Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year Magic

Heather at My Demon Spirits is hosting a little contest. We're to write a holiday story. I prefer New Year's Eve to Christmas. And I got it in just under the wire, with a day to spare...

The knock at the door was an unwelcome distraction. The woman carefully laid the blanket she’d been knitting in her chair as she got up to answer. She opened the door to find a young boy, and he looked worried.

“Can you come? Now?” he asked.

The woman sighed. She didn’t have time for this. She left things until the last moment, and if she didn’t finish, there was no telling what would happen. She looked back at her chair. The knitting would have to wait.

“I’m on my way.”

Several hours later, the woman returned to her cottage. She was tired and hungry. Helping children into the world was exhausting work. She looked back at her chair. If she had no more distractions…

Back at work, the woman wove the spell. Every stitch a thought. Every row a prayer. Wishes and dreams. The new year was coming fast, and if she didn’t get the blanket done, there was no telling what troubles would materialize.

The woman’s eyes started to blur. She made a mistake. Instead of knitting two stitches between the start of the pattern work, she knit three. How many rows? She slowly unknit the stitches she just knit, looking for where she made the mistake. Found it.

How much time had she lost? She could make it up.

Another knock at the door. The woman thought seriously about ignoring it. The village knew she had important work to do, so they would not disturb her if they could help it. She laid her work on her chair and got up to get it.

A girl, barely a woman, stood there. Crying. The woman sighed, but she let the girl in. She offered the girl some tea. She took up her knitting and listened to the girl’s story, a story the girl felt merited this interruption. The girl needed a love potion. The woman didn’t like weaving this girl’s fears into her work, but that couldn’t be helped. She patted the girl’s hand and promised her things would get better, knowing that she could work some of it out in the blanket. Then the woman was alone again.

She checked the time. She checked her progress. A couple more rows, and it would have to be good enough.

She started the bind off procedure. She concentrated on tying up loose ends. What problems that had started that could be fixed. She bound off the last stitch and looked at the clock. She still had time.

The woman ran out the door and into the yard. She laid the blanket out flat on the ground. As the clock struck midnight, the woman chanted her wishes for the new year. When the last gong from the church bells struck, the blanket evaporated in a shimmery glitter.

The woman fell back. It was done.

The woman picked herself up off the ground and headed back into the house. It was time to get some sleep.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking for Questions

I like speculative fiction. An interesting world or a strange idea can capture my imagination and hold it captive for days. (Okay, sometimes years.) I suppose that's why I'm drawn to write it. (Or at least try to.)

Many times, it starts with a "what if?" Some of my "what ifs?" lead me to interesting stories. Sometimes, the thoughts are interesting, but they go nowhere.

Since it's been that kind of week, I'm offering one of my "what if?" thoughts. I'm not sure if I will turn this into any sort of story, but it's a thought I've been pondering for a couple weeks now. It's in two parts, and both parts have to be considered together:

Part 1: What if we are the only intelligent life in the universe (and I mean we Earthlings, not just we humans)? What if the universe is built around us?

Part 2: Now consider parallel universes. What if each individual universe is built around a different set of intelligent species? What if the search for extraterrestrial life in this universe is a useless endeavor? What if we find that we are alone here, but if we could get through to these other universes we might find all sorts of other creatures?

(Wow, it's harder than I thought to put this all into words!)

I'm not looking for answers. I'm trying to see where this thought takes me. And if I can construct a story from it, all the better.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Brightly Colored Magnets

I've got nothing interesting to say today, so I thought I'd share some pictures. Pictures of magnets. Why? Because I made them and I want to show them off.

I love this orange. The bead was originally white, but I dyed it using a popular drink mix. The orange flavor. The color really pops.


Using the same drink mix, this time the black cherry flavor, I got this color:


Unfortunately, that drink mix doesn't make any drinks that are blue or green, so to get those colors, I had to use food coloring:

And using the same food coloring, this time in pink:

This is what happens when I have some time on my hands. And nothing interesting to say.

Thoughts? Which color do you like best?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Week of the Sweater

Every year, I swear I won't do it again. And every year, I end up panicking in December. I've never cut it this close before, however.

I happened upon this really cute sweater pattern in Knitty. The youngest nephew is 18 months old. How long could it take me to knit him a sweater? He's small (sort of). I can do this in a week, right?

On Saturday the 17th I started. I figured that I'd better get the bulk of the knitting done over the weekend. I finished the back that Saturday, and I got about half the front done on Sunday. (The pockets took a little time which meant the front was going to take longer than the back.)

I believe I finished the front on Monday. Then I had Tuesday and Wednesday to complete the hood and "sew" the side seams. The hood took a bit of time as it was increased by two stitches every other row. I was anxious to finish it, because I knew the sleeves would be a bit of a challenge.

On Thursday the 22nd I started the first sleeve. The instructions were a bit...well, they could have been a bit more detailed. Plus, they used a short row technique I had never tried before. So, I picked up the stitches and jumped up every couple minutes to check the pictures on the computer.

I felt like I had the technique down. I changed colors and started the second stripe. I held the sleeve up to examine my handiwork...and the sleeve was hanging crooked.

I ripped out, then I went out to finish up my Christmas shopping. I did not, however, get my nephew anything. I was still confident I'd finish.

The first sleeve went a lot smoother the second time. I managed to finish up around midnight. On Friday I finished the second sleeve a lot quicker than the first. That's the good thing about sleeves. Once you've mastered one, you just have to repeat for the second.

Then all I had left for Christmas Eve was to finish the edging along the hood. That took less than a Christmas movie.

So, again I say never again. Never again will I leave the knitting until this late. (I'd better not. That nephew is only getting bigger.)

Oh, and here's how the thing turned out:

Jawa Sweater

I'm calling it a Jawa Sweater as that's how big the thing is on him. (I think my brother said that first.) At least it should last him for a while (I hope).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Checking In

I should be knitting. My Christmas deadline is looming. I'm making decent progress (I might even finish in time), but I won't get done if I lollygag around online.

Before I go, I thought I'd repost this picture. A couple years back, a neighbor of my father was doing some remodeling. He did an interesting thing...

Our Neighbors outhouse while remodeling 2009

How are your Christmas preparations going? Are you down to the wire with gifts like me?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Song Request

Today the class was 8th grade pre-algebra. The assignment was too easy and too short. This meant that the students had some time on their hands.

About half way through 2nd period, a girl at the back of the room had a question for me: "Have you heard of 'Rolling in the Deep'?"

Me (cautiously, as I'm not sure where she's going with this): "Yes."

Girl: "Could you sing it for us?"

I have gotten some odd requests before, but never to sing a song. Since there were a dozen ways that this would have been a bad idea, not the least of which is that I'm not an accomplished singer, I told the girl no. Then she explained why she asked.

The girl told me that I look a bit like Adele.

This took me some time to process. And as I'm thinking about it now, I still don't get it. Our coloring is similar. I'm not thin. But other than that, I don't get it. I've got a couple decades on her.

But whatever.

The girl explained that she didn't mean it as an insult. I hadn't taken it as such. Apparently, my expression didn't convey that, for the girl was quick to follow up with how much she liked Adele.

I was still stuck on why some perceived resemblance meant that I could sing. Or would. In class.

The girl then changed the subject.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thread That Conducts Electricity?

I've been in freak out mode for the last couple days. Actually, I've been in freak out mode since last Friday, when my car failed its every-two-years smog check. (I know there's a word for that, but I'm not sure which one it is.) I took it in yesterday to get it looked at, and...

I don't want to go into it. Suffice it to say, it's taking longer and costing more than I had hoped.

I am going to focus on some nice things instead.

Currently, I am fascinated (obsessed) with a thing called conductive thread. I first heard of it while perusing the latest issue of Knitty. There's a pattern for a pair of gloves that will work with smartphone touchscreens. While the gloves are on.

