Friday, October 29, 2010

New Voters?

Friday at the continuation high school.  Most of the students either bought out or just didn't show, so the classes were even smaller than normal.  It was a very peaceful day.

Unfortunately, this doesn't make for an interesting post.

It was Tuesday or Wednesday when one student started railing against politicians.  He was dissatisfied with the state of what he heard on the news.  It was too much Tiger Woods and not enough stuff that really mattered.

I asked him if he was going to vote.  No.  (Well, first I asked if he was over 18.  He was.)  He wasn't going to buy into all of that.  I told him that he could vote the idiots out of office.  He wasn't interested.

Various election subjects came up during the week.  Many of the students were mixed up about the various races.  I clarified that there was a governor's race and a race for the Senate.  (They thought Whitman, Brown, and Boxer were all in the same race.)  They had seen the ads, but I don't think they were paying attention.  And they weren't going to vote anyway...

So, I was surprised yesterday when one girl started in on who she was going to vote for.  She was really fired up.  She had one issue that she was interested in--the death penalty.  She's against, and that's her only criterion for who she's going to vote for for governor.

I stood there and let her talk.  I pointed out that there were other races as well and that she should research where those candidates stood on her issue.

I was glad that there was one student who was into this election.  It's so much better than apathy.  I don't even care if I agree with the students or not.  I just want to see them involved.

There is one thing that they are fired up about, though.  Proposition 19.  So, I was surprised when the boy sitting next to this girl told me about the evils of that proposition.  Of course, he's not registered to vote.

(I've been hearing about Proposition 19 from them for months.  Mostly, the sentiment I've heard is pro.)

It's too bad that the topic didn't come up earlier.  Those who are over 18 could have gotten registered and voted if they had only known about it before the deadline.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Few Blog Updates

As I was writing my post on Monday, I had a thought.  I sub at the continuation high school a lot.  There are about 15 teachers there.  Why don't I label those posts with regard to which class I was in? 

Things kind of snowballed from there.  Today I thought it time to point out a few of the "improvements" I've been making to the blog. 

First off, I went through and tried to label those posts with the class they belonged to.  I wasn't completely successful as sometimes the post wasn't about the class but was about some other aspect of the school.  (This week I've been in the government class.  I've also spent a lot of time in one of the English classes and the science class.) 

Then, I started a glossary.  There are certain terms specific to the schools/area where I work, so rather than explaining them each time I use them, I think it'll be easier to link to that page.  This is a work-in-progress.  The list isn't yet complete (I wonder if it ever will be), and I'm still working on getting the formatting right. 

Finally, I linked to a couple short stories I posted on scribd.  These are on the sidebar under "My Short Stories".  Please check them out.  Feel free to tell me what you think. 

That's the thing about a blog.  It has to continue to be a work-in-progress.  There are always things to add.  There are always ways to improve. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cell Phone Drama

The cell phones have been getting to me lately. 

I don't know what it is about teens and cell phones.  Add a sub to the mix...  Anyway, I've had it, so on Monday I gave them fair warning.  I reminded them that cell phones out in class were subject to confiscation. 

It was 4th period yesterday when I saw a student pull out his cell phone.  I went over to retrieve the device to confiscate. 

He started in with the excuses.  His mother had texted him ("See, right there,") asking him if he was at school.  Then he wanted to know if I'd give it back to him at the end of the period.  Turning it into the office was bad, because his mom couldn't pick it up until after she got off work at 7 PM. 

He eventually gave up the cell phone.  Then he left class.  I figured he went to the office to complain or something. 

The principal came by (during the bee incident) to retrieve the cell phone.  As I was busy, I didn't ask any questions. 

After 4th period I had lunch.  I stopped by the office.  The attendance clerk called me over. 

She wanted my side of the story.  The student's mother was there to pick up the cell phone.  It was time to compare notes. 

Did she text him?  She thought she might have asked if he had a ride home.  She didn't text to ask if he was at school.  She knew he was.  She dropped him off. 

The student's mother was glad her son decided not to take the suspension.  The reason the principal came to get the cell phone?  He thought the student might take it back without permission, triggering the harsher consequence. 

Why do these things become such high drama?  And this was only my first cell phone incident of the day. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Little Chaos

Today was one of those in-between days, weather-wise.  It wasn't terribly cold, but it wasn't too warm.  I kept the door open, and that kept the classroom temperature at about the right spot.  It's nice not to have to use the air conditioner sometimes. 

Then a bee flew in the room. 

