Thursday, November 29, 2012

Question Reality

What if this was the dream and that bizarre dream you had last night was the reality?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In Case You Missed These...

Contests, contests, and contests. And blogfests. It's been busy in the blogosphere.

I'm a couple weeks late, but Michael Offutt has released his second book. Make sure to check it out.

Link to his blog. Links for the book.
Charity Bradford is having a contest to give away a necklace to go along with her book release.

Go here to enter.
And Briane P is holding a Traveling Blogathon of Doom for Christmas. You could win some books.

Link to his blog. Comments give you entries.

With all these contests and releases, I kind of want to do a contest. What should I give away?  

And if I've missed your contest, blogfest, or what-have-you, feel free to add it in the comments. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Knowledge Gap

Last week was a holiday week, so no new stories. Time to dip into the archives. This I first posted on November 27, 2007

6th period I was covering an English class. They were finishing up a short story. One of the main characters' names was Marilyn, and the students couldn't pronounce it.

"Marilyn, as in Marilyn Monroe," I explained.


"Isn't there a teacher named...?"

"You've never heard of Marilyn Monroe?" I asked the class.

They claimed that they hadn't. This surprised me. I thought she was an icon.

Earlier in the day, I happened across two students having an argument. I got pulled into it.

"She doesn't think that Bruce Lee is the best martial artist of our generation," the boy explained.

"Your generation?" I asked. "Isn't Bruce Lee dead?"

(Note: this boy was born no earlier than 1993.)

"Fine, in this century, then," the boy said.

"Didn't he die in the '70s?" I asked.

This exasperated the boy. I let him have his initial point, though. If he thought Bruce Lee was the best, then so be it.

So, same day. They know Bruce Lee, they don't know Marilyn Monroe. Scary.

By my post counter, I see that this is post number 210. Because I'm that sort of geek. I just though it was cool.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Unexpected Reaction

It's hard to know what will rile them up.

Last Friday I covered an 8th grade US history class. The assignment was to start watching a movie.

Gideon's Trumpet. "Old" but in color. They had questions to answer. Good classes, so I only had occasional bursts of chatter.

(Looking for links for this post, I stumbled across the whole movie posted to YouTube. So, in case you're curious and have an hour and 45 minutes to spare...)

But what's interesting about showing a video is what the kids react to. Every period had the strongest reaction to one scene. (It starts at about 28:48 in the video.)

It's night. Some prisoner wants to arm wrestle for "smokes". He's shirtless. And the students all reacted to the man's hairy chest. Strongly.

I'm not sure if they were shocked or disgusted. They reacted like it was the strangest thing that they had ever seen. It took some minutes before they'd settle back down again.

Then in subsequent scenes with shirtless and sweaty men, they reacted again. I pointed out that the movie takes place in Florida. It was probably hot.

We only got 49 minutes into it. I wonder what other shocks they'll encounter in the second hour. (Not that I'll ever know...)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Make a Bad Impression

We had been in class for maybe 10 minutes and I was done with Kenneth. Already, he had been out of his seat and roaming the room three times. He interrupted other students who were answering my questions. And he was twisted around in his seat so he could bother the student behind him.

When Kenneth let it be known (loudly) that I was boring him ("Can I just start now?") I knew it was time for him to go.

(To be fair here, we were reviewing literary terms such as plot, climax, resolution, character, and point of view. They'd gone over these terms before. They made flash cards. But the lesson plan said to review the terms again so they'd be ready for a test on Friday, and they were 8th graders which means that they won't really study on their own.)

"Take your work. Go next door." I even pointed in the direction I wanted him to go.


"Next door."

45 minutes later, I got a phone call from another sub. Kenneth had just arrived. Also, he slammed into a desk, laughed, and disrupted that class.

Two thoughts occurred:
  1. Why was I directed to send students out to a class with a sub?
  2. Where had Kenneth been for 45 minutes?  
Not five minutes later Kenneth returned to retrieve his stuff. I asked him where he had been all period.  

"Outside. There is no next door."  

The room we were in was at the end of a building. There was no next door on one side. But on the other, the way I pointed...  

(By the way, I later figured out that the room I sent Kenneth to and the one he went to were not the same. He disrupted the class at the other end of the hall.)  

At this point I tried to collect his assignment (the thing he was supposed to be doing in the other classroom), but he wouldn't give it to me. Because, of course, he had not done it.  

Kenneth was pleased with himself. I could tell. He had put one over on the sub.  

