Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Halloween "Costume"

What are you dressing up as for Halloween? Are you dressing up?

The last time I voluntarily dressed up was in the 8th grade. I was an alien. I took a trash bag, turned it upside down, cut out arm holes and a head hole. Underneath I wore a leotard and tights. With makeup, I think I pulled off the look I was going for.

It was incredibly hot, though. Black trash bags don't breathe, and Southern California Halloweens can end up being warm days. But that's not why I stopped dressing up.

All the other kids laughed at me.

Now I know they were just jealous of my creativity. (At least, that's the story I tell myself. I'm going to keep telling myself that story.) But I've never since gone to the trouble of creating a costume again. (Except for the one year it was required, but as that was under duress, I don't count it.)

I still love Halloween, though. And every year, I "dress up". In a science fiction/fantasy sort of way.

Last year I was an alien anthropologist sent to Earth to study humans. Since I had to blend in, I of course looked like everyone else. This year I'm a time traveller from the future who's come back in time just for a visit. (Castle came up with the perfect moniker for this: temporal anthropologist. I'm stealing it.)

And this brings me to my question for this Thursday (you didn't think I forgot it was Thursday, did you?). Not so much a "what if" as a question to ponder.

If you weren't going to dress up for Halloween but wanted to say you were dressed up, what would you say you were dressed as? 

(Okay, I'm just asking to get ideas for what to call my non-costume next year. I'm sure there are plenty.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Wish I'd Thought of That

A couple weeks ago, a customer on Etsy contacted me about my knitted cell phone mini bags. (My shop on Etsy is here.) You remember the one:

She wanted to know if I could add a snap to the strap. So that she could attach it to the strap of a purse or through a belt loop on her jeans...

What a brilliant idea. I wish I'd thought of that.

So, the answer to her question was yes. It just meant I had to rework the strap, but that's totally doable. And it turned out like:

The purple one is the old strap, the black one has the detachable one.

Strap open for attaching to things

Now I just need to add this variation to the pattern. It's not hard to do, but it will take me a little time to write up. (And now I must make one for me.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pick a Color

It was 2nd period at the middle school, which is the period where they do the announcements and pass out things that they want the whole school to get. On this day, they were doing a special bracelet activity. Every student was to get a bracelet, and their challenge was to talk to another student they didn't know who was wearing the same colored bracelet.

About half way through the period, the middle school leadership student came through and delivered the bracelets.

I lucked out with this group of 7th graders. They were silently working on their assignment, and the delivery didn't stop them from working. But they saw it.

"Are you going to pass those out?" one student quietly asked me.

"At the end of the period," I replied.

One thing I've learned about middle schoolers is any excitement will distract them, and I'll never get them back. Something like these bracelets would lose me their attention for the remainder of the period. (Well, maybe not these kids, but I wasn't about to risk it.)

But they eyed those bracelets. They wanted them.

As promised, I did pass them out the last five minutes of the period. But there was another issue I knew was going to crop up, so I addressed that first.

"I am going to pass these bracelets out randomly. No, you can't ask for the color you want. If you want a different color, you're going to need to trade with someone who is willing to trade their bracelet with you."

It took me a minute to pass out the bracelets. They took the remaining four to trade. And as I got no complaints about being stuck with a color they hated, I think it worked out.

Whew. That could have been a disaster.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Coded History

I had the Science Channel on in the background. Again. (The Science Channel is my background noise when I'm busy doing other things.) The show on was about the planets, but at that moment they were discussing Venus.

The topic had to do with the age of Venus' surface and how scientists had postulated that at one time Venus must have had a massive volcanic event where the entire surface was flooded with lava.

Flood. Of lava?

Of course, my thoughts went sideways. Eventually, that led to today's question...

What if The Bible is a coded history of our (the human race's) existence elsewhere before settling on Earth?

Don't ask how flood of lava got to The Bible. Really. Don't ask. (I wouldn't know what to tell you, because I'm still scratching my head.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reward: Watering the Plants

For a while, I wasn't covering special ed. classes at all. I don't specifically refuse them. I just had not been offered them.

The other thing that has picked up this school year is the extra period assignment. Some of it is due to beginning of the year IEPs, but some of it is teachers not covered. On this particular day, I was covering a teacher while she was out for an IEP.

These special ed. classes are designated "severely handicapped". We were at the middle school. And their assignment for the period was to write out their name, address, and phone number. If they did not know it, they could go to one of the classroom aides to be given that information. Then they were to write it down twice more, hopefully without looking back.

Every student needed the aide to help them fill out the first section.

After they finished that, we were to go out and water the garden.

