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.  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Math Time Fillers for Real

Yesterday, Liz Fichera's blog got me thinking. She talked about the various keywords that brought visitors to her blog. Occasionally (okay, about once a week), I check my stats, and two keywords come up with alarming regularity: Baby Bridges and Math Time Fillers.  

The "Baby Bridges" post describes the game pretty well, but the "Math Time Fillers?" post isn't helpful at all. I thought I should change that.  

The one math time filler I use frequently is Chocolate Math. The link explains the thing really well. I often use it in middle school classes when the students finish all their work quickly. I usually end up explaining it two or three times as the kiddos seem to enjoy it.  

A really good site for various classroom activities is Substitutes, FTW! She has a whole category of math activities.  

The other thing I notice in my stats? The post "Oops" continues to be really popular, especially with spammers. I have no idea why.  

Have you tried Chocolate Math before? Know any other good math games?  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Type It Out

I get the worst writer's cramp. In school, it was the bane of my existence. Ever tried to keep up with a fast talking math professor? And don't even get me started on timed essay tests. (All this was in the dark ages, before the proliferation of cell phones and laptops, so I have no idea if it would be as bad now as it was then.)  

I still remember taking my AP English test and wondering if my hand would give out before I could get that essay finished.  

That's why I love computers. If I had to write my stories out longhand, I would not be writing.  

I love typing (or is it called keyboarding now?). I love the sound the keys make as the words appear letter by letter on the screen. I love the feel of the keyboard beneath my fingers. And I can type about as fast as I can think, so I don't spend too much time having my words catch up to my thoughts.  

A hard copy is good sometimes. I like to be able to cross out sections, circle words, and see my writing on a physical page. (Why is it that you can see your mistakes easier on a hard copy?) But when I'm writing, I need to type it out.