Friday, January 31, 2014

A Very Bad Idea

It was 7th period PE at the continuation high school. Things had been going fairly well. There was one basketball game, one game of horse, and one volleyball game. Until the volleyball game broke up...

Not sure why it happened. The ball hit the net. The two teams debated whether it was in or not. They came to a conclusion. But the discussion was enough to alienate one team.

The girls went and joined the game of horse.

The basketball game occupied one half of the court. The game of horse occupied the other. It was all rather peaceful, although the boys playing basketball were really going at it.

Until they weren't.

One boy passed the ball to another who had chosen that moment to abandon the game and head for the water fountain. Then the boy who passed the ball needed a drink. And the game came to a standstill.

So, a third boy decided to find a different way to entertain himself. He wondered if he could hit the building on the opposite side of the basketball court. One of his friends shouted encouragement. The boy put the basketball down on the ground...

No. Absolutely not.

I don't remember my exact words. "No" was in there. So was "don't". I do know I said something, because later three different students echoed that I had told the boy not to do it. Unfortunately, the boy did not hear me.

He kicked the basketball...

It sailed down the court...

...And smashed into the back of a girl's head.


She didn't lose consciousness. She didn't fall down. But she was in pain. A lot of pain.

She left school via ambulance.

Everything had been going so well. Up until that point.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Vengeance is Mine

I've been dithering over this post for a couple days now. I have too many half ideas swimming around, none of which have quite coalesced into a "what if?" I consider good enough. But time's up, so...

What if you* were wronged so badly that you contemplated revenge on the one who wronged you*? How far would you* be willing to go?

*You'd never really resort to revenge, would you? So, by "you" I mean any character in your current WIP.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Request

"A knit beanie that looks like someone took an archery target and put it over your head..."

Um, okay...

Something like this?

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Line

Restroom passes are tricky. Some teachers refuse all. Some permit all. Some limit passes per quarter or semester. And many teachers leave no clue as to their class's routine in the lesson plans.

When in doubt, I go with my own rules. The main one is that I only allow one student out of the room at a time.

Which means that if I get several requests, I end up with a sort of waiting list. (Although, once we get to revolving door status, I tend to cut them off as I feel I'm being taken advantage of.) And once the waiting list is more than two students long, I lose track of who goes next.

If I'm in some class where many of the students are strangers to me, I have a hard time keeping everyone straight to begin with. I rely heavily on seating charts. Then throw in a lot of restroom pass requests...

So, it was a 10th grade biology class. One girl had gone to the restroom. A second boy was out of the room. I got my third request. Immediately followed by requests four, five, and six.

"Not right now." (My standard reply when someone is out of the room.)

The second boy returned. The third boy...

Remember how I said I lose track? Which boy asked next? Where is he sitting now?

Oh well. I went on with watching the class. (They had a worksheet, and most were doing it.)

Some time passed. I expected the boy to make himself known and repeat his request. He didn't. Then someone else asked to go.

I said yes.

"I was next."

Oh, there you are!

"Yeah. Twenty minutes ago," I said.

I would think that if he really had to go, he would have noticed the other boy's return. Or he would have asked if the boy had returned a whole lot sooner.

On the bright side, that really cut down on the rest of the restroom requests. (I don't think they really had to go.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Shoulda Known Better

I must have been in junior high when I saw The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (on HBO or one of its precursors). I might have been a bit younger. All I know is that it made an impression on me. (The earlier link is to the video on YouTube. Here's a link to it on IMDb.)

I was fine up until they got to the predictions for the then future. Let's just say that part freaked me out. A lot.

Last week I covered a middle school science class. The teacher had an emergency, so the lesson plans were kind of last minute (read: she pulled out a video). The DVD was The Universe. Perfect for them.

The first episode on the DVD was "Secrets of the Sun". I hit play.

"We've seen that one. Can we watch 'The End of the Earth'?"

Sure, why not? I stopped the other episode and started the one requested.

It was only after the episode got into near earth asteroids like Apophis and gamma-ray bursts that I realized my mistake. A group of students were chattering, and their chatter wasn't the usual video chatter. They were worried.

(I tried to calm them by telling them that Apophis' next near Earth pass was a long way out. "How old will you be?" I asked, forgetting that they were all born in 2000 & 2001. Even I can do that math. It puts them in their mid-thirties.)

I told them that they had nothing to worry about. The scientists would have a solution by the time Apophis is due to return. The gamma ray bursts were such a small probability that it wasn't something they needed to concern themselves with.

But I understood their worry. I was told not to worry about random quatrains as well. Didn't help. I was at that age.

I really should have known better.

What scared the bejeesus out of you at 12 & 13?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lying About Lesson Plans

I was already late due to a late call from the sub caller. Then I get into the room (with the whole class as I got there just after the tardy bell), and there are no lesson plans. Not a thing.

The assignment on the board was from the previous week. From the first day they had had a sub (they explained). This was the fourth day the teacher had been out, and everything on the board they had completed.

