Monday, January 31, 2011

Freezing the Students Out

It was chilly this morning. So, one of the first things I did once I got into the classroom was to turn on the heater. Once the room got warm enough, the heat switched off.

It was inevitable. Someone had to complain. Kayla told me it was too cold in the room (from across the room, naturally), so she asked me to turn on the heat. I informed her that it was already on. She asked me to turn the heat on again ten minutes later.

The heat switched on and off twice more before the end of the period. The room wasn't toasty warm (that would have been too warm), but it wasn't freezing cold either. (It was about room temperature, somewhere around 68 degrees.)

As they left class, I heard Kayla complain to another student. Kayla said that she didn't feel the heat, so it must not have been on.

Yeah, because I'm going to lie about that. Sheesh!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Boring Friday

It is Friday, and I have nothing to write about. Normally, I work on Fridays. For some reason, more teachers are out on Fridays than any other day. They made a rule that they can't do school business on Fridays, yet still Friday is my busiest day. But not today.

The schools were closed today. It's the end-of-semester day off.

Things should pick up again next week. I hope. January tends to be a pretty dead month. After the vacation, things slow down a lot. Then it's less than a month until finals. Teachers try to stay in school.

I think I'm going to go and play some Gin Rummy. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


This is one of those slow weeks. Finals. So, I was surprised to actually get called.

The teacher teaches chemistry and physics (hip, hip, hooray!). Fourth period was a chemistry class, but due to various scheduling conflicts, the class had one lone physics student.

I gave the rest of the class the chemistry final. I gave the physics student the physics final. Then it was just a matter of monitoring and waiting.

I had been instructed to keep track of the tests. They were numbered. As tests were turned in, I put them back in proper numerical order (better me than them). I took an inventory once most of the tests were in, and I found that two tests were missing while two students were still working on the test. Success!

The last two students finished at the same time. At that point, I got ready to release the class from the silence that I insist upon during testing situations. Even though I knew that I had all the tests, I started with the same question in a voice loud enough for the class to hear:

"Does anyone still have a test?"

That's when I saw the physics student.  He raised his hand.


It took me a minute to get the class back to silence. They had been good up until this point, so it wasn't too much trouble.

Then, after a couple minutes of the class back in silence, one student looked over at me. He asked me if I was keeping the class silent because I wanted the peace. I explained to the student that there was still a test out. He didn't see anyone working, so he asked me who still had a test. I indicated the physics student.

"Oh, him. I forgot about him."

"So did I," I admitted.

The physics student only needed a few more minutes to finish up. Then I was able to actually release the class from their enforced silence.

I apologized to the student for forgetting about him. It happens, but I still felt a little stupid.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Explanation of the Absence

I used to have a MySpace account.  I started my blog there.  But after I had a few too many technical difficulties, I moved the blog here.  I have since closed the MySpace account.  I hate to lose all of my blogs from that time, so from time to time I repost them here.  This one is from November 21, 2006.  

I was taking attendance using a seating chart, and to be extra careful I called out the names of those I was marking absent.  Attendance is serious business.  Kids get things like Saturday School for ditching classes, and I don't want to mistakenly mark a kid as being absent. 

During 5th period only one student was absent.  I called out his name.

"He's locked up."

News to me.  It turned out to be news to the rest of the class.  The student who stated this promised that he was not "playing", that he was telling the truth.  According to student number 2, student number 1 got caught breaking and entering, and that's why he's been missing school (at least seven days).

The things I hear.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Knitter's Nightmare

A couple weeks ago, I briefly mentioned that I had started knitting a 3/4-sleeved cardigan. I fell for the thing when I saw it in a magazine, but I couldn't get to it right away due to my scarf project.

Things were going along swimmingly, and then I ran into a bit of a snag. I ran out of yarn.

When I started the sweater, I thought I had two skeins of the yarn. It was a dark green color called forest floor. As I came upon the end of skein one, I went looking for skein two, and I couldn't find it. Somehow I had miscalculated. I think I bought two skeins (or maybe three), and used all but one on another project.

Remember the sweater I made for my nephew?

steggie back

Anyway, I wasn't terribly worried. I'd just go out and buy enough yarn to finish my sweater. (The yarn was of the "no dye lot" variety, so I didn't have that worry plaguing me.) I went out to the yarn store to find that they were sold out of only one color--forest floor.

As I was out and about (and it was a nice, sunny day), I figured I could drive to another yarn store. There, I found the same situation--plenty of the yarn, none of it forest floor. Luckily, a lady was working in the yarn section, so I asked about it.

