Thursday, November 27, 2014

Chasing a Raccoon

I decided to take the week off, so to speak. I did work last week, and I have some stories, but I'll post those next week, when we're all back to work (sort of). Which means today I'm doing a #ThrowbackThursday for the holiday. This post originally appeared on November 5, 2009. Enjoy. 

Today was day four with the opportunity class.

First thing this morning, they came in, sat down, and did their work peacefully. A minor miracle.

As they were working, Jake had a story to tell. I thought I'd share:

Jake had a run in with the police last night. He was out late, and he was running. The police pulled up beside him, flashed a light in his face, and asked him what he was doing.

Jake explained that he was chasing a raccoon.

Jake saw the raccoon earlier. He tried to take its picture with his cell phone, but it was too dark. Then the raccoon took off. Jake decided to chase it.

("Why?" I asked. What would he want with a raccoon? "I wanted to kick it," Jake replied. I tried explaining why this was not a good idea, but Jake didn't see my point.)

The cops told Jake that this was dangerous. The raccoon could attack and scratch him up badly. Jake could get rabies. Then the cops let Jake go ("I didn't even have to get in the car," he marveled).

Jake was relieved. He is on probation. He could have gone back to juvie.

Was any of this true? I have no idea. Jake told it convincingly. It could be true.

I'm never sure what to believe, so I listen and reserve judgement.

I remember this week. In my nightmares. This class no longer exists as the teacher now teaches something else somewhere else. How she put up with these kids for as long as she did, I have no idea.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Knitting Ornaments

I've been knitting Christmas tree ornaments.

I've been working on the pattern. It isn't quite there yet. But the trials are looking good. (The one on the left sold at the holiday boutique over the weekend.)

The purple one (on the left) was my first attempt with the beads. (Sorry about the picture quality. It came out a bit dark.) I decided that there weren't enough beads, so my next tries had more.

What do you think? How do they look to you?

(I'm also over at the California Crafters Club of Etsy blog today. Make sure to check out the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Missing Years

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

I saw this article on io9 a few weeks back. Apparently, there's this theory banging about that Pope Sylvester II and Holy Roman Emperor Otto III decided they wanted to be remembered or something, so they wanted to be around in the year 1000. Only they weren't, so they moved up the calendar. Because they were powerful enough to do that or something.

(This theory is well-known enough to have its own Wikipedia page.)

Which just boggles the mind. Whether it's true or not, it makes for an interesting story.

Where do I go with this?

What if you could initiate a hoax? Would you? Would you use it for good or evil?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Full Tables

I did a small church holiday boutique this past weekend.

And I took a few pictures of my tables.

Because I'm crazy like that. Only one of the shots came out blurry...

Ah well. At least the table looked populated.

Did you have a good weekend?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Different Sub, Different Lie

"Nah, she's chill."

I glared at Anthony. I was not so chill as to let him sit in some random seat anywhere he wanted. Although, he seemed to think I was going to. I disabused him of that notion soon enough, and he found his assigned seat.

It was a 12th grade government class, 5th period. And they came in like a herd of elephants.

(5th periods have been interesting lately. Probably because they're right after lunch.)

I talked to Mr. T before school. He told me that the last time he was out, the class had convinced the previous sub that Mr. T allows the students to eat in class. Mr. T was less than pleased, so he wanted to make sure I was aware of the rules.

Interestingly enough, no one tried to convince me they were allowed to eat in class. (I guess when Mr. T said he was furious, he meant he let them have it.) But they tried to convince me of other things.

Mr. T clearly outlined his restroom policy. The students must write "I will use the restroom at the proper time". They only have to write it 20 times before they go. If they leave the room first, they must write it 30 times.

All day I reminded students of this policy. They all seemed okay with it. A couple decided not to go (which is the point of such policies--if you really have to go, you'll be okay with the standards, if not, it won't be worth the effort).

5th period told me, "We don't have to write standards for subs."

Um, really? You sure about that?

They backed off pretty quick when it looked like I was taking down the names of those who insisted this was true. (I wasn't. I was writing down the name of the student who had just left.)

I did see Mr. T before I left for the day. I made sure to let him know about the seating chart lie (and Anthony specifically, who it turns out has been an issue for Mr. T before) and the restroom pass standards thing. I have a feeling they won't be trying those lies on the next sub.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Faking in Spanish

Remember Juan? I do.

