Friday, February 28, 2014

A Question of Belief

"What do you believe?"

Um. Well. I...uh...

Why am I the only one who seems to think this is a rather vague question? Marcus didn't think so. And he pressed me on it. For an hour.

On the one hand, I appreciate his curiosity. But, he had work to do. Work he wasn't doing. Work he would have neglected anyway, but I'd have rather not been his distraction.

Most days I can wave this question off. Whether or not the students really care (and aren't doing it as a way of getting out of doing their work) isn't my concern. When I'm there, they usually have an assignment. And while I don't forbid discussions of belief (so long as no one is denigrating anyone else's, an open discussion about the topic I think is a good thing), I'd rather they remain on task.

But it was me and two boys. So, pushing the question aside was harder than I thought.

Marcus is a very inquisitive student. Maybe one day he'll figure out how to channel that in a more positive manner.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pandora's Box

This week's question was actually posed to me by Marcus. (Opportunity is good for the blog, at least.) Well, it wasn't in this form, exactly. The treasure chest idea was his, though, so I should give credit where credit is due...

What if you were walking in the desert, and you came upon a treasure chest containing all the answers to all the secrets of the universe? What would you do with it?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Neon Yellow Lacy Fingerless Gloves

So, I finally made up another pair of the lacy gloves...

Now it's just a matter of getting a good picture of them. Or, like five. 

I'm working on it...

(This is one of the reasons it takes me so long to list things.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Mystery

It was day 2 of my 4-day assignment in opportunity. Before I left the previous day, I made sure to shut down the computer and turn out all the lights. (This is normal procedure for me.) So, I was shocked to arrive to a room with lights on and the computer not only on but logged in under the teacher's password.

(Every teacher and student on campus has a personal log on for the computer network. We subs even have one, albeit one that we all share.)

Had the teacher returned?

But I knew he was out of town. 135 miles away. Family emergency. The kind of family emergency where I would not expect him to drive back to town just to check his classroom.

Did I forget to shut things down?

Was the teacher back? Had things changed and no one told me? (Wouldn't be the first time I got to a room only to find the teacher present and be sent back to the office.)

No one arrived. The bell rang. I let the boys in. I started class...

An hour later the instructional aide arrived. (His usual time.) I pulled him aside and asked him about it. Had the teacher come by?

The teacher I was subbing for was also the football coach. He has assistant coaches. Who use his room and his computer. (Assistant coaches I was most grateful for. Otherwise, I would have also been covering football. Did that once...)

Of course. I should have realized.

So, I was not shocked to discover the room in the same state when I arrived the rest of the week. (Which was a good thing. Computers take a long time to boot up.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Punishment

I get the distinct impression that the sub caller hates me.

Sure, she calls me. Frequently. I work just about every day. But how else do I explain this wake up call?

"Could you cover four opportunity?"


(Last week, Monday was a holiday. Otherwise, it would have been five days.)

What is opportunity? I think this conversation explains things:
Marcus: I used to be a good kid. It wasn't until I got sent to [alternative placement school] that I turned bad. I started hanging around with those guys. They're not bad guys, but it wasn't until I met them that I started tagging.
Me: Why did you get sent to [alternative placement school]?
Marcus: I brought a knife to school.
I've covered these kinds of classes many times before.

The class had four students. Each sat in a different corner of the room.

Oh well. At least they make for interesting blog posts...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dictionary Dilemma

It was a senior English class. The assignment was a group thing. They were to write a rhetorical précis based on some reading they had done.

At the bottom of the page was a list of twelve vocabulary words. (At the moment I can't recall what they were, but they were good words.) They were supposed to do their "usual" vocabulary assignment (something about boxes with definitions and pictures and sentences and such).

About half way through the period, a boy approached. He wondered if I'd let them look up the words on their phones as opposed to getting out the dictionaries.

Sigh. On the one hand, this doesn't bother me. They're using their phones for academic purposes (not Instagramming their activities in class or texting their friends about the weekend party). This is the wave of the future. There are so many things the students can do with their phones that support their learning.

But when he asked, I immediately flashed to the last time this subject had come up.

So, do I stick with the old guard and insist on dictionaries? Or do I realize that these 12th graders know the dictionary skills and let them get to the important part of the assignment--learning some new words?

(I let them use their phones. That's how they'll do the work in college, anyway.)

What do you think? Should I have insisted on dictionaries?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rethinking Prison

This idea came from a discussion... Well, it would take too long to explain. It has more of a dystopian bent. Not my usual, but then again, the idea came from a not usual place...

