Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Extra Period Assignment

It's one of the perils of being a sub. I'm talking about the extra period assignment.

Full-time teachers get a prep period, a time that they use for planning or grading or whatever else they may need to get done. Subs, however, don't need to plan. So, whenever a teacher needs coverage for one period, we subs are sent to cover. (Or sometimes they don't have enough subs to cover all the teachers, so they'll send a different sub each period; but that's for a different post.)

It's a bit irksome (I like a break in the day), but where I am we get paid for the extra, so I have no reason to complain.

Today I was covering for the photography teacher. It was a pretty easy gig. The students worked on what they had to work on, and I just had to periodically check the darkrooms to make sure the students weren't doing anything they shouldn't (they weren't).

On the prep, I was asked to cover another class. Severely handicapped special ed. Wow, what a difference!

The special ed. room had five or six aides. I ended up helping a couple kids who were working on their spelling (words like bite, dive, I, and tie). And they were struggling with it (alphabetizing and completing a crossword puzzle). I tried to be as helpful as I could. Basically, I followed the aides' lead.

The other thing about classes like these is that they are exhausting. When I went back to the photo class, I could have fallen asleep. (I didn't, of course.) It took a little time to transition back into regular class mode.

Today's prep period was 4th, so I had three periods before and two after the special ed. class. It was an interesting way to break up the day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Moonwalking Sub

"You're the best sub ever!"

That statement makes me nervous. I wonder what I did wrong. I don't mind the popularity. I do mind that somehow I let the students get away with something that I shouldn't have.

Today I had middle school choir. Their assignment was to work on their "group work". They have divided into small groups, and each group is to perform a song. Most of them picked fairly recent songs.

I spent the day watching them sing along to their songs and work out their choreography. I offered suggestions where I could. Mostly, I watched to make sure that they didn't get out of control (something that middle schoolers are expert at).

6th period was a bit different. One group chose a Beatles song. And the group nearest to me was doing this song from Mulan (yeah!!! I finally got something to embed):

As the group was working out their choreography, they decided that when "dark side of the moon" is sung, they should Moonwalk. They didn't know how, so they asked me if I did. (I didn't live through the '80's for nothing.)

So, I tried to demonstrate while wearing backless shoes (I do not recommend this). I think I explained it better than I did it. They tried. They'll need a little more practice.

After that, they called me the "best sub ever". Apparently, I didn't have much in the way of competition.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Working Vacation

Today was sort of a weird day. It was the first day of intersession at the continuation high school. They are on their three-week spring break. However, for this first week of vacation, classes are offered (kind of like a summer school) for those who want to earn a couple credits. I was brought in to help with the overflow students in the government class.

The class was set up for maximum earning of credits. And the government teacher warned the students that they were to be working and quiet. If they didn't want to be quiet, they didn't have to take the intersession class (intersession is voluntary).

My group was nice and peaceful. Then I noticed that one boy and one girl kept looking at each other and whispering. I started off by sitting near them, and then I warned them that they needed to be working and not talking or I would separate them.

By the time the four-hour class got its break, I realized that I was going to have to separate the girl and the boy. I moved the boy's stuff to another desk, and when they returned from their break, I explained that they had been talking too much.

The girl was not pleased. She argued with me. She explained that they were getting their work done. Why should I care if they were talking? They were multitasking.

Reminding the girl that the instruction had been to work quietly did not satisfy her. So, I reminded her that she did not need to be there, and I left it at that.

The boy turned around a couple times to whisper to the girl from across the room. And then the two of them got their revenge. Suddenly, they needed help with the assignment. Well, that's what I was there for.

I wonder. They were talking way too much to have been helping each other with the assignment. I heard some of the conversation. It wasn't work-related. But then again, they only asked for my help when they were separated. And they weren't nearly as far along in their work as the rest of the class was.

Even in the silent classes, there are students to look out for.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Surprise Drill

"Next period, we're going to have an earthquake evacuation drill."

Uh oh.

It was the morning announcements. The principal had a lot to say this morning, and he closed with that doozy.

Drills are usually planned. In advance. Days. Everybody knows about them ahead of time. This one was sprung on all of us. But we're adaptable.

So, that class came in. I mentioned the drill, but most of them were surprised (they had not been listening to the morning announcements). I quickly took roll, and then it was drill time.

I should mention that I had health classes today. Freshmen.

