Friday, November 29, 2013

Poor Russell

It was Turkey Day at the continuation high school. This is an annual tradition. (I've been at the school for this a few times in the past.)

It takes place the Thursday a week before Thanksgiving. The school hosts a turkey brunch (they call it a dinner, but since we are fed between 10 AM and noon, I'd say it's more of a brunch) for students in the school and members of the community. (Full explanation here.)

There are three teachers who are in charge of the thing (which is why subs are always needed that day), plus they have a dozen or so student volunteers who help out with the serving and such.

We were in the hall. We were seated and eating. One of the student volunteers came by our table to make sure we had everything we needed. Suddenly, his peers needed all sorts of things.

First, the girl seated two down from me hadn't gotten a dessert. ("I didn't want to carry two plates.") Then another boy needed water. And someone else needed a napkin.

It wasn't just the table I was at. The neighboring tables broke into choruses of "Russell. Russell, over here."

Soon I was sick of Russell's name. He went back and forth, nicely retrieving things for his rude classmates.

He did a great job under trying circumstances. I kind of expected him to dump a plate on someone's head. He didn't. He didn't even snark back when he was called yet again for some random thing.

The students around me made jokes about the "service in this restaurant". I reminded them that Russell was one of them and a volunteer, not some waiter to be ordered around.

Ah well. I have no doubt that Russell will get even with some of them later. Several were "friends". Yeah, they'll get theirs...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Spring Turkey

It's a holiday and a Thursday. That can only mean one thing...

Holiday-themed What If.

Yeah, I know that's what you were thinking.


What if we had a Thanksgiving-style holiday in the spring? What would that look like? Do we already do that in a different way?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Sip of the Wild Side

It must be my limited HTML knowledge, but I can't seem to update my patterns page. Grrr.

The reason I want to update my patterns pages is because I've added a new pattern. You may recall my scaly water bottle carrier:

and scaly demi cozy:

I finally got the pattern posted. It's a bargain at $5.00. It's 24 pages of instructions and photos illustrating those instructions. It only took me three months to complete.

For my regular readers who aren't crocheters, I was thinking of giving away the cozy and carrier pictured. The ones that I made as I photographed them. What do you think? Would you be interested? (If so, I'll get a contest set up in the next week or so.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

So You Think You Can Edit

It was an extra credit assignment, so the majority of the continuation high school English class weren't doing any of it. 

(It's been a while since I've had a good continuation high school story. For some strange reason, I stopped getting calls to go there. I don't know why. I kind of missed them. I'm glad I got a chance to go back.) 

I think the directions for the paper say it all: Find the errors in the following sentences that occurred in the rough drafts for your last essay. (Sadly, peer editors did not find the errors.) What followed were the kinds of sentences I see students writing all the time.  

There were a couple students on task, though. And they had questions.  

I could see a couple ways to edit some of the sentences, so I basically led the students towards the way they wanted to fix them. Asking questions. Hinting. The students who were working told me that some of the sentences were "messed up". What idiot wrote those sentences?  

I pointed out the directions (which they had not read), and commented that these were from essays that they had turned in. 

"One of your sentences might be in there."

The boy I was working with scanned the rest of the page and found a sentence from his essay: 
I live in Salonia Greece, in my city there is over 60,000 Jews. 
(Note: The students went to The Museum of Tolerance and their essays were about the person they picked as they went through. This should give you an idea of the kinds of sentences that they were writing.)

The boy was kind of horrified to learn that this was wrong. He needed a bit of help in fixing it, but then he wondered if it made it into his final draft (all the final drafts were posted on the wall) as it was.

But still, they managed to laugh at some of the sentences. Some of the grammar mistakes made some of the sentences almost unreadable. We had a tough time deciphering some of them.

Rather a brilliant assignment, I thought. Using the students' own mistakes to teach them. Wow. Great idea. If only more of them had attempted it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Roll Taking Rant

It was first period in an 8th grade US history class. I was attempting to take roll via the seating chart.

As I normally do, I called out names of students in seats that were currently unoccupied. The first name I called informed me that he was over on the other side of the room. His seat should have held a girl, but she was elsewhere as well. By the third or fourth student, I was done with the seating chart. The students confirmed that the teacher moved them about a lot, so the seating chart wasn't accurate.

At this point, I would normally pull out the class roster and just call roll that way. But the teacher didn't have any class rosters. The teachers at this school are lazy about rosters as we subs are given a temporary password to access their online attendance. But, this teacher had no computer in his classroom.


So, not only could I not call the roll, I couldn't input the roll as is my job. (The teacher does have a computer he uses, but it's a laptop, and he takes it with him when he's not at school. Which I totally understand. But it would be nice if there was something there--ancient and slow would be fine--for my use on days when he's not there.)

