Saturday, July 31, 2010

No July 31st?

I don't know why these things come up, but as this was rather timely, I thought I'd share.

On Monday, I went over to help my 9-year-old niece clean out her closet.  As she did the work, I blathered on about random things.

I told her about the time when I was a child that I was paranoid about July having 31 days.  My child brain reasoned that since February sometimes has a 29th, then perhaps other months could lose their last day.  My niece thought that this logic was crazy, and she said so.

Of course, I was assured by my parents that July would always have 31 days.  And now I see the craziness of the thought.  (I was a small child.  I had many crazy worries.)  I hadn't thought of this for years.

Nothing quite like trying to entertain a child to bring out such strange memories.

Happy Birthday to me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Subbing Books

I have three subbing books on my shelves.  Since I wasn't in the mood to pontificate on anything today, I thought I'd share.  They are:

  1. The Substitute Teacher's Survival Guide  
  2. Desperately Seeking Humor: Incredible and Satirical Tales of a Substitute Teacher  
  3. Substitute Teaching: A Handbook for Hassle-Free Subbing  
I received these at gifts at various times.  I also received a few others that I have now passed on to someone else, but these were the ones I felt were worth keeping.  (Specifically, this book, which was interesting, but once I got one good tip from it, I didn't feel like I needed it any longer.)  

    The first book is very funny, but not worth the new price (get it used).  The third book is a very good, basic how-to book.  The second book is just funny and too, too true.  

    There's a way to add this to my sidebar, I think.  Perhaps I should look into that.  

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    No Mouse

    I used to have a MySpace account.  I started my blog there.  But after I had a few too many technical difficulties, I moved the blog here.  I have since closed the MySpace account.  I hate to lose all of my blogs from that time, so from time to time I'm going to repost them here. 

    I'm kind of going through the old posts randomly.  This one was originally posted on May 10, 2007. 

    Yesterday they were testing.  We had two large blocks of time in which they were to take these state-mandated tests.  The first block everything went fine.  But we were done for the second block, so they had to sit in the room for two hours while the rest of the campus finished up their testing. 

    There were only two computers in the room.  One was missing its mouse.

    They had work to do.  It was work that would have gotten them ahead.  But this is the continuation high school, and they don't do work to get ahead.  They don't do work that they feel is too hard.  And even though they had been warned that they would have two hours to sit with nothing to do, most of them did not bring in things to keep themselves occupied (two students showed up with books which was more than I thought would). 

    So, they all wanted to use the computers.  The computer with the mouse went first.  But there was this other computer that worked, and they had nothing to do.  First they went in search of a mouse to attach.

    Unfortunately, all the mouses (mice?  meeces?) were chained to the desks and computers.  So, that meant that they would have to try to use the computer without a mouse.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

    First one got on the computer.  He said that all you had to do was tab around the screen.  Well, that's true and all, but if these kids are unwilling to do actual work, how patient do you think they were with this computer?  One would try, then give up, then another would pick up in his place.  Finally they got to MySpace (it's blocked on school computers, but they all know ways around this), and so one would log on, check his messages, log off, and then another would repeat the process. 

    That was a very long two hours.

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Medical Misunderstanding

    I've got one last story from the opportunity class before I go back to my regularly scheduled summer.  (Well, at least I think this will be the last story.)  I think this happened on Wednesday, but the week is already getting a little fuzzy.

    It was later in the day (Santiago's last hour). The students were busy ignoring their assignments.  Gilberto had a question for me: "What's the name of that disease where your blood turns into water?"

    I had never heard of such a thing, and I said so.  Gilberto asked what blood diseases I had heard of, and I listed two.  Nope, these weren't it.  I said that I didn't think there was such a thing as what Gilberto described, but, "I'm not a medical expert.  I may never have heard of it."

    Gilberto started laughing.  He was saying and doing things that I did not quite understand.  Then I figured out what it was he was referencing.  When I said medical, he heard medical marijuana, and he was reacting as such.

    I attempted to explain that the word medical has nothing to do with illegal drugs (generally).  But he was having none of it.  Apparently, I had admitted to...  I'm not sure what I had admitted to.  There was a not in my sentence.

    But these kids hear what they want to hear.  And when they don't understand, they make assumptions, and no amount of explanation will dissuade them from the conclusion they jumped to (often over distances as vast as the Grand Canyon).

    Every time I used medical after that, I was greeted with fits of laughter.  They mimicked...well, you know.  However, soon enough the conversation drifted onto something else.

    Did they get any work done?  Of course not.

