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.)