Of course, Kenneth doesn't know me very well. Because as he was playing this game, I was mentally composing my note. (I debated whether or not a referral would have been better, but I figured he would just toss it and go to lunch as lunch was five minutes away.)  

I spent half of the next class period writing all of this down. I got the impression that this teacher is of the strict variety. Yeah, I wouldn't want to be in Kenneth's shoes that next day.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I mean me.

"Did we have math homework?"

6th period. 7th grade English. They had a packet on verbs and adverbs to work on. We spent a lot of time going over it with me giving examples.

It had been a strange day. Roving assignment. The schools have been doing these teacher trainings for about a month or so now. It's on campus and part day. They pull a bunch of teachers for a couple periods at a time--some for three, some for less than that.

For us subs, it means that we cover a couple different teachers in a day. This day I covered 7th grade history for three periods, pre-algebra for one period, and 7th grade English for one period.

The 7th grade history classes were fine. A bit loud. But on task.

Then the pre-algebra class was right next door. And about a third of the class had been in one of the history classes.

The English class was a bit farther than that. Not next door, but the rooms were within sight of each other. And, of course, I had a handful of students that I had encountered earlier in the day. It's like I was following them.


Stalking students. Another service I offer.

(By the way, the answer to the math homework question was no. She was asking me. Because I had been there.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Visual Learner

I saw this purse in Interweave Knits Fall 2012 issue (not sure of the legalities of posting pics that are not my own, so I'll keep to posting links).

I'm not a big fan of doing color work, but then I saw that the myriad of color changes were achieved using only two different variegated yarns.

Curious, I figured I'd give it a try.

The pattern called for a new cast on. I read through the instructions. They might as well have been in Greek for all the sense they made. I read them, attempted to do as instructed...

(Those instructions are actually a bit better than the ones in the magazine. If I could post what was in the magazine, you'd see how impossible those instructions really are. If I had had access to these, I might have been able to do it. Lots of pictures helps.)

After 20 minutes of attempts, I realized there was no way I was going to figure it out. That's when I realized that there is another tool at my disposal: YouTube.

Why couldn't they just say this in the first place?

(Ain't technology grand? And that cast on is way cool--once I could see how it was done.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Just a Word Search

The last day of the quarter was a minimum day. It was also day two of a two-day assignment. The previous day, the algebra 2 class had a decent sized assignment. Friday's assignment was to finish Thursday's assignment, and then they could work on work from another class or do a word search.

A kick-back day.

1st period. They were so excited to get to do a word search. They dove right in. (A few did do work for other classes. These were the academically inclined, so getting them to do something wasn't hard.)

I wasn't too concerned with the word search. I collected it, but I expect that the teacher won't be giving them points for it. I'm pretty sure they knew this as well, as I got maybe five of them turned in.

But there was one boy who suddenly had to finish the word search. If I was collecting it, he had to do it. And he had to finish it before anybody else.

He didn't. The end of the period hit, and he hadn't finished that word search. I explained that it wasn't a big deal. He got the actual bookwork done from Thursday, so not finishing the word search wasn't going to impact anything. It was just a word search.

But this bothered him. Why couldn't he complete a word search that his classmates hadn't had any trouble with? Why was it so hard for him?

I tried to calm him. This wasn't important.

The boy returned before 5th period. He wanted to turn in the word search. He managed to complete it by then. Still, he was frustrated that it took him so long to do. Again, I tried to calm him. I accepted the paper, and he left.

A word search is not a stress-inducing assignment. At least, it shouldn't be.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wrong Time to Be Thirteen Again

Last Thursday I covered an Algebra 2 class. They had bookwork. Apparently, the teacher plays the radio in the background for them, as every class asked if they could have the radio on. They were working, so I didn't have a problem with it.

We left the radio on the station that it had been on (Jack FM). Presumably, this is the approved station (and I really wasn't in the mood for Power 106). 

They play a mix of current stuff and more "classic" tunes (I'm sorry, but I have a hard time considering the '80s classic. I guess I'm old.) I spent the day cringing at some songs I hate and enjoying some songs I love. An example of the latter:  

But this is Thursday, so there's a random question involved.

Anyway, that song came on, and I was 13 again. I realized this and thought that considering the venue, that was rather inconvenient. I'm supposed to be the adult in the room. And if I was 13, every student in that room was older than me. No one puts a 13-year-old in charge of a high school classroom.

But what if I was suddenly 13 again? What if someone found a "fountain of youth" that could be invoked using music from a different era? What if we could revert to the ages we were for those songs? What sorts of problems would that cause?