It was 3rd period, and I called the roll. Juan responded with, "Aqui".

I don't much care how students respond to roll call as long as they respond to their names. I just need an indication of who is present in the room. On occasion I'll call a student name, and the student will reply with, "What?" I respond, "Taking roll," and continue on.

So, a response in Spanish doesn't even merit a raised eyebrow with me.

It was only after when Juan and I spoke about something else (I don't even know if I asked him something or he just voluntarily started talking) that I noticed that he was exclusively speaking in Spanish.

Upon further inquiry, Juan claimed (in Spanish) that he didn't speak any English. (Don't ask how I figured out the gist of this as I didn't take Spanish in school. I think another student chimed in to "help". And I do understand snippets from time to time.)

I do encounter students who speak no English in various classes. Usually they have a buddy helping them. And we make do. But there were two reasons I did not believe Juan.

Number 1: Students who don't speak English don't get sent to the continuation high school. Yes, there are several who are not fluent and the school offers ELD classes, but the true newcomers are so new they haven't had a chance to fail enough classes to get sent out.

Number 2: I met Juan before. In other classes. Where he spoke to me in fluent, unaccented English.

Once class was started, I approached Juan to talk to him about the whole not-able-to-speak-English lie. He started with a bunch of words I did not recognize, but ended with something about Espanol fluency. And that's when I had him.

Juan turned to the girl next to him. "How do you say 'fluency'?"

Later Juan blamed me for breaking his record. He had been doing well up until I questioned him.

Ah well. Once he stopped the whole Spanish-only thing, he could have done what he was supposed to be doing--writing an article for the school newspaper. (Oh, did I forget to mention that this class was the journalism class?)

Although, he didn't really get much of anything done. That girl sitting next to him? He spent the period flirting with her.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Rule Change

I was back at the continuation high school for the first time since September, and I noticed a major change. Every student (practically) had a backpack. Huh?

I mentioned previously that backpacks were not allowed on campus. And one student took exception to that rule. (Please do glance at this post from August. I don't often get to follow up on the results of something.)

Ms. M stopped by her class during the prep period, and I had a chance to ask her about everyone now having backpacks. She told me that it was Juan that got the rule changed.

At a previous staff meeting, Juan presented his argument. Ms. M said it was well reasoned. He brought in a backpack and pulled out the stuff that he said students would want to carry--deodorant (for PE days), food (because they always seem to be eating), pens (which previously no student seemed to carry), and other stuff that students usually carry.

As for students bringing in stuff they shouldn't (like drugs or weapons), Juan agreed that searches could be permitted. (And this meant that the girls' purses would be open to the same searches.) They discussed either random searches or daily searches (like at concerts when they glance through the bags when people enter).

The teachers voted, and they approved allowing backpacks.

And now they're all carrying them. Which is actually good, because now they all seem to have pens with them so they can do their work. (Yep, before basically no one carried anything to write with. It was as big a nightmare as you can imagine.)

Which goes to prove--if you present a well-reasoned well-argued request to the proper authorities, you can effect change.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Strong or Fast?

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

Not so much a what if as one of those random arguments that someone always seems to come up with...

What if you could have super strength or super speed? You can only pick one, and if you have super strength, you're very, very slow or if you have super speed, you're very, very weak.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Roving Day, Part 2

I tend to pick and choose amongst my days, highlighting the "best" incidents from my week. Subbing is a very variable gig, and today I thought I'd show a not-so-typical-but-kind-of-indicative day--my one day roving to different classes all day. Because this has gotten rather long, I've broken it up into two parts.

Yesterday I left off with my not looking forward to 4th period. Because it was PE.

I don't voluntarily take PE gigs.

They're not really bad days, or so I'm told. But I avoid them because
  • They take place outside
  • In the sun
  • Where I have a tendency to burn (I have very fair skin)
  • And I'm never sure where to go, what to do, etc...
I do get sent to cover the occasional extra period outside, though.

The teacher was there to give me the rundown before he left. He even gave me a student to act as my "assistant coach". But the class was on sub behavior, and another student attempted to take over (when I indicated my "assistant coach" was to do the warm up, he still tried to lead it).

