Saturday, May 29, 2010


Oh, I forgot to mention...

Remember on Wednesday when I ran into that student at the craft store?  Or rather, when I snuck away before she had a chance to see me?  Well, she saw me.

I had her in class yesterday.  She asked.  I admitted that it was me.  We had a nice little conversation about crafting/jewelry making.

Funny how I ended up back in class with her so soon after.  I guess Wednesday's post needed a follow-up.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Making Me Look Bad

This upcoming weekend is a three-day weekend, so of course there was a shortage of subs.  Just about every teacher took today off (to make it a four-day weekend).  I was not thinking of this as I drove in this morning.  What I was thinking about was how I was going to tackle that opportunity class.

I had a game plan.  It included a spelling test and a lot of running around during PE.  I thought I was ready.

Then everything changed.

Turns out that since there were not enough subs today, each school got shorted a sub or two (or more).  The continuation high school had two teachers out, but I was the only sub assigned.  Administration made an executive decision to move me from the opportunity class to the government class (the same group that I had on Monday).

The opportunity kids got farmed out to other classes for the day.

I was thrilled.  Until second period.

First period was loud.  Very loud.  I gave them their assignment and then tried to rein in the noise.  Second period was a bit more wound up.  And that's where everything went sideways.

Two students asked to get work from another class.  I understood them to mean that they would get the work, then come back.  Unfortunately, they didn't understand the "come back" part.  So, when the office called for one of those boys, I had no idea where they were.

When students leave class and plan on remaining in another room, they are supposed to get a pass.  This pass is taken to the office so that the office knows where they are.  Two other students asked to go and remain in other classes.  Those two students got passes.  The office didn't call me looking for them.

Then the office called for another student.  Now, he was in class.  Or, rather, he had been in class when I took roll, and he had not asked to leave for any reason.  So, why was he missing?

After the office broadcast school wide over the PA, the student returned.  He had been outside.  ???  He didn't ask me if he could work outside (I probably would have said yes, and more importantly, I would have known where he was when the office called me).  I didn't even see him leave.

And that's what gets me.  I tend to notice when students leave the room.  If I have no idea where they are going or why, I stop them and question them.  I bring them back if they aren't just going out to blow their noses.  So, I should have seen that student leave.

At this point I felt like a complete idiot.  How long have I been subbing?  I should not be losing students.  I didn't lose any of the opportunity kids, and they tried to slip by me.

The rest of the day I had no issues.  Perhaps I was a bit more vigilant after the second period fiasco?  Nah.  The other classes were a bit more settled.  It was a personality thing.  Some classes are just crazier than others.

And it didn't help that it was a Friday before a three-day weekend.  I've had issues with classes before a break before.  I should have known that something was going to happen.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ringleader Redux

I kind of knew that my phone was going to ring this morning.  And when it did, I knew exactly what the sub caller was going to want me for--day two with the opportunity class.  Turned out that she needed me for a day three as well.  Sigh.  

I knew yesterday that the teacher was going to be out again.  There was an incident in class on Tuesday, and the teacher needs a couple days to recover (it's a big, ugly story for another post).  I had hoped that yesterday when the sub caller gave me a different assignment for Thursday that I would escape the opportunity class.  No such luck.  

Yesterday, the class worked so nicely until the 8th graders arrived.  Today, Enrique was back.  

Enrique had been in juvie.  He just got out, and now he's back at school.  And as before, he changed the timbre of the room.  Santiago, who had been pretty good yesterday, would not settle to do anything.  (And then I had to write him up, but that is also a story for another post.)  

First off, Enrique told me that I was supposed to remove his ankle bracelet.  As if I could do that.  As if I would want to do that if I could do that.  I'm not sure what reaction he was going for, but I don't think he got it  Then again, maybe he did, because until I sent him out on a "time out", he would not settle.  

I heard about his travels to Mississippi.  I heard that Susan was in juvie, too.  I heard various attempts at rap. And I was constantly going after him for his inappropriate language.  

And I get to deal with all of them (including Enrique if he shows up) again tomorrow.  

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Familiar Face

Today I had an opportunity class.  I've blogged about them before: this time, that same week, still in that week, and a bit more recently.  The make-up of the class has changed a bit since then.  I only remembered two of the students from my last time in the class.

They started off surprisingly good, and then the 8th graders showed up.  Things went downhill from there.  After school I needed a little pick-me-up, so I went out to the local craft store.

