Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Black Hole Too Close

Have you seen the ads? Well, first I should ask if you watch the Science Channel? If you do, then you've probably seen the ads.

They're doing this black hole special thing on Sunday. And because the Science Channel is my go-to channel for background noise, I've seen the commercial numerous times. It asks the question: What if a black hole appeared in our own backyard?

I assume the shows will address this possibility. But it got me thinking...

What if the Earth had been swallowed up by a black hole a long time ago? What if we are in the maw of a black hole that destroyed our world and we don't even know it?  

Yeah, I know, not likely. But my what ifs aren't supposed to be likely. They're just out here to make you think.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Graduation Daydream

This has become an annual post for me. It all started a few years ago when I was subbing for a special ed teacher on the last day of school (she was attending her 8th grade son's promotion ceremony). I had some time to myself (read: no students), and I was kind of dozing.

I went home and wrote the whole thing into my blog. Then the next year at the end of the year, I reposted it. I've done this enough times that it's now become my end-of-school-year tradition. (The school year ended last week.) 

It starts with a stage filled with teens in caps and gowns. A graduation ceremony. The new graduates look over the audience filled with proud parents. They're excited. They've finally finished school, and they're looking forward to the next phase of their lives.

The new graduates exit at the side of the stage. They hug each other. Many are in tears. They meet up with parents, take pictures, and gradually leave the area.

The stage is empty, but not for long.

Off to the other side of the stage is another group of students a year younger than those who just exited. They climb the stairs and claim the stage for themselves.

The new senior class surveys its domain. Some look in corners. Others go to the edge of the stage and peer out at the audience. Many are cheering, fist pumping, and bouncing up and down. Two boys run at each other and bump chests. They have arrived.

While the new senior class celebrates, the area just off the stage that was just vacated starts to fill. This group looks around in awe and wonder. A few look up the steps, itching to join the new seniors. Several look out over the line that stretches out behind them. It's a long line and it seems to disappear into the horizon.

As each group moves up to the next position, they look over their new surroundings. The new freshman class, however, is so busy celebrating and laughing at the group just below them that they don't notice how trashed their new position is. Then again, their old spot in the line wasn't much better.

The newest middle schoolers carefully take up their new position. They are all wide-eyed wonder. The more adventurous pull their peers along. They take their time looking around, acclimating to their new position in line. There's a demarcation behind them, and they thought they'd never get beyond that border. Now that they are, they're not sure what they're going to do next.

Each elementary grade moves up one. As the former kindergartners take their first grade spot (and make themselves right at home), an empty spot is left at the end of the line. But like all the other spots in line, this one doesn't remain empty for long.

Off in the distance, family groups start to arrive. The parents push their little ones into their spot in line. Some of these children run to take over their spot. Others cling. The families stand there, watching their little ones for some time, not sure what to do next.

One mother shakes her head as she watches her little one acclimate to the line. "They grow up so fast," she says.

Nearby, various people are on their way out of the area. One woman hears the kindergartner's mother, so she turns to her and says, "You have no idea."

The woman looks off into the distance where her graduate is off with friends. "You have no idea," the woman repeats.

Monday, June 24, 2013

School Year End Review

The last day of school was June 18th. Which means that it's time for my annual end of year review. I started doing these a couple years ago when another blogger posted his stats for the year. (To recap: 2012. 2011. 2010.)

There were 178 school days. I worked 127 of them. This is way up from each of the previous listed years.

I did not work the first nor the last day of school. (Some years I do.) Of those days, 15 were in classes that did not have a prep period. (I'm pretty sure half of those were for the same math teacher who I covered several times this year.) And 27 of those days I covered another class on the prep period.

I spent one day in an elementary class (the less said about that the better). 52 days were in high school classes, 30 days were in middle school classes, and 44 days were at the continuation high school. This is another surprising number--I was sure I spent way more time at the continuation high school than anywhere else.

Some specifics:
  • Science: 33 days
    • 5 days of physics (up from last year)
    • 11 days with the 8th graders
    • 6 days in health (5 of those for the same teacher)
  • Math: 31 days
  • English: 13 days
    • 5 of those continuation high school English
  • Social Studies: 29 days
    • 13 days of US history (several of those for the same teacher. She's never absent. This year was an aberration.)
    • 9 days of geography (most of those at the continuation high school)
  • Reentry: 9 days (this is because they added another reentry teacher, and she was having medical issues this year)
I did not cover a full day of special ed, but I did cover one period on my prep period on 7 different days. I covered 5 days of art, one day of band (Woot! Only one day!), two days in computer classes, and one day of Spanish. I had no opportunity days (a great big WOOT!), but I did get to cover a new leadership class seven different times.