One girl kind of refused to finish filling out her name and address twice more. Another aide (there were three) informed the girl that she couldn't go out with them if she wouldn't finish. And when she didn't finish, she was left in the room with me.

The girl stood up and refused to budge. So, I tried the only trick I know. I bribed her.

I promised her that I would take her out to water if she would sit down and finish her work. Sure enough, she sat down and did finish.

Which kind of surprised me. Usually, I offer these sorts of things, but the student doesn't get the work finished. I guess going out to water was enough of an inducement to get her moving.

How the teacher and those aides deal with those students every day, I have no idea. They are amazing. And very nice to the ignorant sub as well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Get Out Your Notes

Remember that special ed. algebra 1 class? Last week, I covered it again for three days. (The teacher had a training thing he had to go to.)

The classes were given review worksheets which turned out to be a good thing as the students clearly needed the practice. At least, it seemed so because of all the questions I got. 

Of course, it was a difficult chapter. Solving multi-step equations. Don't know what that means? It means that they were solving for x things that looked like
2x + 3(x+1) + 7 = 25
This is a challenge in the beginning. So, I made sure to go over things with them and help them as much as I could.

One girl got stuck on the 3(x+1) part. So, I explained the distributive property as well as I could. This involves a bit of hand waving along with pointing to the 3 and trying to indicate how it has to combine with the x and the 1.

All I got in return was a blank stare. So, I asked the girl to get out her notes.

I knew the teacher had gone over this with the class. I had seen the notes. He had shown the distributive property on them. I figured that perhaps seeing those notes might jog her memory.

But, she refused to move.

I asked her to get out her notes again. Told her that her notes would help. Explained that her teacher had done this with her and her notes might remind her of the procedure. Still, she stared at me, making no move to get into her backpack.

So, I walked away. My only two other options were to write her up for refusing my direction (kind of harsh) or going into her stuff and getting the notes out myself (which I'm not allowed to do, but even if I was, I wouldn't as that was her stuff).

A couple minutes later, I looked back, and she had gotten out her notes. She looked them over...

Next thing I saw, she was busily working on the assignment. Making progress. Because sure enough, those notes did contain the thing that I was not able to convey to her.

At the end of the period, she had not finished the assignment. The back and forth between us had taken a while.

Why do they fight me on these things? I don't really want an answer. I'm just shaking my head.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Amigurumi Jack-O-Lantern

Two weeks ago, I posted pictures of the amigurumi pumpkins that I had crocheted.

And Jeanne made the comment:
...It would be perfect if they came with little jack-o-lantern features. Much less messy than carving.
Which got me thinking...

First, I thought I could embroider a face onto the pumpkins, but I couldn't figure out how to embroider a mouth. (If any of you know how, please let me know, because I've searched the internet, and I haven't found the thing that would work.)

So, then I decided to try a little color work. I got out grid paper and sketched out what I thought would work...

...and it turned out way creepy. (Notice I didn't even finish it. I got this far and knew I was going to toss this effort.) This picture doesn't even do it justice. That mouth!

So, I scaled back a little...

Better, but not quite there yet. The right eye is off by one stitch (by the time I saw it, it was too late to fix). And the mouth... I guess I can't do the cut-out tooth thing. It doesn't quite work.

So, why am I posting not finished designs? Because at the rate I'm going with this, it'll be Thanksgiving before I get it right, and I wanted to get this posted before the actual holiday it corresponds to.

Although, if any of you have any ideas on how to get this pumpkin to look like a jack-o-lantern, I'm listening. I can use any help you're willing to give.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Accidental Ditch

Last Friday I covered a special ed. class (the same teacher that I subbed for on Monday). So, I knew what was in store for me 5th period.

During 5th period, he covers the resource room. That's a place where the RSP special ed. kids can go when then need extra help with an assignment or a quiet place to take a test (or take extra time on a test). On Monday, the place was hopping.

Because it was 5th period, lunch was involved. Turned out I got the first lunch, so on Friday instead of going over there immediately, I took a bit of a break before heading over there. But it was a good thing I didn't take my whole lunch time as the teacher who was supposed to be there wasn't when I got there. (There were other adults in the room, however.)

When I arrived, there were two students there. One was working on a test. The other was reading. Neither needed me, so I took a seat and sat back.

The testing student wondered if he could use his book on the test. I called his teacher. The answer was no.

And that was the extent of my duties for the period.

The testing student finished his test and went back to class. The reading student continued reading.

Eventually, the bell rang signalling the end of 5th period for those who had not had lunch yet. This bell startled the reading student. I informed him that it was time for lunch.