I needed buttons for a top that I had knit (birthday present).  While I was there, I perused the yarn and some of the jewelry findings.  The continuation high school was forgotten.  I felt like myself again.

Then I heard a very familiar voice.  Two women were discussing something or other about the beads (or fabric--I wasn't listening).  I looked over at them.  One of them was one of the students from the continuation high school (she wasn't in today's class, but I've had her in so many classes that I remember her name).

I realized that I should have expected this.  I was just down the street from the school (only a couple miles up the road).  I know the girl saw me, but she was busy with the other woman, so I quietly walked away.

That was disconcerting.

It's not the first time I've encountered students out in public.  Usually they say something to me before I recognize them.  And usually it's not right after I was at their school.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pleasant Surprise

I guess I'm having one of those weeks.  I didn't much want to work today, but I wasn't about to turn down the offered job when the sub caller called.  She said "special ed".  I understood what it actually was--the learning center.

I grumbled to myself as I got ready.  I wasn't in the mood for the learning center.  It is a special ed room, but there are five teachers in there.  Each teaches for two or three periods (usually in a different classroom), and then for the rest of the day they hang out in the learning center, helping kids who need extra help with their work.

It's not a bad gig.  It's just a bit awkward.  We subs aren't given keys to the other rooms, so we have to find someone to open those doors.  Then during the periods we're in the learning center, the kids either don't want our help (they'd rather have the help of those teachers that they know) or we do more of the assignment than they do.

I spent so much time dreading the day that I got out of the house late.

Traffic was a pain.  It normally isn't too bad that early in the morning, but this morning I seemed to attract the worst drivers.  Figures.

I got to school later than normal, but still early enough.  I checked in with the secretary.  Then, in passing she said, "And today is a minimum day.  Open House is tonight."

Minimum day!  Score!

Suddenly, I couldn't stop smiling.  I had had no idea.  (This was on the calendar, but since every school's open house is on a different day, I stopped keeping track of which was when.)

I didn't even mind that the teacher I was in for turned out to be a leslacker (term from this funny book).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Which Worksheet?

I didn't really want to work today.  I could have happily slept in until noon.  I groaned when the phone rang. 

The sub caller explained that the principal of the continuation high school had called her, but he talked so fast that she didn't catch the name of the teacher.  It was a mystery assignment. 

By the time I got to the school, they had sorted it all out.  I was in for the government/economics teacher.  But he had left no lesson plans. 

I have subbed for him many times.  The lesson plans are always the same.  They get a worksheet with questions, usually from their textbook.  The specific worksheet is different each time. 

While first period worked in their folders (that is the individually-paced class), I frantically searched for a worksheet for the rest of the classes.  This is hard, because I don't know where they are or what they've done.  I managed to find something that looked suitable. 

Then with less than 10 minutes of first period remaining, the secretary walked in with the lesson plans.  Whew! 

The teacher had emailed them.  Late.  (I did ask in the office if he had emailed lesson plans before school started.  They checked but did not find an email from him.)  The teacher included the worksheets for the day, but since this was via email, he only included one copy. 

For the passing period between first and second periods, I kicked out all the students, ran to the office, and made copies. 

(That sounds a lot more dramatic than it was.  The office is two doors down from the classroom.  Maximum class size is 25, so a class set doesn't take that long to run off.  And I'm at this school so much that somehow I got the code to the copier.  I easily made it back to class with copies before the tardy bell rang.) 

The rest of the day settled into routine.  I got to listen to them all discuss prom.  It was this past weekend.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Ballad of Mike and Ricky

(not their real names--their real names are much more distinctive)

Freshman English.  5th period.  The other classes warned me about them, so I was sort of prepared.

It was near the beginning of the period when Mike first accosted me.  He wanted me to sign his grade check.  Never mind that it wasn't Thursday (the normal day for grade checks).  He had written in a C+ as his grade.  I explained that since I didn't have access to his grades I wasn't going to sign.

Mike wouldn't take no for an answer.  I told him I would sign, but only if we changed his grade to N/A (not available), or he could wait until Monday.  I noticed that no other teacher had signed this grade check, yet Mike insisted that he needed it for football.  Finally, he relented, but I could tell that he was not pleased.

I tried to get on with the lesson plan, but period 5 was not cooperating.  Ricky was "helping" by correcting the sentence of the day on the board.  After he erased the corrections.  Then he erased the clean board.  And again.