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    Early Exit

    I am done with the opportunity assignment even though the teacher has not returned.  There's this thing with teachers laid off becoming subs, and they get first pick of assignments, and...  I'm not going to go into it.  Friday turned out to be my last day.

    I spent the day helping the new sub.  Again, long story.

    All week I've been battling them about the time that they get off school.  (I outlined the opportunity schedule here.)  They're supposed to get out at about 1 PM.  They know this.  But they want to get out an hour earlier.

    Add to this that Friday was not a combined day.  This I explained to them.  More than once.  They complained. Still, I didn't see this coming.

    On Thursday, three of them threatened to leave an hour early.  When the bell rang (not their bell, and they know this), they walked out.  I thought Gilberto was gone.  I could not see him anywhere.  I rang the office, and suddenly, he was standing right outside the door.

    He got me.  Okay then.  I don't mind that, so long as he didn't leave.

    The same bell rang on Friday, and three of them walked out.  Santiago was done with his day, and he was allowed to leave.  However, both Carlos and Gilberto walked out, too.  We called them back, but they ignored us.

    The other sub called the office to report them.  She was told to fill out referral forms.  She was also told that she shouldn't have let them leave.

    This was very unfair.  It's not like we can lock the door from the inside (the office said to leave the door closed, which it had been).  If two of us couldn't keep the boys in the room, I don't know how a closed door would have helped.  (Sorry, venting.)

    Then Diego 2 was called up to the office.  His parents were there to pick him up.  The rest of the class was incensed.  How come they couldn't leave?  I told them if they could get their parents to come and pick them up, then they could leave.

    All this made the last hour of the day so much more peaceful.  Only Diego 1 remained to rile up the class.

    I'm not going to miss them.  Okay, I might miss them a little.

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Folding Paper

    On both Tuesday and Wednesday, after Santiago finished his work, he would go and get paper.  He then constructed some flower from it.  It wasn't until yesterday that I had the light bulb flash.  Santiago might like another challenge.  (I looked online for what this flower looks like, but I've had no luck.)

    Several years ago, I covered a 7th grade English/world history core class.  (I mentioned them here.)  They had a unit on Japan, and one of their assignments was to fold an origami crane.  Unfortunately, the instructions were less than helpful, and I was unable to decode them.  Since I returned to that class again and again, I looked to the Internet for help.

    I easily found this instruction sheet.  I printed out a copy and tried it.  After that, I saw how hard the instructions the class had were to follow, so I let various students look at my printout.  They easily made the crane from those.

    I held onto my printout.  I put it in the folder I keep for emergency fill in activities.  I easily laid my hands on it yesterday.  I was going to give it to Santiago.

    The instructional assistant (IA) made copies so that my copy wouldn't get lost.  And then Santiago angered the IA, so she didn't give him the sheet.  (As I feel it my duty to back up the IA in such circumstances, I didn't give it to him either.)

    Today was a different day, and when Santiago finished his first morning assignments (with minimum fuss), I gave him the crane instructions.  He was ready to learn a new paper folding trick.

    Two other students in the class were interested as well, so I gave them each a copy.

    The instructions are very detailed.  They were also a little over the heads of the students.  They needed help.

    I'm not sure if they had trouble with all the words, or if they just didn't have the patience to sit and read.  I had to translate everything.  So, I showed them the next step, and then I walked away.  Santiago made a mess of his first attempt, but he made like three or four today, and the last one looked pretty good.  Diego 2 (there are actually two Diegos in the class), made five or six.  Diego 1 (the boy mentioned yesterday) couldn't get through a second attempt.

    After this I insisted that certain assignments get completed.  And things went downhill from there.  The less said about the rest of the day, the better.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010


    Yesterday's two students today grew to five.  Only Santiago returned.  Carlos was mysteriously absent.  And the dynamics of the room completely changed.  

    To start off the day, I had three students who refused to do any work.  They sat and talked.  (At least they weren't doing anything worse.)  Eventually, they got the first assignment packet done (I warned them that it would be done or they would be working outside until it was done).  Then, since it was the first day for two of them, I asked them to copy the class rules and daily schedule.  

    They didn't have to think.  They didn't have to answer questions.  All they had to do was to copy already written out stuff onto a sheet of paper.  It should have taken them five minutes tops.  But they were having none of it.  

    Diego wanted to look something up on the Internet.  Either Santiago or the other boy told Diego of this video or something.  Diego wanted to see it.  So, he set up a computer.  

    The computer had been disconnected for the summer.  I didn't touch it.  Diego spent a good 20 minutes finding the right wires, connecting things, and turning the computer on.  It took a while for it to boot up.  But then he needed a password to log on, and that's where I had him.  

