Thursday, March 31, 2011


Today was one of those days. Average. The kids weren't bad, but they weren't spectacularly good either. It was a good working day.

Unfortunately, it didn't give me a great incident on which I could hang a blog post.

I spend my days looking for that one thing that will make a good story to blog about. (Well, that and doing my job, but that should go without saying.) I usually have a couple things to choose from. I do for today as well. But none of these are terribly original. My choices...

  1. I had an issue finding the lesson plans. They were in an obvious place, but since no teacher had left his/her lesson plans there in a while, it didn't occur to me to look there until after I called the teacher at home. (I blame Mercury going retrograde.)  
  2. It warmed up. I had the air conditioner going. The kids complained that it was too cold.  
  3. I ran into a student I had had in class at the traditional high school (I was at the continuation high school today). I wasn't surprised to see him at the CHS. His behavior at the THS screamed future CHS student.  
  4. I was in a computer class. Some students were doing things (online, games) that they weren't supposed to do. They thought they were hiding it from me. They weren't.  
  5. I got to watch a video twice. I saw it before in another class.  
  6. And I was just happy not to be at one of the other schools today because they were having an assembly.  
I probably should have just gone with the skip today. It wasn't a terribly interesting day.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Not Deshawn

Today I had 8th grade science. The teacher had forgotten to leave the seating charts, so I had to call out the roll. (I assume he forgot the seating charts, as the lesson plan made mention of them, but I couldn't find them anywhere.) This went fairly smoothly until 6th period.

There are some names that are unique to various races. For example, a Jose is always a Latino. So, when I called out Deshawn, I knew something was up when one boy indicated that this boy was present, but he was over there (indicating a white boy). Especially when "Deshawn" looked a bit bewildered about this. He refused to say that he was "here", so I marked Deshawn absent.

The boy who pointed out "Deshawn" responded to the name Chris. I heard a few snickers from the crowd. I knew what game "Chris" was playing now. (Yeah, this game has come up a couple times.)

I don't know why Deshawn wanted to pretend to be someone else. It's not like he did anything out of the ordinary. In fact, had it not been for the name swap, he wouldn't have made my note at all. As it was, the swap was pretty obvious.

At the beginning of the period, several students tried to remember to call Deshawn "Chris", but most slipped up within moments. (They were working on group projects, so there was continuous noise. Since most of them were doing what they were supposed to be doing, I wasn't concerned.) If I had had any doubts about Deshawn's true name, those would have been erased before the class was halfway over. By then, the charade was up, and most of the others had forgotten to call Deshawn anything else.

I left Deshawn marked absent, though. I thought it served him right.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Math Time Fillers?

The girl took way too long to sharpen her pencil. I shooed her back to her seat, but she didn't go there. She found two of her friends and joined them.

It was a geometry class. Normally, the talking in the room wouldn't have bothered me, but first period had worked silently, and all the classes were way too happy to see a sub. Happy or not, I still wanted to see them do their work.

I meandered over to the trio of girls to gently chide them to get on task. I found them painting their nails.

I've seen girls put on makeup in class (I've never understood the point of this, not even when I was a teenage girl). But nail polish? Really?

They explained that they never do their work, yet they all have As. Really? Tell me another one. Are you three on the honor roll, too?

I couldn't let that pass without letting their teacher in on the joke.

The algebra readiness (they no longer call it pre-algebra in high school) class had a quiz. After they finished, they got free time for the remaining few minutes of class. Most of them sat and talked. Two boys decided that it would be fun to hit each other on the knuckles over and over again.

Um, no.

The boys couldn't understand my problem with their game. No amount of explanation swayed them, so I resorted to I-asked-you-not-to as a reason.

One boy declared himself the winner, as he was the last one to get a hit in. I reminded him that the game had been stopped, so there was no winner. The boy showed off his red knuckles as if they were a prize. (They only got a chance to knock each other twice before I got to them and stopped it. If they get that hurt in that short a time, I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn't stopped them.)

My suggestions for ways to pass the time didn't interest them. They attempted to find other ways to hit each other.

What passes for fun...

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Finished Cardigan

It turned cold last week. It was gray. A couple days it rained. And I was as thrilled as I could be.

Last Sunday, I finally finished that sweater that I'd been working on...

the cardigan too

For much of the time I was working on it, I was sure that by the time I finished it, the weather would have warmed up, and I wouldn't get a chance to wear it. (I even said it in a post.) The weather did just that a few times. But then it would cool back down, and I'd wonder. Will I get a chance to wear it this winter?

I finished it just in time for one more cool down. I wore it every day I worked last week. And I loved every minute of it.