I called the office. Lesson plans had not been emailed. I did not get a call from the teacher.

32 students with nothing to do.

"Can we watch The Lion King?"

They knew where the video was. The VCR and projector were already set up. Sure, it was a class of juniors and seniors, but leaving a class with a free period...

While first period was "busy", I had time to take stock of the situation. Sure, the stuff on the board was finished. The next chapter... Not quite going to work. But after perusing their textbook, I found some random questions the classes could work on. Not ideal, but better than making classes watch cartoons all day.

Third period arrived. (Second period was the teacher's prep.) I had written the assignment on the board. I explained what they were to do...

"We're supposed to watch The Lion King."

Because, of course students talk and compare notes.

So, I explained that I had no lesson plans first period (which first period was well aware of). Then I kind of let them believe that I had gotten the lesson plans... Well, I didn't admit that I had cobbled them together myself. They never would have done any work then.

Although, they didn't really do the assignment. But without my outright lying to them, they kind of thought that perhaps I had heard from their teacher.

Because there was no way I was showing a movie all day (that was not already planned by their teacher).

"So, you just gave us more work."

Um, yeah. Period six figured me out. But by that time the day was just about over.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's the End of the World (& I Feel Fine)

Kinda for the R.E.M. reference. Kinda from Jeanne's blog post from Saturday. Kinda because I haven't had time to watch Through the Wormhole lately...

What if the "apocalypse" already happened? What if we're what resulted?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Too Hot in Here

"Please make sure you leave your doors closed and your air conditioning running."

The nearby wildfire affected the air quality. At the time the office made that announcement, my classroom door was closed. But the room wasn't all that warm. I saw no need to turn on the air conditioning.

But fifth period was warm.

"They said you had to have the air conditioning on."

The room was at a comfortable room temperature (like 68° or 70°). I was in short sleeves. I have a tendency to run warm (and more often than not am accused of leaving the room freezing), so if I was pretty comfortable, there was no need for air conditioning. I told them no.

"But it's warm in here."

Rather than continue this conversation across the whole class, I joined the boys who were complaining. That's when I noticed their bulky sweatshirts. Which they couldn't remove as they weren't wearing t-shirts underneath.

Bad planning on their part was not a reason for me to have the air conditioning on.

I say it was bad planning, because the forecasted temperature for that day was 86°. The previous day had been just as warm. There was no excuse for dressing like they were expecting a cold snap.

Besides, the minute I would turn on the a/c, I'd get someone complaining it was too cold.

I can't win. So, I no longer play.

(Of course, in sixth period I got warm. Seventh period complained that it was too cold. Sigh.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fire Not-So-Adjacent

I saw the cloud as I left my house that morning. It was rather odd, as the weather forecast had said it would be sunny. But the cloud--it was a dark gray with a strange orange tinge.

I didn't think too much more about it. I was running late. I got to the school, got into the class, and got the day started. Then the class's instructional aide arrived.

"Is there a fire someplace?"

Ah ha! That's what that cloud was!

A quick internet search gave me a location (I'm referring to the Colby Fire). Close enough that we would see the smoke cloud. (The fire was big enough to to give off such a huge cloud.) Far enough away that we were in no danger. So, we just needed to go on with our day.

I took a peek outside. The cloud had grown. What had been cloud-like was now a streak covering all the sky to the north of us. And, of course, we could smell it.

"They have to cancel school. This is unsafe."

The air quality wasn't ideal. Asthma sufferers and other breathing-issue people probably needed to take it easy. But the rest of us could muddle through. We stayed indoors. We kept the doors closed. There was no reason to cancel school.

The students didn't see it that way.

Some ash misted down. Girls who went outside to go to the restroom returned complaining of ash in their hair and eyes. I noticed it most when I left for the day (my car was lightly dusted with it).

Of course, if it had been that bad, no one would have willingly gone outside. But try telling that to them. No, it was a danger, and we had to go home.

Any excuse to get out of school...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Old Amnesia Standby

This is where I explain where my question for the week came from. But today I've got nothing. It's one of those that I put together through sheer will (and the knowledge that I needed a question for today). It's been done in various forms, so let's look at it from a slightly different angle.

What if there was a reliable way to wipe someone's memory? What if the penal system got a hold of this technology? How might they use it? Would this be more of a punishment or more of a rehabilitation technique?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I Now Do Book Tours

Occasionally I get requests to host a stop on a virtual book tour. (Although, more often than not, I see these requests on the blogs of people I follow.) While I'm willing, I always give the same caveat--this blog doesn't get all that many hits.

As you may or may not know, I'm on of the contributors at Unicorn Bell. For the new year, we've made a few changes. The biggest change is that each contributor now has a regular feature.

My feature is book tours.

So now, if someone needs a place to promote their book, I have a place for them. And bonus, Unicorn Bell gets a whole lot more hits than this blog.