    Diego asked me to log on to the computer.  I told him I would as soon as he finished copying the classroom rules and daily schedule.  

    Oh, the whining.  He begged and pleaded for me to log on.  I repeated what I wanted.  He sat and complained.  So, instead of taking the five minutes to do as I asked, he spent a half hour trying to wear me down and get what he wanted.  

    Finally, he figured that he was getting nowhere with me, and he was ready to copy the classroom rules.  But they were written in cursive, and he couldn't read cursive (oh, the horror!).  I told him that one of his friends could read the rules to him so that he could write them down.  Somehow, they managed to waste more time on that.  

    Then, Santiago offered to let Diego copy his copy (he printed).  Diego was done in moments.  Then he asked me to log on to the computer again.  I reminded him that he still had one more thing to copy--the daily schedule.  He wailed.  I hadn't told him that!  

    I knew he was going to do that.  I had been careful to say, "copy the class rules and daily schedule," every time I said it for just that reason.  He only battled me for a couple minutes before he finally relented and copied the daily schedule.  

    True to my word, I logged on for him (after I checked to make sure that the copies were done).  Unfortunately, he was unable to find the thing he was looking for.  

    All that drama for Internet access, and he couldn't even find whatever it was that the boys told him about.  I think I enjoyed that failure a little too much.  

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Not Going to Move

    Today was the first day of school at the continuation high school.  Most of the students in the opportunity class didn't get the message.

    I had two students today.

    I threw work at them, and they sort of did it.  As the day wore on, they got less and less motivated.

    After snack they have PE.  Santiago was at least willing to grab a basketball and go outside.  Carlos needed a bit more persuasion.  After I got them outside, they sat on the concrete steps and refused to do anything.

    I considered it a victory to have gotten them outside.  Santiago had refused to do his math assignment earlier.  Carlos took forever to get through his work.  I told Carlos that if he didn't finish it by snack, he'd be outside until it was done.  That got him moving.

    I stood over them, trying to get them to move.  There were basketball hoops.  Santiago said that he hated basketball.  Okay then, why don't I get the football?  Nope, he said that he hated football too.

    Of course, they had both spent the morning resenting the fact that they had to be at school.  At least they did it calmly.

    After they had been outside for the requisite amount of time (I let them off 5 minutes early), we went back in and I gave them the next assignment.  They did it, sort of.

    Calls were made to the students who did not show today.  It's likely that I'll have a bigger group tomorrow.  (Insert scream here.)

    Monday, July 19, 2010


    Back in the '80s when I was a teenager, we took a family vacation to Las Vegas.  It was spring.  There was a cold wind constantly blowing, and it was very dry.  Soon after arriving, everything I touched gave me an electric shock.

    I could not touch anything.  Every door bit me.  Elevator buttons were treacherous.  If there was metal on it, I was going to be stung.

    Ever since then, I get wary whenever it gets too dry.  I'm still cautious picking up cans in the grocery store.  I hesitate at doors.  It's better when I haven't been shocked in a while (like now), but after one shock, I'm careful for days.

    On Friday I got a call from the district.  Was I available from Monday, July 19th to Tuesday, July 27th?  It wasn't until I got off the phone that I realized that there was something wrong with that assignment.  The continuation high school is starting school this week, but the first day of school is not on a Monday.

    The first day can be Tuesday, Thursday, or even Wednesday.  But it's never Monday.  I was called on Friday, but I couldn't call the school to find out what was going on because no one was at the school.

    There was nothing for it.  I had to go in even though I was pretty sure I was going to get stung.

    Well, of course no one knew why I was there.  I had figured it right.  Today was the teacher check in day--no students.  As no one knew why I was there, I turned around and went home.

    After I got home, I got a call from the school.  Actually, it hadn't been a mistake.  They wanted me there so that I could talk to the teacher who was going to be out (she's having surgery).  Could I come back?

    (The principal and principal's secretary aren't there first thing in the morning.  They stay late because of reentry and the adult school.  But they hadn't left word with the staff that is there first thing in the morning that I would be coming in.)

    I turned around and went back.

    The point of all of this is that I'm back to work.  Sort of.  I'll have new stories.  Did I mention--I'll be covering the opportunity class?

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Blog Improvements

    I've been working on the blog a bit.  I've changed the background and added a couple things to the sidebars.  I also finally added the followers link, and I'd love to have a few followers (it looks kinda pathetic all alone with no followers).