It's supposed to warm up this week. I don't mind now that I've had a chance to wear my new sweater.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Crashing Down

As the 8th graders entered 6th period yesterday, I thought of the phrase a herd of elephants. I could tell that it was going to be one of those classes. I was going to have to come down on them hard, but I was going to wait until the period started before I dropped the hammer.

It was an English class. The teacher had strung a long line of yarn across the back of the room. It was tied to the windows, and it draped down into the class. Along this yarn were hung various poems that the students had written. It was a clever way to display them. No one had bothered this display all day.

As the students entered the class, they ducked under the poems. One student reached up to touch the yarn...

I shouldn't have been surprised. The whole thing came crashing down. Several thoughts flitted through my mind. At the front, though, was that that was a brilliant bit of chaos. I couldn't resist. I gave it a golf clap.

8th graders. This led to a round of applause from most of the class.

The student who had caused the crash said: "Ms. B. would have been mad."

Um, yeah. She might still be. Did he think that this incident wouldn't make it into my note? I didn't see the point in yelling at him, as his face showed me just how chagrined he felt when that yarn broke.

As soon as the yarn broke, two students jumped up to try to reattach the yarn. One ended up on a desk. The other stood by attempting to help. The culprit went over to assist as soon as he put his stuff down. He said that it was his responsibility given that he had broken it.

By this time class had started, and a group that was already wound up was now on the brink of going absolutely insane. I debated whether I should go over and put the display to rights, but I had some crowd control to do.

I attempted to get class started. They had a warm up exercise. I told them that they'd better do it.

I don't know what the issue was at getting the yarn reattached, but the students weren't getting anywhere. I was ready to cut them off, especially when they came asking for tape or a stapler. (That wasn't going to hold, and then we'd be right back where we started.) Then they realized that if they tied the yarn to the next window over the yarn would reach.

Once this was fixed, I somehow managed to get them all back into class mode. I threatened them. I explained that when I was talking I needed them to not be, and my note would reflect how well they paid attention when I was talking.

I'm surprised that it worked.

Perhaps it helped that they knew me. It sounded like I'd hit all of their science classes in the past couple months. I'm just grateful that they settled down.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Career Faire

Today was Career Faire day at the continuation high school. It's the second easiest sub day on the school calendar. (The easiest sub day is in November.) My job consisted of sitting in a classroom while someone made a presentation to the students.

Today I was in the room with a representative from a local community college. She was there talking about the school's automotive repair program.

She was a fair speaker. She hit all the important points about the program, so any student who was interested got a good overview.

We had four sessions. In the fourth session, we ended up with the "interesting" group. I kept my fingers crossed that we wouldn't have any major behavior issues. The students were more lively, but they didn't get to the point where I worried about them disrespecting the speaker.

One of the points of the presentation was the requirements for students. As there was an internship program with this, each applicant would be required to pass a drug screen.

And we lost half the group.

Several of them informed the speaker that that left them out. They remained a good audience for the speaker until the end of the time, though.

I don't know what troubles me more: that they admitted that they couldn't pass a drug screen, or that none of the students that admitted this surprised me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Some days, finding a topic to post about is easy. Some days the kids try to bribe me. Other days every other student is paranoid about the Illuminati. And then there are the fights.  

Today was not one of those days.  

The English teacher left us three poems to read. (I Googled them and found them: "The Secret," "The Gift," and "Halley's Comet".) I even managed to get a discussion out of them.  

They called the poems boring. They didn't get the point. I tried to help the students make sense of them. I don't know if I succeeded. But somehow we managed to have a lucid discussion about the poems that didn't devolve into them talking amongst themselves while I talked at them.  

I call that a win.  

Unfortunately, that means that I don't have an interesting story to go with my day for today. Sorry.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Banishing

It's time for the second Crusader Challenge. (Click on the link for the rules and to check out the other entries.) If my calculations (or at least my Word counter) is correct, this is just under the 100 word limit.  

The goldfish bowl teetered on the rock. The creature swam hard the other direction.

“Bek, you have been sentenced to banishment from human society. You will never again reside in a human’s body,” Jad said.  

The creature continued to try to steady the goldfish bowl. Jad kicked the bowl off the rock, and bowl and creature hit the lake below.  

“This was a mistake,” Kwa said.  

“You would have us kill one of our own?” Jad asked.  

“Bek would.”  

“This shows that we’re better than Bek and his kind.”  

“I’m not so sure about that,” Kwa said.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

End of Day Strange

There is something about 6th period. It's the last period of the day, and the kiddos are done. These classes can be the worst classes of the day. However, I find classes of only seniors end up more strange than out and out bad.