Turns out that color is in a strange sort of limbo. The stores are only getting it in small quantities if at all. The other colors, they get dozens of skeins at a time. Forest floor--maybe four skeins at a time. Disaster!

I tried one more store before giving up and going home. Then, I had a decision to make. Option 1: Find a color that's actually in stock and start anew. Option 2: Wait until the yarn store gets it back in stock. Option 3: Internet!

I seriously considered option 1. I kind of enjoy ripping out knitting, and maybe another color would work better. As for option 2, the lady at the yarn store said they were due to get a couple skeins the next week. However, I've worked in retail, and I know that just because it's supposed to be on the truck doesn't mean it will be on the truck, and the likelihood that a mistake is made is in direct proportion to how badly you need that item.

Well, there was an option 3.

I found it on the Internet. I put in my order. Now it was time to wait and wonder. Would the yarn be the right yarn? Would the colors match?

I love Internet tracking of purchases. I got to follow the progress of my yarn. Unfortunately, it got stuck in Carson on the 17th, and it didn't move most of the week. I got to the point where I couldn't work on my sweater any longer as I was within a row of being out of yarn.

Oh, by the way, I was about to here...

cropped cardigan update 2

Then Friday, it arrived. I checked the yarn against my sweater, and it seemed to be a match. Whew!

There's a moral to my story. I should check these things before I start the project. However, I don't usually jump in like this, and I did find the yarn, so will I keep this in mind before I start my next project? Probably not.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Very Late Call

It was later in the morning, way past the danger zone, so I was lying in bed watching TV (a NOVA from my DVR--"The Race for Absolute Zero"). My cell phone rang. No one ever calls me on my cell phone, so I knew it had to be the sub caller. Did she have an assignment for me for Monday? That had to be it.

"Are you available to work today?"

Today? Really?

It was third period. It takes me about an hour from phone call to arrival at school. That meant that the earliest I could get there was after fourth period had started (for a six period day).

I mentioned this to the sub caller. She asked if I would rather not do it. No, I wanted to work, but I didn't want the school thinking I'd get there in 20 minutes (almost possible only if I had been fully dressed and ready to walk out the door that instant). My hour time frame was considered acceptable.

When I got to the school, I expected that the teacher would have already left. Turns out her appointment (for an ongoing issue) was later, so she had plenty of time to brief me before she had to go.

I covered 2 1/2 periods of middle school science. The classes had standardized tests to take (I've proctored them before, so I knew the drill).

It turned out to be the perfect assignment for me today, especially since I'm getting over a cold. I got to sleep in and work a shorter day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'd Rather Be Playing Games

It's been a painfully slow week, but that's sort of a good thing as I've had a bit of a cold since Monday.  I'm getting through it fairly quickly, and I'm feeling almost normal today.  A bit stuffy, but almost normal.

I had a great idea for a post today, something about subbing, but I find that I'm not in the mood for it right now.  I'd rather be playing games.

One of my favorite time wasters at school (on prep periods, I promise!) is  It's not so much a game as a vocabulary builder.  It gives you a word with four possible synonym choices.  If you get it right, you gain levels (and harder words).  If you get it wrong, you go down levels.

I've found that I tend to hover around level 40.  At the moment, I've missed several words, and I'm down to level 36, but I've gotten as high as level 41.

Try it, and in the comments, tell me how well you've done.  (You can start at any level by clicking on "change level" at the bottom of the word box.)  I'm sure you can beat my piddly level 41.

My other favorite online game of the moment is Gin Rummy (this one).  If you've got a moment, come by and join me.  I'm not that good.  You can probably take me.

So, I'm off.  Wish me luck.  Maybe I'll win.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Starts With a J

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

This was originally posted January 26, 2007.  

I didn't really want to work today.  I feel like I'm coming down with something.  So, having a special ed. class was just what my tired, achy body needed.

But it wasn't that bad.  They had a spelling/vocabulary test first, and then when they finished that, they were supposed to get into groups of 3 or 4 and list all the words that they could think of that started with "J".  Apparently this is something that they've done before, so they knew the drill.

The ground rules were simple.  No wandering the room (to look for hints).  No dictionaries.  No flipping through books.  And I would have thought that they'd want to keep their work to themselves so that the other groups wouldn't steal their answers, but that wasn't always the case.

So, it's later in the day, and these two boys are sniping at each other.  I don't remember the insult that one threw at the other, but the other shot back with:



"That's a J-word!"