I don't know why this fascinates me so. I don't even own a pair of gloves. (I do own a pair of fingerless gauntlets that I made several years ago, but I rarely if ever wear them.)

Conductive thread is thread that will conduct a small amount electricity. If you sew it into your gloves, you can use your smartphone while you're wearing your gloves. I so want to knit a pair of gloves using this. I don't know why. I'll never use them.

And finally, Heather at My Demon Spirits is having a little contest/blog hop. From her website:
I want to read your most original, scary or uplifting holiday story (I like both, so since this is my contest - I figure I'll make you write what I like to read!). Now, notice I didn't say "Christmas"; it can be ANY holiday you celebrate! It does NOT have to be a holiday that occurs in winter months. The entry can be no more than 500 words.
Full details here. You have until the end of the month/year to enter. Make sure to check it out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lack of Planning

Last year I was on top of it. By this time I had all my Christmas knitting done. I had such high hopes for this year...

I don't know what happened. This year totally got away from me.

I've got what? Two weeks? It's not happening. I'm frantically trying to get my Christmas presents knit. I've got three different projects going right at this moment, and I might even finish them, but that leaves two nephews with nothing. Yet.

Then, last week I got an invite to my nephew's birthday party. And I panicked.

I thought I had a couple weeks. Detritus was inconveniently born on December 26th. I figured I had until Christmas to get something made for him.

Unfortunately, most people are on vacation right about that time, so if Detritus wanted his friends at his birthday party, it had to be scheduled early. Way early.

This wouldn't have been a major deal if I was on top of my gift knitting this year. What's that saying? Something about failing to plan and emergencies not counting for lack of planning. Anyway, it was my own fault, so I had to figure out something to get him, and fast. And then I saw this pattern...


...and I thought, "Perfect".

Two weeks to get my Christmas knitting done? Yeah, not panicking. Not panicking at all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Random Links

I'm not feeling so hot. It's been positively wintry here. Well, wintry for us (the high today is...gulp...64 degrees). And my sinuses are protesting. I may just take the rest of the week off (from the Internet. I'm going to take as many subbing days as I can get. This is when the teachers get ill, too).

Yesterday I covered government as well as geography. (He teaches 9th graders and 12th graders. That's an interesting mix.) One thing he made his government students do (I'm not sure when) was to do the Political Compass test. I'd never seen this before, so I checked out the website on my own.

It's an interesting thing. I knew where I'd fall on the chart, and I was correct.

Also, I posted over here yesterday. If you're still looking for Christmas presents, these are some good ideas.

Where did you land on the Political Compass chart? I'm curious. And nosy. (If you're interested, I'll update with where I landed.)

Monday, December 5, 2011


AP Geography. They had a test. 52 questions. Multiple choice. As soon as the announcements were over they got started.

They had been working maybe five minutes when the door opened. Two girls popped in and announced that the annual canned food drive ends tomorrow.

Usually, when someone enters a classroom to make an announcement, they ask for permission and/or apologize for interrupting class. Most of the time it's no big deal as we're not doing much more than random book work. But this class was silent. These kids were taking a test. And no asking of permission or apology.

And the announcement that the canned food drive ends tomorrow? It was in the morning announcements.

A boy at the back of the room complained that he wasn't going to finish his test. I assured him that he still had plenty of time.

The class got right back to work.

The door opened again. Another girl. Same announcement.

The rest of the class joked that the boy would definitely not finish his test.

Geez. You'd think they'd coordinate. Seems kind of silly to go to each classroom twice.

(The boy did finish his test.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Nuke 'Em All

Geography class. I passed out current event magazines, and they had various assignments associated with it. For an article about the world's population hitting 7 billion, they were to write five sentences about what this means for our planet. (This is not the article, but it's as close to it as I could find online, and it's by the same publisher as their magazines.)

Much of the class ignored the assignment.

"We should nuke China."

A boy seated in the front row said this when he flipped to the article. How was that going to help anything? He explained: that would get rid of half the Earth's population.

Last I heard, China's population was one billion. One billion is not one-half of seven billion. I explained this. The boy insisted, saying that China's population was four billion.

(I also brought up the whole killing-people-is-wrong argument.)

The boy explained that Chinese officials don't take into account the population in the rural areas. They only count people in the cities. I pointed out that this difference wouldn't be three billion.

But, I was willing to concede that I don't know China's population for sure. I decided to consult the Internet. A quick search ("population of China") led me to a figure of 1.3 billion as of mid-2008. I showed the boy. Still dubious, he conceded the issue.

"So, we should nuke China and Russia... Russia is scary."

Again, I attempted the killing-people-is-wrong tack, but the boy soon found something else to talk about: Vladimir Putin's resemblance to Daniel Craig and Adam West. (There was an article on Russia in the magazine, too.)

The stuff they come up with!

Your turn: Give me a completely outrageous statement.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Hot Seat

Students ask me questions. Usually it's of the "do you have any kids?" variety. They ask me a couple such questions, and then they move on to whatever other things they have on their mind. But sometimes, the questioning continues.

It was 7th period at the continuation high school. Most of the class was working on their assignment. One boy started with the usual questions, but those didn't satisfy him.

I don't have to answer any of the questions. I know this. However, they're usually so innocuous that it doesn't bother me. They can know where I went to college. They can even know the name of my high school (most have never heard of it).

But then he got into some crazier questions.

He wanted to know my favorite beer. When I told him ("I don't drink"), he told me not to lie. Since I hadn't lied, I didn't have anything more to say. So the rest of the class tried to name what beer had to be my favorite. Several brands were tossed out. Since I don't know the difference, I was mostly amused by this activity.

Then he got to the question I always get but never know how to answer. What kind of music do I like?

Most people have an answer to this. I don't. I stopped paying attention to the music scene somewhere around 1994. I turn on the radio. Mostly in the car. I like some of it. But if you put me on the spot and asked me what song was on, I wouldn't be able to name it. I might be able to come up with a band name, but more likely I would have no idea who it was.

This answer is unacceptable. (How horrified would he be if I told him that most of the time I work in silence?) Unfortunately, I don't have another one.

In the end, he started talking about himself (which is what he wanted to do anyway). This is fine with me. I rarely have anything interesting to say.

Are there any questions that you can never answer to the questioner's satisfaction? What kind of music do you like? (I'm asking so I can sample it.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shop Handmade

Christmas shopping is hard. At least it is for me. (That's why I try to make most of my gifts.)

I get bored with all the mass-produced stuff out there. When I give a gift, I want it to be unique. Sure, that t-shirt sports a pithy one-liner, but then I see it in several different stores, and it no longer seems special.

But if you know where to look, you may end up with something that you can't find just anywhere.

I know I've mentioned my Etsy shop before. Etsy is a great place to find some unique items. (I've gotten my brother a couple t-shirts from different sellers. He seemed to like them. Although, I can never be sure with him.)

The point of this post isn't to promote my shop (again!), but rather to point out the importance of buying handmade this year. The news is filled with stories about the dire state of the economy. But when you support an artist or a small business, you are helping the economy. And you end up getting something unique to boot.

(You remember my ereader cozies, right?)
all the cozies

Support your local craft fairs. If you don't have one near you, check out crafters online, like on Etsy or the Handmade Craft Show or Cafe Handmade.

Do you know of any good places for Christmas shopping? Please share.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Public Conversation

School is back in session after the Thanksgiving break. Today I covered a middle school art class.

Third period. Two girls were having a conversation about Thanksgiving and what they ate. Then one of the girls mentioned that her excesses gave her constipation.

A boy chimed in with, "Ewww!"

The girls turned on him: "Why are you listening to our conversation?"

It might be because you're talking across the room. Maybe?

One girl was seated at the front of the room. The other girl sat in the back. At one point they attempted to sit next to one another, but I put the kibosh on that. (I find that if I enforce the seating chart, I have fewer problems.) So, they had their conversation anyway.