    I mention this in case you see this via the email subscription or on Facebook.  My changes won't be apparent there.  And, if you're seeing this on Facebook, you're probably seeing the rest of my blogs for this week too.  For some reason, Facebook only imports my blogs once a week.  (No, I don't write five posts in a day.)

    If you are seeing this elsewhere, feel free to follow the link to the original feed.  (If you're seeing this on Blogger, then the link will take you right back here.)

    I'm in the process of updating other things as well.  I just went through and added more recent "Previous Favorites".  If I missed one that you think I should add (or added one you think I shouldn't have), please feel free to tell me.

    I hope you like what I've done.  Comments welcome!

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Lending Supplies

    "You came to class unprepared...?"

    That's what I say to students when they tell me that they don't have paper or they don't have a pencil (or both).  Unfortunately, only once did the student appear worried after my statement.  The rest of the time, the students have some long, drawn-out explanation as to why they don't have their materials.

    What to do, then, when a student doesn't have the required materials?  This is my problem, because if the student isn't doing the assignment, he will find a different way to entertain himself, and that usually involves some form of misbehavior.

    After I utter the above phrase, many times a neighboring student will offer to lend the missing item.  I thank that student and make sure that the unprepared student thanks the peer as well.  Problem solved.  If only it was always that easy.

    I don't carry extra supplies with me.  I don't make it a habit to lend out paper.  I don't want to become the sub that always has an extra pencil for the students.  Besides, my bag is heavy enough.  I don't need to lug around extra stuff for students.  And I don't want to constantly replace the stuff that I won't get back.

    So, when they don't have their materials, it is a problem.

    I also try not to lend out the full-time teacher's supplies.  Unless the teacher left out stuff with that intent, I have to assume that the students are expected to have their stuff.  But sometimes the students say that the teacher does lend out pencils.  They could by lying, but I can't know that for sure.

    The next best thing is to make sure that I get the lent pencil back.

    It's so easy to forget who has what.  At the end of a period, it's also easy to forget that something was lent out.  So, it's best to ask for collateral up front (or "something of value" to those that don't know what collateral means).

    Some days I can get quite the collection.  Things like mp3 players (which they're not supposed to have at school), cell phones, and wallets are great.  I know they'll remember to return the pencil.  I've had students leave a whole backpack.  A student ID is okay.  They won't necessarily remember that they left it with me, but I know who left it, and I can remind them.

    I think my favorite thing to ask for is a shoe.  The kid won't forget to get a shoe back.  But most middle school teachers don't like the idea.  Middle schoolers without shoes?  Middle school classrooms tend to stink anyway.  That makes it so much worse.  But most students balk at the shoe idea anyway.  They find something else for me.

    Most days, the student without supplies finds a way to get the work done (or at least looks like she's working).  But not all days.

    Sometimes I shake my head and walk away.  Sure, it's better to keep the student busy.  But when all else fails, I can always write up a misbehaving student and kick her out of class.  The referral starts with, "Student came to class without materials, and then..."

    Luckily, most days this is only a minor issue.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    A Cozy for a Cell Phone

    Last week I talked about my bottle cozies.  There's another type of cozy that I knit that no one else seems to get.

    cell phone cozies

    I got the idea at school one day.  It was my lunch, and I was walking up through the school to the restroom.  I glanced into rooms with open doors as I passed.  (Doesn't everybody?)

    In one class, I saw an instructional assistant standing.  She was adjusting her cell phone.  She had it folded over her lanyard, but it was very awkward, because the cell phone didn't stay latched shut.  The lanyard prevented the cell phone from closing completely, so it kept slipping.  She'd catch it before it fell and then she'd try to put it back over her lanyard.

    I was by the room in a couple seconds, but an idea was born.

    Using those clips that they use to secure ID badges, a cell phone cover could clip onto a lanyard.  Or a belt.  Or a shirt.

    I made one for myself.  I use it all the time.

    my cell phone case

    And then it occurred to me that the same concept would work for mp3 players.

    mp3 player cozy

    I made them for my shop as well.

    Perhaps I have too much time on my hands.  Perhaps I need to spend a little more time knitting sweaters or scarves or such.  I don't know.  But I think these are cute, and I think that they're a good idea.  And I don't care if I'm the only one to think so.

    (Okay, I care.  Otherwise I wouldn't write a post defending the idea.)

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Antagonize Me

    I used to have a MySpace account.  I started my blog there.  But after I had a few too many technical difficulties, I moved the blog here.  I have since closed the MySpace account.  I hate to lose all of my blogs from that time, so from time to time I'm going to repost them here. 

    I'm kind of going through the old posts randomly.  This one was originally posted on September 1, 2007. 