Now, that's the way to help the other team!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Name Swap

The bell hadn't even rung yet when I noticed the three boys in the back far corner of the room.  Instead of entering the room, going to their seats, and getting ready for the period, they were playing around.  As I couldn't get to them quickly (due to the teacher's bench, the distance to them, and the new student who was checking in), I had to yell at them to stop that right now.

I was ready for a bit of a battle with this group.  The class was called survey of biology, and it was for the students who couldn't handle the standard biology curriculum.  The rest of the Friday (regular biology classes) had gone relatively smoothly; the classes were a bit loud but on task.

I was not expecting the three boys in fifth period.

I finished taking roll and getting the new student squared away, and then I gave the class the assignment.  Then I could walk around the room.  I headed for the three boys.  They were playing, and I needed to get them working.

The largest of the three introduced himself as Tom.  Then he introduced the boy sitting next to him as James.  He explained that he never does any work in class, so I should expect nothing from him.

However, I knew he was not Tom.  It was luck, though, for I had marked Tom absent, and now I knew that Tom was present.  He was the boy introduced as James.

The third boy, so far unintroduced, was James.  I knew this.  For some reason, I remember James.  I'm not sure why.  I had him in class on Tuesday (where he was quiet and unremarkable).  I remember noting that I hadn't seen him in a while, so when I saw him again Friday, I knew who he was.

I turned to the actual James and said hello.  James claimed that his name was Benz.

Not-Tom was Benz.  He's another boy who I've known a while, and I couldn't remember his name until James claimed to be him.  (I remembered it was distinctive, but that was all.)  So, I said hello to the actual Benz, and he claimed to be...  Oh, now I can't remember.

They attempted to confuse me, or maybe they were confused themselves.  Benz flipped the introductions around, only making sure that he was using the wrong names for each of them.  If I hadn't been sure of who they actually were (from having them in other classes) I might have been fooled.  But Benz couldn't confuse me on this.  (Besides, I've dealt with this sort of thing before.)

Once I made it clear I knew who was who, I walked away.  I returned a couple times to check up on them.  I thought about writing them up, but I couldn't figure out how to word the referral.  And once the initial idiocy was over, they kept to themselves and didn't rile up the class (the rest of the class was working pretty well).

I guess they didn't remember that they'd had me in class before.  Then again, maybe they did.  Perhaps they thought that if they denied their names long enough, I'd believe them.  Yeah, not so much.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Distraction

8th graders taking a test.  Uh oh.

It was a history class.  The test was titled "The Age of Jackson".  Multiple choice.  The students got ten minutes of panic cram time, and as I walked the room, their conversations were pretty much on topic.  (Although, one boy confused Seminole with Samoa, but I asked about it, and he figured out that he was saying the wrong word.)

Then I laid out the ground rules.  These are the things they should know, but I needed to remind them that they were taking a test, and sub behavior wouldn't be excused.

The groups were pretty good.  I had to insist on silence before I got it.  But once they got into the test, keeping them silent wasn't an issue.  Well, except with one group.

Some kids just haven't figured out how to take cues from the room.  Theo was having pencil trouble, so he got up to sharpen the pencil (with permission).  The pencil sharpeners in the room were terrible--they didn't do what their name implied they were supposed to do.  Theo gave up.

Now, any reasonable person, in a quiet room, wouldn't do this.  But Theo...  He announced to the room that he was in need of a pencil, and he wondered if anyone could lend him one.  The question was nominally directed at me, but it included the whole class.  One girl and one boy went into their backpacks, searching.  The girl got out a pencil first.

Somehow, the rest of the class managed to remain in test mode.  How?  I have no idea.

Theo finished his test quickly.  He asked what he should do (a little too loudly, of course).  I rattled off a list of possibly activities.  He asked if he could do work for another class.  I said sure.  He decided that he would rather ball up paper and throw it at the trash can.

At this point I had other students finish the test, and I had to remind them that I needed silence until all the tests were turned in.  Theo asked if he could take a nap.  He didn't.

Theo wasn't the only issue in class.  There were two others who I had to keep an eye on.  They were also finished with their tests and getting into distraction territory with their activities.  Luckily, all they needed was reminding (and the occasional Stare).  I didn't have to resort to harsher inducements to quiet.

Finally, everyone finished the test.  I asked how they had done.  Theo said that he could have done better if he had studied, since he hadn't studied at all.  Of course he hadn't.

Then I put on a video for the rest of the period.  I could relax.  At least, I could relax until the next class' test.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Call Window

I've noticed a trend when it comes to getting called to work in the mornings.