I explained to the class that we were having an earthquake, and they should duck and cover. Most of them did. A few boys, however, decided to play up the earthquake angle. One of them ran back and forth, acting like he was afraid of the ground shaking. Two others just did the scared face thing.

So, not only did I have to go after the kiddos who weren't ducking and covering, now I had to try to calm idiot boys who wanted to get as much play in as they could. I was not amused.

Luckily, the evacuation part of the drill was fine. Then we got back to class, and I had to get them back in classroom mode. They were having none of it. The same boys tried the play-around angle.

We did battle. I don't know if I won or lost, but we did get through the important stuff that was on the lesson plan.

I don't know why they thought they could get away with this stuff. It's not like I didn't know their names. Plus, I had a good seating chart to refresh my memory. I would not want to be them on Monday.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

School Career Fair

Ah, spring. It's the time of year when the schools do all of their interesting activities.

One of the things I like most about subbing is the unusual days. The days when it's not just classes-as-usual (with the exception of assembly days). Sure, the students are a little harder to handle, but then again, I don't have to worry about making them do work or keeping them quiet.

Today was the Career Fair. A bunch of representatives from local colleges, trade schools, and other career choice paths (for example, the police, the military, and such) set up tables and give talks to show students what choices are out there for them after graduation.

My job was to take roll and then keep order while someone presented in the classroom. Since this guy was a really good speaker, I didn't actually have to keep order. The students were interested. And polite. So, I got to sit and listen as well.

And I get paid for this.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nine Questions

Today I covered an ELD class. They were to finish watching a movie they started last week called Smoke Signals, and then after they had a writing assignment. Standard stuff.

Each period I showed rest of the movie, and then I went about explaining the writing assignment. My instructions went something like this:

"You need to pick three characters from the movie. Then you will answer these three questions for each character. You will be answering a total of nine questions."

Then I repeated the instruction in a slightly different way. I wanted to be clear. But apparently, I wasn't clear enough.

I spent the rest of each period walking the room. And when a student would finish, I'd look at his/her work. Then I would point out that he/she hadn't finished as he/she had only answered the three questions for one character.

By my second class I was ready to scream.

I swear, they don't listen. You might argue that they are English learners, so I should cut them some slack. But this was an advanced ELD class. I've had many of them in other classes. They understand English just fine. They turn off their attention when a sub is in the room. That has to be it.

What I wonder is, how should I have phrased the instructions? Or was I doomed from the start?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Classroom Decor

Ah, seniors.

It was one of those lovely days where I passed out work and they did it. I didn't get any whining or complaining. And although it took some effort on my part to get them to pay attention to what I had to say (the general instructions at the beginning of the period), once I had their attention, they listened.

It was a government class. The teacher had this on the wall...
C-SPAN American Presidents Timeline
...and I spent the day fascinated by it. (You can also find it here.)

It's hard to tell what it is in this image. All those lines are the lifetimes of all the presidents. The red part on their lines is when they were president. The other colors represent other positions: the military, senator, representative, governor, etc.

I kept going over to the poster to stare. I found it fascinating how the lines overlapped--who was alive when who was president. And then various bars would catch my eye and I'd have to walk over to see what they meant.

Yeah, I know, I'm weird. But stuff like this fascinates me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Asking for Help

I'm still recovering from that thing that kept me from working for a couple weeks. So, last night when I got home from school I came home and crashed. It wasn't that it was a difficult day, it was just that my full energy hasn't returned yet. That and the time change have left me a little weak.

Yesterday was similar to Tuesday. First thing in the afternoon, I was in charge of the students who had not finished the CAHSEE. Instead of six students overwriting their essay, I had two students struggling with the second section of the math test.

Both students were girls, and both of them were well-known to me. I prepared to sit back and relax (and stay out of their way as they finished up the test), but I was not to be so lucky. One of the girls needed help.

"The problem doesn't say whether to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. It has to be one of those. If the dimensions are ____ by ____, how do I find the area?"

I walked over. I glanced at the problem as she proceeded to multiply the two numbers. All the while she was wailing that her answer wouldn't be one of the choices. She got an answer, and sure enough, it was one of the choices.

"Is that right?" she asked.

In my most neutral tone, I told her to do what she thought was correct. Apparently my bland tone was bland enough, for she then complained that she wasn't sure what she should do. I walked away.

"I wish I could help you," I told her, "but this is the CAHSEE. I can't help you."