It was fourth period.  The class was working quietly.  Well, all but this group of one boy and three girls.  I had been trying to get them to talk less and work more, but all I managed to do was annoy them. 

The boy was the one who spotted the bee.  He freaked out. 

One girl wanted me to close the door.  Another boy found a spiral notebook, and he went after the bee to kill it.  Of the talking group, the boy and two of the girls ran out of the classroom, standing just outside.  They were sure that they were going to get stung, and they refused to return to class until the bee was dealt with. 

Of course, that's when the principal came by. 

I managed to talk down the boy who wanted to kill the bee.  I explained to the girl that if we closed the door, the bee couldn't get out. 

The bee made its way back, landing just above the open door.  I was able to shoo it out using a piece of paper. 

The three students returned to class.  Someone shut the door.  Slowly, calm was restored. 

I don't know why they have to freak out so much about things like this.  Dealing with a bee in the classroom is hard enough without the distraction of having to calm the students, too. 

As for the principal, he came by because of a cell phone incident earlier in the period.  He didn't comment on the bee.  I guess I'm not in trouble. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

After the Break

I was surprised to get a call to work this morning.  Mondays have been rather dead lately.  But the continuation high school is back in session, so I shouldn't have been that surprised. 

The continuation high school has been out the past three weeks for their fall break. 

It's funny.  Every year in July and August (for I usually end up subbing for them then) the students complain about having to go to school in the summer.  I remind them that they get these nifty little breaks at different times during the year.  Everyone else has to go to school in October.  They don't. 

My arguments don't help.  However, I don't hear them complaining about getting a break now.  I haven't even heard them complaining about having to come back.  My guess is that I haven't been listening closely enough. 

I'm covering the whole week in the government and economics classes.  I've subbed for this teacher many times before, so I'm familiar with the routine.  And they are familiar with me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Not Enough Time

Today I covered a biology class.  The teacher left three study guide worksheets for them to do.  The assignment was due at the end of the period.

Sometimes, teachers leave assignments that the students can't possibly finish, and they make it due at the end of the period.  I appreciate the consideration.  The teacher wants to make sure that the students don't have time to goof off and make trouble.

Unfortunately, the students haven't figured this out.  They seem to think that they have to figure out a way to finish all that work.  They seem to think that if they don't finish, they'll be penalized.

So, they figure out a way to get all the work done.

They break into teams.  Student one does one worksheet, student two does the second, and a third student does the third.  Then they swap and copy.

I know this trick.  I was on the lookout.

If they do it in teams, they finish in the amount of time that it takes to do one worksheet, and then they have that time to goof off.  The teacher needn't have bothered to put together the extra work.

I tried to tell them that if they didn't finish, it wasn't going to be the end of the world.  They just needed to do what they could get done.  The honors students didn't finish.  Some of the students in the regular classes did.

I did my best to catch the copiers.  At least I didn't have the behavior issues (well, I did in one class, but that's another story).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One Forgotten Detail

It was raining this morning.

When I got to the classroom juggling umbrella, school bag, sub book, and keys, I saw a post-it on the door.  I got in the classroom, unlocked the door, turned on the lights, and headed for the teacher's desk.  I found the lesson plans and read through them.

The warning bell rang.  One student came in.  Then another.  After I had a handful of students in the room, the next student who came in commented on how few students there were in the room.  Then someone else commented on that post-it.

Oops.  I meant to go back and remove it.

The post-it read that the teacher was in the computer lab.  We figured that much of the class must of ended up there.  I sent a student to go and retrieve them.

After the student left, the phone rang.  Yep, the class was there.  The computer lab person said she'd send them back.

The computer lab wasn't too far from the classroom.  The students returned quickly.  I heard comments that they had seen the lights on, but hadn't thought to come in.  A couple of them were embarrassed at the mix up.

I'm glad I'm not the only one.

So, I marked them all tardy...just kidding.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Check the Facts First

I got another one of those chain emails sometime last week.  I seem to get a lot of them, but I never send them on.  Chain emails come to my email box to die.  I deleted the thing and moved on.

Well, not so much.  That email started to nag at me.  So, I retrieved it from my deleted folder so I could share it here.  (I'm not working today, and I needed something to write about besides my knitting).
This October has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays, all in one month. It happens once in 823 years. These are money bags. Pass them to 8 good people and money will appear in 4 days. Based on Chinese Fengshui, whoever stops this will experience none.
Besides the obvious typo (feng shui is two words), that 823 years thing bugged me.  It didn't seem reasonable.