There is a window of opportunity (well, I think of it more as a danger zone) when the sub caller calls.  (The district hasn't gotten one of those computerized systems in place.  It's a small district, so I have no idea if they ever will.)  It starts when the sub caller starts for the day.  It goes until about ten minutes after I can comfortably get up, dressed, and to the school on time (the later calls make for nerve-wracking mornings).

The danger zone lasts about a half hour.  I can get calls later (when the sub caller gets called late), but if I haven't been called in that half hour, I'm most likely not working that day.

Some mornings I can sleep through this time.  Other mornings I can not.

There are some lovely mornings when I wake up, look at the clock, and see the window of opportunity is long past.  While I'm disappointed, I don't have the panic of wondering if the phone will ring.

More often than not, if I'm awake during that half hour, I won't get called.

Yesterday, I was deep asleep in the middle of a dream when the phone woke me.  It was a little later than I would have liked, but it was work, and I was glad of that.

This morning, I woke ten minutes before the window.  I knew I wasn't going to get called, but of course, I couldn't go back to sleep.  I stared at my phone for the half hour, the ten minutes before, and about twenty minutes after.  Nothing.

I suppose I should have turned on the TV or something.  As it was, I was trying to fall back asleep, and I managed to do so once the danger zone was fully past.  But I was on pins and needles, waiting.  I knew I wouldn't get called (as I was awake), but there was a chance.

(It isn't a perfect system.  I only know I'd sleep through the whole window because I have done so in the past.  And there were one or two times when I got called when I was awake.  But these are the exceptions.)

It's one of the occupational hazards.  You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I'm not.  But I'm working on it.  It's getting easier to sleep through that window of opportunity.  And once I can do that, I'm convinced that I'll get more calls.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting Blamed for Beyond My Control

I was running a bit late today, and I got to class just after the warning bell rang.  Luckily, everything was set up.  They were continuing to read Black Boy by Richard Wright, and they were to follow along as a CD played. 

The CD was already in the boom box.  The lesson plan said it was cued up to the proper spot (later I found that he had just burned the chapters to a CD).  The class came in, I took roll and gave my usual intro, and then we started in on chapter 7. 

Things went smoothly for about two pages.  Then the CD started to skip.  The first time was no big deal, but after about five times of the CD catching on one or two words, the class was starting to lose it. 

"Did you get that at the swap meet?" a boy in front asked. 

Why they would think I brought in a boom box, I have no idea. 

I explained that what I had is what was left by their teacher.  I asked how he usually played the novel.  They told me he played it from his laptop. 

I explained that the teacher would not leave his laptop for the sub.  I would have thought that this would have been obvious.  Then again, sophomores can be a little dense sometimes. 

Another student told me I should clean off the CD.  I didn't think that would help, but I did it anyway, knowing full well that I'd have to fast forward through the already heard 14 minutes.  It took as long as I knew it would. 

Did that fix the problem?  Of course not.  It skipped several more times.  Then, miraculously, it stopped. 

I've had technical issues like this before.  But this is the first time I've had this much trouble from the class when they happened.  Usually, the classes roll with it. 

These are things I consider when writing my note for the day.  I don't appreciate getting blamed for technical difficulties. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

What I've Been Knitting

I promised weeks ago to take a picture to show off that purse that I was working on.  But with all the rainy and overcast days, it was hard to get a good picture.  (I need to invest in a light box or something.)  But the sun is out today.  So, here it is...

pinwheel purse

I got the lining just about right, and I like how the button fits in with the whole...

pinwheel purse 2

However, I don't like it.  It's not the purse, exactly.  I enjoyed knitting it.  I like how it looks.  I just don't like how it feels.  It isn't quite right.  So, I think I'm going to give it away.  Would anyone like it?

I got a nook for Christmas.  It needed a cover to protect it, so I made it one...

nook cozy

It turned out way better than I expected.  I love it.  I love the feel of it.  I love the way it looks.  I can't explain it.

It goes like that sometimes.  I knit things that I think I'll like, and I don't.  Then things I don't think all that much about turn out to be things that I love.

So, at the moment I'm working on a sweater for me.  I expect this will take a while.  At the moment, I like it.  I'm sure by the time I finish it, the weather will warm up.  But, I will get to look forward to wearing it about next winter.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Not Even Trying

Today's lesson plan consisted of one sentence stating that there was a student teacher who was going to do all the work.  Easy day for me.

