Thursday, January 28, 2010

Follow Up

I had this student in class again yesterday. And ever since that note, I like to keep an eye on her, just to see if she'll ever do work in class. Shocker: yesterday, she did actually work!

There was a lot of working going on. That is the mark of a good teacher. He's gotten his classes to the point where they sit down and do the assignment. These are the teachers that I like to sub for.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Crosswalk Stalker

It was 3rd period. Biology. I was walking the room, making sure the kiddos were on task.

Basically, I look at each student's desk. I make sure that the book is open and paper is out. If they appear to be working, then I pass by with no comment. If a student is not working, I stop to ask.

I had just about completed my circuit of the room. I asked the last pair of girls if they were going to do any work today (with the implication that their answer should be yes). I waited as the girls looked for books and paper. I was hovering.

"Thank you for bringing this up," one girl said.


The one girl was talking to the other girl, pretty much ignoring me (although my hovering was what prompted the thought): "I feel like those crosswalk guys, you know..."

"Crossing guards?" I offered.

"Yeah, them," she continued, still talking to the other girl. "I feel like crossing guards are my personal stalkers."

Girl 2: "They follow you home?"

Girl 1: "No, but they follow me across the street."

Girl 2: "Not all the way."

Girl 1: "Sometimes they cross all the way."

Girl 2: "They're there to help you."

Girl 1: "But they creep me out..."

I walked away at this point. I was offering nothing to the conversation. And I didn't want to laugh out loud at girl 1. I thought that might be rude.

Sometimes, the stuff that they say...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Accidental Calls

This is a repost from July 26, 2007 (from a previous blog platform).

I was in the same classroom yesterday. I looked over at the call button, and for some reason, this incident popped into my head. I thought I would share.

A funny thing happened in first period...

They don't have phones in the classrooms there. What they have is an intercom system. Push the button once and the office responds. Push the button multiple times and security comes running (used for emergencies or fights). I rarely need to use the intercom.

So, it's near the end of the period and the intercom goes off: "Office."

I didn't call them. That's when I saw the student. He was sitting on a stool right in front of the button.

Me to him: "Did you lean against the button?"

Then, me to the office: "Oops, sorry. Hit the button by mistake."

I glared at the student. Seconds later, security showed up.

He burst into the room: "What's wrong?"

I got to glare at the student again. At this point the student realized that sitting on that stool--not such a good idea.

He found himself another seat. And I had no more accidental office calls.

There is no longer a stool in front of that button. I wondered. But it's been a while since this incident, and there have been other changes to the classroom since then as well.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reasons for the Absence

"He was shot."

Students like to come up with over-the-top reasons why their teacher is out. I've heard all the stories, from being fired to being dead. Sometimes the details can be quite elaborate. And generally the student is just making the story up.

How did I know that the teacher I was subbing for today hadn't gotten shot? It seemed unlikely. I've subbed for this teacher many times before, and his room was set up just as it's always set up when he's out. I had a lesson plan. The work was neatly stacked. If he had been shot, then I would have found a whole different situation in class.

Most of the time, I have no idea why the teacher is out. And honestly, I don't care. Once I covered an English class for a teacher who was spending the week in Hawaii. That was a whole week's worth of work for me. All that really matters is that the teacher is going to be out.

Today, I was grateful for the work. And when the boy said that the teacher had been shot, most of the class didn't believe him anyway.

When their teacher returns tomorrow, any lingering doubt will be erased.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Watched Student

"Don't look at me. I can't work when people are looking at me."

So, I continued to watch him.

Today I covered biology. They had a test. This one boy was doing all the things one shouldn't do during a test: talking to a neighbor, looking around, and acting like he was going to do something inappropriate. Of course I was watching him.

Eventually, he settled. He got to work on his test. And I turned my attention to other things.

One of these days they'll get it. As long as they're complaining about me watching them, I'm going to watch them. The minute they get to work, they won't even notice me, and I won't have to keep an eye on them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Opportunity is All Wet

I ended up in that opportunity class again. The last time? I had five students, and they stayed fairly mellow. Today? I had something like nine students, and they would not do any work. Ugh!

They were punching the walls. They were antagonizing one another. They complained they were bored. I told them they could do their work. They didn't like that idea.

And then it started to rain.

