Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Christmas in October

Earth science. It's a tricky day. The class is populated by 9th graders who failed 8th grade science. My primary job is to clamp down on any crazy behavior.

For the most part last Monday, the classes were okay. They were loud, but I didn't observe much crazy. Until 5th period.

One student took something like five tissues and headed for the door. This is such an everyday occurrence that it normally deserves no remark. What elevates it to blog-worthy came next.

The student stood in the doorway and playacted blowing his nose. He put the tissue on the tip of his nose, blew so the tissue fluttered out in front of him, and then crumpled the clean tissue, finally disposing of it in the trash. He did this five times.

(He stood so that he was facing outside. I tried to get close enough to see who he was playacting for, but I never did get to see which girl he was trying to impress.)

When I questioned him, he went to the corner of the room, sat on the floor, and declared that he was in a "time out". Like he was a kindergartner or something. (His fellow students thought this hilarious. Somehow I managed to get him to sit in a real chair like a high schooler.)

After that, the class settled to restaurant on Saturday night noise levels, but the key word here is "settled". They sat and sort of worked.

Then from another corner of the room, I heard singing. "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer".

Um, it's October. We haven't even had Halloween yet.

Then a student in the opposite corner of the room broke into "Frosty the Snowman".

Apparently, I wandered into cartoon land without even realizing it.

(I ran into their teacher the next day. He was not amused by any of this.)

When is the strangest time you've encountered someone breaking into Christmas songs?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Impeding Traffic

As a newbie sub, I learned not to ask other students for their classmates' names. Even the most "reliable" of the good students "doesn't know" the names of the misbehaving students (even though they've all been in school together since kindergarten).

It's a snitch thing. No student wants to "snitch" on his/her peers.

Last Thursday I covered middle school pre-algebra. They had worksheets. They did them. The bell rang, and the students filed out to go to lunch.

I made sure I was set up for the next group. But the room wasn't clearing out as quickly as it normally does. The students were stuck. Um, what...?

One seated girl had her leg propped on a nearby desk, blocking the only path through the room to the door.

Um, no.

Because of the traffic jam, I could not get to the girl. I called out, but she couldn't hear me. Then whatever was going on settled, for the girl stood, and everyone could pass. I tried to get to the girl (I wanted to have a little discussion about blocking pathways in small classrooms), but she left, apparently not hearing me calling out to her.

Quietly, I asked the girl nearest to me who that had been. And the girl told me!

I did not expect an answer. I expected a hemming and hawing. No snitching to the sub. But I guess preventing everyone from leaving class loses a girl certain privileges.

I understand, though. She was keeping them all from lunch!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Not So Crocodile

It's finally finished. What do you think?

According to Ravelry, I started this back on May 7th. I haven't been working on it nonstop. Once the heat of summer really hit, I set it aside. I just picked it up again about three weeks ago, when sitting under the fabric stopped being crazy uncomfortable.

Now it's finished, just in time for the weather to warm up again. Sigh.

Once I bound the thing off, I tried it on and got a good look at myself in the mirror. And found that this thing looks like a British barrister's wig. Double sigh.

Ah well. I learned a lot from making it. I was going to post how I did it, but I don't think anyone is going to much care. (Although, if you would like me to post the pattern, I will. Just let me know in the comments.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Catching the Answers

7th grade science. They were to watch a video on light and answer 10 questions that were provided to them on a handout.

By 4th period, I was pretty familiar with the video. Familiar enough to explain to that class that each answer would appear three separate times. And I let them know that I would point out when each answer was stated.

This is not enough for 7th graders. They worry.

"But what if we still don't get the answers?"

Stated three times in the video? With me calling out: "Here's number 2"? Not likely.

The girl persisted. But what if she missed an answer?

"What if an asteroid hits the Earth in the next five minutes?" I asked her.

I could only assure her so much. I had to get the video started. I had to make sure that we could go over the answers after as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dystopian Past?

Have you ever noticed how much "end of days" hype surrounds us? There's the Mayan calendar thing. It seems like every couple years there's some crackpot who claims the end is about to befall us. There's the stuff surrounding the beliefs about the Rapture (and those that are making money off of it). And of course there's all the dystopian fiction that seems to be popular.

It's Thursday, so I am going somewhere with this.

The other part of my pondering has to do with what is known as genetic memory. Basically, it's the idea that we retain a sense of what our ancestors went through, but not consciously. It's like we remember it in our bones.

