Friday, August 29, 2014

Passing Notes

It was Friday at the continuation high school. A group of students in the back far corner weren't doing a heck of a whole lot, but the conversation was fairly benign. 

The period ended. They left. I did a quick sweep of the room to pick up loose papers and pencils when a page caught my eye.

It was left where that group had been sitting. And it makes no sense. Neither side.

"I Feel like we look like them 'the city'!"
I mean, it wasn't like they were silent. Why they needed to write this stuff down, I have no idea. 

Just when I'd given up on the future of the human race, I spied a notebook from the same class.

I have no idea what the rest of the second thing is supposed to be (besides the anarchy symbol), but the first statement is rather well put. 

Of course, he would have spent his time better, oh, I don't know, perhaps doing the assignment for class.

Ah well. It was Friday, after all.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The F-Word

For #ThrowbackThursday, I'm offering something from November 10, 2009.

Same class today as yesterday. We're still reading Animal Farm.

It was 3rd period. One girl had a wad of tissue on her desk. She was coughing and she looked miserable. She had been absent yesterday. She probably should have stayed home today.

I don't remember why I said it. I'm sure something prompted it. I asked if she was sure she didn't have the flu.

The class was rather loud. Everyone was talking. So, I was surprised when the room went silent after I said it.

A couple students glanced sideways at her. I saw a boy go for the hand sanitizer (every class has a bottle of the stuff now). No one got too close.

Well, I guess we're all being careful. Even the teenagers.

I'm trying to recall why exactly we were so flu paranoid then. Was this when the flu vaccine was in short supply? Or was there a particularly virulent outbreak? Or both? I'm not sure where to look this up, so help me out, please. This was the fall/winter of 2009. Why were we so worried?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Liebster Award Part 2

A couple weeks ago I was awarded the Liebster Award by Charity. I started the post, but I didn't finish it. That is, I didn't nominate my recipients.

I had planned to finish it the next week, but my move got all in my face, and things went awry... Well, today I'm going to finish this thing. First, a recap of the rules:

The Liebster Award exists only on the internet, and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. It pays tribute to new blogs, or blogs with a follower count of less than 1,000–including Twitter. The word “liebster” is German in origin and has several definitions, including but not limited to: dearest, sweetest, kindest, pleasant, endearing, lovely, cute, nicest, valued and welcome.

The rules:
  1. Link back to the blog that nominated you. (Charity)
  2. Answer questions that your nominator has set for you.
  3. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5-11 blogs that have less than 1,000 followers to receive this award. (Remember, this includes Twitter.)
  5. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
  6. Contact your nominees and let them know you have nominated them. 
My nominees:
  1. Betty at A Bench With a View
  2. Birgit at BB Creations
  3. Romi C. at In the Way Everlasting
  4. Lisa at My Sweet Peanut
  5. Pinky Poinker
  6. And everyone else reading this post. You all deserve it. 
Questions for my Nominees:
  1. Have you ever noticed how JJ Abrams likes the number 47? Or how the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42? Certain people identify with certain numbers. I already admitted to having an affinity for 11. What is your signature number?
  2. Back in January, TIME magazine published an article on bad passwords. (I managed to find this again to illustrate a point while having a conversation with some juniors at the end of the last school year. They argued that a bad password was great protection as no hacker would try these anymore. I disagreed.) Have you ever used a "bad password"? Did you think it was good, or did you just need something easy? 
  3. What time did you go to bed last night?
  4. What's the last movie you went out to see in a movie theater?
  5. As you all know, Tuesdays are my "what if" question days. And I'm running a bit low on ideas. What's the best "what if" question you can come up with? (Or come up with a mediocre one. I'm kind of desperate.)
  6. Where are your car keys right now?
  7. Donna's New Day links to a random quiz on Sundays, and a couple weeks ago she found a quiz from the Oxford English Dictionary on finding the best new word for you. (They recently added a bunch of words.) Take the quiz (either frivolous or serious, or both if you're feeling adventurous), and give us your new word.
  8. Are you right or left-handed?
  9. Are you with me in the cult of Doctor Who? (Are you watching the new season?) Who's your favorite Doctor?
  10. If I were to offer to knit you something (anything) you'd like, what would you request?
  11. Besides blogging, what's your favorite social media outlet (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.)?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Strange Sounding Name

It's Tuesday, so it's time for my weekly random question...