I pointed out the obvious. They changed topics.

Did this stop the conversation? No, of course not. (At least they got their assignment done.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Remembering Anne McCaffrey

I gasped when I saw the news on my Twitter timeline.

I was first introduced to Anne McCaffrery when I made the jump from the kids' section to the adults' section in my local library. Dragonriders of Pern, of course. After reading her books, I knew I wanted to write.

I'll never write about dragons, since she did that so brilliantly that I have nothing to add, but before I ever wanted to go to Hogwarts, I wanted to Impress my very own dragon. Even though I'm so afraid of heights I could never actually ride one.

I once stayed up all night reading The Rowan. (Mistake. I shouldn't stay up all night reading. I pay for it in the morning) I just couldn't put it down. All her books sucked me in like that. And most didn't disappoint (still pissed at the ending of Moreta).

I think it might be time to revisit Pern. It's been a while since I read those...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Said Yes

We're off school for the whole week for Thanksgiving. Since I'm sure you don't want to hear about how my cleaning is going (I've been rearranging furniture), and since the editing of my novel is about as interesting as cleaning, I thought I'd repost something from the old blog. This first appeared on October 12, 2006.  

Middle school band. Those three words, used together, should be all the explanation I need.

Need more? Well, I can talk about the time that one of them chased another around the room wielding a music stand as if it was a baseball bat and the other kid was the baseball.

I've written other posts about them here, here, and here.  

But I'm not here to talk about the horrors of that assignment. I guess I'm just setting the scene. I was not in the best of moods, and so I was not as kind as I would like. And that's when I did something that was not very nice.

I had a kid ask if he could go and get a drink of water. Now, allowing kids out of class is not something that we are supposed to do. But I know the school pretty well, and I know that the drinking fountain is just outside the band room door, nearly next to it. So, for most of the day when a kid would ask to get a drink, I'd say fine. He/she would return in a minute or less, and I have no problem with that.

So, to the kid who asked, I said sure. I don't know if it was the noise in the room (it was a bit loud) or if he was just expecting to get a no, for he went directly into the explanation phase of the question. This is where they explain that the water fountain is close or that they're really thirsty or they come up with some other reason why I should say yes.

I don't know if it was just because it was late in the day, if it was because I was tired, if it was because I was having one of my miserable headaches, or if it was because I was tired of not being listened to, but what I did was walk away. "What did I say?" I had said yes. I guess the kid couldn't take yes for an answer.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Free Computer Time

Last Monday, I did not expect to get a call. Last school year, I had most Mondays off. But I was not about to turn down the assignment. Even if it was economics.

(I'm fairly comfortable with most high school subjects. Economics is not one of those.)

I got to class, and the teacher had left me nothing. As panic set in, I reminded myself of my own advice. I know of this teacher, and he was not the type to leave a sub hanging. The lesson plans were going to show up.

(I'm writing a book on subbing. I figured, why not? And my advice on finding no lesson plans is to not panic as most of the time the teacher will find a way to get the plans to the sub.)

Then the phone rang.

Turns out, the students were finishing up their stocks project. They were making charts, and they had time booked in the computer lab. Score! Easy day for me.

I know enough about computers to fake it most of the time. And the teacher told me that detailed instructions were on his website. I figured I had enough information for the day. The biggest concern was to make sure the students weren't goofing off online. The teacher said that any students who finished their project could do his online homework, so they should have had plenty to do.

Of course, some managed to finish everything and have time to spare.

I expected them to get onto inappropriate websites. Instead, several checked their grades (the school has an online system for grades now). A couple found video of the last varsity football game (I assume they were football players). The rest ended up on college websites.

It's November. They're seniors. It's college application time. And they're feeling the crunch.

Some worked on online applications. Some checked out various programs at the colleges. Some logged off the computers and worked on other homework.

I had nothing to complain about.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Graduation Surprise

For the past three days I've been at the continuation high school (again). This was the time to be there, as the last two days were short (out at noon).

Graduation works differently at the continuation high school. When a student finishes his credits, he graduates. There is a whole procedure to checking out at this point, and one of the things they do is announce the student's name over the PA system.

On Wednesday, the PA came on and Pomp and Circumstance started playing. I stopped to hear. The principal came on, and the first thing he said was, "I would like everyone to sit down for this."

Then he announced the name. I dropped my pen.

If my chin hadn't been attached to my face, I think it would have landed next to the pen on the desk.

The principal said Dane's name*. (I've been searching my archives. I thought I mentioned him more than this.)

The last thing I ever thought he'd do is graduate. Apparently, I was wrong.

The next day, the school paper came out. In it, they list the students who have graduated. I expected Dane's name, but I was shocked to see Kayla's*. Kayla graduated?

I guess when they said that they do their work, they were telling the truth.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy for them. I'm pleased that they put in the work and completed their high school educations. I just didn't think I'd ever hear of them graduating. (And I'm glad that I won't be seeing them in the future.)

*I don't think I mention this enough, but all student names used on this blog are not their real names.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roving Around

Yesterday, I got called at the usual time. The sub caller assigned me an art class. But when I got to the school, there was no art class. I was given a roving assignment.

It was very strange. The vanishing assignment used to happen to me all the time, but ever since it's been all early morning wake-up calls, I thought this sort of thing was over. Ah well.

I don't mean to rant. It's been that sort of week. (And I'm not ranting about the thing that's really bothering me right now, so if I sound angry, it's actually over the other thing.)

First period I got sent to the library. That's the go-to assignment when they want to give us subs something to do. It's our make-work. They usually have something that needs doing. Yesterday I got to put away books.

It was fun. The library was empty except for adults and one library TA. I got a chance to peruse the library's fiction selection.

It wasn't a vast collection. The Harry Potter section was well stocked as were Stephen King and Goosebumps. The Twilight books had a spot, but it looked like most of them were checked out. (I reshelved one.) And various classics were well represented.

I managed to finish the reshelving before the end of the period. And then I was off.

I kind of like roving days. It breaks things up. I got to cover two periods of special ed, two periods of math, and a period of oceanography. It was an interesting day.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Heads Up

I did another craft fair this past Sunday. It was better attended than the last one I did.

I got to sit outside. This would have been nicer if it hadn't been chilly. However, since it rained Saturday, it could have been so much worse. So, all in all a nice day.

Here's my table...

art show full table

Yes, I was behind a post. This didn't stop people from taking a look, though. And the view I had all day looked like...

my view

I love the color of that tree.  

Anyway, you can't tell from the picture, but there was a playground behind me. Towards dusk, the place got really packed. Some kids started throwing balls around.  

I think you know where this is going...  

The person who put the whole thing together came by around dusk. She took pictures of us participants in our booths. Just as she snapped the picture of me, I got hit in the back of the head by a flying ball.  


At least the kid didn't have a very good arm. That is, I didn't get hit very hard. It was still kind of scary.  

The booth next to mine sold fused glass. They were more panicked by the incoming throws. Yeah, that could have been disastrous. Luckily, none of their wares got hit. (The ball came our direction only three times. I guess they got better control after that.)  

I'm thinking of expanding my wares. Would anyone be interested in hand knitted coffee sleeves? You know, like the cardboard ones that coffee shops slide over the cups so as to not burn hands. Or is that too silly?  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Little Noises

Thursday was basically a repeat of Wednesday. (Although, the boy chose to ask me to move to the back of the room rather than telling me he was sitting there. Better approach, and I rewarded him accordingly.) Well, mostly.

The last two groups of the day were the orientation class. This is the first class that students new to the continuation high school take. They do packet work, some barreling through many assignments while others stare at walls and get next to nothing done. No matter which option they choose, they are supposed to sit there silently, and for the most part they did.

Then the drops started.

I'm pretty sure it was this one girl. She informed me that she was done with everything. I told her to go on to the next chapter. She didn't believe that she should. (I'm familiar with the class. The next chapter was the next assignment.) So, instead she played with her lips.

