him. One girl turned her head and blocked her eyes. She couldn't look. The rest of the class watched as he got his shirt back on, found it was on the wrong way round, and twisted it around his body. That's when the class told him the shirt was on backwards.

I wasn't sure how to react. I think my mouth was hanging open. My face must have said it all. They knew I wasn't amused.

But the thing to do with middle schoolers is to get them on to the next thing (such an incident can ruin the rest of the period if I'm not careful). I had to get the video started. Luckily, I had no more unclothing issues after that.

What is it with 7th grade boys? This is not the first time such a thing has occurred in class. At least this time it wasn't his pants.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Boy Versus Girl

It was an odd day in the 8th grade classroom. I don't usually get 8th graders to work silently. So, while I didn't get full periods of silence, I did get silence for a large portion of the period, and that was enough to impress me.

Fourth period. I was called over because the girl had poked the boy with a pencil, so the boy had taken the pencil from the girl. The girl wanted her pencil back. The boy wanted the girl to stop pestering him.

I used to tell them to just date and get it over with, but since that statement usually gets protestations so loud that the entire class gets disrupted, I told the boy to give the girl her pencil back. While they pestered each other some more that period, they kept it quiet enough so that I didn't notice.

Then at the end of the period, they attracted my attention again. And here is the only reason I'm mentioning them. The boy said this:

"That is a girl-shaped chunk of evil."

Great line. Cutting and snarky. Bonus for it not being vulgar. I give it an A.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Yesterday was not a good day.

7th grade. English and history. These were "sheltered" classes--classes with students who know enough English to be out of English language development classes, but who aren't fluent enough to be in regular classes.

I'm not sure if it was just the age. These kids were all over the place.

They were supposed to be listening to someone read "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling. Usually that's an easy lesson. They follow along in the book while the CD plays. But they were having none of it.

The first group would not stop talking. I tried my usual tricks: the look, proximity, and flat out telling them to be quiet. I stopped the CD several times. Nothing worked.

"It's boring." "It's too long." These are the usual excuses. It doesn't matter if they don't like the story; they still have to follow along.

Then I had to give them a history test.

The teacher was going to be out for two days. She had two days of good lesson plans. But I was dreading today. The students asked if I was returning, and I told them yes. They groaned. A couple claimed they'd be ditching class today.

But then this morning I got a call. The sub caller needed me for another assignment. Hooray!

I hope today's sub is doing better with them. Maybe they'll like him/her better. Who knows? I'm just happy I didn't have to do battle with them today.

Happy Friday the 13th.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The F-Word

Same class today as yesterday. We're still reading Animal Farm.

It was 3rd period. One girl had a wad of tissue on her desk. She was coughing and she looked miserable. She had been absent yesterday. She probably should have stayed home today.

I don't remember why I said it. I'm sure something prompted it. I asked if she was sure she didn't have the flu.

The class was rather loud. Everyone was talking. So, I was surprised when the room went silent after I said it.

A couple students glanced sideways at her. I saw a boy go for the hand sanitizer (every class has a bottle of the stuff now). No one got too close.

Well, I guess we're all being careful. Even the teenagers.

And I couldn't let today pass without commenting. It's reverse sequential numbers day. 11-10-9.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Making Plans

I was back at the continuation high school today. I know, I live there.

I was back in the English class. They were reading along with a tape of Animal Farm by George Orwell. Then they had to write a paragraph summarizing the chapter. All in all, the day went pretty smoothly.

I walked the classroom to make sure that they were doing their paragraphs and to answer any questions. I noticed that one boy had not done any writing. We got into a discussion about the chapter. Then I got distracted by another question and I walked away. I don't think the boy ever did write his paragraph.

The only reason I mention him is that I noticed something on his desk. He and a neighboring girl had been exchanging notes. I assume that they were doing this while the story was playing (at least they weren't talking).

I managed to acquire the note. I thought I'd share (the grammar, punctuation, and spelling are theirs):

Girl: hey we should go to disneyland this week

Boy: |0| okay maybe Wednesday? (^-^) But we have to talk to [name redacted] (-.-) I don't have my cell phone so I cant text her! (-.-)

Girl: okay ill text her today when i get home and ill ask her.

Boy: alright then...But what day? ey? Buay? |0|
What day are we going to drink?

Girl: Well we should go wednesday b/c we don't come to school and we should drink on friday didn't your mom invited us over for her b-day this Saturday

Boy: AAAA (-.-) NOOO!
you really want to be w/my Moja?

I think what I find the strangest is the writing out of the emoticons. I think I translated them correctly.

Now I know why the boy didn't write anything. He wasn't listening. He was planning his week.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Ringleader

Friday was my last day in the opportunity class. I was grateful to be done with it. I was grateful to have had the work, but I was so happy that the week was over.

The day started out a bit like Thursday. All the students walked in. I handed them their first assignment. They settled and got to work. Then Enrique walked in.