What's great about these posts is I can go back and compare to previous years. And this year was wildly different. In a good way. 

Friday, June 21, 2013


The lesson plan stated:
Zachary and Jamal are not allowed to go to the bathroom... I have told them this past week they cannot go to the bathroom any more during my class... Don't let students go take care of things for other classes.
Students have been finding excuses to avoid class (probably especially when there's a sub). Keep them in class. Especially Zachary and Jamal. 
I've been warned.

So, when Zachary asked to turn in a found cell phone to the office, I said no. It was a reasonable request. One I might have granted under other circumstances. But (1)Zachary (2)leaving class wasn't going to happen.

I offered to do it myself later. Zachary took the phone back, saying that he wanted to be the one to be a good citizen. Uh huh. Sure.

Some time later (maybe a half hour) a student from the previous period arrived. "I lost something. I hope I left it here."

She was halfway into the room when Zachary held up the phone. Yep, it was hers.

Which is another good reason not to turn in cell phones to the office. Students usually come looking for them.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Video Game?

It's the end of the school year. My brain is a little fried. So, apologies for today's question:

What if we are the computer simulations being controlled by players in some elaborate video game?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Quotes from Fifth Period

I don't know what it is about 5th period. This school year they've been the weirdest of the bunch.

The group I had last Tuesday had a get-ready-for-finals assignment. Some worked on it. A group near the front spent the period mostly in conversation. And what a conversation it was!

"One year, I got 139 detentions."

Considering that there are 180 days in the school year, that's quite a run. How does one get a detention practically every single day? I don't want to know.  

"[One teacher] really liked me, but [another teacher] had my other brother in class. She asked if I was Trevor's brother. I lied and said I wasn't. No one liked Trevor."

Apparently Trevor was a bad, bad kid.  

"[One teacher] really hated me. Passing period wasn't even over and she kicked me out of class."

"Most bullies aren't evil enough to give you a black eye the day before picture day."

"In 4th grade, I learned not to hit the teacher."

I wasn't the only one taken aback by that. The others in the group wondered why it took that long. The boy explained that everyone told him not to hit. I guess he hit everyone. It was only in the 4th grade that he got that hitting the teacher was worse. 

The girl in the group was astonished that I hadn't been warned about the two boys. I didn't explain that the teacher only left emergency lesson plans that day (must have been a very last minute call out). Because, apparently the two boys were that teacher's terrors. One slept for much of the first semester, and the other explained that he had had practically every seat in the room (the teacher kept moving him, hoping that would help him settle).

I found them entertaining. But then again, I wasn't asking for silence. Since I let them talk, they didn't feel the need to do battle with me, and that made my day all that much easier.

I have a feeling they'll be repeating this class next year.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hiding the Assignment

Last week was the last week of school at the continuation high school. (The other schools have two more days this week. Not sure why they did that...) Those that were graduating no longer had to attend. Those that weren't just kind of hung on for the remaining days.

The students all had things to do. They were supposed to be doing lessons on the computers. Some were. But many were just there. And they had computer access.

Yeah, so many were playing computer games.

I would walk the room, stopping behind those that weren't on task. Tsking them for not being on task. Some had the decency to pretend to work as I'd approach, but not as many as other times in the year.

I approached one boy. Playing game. Not bothering to hide it. I asked him what he should be doing. He informed me that he was working on his assignment. He was just taking a short break.

I scanned the tabs at the top of the screen. I looked at the little boxes along the task bar. There was no indication of the program that should have been open. I pointed this out to him.

He explained that he had hidden the program. There was something new that could hide things from the task bar so that nosy subs wouldn't see what the student was actually doing.

Um, okay. I know I look along the task bar to see what the student has open that he shouldn't have open. But why would he hide the thing that he was supposed to be doing? Shouldn't he hide the game?

I asked him this. He didn't have an explanation.

If only they spent that time and creative energy on their work, they might have been among the graduates last week. Sigh.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Steering Wheel Cover

With summer comes warmer temperatures. And days when I go to touch my steering wheel only to burn my hands.

I figured I could knit a steering wheel cover. To protect my hands.

Okay, maybe just because I can.

I've had a couple days to drive around using it. I'm still trying to decide if I like it.

Not bad. But it's going to need a few design modifications.

Friday, June 14, 2013


7th graders on a Friday? Yeah, I wasn't looking forward to this particular assignment. But I was pleasantly surprised.

That's not to say that they were one of the best classes I've ever had. Not even close. But they weren't too loud, they were sort of on task, and I didn't really have to do battle with them. Considering the time of year, these were all good things.

So, I spent the day making sure they knew I was watching them.

"They're throwing things at us."

The class was divided into tables. This table of boys pointed to the table of girls that was next to them. The girls were all on task. By that, I mean that they had the assignment out, their books were open, and I could see progress being made on their final exam study guide.