I told Ricky to stop.  It was time to sit down.  Ricky informed me that Ricky wasn't his name; his name was John.  This might have been plausible if (1) there had been a John on the class roll, and (2) I didn't know him from last year.

"Ricky, I mean 'John', it's time to sit down."  (I managed to convey the quotes around John in my tone.)  I continued to call him "Ricky, I mean 'John'" for the rest of the period.

Then Mike got into the game.  He claimed his name was Pedro.  He explained that while he might have looked black, he was half Mexican (and half Chinese and half white and half something else--it went on and on).  I replied that he couldn't be all those halves, but that point was lost on him.

Pedro was actually the boy who sat behind him.  I don't know why Pedro let Mike use his name without protest.  He must have seen that I didn't believe Mike.  I knew Mike from last year, so the name change wasn't flying.

It was a very long period.  I won't even mention the disaster of a spelling test.

At the end of the day as I was packing up, something made me check the grades posted on the wall.  (I knew they were there for Mike; I didn't feel like checking up on him for his grade check.)  I found Mike's student number (on the roll sheet).  Low and behold, Mike had a 67%.  C+?  I don't think so.

I made sure to note that in my note to the teacher even though I had written quite a lot about Mike (and Ricky) already.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


It's election time at the high school.  The "vote for me" posters were all over the place.  Some of them were running for president.  And others were running for queen.

(Prom and ASB elections at the same time?  Yikes.)

One girl came in with a tray of brownies.  (They have no lockers at the school, so they have to carry everything with them all day.)  The rest of the students begged for one.  But no.  She was saving them for 8th graders.  She was planning to bribe them to vote for her.  (They'll be 9th graders next year and part of the high school, so they get to vote in this election.)

The brownies made it safely through the period.  I wonder if her ploy is going to work.

I thought I had seen it all.  Then one girl came in wearing a campaign T-shirt.  Her picture was on the front, and underneath was written what she was running for (president).  It looked like it had been professionally done.  Wow.

(Although, now that I think about it, there is an art class that does silk screen...)

Then in the next period, a boy was wearing a T-shirt from one of her opponents.  The face on the T-shirt wasn't his, so I guess he's a friend.  Apparently, they're going all out.  That's good.  It shows they want to win.  

Ah, the end of the year.  So much fun.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I hate stools.  I understand why teachers have them: they're tall, they fit nicely behind a work bench or podium, and they're compact.  But most of the time I would rather stand than sit on one.

I was thinking this when I went to sit down during first period.  I was going to jot down notes to the teacher about the class (I believe I said, "The class was so quiet it was eerie").  But as I sat down, I banged my left knee into a drawer pull so hard that I'm surprised that I don't have a bruise.

The class was working quietly, so I didn't scream or swear (though I wanted to).  And that's when the phone rang.

Some days the class phone never rings.  This morning, this was my third call.  (The first was from the teacher next door and the second was from the teacher I was subbing for.)  I hobbled over to the phone (of course it was on the other side of the room), each step reminding me of my mishap.

The call was from the secretary.  She needed me to cover an extra period.

After all this, I looked back at the class.  They were still working quietly.  I don't think they noticed.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I don't talk much about my writing, but today I'm going to make an exception.  My novels all end up being fantasy or sci fi (more fantasy than sci fi, but some sci fi all the same), so I'm going to enter one in this contest sponsored on the Guide to Literary Agents blog.  (One of the requirements is to link to the contest.)  

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Shaggy Defense

Thank you, Chris Hayes.  It now has a name.

This explains better than I could what the Shaggy Defense is.  Since I have encountered such things in the classroom before (like this time or this other time), I laughed pretty hard at the explanation.

Today I helped proctor an AP test in the morning (I'll write more about that another day), but in the afternoon I covered a 9th grade English class.  5th period was awful.  6th period was only nominally better.

They had an assignment covering The Good Earth.  They decided that they would rather play.  Paper airplanes sailed through the room.  ("How cliche," I said to them.  Then I took the time to explain what cliche meant.)  Then they added a paper clip or a pencil to the end of the paper airplane and threw it up so it would stick in the drop ceiling.

I happened to be looking in the right direction when the boy threw the airplane up to the ceiling again.  It stuck.

"I didn't do it," he said.  "It was him."  He indicated the boy on his left.

"I saw you do it," I said.

"But it wasn't me," he repeated.

"Are you really using the Shaggy Defense on me?" I asked.

He nodded! 

I have no idea if he knew what I meant, but I don't care.  He admitted it!  And the conversation was over.