    I mentioned that I worked on Thursday.  I was at the continuation high school.  At the end of July I was also there for the government class.  This time I was there for English, but again I had seniors. 

    I mention that I had seniors because I had some of the same students in the English class that I had had in the government class.  Two specifically.  Anthony and Sarah.  (I am changing their names for my purposes here.)  Anthony is black, Sarah is white.  (I mentioned this pair before in my July 28th post.)

    Anthony is a very entertaining individual.  But he gets on Sarah's last nerve.  This happened the last time I had the two.  Anthony was going on and on about various conspiracy theories (which I enjoyed), and Sarah was after him to shut up and sit down and do his work.  Eventually he settled.  I felt it was my duty to get Anthony working since that's what Sarah wanted to do.  If Anthony was talking, then Sarah didn't have a quiet classroom in which to do her work.

    So, when Anthony and Sarah were in my 6th period class on Thursday, I knew there'd be trouble.  Sure enough, Anthony started talking, and it bothered Sarah.  Then he found another girl to bother as well.  So, I felt it my duty to intervene.  I told Anthony to go and do something else and to not bother the girls.  (The girls could take care of themselves, but as the teacher in the room, I needed to act like the authority figure and stop the harassment.) 

    I got Anthony to move to another part of the room.  For about two minutes.  Then he went back to antagonize Sarah.  Sarah told him to stop antagonizing her.  So I chimed in with, "Anthony, come over here and antagonize me."  Probably not the best idea, but it was something.

    The idea of being invited to antagonize the teacher stirred Anthony's imagination.  He actually pulled a chair up to the front of the teacher's desk.  I figured that I could probably take whatever he dished out.  But he didn't do anything.  He didn't say anything.  He quickly lost interest and went back to his other seat. 

    Shortly after that I had to pass out their quiz (they were supposed to have 25 minutes to study for the thing).

    I suppose I should not allow myself to be entertained by such antics.  But I am.  I admit it, I am.

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Finishing a Scarf

    Last Wednesday, I was knitting while watching "Pretty Little Liars" which I had recorded on my DVR.  Well, I wasn't so much knitting as stitching together the finished squares of the Chameleon Scarf that I started on July 1st.  Of 2008.

    I'm not really that slow of a knitter.  I started the scarf, worked on it for about a month, and then I got distracted by other projects.  I only picked the thing up again a couple weeks ago.

    (Oh, and about the choice of shows?  I'm ashamed.  I only started watching it because it was "from the producers of 'The Vampire Diaries'," another show I'm ashamed to watch.  I'm so done with vampires.  But "The Vampire Diaries" is really, really good.  It's twisty and surprising.  I liked that I didn't see things coming.  So, I was hopeful that "Pretty Little Liars" would be similar.  We'll see.)

    So, I was sitting when I started to feel something.  Was I being paranoid, or was it an earthquake?

    I dropped the scarf into my lap.  I hit pause on my DVR.  I sat still.  The room was swaying.  It was an earthquake.

    It seemed to last for a while.  But if I hadn't been sitting, I probably wouldn't have felt it.  The earth stopped moving.  I hit play on the DVR.  I picked up my scarf.

    I finished the scarf shortly thereafter.  Here's what it looks like:

    scarf finished

    And here's another shot:  

    scarf finished too

    Okay, so enough with the earthquakes already.  It's beginning to feel like high school all over again. 

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    The Water Heater Saga

    I'm not sure when the water heater started leaking.  We didn't notice it until May.

    It was a wet winter.  Our back patio floods easily (drainage problem), so when a puddle of water appeared, we didn't know that anything was wrong.  It took a while to realize that the puddle was constant, there was no precipitation to cause it, and it really should have dried up a long time ago.

    That's when we noticed the pipe.  Water had never come from it before, but now there was a steady stream of drops.

    The only place it could have been coming from was the attic.

    We live in a three-story townhouse.  Above the third story is a crawl space that for lack of a better name I'm calling an attic.  The heater/ac unit is up there.  So is the water heater.

    The water heater had to be leaking.

    So, first we called the homeowners' insurance company.  It took them about a week to send somebody.  It took so long primarily because I was busy working, and they couldn't send someone after school hours or on the weekend.  They guy came, looked, and said yep, the water heater was leaking.

    As long as the water heater needed to be replaced, we thought about going tankless.  The guy gave us an estimate.  We wanted another.  So, we called the contractor from the kitchen remodel for a recommendation.

    A couple days later Rich came by.  He looked.  He explained why a tankless was a bad idea.  It turned out that the gas line running to the water heater was too small for a tankless water heater, and putting in the proper line would be prohibitively expensive.