"I missed lunch?"

Me: "No, that was the bell to begin lunch. Fifth period is over."

Student: "Fifth period? I missed fifth period?"

After a bit more back and forth, I understood the problem. For some reason, the student missed the bell ending 4th period, the period when he came into the resource room. (Although how he missed the three other bells dealing with the other lunch I have no idea.)

He ran out of the room to go and talk to his 5th period teacher, but his 5th period teacher wasn't there. He knew he was in trouble. He had inadvertently ditched 5th period. His parents were going to kill him.

"Explain what happened," I said.

"They won't believe me," he replied.

Yikes. I felt kind of bad for him.

"Good book, huh?" I asked.

He showed me how far he'd gotten. He was almost finished with it. He said he didn't usually find books that hooked him so, but this one did.

So, the period wasn't a waste, after all. (Although, his science teacher might not think so.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Money, Money, Money

I happened upon this article from io9 ("Here's How You'll Make and Save Money in the Future") and it got me thinking that I have another What If Thursday coming up and I need a question to ask...

When we create other worlds for our stories, we can create any sort of society that we want. Oftentimes, we base our worlds on what we know. But we can make just about anything possible.

What if money was not an indicator of wealth or power? What if we lived in a world where money was used completely differently than we use it now?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Parental Diploma Obstacle

It's again Blog Action Day, and this year's theme is human rights. And again this year, I've got nothing. It's kind of sad, really.

I spend a lot of time interacting with kids who don't want to be in school. At least, they act like they don't want to be in school when I'm there, prodding them to get their work done. I wonder how many kids around the world would be more appreciative of such an education.

The story that keeps coming to mind every time I think about today's Blog Action Day post is this one girl I met while covering the reentry class. She was in the morning class, but she had finished up all the credits she needed to advance to the afternoon class, meaning she was very nearly ready to graduate. Just a few more credits would do it. But she couldn't attend the afternoon class.

She explained the situation. She had to be home to take care of her younger siblings. Her father wouldn't allow her to go to school in the afternoon even though that would mean that she would have to drop out of school without obtaining her high school diploma.

Well, the teachers in the reentry program do try to work with the students. They found a way to keep her in the morning class so that she could finish her diploma. And last I heard, the girl had graduated.

Why do some people make it so hard for students to get that high school diploma? Don't they understand how important an education is?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wrong Princess

It was voting day in the freshman English classes. Time to elect their class' homecoming princess. I passed out the ballots, gave them time to vote, and then retrieved those ballots.

Oh, I should mention that one of the candidates was a student in the class. There was some lobbying. But I didn't reveal any ballots to her. If the students wanted her to know they did or did not vote for her, that was their business.

It was also 5th period. Shortly after voting, four girls (including the homecoming princess candidate) all had to leave for a volleyball game. Two boys left for a football game. And another boy had a "race", although I'm not sure which sport that was. (Possibly cross country.) So, there was a bit of chaos while I got the rest of the class going on the rest of their work.

After the mass exodus, the door to the classroom opened again. Two girls who had left returned.

"Can I get my ballot back? I want to change my vote."

Um... They don't put names on those ballots. I had no way of finding her ballot.

"I know which one it is. I circled it a certain way."

These were not fill-in-the-blank ballots. These were circle-the-name ballots. Even harder to figure out which one belonged to her.

I suppose I could have found a ballot with who she said she voted for and had her change that one. Because there was no way I was letting her flip through all the ballots from the class. There are so many ways that could go awry.

And besides, the rest of the class was supposed to be listening to a short story on CD. I could just imagine the disruption allowing her to change her ballot would cause.

In the end, I said no. I feel a little bad about it, but not much. We're talking freshman homecoming princess. There are so many more dances after this for them.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Got It Wrong, Too

Last Monday I covered a special ed. algebra class. They had a test. Which meant that once I got them silent and working, I didn't have a lot to do.

The IA asked me if I would mind correcting the tests. The answer key was provided. Of course I didn't mind. It was especially easy as the tests were multiple choice.

Only one student got a perfect score. The next highest grade was a 27 out of 30 (which is an A). Some didn't get a whole lot of them right. But one thing I did notice was that other than the perfect score, everybody (save maybe 2 other students) got the first question wrong.

Keys have been known to be wrong. I've come across some in the past.

So, I pulled out the test and looked at the first question. It was a "put these numbers in order from least to greatest" using three fractions and one decimal. And three of the numbers were negative.

I looked at the choices, and I agreed with most of the class. Then I had second thoughts. So, I pulled out a calculator and converted all the fractions to decimals...and found that the answer key was, in fact, correct.