(It might be cool, though. Just not in that particular setting.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Algebra 2. It had been an easy day so far. They had work. They did it. I spent much of the period seated with occasional strolls around the room.

It was during one stroll that I caught a girl returning a flipped backpack to her neighbor's desk. (The neighbor was sitting in another seat on the other side of the room.) She saw me, and she begged me to keep quiet.

"I haven't seen this in like five years," I said.

At about this time, the boy returned to his seat and found the flipped backpack. He had heard what I said, and he had a response.

"I did this all the time last year."

Then he showed us a new (to me) trick. The girl only flipped the backpack inside out. But, the boy used to take everything out of the backpack and flip it inside out using the front pocket, leaving a "football".

(On a hunch, I Googled this. Turns out there's a YouTube video. Several, in fact.)

Apparently, the prank is still around. I guess I need to pay closer attention. But, then again, I suddenly felt less troubled about the boy getting pranked. I rather think he was due.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Once a quarter, every core academic class has to give a district benchmark test to make sure the students are learning what they're supposed to be learning.

8th grade. Physical science. The teacher was ill, and the benchmark was due. Deep sigh.

As per normal, my biggest issue was in keeping the class quiet when most of them (but not all) had finished and turned in the test. The students who need the extra time deserve a silent classroom, and I do everything in my power to ensure that they have it.

3rd period. I picked up the penultimate finisher's test. I shushed the class. Then I went to take a look to see how long the final tester was going to need.

He was on question four. Of 30. After 45 minutes.

Before I continue, I should explain a bit about test taking at the school. Some students have issues. They may need longer for a test. They may need extra modifications. These are things that are in the students' files, and accommodations are made for them.

These students don't take tests in their teachers' classrooms. There is a resource room for them. Most teachers forget to mention this, but that's okay, because the students know. They come up to me and inform me that they need to take the test elsewhere. This is so common that I just hand them the test, make note of their names, and let them go.

So, this student shouldn't have been having testing issues. If he had them, he should have gone elsewhere. In fact, three other students in his class did leave, so it wasn't like he would have gone alone.

Then I noticed the student talking to his neighbor. Um, no. I pounced.

I asked him what the problem was. He explained that he was bored. So, instead of finishing the test, he spaced out. By the end of the period, he finished maybe six questions. And then he was worried about not having finished the test.

On second thought, perhaps he does need modifications. I hope they figure that out.

Friday, November 9, 2012


5th period geography. 9th graders.

First, I collected their warm ups from the week. (Many teachers assign a quick question or two for the students to answer while they take roll and get things started. They collect this once a week just to make sure the students actually do it.)

For some reason, collecting work is always a huge production. I announce it. I wait. Many pull out the paper immediately and pass it forward, but there are a few that take their time, can't find it, and hold up the whole process. I will announce, "Make sure your name is on your paper," but I still get nameless pages.

Somehow, we managed to get this done. I paper-clipped these papers together, put them aside, and then I called for their map packets. Same procedure.

I had about 3/4ths of the papers in my hands. A few papers were still making their way to the front. Discussions ensued, because their instruction was to remove the first page, make sure their name was on the second, and then pass these up. Most did this without incident, but a few hadn't been paying attention.

So, we're in the midst of all this when a voice from the back of the room announces:

"Do we have to turn anything in today?"

[Insert sarcastic comment here.]

Although, I didn't. Make a sarcastic comment, that is. I didn't have to. The rest of the class took care of it for me.

I stood there and listened. They pretty much nailed it. And said it better than I would have.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Renaming the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians is coming out on November 21st. It seems like a cool premise. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and others (I assume) team up to protect the innocence of children. They are the guardians of children.

A while ago, I read somewhere that an agent had noticed a lot of guardians in submissions. That many of her submissions contained either a race of guardians or a self-described group of guardians. Somehow, the concept has become a trend.

Since then, I've noticed the trend as well.

It's an interesting idea. Whether the guardians are benevolent or just think they are, a race or population that sets itself above others is an interesting concept to explore, especially in speculative fiction.

But I think the word is overused.

So, my question for today: What would be a good way to describe such a group without using the word "guardian"? Or should the concept be retired?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Things I Think About

I made a new pair of earrings.

I tried to get a picture of them worn, but I can't seem to find a model. So, I had to get a picture of them on me.  

I also made a pair in purple.  

And black.  

There's no good reason for this. I sat in class one day, thinking. And these earrings formed. I tried them out, and while they weren't quite what I pictured, they were still pretty good. So, I made the Phoenix pair and started wearing them.  

I have other colors I can make these out of.  