I did the only thing I could do. I pulled out a sheet of paper and had the whole class sign in.


Some days! I swear, some teachers don't think about the things we subs need to take care of their classes.

Okay, rant over.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Incriminating Evidence

It was the end of fourth period. I noticed a sheet of paper lying on a desk, but before I could go pick it up (to toss it--I was trying to keep the room neat), a student brought it to me. He said he found it in the back of the room. Presumably, it was from the previous class.

There were no identifying marks on it. But instead of throwing the note away, the girls left it? Curious.

I think I'd throw something like this away. After tearing it into little itty bitty pieces.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pink Impossible?

(Have I done this question already? I seem to remember planning to write it, but I don't recall if I ever got around to it. I can't find it in my archives.)

So, I saw this...

And shortly thereafter I saw an article on io9 called "Train Yourself to See Impossible Colors".

Okay, so we know there are all sorts of things our eyes can't perceive. But...

What if we could learn to perceive things that we shouldn't be able to see?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lure of the Forbidden

Some days I really should ignore the phone.

It was fourth period when I got the call from the office. Could I cover a fifth period? (Fifth was the teacher's conference, so I was free.) I never turn these down, even when I can tell by the room number that I'm in for another period in a severely handicapped special ed class.

When I got there, the room was packed. Fifth period is right after lunch, so I walked in on the tail end of a party. By the bell, the room contained seven students, three aides, and me.

I was pretty useless.

I tried to help out where I could. They had been watching a movie during the party. As the movie was ending, one boy grabbed the remote control and started rewinding the DVD. Now, I don't know these kids, so I don't know where the lines are. All I could do was ask for the remote, but the boy refused to give it.

He wasn't even supposed to be back by the TV. Luckily, one of the amazing aides noticed my plight and got the remote away from the boy. He spent the rest of the period getting too close to the "forbidden zone" behind the teacher's desk, going past the blue line any chance he could. I don't know why. There wasn't all that much of interest back there.

I guess it's the lure of the forbidden.

Another boy had to be hemmed in by another aide all period. The boy had a tendency to take off and get into trouble. At one point he got all the way on the other side of the room, snatched a pen, and started writing all over a desk.

At least the pen was of the dry erase variety. But why he felt the need to write F W something all over everything (there was a third letter to this graffiti, but we managed to get the pen away from him before he went any further) I have no idea.

This is the third such class I've covered (for one period only) this year. (I didn't write about the second time, but the first time is here.) I don't have a point about this. Just making note of it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Quiet Game?

"Let's play The Quiet Game!"

That got my attention. I watched as a couple students wheedled the rest of the class into going silent.


Immediately, someone on the other side of the room started giggling.

It took a couple more tries, but then the room went completely silent.

For about 15 minutes.

Keep in mind that this wasn't a "silent assignment". I didn't care if they talked. In fact, the silence surprised me. Of course, it didn't last. They finished their work for the day...

...And then decided to play Heads Up Seven Up.

Um, okay...

Just another fun day in AP physics.

(Before I get into trouble with you all, understand that first these were juniors and seniors. Taking an AP class. Likely, this is not their only AP class, so they're of the high academic achievement group.

Second, they had completed the day's assignment and turned it in to me before they started the game. Third, of all the things they could have done with the rest of the period, this, while juvenile, was the least likely thing to cause problems.

Fourth, I could have put a stop to this at any time and I would have if I had seen a danger to anyone or anything. If I had stopped them, I have no doubt they would have stopped and found something else to do. And fifth, I did put all of this in the note to their teacher.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reorganizing Old School

You know I'm a little strange, right?

My iPhone has been driving me crazy. I've needed to reorganize my apps into a coherent configuration for a while. But there's something about those jittery boxes and having to go back and forth between screens that disorients me, making it impossible to get the phone set up just right.

So, I set out to fix it.

I wrote down (in pen, on paper) every app I had. Then I cut out a bunch of little slips of paper, and on each I wrote one app. I spread these out...

...and then I grouped them into similar types (an organization that made sense to me, but only me I expect). 

There's something about having those little slips of paper. It's why writers organize using index cards (something I really should try as it clearly is how my brain works). It made it easy for me to see what should go where. 

Soon enough, I had a configuration that seems to be working out for me. For the moment.

And it only took me two hours.  