    The insurance company would pay for the replacement of the water heater, provided we went through their company.  So, we made an appointment with the first guy.  It took about two weeks to get the appointment.

    The day of the appointment I had that surprise assignment, so I figured that it would be all done by the time I got home.  Unfortunately, things did not work out like that.

    It took two weeks to get the appointment because the guy was out of town.  According to the guy, he only found out that day that we were on his appointment list.  Because the water heater was in that attic, it would be more expensive for removal (a cost we had to cover).  He was going to need to bring in extra help that had not been scheduled.  He was going to need to reschedule the appointment.

    I wondered if he used to work for the local cable company.  (There's a reason most of the households around here have satellite TV.)

    After that run around, it was time to call Rich back.  He's a busy guy, so today was the first day he was available to come out.

    Was it difficult?  Sure.  We knew that going in.  But at least Rich didn't whine and complain about it.

    So, finally, we have a new water heater.  The old one was rusted along the bottom.  (I have pictures, but I haven't uploaded them yet.)

    They started at 7:30 AM.  They were done by noon.  (Rich had help.)  They had to empty the water heater (the drain spigot fell off in the process).  Then they had to take it down the ladder, through the hall, down the first set of stairs, down the second set of stairs, and out the door.  Then they had to get the new water heater back they way they had come.

    The pipe is no longer leaking.  Hopefully it'll stay that way.

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Making a Seating Chart

    Most teachers around here do leave seating charts for subs.  It makes things so much easier.  I have names to go with miscreants.  But sometimes, the teachers don't leave me a seating chart.  That's when I make one of my own.

    It's simple enough.  I make grids to carry with me for just such an eventuality.  I found that a simple 7 x 9 grid covers most classroom configurations.  If it's a strange setup, I just cross off boxes I don't need.  If it's a simple row-like setup, I can fold the thing in half and use it for two periods.

    Several years ago, I was called to cover an English class.  What I ended up with was a strange little setup.  There were three 8th grade teachers (an English teacher, a math teacher, and a history teacher) who had a team thing going.  For three periods, they traded off three classes.  These three classes were going on a field trip, but some students weren't going to be allowed to go.

    Another sub and I split those not going into two groups.  I ended up with about 15 students.  I made a seating chart of those who were with me, and for the three hours that I had them, I was able to keep pretty good tabs on them.

    After a short time, I didn't really need the seating chart.  My own seating chart was more vital another time.

    A few years ago, the English teachers were going to be out periodically for a curriculum meeting thing.  I got all the dates of a 7th grade core teacher (she had them for two periods of English and world history).  This particular teacher never has a seating chart because she is constantly changing the seating arrangement.

    She's pretty famous at the school for being a strict teacher.  I had subbed for her before, so I knew the seating chart issue.  I came prepared.

    That first day, as I called roll, I wrote a seating chart for myself.  Usually, when I do this, I leave the seating chart for the teacher so he/she knows where the students sat, just in case they were doing something they weren't supposed to.  This time, I took the seating charts home with me, and I typed them out on the computer.

    The next time I covered that class (almost two weeks later), I brought my seating charts.  I called roll again, and I changed those students who had been moved since the last time.  Less than a dozen students were in different seats, and it was easy enough for me to fix this on my seating chart.

    Within five days in this class (over a period of about two months) I learned many of their names.  And those I didn't know, I had that seating chart that I updated every time I was in the class.  It made discipline that much easier to handle.

    I ran into those students in other classes through the years.  It was interesting to see who ended up at the continuation high school versus those who ended up in AP classes.  I won't be seeing them anymore.  They all just graduated.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Dropper Bottle Cozies

    I'm a knitter who lives in Southern California.  I don't have much use for real winter wear, so I tend to knit things that will get use around here.  I carry a knitted purse.  The lanyard on my key chain is knit.

    I also like to find interesting ways to use knitted items.

    bottle cozies

    It started when someone (it might have been me) needed to carry around some dropper bottles.  (It was a while ago, so I've forgotten the exact circumstances.)  These dropper bottles contained herbal supplements that were to be added to water or under the tongue at various times during the day.

    The problem: the bottles are made of glass, and they clank about in purses or other bags.  While breakage wasn't likely, the clanking was annoying.

    dropper bottle with cozy 2

    That's when I came up with my solution.  I made a knit/crochet "cozy".  I put one on each bottle, and the clanking around problem was solved.  It also cushioned the thing so that breakage was even less likely.