The boys, however, barely had the paper that I had passed out to them out.

Hmmm. Girls who are obviously working throwing things at boys who aren't. Or boys goofing off. Tough one, that.

I gave the boys my most dubious look.

"You actually believe that they're working?" the boys asked.

I stood by both tables for a while. The girls continued to work, ignoring the boys. The boys continued to complain. And even while I stood over them, they didn't get their work out.

Yes, boys, I do believe the girls were working. And no, I'm not going to tell them to not throw things at you. Since clearly they aren't.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Myth Based in Truth?

Back at the continuation high school, the English class watched The Odyssey. And my mind wandered.

What if the stories/myths about the Greek gods were based in fact?

What if there were supernatural/magical beings who lived among (or just around) ancient humans? What if because of their powers, they styled themselves as gods? 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mermaids Are Not Real

"Mermaids are real."

I spent three days at the continuation high school last week. On two of those days, two different students informed me of this mermaid thing.

"It was a documentary on the Discovery Channel."

Now that I think about it, I'm sure that this came up other times as well, but I hadn't been in a position to ask follow up questions. These days, however, I could.

The first time we were in a computer class. The student explained that he had seen it on Facebook. Someone posted a link. There were pictures. There was video. Mermaids actually exist.

I was dubious. Students also believe in the Illuminati. In fact, I think that was one of the arguments against that I used. And of course I was informed that I was mistaken--the Illuminati are real.

Sure they are.

I believe a lot of things that most people would call crazy. (I don't blast them on the blog all that often.) But I draw the line at mythical creatures. Bigfoot? The Loch Ness Monster? Hoaxes. Mermaids? Whatever they had seen had to be fake.


The second time it came up was the next day in the journalism class (the class that writes the school paper). They were doing current events. The current events they discussed were real news events, but somehow the conversation got sidetracked into the mermaid thing.

One girl swore to everyone that she had seen the Discovery Channel documentary, and that mermaids really do exist.

Now, I'm still pretty sure that this isn't real. But now I need to do some research. Because this myth has gone viral, at least amongst the students at the continuation high school, and I need to find out what's behind it.

Turns out, my mother had seen the same doc. With my nephew. But it wasn't a documentary. It was more of a mockumentary. A quick Internet search, and I found what it is everyone has been talking about.

It was on Animal Planet, not the Discovery Channel.

It's War of the Worlds all over again. For a new generation.

Monday, June 10, 2013

One More

It was a curious assignment. A group quiz. Um, okay...

Finals are rapidly approaching. The class had been divided into groups so they could review. They'd been working together on a study guide.

I was to pass out this quiz to the whole class. They could discuss but not copy. Each student got his/her own quiz, and the group would get a score consisting of everyone's effort.

They had 20 minutes.

It was a middle school class, so I told them they had 15 minutes. (The lesson plan said give them 15-20 minutes.) A few needed the push. (I found students goofing off rather than working even after I explained the time limit.)

After 20 minutes, I called time.

Many loudly complained. Many tried to finish "one more". Only one student held on tight to his paper as I went to remove it from him.

He should have put down his pencil when I called time. He continued to work, as did many in the class. But everyone else relinquished their papers when I held out my hand for them.

Even after I'd collected everything, this boy kept after me. He asked me to give him his paper back. He only had one more he had to finish. He needed more time. His teacher always gave the class as much time as they needed to finish quizzes. They were only studying for the rest of the period, so it wasn't like there wasn't time for him to finish the quiz in class.

And on and on it went. I don't know why he thought this would work. I explained that his teacher said in the lesson plan that they were to only get 20 minutes (she even typed this in all caps), and that by the time I picked up their papers, they had gotten closer to 22 minutes to work on the quiz.

It got so bad that the rest of the students in his group wanted to distance themselves from him. For fear of blowback, I assume.

I got a chance to see the teacher at the end of the day. She asked how things went. I told her about the boy.

She was surprised who had given me these issues. She said he was a good boy. A studious boy. And then it hit her--he was rather worried about his grade in the class. He's an 8th grader. End of the year stuff is coming up, and he's worried about being allowed to participate.

The other thing: the teacher didn't think they would finish the quiz.  

Ah well. I'm sure he didn't do as badly (or the quiz counted as much) as he feared.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Match Interrupted

Surprisingly, we got through the assigned reading. (I didn't expect these boys to be all that helpful, but they actually were!) The rest of the assignment was to do some questions as a class.

Number one was a long answer. I read the question, pointed out where the answer was, and then went to the teacher's desk to deal with the roll while they wrote down that answer.