Fourth period was algebra 1 for English language learners.  It was a small class.  Most of them were fluent enough in English that understanding wasn't much of an issue.  Well, understanding what the student teacher was saying was not an issue.  Understanding the math...

They were working on graphing inequalities.  They were given an activity.  They had to figure out which point of the given five was the point where the treasure was buried.  They were given three inequalities as hints as to which point was the correct point.  Presumably, the inequalities only overlapped with the point that was where the treasure was buried.

They were supposed to treat the activity as a quiz.  I walked around the room to try to help shush them and to assist those that needed a little extra help.

One boy raised his hand.  He was clueless as to what to do.  This was even after the student teacher had explained what steps should be taken to solve the activity.

So, I looked at the first inequality.  x > 2.  I asked him how he would go about graphing that.  He had no idea.

Usually, in situations like this, I can ask the right questions to get the student to the point where he remembers that he learned how to do this.  I got nowhere with this boy.  When I asked him what the teacher had explained about graphing, he admitted that he didn't pay attention in class.

After practically doing the first problem for him (which he then didn't write down), I walked away.  I wasn't going to do the thing for him, and he wasn't helping me out any.

I noticed that most of the class was in a similar situation.  After 15 minutes, the student teacher called for their papers.  No one in class had even gotten close to finishing.  Practically no one had written anything on the papers.

(This wasn't the student teacher's fault.  I saw him teach all day, and he was doing all the right things.  Fifth period went a little better.  Most of the students just refused to do anything.)

I should have been paying more attention to names and faces.  It'll help me later when these kids end up at the continuation high school.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I'm just checking in to provide a link to a post I wrote for the California Crafters Club of Etsy blog.  I hope you'll check it out.

And if you're feeling generous, I would appreciate it if you would like my shop on Facebook.  I'd like to get up to 25 "likes".  At which point, I think I'll do a contest of some sort.  Any ideas or thoughts?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Unearned Compliment

"You're a really good sub.  You should sub more often."

A student said that to me during 5th period.  It troubled me.  A lot.

Today I covered Earth Science.  They had some bookwork to do.  I stood at the front of the room and watched them.  I wasn't doing much as there wasn't much to do.  They talked, but they also appeared to do some work.

I wasn't looking forward to the Earth Science classes.  The students who end up in these classes aren't very academically motivated.  (The students who passed middle school science went directly into biology.)  So, I was pleasantly surprised when they actually got out materials and got to work.

I noticed a couple of them had empty desks.  I went over, and I looked meaningfully at one boy.  Without my having to say a word, he got out a book, paper, and pencil.  (This is a very good thing.  Some students will just look at me and say, "What?" when I appear in front of them, unaware that they should be doing anything.)

But still, I wasn't doing anything that merited a compliment.

I thanked the boy for the kind words.  I didn't know what else to do.  And I continued to watch the class.  They didn't get up to too much mischief.  They appeared to finish the assignment.

I get the feeling that I missed something.  I wonder what it was.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Scarf Project

It was at about this time last year that I came up with a plan.  Since I always seemed to get to my Christmas knitting so late in the year, I thought it time that I started earlier.  Way earlier.  January.

I decided to knit everyone a scarf.  The first pattern I found was the dragon scarf.  Then I got sidetracked.  I made myself an alligator scarf.  (I had to include myself in the project, right?)  And then it was my niece's birthday (and I ended up knitting her present twice).

By the summer, it was time to get serious.  I managed to get a couple scarves done.  I blogged about one.  This one was for my niece.

scallop scarf 2

Then this one ended up going to my dad.

chunky braided scarf

Then I figured that I'd better get my nephew's birthday present done (he was inconveniently born on December 26th).  It turned out very nice.

steggie back

For my newest nephew, I figured that a scarf wouldn't be the best option.  So, he got a soft toy instead.

for Griffin

It was fall before I got to the end of my project.  I had two more scarves to knit.  And then on November 13th, I was done.  All I had to do was wrap everything and wait for the big day.

It was the strangest December.  I wasn't panicking.  I wasn't busily trying to finish a bunch of projects in time for the holiday.  December 23rd was a peaceful day (this is unusual for me).

Also, I didn't get sick.  (Well, I had one migraine, but that was closer to New Year's than Christmas.)  It was lovely.  This is how the holiday season should always be.

So, now it's time to plan for Christmas 2011.  Actually, it's totally time to start.  But first I must decide what it is that I'm going to knit for everybody.  Hats?  Gloves?  Socks?  I'm going to have to think about this.