What if all these feelings of an impending apocalypse are us accessing genetic memories of the past rather than predicting future events? 

Just a thought.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Better Late Than Never

I've been a bad blogger lately. I've been scheduling my blogs way in advance, and then I get so slammed during the week that I haven't had much of a chance to do much except scroll through all your blogs and make the occasional comment. Because of this, I've missed out on some announcements.

Better late than never, right?

First up, Sharon Bayless has started up The Blog Tour Exchange. It's a place where you can sign up your blog to host future blog tours and where you can set up your future blog tours. Check it out. She has a contest going, and you can enter as long as you sign up by November 1st.

And of course I missed Charity Bradford's cover reveal on October 1st. (I'm 21 days late. Eeek!)

By the time you see this, I'm sure I'll have missed some other major events in the blogosphere. School gets into full swing and I get swamped. This is normal for me.

Oh, and I won a copy of PT Dilloway's new book Tales of the Scarlet Knight: A Hero's Journey. So, when I have a spare moment, I'll be reading.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Not Listening

"What's your name?"

I get the question all the time. It's why I carry a name magnet and put it up every day.

At the beginning of every period I introduce myself. I wait until the class has settled (read: is silent). I pronounce my name (sometimes I do this a couple times) and tell the class that they may call me Ms. A. Then I move on to their assignment for the day.

Last Thursday I had a 7th grade science class. It was 3rd period. I did my usual introduction, and we were just about to go over the answers to their study guide when a boy raised his hand and asked me that question. Yep, he asked me my name after I had just spent two minutes introducing myself.

I shook my head at that. There's only so much I can do. After that, I let them remain ignorant.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Last Minute Plans, Old School

Last Monday I was awakened by the usual--my cell phone's gonging bells. (I like that ring tone.) The name of the teacher was familiar. I've subbed for him before.  

I got to school at the usual time. Got into the classroom. Looked for the lesson plans. Couldn't find them.  

I didn't panic. I couldn't recall a time when I had subbed for this teacher that he hadn't left me something. Now, I haven't subbed for him all that much, but I vividly recall every time I was left without plans, and he wasn't one of those. 

At times like these, I know what to do. I call the school secretary and ask if the teacher had emailed her the plans. 

Unfortunately, he hadn't.  

I wasn't worried yet. I knew he had friends in neighboring rooms. Perhaps he emailed one of them his lesson plans. I opened the classroom door so that the teachers could get to me easily, and I made contingency plans. (I looked at the board, got an idea where the class was in the book, and figured I'd assign them busywork from the next chapter.)  

It got closer to the beginning of the school day. Then the room's phone rang.  

Phone! Of course. 

It's been so long since a teacher called me to tell me the lesson plans that I had forgotten this was a possibility. Nowadays they email. But I don't really care the method, just as long as the classes have something to do for the day.

For my 1001st post, I figured it was time to change up the blog a bit. If you're anything like me, you may not see the changes (as you're reading this through a reader of some sort and not actually coming to visit the blog), so I thought I'd mention it. The background was knit (and photographed) by me. (Thanks, Chris, for your technical help in getting the photo blog ready.) 

What do you think?

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Competition

The lesson plan said that the best behaved class of the day would get a reward. I normally rank the classes in my note for the day, so I didn't have to change anything I did. But I did need to mention this to the classes.

8th graders. Science. They had a lab write up to finish, a review worksheet, and some random questions to do. And they did it. They talked, but it wasn't a silent type of assignment, so I wasn't too concerned.

3rd and 4th periods were neck and neck. They were both talkative, but they were both on task.

(2nd period took themselves out of competition after one boy used a racial epithet while talking about a girl's hair. It was way over the top and completely unnecessary. And it was kind of how that whole class period went.)

Then 5th period arrived. I explained about the ranking. They asked if working silently would get them the win. Well, of course.

They tried. They failed, but they tried to work quietly. What they succeeded in doing was in keeping the noise level lower (considerably lower) than both periods 3 and 4. And I told them when they left that if 6th period worked silently, they'd lose. But at that moment, they were in 1st place.

I explained the situation to 6th period. They attempted to quiet themselves. And it worked for about five minutes.

5th period for the win.

I wonder what their prize is going to be.

