Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sick Weekend

I had such a lovely weekend planned. And then BAM, I get hit with this misery of a (for want of a better word) cold. Ugh!

I have not heard out of my left ear since Friday night. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday asleep. I'm only now beginning to feel human again. I figured that today would be a good day to clear out my inboxes, only to discover that I couldn't connect to the Internet. ???

The Internet worked perfectly during the weekend (I wasn't on the computer, but I saw that it was working). I wasn't much in the mood to troubleshoot, but I had to figure out what was going on. As you can see, I figured it out. (Long story short: something got plugged into the phone line that shouldn't have been.)

So, now I'm going to go back and huddle beneath blankets and doze. I'm so ready to be done with this!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Weekly Rhythm

On Tuesday, 1st period did practically no work. Several students looked at me through half-closed eyes. I heard about how long the weekend was. Two students found all sorts of topics to discuss, and they went no where near the assignment.

On Wednesday, several of them asked about Tuesday's assignment. Some of them even started it. One of Tuesday's discussers took out a book, got paper, and started to work. The other one's desk remained empty the entire period.

Then Thursday, something weird happened. They all worked.

Practically everyone got out books and found paper. The room went silent. At the end of the period, I got a stack of work. Most students turned in two assignments. Complete!

What happened? I was curious, so I asked them why the sudden interest in their schoolwork. They informed me that they do work, they just need a day or two to get into a school mind-set.

Today? Is Friday. They went back to Tuesday's attitude. They don't work on Fridays.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Almost on Task

"Does writing on yourself cause skin cancer?"

I'm not the expert on such things, but my first thought is no, ink doesn't cause skin cancer. This was the answer the cluster of four (three girls, one boy) in 5th period wanted to hear. Apparently, one of their grandmothers had said that it does (probably in an attempt to get her to stop writing on herself). I stepped right in that one.

The conversation meandered into skin cancer and what can cause it. They decided that another teacher was the expert, but no, I would not allow them to go and ask him. And then the conversation wound its way onto other topics, so I walked away.

It was good that they were actually discussing a science topic, and one that was on topic. The biology chapter discussed cancer. Unfortunately, 5th period was an environmental science class, and they should have been studying resources and conservation.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


"I don't get number two," the student whined.

"It's on page 165," I replied.

This was not good enough. I was not giving him enough help.

I explained that he could read the indicated paragraphs (read it himself???) and he would find the answer in there. It was a very straightforward question--no tricks. But this was too hard for him, and so he was not going to do any more of the assignment.

Today was my second day of a week-long assignment in science at the continuation high school. These kids are used to giving up on things. If they don't feel like it, they won't put in the effort. So, I knew that I was going to need to give this boy a bit more of a push.

I talked the boy through the question. Then he needed help with number three (which was easier than number two). He joined me up in the front of the class, and he attempted to trade books with me. He tried very hard to keep his hands on the teacher's edition. That's what he wanted--to copy the answers and not think.

I got the teacher's edition back, and he made it through six reading questions. What about number seven? "I've done enough work today. I'm not doing any more."

He's done enough work? Seems to me that I was considering the questions more carefully than he was.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Teacher's Desk

Occasionally I'll get the apology (if I see the teacher): "Sorry about the mess." If the teacher knows that he'll be out, he might spend some time cleaning the desk off. I'll hear about this from the students: "Wow, I've never seen the top of the desk before. It's usually covered in papers."

Usually, I don't notice. I consider teacher's desks to be under SEP fields.

The teacher's desk today isn't the worst I've ever seen. The teacher with that distinction no longer works for this school district. But for some reason today it's annoying me.

Perhaps it's because I'm going to be here all week. Perhaps I'm feeling like I should be cleaning (I have a mess at home I've been avoiding). Whatever the reason, I really, really want to clean off this teacher's desk.

I won't. It's not my desk. I'm sure he has everything right where he needs it. And to rearrange another teacher's classroom is kind of rude (not to mention not in my job description).

It's been a long day. I had a bad night of not sleeping. And I'm ready for my day to be over. Perhaps tomorrow the desk won't bother me as much. (My SEP field generator must be on the fritz.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Poison Ivy Fight

"We once had a poison ivy fight. It was sooooo painful afterwards."

6th period hadn't started yet. (11th grade U.S. history.) The students were finding their seats. I happened to look over at the TA, and he started laughing. There was no help for it, I couldn't hold the laughter in.

The TA asked the question. The boy explained:

"We were weeding. We were wearing gloves. Then somebody happened to touch someone else's neck, and his neck got all red, and then..."

The boy who had prompted this story had left the room to get some water (he was talking of an ice fight). The TA was still laughing. And then the period started.

Sometimes... I do not understand the reasoning of 16-year-old boys. At least the TA got a kick out of it. He said that the story made his day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Younger students don't like making mistakes. Or, at least they don't like showing their mistakes. Often, they will spend a lot of time making sure that they've erased something they did wrong, be it a math problem or a complete sentence answer in English class. They frequently will crumple up a piece of paper and start over if for some reason their paper isn't neat enough.