Somehow we got to their activity. They were to run around the baseball field, do 5 sit ups and 5 push ups, and then give me their numbers so I could record it. Then they'd repeat. In all, their goal was 5 laps, 25 sit ups, and 25 push ups.

My assistant was great, making sure no one neglected their push ups or sit ups while I got bogged down recording numbers as students passed. (I learned later that this student had certain issues which was why the teacher singled her out to help me. It kept her involved in the class.)

The student who tried to take over? He noticed I had circled his number on the tally sheet, and he kept asking why (while I took down a dozen numbers as the students passed. I was not about to stop and explain and make the others wait, but he kept pestering until he finally got me at a lull between rushes).

I was sweaty and pink by 5th period. And looking forward to sitting in a cool classroom. For 5th period was a math class. Special ed, but RSP special ed, so more like a regular algebra 1 class, only with fewer students.

Only I get to class to have the teacher explain that they were doing an outside activity.

Internal groan. (I plastered a pleasant expression on my face, though.)

It was a good day for it, though. Yes, it's November, but our high was in the 80s (Fahrenheit), and it was sunny and nice out. (The nights have been cool.)

I remained in the shade while the class took five two-footed jumps apiece and wrote down how far they'd flown. Later they'd take this data and construct graphs from it. Mr. L explained that this good group could do this assignment with a sub. His other classes wouldn't have been able to handle it. And he was right, they did very well, and they took down their data easily.

Then I had one more period to go. I arrived to 6th period a little early only to surprise the teacher. I explained that I'd been roving, and he told me he hadn't been notified, his email was down, and he couldn't be out of class as they had a test the next day.

Okay, then.

I went to the office to explain the situation. Phone calls were exchanged. Ten minutes later I was sent back...

Roving days. Always an adventure.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Roving Day, Part 1

I generally like roving assignments. They have variety, and if one period is awful, I'm likely to have something completely different the next.

Last Wednesday I was called in for my second roving assignment in as many weeks. It was an interesting juxtaposition of classes. It made for a strange, crazy, almost typical day.

Period 1 I had a CAHSEE math class that was more interesting for who taught it. I needed Ms. V's help with a project, and until this day I had been unable to to get to her class. But this wasn't going to be the day as she would be out of her class while I was there.

Then something funny happened. I got to the room, and Ms. V said I needed to call the front office. My 2nd period assignment had been cancelled, and I was getting a prep period that day. Which meant I could stick around, wait for Ms. V to get back to her class, and get the help I needed. Hooray.

1st period was a typical CAHSEE class. These were the students who had not passed the CAHSEE yet, so they were getting some extra help in hopes that the next time they take the test, they'll pass it.

The students weren't all that into the assignment, but other than being rather talkative (which I had been warned about), they were fine. Most of them I had met in some place or other, so it was just me listening in on their conversations and joining in where appropriate.

I left for 3rd period in a good mood. (This project had been hanging over my head for 3 weeks!)

Period 3 was interesting because I had been in that class all day the previous day. So, I knew exactly what I was in for.

It was a severely handicapped special ed class. There were roughly a dozen students. Two of them had one-on-one aides who worked with them all day. A couple of them could not be enticed to do much of anything. The rest I spent the day interacting with.

When I worked with Happy, she'd parrot back what I said to her, but when directed, she could, for example, circle most of the UPs on the page on her own. Getting her going was the challenge. Then she'd finish, get some free time, and put together 45-piece jigsaw puzzles like a champ.

The next day I was remembered. All the students who spoke said, "Hi, Ms. A." They were surprised to see me again. I explained that their teacher would return for the next period, and Isaac repeated this several times.

For 3rd period, I worked with Isaac, Frank, and Pedro. They were going through a grocery ad and answering questions like, "Find something priced per pound. How much is 4 pounds?"

Each boy grabbed my arm because they each needed my help right now even though I was helping someone. I had to find the items needed in the ad so that I could direct them to them (and prompt them as to what they needed to write down). They were able to do the writing down of it all, but the finding was hard for them.

Watching Isaac write was fascinating. He wrote every letter backwards. That is, he starts his letters where I end mine. So, to him, I write backwards.