The instructional assistant went out for some reason, and we could see the rain coming down. And suddenly, they were all fascinated by the rain. They had to look outside. They had to stand outside. And then they started to panic.

They had to walk home in it.

I reasoned that the rain might lessen or stop by the time they had to leave. They were dubious. And when it was time for them to leave, it was still raining hard.

Most called their parents for a ride home. I waited with a couple of them as they waited in the office for their rides. Then I went back to the classroom to write up the day. I cleaned up a little. And then I got ready to go.

I went outside to find that the rain had stopped. The sun was coming out.

I was right. The rain did stop when it was time to leave. When it was time for me to leave. They had to deal with the wet.

If they had been nicer to me, I might feel sorry for them. As it is, I'm sitting here chuckling.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Today is a school holiday (I'm sure you've heard), so I'm sitting at home, listening to the rain. I've been watching the back patio to make sure that it doesn't flood (this has been an issue in the past). It's been raining rather hard, and the power got knocked out for less than a minute about an hour ago.

It's supposed to rain all week, and I'm kind of dreading it. One of the high schools was not built with rain in mind. This week will be a nightmare.

There are no overhangs. The roof extends above most classroom doors just enough to drip right on my head as I'm unlocking the door. If I leave the door open, the rain can blow in.

A couple years back the district gave the school money to build rain shelters in the lunch area (the cafeteria can not hold the entire student body--not even a quarter of the student body). But that isn't enough. Most students end up getting very wet, or they find a nice teacher who will leave his/her classroom open for lunch.

The rain is really coming down now. There was one day where it was about this bad. The school flooded.

Each building contains around a dozen classrooms. There are six main buildings in the middle of the school. Between each building is a small grassy area.

This one day, the entire grassy area was under water. The water extended over the sidewalks, and up to the classroom doors. I was not in a room where the water got that high, but the classrooms on the opposite side from me might have had water in the rooms, that's how bad it was.

I wish I had an image of this. It was spectacular and frightening.

So, I wonder about this week. It seems like it'll be a wet one.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Intelligence Test Redux

Today I was covering an 8th grade science class. They had a test.

It's common practice for teachers to number their tests. That way it's easy for me to see if I've gotten all of the tests back. I usually fan them out so I can insert each test into its proper spot in the number order as students turn their tests in. So, when the last student turns in his/her test, the tests are already in order.

The trick is to get the kids to figure out what I'm up to, so instead of just putting the test on top of the pile, they file the tests in themselves. And since the room is (supposed to be) silent, the idea is to get them to figure it out without my explaining.

I've done this sort of thing before.

Usually, the kids figure it out and start putting their tests in the right order. But today I was dealing with 8th graders. They didn't get it. I had maybe five students catch on. Five students...all day.

It didn't matter how I had the tests lined up. Every student put his/her test on top of the thing. I even had one kid who took my fanned out system and "neatened" it into one stacked pile. Ugh!

Of course, I had other things to worry about. I had one student actually whisper to a neighbor, "What is the answer to number three?" Seriously.

In total I caught two cheaters and two students who were acting suspiciously. So, the day wasn't a total loss.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Extra Credit

"I don't have anything to do at home."

"My parent(s) won't believe me if I say I don't have any homework."

"But I like to do homework."

And my personal favorite: "I don't get enough homework."

These are all excuses I have heard at one time or another. They are lies.

The specific assignment is irrelevant--usually answering questions or doing math problems or the like. The instruction is for the students to start the assignment in class and finish it up for homework.

The above excuses are the explanation for why the student has not started the assignment in class. (The students who've offered that last one in the past get honorable mention in my note to the teacher. If they don't get enough homework, then their teacher needs to know.)

What is the student doing instead of the assignment? That's the problem.

So, it was nice to have this line in the lesson plan today: "If the students finish the assignment and turn it into you by the end of the period, they will get extra credit."

I told each period this. And most of the students did the assignment and turned it in. I had very few battles with students over doing their work (and not goofing off).

Except for the boy in 6th period. Extra credit? He didn't need extra credit.

Oh, so he had an A? With extra credit, he could turn that into an A+.

He told me that he was happy with an A. He didn't "need" an A+.

What? He didn't want to shock his parents?

Monday, January 11, 2010


KROQ-FM was having another Roq-of-the-'90s weekend this past weekend. They did this a couple weeks ago as well.