By my post counter, it looks like this is my 1000th post. Wow. I should have a contest or something. Ideas?  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This Never Works

Either the 8th graders have changed or I have. I'm not sure which.

(If you're looking for my usual "what if?" question for the week, it got posted on Monday. Special occasion for Blog Action Day. A new "what if?" will be here next Thursday.)

It was an 8th grade English class. The assignment was to read a short story out of their workbooks.

I like the way that the textbooks do this. It isn't just a story with questions at the end. There are questions that go along the margin of each page, and the students are required to circle things, underline things, and generally interpret the story as they read it. It seems more interactive.

The assignment was of the do-it-on-your-own variety. I explained the assignment to them. I went over how they were to look at the questions as they did the reading. And then I gave this instruction:

"I know I've never been able to talk and read at the same time, so I expect that you will all be working quietly on this assignment."

And they did!

This never works. Yet, this time it did.

Like I said, either they've changed or somehow I've managed to figure out how to get them to work silently. Or they're really scared of their teacher. I think I'll go with option 3.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Demi Cozy

I think it might just be the way my brain works.

CAHSEE testing was two weeks ago. I was at the continuation high school. The entire school tested in the morning while the students that had already passed came in the afternoon. The administration paired up all the teachers, so I was sent to another teacher's classroom to administer the test.

I brought the one thing I figured I'd need. My water bottle.

The testing went well (which is why I didn't mention it before). I had a lot of time to sit and think. And drink my water.

The bottle left a ring of water on the desk on which it sat.

You'd think with all my bottle carriers I'd have had my water bottle in one. Nope. Why bring a carrier with a handle when the bottle goes in my school bag?

Stupid. Yep, I know.

But, as I was pondering my idiocy (as I do from time to time) it occurred to me that perhaps I didn't need a full water bottle carrier anyway. I could make a half cozy (a demi cozy--I like the sound of that). That would be big enough to keep the condensation from getting everywhere...

Genius! Or blindingly obvious. I'm not sure which.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


"Tonight is Back to School Night..."

I'm not sure how the topic came up. It was an average Tuesday morning. I checked in at the school. As the secretary gathered the usual materials (classroom key, temporary log in for attendance, emailed lesson plans), we chatted.

All checked in, I was ready to head out, but if it was Back to School Night...

"Does that mean today is a minimum day?"


There are six minimum days on the school calendar. The end of quarter ones I know are coming. But Back to School Night is different for each school, and in previous years has been rescheduled, so I never know when it is.

It was a very nice surprise.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of We: A Special What If

It's Blog Action Day again. This year's topic is The Power of We.

I've been having the hardest time coming up with a post. It's not that I don't believe in the power of people coming together to make change. I do. But my blog is generally more mundane than that, and I couldn't find a way in to the topic.

The last time I had this issue, I posted a bunch of links. But I wasn't willing to do that this year. So, I sat and thought (and watched 8th graders kind of do their assignments), and then it hit me.

This is the perfect topic for a "what if?" So what if it isn't Thursday. It's a special occasion. I can switch up the schedule (my schedule) for a week.

Why did the organizers think that The Power of We was a necessary topic? Because we don't realize our power.

What if we knew how powerful we really were? What if we found a way to band together to make a positive change in the world? Would we be able to do it, or would we sabotage ourselves along the way?  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Small Class

I believe I've mentioned the buyout thing at the continuation high school, but just in case you missed it...

On Fridays, students can get permission to skip school if
  1. It was a full week (no Monday holiday)
  2. They were in school and on time all week
  3. Their teachers all give permission
This is what's so great about subbing on Thursday there. I get to sign the slips giving permission, and my condition is always for them to do their work. I state this up front, and I find that this is incentive enough to get them to do what they're supposed to do.  

On Thursday, every single student in first period (all six of them) gave me a buyout to sign. They all did their work. (The room was silent.) I signed every buyout. And I knew I was returning Friday (the teacher was out Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday).  

Would I have anyone in first period?  

Turns out, I had one student. I asked the burning question. 

Another of his teachers wouldn't sign his buyout. Bummer.  

But I was glad he was there. I would have felt funny getting the period off. It feels wrong somehow to have no students in a class that I'm supposed to teach.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Computer Intelligence

When I started my Thursday what ifs, I explained that I use these as jumping off points for my stories.

This particular "what if?" is a part of a story that I've been kicking around for a couple years. One of these days, I may even write some of it down.