I bet there's more too. I just have to go to the yarn store and see what colors they have.  

What do you think?  

(I'm also over at the California Crafters Club of Etsy's blog today showing off some clocks. I'd love it if you'd pop on by.)  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I've had this weird congestion thing for about a week now. I can breathe. I don't feel sick. But I've got this awful sounding cough, and my voice...well, my voice either cracks or drops an octave. I don't sound like myself. And I don't have a "loud".

Algebra class at the continuation high school. The teacher left me notes to give the class. Simple stuff: adding integers. I could have gone over it in about five minutes if they would have let me.

Giving notes is always a challenge for a sub. They've tuned out. (And it didn't help that it was Halloween.) This is why most teachers leave bookwork when they have a sub.

I can usually berate and guilt them into attention long enough to get done what's required. I've done it before. I remind them that it's stuff their teacher wanted them to learn. I explain that they'll have work to go along with it (if there is). Most of the time, if I remind them that it is school time and they are there to learn, I get enough attention to get through whatever notes they need to take.

But this class was off-the-charts loud.

And I could not raise my voice so that I could be heard. (Although, I don't think even my normal loud would have been loud enough for them to hear me.)

It was beyond frustrating.

I saw the teacher the next day. He confirmed that that period was loud. How he deals with them every day... That is one tough class.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Way Too Paranoid

Algebra readiness. A class so challenging it had two teachers.

I went over the class' assignment. The other teacher checked/collected homework. We both walked the room and helped students who needed assistance. Mostly, we tried to keep the students (who would have rather spent the period playing) on task.

I noticed two students posing. They stood in the back far corner of the room, heads together, smiles plastered on their faces. Automatically, I looked for the photographer. The boy saw me looking. I've never seen a cell phone disappear into a pocket that fast.

But not fast enough.

I extended my hand. He didn't attempt a dodge. He pulled out his cell phone, took out the battery, and handed the phone to me.

The boy explained that he didn't want administration going through his phone. Now, administration doesn't normally go rifling through confiscated cell phones. From what I've seen, they put them in a drawer until a parent comes to pick the thing up. The office staff is way too busy. But the boy gave up his phone, so I considered it done with.

I passed the phone to the other teacher. (He knows the kids. Rather than me figuring out who the student is and finding paper to write down his name, the other teacher could just look at the kid and know.)

The other teacher noted the missing battery. Once he knew who the student was, I went back to walking the room.

Then the back door opened. Security. Not only did he take the phone, he took the student.

The other teacher didn't like that the student had taken out the battery. What was he hiding? What would he post online after he got his phone back? Also, that student was a class clown, and this was a good excuse to get rid of him. (That section of the room mellowed a bit once the student left class.)

The other students didn't understand. I explained that it wouldn't be an issue if they kept their cell phones put away. They did.

Cell phones. So convenient  And such a hassle.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Honor System

A girl dropped off her stuff--her backpack and her fundraiser bag. This is so normal as to be unremarkable, although most students keep the fundraiser bags with them. (Students are always selling something for one school-sponsored activity or other. They carry their bag of goodies with them and get sales from hungry classmates.)

The girl's belongings sat undisturbed all period. The bell rang. The class cleared out. And another girl noticed the fundraising bag. She was hungry and she wanted an item from the bag. (She was on her way out to lunch.)

I was not the keeper of the bag. But, I do keep an eye on things to make sure that students don't make off with property that isn't theirs.

I figured the girl would like to make a sale. Hungry girl took two items from the bag. Turns out the bag was labeled, so hungry girl knew who she would have to pay. She promised me that she would pay the girl when she saw her, and she was on her way.

Normally I wouldn't allow this, but I knew I'd have both girls in class after lunch. I made sure to ask the girl if hungry girl had paid her. She had.

It's nice to know that 8th graders can sometimes be trusted.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Colonists' Dilemma

One of my dormant novels-in-progress (I'll get back to it; right now it's resting) takes place in a future distant enough that humans have left the confines of Earth to colonize other worlds. The world on which my story takes place contains evil parasites that find a way to conquer the humans, and...

I'm not going to bore you with the details. This is Thursday. That means I have a question.

Assume that we've advanced technologically enough to travel the vast distances to colonize other planets. What sorts of technology would those other worlds have? Cell phones? Computers? Music players? TV? The ability to talk to Earth?

Or, would those colonists attempt to simplify and get back to nature (even if that "nature" is alien to them)? Would constantly being in contact with everyone all the time be something that they'd want to get away from?

(I've been debating this. World building. It's a challenge.)