Then on the other side of the room, a boy developed a sinus issue. He blew his nose, but then he continued to sniffle. Loudly. Every two minutes. And it didn't sound like he was clearing anything.

Neither of these things should have bothered me. But since the rest of the class was silent, it was hard to ignore them.

Then my cell phone started buzzing.


When students use cell phones in class, there are consequences (here's another example). So, I keep my phone out of sight and silent during class. I figure it's only fair, as that's the requirement for the students. And usually there are no issues.

But, I just got a shiny new phone, and I haven't figured it all out yet. I thought I had it on silent. I must have enabled some notification, because no one was calling and I had not received a text. (I checked after class.)

At least the students were nice enough not to call me on it. (Then again, I hadn't confiscated any of their phones. Of course, that's because they were smart enough to keep them out of sight.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Not Scary Enough

First period went really well. I wasn't surprised. This teacher's classes tend to behave (even though this is the continuation high school). Then second period arrived. 

I had been warned to make sure that the students sat in their assigned seats. So, when three boys took up spots in the tables at the back of the room, I knew something was up. The seating chart had no one sitting there. 

When called on it, one boy informed me that Ms. W. I had told him he could sit back there. Sure, yesterday, maybe. No, he explained that he asked her yesterday if he could sit back there today. I reminded him that Ms. W. was not in class today, so I needed him to sit in his assigned seat. He was having none of it. 

Before I determined my next step (referral?), security walked in. He was looking for a student who was not on my roll sheets. But before he had a chance to ask the question, the boy scrambled back to his assigned seat. 

Interesting how he could be so belligerent with me but compliant the minute another adult stepped into the room. 

I should be used to this by now. It's how most students treat the sub. 

For the rest of the period, the boy worked. Quietly and diligently. Other students would say "Security!" and that would get him to look around, but other than that, the period was unremarkable. 

I don't know what it is about having a sub that makes students try to get away with things. Did you ever try to get away with something with a sub? What was it, and did you succeed? 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Not Weather Appropriate

Walking onto campus this morning, I passed a boy wearing a tank top and shorts. 

Then, in second period, a girl came in wearing shorts. I asked the obvious question. She told me that it was a warm day. 

I run warm. On any given day, I have the air conditioning on. Today? The first thing I did was turn on the heater. 

And yet, there are kids dressed for warmer weather. 

It's cold here. Well, cold for us. Most of the country would laugh seeing us shivering in heavy jackets in 50 degree weather. But since it rarely gets much colder, we consider this cold. 

Our high today is projected to be about 66 degrees--a fairly temperate day, but we're warming up from a couple previous chilly days. When I saw the boy in the tank top and shorts, it was about 50 degrees. I was shivering, yet he didn't seem to notice. 

I see this every year. The temperature drops, but the students still dress like it's going to be in the 80s. I've seen girls in short skirts and flip-flops. Boys in t-shirts. 

Then in the summer, they all still wear their long-sleeved hoodies. 

I really should stop paying attention. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lost Notebook

I don't lose things. (Well, most of the time. I somehow managed to misplace my compact umbrella, just in time for rainy weather.) When I do lose track of something, it usually turns up later (socks especially).

Students lose things all the time. Supposedly, subs lose students' work (although, I think this is sometimes just a ploy). That's why some teachers don't have us collect work. Of course, these teachers aren't familiar with my knack for not losing things.

But I digress. Today I wanted to talk about students' notebooks that went missing.

Every student was issued a notebook. They do all their work in it. Since this is the continuation high school, the students aren't apt to remember to bring stuff to class, like paper and pencil. As long as the student has a notebook, the student can do the work, and it keeps it all together.

At the beginning of the period, the students retrieve their notebooks from the class' box. They return the notebook to the box at the end of the period.

A student in period 2 couldn't find his notebook. It wasn't in the box.

I'm a firm believer in the it-has-to-be-here theory, so I was bound and determined to find the notebook. We searched through the other classes' boxes. We searched the teacher's desk (he had a pile of them set aside for grading). After going through every stack of notebooks, I went back to period 2's box, pulled out all the notebooks still in there...and found it. It had gotten stuck behind another notebook.

My record was again challenged in 3rd period. This time I started with period 3's box, but it wasn't in there. I told the student to go through the other classes' boxes. Turns out the first box I picked up had it shoved somewhere in the middle.

Yeah, I'm good. Now, if I could just find that umbrella!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Attention Grabbers

4th period 8th grade physical science. Their rather long assignment was due at the end of the period, so the class worked silently.


I heard a drip from the back of the room. Then another. Then another.

The class giggled.


The boys in that part of the room now had my undivided attention.

It's a noise they make using their mouths and flicking their cheeks with their fingers. I'm sure you're familiar with it. If not, there are all sorts of lovely tutorials on YouTube...

It normally doesn't bother me. My reaction is more akin to a rolling-of-the-eyes and a look of "really, you're pulling that?". But if it's going to get the class riled up, then I have to do something about it.

Once I started watching those boys, the sound stopped. What a surprise. The minute I looked away, I heard it again. When I looked up, the boys all put on their innocent faces. (If they had been looking at their books and/or papers, I might have believed they were innocent. Looking at me is what gives it away.)

I included the incident in my note. Clearly, the boys wanted the attention.

Can you do the water drop sound? (I can't, but then again, I've never tried.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ranking the Good

Yesterday I was at the continuation high school. Again. (They were on their fall break for a couple weeks. I kind of missed the place.)

I passed out the work. I took roll. They got to work. And they worked quietly.

It was kind of spooky, actually.

I've subbed for this teacher before. I usually get a period or two of silence. Then I get a period or two where the students won't settle and won't shut up. Not yesterday. I got four periods of silence and one period of near silence (the last period of the day is always a bit off).

In my note for the day, I give each class a "grade" and a "rank". The "grade" has to do with behavior. I rarely give out my top score of 5. A five means they were "silent and on task". (I give out a lot of 4s. Four means they were "talkative, but mostly on task".)

Yesterday I gave out 4 fives (and the last class got a 4.5).

The "rank" is all about saying which was the best class of the day and which was the worst. There are days when all the classes behaved about the same, so I skip ranking the classes that day. A day where every class got a five should be a day where I do away with ranking.

Yesterday? Ranking was easy.

It was strange. While the worst rank wasn't terrible (many days that would be the best behavior I'd get), the best class was obviously better behaved than the others. They all settled and worked, but some classes gave me more attitude before they settled and worked.

It was a very odd day. Good, but odd.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Craft Fair Dress Rehearsal

Sorry I disappeared for a few days. I've been a little busy since Thursday, and...

You didn't notice I've been gone? Okay then. 

I did my first craft fair on Saturday. Or, as I've been calling it since, my craft fair dress rehearsal. It was rather dead, that is, not much foot traffic. (No zombies. Really. I promise.) 

My brother took pictures of my table... 

I learned a lot. I can't wait to do another. 

By the way, I finally found an answer to the first question for that meme I did last week. In case you were curious, I figured out what moment I'd relive.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's the Commotion?

English class today. The 8th graders were watching Charly. (An excerpt from Flowers for Algernon is in their literature textbook.)

Class was going well. They were reacting in all the appropriate places. I had to explain that dough (with yeast) will expand when left alone for a while (it's a joke his coworkers play on him), but other than that they followed along just fine.

It was towards the end of the period when we heard some sort of commotion coming from outside the class. It was loud enough that it might have been a fight. The students wanted to check it out.

The school has two lunches (long story). So, the students outside the room were on lunch while my bunch were in class (they had already had their lunch). Whatever was going on outside was going on amongst the students at lunch, and it was not my concern.

One girl begged. She just wanted to see. Could she look out the window?

Yeah, that's just what I needed--8th graders wanting to get into whatever they were doing outside.