I always thought that Alexis was a girl's name. But over the last few years, I've learned differently. Now, more often than not, when I encounter an Alexis in class, the Alexis is a he (of Latino descent). And the other day this got me to thinking.

What if you ended up in a foreign place where your name doesn't mean what you've always thought it meant (like it belongs to a different gender or it sounds silly to the others in this new place)?

Thursday, August 21, 2014


This week for #ThrowbackThursday is a reminder why I do not like to cover opportunity classes. These are the classes that students end up in due to behavior issues (and it doesn't help that they need to make up credits). This post originally appeared on July 21, 2010.

Yesterday's two students today grew to five. Only Santiago returned. Carlos was mysteriously absent. And the dynamics of the room completely changed.

To start off the day, I had three students who refused to do any work. They sat and talked. (At least they weren't doing anything worse.) Eventually, they got the first assignment packet done (I warned them that it would be done or they would be working outside until it was done). Then, since it was the first day for two of them, I asked them to copy the class rules and daily schedule.

They didn't have to think. They didn't have to answer questions. All they had to do was to copy already written out stuff onto a sheet of paper. It should have taken them five minutes tops. But they were having none of it.

Diego wanted to look something up on the Internet. Either Santiago or the other boy told Diego of this video or something. Diego wanted to see it. So, he set up a computer.

The computer had been disconnected for the summer. I didn't touch it. Diego spent a good 20 minutes finding the right wires, connecting things, and turning the computer on. It took a while for it to boot up. But then he needed a password to log on, and that's where I had him.

Diego asked me to log on to the computer. I told him I would as soon as he finished copying the classroom rules and daily schedule.

Oh, the whining. He begged and pleaded for me to log on. I repeated what I wanted. He sat and complained. So, instead of taking the five minutes to do as I asked, he spent a half hour trying to wear me down and get what he wanted.

Finally, he figured that he was getting nowhere with me, and he was ready to copy the classroom rules. But they were written in cursive, and he couldn't read cursive (oh, the horror!). I told him that one of his friends could read the rules to him so that he could write them down. Somehow, they managed to waste more time on that.

Then, Santiago offered to let Diego copy his copy (he printed). Diego was done in moments. Then he asked me to log on to the computer again. I reminded him that he still had one more thing to copy--the daily schedule. He wailed. I hadn't told him that!

I knew he was going to do that. I had been careful to say, "copy the class rules and daily schedule," every time I said it for just that reason. He only battled me for a couple minutes before he finally relented and copied the daily schedule.

True to my word, I logged on for him (after I checked to make sure that the copies were done). Unfortunately, he was unable to find the thing he was looking for.

All that drama for Internet access, and he couldn't even find whatever it was that the boys told him about. I think I enjoyed that failure a little too much.

I did see Diego after this in non-opportunity classes. He actually matured a bit and was less of an issue in a regular classroom.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ditching to PE

It was Friday at the continuation high school. Fridays are even more laid back than the rest of the week. The students expect to do little to nothing...

(Well, many of the students do little to nothing on a regular basis. It's how they ended up at the continuation high school in the first place. If they were more academically inclined, they wouldn't be in the position of making up the credits that they should have gotten in classes they already took.)

Basically, most of the teachers reserve Fridays as the makeup day. That is, the students have the day to finish any work they didn't complete during the week. But, of course, when there's a sub, they all claim to have finished the assignments.

So, it was 4th period, and one of the other classes on campus that period is PE. (I was covering the science class.) Mr. K lets students join his PE class on Fridays sometimes, so when a couple students asked if they could join his class, I said they could. Provided that Mr. K didn't mind them being there.