    I don't carry around the bottles that frequently.  There's a good remedy for sore throats.  And then there was the time that I used it specifically for school.

    I was covering an 8th grade math class at the beginning of the year.  I was using an overhead.  I didn't have a spray bottle.  But I did have a dropper bottle.

    dropper bottle with cozy

    I filled the dropper bottle with water.  I put the cozy on it so that it wouldn't accidentally get smashed.  And when it was time to erase the overhead, I would put a bit of water from the dropper onto a paper towel and wipe the glass.

    It worked wonderfully.  I liked it better than using a spray bottle.  And the kids were fascinated.

    (I have some for sale here, here, here, and here.)

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    One of Those Days

    I used to have a MySpace account.  I started my blog there.  But after I had a few too many technical difficulties, I moved the blog here.  I have since closed the MySpace account.  I hate to lose all of my blogs from that time, so from time to time I'm going to repost them here.  

    I started the blog in May of 2006, so this is one of my early ones, from June 5, 2006.  

    Ever had one of those days where you felt like a complete idiot?

    Let's see, where to begin?

    I got to school this morning, and my assignment got changed on me.  This happens sometimes.  I think I'm subbing for one teacher, but when I get to the school secretary I'm given a different assignment.  This is not the sort of thing that bothers me too much (unless I end up getting sent to a class that I would have said no to, but that doesn't really happen).  I only mention it to set up what happened next.

    This teacher had a first period prep, so I was asked to cover another teacher's first period (again, nothing unusual there).  The funny thing was that I was sent to cover the first period of the teacher that I had originally been assigned to sub for.  ???  This teacher was still going to be out.  I have no idea why I was shifted, and really it makes no difference, but again, this is all set up.

    One more bit to set this all up.  Keys.  This school has key issues.  When a sub covers one period of a class, this sub (me) is not given a key to the classroom, so it becomes this issue of finding someone who has a key to let the sub (me) into the room.

    First period was fairly straightforward.  I had a small group because most of the class was gone on a field trip.  I passed out the assignment, broke up the group of boys that would not stop talking, and I had a fairly quiet time of it.  Then after the period was over, I waited for the next sub to come, for I know just what it's like to try to find an administrator or a security person to open the door.  He got there, and I had about two minutes to get to the class that I was to be in for the rest of the day.

    I had no key.  I don't know if they just didn't assign one for this classroom (it's in an odd area) or if someone (not me--I never lose keys!) lost it.  Anyway, I had to convince a neighbor to open the door for me, and then after the bell I had to figure out what they were doing.

    Usually this sort of thing is fairly straightforward.  But the lesson plans had a catch today.  If I was so-and-so we were to go do the library so that the 10th graders could finish typing their reports.  But I was not so-and-so, and it took me some time to locate my lesson plans.  (See, the library has this thing about subs taking classes there.  Long story.)  Once I did, I still got grief, for the kids wanted to go to the library.  I explained that we could not.  Arguments.  Kids getting in my face.  I got a little snippy with them.

    I nipped this issue in the bud in the next two periods, and things went nominally better, but there was still one nagging thing.  The teacher said that there was to be no talking.  I could not get them to quiet.

    The whole "quiet" issue is a pain.  If the teacher has very well behaved students and the students are used to working quietly, then I might have a chance.  But there's this thing I call "sub behavior".  There's a sub in the room, so the rules are different--what the teacher doesn't know won't hurt us (the students).

    So, I'm already dealing with this (and feeling inadequate) when we get to fourth period.  And the lock down.

    It was a sequence of bells that I had not heard before, but at least the kids knew what it was.  We closed the door.  And the kids had to know what was going on.  I called and called, and all I got was a busy signal, but eventually I learned what the school knew--it was something that had nothing directly to do with us.  So, we waited.  Luckily, we only went over 4th period by about 15 minutes, so all in all it wasn't too terrible.

    But for some reason, some kids have problems with the concept of a lock down.  A lock down means stay in the classroom with the door locked, and no one goes anywhere.  The kids know this.  But still...

    Student: "May I go to the bathroom?"

    Me: "No."

    Student: "But I really have to go."

    Me: "We're on lock down."

    And the rest of the day didn't go any better.  I got locked out of the room again at lunch (at some point I have to use the restroom), and I had no lesson plans for 6th period.  6th period came, and no students.  ???  I finally figured out (after the period had started) that they were in the theater (they have a performance coming up), and I learned that someone else was running the rehearsal (so my tardiness wasn't going to be an issue), but I still felt like an idiot.  I was so grateful when the day finally ended.

    Tomorrow's got to be a better day.