Another student noted that a girl had been called up to the office. She probably started it. (I doubt that.)

I never did find out what happened. By the time the bell rang (five minutes later), it was all over. And the students went on their merry way.

I consider this a win. They could have gone to look anyway, but they didn't. That's a respectful class.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another Meme

I've been tagged. Jess at Write. Skate. Dream. has tagged me with a new (to me) meme, and now I'm supposed to answer some questions. Okay, I'll play...

If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?

ETA: It took a few days, but I finally found an answer to this question. The following has been altered... 

I don't remember the exact day, but it was a few days before Christmas about 15 years ago (1996? 1997?) 

You know that neighborhood where everyone goes crazy with the Christmas decorations? As a family group, we went out to see the displays one year. The police had blocked off the streets, so only foot traffic was allowed after dark. The place was overrun by look-ee-loos like us. 

It wasn't so much the displays that I want to re-see. It was the conversation that was priceless. 

Humor in my family has a snarky/sarcastic flavor. My father and brother were in rare form. I don't recall the whole conversation, but I do remember: 
  1. A discussion about how this must have been what Rome was like before it fell. 
  2. Wondering about what it would be like to move into the neighborhood in the summer and then be blindsided by the neighbors going all out for the holiday. 
Yeah, that was a fun night. 

If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be? 

I'd go back this one day I subbed for the choir teacher (about two years ago). In one period, a few students discussed what they were going to do after graduation. One boy talked about his plans to become a writer.

It was after they left that I realized what I should have said to him. I would love to go back in time and ask him if he had started writing his first novel yet. And if he hadn't, I would have spent the rest of the period urging him to do so.

What movie/TV character do you most resemble in personality?

I've just spent 10 minutes staring at this question, and I'm drawing a blank. I'm going to have to pass on this question and edit later if something occurs to me. (I'm likely to come up with the perfect answer when I'm in the shower. That's when I do my best thinking.)

If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would you choose?  

Um, no. See, I wouldn't get away with it. I would know. And feel guilty and horrible about it for the rest of my life.

I've learned to ignore people who annoy me. I picture them happy someplace else. That way I'm only putting out good intentions, and I'm getting rid of whomever it is I want gone.

Name one habit you want to change in yourself.

I would love to be less hard on myself.

Why do you blog? (Answer in one sentence)

I always wanted my own newspaper column, and this is the closest thing to it without my becoming a journalist.

Name at least 3 people to send this to:

  1. Sher A. Hart. She's also into fantasy, and she's got an ongoing chocolate contest. Have you entered?
  2. Su at Cheekyness. She's a student, and she has some interesting tips on living green.
  3. Charity at Charity's Writing Journey. She's written a wonderful book that hopefully will get published soon (I hope!). 

One of these days I'm going to make up a meme of my own and see how far it gets. If you wrote your own, what question would you include? And feel free to answer any of these as well.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Shark Sighting

It's time for the Third Campaigner Challenge. Better (nearly) late than never...

I gently lay my arm along the railing, careful not to get a splinter from the rough wood. I lay my other arm next to it, and then I leaned in. As the waves crashed towards the shore, I felt like I could be moving in the opposite direction. I steadied myself against the railing, reminding myself that I was still and the ocean was moving.  

The salty air kissed my lips as the wind roared in my ears. I should have remembered to bring a sweater. I forgot how cool it could be. The forecast predicted temperatures into the mid-80s, but that would be later. Right now it was downright chilly.  

The ocean was filled with surfers. I heard the surf report on the radio, but the numbers meant nothing to me. The announcer sounded happy, though, so it must have meant the surfing was good.  

The wind changed direction momentarily, and I almost gagged. I turned to find an old man holding a fishing pole. Apparently, he was having some luck. I turned back to watch the surfers.  

They were all swimming for the shore. I could discern shouting, but I couldn’t make out the words. Then I saw a few of them pointing. I peered out that direction, and then I saw it. A small triangular gray fin.  

No! Not here. That’s impossible.  

A crowd of people swarmed towards my spot. It wouldn’t be long before news crews arrived. I took that as my cue, and I headed back down the pier.  

If you liked it, please vote for me. I'm #106.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How to Look Smart

Biology class. They had worksheets to complete. 

A student raised her hand. Question #5 was illegible, and she wanted my help in deciphering it. 

It wasn't a terrible copy. The teacher had shrunk down the pages so that four worksheets fit on one sheet of paper (2 on front and 2 on back). It was kind of clever, especially considering the budget woes of the schools. 

What I could read of the question: "How do enzymes weaken the (illegible) in sub..." (and I couldn't read anything after that). 

I figured out that the last word had to be substances, mainly because the student had her notes out, and enzymes and substances were prominent on that page. But the other word had me stumped. 

Less than five minutes later, another student figured it out. The word had to be "bonds". Okay, then. 

The next period, another student asks the same question. This time I could rattle it off: "How do enzymes weaken the bonds in substances?" 

Subbing trick #2: Students tend to ask the same questions every period. If you can figure out the answers with the first group, you're set for the day. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Ordinary Wednesday

I worked today, covering an economics class. I wish I had something interesting to say about the day. Unfortunately, the students were mellow, fairly well behaved, and thoroughly uninteresting.

These are the good working days, but they're terrible for the blog.

The worst thing to happen today? I had a student out of class for twenty minutes, allegedly using the restroom. Considering that the restroom was steps from the class, I'm not buying it.

Rather than tell you all about the a/c issues I had (the students thought I kept the room too warm), I'll just link to a Muppets video...

How was your day? As boring (but good) as mine?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Last week I was very busy. This week, not so much.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I had three periods of 9th grade English and two periods of beginning ELD. As the 9th graders were more interesting (read: the ELD kids were very well behaved), I posted about them.

But there was one thing I wanted to mention about the ELD class.

ELD stands for English Language Development. These are classes for non-native speakers. A beginning ELD class contains students who are pretty much beginners in learning English. We spent a lot of time reading easy stuff.

Remember the boy who I thought was stalling while taking the CAHSEE? He was in this class.

So, okay, maybe I misjudged him. He was struggling with English. Although, I did have to keep my eye on him, as he was one of the students who easily got off-task. But perhaps he did need all the time he took on that test.

At least I didn't kick him out of testing. (I did hover.) He got all the time he wanted. (That makes me feel a little better.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Very Picky Eater

I've always been a picky eater. Pickier than normal for a kid. And I never grew out of it. In the last few years, I've gotten even pickier still.

It's that time of year again--Blog Action Day. This year's topic is food.

It was in the late '90s when I was first introduced to the book Eat Right 4 Your Type. The book posits that blood types affect the digestive system and that some foods good for one type are "dangerous" for another. I took note of which foods were "highly beneficial" to me and which foods I was supposed to "avoid", but I didn't go much further than that...for a while.

I had a problem with the book. My "avoid" list includes beef and chicken. And corn (including popcorn). There were other things on my "avoid" list that I didn't have a problem with such as coffee, lima beans, and ham, but getting rid of beef and chicken (foods I ate all the time) was too much for me at first.

I had to start it gradually. First I switched from orange juice to pineapple juice (oranges are a no-no for me). That was about as far as I got until a couple years ago when I was reminded of the book. I decided to take another stab at it.

I can have turkey. And many types of fish. Slowly, I started to eliminate the stuff on my "avoid" list. I'm still working at it.

I don't know why I bother. It's not like it's doing anything for me.

Although, I have noticed that it's gotten easier for me to get up in the morning. I'm less tired all the time. And my headaches, while still appearing from time to time, aren't nearly as painful as they used to be. Of course, that could be due to other things I've been doing as well...

Or it could all be working in tandem.

I can do better. There are still foods I should eliminate (getting rid of ketchup is hard). And there are foods (ahem, vegetables, ahem) that I should eat more of.