All that is required for the five Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays is for a 31-day month to start on a Friday.  (Any 31-day month is going to have five of three days of the week.  It all depends on when the 1st is.)  Are they trying to tell me that in a calendar with seven 31-day months, it's taken 823 years to have one of those firsts start on a Friday?

I don't think so.

Then I remembered that the October in any given year is exactly the same as the January.  January 1, 2010, was a Friday.

823 years?  Not even 823 days!

If someone is going to make up some random chain email to start, shouldn't that person at least try to make it plausible?  I mean, really!

Okay, rant over.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Conspiracy Theory

High schoolers can be so gullible.  They believe every crazy story that comes along.  I have had serious discussions with them about the chupacabra and the world ending in 2012.  No matter how I explain, they will not believe that these things are not real.

Thursday and Friday I covered shop.  Well, it was two periods of wood shop and four of computer graphic arts.  Because of safety issues (and theft issues), they had to do bookwork while their teacher was out.  They seemed to think that it was busywork, and most refused to do much of anything.  (It was busy work, but that doesn't mean that their teacher won't make it worth points.  In fact, I know he'll make it worth a lot of points, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.)

I spent most of the time walking the room and asking them to do something.  They had other things to talk about.

One student asked me if I was in the Illuminati.  The only thing I know about the Illuminati is that they were featured in Angels and Demons.  They don't really exist.  I said as much to the boy.

The boy explained to me that they are real, prevalent in rap music, and I should look it up on YouTube.  YouTube as a source?  Of facts?

Okay, so I looked it up, but only so that I could provide links.  But really?  They believe this stuff?

Then the boy told me about "Yes We Can" being...  Oh, you just have to go and see.  I can't type this with a straight face.

I took some time to explain how this reversing of audio has been done before.  I told them about "Paul is Dead".  How it was a hoax.  He thought my information interesting, but it didn't dissuade him from believing.  Sigh.

I left that group and went to talk to other students about, oh, I don't know, doing the assignment.  I had put this whole discussion out of my mind.  The next period came in and left.  Then another.  So it was later in the day when...

"Have you heard of the Illuminati?"

Different boy.  Different class.

"They don't exist," I said.

"Oh yes they do," the whole table told me in chorus.  They then all did this hand thing--holding both hands together with thumbs and fingers forming a diamond that they looked through.

I walked away very, very quickly.

The stuff that they believe!

Friday, October 15, 2010

In the Shower

It's that time of year again: Blog Action Day.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I'd approach this year's topic: water.  I'm not sure what I have to say.  Then, while in the shower, it hit me.  (I do a lot of my best thinking in the shower.)  My shower has a "pause" feature.

I bought this shower head on purpose, because of the pause.

I live in Southern California.  We're in a perpetual state of water shortage.  (That's what we get for claiming so much desert.)  We're always hearing about various ways to conserve water.

One way is to take a navy shower.

Showers are my worst water wasting offenses.  I saw (on a show called I Want That!) a shower head with a pause feature.  I thought it brilliant.  Get wet, hit pause, soap up, turn water back on, rinse off, and repeat.  I had been on the lookout for one ever since.

Fairly recently (this year), I figured out that I had sort of a pause feature on the shower head I already had.  One of the spray settings was "off".  I did this for a while, but slowly it got harder and harder to switch the spray setting during the shower.  Then it broke entirely.  It wasn't made to do that, so I shouldn't have been surprised.

That's when I went out looking for a new shower head (it was a bit of an emergency then), and I chose the one with the pause feature on the packaging.

I'm not terribly impressed with it.  It's not so much a pause as a 50% reduction.  But at least it is some reduction, and every little bit helps.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two Wrongs, Three Rights

Yesterday I covered a 7th grade math class.  After their warm-up, I was to go over any homework problems that they wanted to see done.  Every period requested the same 4 problems, so by the end of the day, I was pretty good at them.

For one of the problems, they had to divide two negative mixed numbers.  Before converting to improper fractions, I said to the class: "A negative divided by a negative is..."  This has been so ingrained that they replied with the correct, "A positive."

I did this so I wouldn't have to keep writing the negative signs.

But before I could go on to the conversion, one boy in the back asked, "Then why do they say two wrongs don't make a right?"

Interesting question.  That would have made an excellent discussion.  But I had been warned that this class could easily get off task, and they were 7th graders.  We would not have had a discussion.  We would have had a shouting match.