Five minutes later, Mr. K returned the students to class. Well, that's pretty clear to me. They weren't welcome. So, I told them to stay in class, and I passed out their extra credit assignment.

But three boys weren't having it.

"I've got my counselor..."

And he left before I could tell him no. Because that ploy wasn't very obvious.

I went through and did a head count against my roll call. I was missing three students. Sure enough, they had somehow gone back to PE...

Really? They don't think I'll notice?

(Although, if I had managed to keep them in class, they probably would have spent the period being difficult. That's what usually happens.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Communication Via Feeling

It's Tuesday, so it's time for my weekly random question...

This is one of those I-really-need-a-what-if-this-week questions. But even after struggling to come up with something, I rather like it...

What if we were all telepathic? If we could sense each other's innermost thoughts and feelings, would we ever have developed language? How different would our sense of each other and understanding of our world be?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Ballad of Mike and Ricky

For #ThrowbackThursday, I'm offering a post of a day I thankfully don't recall. I don't recall anything about this day or these two. I'm glad of that. This post first appeared on May 21, 2010.

(not their real names--their real names are much more distinctive)

Freshman English. 5th period. The other classes warned me about them, so I was sort of prepared.

It was near the beginning of the period when Mike first accosted me. He wanted me to sign his grade check. Never mind that it wasn't Thursday (the normal day for grade checks). He had written in a C+ as his grade. I explained that since I didn't have access to his grades I wasn't going to sign.

Mike wouldn't take no for an answer. I told him I would sign, but only if we changed his grade to N/A (not available), or he could wait until Monday. I noticed that no other teacher had signed this grade check, yet Mike insisted that he needed it for football. Finally, he relented, but I could tell that he was not pleased.

I tried to get on with the lesson plan, but period 5 was not cooperating. Ricky was "helping" by correcting the sentence of the day on the board. After he erased the corrections. Then he erased the clean board. And again.

I told Ricky to stop. It was time to sit down. Ricky informed me that Ricky wasn't his name; his name was John. This might have been plausible if (1) there had been a John on the class roll, and (2) I didn't know him from last year.

"Ricky, I mean 'John', it's time to sit down." (I managed to convey the quotes around John in my tone.) I continued to call him "Ricky, I mean 'John'" for the rest of the period.

Then Mike got into the game. He claimed his name was Pedro. He explained that while he might have looked black, he was half Mexican (and half Chinese and half white and half something else--it went on and on). I replied that he couldn't be all those halves, but that point was lost on him.

Pedro was actually the boy who sat behind him. I don't know why Pedro let Mike use his name without protest. He must have seen that I didn't believe Mike. I knew Mike from last year, so the name change wasn't flying.

It was a very long period. I won't even mention the disaster of a spelling test.

At the end of the day as I was packing up, something made me check the grades posted on the wall. (I knew they were there for Mike; I didn't feel like checking up on him for his grade check.) I found Mike's student number (on the roll sheet). Low and behold, Mike had a 67%. C+? I don't think so.

I made sure to note that in my note to the teacher even though I had written quite a lot about Mike (and Ricky) already.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Challenge?

Another August Thursday at the continuation high school...

Considering the issues I had with this group just two weeks ago (on this day, this day, and this day), I was expecting more fodder for the blog. Nope. They did their work (mostly), and I needed to find ways to fill my day.

The teacher's desk was piled with worksheets. The students kind of work at their own pace, so at any given time, there can be as many as five different assignments out with them. And they were all stacked in one pile.

I noticed that a few had been paper clipped together into like assignments, so I decided my task for the day would be to finish sorting the rest.

Fourth period came in. I gave my usual speech, took roll, made sure everyone had something to work on, and then I went back to the sorting of the worksheets. I hadn't been at it two minutes when something made me look over at the class.

Two boys were on the floor doing push ups.


I didn't even say anything I was so stunned. The look I gave them must have conveyed this, as they stopped the exercise immediately. They said something about "a challenge" and then went back to their desks.

And the craziest part--the rest of the class sat back and calmly watched the show.