Seniors have the option of taking a shorter school day. I wasn't surprised to find that today's group in government only contained 15 students. They didn't misbehave, exactly. They were just a bit looser than the other groups.

I called for their current event assignment. They informed me that they don't do current events. (They're supposed to turn in a set number per semester, so everyone is not required to have one every week.) I told them of the day's assignment, and they balked at the amount of work expected.

Well, every period balked at the amount of work expected. These guys decided that they had to let the teacher know of their displeasure. They wrote her a note which said, "Mrs. K., You trippin'." (Yes, they did include the apostrophe with trippin'.)

They were working (sort of), and one boy was commenting on his hoodie. He told another student that the sleeves were "grody". I did a double take.

I explained to them that the last time I heard the word grody was in 1983. (I was exaggerating. I probably heard that word last as late as 1985.) They didn't believe me. They said they used it all the time.

What? When did the '80s come back? And why?

They didn't get as much work done as the other classes, but they did attempt it. And I was surprised to find a student who I met at the continuation high school in class (I guess he made up enough credits to graduate at his "home school"). I wouldn't have said anything, but he brought it up.

It was an interesting way to end the week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


If you've never been in a room with 30+ seventh graders, then you won't fully get my meaning when I use the term "squirrelly". It's not so much that they can't sit still, which they can't, but how they can't sit still. It's how five of them have to sharpen their pencils at the same time. Or how a simple worksheet takes them a full class period to complete.

It was a difficult day.

It was an easy enough assignment. They were to label the parts of a plant, write the function of each part, and color the page. All they had to label were the leaves, stem, and roots. And yet, somehow I found students who were still working on this at the end of the period. (There was a second worksheet for them after they finished the first.)

I think the main problem was that they were playing around.

So, I was doing battle. It was the usual: stern reminders to get to work, questions about what they thought they were doing, chasing down students who kept getting out of their seats, and helping the two students who needed assistance with understanding the assignment. I was in constant motion all day.

I noticed the girl after it happened. She had drawn bars under her eyes--the kind of bars that one sees on football players, except these bars were white, not black. I would have been more upset at missing this happening, but see above. At that point, all I could do was wonder what she was thinking.

What she wanted then was to get these bars off of her face. They wouldn't come off. I relented and asked the question. Turns out that she had used Wite-Out, and now she couldn't get it to come off. Wet paper towels were used. I assume some scrubbing was involved.

If I hadn't been so frazzled, I might have worried about laughing out loud. As it was, I barely had time to register this before moving on to the next catastrophe (from their perspective).

I have no idea if she did get those bars off her face. I kind of hope she didn't. Now, there's a lesson for you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Teachers have various ways of discouraging requests for restroom passes. One of my favorites is the detention deterrent. They really have to go if they're willing to stay after school to "make up" the time.

Today's lesson plan (same group as yesterday) contained the passage:
Students may only use the restroom in case of emergency. If they use the restroom during class they must serve time with you during snack, lunch or after school.  
Fair enough.

All requests for restroom passes were met with the reminder of the teacher's detention policy. Several students then changed their minds. A few agreed to the conditions. During fourth period, there was a rush.

I had four students in the first five minutes of class insist that they had to go. They were fine with staying with me after class. Then a fifth girl needed to go. I told her the same thing.

"But it's not a real detention, right?"

I explained that she owed me time. I thought that was the definition of detention. She did not have an issue with staying after class. But she did not want a "detention".

"I don't get detentions."

She explained that she couldn't get a detention. She had a spotless record. She wasn't about to lose that. She couldn't have an official detention.

I wasn't sure how to respond. Would I note that she stayed after class because she used the restroom? Yes. Would this make it into her "permanent record"? No. I doubt that a run-of-the-mill detention even gets reported to the office. It's not like a referral. Many times the office doesn't even get involved.

In the end she used the restroom, and she stayed after class. I noted this in my note.

I think I respect the girl for not wanting to get into trouble. I just wish we didn't have such an issue over a word.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Not Fully Prepared

When I checked in this morning, the secretary noted that the teacher hadn't been out once this year. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. It turned out to be a bit of both.

The classroom looked like the teacher hadn't expected to be out. There were no lesson plans. The desk was a mess. I searched for seating charts or class rosters. Eventually, I found a class listing. It wasn't an official roster, but it would be enough to take roll from.

I didn't panic about the missing lesson plans, though. Just before class time, a neighboring teacher brought the lesson plans to me. He had received them via email. This is becoming the norm.  

So, I was a bit surprised when the students all expected to have a sub. He warned them he was going to be out, yet he hadn't left the room in a state of preparedness for me.