I don't cover SH classes too much. Mostly extra periods here and there. Those that are with these kids daily are amazing people, and they do wonderful things with a very different population.

While period 3 wasn't awful, I was glad to move on to period 4. Even though I wasn't looking forward to the assignment. Which I'll continue tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Different Soldier

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

In honor of Veteran's Day, I thought I'd throw out a question on war. Sort of. (I've been playing with this idea for a while, and maybe one day it'll actually grow up and become a story of its own.)

What if we sent older people to fight our wars rather than using the youth as soldiers? (For example, taking more experienced individuals and having them virtually fight via robots or such. But the question doesn't need to be limited specifically in this way.)

Monday, November 10, 2014


It doesn't matter how well I plan, once I jump in and do it, sometimes it just comes out wrong.

Last week I showed off my knitted archery target Christmas ornaments...

This was my second try.

I swatched and planned. Calculated. Figured out how many rows I wanted for each stripe. And forgot to account for the cast on row.

Can't tell how big the bullseye is? How about this view?

Yep, that needed a do-over.

Needed any do-overs lately?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Not So Obvious, I Guess

"What are we doing today?"

I didn't growl at the student even though I wanted to.

We had just gotten into the room. Most of the students were finding their seats. I made a beeline for the teacher's desk in search of lesson plans.

It was 4th period. The students and I waited together outside for someone to unlock the door for us. Obviously, I was just getting there. Obviously, I hadn't had a chance to set up the room let alone preview what the teacher intended for us to do. Obviously, it was going to take me a couple minutes to get up to speed.

Well, perhaps not obvious to a freshman.

Although, come on! It's not like they haven't had Fridays like this before. So many teachers were absent that two teachers didn't get their very own subs. They had to share.

I call it sub soup. These teachers' classes were covered period by period by different subs (and teachers) on their prep periods.

It's not a big deal. I go in, find the plans, peruse them as the class settles, and by a minute or two after the bell I'm good to go.

Well I would have been if I wasn't interrupted in my perusal by freshmen needing to know right then what we were doing.

I suppose I should have been grateful he didn't ask me what we were doing while we were waiting outside. (Although, that has happened to me before...)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Most Hated Assignment

7th grade math. Their assignment:

I love cell phone cameras. You get to see exactly what I'm talking about.

I passed it out to them. They groaned.  

"Not another one."  


"I spent three hours on that last night."  

I learned that their assignment the previous day was similar. The only difference was the number they started with and the number they used to repeatedly add to work the spiral. At least I didn't have to explain how to do it.

"Can I call my mom? I have to tell her I can't go to football tonight. I'll have to finish this."

Yikes. At least they weren't going to run out of work for the period.

(Turns out the numbers repeat at the hundred mark. That is, if you know one of the answers is 6, then you know that 106, 206, 306, and 406 are also in the sequence. Some students caught this and were able to finish during class.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Archery Target Christmas Tree Ornament

About 15 years ago, I knitted some Christmas tree ornaments. I did take pictures, but they are on film...somewhere... (I'm sure I can find them, but I don't want to go hunting them down at this moment.) I gave the finished products away as gifts.

This year, I thought I'd make some more.

I've been swatching since about August. Getting the sizing right is important, especially since knitting a sphere is a challenge.

But once I got somewhat of a sphere figured out, I then flashed on this...

...and thought it might make a cute ornament. What do you think?

I think next I'll try beads (and not an archery target stripey pattern).

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Life School

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

What if our lives are actually just a training period for something else?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Burying the Lead

It was a crazy day. The 6th grade teachers were meeting with the middle school teachers all day. Each period I went to a different class so that that teacher could attend.

It was kind of nice. I got to do something different just about every period.

Some teachers left lesson plans on their desks. Others were there when I arrived and explained what to do.

I arrived for my 5th period assignment a bit early. The 7th grade math teacher gave me the rundown. Simple enough stuff. They were working with number lines. I was to go over their homework, explain the assignment (notes were on the board), and give them time to work.

The bell rang. Before letting the kiddos in, the teacher left me with one final thought:

"It's after lunch. There are 27 boys in this class. They can be a bit wild. Good luck."

Yikes! You couldn't have led with that?

(The class was as bad as advertised. I bet Mr. T was thrilled to go to the meeting for that period.)