The choice of decade didn't bother me too much. We're moving into a new decade, so it's sort of fitting. But something did bother me about the theme.

I enjoyed it way too much.

I spent so much effort trying not to get stuck in the '80s. I didn't want to turn into one of those people who only listens to "oldies" stations (the kids' word, not mine). I wanted to remain fairly current.

I spent time listening to current radio. I turned the station when too many of the songs resonated from my childhood. I tried to favor the newer stuff.

I thought I succeeded. I was not stuck in the '80s. Unfortunately, it turns out that I got stuck in the '90s.

It's time to go back to the drawing board.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Today I had special ed. The 1st period class was reading The Secret Life of Bees.

The five students and I sat around a table. One student read until he felt like he read enough (about three paragraphs), and then the next student would read. Once she read as far as she felt like reading, she passed it on to the girl next to her. And so on.

Being a special ed. class, the students stumbled over words. They made a mess pronouncing some words that I didn't expect. But they asked for clarification when we hit words they didn't understand (I explained what the author meant by "pulpit voice" for example). And they tried to pronounce every word, even if they struggled.

Well, almost every word.

Being set in 1964 in the South, a certain racial epithet appeared more than once. And every student skipped it.

I didn't object. I wouldn't want to say that word either.

Usually, in that situation, one or two students would read the word as it is part of the text. But not this time. They all seemed offended by it. They weren't going anywhere near it.

We made decent progress in the book. And I didn't have to fight them once we got started. That's what I consider a pretty good class.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"New" Student

"I'm a new student. Where do I sit?"

Oscar waited until after the bell rang to ask. Usually new students find me when they first enter the room. And he was sitting in the one empty seat in the room. This was my warning.

I assigned Oscar that empty seat, and then I began class. They were to outline the next section in the textbook. Then they were to answer questions. It was a pretty straightforward assignment--standard stuff for a sub day.

As this was a freshman class (health), I walked the room to make sure that they got started. I had to stand over a couple of them as they fumbled with their folders (before I got there they made no attempt to find their materials). As I passed by, Oscar waved me over.

"I'm new. What do I need to do?"

The student seated next to Oscar asked why he was playing. Oscar repeated that he was a new student. I took Oscar's schedule which was out on his desk (the schedule I consulted to verify that he belonged in the class), flipped it over, and pointed to the "returning student" handwritten at the top.

"But that doesn't mean I was in this class before."

Not more than two minutes later, a student a couple seats behind noticed Oscar. "Oscar, you're back," he said.

The students around them laughed. They wondered why it took the boy so long to notice that Oscar was there.

Just to make sure, I flipped through the roll book. Sure enough, Oscar had been enrolled in the class back in October. The seat I put him in had been his seat previously. I knew this because Oscar's name had been erased.

What was the purpose of him telling me that he was new? And why did he keep insisting he was new, all evidence to the contrary?

I explained the assignment to him anyway. He ignored me. He didn't do any work.

Sigh. Freshmen. Sometimes they make no sense whatsoever.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My New Jacket

I just got a friendly email telling me that my clothing order has shipped. I should receive it in a day or two.

I finally broke down and ordered a winter coat. It wouldn't help me in a place where they have real winter--snow and below freezing temperatures, but it's just the right weight for winter in So. Cal.

I had been eyeing that jacket for a while now. Months. Then it got really cold (well, cold for So. Cal.). But I still waited.

Then the after-Christmas/end-of-year sales hit. The jacket was $75. I got it for $30. (I also broke down and bought some long sleeve shirts. I had two.)

So, of course, the "winter" weather has gone away. Today I'm wearing shorts. We're forecasted to have temperatures in the mid-70s. That seems accurate. I have all the doors and windows open.

This probably isn't the end of the cooler weather. And next year I will need that coat when we get our week of very cold temps. But somehow, I feel like I timed this all wrong.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Magnetic North

So, yeah, I haven't had a whole lot to say lately. But it's a new year, so I thought I should check in.

I came across this article, and I thought I would share. If the magnetic north pole is shifting, what is happening to the south pole? And are we getting ready for a magnetic reversal?

These are not questions that keep me up at night, but they are questions that I do ponder from time to time. Right now I have the time as nothing is on TV.