What if they were overhaul the prison system and turn it into more of an indentured servitude kind of thing?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Beta Reading

9th grade special ed. English

The class was working on writing a short story. Specifically, they were writing a "sequel" to "The Most Dangerous Game". They had started this on a previous day. This day they were to finish it up so they could type it and turn it in.

Several students wanted me to read their stories. And tell them what I thought.

What I really thought: There were some grammar issues, but not as many as I expected. A couple of the stories went in interesting directions. Many of the characters were wandering around without any clear objective. Or any hope of running into one.

What I said: Very good.

They weren't asking for my opinion. They wanted to know that what they were writing was okay. And it was. They were doing the assignment. And it was written pretty well considering.

But it made me think that when I ask someone to read my writing, this wasn't the sort of feedback I want. I want someone to point out that that whole conversation where the two characters are meeting can be cut. (I don't need the whole, "My name is..." bit.) I want to know that the whole long explanation as to why someone is on the island could be inserted without that big info dump.

I want to know where the issues really are.

It's time for me to find beta readers again. For the first time. I think.

I'm wavering. My novel is in a place where I could take another pass. Or I could send it out to readers. 

Now, I just need to find some willing volunteers...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


It was another day at the continuation high school. I had a group of kids for a brief time (15 minutes), and our job was to fill out a couple surveys (senior activities, yearbook superlatives, etc.). It was the afternoon, so the majority of the group had done the survey in the morning.

And they were ready to play.

"Now I can check out what's over in this corner."

A student started picking through a pile of stuff that was behind a bookcase in the corner. Because that's the sort of thing students like to do when their teacher is out. And when I warned him away, he informed me that, "She lets us".

Yeah, right. If she let you, then you wouldn't find it so fascinating when she's not in the room.

The boy found a tape player. As in, a cassette tape player.

There was a tape in it. It was an audio book for The House on Mango Street.

"What happens if I press 'record'?"

I freaked out. (Or rather, I freaked out as much as I do in the presence of high school kids. That is to say, I under reacted.)

"Stop playing with that. I don't want you accidentally recording over something."

Only after I said that did I notice that the player wasn't plugged in.

Which the boy found hilarious.

So much for under reacting.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Take a Deep Breath

Have you ever taken a drink of water and had it go down wrong? (I do this frequently enough that those who know me no longer react to the resulting coughing fit.)

Biology. They had a 22 question vocabulary quiz.

I gave them five minutes to "study". Then, I passed out the quizzes. The room fell silent.

I took a sip from my water bottle...

There's nothing quite like a coughing fit when you're trying to be quiet. Not only couldn't I catch my breath, I was in a silent room. With a captive audience.

Trying to take a quiz.

Just when I thought I was okay, I took another deep breath... And the coughing started up again.

I should have stepped outside. But they were taking a quiz. And I was supposed to be watching them to make sure they weren't cheating (or worse, talking).

Finally, in desperation, I pulled out a cough drop.

A student had the same idea. She went into her backpack to find one for me. (By that time I was sucking on my own. It was still thoughtful.)

I felt so awful. I didn't want to distract them. And yet...

Ah well. That's what I get for trying to stay hydrated.

Friday, February 14, 2014


The special ed. freshman English class entered loudly. Chaotically. The bell rang, and they still hadn't gotten seated.

This tells me quite a lot about how the period is going to go.

I explained the assignment. It was a simple word search. (They had time to finish up the week's work first, so the word search was just to keep them busy if they were finished.) I passed it out.

"Can we work in groups?"

"What are these words?"

"This is too small."

The letters were printed in a smaller font, probably at about 12 point. So, yes, it was small. Too small?

They were not happy when I wouldn't let them work in groups. I did not even let them out of their assigned seats. They complained. Loudly.

How hard is a word search, really? Like they need help with this?

(I would have let them help each other, but it was already clear that the class would go insane if I gave them that sort of leeway.)

They had had a sub the previous day. Her comment: "This class needs to repeat kindergarten." A little harsh? Perhaps. But I saw her point.

(I still had to deal with three boys who could not remain seated. One got up and danced. Then there was the trash can basketball. Sigh.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

After What?

I really need to stop waiting until the last minute to come up with these things. (Yeah, like that's going to happen...)

What if this is the "afterlife"?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Archery Target Hat for Sale

I finally got the archery target beanie listed on Etsy. (You know about my shop on Etsy, don't you?)

I like how it turned out. Now I just need to get some better pictures of it.

And while I have you here, I thought I'd mention that I also have a Facebook page for Zizi Rho Designs. In case you happen to be on Facebook.

I tend to post pics of things I'm working on or thinking of working on. And links to good yarn bomb installations. (I love a good yarn bombing.) I appreciate any "Likes" you're willing to give. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


CAHSEE testing. It's actually one of my favorite gigs.