I know this from experience.  Classes that were as wound up as them (one boy thought it funny to get up and dance behind my back) would have veered way off topic, and we would have wasted the entire period.  They would have gotten what they wanted--not to do the worksheet assigned.

I replied to the boy: "That is not a math question.  Although, three rights do make a left."

Mistake.  They didn't get the reference.  (I wish I remember which comedian made that joke.)  And it took my stern voice to get them back to the question at hand.

I don't know why I bother to tell jokes in class.  I'm the only one that ever gets them.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Worksheet Problem

Today I had a 7th grade math class (pre-algebra).  After they did their warm-up and we had some time to discuss their homework (fractions), they had a review worksheet to complete.

Before I passed out the worksheet, I did my usual announcement to the class: "Do not write on this worksheet.  This is a class set.  Do your work on a separate sheet of paper..."  I reiterate this a couple times, just to make sure that they heard me.

So, of course half the class starts writing on the worksheet.

It's like they didn't hear me.  They look at me like it's my fault that they weren't paying attention.  (These are the same kids who are surprised that there's a sub in the room even though the teacher told them that she was going to be out.)

Of course, it doesn't help that they had an assembly this morning.  They were wound up all day.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Snipe Hunt

I forgot.  There was a notice at the mailboxes that they were going to turn off the water to the complex today.  I guess I didn't give it too much thought.  I hoped to be called to work today.

I remembered when I heard them turning off the water.  Oh well.  I guess the breakfast dishes can remain in the sink for a while.

They are looking for this mythical leak.  I used to believe in the leak, but that was years ago.  If there was really a leak, they should have found it by now.

Periodically, they put up a notice saying that they're going to shut off the water to look for "a leak".  By periodically, I mean every few months.  They shut off the water for a day, and then we hear nothing more about it until the next notice.  I think it's all a ruse.

I think they're forcibly conserving water.  We are again in a water shortage.  Although, we seem to always be in a water shortage.  We're either in one, just coming out of one, or in danger of entering one.  Ah, the joys of living in Southern California.

So, my current theory is that it's our day in the rolling black-out of water conservation.  It's a working theory, a theory I don't really believe.  If they really wanted to conserve, they'd turn off the water on a weekend, not a weekday when most people around here are out at work.

I had no plans to use water today.  I did my laundry yesterday.  The water will be back on by dinner time.  This is just a minor annoyance.

I thought this all rather apropos considering that Blog Action Day is this Friday, and this year's topic is water. What timing!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Needing More Rehearsal

I kinda knew it was coming.  Remember how I mentioned yesterday that it was homecoming week?  That meant that we were due to have an assembly.

(I hate assemblies.)

We were assigned to the first assembly.  (The school is so large that the entire student body can't fit into the gym at the same time, so they have two assemblies.)  The first assembly usually ends up going longer, mostly because they make all their mistakes in that one.  It's kind of like their dress rehearsal.

At the assembly, they announced the winners of prince and princess of the lower classes.  (This was after they tried to deafen us.  It wasn't so much that the music was loud; it was just that the music hit some tones that hurt.) The plan was brilliant.  They had written the names out on huge rolls of paper, and those rolls were to roll over the crowd in the seats.

Unfortunately, the execution wasn't so brilliant.

Instead of the paper rolling over the crowd, the crowd impeded the progress of the roll, stopping it and crumpling it as it made its way to the gym floor.  They didn't even bother doing this for the junior class prince and princess.  I guess they realized that it wasn't working.

Although, I wonder if it did work in the second assembly.

On the bright side, an assembly meant we were on assembly schedule, meaning that all the classes were just a bit shorter.  At least that made the day fly by.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Free Write

I've been sitting here, staring at the computer, trying to figure out what to write about.  I had one of those days.  It was one of those days where not a heck of a lot happened, and while that's good for me while it's happening, it really doesn't help the blog out all that much.

The class was English (with one period of business math).  Special Ed.  For two periods I had seniors.  Their assignment was to write a page in their journals.  It was a free write, so they could pick any topic.

Of course, they couldn't think of a topic, so I offered up ideas.  Homecoming is this week.  Halloween is this month.  We've had crazy weather over the course of two weeks.  These were my first ideas.  They weren't going for them.

I was kind of surprised at the lackluster reception of the homecoming topic.  They voted for king and queen today, and one of the king candidates was in class.

Eventually, they all figured out something to write about, and the class went silent.  And my biggest issue was staying awake.

