Friday, October 30, 2015

A Subbing Horror Story

French class. I had a couple periods of French 1, a couple of French 2, and one of French 3. They had packet work to review for a quiz on the following Monday.

I passed out the packets to the first French 2 group... and ran out. I barely had enough to cover the entire class. Which meant I had nothing to give the second group...

Um... Yeah. One does not leave a class with nothing to do. They can get into all sorts of mischief.

Frantic to come up with a solution (subs don't have access to the copier, and I didn't have enough time between classes to make copies, anyway), I first tried to write up the questions on the board. I quickly realized there wasn't enough room. What to do?

In the end, I managed to get a blank copy of the packet, and I had the kiddos take pictures of the pages with their phones and do it that way. Not ideal, but at least they weren't without work.

(And it turned out that the kiddos had gotten those pages the previous day, so no one really did the assignment anyway.)

Later, I realized that the packet must have been a class set. I should have gotten them back from the students to pass out to the next class.

But then French 3 came in. I went to pass out their packets... and was six packets short.

*shakes head*

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Missing Student

A couple weeks ago now, I covered an interesting 8th grade science class for two days. There were just too many stories to not share...  

Perhaps I was just irritable. Perhaps I was being unfair. I don't know. You tell me.

Brian asked for and was granted a restroom pass on Tuesday. I usually don't notice how long someone is gone. But once ten minutes passes, I start to wonder. And when a student is gone over a half hour, only returning at the end of the period to collect his stuff...

Wednesday he called me over. He asked me how to set up Tuesday's assignment...

On Tuesday they had a "foldable". They folded a sheet of paper "hot dog style", cut it so it had three flaps, and then put specific information on each part of the project. All of this was explained in the handout they'd been given. It was written on the board. There was an example they could look at. And I explained everything at the beginning of the period on Tuesday.

Brian didn't leave class until after I had completed my instructions. Plus, he was in class at least ten minutes after.

But on Wednesday I saw that Brian had done none of the foldable the previous day.

How come he'd done nothing? Why did he ditch class on Tuesday? Where did he go? I wasn't much in a mood to explain the assignment to a student who had been in class. (The three students who had been absent--I had no problem explaining the assignment to them.)

Brian didn't get why I was upset. He told me he hadn't been feeling well.

So, why didn't he ask to go to the health office? I totally would have understood that (and not kept other students from the restroom waiting for him to get back).

"What help would they be?" Nope, sitting in the restroom for most of the period was better. Apparently.

The way Brian looked at me, he thought I was being unreasonable. *shakes head*

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


7th grade English. I ended up covering the class for two days.

On day one, they had a story to read. I decided (for various reasons too numerous to go into) to have them read this story on their own and fill out the story map by themselves. Silently.

Yeah, I knew it was a bad idea. But I insist on silence when kiddos are reading because if they're talking, they're obviously not doing the reading. So, I tried for it anyway. And things went really well with the first group. The second group needed a bit of a push, but then they also worked silently.

Then I had the third group.

The room never got loud, but the kiddos didn't do a very good job at sitting still. Or remaining quiet. I spent much of the period shushing them, to diminishing results.

The next day they had a vocabulary assignment.

I wasn't about to insist on silence. It wasn't that sort of assignment. And I was really dreading having to deal with the third group. Groups one and two did so well the prior day I figured they would work well, but I braced for chaos and mayhem with the third group.

Group one worked silently. And I didn't even ask for it.

Group two... They wouldn't sit still. Well, I don't mind a bit of movement, but I do mind students who won't remain seated. And I didn't mind talking, but they got kind of loud. Boisterous. And not much was getting done in the way of the assignment.

Sigh. I was so not looking forward to the third group.

And then something strange happened. Group three... worked. Not silently, but not loudly, either. They... were pretty good.

Yeah, I wasn't expecting that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

An Observed Future

question marks

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 ;)

Last Wednesday was Back to the Future day. I'm sure you saw all the hoopla in the media. Alas, I was in a class with 7th graders who were nonplussed with the whole concept. But still it got me thinking...

What if someone made a well-publicized trip into the future?  

I'm pretty sure this has been done on TV somewhere. But it brings up a lot of questions. Like, would people then expect them? Or would that act collapse that future? And how much would this person tell the people back home? Would anyone believe them? I'm not specifying any of these, so take the question where you want to go.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Rules

Middle school special ed science class. On a Friday. They had a test. Open book.

A student raised his hand. I went over to answer his question...

The instructional aide then informed me of the testing rules. If the kiddos had a question, they were to come to us.

This is an unusual arrangement, so she explained. They tend to be needy during tests, so if we go to them, they'll need us to stand by them the entire time they're working. (Apparently they've learned this through experience.) The making them come to us is one way they're trying to get them to think for themselves.