(Okay, it was more like two periods. With time off for starting class, taking roll, and collecting work. And writing restroom passes. But what else did I have to do? These were a period of US history and a period of government where the class worked silently--yes, in absolute quiet--all period.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nap Time

It was one of those lovely days where the math class had quiz. I gave the class my usual warning at the outset. This consists of me explaining that I will have silence for the duration of the quiz. If any students finish early, they are to do something quietly at their desks until all quizzes are complete.

The quiz went fairly normally. When one girl who sat in the back finished, she asked me if she could now take a nap. As this is a quiet activity, I told her she could.

I didn't understand why she felt the need to stand up, but before I could investigate, I got sidetracked by another student issue. Once I was back to monitoring the whole class, I was back to shushing whisperers. Then someone pointed out the girl.

She had stretched out on the floor at the back of the room.

First, ick. I know the janitors occasionally vacuum, but I wouldn't voluntarily lie down on the floor. Second, the floor? Really?

Students ask if they can nap all the time. If they have work to do, the answer is no. But after a quiz, I don't have a problem with them putting their heads down on their desks. I repeat: putting their heads down on their desks.

Why would a student lie down on the floor?

She couldn't understand why I would have a problem with this. I had said she could nap.

Note to self: when asked if a student can nap after a quiz, tell student he/she can put head down on desk.

The freshmen are really strange this year. I think I need a new tag.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Another Parallel Universe Question

I don't have an interesting story as to how I came up with this week's question. It just kind of popped into my head when I wasn't thinking about much of anything. So...

What if we were to come across a parallel universe (or world or people) whose time was running opposite to ours?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pattern Testers Wanted

A while back (I'm talking over a year ago now) I made a water bottle carrier and a demi cozy using the crocodile stitch. My thing this year has been to write up the patterns for things (you may have noticed my patterns tab). So, I decided to write up the pattern for both of these.

At the end of July.

Yes, I know it's now November. It's taken me a while.

Because when I first went to write up the pattern, I couldn't figure out a way to write it out that made sense, so I thought doing it in photo tutorial form would work best.

Did it? I'm not sure. It's taken me this long to get the photos all taken and the pattern written up, but now I need someone to take a look at it and see if it makes sense. Kind of a beta reader for a pattern.

So, if you crochet and would like to make something that looks like this

or this

let me know. I could really use some extra eyes on this thing, to make sure the pattern makes sense and I didn't leave anything out.


(If you don't crochet but would like one, I do sell them in my Etsy shop.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Not So Smooth With the Monitoring

Middle school math class titled "study skills" 

The lesson plan indicated that I was to go to the computer lab and monitor the students. Easy enough.

I've noticed a few of these "study skills" classes this year. Some students need a little more help in math. These classes are for them. It's also called math support.

They all got on their computers and accessed the program. I logged onto the teacher computer and pulled up the program where I get to see what each computer in the room is doing. Then I did my usual walk around the room to make sure the students were doing what they were supposed to be doing.

I had all sorts of computer issues to deal with. Programs logging off for no good reason. Programs not recording the student's progress. Plus, it was a middle school class, so I had plenty of middle school mischief to deal with. (A boy took his sweatshirt and shoved it into his t-shirt, holding it in such a way as to mimic a feminine chest. Then he pranced around his desk. Stopped the minute he saw that I saw him.)

I ended up back at the front of the room and noticed a student on a website that was not the program he was supposed to be on. I opened it up on the teacher computer to see what it was before going over to him. (They hide these websites when I get over there, so it's good to be able to say, "Why are you looking at shoes?" even when the proper program is up and running by the time I get there.)

After making sure the student closed out the website (he left it open on his task bar), I went back to the teacher computer and attempted to get back to the full classroom view. But I couldn't find the proper way to back out. I know it exists as I've done it before. But for some reason, I couldn't find it.

I clicked on something, and suddenly the whole room could see the student's computer.


By that time he was on the proper program, but now his screen was on all the students' monitors.

I explained that it was my mistake, and tried to give individual access back to all the students. It took longer than I would have liked. Logging them all out of their programs in the process.

Eventually I got everything back to normal. Well, normal for a middle school class. And I didn't open up any more screens. I didn't want to make that mistake again.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cockroach Attack

The period was going along just like any other. The class had an assignment, and some of them were working on it. Then out of nowhere the screeching began.

In moments I figured out what the problem was. A cockroach had found its way into the room.

(The door was open, so I'm assuming it got in that way.)

I couldn't get close to the bug as it had found its way into the midst of the students' seats. Too many bodies kept me on the sidelines. Still, I looked for a container to put the thing into.

(I know, why didn't I just stomp on it? I prefer to release bugs back into the wild when possible.)

The class had descended into chaos. The students fled as far as they could go. One boy was all the way on top of his desk, shrieking that the thing had to be gotten rid of.