(If anyone knows a good way to prepare broccoli, I would appreciate hearing about it. Besides slathering it in cheese. I've never been too fond of cheese.)

The book has its detractors and critics. It's an interesting idea, and so far it's worked for me. Anything that helps to improve diet (which is a major factor in maintaining good health) is a good thing. Even if it means I can't eat corn anymore.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Fake Out

Today I covered a graphic arts class. The teacher left them book work.

This is usual for shop-type classes. Because of the specialized equipment, teachers don't let the students do their usual projects when there's a sub supervising. (This class gets to do all the interesting arty stuff like silk screening t-shirts.) I wouldn't know what to look out for. Besides, when students have a sub, they can't be counted on to use their best judgment.

The students did not want to do the book work. But middle schoolers can't be trusted to do nothing all period, so I insisted.

I had the first group leave the books out on the students' tables. So, during 5th period when table 3 told me that they didn't have any books, I was momentarily thrown. Before I started to look around the room for some more books, however, I noticed that there was a stack of books...on the lap of one of the students.


The rest of the table acted as if they were shocked. Yeah, I wasn't buying it.

What perplexes me is why. Did they think that if they didn't have books, I wouldn't make them do the assignment?

They probably weren't thinking that far ahead. If they had, they would have hidden the books better.

At least it made for an entertaining anecdote in my note to their teacher.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Not Quite the Pithy Retort

The 9th graders (same group as yesterday) had a test on the story today. My instructions were to read through the test with them. I got to the last two questions which were vocabulary questions. "Write a sentence using retort correctly."

"What does retort mean?"

Yeah, like I've never heard that one before (although, it's usually during spelling tests). I ignored the question.

Another student asked me again. So, I had to explain that I was ignoring the question. That was the point of the question. Sigh.

Perhaps I should have answered. Because clearly, many of them did not know what retort means. I have examples:

  • My mom retort to the living room to clean.
  • I was watching a movie and they keep saying retorted words to each other.
  • I retorted as fast as I can from a dog that was chasing me.
  • Her retort broke yesterday.
  • She moved to the next seat and determined the retort of the game.
There's more. Rather than clutter this post with them all, I'll tweet them later (@ZiziRho). The other word they had to put in a sentence was benevolently. Apparently, some of them thought this was a description of a smell.  

Once all the tests were turned in, I asked if anyone could define the words. Depending on the class, I either got a good answer or I had to provide the answer. At least some of them had actually studied and knew the material.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fighting the Assignment

"This is hard."

Me: "I know."

I heard the same complaint three times today--once for each period of freshman English. My response was the same for all.

They read "Rules of the Game" by Amy Tan sometime last week. Today they were to pull quotes that demonstrated indirect characterization and explain what the quotes said about the character.

It was a challenging assignment. It probably would have been less challenging if they stopped complaining and started doing it.

I read directly from the lesson plan. They had the period. If they weren't finished by the end of the period, they wouldn't get full credit. I even read a bit about the assignment being "individual" and not "group work". I would have thought that would be enough to get them working. It wasn't.

As I collected the assignment one period, I picked up one paper from a boy who had just copied the questions. When I asked him why he had done nothing, he told me that he didn't understand the assignment. Really? He didn't bother to ask me to explain?

I explained numerous times all three periods what they were to do. The teacher said that they had done a similar assignment the previous week. I pointed this out to one girl. She asked me why they had to do another indirect characterization assignment then.

Finally, the last group of the day seemed to get it. They were still unsure, but they didn't fight me. They attempted to do the work. Unsurprisingly, most of them were able to get the thing done.

They have a test on the story tomorrow. (I'm due to go back.) I wonder how well that will go.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Assembly Fake Out

The marquee in front of the school read, "Homecoming Game Oct. 7". I knew that that meant that they were due an assembly and it would probably be today. Oh no! (In case you didn't know, I hate assemblies.) 

When I checked in, the secretary said nothing. The lesson plans said nothing. I thought I had missed the thing until a student came in to "check in" to 1st period. 

A check in is when a student comes up to me to tell me that he's not going to be in class because (insert reason here). I have to make sure to not mark him absent. 

The student told me that he needed to help set up the assembly. Which meant there was an assembly. I called the secretary to confirm. She did, and she also told me that the 9th and 10th graders were to go 2nd period while the 11th and 12th graders were to go 3rd. 

Now I knew why I didn't get any information about the assembly in the lesson plans. I had 12th graders 2nd period and 9th graders 3rd. I was going to get to miss the thing. I would have done a happy dance, but I had a room full of freshmen, and I never would live that down. 

As 3rd period came in, they informed me that I was supposed to take them to the assembly. They told me their 2nd period teachers hadn't taken them and Mr. W. said that he would. 

Yeah, right. Nice try. 

I got class started. I passed out their assignment. Then, in passing, I asked a couple of them how the assembly was. 


"It was okay." 

"Wait. We haven't gone." 

Uh huh. Sure. 

Freshmen. Sigh.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Tuesday and Wednesday I helped proctor the CAHSEE. (That's the California High School Exit Exam.) The October administration is for those juniors and seniors who haven't passed the thing yet. This was the first retake opportunity for the juniors who took it for the first time in February (when they were sophomores).

I was impressed that we had a group of less than 50 taking the test. That means that most of the students passed it on the first try.

Some of the students were committed to passing this time. Some of them milked the testing session just to get out of class.

On day one, one boy caught my attention. He was looking around and not making reasonable progress on the test. When I informed him that he didn't get to go to lunch until he finished, he suddenly got half the test done rather quickly. (They get a break in between the two halves of the test, but they can't leave during each half.)

Yesterday as I was walking the room, the boy caught my attention again. He was flicking his pencil with his finger. The pencil then rolled back towards him, and he repeated the procedure.

I stopped and stood. I watched. The boy seated next to him looked up at me with fear in his eyes. He saw where I was looking. He glanced over, saw what his neighbor was doing, looked back at me, and shook his head.

I wasn't the only one.

Most of the room cleared out. This boy was one of five left. He was "checking his answers". I was sure he was milking it for all it was worth. Then he raised his hand.

The boy showed me a question. He wasn't sure what to do with it. I told him to figure it out the best he could. I explained that I wasn't allowed to help, so he had to figure it out on his own.

I felt bad after that. Had I completely misjudged him? Oh well. If he really needed the time, at least he got it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Blog Action Day Is Coming

In lieu of an actual post today, I'm going to direct you to another blog where I contribute something once a month. Today was my day.  

But before you check that out, make sure to sign up for Blog Action Day. What? You've never heard of Blog Action Day?  

Blog Action Day was started in 2007 as a way for the community of bloggers to make an impact by posting on one topic of importance on the same day. I joined the first time I heard about it, and I've done it every year since. (My previous Blog Action Day posts.)  

Please join me on October 16th by writing a post about food.  

And today my other post was about infinity scarves. (Hey, I was cold!)  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Birthday Presents

My sister-in-law's birthday was Friday. Luckily, I finished knitting her birthday presents in time.

Heather's Kindle Cozy

I like making these. I mean, I really, really like them. And since she has a Kindle, I figured she needed one. (Doesn't everyone?)

Then I made her another spiral scarf. (I made her a brown one a few years back.)

Heather's Spiral Scarf

That picture has the thing curled up on the couch. It's rather long, but I made it like that because she's rather tall. She can wrap it around her neck and still have ends hanging. 

It's kind of hard to see how the thing spirals, so here's a close up...

Heather's Spiral Scarf Closeup

Are spiral scarves out of style? I have no idea.

(It was either a knitting post or a post about my head cold. Knitting won.)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Slap-Ass Friday

I found this note attached to the top of today's lesson plan. The teacher wrote at the top, "I received this at the end of the day," so I knew it had to be important: 
Teachers, I have delightful news: tomorrow is Slap-Ass Friday!