The teacher had his own rosters, but I had rosters I had to turn in to the office for attendance. I only took roll on one, then transferred the information to the other when I got a spare moment. This was my spare moment. It took maybe a minute. I returned to the front of the room...

Two students had positioned themselves on the same chair. Arms linked. Elbows on table. An arm wrestling match about to begin.

The rest of the class watched, cell phones out and set to record.

I don't often yell. It does no good. I may get a momentary lull in crazy, but then the crazy comes back only worse.

But still, I lost it. I think I said, "Oh, no, you don't!" I said something about phones. Yelling was involved.

The tirade is probably posted on YouTube somewhere. But not much of it, because those phones got put away quickly. And the arm wrestling match did not happen.

I turn around for one minute...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Magic Lost

Last week, JEFritz made a very good point in response to my what if.

What if magic was possible in our world--has been possible all along? What if the only thing keeping us from doing all those things depicted in books or pictured in movies is our belief that magic is not possible?
Her response:
Hm, makes me wonder how to believe enough to make it work. If I tested it by jumping out a plane, just to make things serious, but there's a tiny bit of doubt that holds me back (which it totally would, I'm such a skeptic) and I'm smashed to jam on impact. I probably shouldn't test it that way.
So, let's take it a step further. Suppose magic is possible in our world, but we've been conditioned to not believe. How would we regain that belief?

What if you were trying to regain lost magic? How would you go about reacquiring it? Could it be relearned, or is it lost forever? 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Versatile Blogger Award

VR Barkowski awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award last week. (Thank you. I'm so honored.)


As is the usual procedure, there are a few things that go along with this:
  • Create a post for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to her blog.
  • Reveal seven (7) little known facts about yourself.
  • Nominate others for the award.
Little known facts? Yikes. I don't think there's very much that's little known. I'm pretty boring. Hmmm...
  1. At the moment, I have three different stories that I'm working on. Some days I'll spend some time on two different ones. Others I'll only work on one. But I've made progress on all three within the last week.
  2. One of the stories is my first novel. I'm rewriting it. Again. But this time I think it's going to work.
  3. I only listen to music when I'm in my car, when I have to set an alarm in the morning (I wake to music), or while I'm getting ready for work. 
  4. Because of this, I know next to nothing about the current bands that are popular now. I may know a song that I like, but I'll have no idea what its title is or who sings it. 
  5. Which is totally funny, as I practically minored in music in college. Really. I was something like two classes short. I did music theory, music history, and I played in band the entire time I was there. 
  6. I still have my oboe. I haven't touched it since I graduated, though. 
  7. At the moment, my first novel has a scene where the characters go to a concert. And for some strange reason, I can't get it to work.  
As for nominees, I'm going to do what I always do. If you're reading this post, consider yourself awarded.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Fight Talk

They started off describing the time they got arrested in Redondo Beach. Then the conversation veered into fighting--who they beat up, when, and whether they "won".

I know this because I heard every word. So did most of the school, I'd imagine. Probably the elementary school across the street heard it as well.

I knew I wasn't going to get any work out of them. (I suppose I could have tried harder...) I asked the boys to take their volume down. They didn't have to project their voices quite so much. The room wasn't that large, and they were sitting next to each other.

This, of course, they did not do.

But the rest of the class was on task. Certain questions about the assignment repeated all day. I turned to help a student with one of these.

One of the boys suddenly turned in his seat to the boy behind him, asking about question number 2. (This was more than 45 minutes into the period.)

I wasn't surprised to find the principal and a district official had dropped in. (I heard they were coming before class.) I was surprised how quickly the boys went from fight talk to a pretense of doing the assignment.

As soon as the visitors left, the boys went back to their previous conversation. Naturally.

But before the end of the period, they suddenly got busy. Curious, I checked their desks to find them busily copying the finished work from one of the girls in the class.


I took the paper from them. They did not protest.

Why, oh why, do students do this? They let the boys goof off for the entire period, and then give them their hard work to copy. I don't get it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Bad Wake Up Call

I woke at 5 AM. This is normal. Most mornings, I'll wake sometime between 4:45 and 5:45. Since the sub caller doesn't call until nearly 6 AM, my challenge is to go back to sleep.

Some mornings I actually succeed.

This morning, the ringing of my phone jerked me awake. When I heard the name the sub caller gave me, however, I wished I was back asleep.

I dread certain classes for various reasons. Classes that I can't control. Teachers who don't leave me anything. Loud students who won't settle down.

This class usually has all three.

I did groan when the sub caller said the name. I did also take the assignment.

Turned out not to be as bad as anticipated. Did I have lesson plans? No. But we managed to find the projector, and having movies on seemed to keep the kiddos from going crazy.

(What do I mean by crazy? Students chasing each other brandishing music stands.)

Ah well. It's work, right?