I finally got a look at the beast. It wasn't as large as the one in the testing room, but it was of fairly decent size. As I grabbed the closest container, a girl grabbed a sheet of paper and managed to grab the thing.

The girl got halfway to the door when the roach made a break for it. She bent down and got it again, and this time she managed to get all the way out the door.

Once the thing was gone, the class was able to settle. (Sort of. There was another whole incident with the boy on the desk, but that's a story for another post.) And then things got back to normal.

How does one describe such an incident to the teacher in a sub note? I wrote: "Ask them about the cockroach." I figure that they'll tell the story better than I could.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Two weeks ago, I got this response to my "what if" question from Lynda Grace:
...My brother jokingly says that it is possible that we (earth humans) may have originated in another galaxy and were “brought” here. Actually he says we were dropped here. I say, “why not?”
 And I thought: Perfect question.

What if we (humans) originated in another galaxy and were dropped here (on Earth)?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reverse Engineering the Test Questions

Remember that special ed. algebra 1 class where I got to give them a test? Well, I was back again, and again they had a test.

(Considering the number of repeat classes I'm doing this year, I need to seriously rethink my tagging system. I've been in this class eight different days now, and I should link them all together.)

Actually, it was my day two (of a three-day stint) in the class, and this was their second test.

As they worked, I made myself a mini key. The teacher had left a key, but he had done this on the test itself. The students weren't to write on the tests. Instead, they had answer sheets. So, rather than flip pages for each test I corrected, I thought it would be easier to read from an answer sheet that looked like theirs.

It did make grading that much easier.

But, as I copied the answer key, I noticed that the last four problems required a pie graph that was not included in the test. First clue: each of those problems said "SEE BOARD".

I looked around for the pie chart and found it on the back of the answer key. Immediately, I went to the board and wrote it up.

Three students turned in their tests. A fourth came up to me and asked a question. "Out of how many people is that?"

The pie chart gave percentages of people who had worked out (0-1, 2-3, 4-5, and more hours per week), but not the number of people. The four questions asked how many people fell into each category.

I looked for the number. It wasn't there. Um...

But I had the answer key! If the answer to number 27 was 240 and 240 represented 60%... A quick calculation, and I knew the total number. I wrote it up on the board (then went and checked the next question to make sure that the number worked for it as well).

Funny how three students "finished" their tests without having that key piece of information. I'm assuming they guessed. And that they didn't know how to do the problems.

Because sometimes the test is wrong.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Scarf Envy

It caught my eye immediately. It was a red infinity scarf. It must have been knit on needles size 5 or smaller as the stitches were pretty small. It had eyelet pattern panels interspersed with garter ridges.

As I do when I see interesting scarves that I could conceivably make, I mentally deconstructed the thing.

"Scarves aren't against dress code, are they?"

Me: "Huh?"

The girl caught me staring at her scarf. And, as is common with teenagers everywhere, she assumed that I was finding fault.

Once I ascertained that she thought I was planning on citing her for dress code, I assured her that my interest was purely as a knitter. I asked a couple questions about the scarf, and then it was time to start class.

It's not quite cold enough for me to pull out my alligator scarf, but maybe soon? Not if the weather forecasts are correct. Sigh.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Wrong Test

It was Friday at the middle school. One of the things the teacher had left for me was to pass out tests to the students who had been absent for the test. They could make up the test during class.

Fourth period. I gave the one boy his test, and he went to another class to complete it. He returned in a reasonable amount of time and returned the test to me. I put it in the pile with the others. We continued with class.

Time passed and it was the end of the period. The class was done with the day's work. The boy asked me if he could see his test. He thought it might be the wrong one. The girl sitting next to him was going to check. So, I pulled out his test and brought it to him.

The boy was suspicious because the test wasn't that hard, yet his classmates had told him that it was a killer.

Fourth period was marine biology. The other periods were 7th grade life science. Marine biology is an elective that the 8th graders can take.

When we looked at the test, it turned out to be the test that the other classes took. Not the marine biology test. The life science test.


Now, this was not my fault. The teacher paper clipped the tests to the answer sheets, and I just passed out what she had left me. Although, I would have thought the boy would have realized that the test wasn't covering the material they had covered in class.

After the bell rang and the class emptied, the boy approached me. He had a suspicion that the test wasn't his test, but he didn't want to disturb the class by returning to ask.

I explained to him that when this sort of mix up occurs, it is completely reasonable to come back to the room and alert me to the problem. Not that I could have given him the correct test (the teacher hadn't left it out), but at least we could have put it aside. Sigh.

He wasn't pleased that he'd have to take the test again. On Monday. But at least that test should be the correct test.