Oooh, Shaggy Defense.  I'm going to use that one again.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


It looks like tomorrow's going to be a doozy...

As I was checking in this morning, the secretary was busy with a third teacher who was filling out a sub request for Friday.  The secretary kept handing the paper back to the teacher because she had forgotten something.  She did this like three times.  Then the teacher left, and the secretary could check me in.

When it was just the secretary and me, the secretary showed me one of the requests.  The date was filled in: May 14th.  The reason was there as well: "unchallenged".

The request was just missing one thing: the teacher's name.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Bad Place for a Doodle

Another AP test.  This one was English...

(There are two AP English tests.  One has something to do with literature and the other has more to do with writing.  The only thing I can retain is that one is for the seniors and one is for the juniors.  Today's test was for the juniors.)

At last week's history test I noticed one boy doodling instead of writing his essay.  After they finish a multiple choice section, the students get about two hours to write three essays.  Most of them were busily working, but this one boy was sitting there, drawing pictures all over his question booklet.

I wondered about it, but I didn't say anything to him.  This test is voluntary.  If he wanted to blow his chance at it, that was his choice.

But what I saw today was worse.

As I was doing one of my laps around the gym, I noticed that one boy was doodling nonsense--numbers, scribbles, and a few weird patterns.  Except this boy did all this in his answer booklet.

For the essay portion of the test, the students get two booklets.  One booklet has the questions.  They are allowed to make notes and use the booklet as scratch paper.  This booklet is not graded.  The second booklet is where they put their answers, and this one is seen by the graders.

The boy was scribbling all over the thing that was going to be graded.

I thought that was bad enough until I found a second boy doing the same thing.  (He drew a baseball diamond.)

Um, why?  Why would they spend the money?  Why would they waste their testing time?  (They were not done, or at least, they should not have been done as it was too early to have finished a decent essay.)

I had no answers.  At least the rest of the group took the thing seriously.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Not Stupid

I was back at the continuation high school today.  English class.  4th period was journalism.

The assignment was to read through a student news magazine, and then they were to answer questions on the back cover.  I've done this with them before, so I knew the drill.

I had seven students in class.

We read through the short news stories at the front.  Emily had not heard about the oil spill.  Then we read through the short articles in the back.  Everyone knew about the upcoming Karate Kid remake.

Then we got to the Debate article on the new Arizona immigration law.  I read through the article (it was my turn to read), and then we discussed.  The discussion ended up becoming a debate with good questions asked.  Emily wasn't sure what the big deal was, and her classmates tried to explain (I jumped in to help as well).

After we had exhausted the topic, Emily observed that the school could use a debate team.  Her friend replied that the school wouldn't because "they" thought the students were stupid.

I said that no one thought that the students at the school were stupid.  Just unmotivated.  I can't recall what words I used, but I phrased it nicely.  The girls boiled it down.  Most of the students just don't care.

See, not stupid.  They're perfectly aware of what got them to the continuation high school in the first place.

Then the girls realized that no one would join a debate team, and trying to get one started could be a waste of time.  That's when we moved on to the cover story of the magazine, and soon the period was over.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

No Early Dismissal

Yesterday I started out the day with AP kids and ended with middle school special ed.  Ah, the joys of subbing.

It was after testing time.  They were short subs (as is common this time of year), so I was sent to cover an 8th grade U.S. history class for the last two periods of the day.  Since it was special ed, the classes were small, and I had an instructional assistant  (IA) to help me.  

They were watching the video Uncle Tom's Cabin.  (It's near the end of the year.  8th grade U.S. history ends with the Civil War.)  They started the movie on Thursday.  

Once I got the video started, I found that I was dead tired.  But I was not tired enough not to pay attention to the class.  The first group I had was fine.  The second group needed more of my attention to keep quiet.  

A second IA came into the room.  She sat and watched the movie for a bit, but then her attention was diverted by another student.  He was seated at the desk that was way off to one side (the "bad" chair).  She took him outside to talk to him.  

I didn't hear much of the conversation, but from various snippets during class, I caught some of what was going on.  The boy was in trouble for leaving school early, or at least he had attempted to leave school early (I couldn't tell if he got away with the ploy or not).  

Around about the last five minutes of class, both IAs left to go home (that's pretty standard) taking a few students with them (they get to go early to the bus).  I was left with the students who had to stay until the end of the day, including that boy.  