Please discuss our discipline policies and procedures with your first and second period classes. Any students smacking other people's butts will receive an at-home suspension... 
No! Really? 

As requested, I delicately brought up the subject with first period. I so didn't want to say "slap-ass" to a room full of 8th graders. Luckily, I didn't have to. My allusions got that moniker out of them pretty quickly. Then...

"But it's tradition!" 

I swear, the girl who said that was serious. Tradition? I've been subbing for a while, and the last I heard of this "tradition" was last year, as in the first year it was tried.

I remember covering a 7th grade class. Some student said something about getting slapped by the 8th graders. I told the 7th graders that no 8th graders would hit them, and if they did, the 8th graders would be in serious trouble. As I heard nothing about anyone getting slapped, I figured that this rumor was a figment of the 7th graders' imagination.

I explained that SAP was not going to be tolerated. Then I moved on to the assignment for the day. Quickly. 8th graders can get hung up on the littlest things, and it would have been so easy to get stuck on this for the whole period and get nothing done.

I saw no instances of students slapping each other on the behind, so if they did occur, it was outside of class. The kids should have had enough excitement anyway. We had an assembly today. (Plus it rained. For about 5 minutes. That always gets them.)

These kids have such limited imaginations. I'm sure you can come up with a better "tradition". What is it? (Real or imagined. Actually, imagined might be better.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The DVD That Would Not Play

I'm fairly competent when it comes to technology, specifically computers. I'm not an expert, but I can solve most of the problems that I encounter. But sometimes things are beyond my control.

The teacher left an audio file on his computer introducing today's lesson. After that, I was to play a DVD in the computer so that it could be projected onto the white board large enough for the whole class to see. As I've done this sort of thing before, I figured it would be easy enough.

I got the projector turned on. I put in the DVD. I started the DVD. It got about two screens in when it froze.

I spent about 10 minutes trying every trick I know. Ejecting and reinserting the disc. A different program. Cleaning off the DVD. Restarting the computer. After that, it was time to call for help.

(Another teacher came in. 15 minutes passed, but he was no closer to getting the thing to work than I was. Then the tech guy got to school.)

The tech guy started by doing the same things I did. He figured out that the problem was the DVD (it was a copy of a copy or something), so he opened a program that he said will play anything. And it did.

At this point, we had about 15 minutes left of class. Well, it was better than nothing.

During the teacher's prep period, a reading class used the room. I hung out, checking my email and reading blogs. The class read an article on bullying.

Near the end of class, the teacher said she would normally show them some news clips via YouTube, but since there was a sub, she couldn't. I piped up to say that I could work the system.

The teacher found the clips. I got the projector running. The clips played without a hitch.

Why doesn't it work that well when it's just me?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

High School Troubadours

This morning, a boy was wearing a t-shirt with this on it:

Very funny. (By the way, x=5. And I didn't even have to resort to the Pythagorean theorem. Gotta love those 3-4-5 right triangles.)

And now for something completely different...

If I ever get around to writing a screenplay set in a high school, I'm going to include troubadours roaming the walkways. Why? Because it's true to my experience.

(Troubadour may not be the correct term, but it evokes the feeling, so I'm keeping it.)

In the same class as the boy wearing that t-shirt, another boy had his guitar. As there is a guitar class on campus, I'm used to seeing students toting around guitars. And seeing them playing guitar as they walk from class to class. Sometimes they try to play guitar in class.

Normally, I stop this. They should be doing the assignment for the class they're in, after all. (When I cover the guitar class, I let them play, of course.)

It was near the end of the period, and the class was behaving acceptably. The boy was finished with the assignment, so I didn't stop him when he got out his guitar. The other students said it soothed them, so I let him play for a bit.

He wasn't bad. At least he didn't play the same lick over and over again.

Then the period ended.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Imago of a Professional Crafter

It's time for the Second Campaigner Challenge. Here's my entry:

You know I have an online shop, right? I try not to add to the miasma of constant marketing that permeates our lives, but it’s been a while since I mentioned Zizi Rho Designs, so here I go again. (I’ll pause while you oscitate. I promise to be brief.)

I’ve always loved to go to craft fairs. I never thought I could do what they do. But a weird synchronicity has occurred with the Internet and the crafting community. It’s now so much easier to start a business selling your own wares to a wider audience.  

At the moment, I’m making ereader cozies. I think they’re fun. They keep the ereaders safe while you’re toting them around. Also, if you happen to find a lacuna in your current read, it’s better to throw the cozy across the room rather than risk damaging the electronic equipment (or break any mirrors you might hit).


(If you’d like one, I have a few for sale. I’ll make one custom if you want a different color or pattern.)  

I like having an online shop. I can make what I want, and I can find people that appreciate what I make.   

If you liked my entry, it's #120.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fictional Earthquake?

As a sub, I get to hear all sorts of things about teachers from the students' perspectives. Some days the students vent a bit about frustrations in their classes. So long as things don't get out of hand, I let them talk. I hear the most interesting things that way.

Today, the class got to talking about a home ec. teacher that they had all had a couple years ago. They did not like her much.

I've met this teacher. She's nice enough to other adults. But I've also seen her classes, and so I understand why she's strict with them.

The students told me that they liked to make her angry. They did this every day.

One girl told me, "We had an earthquake, and she didn't believe us. We could have died!"

I pointed out that if the earthquake was mild enough that the teacher didn't feel it, it was unlikely that the thing was strong enough to cause injury or damage. The girl continued on, though.

"The cabinets were shaking and everything."

I was still unimpressed. If the school didn't call for an evacuation, then the earthquake wasn't strong enough to cause any harm. And it's entirely possible that the students could have faked this by shaking the cabinets themselves. As I wasn't there, I can't know any of this for sure.

Venting done, the students moved on to other topics of conversation.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Taking His Time

The benchmark exam was supposed to take 45 minutes. They gave us two days (class periods are nearly an hour). That should have been enough time to finish.

Today I was in the same class as yesterday. Each period, a handful of students needed more time. Plus, each period had a student who had been absent yesterday. Everyone was able to finish up today. Well, except for one...

Yesterday, he spent the entire period looking at the test. When I collected it at the end of the period, he hadn't bubbled in a single answer. Not one.

I gave him back the test today. During one of my walk-arounds, this boy stopped me to ask if he could use the restroom. Normally, I would have said yes and not batted an eye. But I took one look at his answer sheet, which had only one question answered after having been in class for 20 minutes, and I said no.

He started to work on the thing, finally. He got about halfway through the test by the end of the period. Actually, he tried to turn the thing in a bit early. I told him he should get some more of the test done. He said he'd finish it up tomorrow.

Uh, no. He frittered away two days, and he wants more time?

After school, I turned in the tests to the office. I told the administrator about this one student. She didn't think he should get any more time either.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Benchmark Fail

Once each quarter, the schools give benchmark tests. They are designed to see how well the students have learned the things they're supposed to learn. Today I covered an English class and the benchmark was the assignment.

These tests come with pre-labeled answer sheets. The first thing I did was to pass out these answer sheets. I was surprised that five students didn't get one. One student, maybe two, but five? This should have been my first clue, but I just found blank answer sheets and passed those out to the students.

It wasn't until second period that I discovered the mistake. It turns out that there were two different tests, but I only gave first period one of them. The five students? They should have taken the other test.

Second period I found the second test, and every student got a pre-labeled answer sheet. I went around and passed out the test booklets for the tests, being careful to give the proper test to each student. I double checked their answer sheets to make sure they were getting the proper test booklet. Or so I thought.

As the students finished the test, I noticed something. I had test booklets that did not agree with the answer sheets.

The worst part of this? After passing everything out, I asked the students to check their answer sheets and compare them to the test booklets. They were supposed to tell me if they did not match. They didn't.

I felt like a complete idiot.

By third period, the kinks were worked out of the system. As I collected the tests, everything matched.

It doesn't matter. I still felt like an idiot.