We still got questions. Lots of them. And every time they raised their hands, I had to motion to them to come to me. I guess it's a process.

Some of them did very well on the test. (The IA graded most of the papers that day.) Some, not so much. But I guess that's normal.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ripped the Example

Earlier this month I spent two days covering an 8th grade science class. And things got... um... hairy... The crazy was too good not to share.

On day one, they were to work on a foldable, which is kind of an art project illustrating the concept they were studying. In this case, it was graphing and relationships between data: direct, inverse, or complex. They had to define and then show a graph.

(It sounds more complex than it was.)

The teacher left an example of the foldable assignment for the students to see. They could come up and look at it, but they could not take it back to their desks.

Two reasons for this: (1) So it doesn't go missing; and (2) So the students don't just copy it.

I explained the example needed to remain up front. And I had to remind them a few times. So, when the boy took it back to his desk, I was going to retrieve it and put it back where it belonged. When I got there.

(I was in the back of the room dealing with another issue at the time. The boy was at the desk just above the desk covered with my tag in the picture.)

Before I could get there, Britney got up, snatched it off his desk... He grabbed for it... RRRIIIIIPPPPP...

(I've written about Britney before. She was the "sweet girl" who I sat next to Abraham.)

Britney and the boy traded recriminations. But the girl seated next to them, Bobbi, really lit into Britney.

By that time I got there, retrieved the pieces of the example, and tried to calm the situation. But Bobbi was angry. Really angry. Britney knew the example had to stay up front. The boy didn't think she should snatch it off his desk. And Bobbi thought Britney didn't need to butt her nose into it in the first place.

It took some time to calm them down. It took less time to tape the example back together.

There was only one class after them, so it wasn't a big problem. But when the yelling started, that made it an incident that needed to be noted. (It would have been noted anyway, but now Bobbi was part of the incident.)

I was so glad the example "disappeared" the next day. (The teacher put it away. I managed to find it easily, but I didn't need to tell the kiddos this.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Pleasant Disruptive Student

(Someone... ahem... forgot to take a pic of the classroom in question. Twice. Ah well, he was in this class, too...)

10th grade world history. Teachers rarely leave "watch out for" names, so when they do...

The lesson plan warned me about 4th period. Any students who could not sit in their seats or work without talking were to be booted immediately. And Eugene was warned to "be excellent".

Eugene. I met him on Monday. 1st period. He, uh... In the end, I wrote his name down as being "disruptive". The list was that extensive. The bell didn't prompt him to sit down. Usually that's enough of a hint that it's time to get class started. It took me a couple minutes to get his attention before I could get him to sit down.

And then he wanted to have a conversation. About what, I don't remember. I was trying to get class started. They were supposed to read silently. But it was the Eugene show, and he wasn't giving up control. When I did get the class to silence, Eugene still had questions. And he didn't have the sense to whisper.

He was shocked when I told him I had listed him as "disruptive" in the note.

So, I had certain expectations for Eugene.

But before 4th period, we had an evacuation drill. Guess who just happened to be in the classroom that lined up next to mine? Eugene was having some issue with that teacher. (I swear, I wasn't listening.) That's when he saw me. And he seemed happy to see me.


Happy? He acted like he liked me. It was very bizarre. I was expecting a groan. A "not you". Nope. Not at all. He fist bumped me.

And he got to 4th period... And he attempted to sit in a seat not his own. But once I wouldn't let him, he settled down.

Then the assistant principal called Eugene to his office. (I think the issue with the other teacher was being dealt with.)

So, all in all, not what I was expecting from Eugene that day. But in a good way.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Taking Credit

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 you were forced to take credit for something you did not do?

Monday, October 19, 2015

His Soundtrack

In the chaos of passing period, I wasn't sure from where the blaring music came. Someone walking in playing music loudly via a speaker attached to his phone. Before I had a chance to investigate or protest, the music stopped and the bell rang. It was time to start class, and I had their attention.

It was Monday. 12th grade English. They had a day to read. And most of them got right to it.

(Most had physical books. A couple came in with ereaders. And a few read on their phones. Cell phones aren't totally evil. And yes, I did check to make sure they were reading and not goofing off.)

One boy asked to go to the library to check out a book. I didn't see why not...

I'm not sure why I followed him out the door. I might have been shutting it (to keep the air conditioning in the room. I prop open doors during passing so students know to come in). But I got there just in time to hear the music blaring from a speaker he held.

Um, classes were in session. And were probably disturbed by the noise.

The other students had no idea what to make of this, either. They said they'd never seen (or heard) him do this before.

Ah well. It spiced up the note a bit.

Anyone have any idea what he was doing? Any clue?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Right to Soccer

"That's censorship. Don't we have freedom of speech?"