I've been subbing a while. I know how to roll with things. Teachers sometimes have unexpected absences. I have to make do with what's at hand. I get that. I just wonder why this teacher hadn't left things more... Yeah, it was just weird.

The day went pretty smoothly, though. Three of five classes were very well-behaved. Two classes needed a little more encouragement. Since I was dealing with 8th graders for two days (I'll be back tomorrow), I decided that I would do better if I had a seating chart, so I made one.

I've done this before. As I call roll, I write down where each student is seated. It makes taking roll take a bit longer, but it helps to have names to go with the kiddos. Usually, I don't have issues doing this.

It was fifth period. I was near the end of the list. One student answered to his name, but I had already written a name in his seat. He had answered to a name earlier. And then I couldn't be sure who he was. Which name was correct?

I'm still not sure. Once I finished the list, there were three students who didn't have names associated with their seats. Two were not on my list. One was the name that mystery boy claimed earlier.

That was my difficult group. If only I had had his seating chart and an official roster. But I did the best I could with what I had. And at least it was only one group that took advantage.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Panic

I heard about it this morning on the radio. I was driving to work when one of the DJs said it. Earthquake in Japan. 8.9. Yikes!

I've lived in Southern California my whole life, so I understand the whole Richter Scale thing. 8.9? That's a scary number.

Then the next thing the DJ said gave me chills. Tsunami. Headed towards So. Cal.

And I relaxed about a minute later. I was driving away from the coast. I would be too far inland for it to impact me.

I got to class. Math: classes of algebra 1 and algebra 2. I read through the lesson plans. Worksheets. Easy enough.

First period was algebra 1. They had heard about the coming tsunami too. And they were worried.

I explained that we were too far inland for it to hit us. I explained that if we were in any real danger, the school would have been evacuated. The administration has to keep abreast of such things, and they would implement plans if needed. We were safe. There was nothing to worry about.

They weren't buying it.

One girl asked if I could turn on the news. (We don't exactly have cable in the classroom.) I compromised and promised to turn on the computer and look on the Internet for news. That seemed to satisfy her.

Another student then helped panic the class by announcing something she had seen on her cell phone (which I didn't see her check, or that cell phone would now be in the office's possession). It was something about 7 foot waves. I tried to calm them, and eventually I succeeded, as I found another story online that said that Hawaii had sustained no major damage.

Then I concentrated on getting them to work on the algebra assignment. That didn't work out so well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Paying to Go

No work today. I'm getting over a headache. It hit me hard when I got home, but it's now mostly dissipated.

Yesterday was such an interesting day. I like to see how various teachers run their classrooms. Sometimes they have interesting ideas. One of the points in yesterday's lesson plan was that the class had a class economy, so it cost the students "money" if they wanted to use the restroom.

A lot of special ed teachers have a reward system that uses fake money. On Fridays these students get to "shop" in the teacher's "store" for rewards like pencils or candy or chips. So, I was familiar with the idea. However, this teacher did it in a different way.

He charged $20 for a restroom pass.

I thought that amount a bit high. But then I saw some corrected work on the teacher's desk, and attached to that was a "check" for $6000. Okay then, $20 not that high. Since it was the going rate, no one balked when I asked for it when they asked to use the restroom.

When I asked one student for the $20, he asked to borrow it from another student. I wondered if this was legal. Since the second student readily lent the money, and the first student promised to repay, I figured they did this sort of thing all the time.

Then later in the day, I asked for the $20, and the student went looking for it in his folder. He had several ones, but nothing larger. So, he pulled out a check, and he wrote me a check for $100. He had a ledger and everything. I assumed that he had enough in his "bank account" to cover the $100. If not, I guess he'd be "overdrawn".

I left the check for the teacher. I gave the student $80 cash back. I had that student in a later period, and we did the exact same thing then. I guess they have separate funds for each class.

I wonder what else they spend their funds on. Since the classes were so well-behaved, I figure that whatever this teacher is doing is working.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Chess Game

The sub caller said science. She neglected to add that it was also special ed.

Not that I would have turned it down. I'm not that picky. I only turn down P.E. I don't even turn down Spanish (I took French) or economics (I never really got economics).

As it turned out, it was a pretty good day. The teacher has been training them to sit and work on packets, and they are now in the habit. They sat and worked. They didn't argue with me. They didn't try to play around. They behaved better than many of the regular ed classes I cover.

Two students in period 3 had finished their packets. They asked if they could play chess. Apparently, this was what they did when they had some free time.