For the next couple minutes, the girl attempted to get help from me by explaining that I could help her. No one would know. She wasn't going to tell on me.

The problem with this is that I would know, and I would not be able to live with myself. It would have been cheating. But I knew that that explanation was not going to satisfy the girl. So, I repeated that she needed to pass the test on her own, and that I was confident that she could.

Then the room went silent and she went back to her test. It took her a lot less time to finish up than I thought it would. Oh, she complained a bit more. She wailed about having to guess. She wondered if she was reading the questions correctly. But she made progress.

I wish they would ask me for help in the classes when they're learning this stuff. That's when I can help them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Attack of the Essay

I was back at the continuation high school today. I was helping (sort of) with the CAHSEE administration. (I was doing more back up work than actual proctoring.)

It was afternoon. Most of the students had finished and had left for the day. I was left with the six students who needed extra time.

I was told that one of the boys had spent most of the morning staring off into space. That's why he was still working on the essay. After about an hour, I took a closer look at what he was doing. His essay was longer than the space allotted for it in the answer document. And his was the second essay I saw that had that problem.

This is not something that I thought I'd see. They leave ample room in the answer document. Pages. Usually the question I get is, "Do I have to fill up the whole space?"

I guess these students were overcompensating. This was the session for those who had failed the CAHSEE before, probably more than once. And they thought more would be better. I kind of wanted to shake them and tell them that there is such a thing as writing too much.

I wonder what they wrote about. Those essays had to ramble. I'm glad I don't have to grade them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Daylight Saving Drama

It was third period. They were supposed to be working on essays that they started last week (reflective essays). Instead, they were deep in conversation.

I stood in front of them in hopes that they would notice and maybe start doing the assignment. That's when the conversation came around to the time change.

"What time should it be now?" one of the students asked (not to me but to her peers).

I indicated that the clock in the back of the room had not been changed. (I don't know whose job it is to go around and fix the clocks, but they never get the clock in the room I'm in the day after the time change.)

Then someone else wanted to know if they had gained or lost an hour. I replied that we had lost an hour, but we lost that hour on Sunday. That they weren't buying. Apparently, no one had noticed that the time changed yesterday. They only caught on this morning.

"They wanted to know why I was an hour and 25 minutes late."

"I didn't understand why the time on the cable box and the time on the oven didn't agree."

(To which another student asked: "Which one did you believe?" The answer: "The oven.")

"At least the phones update themselves. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known."

Someone then asked why the whole time change thing occurred. I gave the usual explanation. So, they argued with me about it (like I'm the keeper of the time or something). Luckily, one of the boys realized how ridiculous it was to complain to me, and he suggested that the proper people to complain to were in Congress.

Then discussion turned to the places where they don't change the time, and whether or not they should move there. This is when I walked away, since I had failed to get them back to their essays (sigh).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

All Excuses

Today was my first day back at work in a while. Nothing has changed. The graphic art class I covered went along as usual.

I sub at the continuation high school a lot. However, when the topic of the continuation high school comes up at the traditional high schools, I always urge the kiddos to not end up there.

As I was walking the room, I overheard one of the students talking about his class choices. Apparently, it's time to select next year's classes. I inserted myself into the conversation, and then it took a turn. It all started with math.

The boy didn't want to take the next math in the sequence. The girl complained that she had failed algebra 1 twice. And then somehow, they ended up talking about summer school. The girl complained that she was going to need 8 hours a day of summer school (they offer 6 hours max.). She was behind in credits.

I knew where that was leading. The girl said that she was going to end up at the continuation high school next year. So, I asked why she was so behind. Did she need extra help? No, her previous high school wasn't releasing her transcript due to monies owed.

I asked why she couldn't go and pay up. She said it would take too long to get there (the old school is an hour away). Could she send them a check? She didn't have a checking account. I clarified--could she get her parent to send them a check? Her parent didn't have a checking account.

I walked away. The excuse train was building up speed, and I didn't want to get run over by it.

This explains the attitude of much of the student body of the continuation high school. None of this surprised me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lost Weeks

Um, yeah, it's been a while.

I'm still sick. Have been for over two weeks now. I'm not big on the blow-by-blow when it comes to feeling lousy, so I've stayed away. Well, that, and I just haven't had the energy to do more than check my email.

So, yeah, that's all. I've been watching TV, resting, and that's about it. But I'm feeling incrementally better each day, and I think I might be up to getting out of the house this week. Here's hoping.