What if there was a way to upload a human consciousness into a computer? Would this be preferable to creating artificial intelligences? Would the person who was uploaded survive the process? 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Math in Art Class

I expected a protest. I got one. But it didn't happen until 5th period. That it took that long was the surprise.

The lesson plan was curious. On Wednesday they had a drawing assignment. On Thursday the assignment was a packet on fractions--simplifying, improper fractions, and mixed numbers. Strange.

The TA explained. The class was construction skills. It goes along with the wood shop class. They have to be able to sketch what they want to build. And they have to be able to measure accurately.

Okay, then.

All the morning classes accepted Thursday's assignment without complaint. They worked on it. I got the usual sorts of questions. Many finished it.

Then 5th period arrived. They complained. "This is an art class!"

Yes and no. I explained the importance of math in this context.

They weren't having any of it. They didn't do math. So, they spent the period in conversation, starting with a run down of every teacher they ever had that they hated.

(This stuff is fascinating. I learn who's been fired and why. I also see how they feel about teachers that I've met. Sometimes I agree with their assessments. Sometimes I don't. But I would still rather see them get some work done.)

Then 6th period came in and complained about having to do a math packet, too. But unlike 5th, they accepted my explanation, and most of them actually did it.

There's always that one class. One period that just has to be difficult. I'm not sure why.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The History of Amber

I met Amber when she was in the 8th grade. It was the spring semester. Over the course of one week, I had her in three different classes. I wrote her up and removed her from class all three times.

(I don't write that many referrals. That I was driven to write three tells you quite a lot about her behavior on those days.)

I ran into her the next school year. I didn't notice nor remember her until I overheard her telling a friend: "That sub hates me." Still, it took a couple minutes before I placed her.

The assignment in the English class that day was to read silently. (It was Monday. Many of the English teachers do this on Mondays.) Amber put her head down on her desk. She bothered no one, so I let her be. (I was also a bit paranoid about getting her started again, so rather than confront her about not reading, I let sleeping dogs lie.)

Over the years, I've run into Amber here and there. She ignores me. I watch her. We've come to a sort of truce.

I wasn't terribly surprised when I ran into her at the continuation high school.

Just as a reminder: the continuation high school is where students who are in danger of not graduating get sent. It's where they can make up their missing credits and eventually earn a high school diploma.  

Amber has mellowed over the years. I'm no longer worried about her going so wild that I have to remove her from class. But I know she hasn't forgotten 8th grade either.

The only reason I'm mentioning Amber now, though, is because I ran into her last week. She just started the reentry class.

If a student doesn't make up the credits at the continuation high school and fails to graduate "on time", reentry is the next step. These students have the opportunity to continue working on their credits and can eventually earn that high school diploma. They are over 18. But to get accepted into the class, they have several hoops to jump through, and they must make progress towards graduation.  

On the one hand I'm not terribly surprised. One does not behave as Amber behaved and remain on track to graduate. But, she's matured, and the fact that she's been allowed into the reentry class means that she might just finish high school.

I hope she does.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Finished Vest

Last week was a little bit insane. Not only did I post here all week, I also did the week at Unicorn Bell, and I posted over at the California Crafters Club of Etsy. Plus, I was getting over a cold. And subbing all week.

(Everything was written well in advance and scheduled. Except for Wednesday. Good thing, as I ended up not having very much time to get online, which is why I was largely absent all week. Sorry.)

So, before I dive into another week, I just had to share. Remember the vest? The one I was crocheting? The one I had to start over several times?

I finished it.

I finished it on September 26th, I believe. Just in time to enjoy these warm October days.  

That is not sarcasm. 'Round these parts, we can have warm weather through November. (Ever eaten Thanksgiving dinner al fresco? I have.) Last week we had a couple days in the 90s.  

Anyway, this post is just to show off the vest. What do you think?  

Friday, October 5, 2012

Note Fake Out

I was warned to watch out for this 5th period algebra class. So, I did as I was told and kept a closer eye on them. They were talkative, but they stayed in their seats. They appeared to be working on their assignment.

The conversations went off topic. There was a huge debate over Spongebob Squarepants. Somehow this turned in to a discussion about cartoons.

I also got several math related questions.

All in all, it was not a bad class. Not ideal, but not terrible.

The only issue I had was with a student who left to use the restroom without permission. Long story.