It was the first time the sophomores got to take the thing. Which meant every sophomore on campus was testing. Around 240 of them were testing in the gym. So, there were six of us subs to help proctor (along with an assistant principal and the counselors).

Each of us subs were assigned a station. We checked in about 40 students. At the end of the testing, we checked those same 40 students out.

The test is untimed, so there are always a few who take up to five hours.

All but one of my students had finished and checked out. The sub next to me got her final student checked out. She turned in her answer sheets to the assistant principal. The assistant principal released the sub.

There were three students left in the gym. One was mine.

He raised his hand...

I went over. He said he was finished. I checked (as is my responsibility) to make sure he had filled out everything. Name. Version number. Serial number. Questionnaire...

At the end of the test there's a 15 question thing asking the students how they studied, et al, as kind of a statistical thing I assume.

The boy hadn't filled out the questionnaire. I turned on my polite face and explained that he needed to finish that up before he could leave.

I swear, I put on my polite face. I did not growl at him. Even though I kind of wanted to.

He apologized for missing it. I assured him it was no big deal. He just had to finish it. Before he could go.

Before we both could go.

(It doesn't take more than a couple minutes.)

I mean, it's not like it was the end of the day or anything. I was getting to leave early. I could wait a couple more minutes...

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Famous Pencil Pouch

It's that time of year again. CAHSEE time!

We had gotten all the kiddos checked in, and the assistant principal in charge of the testing was giving the usual instructions. I was doing one of my circuits around the gym, through the tables, making sure the students were all clear on what identifying information they needed to fill out (name at top, version number of test).

Along with six subs, all the counselors and a couple teachers were in the gym. While doing our individual circuits, our paths crossed.

At one point, my path crossed the principal's. (I guess he was checking on the proceedings.)

"Where's your pencil pouch?" he asked.

"In my bag. I'll get it out once they get started," was my reply.

Yeah, even the principal knows about my pencil pouch...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Long Distance Travel

So, I had the Science Channel on in the background. Again. They were discussing relativity and time dilation. Then the distance to Alpha Centauri came up. And space travel.

My brain mashed those together and came up with this...

What if the only way we humans can travel to distant stars/planets is to lose our physical forms?

As is the intent of all my "what ifs?", feel free to interpret this in any way you choose.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lacy Fingerless Gloves

For some strange reason, this seems to be my creative time of the year. Perhaps it's because I keep getting requests...

Right. So, my sister-in-law said something about lacy fingerless gloves. The kind that would have been at home in the '80s. It seemed like an interesting challenge, so I played with a design and made a few test runs...

(The lovely thing about test runs: I only need to make one.)

I had my SIL try them on, and the middle one fit the best. She selected the color she wanted, and I finally got them finished this weekend...

What do you think? Should I make up a pair to sell? Do you think anyone would buy?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I Hate Videos

It's one of the simplest lesson plans, so I understand why teachers leave it. In fact, on this day the video was left because the class had started watching it the previous day (so I was just continuing where they left off).

But it was on VHS. Which meant that I had to rewind each period. Without a working counter on the VCR.

And then when I started the video, it wasn't where the class left off. So I had to rewind or fast forward, relying on the students to tell me when to let it play again.

I should mention that they were seventh graders. And they were a bit wound up. So, this didn't help settle them any.

Then we finally got going, and I spent every class shushing them. Because the video bored them. I found a girl scooting towards her friend. I got complaints that someone was pelting the students in the front row with projectiles.

I moved one boy because he was talking incessantly. And he argued with me for five minutes over having to move.

I used to prefer videos. Now I'd rather give them book work. But I do what the lesson plan says, so that meant a video.


Okay, okay. Whine over.

Monday, February 3, 2014


It was a very detailed lesson plan. Five pages long. The teacher had left the class a lot to do with some very serious punishments for not doing so.

Then she listed four students and gave me classrooms to send them to.

Uh oh.

This is never a good sign. So, I was worried.

I got everything prepared. (Luckily, I had a first period prep to set up.) I wrote the assignment up on the board. I got the four students' assignments ready so I could just send them out (and not give them time to act up and rile up the class).

The class walked in. They were loud.

And... nothing else.

I expected rudeness. Disrespect.


They didn't make a lot of progress on their assignment, but they all had work out, and they at least made a pretense of working (as opposed to those who refuse to even pretend to do the assignment).

They remained in their seats. Their assigned seats. They didn't talk back to me.

Sure, I would have preferred if it was less loud. But considering all the things that could go wrong (throwing books, fights, etc), they were a pretty mellow group.

Some days I just luck out.