    As I've been reading through my old posts, I notice that my style has changed quite a bit.  Interesting.  

    Since this time, the key issue has improved considerably at this school.  We now can get keys to the rooms that we cover for only one period.  It might have something to do with a change in principals.  Several things changed for the better when the current principal took over.  

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    Chilly 4th

    It's been way cooler than usual this time of year.  I like it cooler generally, but lately I've been downright cold.  And that's just weird for July.

    Yesterday, I went over to my brother's house.  We did the usual barbecue followed by fireworks.

    As the sun was going down (even earlier than that) everyone started scrambling for sweaters.  Even me.  This year, I actually brought one (since I remembered last year had been just as unseasonably cool).

    It did warm up last summer, so I suspect that it'll warm up eventually.  I hope the overcast stuff goes away before the news people honor their threat to find a rhyme for this, like they did when the June gloom hit May and we got May gray.  I really don't want a rhyme for July.

    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Chocolate Chip Cookie Disaster

    On the 4th, my brother and sister-in-law are hosting their annual barbecue.  As I've done for the past couple years, I volunteered to bring chocolate chip cookies.  Yesterday, my afternoon opened up, so I decided to make them then.

    The recipe I use is a variation of the Toll House recipe.  Besides a couple tweaks to the recipe, I do the pan cookie variation.  I have made these cookies for years.  I am an expert.

    At least, I thought I was an expert.

    I mixed the batter.  I preheated the oven in convection mode.  I lined the cookie sheets with parchment.  (I do a double batch, so I need two.)  I put the pans in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.

    Everything was as I normally do it.

    At the 20 minute mark, I removed the pans from the oven.  The tops were a bit darker than usual, but the cookies usually end up being too underdone in the middle, so this was good.  The edges were a, but I could easily cut that part off.  I set the pans aside to cool.

    I went back to cut up the cookies (using a pizza cutter--the best tool for the job), and that's when I discovered the awful truth.

    I picked up a large chunk of soon-to-be cookie bars, and I looked underneath.  Black.  All black.  Completely charcoal.

    I think I screamed.

    After examining the whole pan, I found that one side wasn't completely black.  About a quarter of that pan was salvageable.  And the other pan turned out to be okay.  It was dark, but not black.  I would say that that pan was on the over side of done, but edible.

    It's a good thing that some of them turned out, because I was not about to make another batch.  I have time.  I just don't know if I want to go through that heartbreak again.  And I'm not in the mood to make another trip to the grocery store.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    Follow Through

    One of the surest ways to lose control of a class is to not follow through on a consequence for a student.  Once the class knows that there are no consequences, they will no longer feel the need to behave.

    I had one 8th grade teacher leave a movie (Charly).  (They had just finished reading excerpts from Flowers for Algernon.)  In the lesson plan, she said that I was to warn the classes that if there was any talking, I would turn off the movie and they would have "work" to do.  But she did not give me an alternative assignment.  The threat was supposed to be enough.

    But I know myself.  I can't pull off a bluff like that.  I need backup, because if I don't have an actual assignment for them, they will sense it.

    Just a couple weeks ago, I was sent to cover a class on my prep.  They were to watch Jumanji (it was the end of the year).  The teacher left me packets of work to give to anyone who wouldn't be silent during the movie.

    Several students challenged me.  "But we already did that."

    My reply: "Oh good, it's review.  It'll be easier to do the second time."

    I didn't have to send anyone out.

    So, for the first class, I came up with an assignment to give them.  I never had to use it, though.  They must have sensed that I was serious.

    Sometimes, they don't take me seriously.  There was this one class that I usually try to avoid (I looked for a post about this particular day, but apparently it was too traumatic for me to write about at the time).  I knew that I wasn't going to be able to bluff.

    These three boys would not stay seated.  After too many times out of their seats, I told them that if they got up one more time, they would be out of class with a referral for each.  They sat for maybe two minutes.  Then some girl walked by the door, and they all had to get up and flirt with her.

    They yowled when I gave them their referrals.  They had not recalled the previous threat.  I had not warned them, they said.  But I knew that if I didn't send them out, they would be even worse after this.  So, out they went.

    It didn't help the class much, but the class didn't get worse.

    I've seen what happens when I relent.  Suddenly, the student has won.  I've lost.  It's not a pretty sight.  The students know that they can talk me out of it, so they don't need to behave.  They have plenty of ready excuses.  The class goes downhill fast.

    So, no matter how much they beg or plead, when I have threatened a consequence, I have to follow through. And usually I get a thank you or two from the student who was trying to do what he/she was supposed to do all along.