First thing after both IAs were well away, the boy asked if he could use the restroom.  I told him he could...after the bell rang.  He argued the point a bit until he changed tactics.  He informed me that he got to leave one minute early.  

Um, really?  I held his eye.  I held it long enough that a smile broke out on his face.  Yeah, I thought so.  

As soon as the bell rang he bolted for the door.  As did the rest of the class.  And as I was packing up, I wrote a short note to the IA explaining what had happened.  

And he thought he was in trouble before...  

Friday, May 7, 2010

Smart Basketball?

Today I got to assist the assistant principal administer an AP test (U.S. history).

The College Board is very specific about how the test must be run.  If there are more than a certain number of students, more than one proctor is needed.  They hit that threshold, so I was the second body.  

I am pretty familiar with testing, as I have helped to proctor the CAHSEE many, many, many times.  But AP tests are different.  

We got through the first part which was the multiple choice portion of the test.  Then the kiddos got a 10 minute break, but they were not allowed to leave during that time.  We were in the gym, so while I grabbed my snack and ate, many of the students slipped onto the basketball court.  

I was surprised to hear dribbling.  Suddenly, a pick-up game broke out.  

I asked the assistant principal about it, and he informed me that it was tradition.  During AP tests, they always play basketball.  

I thought it was an interesting way to blow off steam.  They had their ten minutes, and then it was time to get on to the essay portion of the test.  As they were returning to their seats, one boy remarked, "That was the smartest game of basketball ever played."  

I thought it a rather bold statement.  I'm sure someone somewhere could come up with a smarter group playing basketball.  But I didn't say anything.  I thought the boy should have his moment of hubris.  

He needed to feel smart.  He still had three essays to write.  

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Bad Time

Today I had Earth science.  Mostly freshmen.  And I was not in the best mood to begin with.  

4th period was the worst.  I was about ready to explode, but they were completely oblivious.  They kept pushing and pushing.  (I got a chance to talk to a sub who had done a long-term gig with them earlier this year, and she said that 4th period was like that with her too.)  

They were supposed to be watching a video (this one), but many of them were sitting and talking.  One boy who was seated near me kept talking and talking.  I asked him to stop a couple times.  The third time?  He told me he hadn't been talking.  

I just about lost it right then and there.  

I couldn't hit him.  Yelling at him would have only made him laugh.  And I couldn't figure out how to word the referral.  

Of course, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened.  I let him know that I did not appreciate blatant lies.  And I wrote his name down (students whose names were left were warned they would receive consequences).  

I need a day off from these people.  

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Incident

I'm not sure exactly what happened.

These are not words I like to use in the note to the teacher.  Unfortunately, they were true, so I used them.

It was the passing period from 1st to 2nd period.  I had 7th grade core English/world history, so I had basically the same students for two periods (there were one or two who were only in 1st or 2nd).  The passing period is a break for them, so some were outside and some were inside.  I was standing at the front of the room looking out at the classroom, and I didn't see it.

What I did see was one boy push a girl.  He was crying and yelling.  He made some sort of growling guttural noise from the back of his throat.  He was clearly angry and upset.  The girl was laughing.

This was bad, and I tried to intervene, but there was no way for me to get to them (too many students milling about, too many desks in the way, and it happened too fast).  The boy stopped short of punching the girl.  He turned, grabbed his stuff, and fled the room.

(Normally leaving the room without permission is a no-no, but in this case I figured he was making sure that he didn't escalate the situation.)

By this time the period had started, but the class was going wild.  I attempted to restore calm, and I almost had them to a point where I could figure out what had happened when security walked in.  She restored calm in a hurry.  Then she called out the girl who had been shoved and a boy who had been nowhere near the incident.

I got the class back to work by threatening to send out anyone who even referred to the situation (it wasn't an idle threat--I would have done it had anyone tested me).  So, it wasn't until later that I learned that the random boy had shoved the first boy, and the girl had laughed at him.

Later, the assistant principal came in.  "What is going on in this class today?" he asked.  (I've known this AP for a while, so I knew I wasn't in trouble.)  He took me aside to get my take, as he said that the students involved were not all that reliable.  So, I got to admit to him that I didn't see what had caused the ruckus.

After class, I saw a knot of students standing together.  From their direction I heard that noise that the boy had made.  Several times.  (At least they kept it outside.)  3rd period knew the story, but they were good enough not to refer to it.

I'm pretty sure the story is known throughout the whole middle school by now.

I guess this brings my total classroom fights to four.  Although, I wonder if this counts as a fight.