Um, sure. You can discuss what you want. Outside of class. When you don't have an individual assignment to work on.

Today's post goes along with the annual Blog Action Day. This year's theme is "Raise Your Voice". That's an important topic. Many places it's hard to speak out about what matters. We should support those who do speak out in the hopes of improving the world.

Some of the kiddos I see in various classes discuss important topics. They question. School newspapers publish things that get them into trouble. And I support their right to say what they think and to protest appropriately when they see something they feel needs changing. (Sometimes it even helps.)

But these kiddos had an assignment. On the French Revolution, interestingly enough. And I insisted they get back to it.

I suppose I was suppressing their freedom of expression. I wasn't allowing them to discuss what they wanted. So, apparently I fall on the wrong side of this year's Blog Action Day topic. But I'm okay with that.

What were they discussing? Something soccer related.

Those we should support are people like Lauren Batchelder. What she did took real courage. Piling on to people who speak their minds (about things that matter) shouldn't be vilified by the online trolls.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Dance

The students were sent to 2nd period even though they'd be leaving on their field trip as soon as the bus arrived. They were going to a local community college.

Thomas had his earbuds in and was singing along with the rap song. Since he'd be leaving, I wasn't concerned at his not beginning the assignment and listening to music. I was, however, concerned at his singing along. In a mostly silent classroom. Lyrics that had a healthy sprinkling of profanity.

He was totally oblivious to my telling him to stop. But my standing over him... Yeah, he didn't like that.

(I should also note that he didn't see the problem. The only way I could reason with him was to threaten to stand over him.)

He agreed to stop singing. That's when he started with the dance moves. In his seat. To the amusement of the other students (who were remaining in class).

"What? I'm not singing."

Because the dancing was better?

Luckily, he was only in class about two more minutes before the announcement releasing the field trip students from class. *Deep sigh*

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

An Embarrassment of Riches

If you notice the tags at the end of my blog posts, you might have seen my "8RE". It's an abbreviation for "8th graders are evil". Because they are.

There is something about that age. 13. Kiddos go a little crazy. Not every kiddo. And it doesn't always hit them at 13. But get 35 thirteen-year-olds in one room, and chaos happens.

8th grade teachers deserve hazard pay.

This past week I covered two days of an 8th grade science class. And the crazy...

Normally, I seek out the best story of a given day and that's what I post on the blog. Some days I have more than one story, so I find the one that I think is funnier and go with it. (Of course, there are some days where nothing blog-worthy happens, and those days don't get posted about at all.)

However, with these groups over those two days, I had a hard time choosing. Really hard. So, I decided not to.

I've had several days of late that haven't made it to the blog at all. The kiddos were on task. Silent, even. I expect this will keep up, at least one day of the week. So, for those days, I'm going to bring out another story from this class. By my estimation, if I post one of these a week, it'll take me until nearly Christmas to get through them all.

You'll know it's one of those classes by the picture at the top and the tag "that 8th grade science class".

I don't know which one I'll start with. Perhaps it should be the one where one of the "good kids" from the math class got into trouble...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

One World

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 ;)

Last week I was in a social studies class, and I noticed a world map on the wall. It was one of those that had all the flags of the various countries of the world pictured. And it got me thinking about how in a lot of science fiction when people are dealing with other worlds, they only deal with one government. (I'm sure you all can tell me of examples where this is not true.) This made me wonder...

What if our world only had one government?

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Last Spider Post (This Year)

I think I'm all spidered out.

Since the painted-on glow-in-the-dark eyes didn't work, I finally broke down and bought googly eyes. And glued them over the paint job...

And now I think he looks like Toothless. But that's better than the creepy look he had before.

Per your suggestions, I tried using pipe cleaners for the legs for the twins. I rather like the way those turned out. Alas, I didn't have a chance to get pictures before I delivered them (I was down with a cold). However, when I gave the twins their spiders, the other two nephews requested spiders of their own.

The eldest nephew (HapkidoKid) asked that his be brown...

And the middle nephew (Rambo) requested purple but with pipe cleaner legs. Unfortunately, they only make pipe cleaners in one shade of purple which doesn't match the shade of purple I had in yarn...

Ah well. Just to get an idea of what the twins' spiders looked like, I did a little photo manipulation...

It's a bit fuzzy, but otherwise gives you a good idea of how those turned out. I think I might like the pipe cleaner version better. (Although, getting the pipe cleaners onto the body is just as difficult as getting the I-cord legs on.)

And now I'm done. Unless the nephews want eyes on theirs. (I've asked but gotten no answer.) I suppose now I should start thinking about Christmas projects. But it's been way too hot to think about Christmas.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Not Asking for Help

Algebra 2. It was Friday. The students had just had a test. Since the teacher had to be out, they were kind of between units. So, it was a make-work day.