Well, that had to go in the note. I couldn't not share that with Mr. H.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Juan was in that class. He had his backpack on. I guess he won his battle.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

False Surroundings

It's Tuesday, so it's time for my weekly random question...

I saw this article last week in io9 about a real brain condition that makes people think they've woken up in a duplicate world. And I thought it was perfect for my question of the week.

What if you did wake up in an alternate world? What would you do?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Crosswalk Stalker

It's #ThrowbackThursday or my repost day. This post originally appeared on January 27, 2010.

It was 3rd period. Biology. I was walking the room, making sure the kiddos were on task.

Basically, I look at each student's desk. I make sure that the book is open and paper is out. If they appear to be working, then I pass by with no comment. If a student is not working, I stop to ask.

I had just about completed my circuit of the room. I asked the last pair of girls if they were going to do any work today (with the implication that their answer should be yes). I waited as the girls looked for books and paper. I was hovering.

"Thank you for bringing this up," one girl said.


The one girl was talking to the other girl, pretty much ignoring me (although my hovering was what prompted the thought): "I feel like those crosswalk guys, you know..."

"Crossing guards?" I offered.

"Yeah, them," she continued, still talking to the other girl. "I feel like crossing guards are my personal stalkers."

Girl 2: "They follow you home?"

Girl 1: "No, but they follow me across the street."

Girl 2: "Not all the way."

Girl 1: "Sometimes they cross all the way."

Girl 2: "They're there to help you."

Girl 1: "But they creep me out..."

I walked away at this point. I was offering nothing to the conversation. And I didn't want to laugh out loud at girl 1. I thought that might be rude.

Sometimes, the stuff that they say...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Liebster Award

I've been nominated for the Liebster Award by Charity. I'm going to cheat a bit and pull the explanation from her blog...

The Liebster Award exists only on the internet, and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. It pays tribute to new blogs, or blogs with a follower count of less than 1,000–including Twitter. The word “liebster” is German in origin and has several definitions, including but not limited to: dearest, sweetest, kindest, pleasant, endearing, lovely, cute, nicest, valued and welcome.

The rules:
  1. Link back to the blog that nominated you. (See above.)
  2. Answer questions that your nominator has set for you.
  3. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5-11 blogs that have less than 1,000 followers to receive this award. (Remember, this includes Twitter.)
  5. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
  6. Contact your nominees and let them know you have nominated them.
The questions:
  1. What's your favorite season of the year?
    • Probably the fall. After the final gasp of heat, sometime in November, when it finally gets cool.
  2. Would you rather know when and where you will die or keep it a secret?
    • If I knew when and where, I'd be a basket case just waiting for it to happen. So, I'd rather not know.
  3. What's your biggest pet peeve?
    • At the moment, I'd say people who block traffic. Like at the grocery store. They somehow get in front of me and slow down, so I can't get around them. No "sorry". No acknowledgement that I'm even there, trying to get past them. 
  4. What do you think is your greatest strength?
    • This is a really, really bad time to ask me this. I'll have to revisit this when I don't feel so...I don't know...
  5. Your greatest weakness?
    • See #4.
  6. When you get in the reading mood, do you look for books by genre or author?
    • Depends. Sometimes I just want to read a Terry Pratchett book. Sometimes I just need a trashy romance.
  7. Do you still own a camera? Or do you rely solely on your smart phone?
    • I still have a digital camera that I use for my Etsy shop. I probably should upgrade it, however.
  8. What is your greatest possession?
    • Funny. At the moment I'm packing, and most of my possessions I'm looking at and going, "Do I really need to keep this?" Maybe my knitting needles. The tools that keep me making things.
  9. Chocolate or Vanilla?
    • Chocolate
  10. What's your favorite childhood memory?
    • Favorite? Well, let me go with the one that just popped into my head. When I was in the 6th grade, I learned to play tetherball. I was awful when I started. So, I practiced. Played myself. And eventually got so good that the better players were happy to see me in line to challenge them. "Oh good, a challenge," they'd say. And sometimes I'd even beat them.
  11. What drives you to keep pushing forward when exhaustion or insecurities strike?
    • I don't know. At the moment I'm plagued by insecurities and it's exhausting me. I'm barely hanging on...
11 Random Facts:
  1. Those questions hit a few nerves. I went and took some Rescue Calm. I should feel better in a moment...
  2. Yeah, I've got nothing. It's been one of those summers. I'm not one to whine all over the blog, and all I want to do at the moment is whine. There's got to be something...
  3. If any authors would like to promote their books on Unicorn Bell, my week is coming up (August 18-22). I have four days open. Just hit me up (unicornbellsubmissions [at] gmail [dot] com and put "book tour" in the subject or if your email is enabled on your comments, we can go from there).
  4. That's also the week I'm moving, so make sure to get in touch with me early so I can get everything set up before I go offline for the move.
  5. The move is part of the reason why I'm prone to whining. So, enough about that...
  6. I'm actually fond of the number 11. The digits of my birthday add up to 11. (7 + 3 + 1).
  7. I set my alarm clock so the digits of the time I wake also add up to 11 (for example 6:32 AM).
  8. Yes, I know it's crazy. But why must we set alarm clocks for 6:00 or 6:30?
  9. The pillow props from my contest have all arrived at their destinations. It only took me a week to knit them, and about a day to three days for them to arrive. I hope the winners are all enjoying them.
  10. At the moment I'm busily making lacy fingerless gloves. I hope to have them in the shop this fall.
  11. I really should go and make dinner now. It's been about a day since I ate last.
Then, finally, I am to create 11 questions for my nominees to answer. But I'm not doing nominees today. Maybe next week. (This post is way too long already.)