Older students do not do this. If they accidentally skip number 3, they'll write #3 under #4 and draw arrows to indicate the mistake. They'll scratch out a wrong word and move on. Unless the assignment is supposed to be a pristine final draft, they won't worry about making things so terribly neat.

Today I was covering 9th grade English (honors). One girl was complaining that another was taking too much time whiting out her mistake. She told her to scratch it out and move on. She questioned why the girl would bother, especially since the assignment was a four question response to a story that we had been reading.

So, I told the girl about my observations. I figured she was old enough. I explained that the girl must have been more mature than her classmate. That seemed to satisfy her.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dreamy Hermes

There are some days that I just know I'm going to have an easy day. Today was one of those days (advanced classes, good teacher, always well-behaved kids). That's why I worked today even though I'm getting over a cold that I've been fighting all weekend. (It was a long, miserable weekend.)

They were watching The Odyssey. They had read it in class (7th grade English).

2nd period was really into the movie. Of course, they're 7th graders, so that means that they over react. Really, over over react. They laugh just a little too loud. They melodramatically hide their faces when something they don't want to see happens. That sort of thing.

There were four students who seemed to be the ringleaders of the overreaction. I kept my eye on them. So, that's why I noticed when the girl got interested in one of the actors.

When Hermes came on screen, this girl practically swooned. She told her neighbor that the guy was very good looking. When Hermes appeared again, she was very happy. She was so crushing on him.

It was rather entertaining to watch.

Eventually, the class settled a bit from the over reacting (that I was taking down names seemed to quell them a bit). And Hermes only made a couple brief appearances.

Funnily enough, the next group noticed Hermes too. They weren't impressed. They questioned his masculinity.

Friday, February 5, 2010


It was 4th period. 7th grade science (life science). They were watching a video on dinosaurs.

I sat in the back of the room, trying not to go crazy watching the same video for the fourth time. One boy got up to staple something. The stapler jammed.

Why he had to get up in the middle of the video is beyond me. It's a middle school thing. They have to do things right now. They haven't yet figured out that there are things that can wait until a more appropriate time.

The boy brought the stapler over to me. I went about removing the stuck staple. (I'm good at this. I eventually got the staple loose.)

So, I was distracted. And several girls took advantage of my distraction.

In order to keep the floors fairly scratch free, each chair has a cut tennis ball slipped over each leg. (I'm sure you've seen this trick used on walkers.) The tennis balls work pretty well. The only problem is that sometimes they fall off the chairs.

One of those tennis balls had come free, and four girls decided that kicking it around was a good use of their time. And they thought that I wouldn't notice as I was busy. ("She's fixing the stapler.")

Once I got the stapler fixed, the girls stopped their game. A couple times later one would kick the ball to another, and as they did it quietly, they thought they got away with it.

At the end of the period as they were packing up, I asked the girls if they enjoyed their game with the tennis ball.

"You saw us?"

Um, yeah, I did.

They had the decency to look embarrassed. I mentioned that in the note to their teacher. He can take that into consideration while he considers their consequence.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Missed the Intro

Today I ended up in one of those weird assignments that sometimes crop up. One teacher retired. The new teacher had been hired but her paperwork hadn't gone through. So, the class was temporarily without teacher while paperwork cleared (there are a bunch of hoops that a new teacher must jump through before she can be in the classroom).

Luckily, I only had this class for two days. Today, the new teacher had her orientation.

It was 5th period. The new teacher was sitting in the back of the room, observing. (She was also doing her planning for taking over the class.) At the beginning of the period, I informed the students that this was my last day with them, and the new teacher introduced herself to the class. Then we got on with the lesson.

Towards the end of the period, one boy told me that he wished I would stay. I wasn't sure why. The class hadn't enjoyed the day's lesson (reading To Kill a Mockingbird). Apparently, I was "chill" or something.

The other reason the comment was curious was because the new teacher was in the room. The other students pointed this out.

"I thought she was a student," the boy said. "I didn't realize that she was the new teacher."

Me: "But she introduced herself at the beginning of the period."

He said that he wasn't listening.

The room had been silent. They all turned in her direction. Yet, the boy didn't hear that they had a new teacher?

Wow. Now I can't be sure the students hear me even if they are looking at me and not talking. That's troubling.

Monday, February 1, 2010

No Materials

In the last year or so I've noticed that every teacher has started providing paper for the students at the continuation high school. They used to require that the students bring paper. The problem was, most of the students didn't. And they used that as their excuse.

They couldn't do any work if they had nothing to work on. So, in an effort to get the students to work, the teachers took away that excuse by providing paper.

This is the continuation high school. The school is smaller. The classes are smaller. And the students got there by their lack-of-work ethic. They are masters at the excuse.

The paper helps. Most of them take a sheet and work.

Most of the teachers require the students to bring their own pens (or pencils). Most of the students do (I guess these are easier to stash in a pocket).

It was third period. I passed out the assignment. They could write on it. Then a student asked me for a pen.

I didn't have one to lend out, so the student told me he couldn't work. His 1st, 2nd, and 4th period teachers always gave him pens, he told me. He didn't feel like he needed to bring any materials.

I guess I should have been happy that he showed up.