At the end of the period, the class asked if I had written any names down. As I had (the restroom kid), I said yes. Then they all wanted to know if it was their name I had written down.

I know this is evil of me, but I didn't answer. And they all got really, really paranoid.

The class informed me of the consequence for having name-in-note (Saturday detention). I admit, I had fun watching them squirm. Suddenly, everyone was sure they had done something note-worthy.

I wonder what they think they did. As I wasn't lecturing, I wasn't concerned with the talking they did. They weren't even very loud. It's not like they didn't do as they were asked.

Am I terrible? Should I have let them off the hook and told them their names weren't in the note?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Great Intelligence

The other day I went looking through some old files looking for a story idea. (I wrote down a bunch of story ideas ages ago, and I needed to see what I had come up with for one particular one.) Eventually, I found it.

But, while I was looking, I ran across an old "what if?" of mine. I knew I had to share it. I don't remember when or how this came to me, so I'm just going to post what I found.

What if the big bang and all subsequent ordering of the universe was done by some great intelligence (or several great intelligences)? What if they got bored by their new toy? What if they saw the Earth and thought, “hey, wouldn’t that be fun to play on”? And then what if that was the genesis of life on earth?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lining Lessons Learned

I finished it!

It took longer than I anticipated. I made a few mistakes. But that just means the next one will be that much easier. I hope.

Here's what I learned along the way:

  1. Felting shrinks the knitted fabric. Quite a lot. More than I expected.
  2. But if something (like the closure) feels too long, it probably is
  3. Corollary to #2: Straps can never be long enough.
  4. While cutting out lining fabric before felting may seem like a good idea, see lesson #1.
  5. For sewn in pockets, smaller is better.
  6. Measure. Cut. Compare to knit bag. Then, sew. And compare to knit bag again.
  7. Sew right sides together, even for linings.
  8. Don't fret about the lining before going to bed. (You don't want to know what my dreams were like that night.)
Also, I'm over at the California Crafters Club of Etsy blog today. More green. Come on by and say hi.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Last Thing I Expected

The budget cuts have hit schools hard. One of the ways they're conserving is by reducing the number of copies they run off.

Students are used to "class sets"--worksheets they can work from but not write on. These get returned and reused throughout the day.

Any time I pass anything out, the first question is, "Can we write on these?"

The economics teacher made copies of his Power Point lecture, and the assignment was to have them copy those notes. But he didn't make a full class set. He made 22 copies. The classes each held 38 students.

They were going to have to share.

I made my battle plan. I divided the number of copies by the number of rows, and...

I didn't take into account that they were seniors.

As they finished the first part of the assignment, I started to pass out the notes (the second assignment). When I ran out of notes, the others waited patiently (either by pulling out other work or taking their time on the first assignment). Then without me having to do anything, those that finished copying the notes passed off their copy to another student who needed them.

I watched this all happen. It was fascinating.

The most amazing thing? The room remained quiet throughout.

See, this is not how this sort of thing normally works. I should have had to divide the pages evenly, assign groups, and stand over them as they took their time not copying the notes. And the whole time the noise level would approach that of a busy Chili's. (Have you ever been in one? Man, it gets loud in there.)

Then, I got back every single copy. I know. I counted. (Normally, I lose a copy or two every period, ending up with fewer than I started with.)

These sorts of days I sort of hold my breath. It's great when things go right, but I wait and watch for the one thing that'll start the class going. This time, it didn't happen. It was a very nice day.

How has your week been going?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Teacher Roulette

Last Monday I got called for "school business" and the school was going to need ten subs. Sounds like my kind of day!

I love roving-type assignments. You're not stuck in one classroom all day. It's more likely that you'll get a chance to see the teacher and give verbal notes (rather than the written down kind). And it just feels less like work somehow.

Turned out that two groups of teachers were having meetings, one group for periods 1-3 and the other for periods 4-6. The secretary assigned us subs to a teacher for periods 1-3 in kind of the order that we arrived for the day.

After 3rd period, we turned in our key for the first three periods. The secretary had a pile of keys for the remaining classes. She dug in and pulled out a key at random.

And the winner 710.

To a certain extent, my assignments can be a bit luck-of-the-draw. This day more so than others, though.

(For the record, all were English classes, and only one class was difficult. The difficult class settled nicely once I warned them that names would be taken.)