There are some days that I just shouldn't get out of bed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mysterious Visit

My first gig of the new school year was for 8th grade science. The teacher left them a quiz, a vocabulary sheet, and a lab packet to work on.

During third period, two boys took their time completing the quiz. It was 10 questions long, yet somehow after a half hour they still weren't done. (There was a lot of staring into space and fidgeting.)

Luckily, the rest of the class worked away on the other assignments quietly.

Then the assistant principal came by. He waved at me. I returned the wave with a smile. He walked the room. About a minute later, one of the counselors came in, and she did the same.

I felt such relief. It's nice to have a behaving class when the administrators pop by.

The counselor motioned for one boy to follow her out of class. It was one of the boys who was taking his time on the quiz. The boy returned for a moment to collect his things, and then all three left. (About this time, the other boy decided he'd stared at that quiz for long enough.)

I felt the question in the air. The class was curious. Why had the assistant principal and the counselor visited our class? No one asked the question, but I thought I should clue them in.

"They were doing a dress code check."

Several students did a quick body check. Suddenly, they were all nervous. I don't know why. They all passed.

(The boy who was removed had the sagging jeans thing going on. I don't get that. Why wear pants at all if they're hanging below your butt? That can't be comfortable.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Key Issues

School has started, but I haven't been called to work yet. Maybe tomorrow? Until I have something new, here's a post from January 8, 2007. This was not the first time I've had issues getting into a classroom, nor was it the last. 

I had a restless night. Getting called to sub didn't help my situation. I ended up running late, but I got to class a minute or two before the warning bell (not good, but not late, so not terrible).

The door to the classroom was not fully closed. It was locked (the knob wouldn't turn), but the metal catch was not in the slot in the door jam--it opened with a light pull. Bad. Very bad. Anyone could get into the classroom and make off with any number of things. But it was very, very lucky for me.

My key didn't work.

Every morning when I check in a key is checked out to me. This is so I can get into the classroom. At the end of the day I can lock the room. And I can leave to use the restroom and go to lunch. Unattended classrooms must always be locked. Thieves roam the pathways.

I could not do any of this with a key that does not work.

I'm fairly competent mechanically. Key in lock--twist. It should turn easily. Well, not easily, but it does give to pressure. This key would not budge. I tried the other tricks I know--pushing the key all the way in, pulling it out a smidge, jiggling it...Nothing.

I had 1st period to start, and I was in the room, so I left it for the moment. 2nd period I had off.

Another teacher taught in the room 2nd period. I asked her about the key situation. She told me that the lock had been rekeyed.

I went up to the office. I explained my problem. I told the secretary what the teacher had told me. But they did not have a record of this room being rekeyed, so as far as they were concerned, it hadn't happened.

I was sent back to the room with the offending key. I waited for someone to come and try the key, and he told me that I was correct--the key didn't work. (Duh!) I went back to the office for another key. This key also did not work.

At this point I should mention how much walking this entailed. I was in a classroom quite far from the office. Roughly, it was 200 yards (or more) distant. Not a big deal really. It was good to get some exercise in. But the distance will make a difference in a bit.

I called the office when I learned that key #2 didn't work. After walking back and forth a couple times I decided to take a break and not try the new key until nearly time for the next class. Bad move. When I called, it was a minute into the passing period between snack and 3rd period. The secretary then told me that they had confirmed that the lock had been rekeyed, and she had the right key for me. But now I had to run.

Remember the 200 yards? The school is pretty compact for the amount of students who attend, so besides the distance, I had to fight crowds. And I had less than five minutes (I already burned a minute in calling the secretary back). I was not wearing my running shoes.

I surprised myself by actually getting back to the classroom before the tardy bell (I may have run into a few students, but I don't think I left any marks). I said a quick, verbal prayer: "Please God, let it work!" It did.

The crazy things that happen to me...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Showing Off

I just got back from the dentist. No, nothing major, just a cleaning. But I had to make sure to take my new purse...

Patchwork Purse 1

I spent much of August making this. I had to rip out and start over a couple times before I got it right.

I think this is the third purse I've made this year. (The last one.) It probably won't be the last. It's not quite right, but it's the closest I've come thus far. (I don't like the straps.)

Everyone in my dentist's office knows I knit. Every time I go, I have something that they comment on. (All the purses I use I knit myself.)

I sort of explained how this one was made. It's hard to explain felting to a non-knitter or anyone who hasn't tried felting. You wouldn't know that this was knit due to the density of the fabric.

I guess I'm a bit of a show-off.

I also finished another flounder...

Small Flounder Closeup

I started this one as a birthday gift for my nephew, but after finishing the body I found it was a bit too small. I started another one, and that one I gave as the gift. This guy sat for a while until the older nephew hounded me to finish a flounder for him.

So, now it's back to nook cozies for me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Preventing the Fight

It's time for the First Campaigner Challenge. Here's my entry (inspired by a true story): 

The door swung open, and Crystal continued on out that door as if that’s what she had intended all along. Jean from school security gave Ana a look.

“You too.”

As Ana left the room, Gus turned on me.

“Why did you have to go and call security? We wanted to see the fight.”

Knowing this was an argument I couldn’t win, I instead told Gus to sit down and get back to his assignment.

None of the students wanted to work any longer. I heard all sorts of commentary.

“She shouldn’t have said what she said.”

“I wouldn’t have put up with that.”

“Why’d she even come to school today?”

I reminded the students that they did have work to do, but since I was the substitute, they weren’t having any of it. Then the door opened again, and the class went silent.

“Where is Crystal’s stuff?” Jean asked.

Crystal’s neighbors picked up her backpack and took it to Jean. Jean gave them all a look that said that she didn’t want to hear from this class again. The students acted like they had been working the whole time.

Jean and I exchanged looks. Then the door swung shut.

I'm #277 in the linky list in case you'd like to "like" this entry.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Things That Worry Me

The first Campaign challenge is up. I plan to get to it, but I'm going to need some time to ponder before I submit anything.

So, for today, I'm doing another repost Tuesday. I stumbled across this in my files, and considering the anniversary is this coming weekend, I thought this post was kind of apropos. It was originally posted on October 30, 2006.  

So today I was in this AVID class (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and they had this interview assignment. They were supposed to talk about some historical event. It was a strange assignment, but it's not my job to judge. I just had to make sure they were doing it.

Anyway, two of them looked over at me. They wanted to know when 9/11 was.

Let me repeat, they wanted to know when 9/11 was.

My reply: "September 11th."

That's when they clarified.

One said it was in 2003 and the other was going for 2004. When I informed them that it had happened in 2001 they wanted to make sure that I was sure. I was sure.

This kind of disturbed me. I had to remind myself that I was dealing with 7th graders--12-year-olds. They were in 2nd grade when it happened. When I was that age I probably would have had trouble with such dates, right? Right?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pass it On

It's Labor Day around these parts, and I have a family thing to attend. I baked chocolate chip cookies and everything.

I wrote my monthly blog post contribution to my online shop's team, and it appears today. Please feel free to check it out, and comments are most welcome.

And finally, I received a blog award from Aldrea at Thardrandian Thoughts. (I always feel like I've been called on in class without raising my hand when I get one of these.)

It's meant to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. (That's me, although I don't know if I'll ever have over 200. That's okay, because I appreciate every one of the followers that I do have.)

Thanks. (Actual post here.)  

The rules are:  
  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  2. Reveal your top picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
  5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!
I'm passing this award to:
  • Heather at My Demon Spirits. Because I always pass these things on to her, and because if she doesn't get it now, she never will (she'll break the 200 followers barrier sooner than I will).  
  • Holly at The Genres of My Life. Her blog consistently makes me laugh, especially her classroom stories.
  • Katharina Gerlach. I just met her through the Campaign and I look forward to learning more about her.  
If you haven't already, be sure to check out these blogs. They are well worth the time.