If you're interested in having Unicorn Bell host a stop on your virtual book tour, you can find the details here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Most Hated?

Why do students think I hate them?

Fourth period was convinced. I'm not sure why.

The first two groups were freaky. (One of the first four periods was a prep.) They worked silently. With a confusing assignment (I had to explain it a couple times because it was kind of strange). On an assembly schedule day. Oh, and did I mention these were middle schoolers?

Yep, those first two groups were amazingly good. Fourth period? Not so much.

On any other day, fourth period would have been behaving acceptably. Were they silent? No. But they were on task, they remained in their seats, and they weren't rude to me.

Did I hate them? No. Could they have behaved better?

See, here's the thing. I was spoiled by the earlier two classes. The only thing that was wrong with fourth period was how they compared to their peers from earlier in the day.

I didn't even write them a bad note.

Yet, they were still convinced that I hated them.

Ah well. I guess some students thrive on being hated. Or, at least the perception that they were.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Stuffing the Box

The conversation caught my ear. I can't tell you exactly what they were talking about because their conversation was definitely NSFW (even though we were in a classroom).

AP calculus. They had an assignment. Much of the class was doing it. (Some of them were doing work for other classes, but they knew what was due and when, and they are the sorts of students who get their work done, so I let them be.)

I listened in on the conversation with the idea that I'd step in and tell them that it was inappropriate. But I had enough context and their comments were such that I soon enough figured out what they were up to.

Freshmen take health. It lasts one semester. It is paired with geography, which is what they take for the other semester of their freshman year. But some freshmen (the kinds of freshmen that eventually end up in AP calculus) take AP geography. AP geography takes a full year. So, those students have to take health later (it is a requirement for graduation).

This week the health classes were doing their sex ed unit. The health teachers were taking questions. Anonymous, slip-of-paper-in-a-box questions.

This junior, presumably a bit bored being stuck in a freshman class, decided he wanted to spice up the discussion. I can't really blame him.

He consulted Yahoo Answers. He and his friends were laughing over some of the more ridiculous questions they found. And what I overheard was pretty ridiculous. Clearly, they were seeking out the crazy.

He got a female friend to write out the questions. I guess he didn't want his subterfuge caught. Although, I caught on pretty quickly.

I suppose I should have warned his teacher. I suppose I should have put a stop to this. But, truth is, I thought this was funny as well. And I didn't want to spoil his fun.

It was an interesting way to come back from winter break.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Searching for Time Travelers

I saw this article in io9 last week: "Does the internet prove that time travelers are visiting us? (No.)" And I actually read the whole thing. (Okay, I skimmed it.) But it got me thinking...

(I mean, they published their findings, so future people know there was someone looking for time travelers. Wouldn't you be careful about things like that?)

What if you could go back in time? Would you want people to know? Would you do everything in your power to make sure no one found out?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Eddie Haskell Redux?

I went on a bit of a cleaning binge last week, and I ran across a note some student passed me one day. (This particular Monday.)

I noticed the note. Set it aside to look at when I wasn't dealing with student issues (i.e. after the students left at the end of the day). Then it ended up in front of me again:

Still, I ignored it until I had time to peruse it. And then all I could do was shake my head...

Um, okay...

(I'm heartened to see that this student used the correct "your". Other than that...)

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Knitted Hat Saga

Last week I mentioned that this hat...

...needed its own blog post.

It all started about a year ago. The request was for a knitted hat for Christmas 2013. I had a whole year to knit it. Easy, right?

My trouble started with trying to figure out what to knit. There are so many hat patterns out there. I just went into Ravelry's pattern search and typed in "hat". There are over 33,000 hits. Over 12,000 free patterns. And in my personal library, there are 243 patterns. (And that's when I limit it to knit hats. I crochet, too.)

Where does one begin?

First, I tried this pattern...

...Not bad. But the brim was too tight. And I didn't think it was quite right. So, I started again with a different pattern...

...which regular readers of the blog have seen before as the "Homeless Hat". It's a nice hat, but it wasn't her.

Designing a hat isn't hard. I thought I might try my hand at it. But I didn't like the results...

(This isn't quite hat-sized. I realized it wasn't going to work and stopped knitting before it was long enough to be worn as a hat.)

Then I found the Hallgrim Hat pattern. I made a gauge swatch. I was using a different weight yarn, so some math was required to figure out how to modify the pattern so that was hat-sized. I thought I had it...

...only to find that this hat was too small. Way too small. (It'll fit an 8-year-old girl.)

But, with that info in hand, I was able to tweak the pattern a bit more to get the hat in the first picture. Success! And it even fits!

Lesson: If I'm given a year to knit a hat, I'll take a year to knit a hat. Or five.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Counting Time

New year. Must take advantage of the opportunity...

What if we had longer years (1000 days. 2000 days.)? What if we had shorter years (100 days. 50 days.)? How would that impact our lives (annual events, holidays, birthdays...)?