Interesting. I can see why they made that mistake. Too bad they didn't check it over like I did. Of course, I had the key to work from.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Student Commerce

A student walked into 6th period carrying a guitar case. He asked me where he could set the thing during class.

(The students don't have lockers, so many carry around their gym bags or musical instruments as well as their backpacks. A student carrying a guitar is so normal that it normally wouldn't even merit a remark.)

I pointed to a spot at the front of the room. Then I wondered...

"What do you normally do with it?"

Student: "I've never had it before..."

I was getting ready to ask him what he'd been doing in a guitar class without a guitar all this time, but he continued before I could voice the thought.

"...It's not mine. I'm holding it for someone."

Me: "Why?"

Student: "He paid me a dollar."

Me: "That's the going rate?"

Student: "I was hungry, so I used it to buy some chips. I was considering selling [the guitar that isn't his], but then..."

(The rest of the conversation veered off course, and I was no longer sure if he was referencing the guitar, his friend, the chips, or... Well, he's a freshman, so who knows what he was talking about.)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Space-Industrial Complex

As I was making breakfast, I had the Science Channel on in the background. It was a show on the moon landings and the Cold War. And, of course, my mind went sideways.

What if instead of building up the military, the government instead put that money towards space exploration? How different would our world be?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Schedule Change

Jennifer did not belong in a CAHSEE math class. Yet, she was in that first period class on the first day of school.

(I am, of course, referring to the class I covered for the first two weeks of school. I have a feeling I'll be referring back to this class from time to time, especially as I encounter students I met there first.)

Jennifer approached me after class that first day. She wanted to know how like the CAHSEE the practice test they were given was. Because if that's what it was like, she knew she didn't need to be in the CAHSEE prep class.

Apparently, she had moved to the area from out of state, which is why she had not passed the CAHSEE previously. She explained that her last math class has been pre-calculus. I agreed that she'd probably pass the CAHSEE with no problem.

By the second and third day, I could see that Jennifer did not belong in that first period class. It was well beneath her abilities.

Jennifer talked to her counselor. I mentioned Jennifer to the administrator keeping track of us subs. Jennifer stopped showing up after the fourth day. I assumed she got her schedule change.

Last Thursday I learned where she ended up.

I was covering a science class. First period was AP Environmental Science. I recognized a name on the roll sheet. Jennifer.

Now, I'm really glad she managed to get out of the CAHSEE class. An AP class is a much better fit for her abilities.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Monday was a bad day. A really bad day.

I covered an 8th grade pre-algebra class. The lesson plan had me going over fill-in-the-blank notes with the classes. I couldn't get them to stop talking long enough to complete those notes.

I tried everything. I called out the talking students. Moved a couple around. Kicked a couple out of class. Took away time from their break. Nothing worked.

I was scheduled to return on Tuesday. I tried not to think too much about it overnight.

I got back to the school Tuesday morning. The secretary told me, "You've been reassigned."


There was a bit of a sub crunch, so I was sent to the other middle school.

Subject: 8th grade pre-algebra. The classes: Oh, so much better!

They weren't silent. But they let me get through the stuff I had to tell them. And I think the fact that I didn't have a lecture/notes to give them helped. Of course, the fact that they let me do anything at all tells you how much more cooperative they were than that other class.

Same grade. Same subject. But the classes were so completely different. Tuesday was a good day.

(I ran into the sub who ended up in the other class on Tuesday. He had the same experience with them that I did. So, it wasn't just me.)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Amigurumi Pumpkins

I have this really bad habit of finishing all my projects at the same time. Leaving me with nothing to do with my hands! Ugh.

I was actually sitting and watching the TV. My fingers itched. They needed something to do. So, I went looking through my Pinterest boards. Actually, I was looking for something else when I stumbled upon something I'd pinned almost a year ago (Pinterest tells me it was pinned 51 weeks ago).

The timing was impeccable. I already had the yarn (color name: pumpkin) and the fiberfill.

Aren't they cute?

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Plausible Lie

"What does this look like?"

It was 6th period in a 9th grade English class. They were doing "Vocabulary Pictures". The assignment was to take four of their vocabulary words and draw them.

The boy was illustrating "vow". I overheard the conversation he had with his tablemates. He decided to draw a ring on a finger, as in the vow one takes when getting married. A decent interpretation, I thought.

The other boys at his table didn't think his picture was very good.

(I am terrible at drawing. I avoid it as much as I possibly can. So, when a student asks if a picture is good, I never tell them that it's not. Most of the time, it's better than I could do. If it's not, then that student doesn't need my criticism. That student needs my support. And I am always nice to them about it.)