I spent most of that period watching the two playing chess. (The rest of the class was busy working and didn't need so much attention.) It's been years since I played, but I remember the rules. One boy was ruthless. He captured so many of his opponent's pieces that the boy was left with a king, a rook, and a pawn by the end.

They played four games. The first boy won the first three.

Easy days are good things. It's nice to leave a glowing note every once in a while.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Long Walk

I wore myself out yesterday. Not intentionally. But by the time I got home, all I wanted to do was to collapse, so I did.

I subbed for a history teacher. He left a video. It was a pretty ordinary day, and all went well until sixth period. That period he coached cross country.

The high school's classrooms are laid out pretty compactly. Getting around is easily accomplished in the normal passing period. But the school's athletic fields are kind of out there.

At the end of fifth period, I had to wait for the students to exit the room. Then I left my note for the day (as I wasn't coming back to the room), I packed up my stuff, I made sure the room didn't look trashed, and I headed out the door. I was to go to the track (as that's where the cross country kids met). I knew that there was no way that I'd make it before the sixth period tardy bell rang, so at least I didn't try to run that distance.

The track is way out there. The teacher's classroom was on the opposite side of campus.

Because I was curious, I got on Google maps when I got home. I measured the distance from the classroom to the track. It came out as just under a half a mile. No wonder!

Yeah, I'm out of shape. Although, I think the fault was in my shoes. And my bag was a bit heavy. And the fact that I just don't like covering coaching periods (I always feel so extraneous and useless).

The classes are easy. The kids joined the team for a reason. So, I got to watch as the boys took off around the block (and around the town, I expect) while the girls ran around the track doing "suicides".

I really have nothing to complain about.

On a side note, I also wrote a post today over here. It has nothing to do with subbing (or writing). It's all about shopping. Do stop by, please. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Switch

Yesterday, I got a surprise phone call from the sub caller. It's been rare this school year to get called ahead for assignments, so I wasn't expecting it. Only after I hung up my phone did the name of the teacher register. While not ideal, it was work, so I mentally braced myself for the day. (I have subbed for this teacher before.)

This morning as I was getting ready, I got a reprieve. The sub called explained that the continuation high school was down three teachers, so she needed to switch me. (This sort of thing has happened before.)

I was more than a bit relieved. I didn't even mind that I was early (the continuation high school starts later).

It was a good switch. The worst thing to happen all day was having to deal with a student who looked at me like I was crazy when I asked him to stop talking. As his teacher prefers a quiet classroom (and all the other students were working quietly), I didn't think it was an unreasonable request. He acted as if my threat to move him to another seat was quite the overreaction on my part.

If that's as bad as it gets, then it was a pretty good day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Stylish Blogger? Me?

Tony Benson at Fireside Park awarded me the Stylish Blogger days ago:

Thanks, Tony. I wasn't ignoring it. I was waiting for the right time to acknowledge it.  

The requirements are:  
  1. Link back to the award giver.  
  2. Tell you all 7 things about myself.  
  3. Pass on the award to 3 recently discovered bloggers.  
I guess now it's my turn to figure out seven things to say about myself. Um, okay...  
  1. I have the same birthday as Harry Potter, or rather he has the same birthday as me (I'm older).  
  2. Currently, the only sound I hear, besides the sound of my typing, is the sound of a garbage truck. No music. I work in silence, and I prefer it that way.  
  3. In fact, the only times I listen to music are when I'm getting ready for work or when I'm in the car.  
  4. If you've seen my sporadic posts on the subject, you'll know I'm a knitter. The only reason I learned to knit was so that I could figure out how to decipher a knitting pattern I ran across when I was 16.  
  5. That's also the reason I went as far in math as I did. I wanted to learn what all those symbols meant. (You say there's something called an imaginary number? I have to know what that is.)  
  6. I still have that knitting pattern...somewhere. I never made the sweater. I didn't like the sweater. I just wanted to know how to make the sweater.  
  7. I need a new umbrella. The one I have is older than the students I teach. The handle is half chipped away. But I live in Southern California, so I know the minute I break down and buy one, that's when this wet winter will end.  
Okay, so those were random. Ah well.  

As long as I have you here, I would appreciate it if you would take a gander at the "like" button I added to my online shop, and if you are so inclined (and are on Facebook) if you wouldn't mind helping me get to 25 "likes". Thank you.  

As for who I'm going to pass this on to... I've been keeping up with all the Crusader blogs (barely), and I notice that this award is making the rounds. It's nice, because I've been enjoying reading the seven things from everybody. But, that means that I think everyone has gotten this already. Some of you have gotten it more than once.  

I hereby award this to all of my new followers, especially my fellow Crusaders from Group 14. Unless you've already received the award. Then you're excused from accepting it again.