I have the same group tomorrow (the teacher is proctoring tests--gee, they have a lot tests, don't they?).  Maybe someone will say something interesting.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Today was day two of the CAHSEE, the math day.

It was session 1. The students were working, the room was silent, and I was feeling yesterday in my legs.  I needed to sit down.

I took an unused chair and moved it to the back corner of the gym.  I had a good view of all the students.

Then, a girl raised her hand.  I jumped up...only to get my pencil caddy caught on the chair, tipping it over and dumping all the pencils on the gym's hardwood floor.  Did I mention it was silent in the gym?  I made a bit of noise.

I hadn't taken two steps when one of the other proctors got to the girl and answered her question (she needed to use the restroom).  I bent down to pick up the dozen or so pencils that were all over the floor.

Surprisingly, only one pencil broke.  Yesterday, I dropped two pencils (just clumsy) and both got their points broken off.

After that, I figured that I should probably remain standing.  Although, I probably could have just put the pencil caddy away.  I gave out very few pencils today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Do the Essay

It's the first week of October, so that means it's time for the CAHSEE (retake edition).  

Today was the English portion of the test.  As they started session 1, I was surprised to find that one girl started with her essay.  I was also impressed.  

Normally, students start at question 1 and work their way through the test in order.  They don't have to.  So long as they remain working in session 1, they can do the work in any order they wish.  I thought that doing the essay first would work better, but I'm not about to interrupt them working just to tell them that.  

I settled into my normal testing routine.  I walked the room.  Then I stopped and watched the room.  And then I walked around the room again.  

We were about twenty minutes into session 1 when another girl closed up her test booklet.  I knew she couldn't be finished, so I went over to investigate.  She had finished the multiple choice portion, but she had not done the essay.  For some reason, she thought the essay came later.  

I explained that the essay needed to be done in session 1.  She had no problem with this, and she started working on it right away.  The boy at the next table over had also closed his test booklet, but after overhearing my conversation with the girl, he got to work on his essay, too.  

I have helped proctor the CAHSEE a lot.  Students missing the essay?  This I have never seen.  So, I didn't expect to see it again.  

It was a little while later that another student closed up the testing booklet.  I decided to check, and sure enough, this student also had not done the essay.  

I wonder if the instructions just weren't clear.  I know I heard the assistant principal talk about doing the essay in session 1.  He went over the usual instructions.  But still, even after the previous three students, I found a couple other students who had not done the essay.  

I got paranoid after that.  I checked each student as he/she finished, and under the pretense of seeing if they had a book to read, I glanced at their answer document to make sure something was written in the essay section.  After that first bunch, though, I didn't find another student who hadn't written the essay.  

As the students checked out, I glanced through the test (to make sure that things like serial numbers are bubbled in).  They had all attempted the essay.  

Tomorrow is the math.  There is no essay with math.  Whew!  

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Pass

"Can I get a restroom pass?"

Restroom passes are tricky things.  I'm never quite sure if they're just playing me because there's a sub or if they really need to go.  However, this request annoyed me.  Gabby asked right after the bell rang to start the period.

"Not right now."

I needed to get class started.  I went through my usual introduction, and then I explained their assignment (history class--they were doing a timeline).  I asked if there were any questions, and Gabby raised her hand.  I knew what her question would be, so I avoided calling on her for as long as possible.  My reply was the same as the first time.

I still had to take roll.  I tried to get the class to settle.  Two other students asked for restroom passes.  I turned them down, too.  Gabby asked me again, this time wanting to know when I would say yes.  I think she asked me seven times in the first five minutes of class.

Now, I was ready to stall her as long as possible.  I took my time with the roll.  Then I counted heads.  Twice.  I had to make sure I had the count right.

That's when I got a fourth restroom pass request.  This girl told me it was an emergency.  I was ready to believe her, as she was bouncing up and down in her seat, looking like she was in pain.

I sat down at the teacher's desk and wrote a pass.

Gabby thought I had relented.  She got out of her seat and came up to the front.  I walked by Gabby and gave the pass to the second girl.

The class thought this was hysterical.  One boy kept repeating that I just walked by Gabby as she had her hand out.  Denied.

I didn't know why Gabby had come up at all.  I hadn't told her yes yet.  After the second girl got back, Gabby asked again, and this time I couldn't find a good reason to refuse her (retaliation isn't really a good reason).

Amazingly, I only had one more restroom pass request that period.  I was relieved.  I was waiting for this to turn into a battle with everyone wanting a chance to get out of class.  (At a certain point, I stop letting students out, and then things can get ugly, depending.)