The boy then asked me what I thought of his drawing. He held it up for me.

I knew what he was going for. And if I looked very closely, I could see it. The ring was large and prominent as was the finger it was on. He had drawn the other fingers very small and close to the palm.

Perspective-wise, it was well done. Execution-wise...

He asked me what I thought it was. I swallowed my answer. I couldn't tell him.

I can't even tell you what I thought it looked like. I made a promise when I started this blog that there would be nothing objectionable on this blog. I checked a little box. That's why there's no content warning when you try to access the blog.

Before I can tell you what it looked like to me, I would need that content warning.

Of course, what I saw did not even occur to them. If it had...

I frantically searched for a lie. A plausible lie. What did it look like? Other than that. What could I say?

In the end I said I didn't know. The boy went on to his next panel. And I didn't laugh.

I really should worry about my mind.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dinner with a Time Traveller

What if you could travel back in time, but only long enough to have dinner with a friend? This friend knows you're a time traveller...  

(Okay, I know I'm leaving out a lot of details that would make this scenario make sense. But this is "what if?" Thursday, so this is only here to give you something to ponder. Then again, if you can add the details to make this scenario make sense, you've got a better story here than I do.)

...and this friend can ask you anything. Would you answer your friend's questions? Would you volunteer information? Would you consider any questions about the future off limits?  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Goofing Off in Period 3

Me: "Okay, Daniel, settle down. You could get some work done this period. Unlike period 3. You don't want to make the note this period, too."

Daniel: "What did I do in period 3?"

The majority of the class in period 3 was on task and fine. However, four boys decided it was play time, and I spent all of my energy "chasing" after them.

Me: "First, there was that paper airplane..."

Daniel: "That wasn't me. That was some guy over in that row," and he pointed over one row and ahead of where he was seated.

About half the class had been in period 3 with him, and they agreed that the paper airplane hadn't originated with Daniel. (Period 3 was government. This class was economics. The seniors need both classes to graduate, so that's why I had so many duplicate students.)

Daniel continued: "I wasn't even in the room."

He had been out of the room for a time. But the class had been fine until he returned from the office. When he got back, the crazy started. That's what made me think he was the instigator. I still think that.

"Then, the three of you..."

He didn't deny any of the other charges. He knew he had been that student--the one who was goofing off all period. And he didn't ask for me to remove his name from "the list". Which I wouldn't have done anyway.

He didn't get any work done that period, but he didn't play around, either. I guess it helped that two of his buddies weren't there, so he had no one to play off of.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Not Sneaky Enough

Last day in the math class. They had a test. I didn't plan it that way; that's just how it worked out.

Brandon was one of the reasons I modified the seating chart. He and three others sat in the back far corner, getting into their own conversations while I went over the material. They knew it all already. They took algebra last year. Never mind that they failed it--the reason they had to repeat it this year.

Brandon, by sheer luck of the draw, ended up in a front row seat.

I passed out the tests and they got started. Brandon raised his hand.

"Am I supposed to add these?"

The test was on exponents, and knowing whether to add or multiply was the point of the question. I replied with a, "That's what you're supposed to know," and I moved on.

Brandon called me over a few more times. All his questions had to do with how to do the problems.

"Is this one right?"

I did not answer.

The fifth time he called me over, his neighbor remarked, "It's a test. She's not going to answer you."

(I will clarify directions. Sometimes the copy is bad or something is unclear. There can be mistakes on the test. So, I do respond to raised hands during a test. To a point.)

Brandon was one of the last students done. He spent ten minutes checking over his answers.

After I had all the tests, I released the students from the imposed silence. I gathered the tests, paperclipped them, and put them away. Brandon pulled out his notes.

"Wait. Can I check something on my test?"

He explained that in the rush to finish, he had written the wrong answer for a problem. "I did it right, but I just wrote the wrong thing in the answer column." So, I said I'd check.

The problem:

Under it he wrote 1/-2. In the answer column, he did indeed write -2.

The answer should have been 1/2. I would have given it to him except for that pesky negative sign. (I spent quite a bit of time explaining that a negative exponent means "take the reciprocal" and that the resulting answer is NOT negative. Adding the negative sign makes the answer wrong.)

I informed Brandon that he got it wrong. I explained why.

"Let me see... No, it's right. See, it's positive. Right. There."

As he leaned over me with his pencil and added a small vertical line over the top of the small horizontal one already on his paper.

Geez. Does he think I'm that stupid? I marked it wrong right then and there.

And after all that, it turns out that Brandon only missed three or four questions on the test. He got a B.