So, thanks Charity. And to everyone else, what questions should I ask my nominees next week? Would you like to be nominated?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Magical World

It's Tuesday, so it's time for my weekly random question...

In fantasy stories, there is a subgenre where people manage to travel through portals to other worlds, either to get into ours or to get away from it. These other worlds (the ones that aren't ours) always seem to contain magic...

What if our world was the world that was the most magical?

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Backpack Scandal

Never argue with a teenager. It doesn't matter how many reasonable, well-thought-out points you make. If they feel they are right, nothing you say will convince them otherwise.

It was Friday at the continuation high school. The counselor followed Juan into the room to retrieve his backpack. She left with two.

(The continuation high school does not permit backpacks. I've always assumed the ban was to discourage the bringing of weapons and/or drugs to campus, considering the makeup of the student body.)

Juan was incensed. It was one of those drawstring bags (kind of like this one), and it only contained a folder, his cell phone charger, his keys, and some hand sanitizer. (Which he pulled out before the bag was taken away. Which he could retrieve at the end of the day.)

Why, Juan wanted to know, couldn't he bring that to school when girls are allowed to bring purses?

And he grilled me on this.

(Because I am somehow responsible?)

After ten minutes of his haranguing, I explained that complaining to me about this policy was about as useful as arguing with the wall.

The policy is, I agree, a bit sexist. I understand the distinction, but the girls do take advantage of the purse exception. Some of them carry bags that hold about as much as a backpack does. But there are some things that a girl does need a purse for.

I tried to argue the distinction with Juan, but he shot down every one of my points. I don't know why I bothered. Even if I could find a good argument, Juan would have found a way to argue against it.

(This is not the first time I've been in this sort of situation.)

Somehow the class finally settled. But Juan was still upset. He decided to write a letter to the principal. He even suggested starting a petition and asked his classmates if they'd sign it. Even the girl in the room with the offending purse agreed.

I did not know Juan was writing this letter until he brought it over to me. He asked me to read it. I offered a few notes. (I checked the grammar. It was a bit rambly and had just a basic argument, but it made his point, so I told him it was "good".) By the end of the period he had it ready and he said he was going to take it to the office.

It'll be interesting to see if he gets anywhere with this. (It's within the realm of possibility that he could get the administration to make some sort of a change. Probably not everything he wants. Several policies have changed in the past, so it's possible.)