I had had five students all week. The class had eight students enrolled. Three had been absent all week. The instructional aide and the probation officer had both told me that one of the missing was the instigator. I hoped that he would be absent all week. I almost got my wish.

As soon as Enrique walked in the room, the energy of the class changed. Everyone greeted him. And suddenly, none of them were doing any of the work.

Enrique had been sick all week. But now he had an audience, and he wanted to make the most of it.

He told a story about how he had spent the week with a girl. Jake's girlfriend. Jake didn't seem too upset. I could tell that it was all freshman bravado. And eventually I directed them all back to the assignment.

By the end of the day I had written one referral, sent three students to the probation officer, and sent three students too cool off outside. It was a trying day.

I am so glad that their teacher is back next week.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chasing a Raccoon

Today was day four with the opportunity class.

First thing this morning, they came in, sat down, and did their work peacefully. A minor miracle.

As they were working, Jake had a story to tell. I thought I'd share:

Jake had a run in with the police last night. He was out late, and he was running. The police pulled up beside him, flashed a light in his face, and asked him what he was doing.

Jake explained that he was chasing a raccoon.

Jake saw the raccoon earlier. He tried to take its picture with his cell phone, but it was too dark. Then the raccoon took off. Jake decided to chase it.

("Why?" I asked. What would he want with a raccoon? "I wanted to kick it," Jake replied. I tried explaining why this was not a good idea, but Jake didn't see my point.)

The cops told Jake that this was dangerous. The raccoon could attack and scratch him up badly. Jake could get rabies. Then the cops let Jake go ("I didn't even have to get in the car," he marveled).

Jake was relieved. He is on probation. He could have gone back to juvie.

Was any of this true? I have no idea. Jake told it convincingly. It could be true.

I'm never sure what to believe, so I listen and reserve judgement.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Teacher's Chair

Today was day three in the opportunity class.

The instructional aide (IA) has a nice office chair. Cushioned. With wheels. So, of course when the IA is out of the room (she works part time), all the kiddos want to sit in it.

Sean had claimed the chair. As he was working peacefully (a rare occurrence), I let him be. But Sean has a roaming problem, so after a while he got up to do something.

Santiago decided it was his turn to be in the chair. Sean returned. He wanted his spot back. Since Sean had been working so well, I told Santiago to go back to his seat. Unfortunately, Santiago has not been following my directions very well.

A battle followed. Santiago wouldn't get up. He wheeled the chair out the door. Sean pushed him back inside. With prejudice.

Oh, did I mention that there's a small step between the doorway and the outside?

There are five wheels on the chair. Only one broke. It snapped off when the chair hit the step. The chair almost toppled over. And both boys knew that they had gone way too far.

The boys scrambled to find glue, tape, or anything to fix the chair. In the end there was nothing they could do.

I got the task of explaining to the IA what happened to her chair. Luckily, the custodian was able to fix it, but only after the incident had been reported to the office.

At least this mellowed Sean and Santiago. For a little while.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Do the Math

Day two of the opportunity class.

I've got a mix of 8th, 9th, and 10th graders. First thing in the morning the high schoolers come in. Then an hour later the 8th graders show up. At about noon the high schoolers leave. The 8th graders stay until one.

It was the first hour. The high schoolers were doing some math--some 4th grade math. And they were having trouble. I had to demonstrate how to do long division. Then they could do it.

During the last hour I gave the 8th graders a math review sheet. It was probably from pre-algebra. Susan (the only girl) couldn't figure out four of the problems. I mentioned that they were done just like percents. She was fine after that. I didn't have to do anything else. She knew exactly what to do.

Getting any of them to do anything is hard. But I'm starting to get the picture. The older students don't understand. The younger students... Well, they have issues.

(Today they told me that they had all been to juvie. I think I was better off not knowing that.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week in Opportunity

I don't cover opportunity classes often. I try to avoid them. But this month our time sheets are due over a week early. This was not the time to turn down five days of work.

I never know what I'm walking into with these classes. I have had mellow groups. Usually, they're more on the crazy side. While today they weren't exactly mellow, they weren't as bad as they could have been.

They have some time carved out for PE. They got out a basketball and a football. Sean threw the football to Jake. Jake wasn't ready, and the football hit him in the face. Ouch!

Now, Jake wanted to throw something at Sean, and Sean was willing, feeling that he deserved to be hit. I was the only one who thought that this was not a solution. Eventually, they relented. They didn't actually play basketball or football, but they stopped throwing the ball at each other.

Well, for a while anyway.

It was a bit later that Jake managed to hit Sean with a ball. And since it was deliberate, he got a consequence. But it "wasn't fair" since Jake had been hit with the ball as well. Okay, fine. Both of them got the consequence.

As luck would have it, their probation officer was in the office when they were sent up. And she wasn't pleased...

I have a feeling it's going to be a long week.