The teacher had left them an "IQ test". (Sample question: In this series, what comes next? 3, Z, 10, Y, X, 6, 13, W, ___. The choices: 9, 16, U, V. Please don't ask me what the answer is. She did not give me an answer key.) She also gave them some word puzzles:

So, nothing too terrible. But it freaked the kiddos out. Some students were so worried about how this would affect their grade. (I have a feeling she's not grading this, so it won't affect their grade at all. But I don't tell them this. Then they won't bother.)  

I circulated around the room, listening to them puzzle these things out. Offering a bit of guidance when I could figure out the answer and they were clearly stuck. But for the most part they were figuring things out just fine on their own.  

Then I ran across two boys who had pulled out a Connect Four game. Were they done? Nope. They had "given up". It was "too hard". It had "given them a headache". 

I have encountered this phenomenon before. Rather than ask for help from me or a classmate, rather than see if they can figure it out, they just put the thing away and give up. Seriously. 

I do not understand this. So, I tried to help the boys, but they weren't having it. They were done.  

Then in the next class and the class after that one I found a couple students who did the same thing. They didn't "get it", so they weren't going to do it. Some had never seen the word puzzles before, so they had no idea what they meant. But rather than ask me, they just stopped trying. (When I discovered this, I explained what they had to do. Some caught on and kept going. Some, not so much.) 

What happened to asking for help? They somehow managed to make it to algebra 2 (which requires the passing of algebra 1 and geometry, so it's no small feat) without doing anything that was too taxing on their brains? Really? 

Or maybe it was just Friday. I hope it was just Friday. Because if not, this is troubling.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Consequence

I was warned about 6th period. So, I was surprised when they actually settled to silence (with quite a bit of prompting from me). But the silence was tenuous. Every little thing broke it.

Monica seemed to be the center of the broken silences. She wasn't the only one talking, but when I clamped down on her, the rest of the class settled. Okay, then.

A boy walked into the room. He had a pass. For Monica. Oh, goody.

Monica packed up her stuff. Happily left. And the silences remained unbroken.

Ten minutes later Monica returned. She was ticked, and she had to tell the whole class her travails.

She had been called back to her 5th period class. Apparently, she had thrown some trash on the floor on her way out. The teacher called her back to pick up all the trash off his floor. And she was a bit put out by it.

I thought it was an excellent consequence for her actions. Luckily, the period (and day) was almost over, so I didn't have to hear about Monica's troubles any longer.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Glitchy Portal

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 you found a portal to a different world? What if the person you told didn't believe you? What if you then tried to prove it, but it wouldn't work? But it worked when they left?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Singing in Math

Middle school math. Special ed.

It was a fairly straightforward assignment. I went over the explanation and gave them time to practice. Easy enough.

"Turn around..." (sung)

Yep, this was the tune. The lyrics... Yeah, they're not really that familiar with the song.

There were a couple boys who kept twisting around in their seats. But singing "turn around" wasn't really changing their behavior. The thing that got them to stop, though, was when I informed them that they had the lyrics wrong.

Then another boy started singing something a bit more contemporary. (No, I don't remember what. I deliberately blocked it from my memory.) Now this was getting ridiculous. So, I turned on the radio.

What? If they wanted music, perhaps listening would stop the singing. Because I didn't want to hear them singing. It's not the singing that bugs me. It's that they sing one lyric over and over and over again. And then it gets stuck in my head for the rest of the day. This was pure self-preservation.

Now they wanted to choose the station. And since the song on the station I chose wasn't familiar to them, they ignored it.

Ah well. I didn't get their song stuck in my head, so I consider this a victory.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Horror

I noticed it on Monday. My phone wouldn't connect to the school's wi-fi. I tried every password I knew. Nothing.

But, I'm the last to know about any changes to things like wi-fi, so I figured I'd ask someone for the new password when I got a chance. It wasn't like I was going to be on my phone all that much. (I check my email and Facebook before school and at lunch. And on my prep if I get one, which I didn't that day.)

Tuesday, same thing. But that day I had one of the severe special ed classes--the ones where some of the students don't really talk and where others struggle to read stories with three words on each page--and the last thing on my mind was figuring out what happened to the wi-fi.

Wednesday I was at a different school in the district. Same thing. But now I heard the rumblings. The students were complaining. They'd changed the wi-fi password on them, and now they couldn't access the system. So, it wasn't just me.

Thursday, the students told me of how another one of their teachers had tried every password he knew to try to get on the wi-fi. So, not just the students and the subs. Everyone was out.

The rumor was that something went wrong, so someone had reset the wi-fi. And in the process wiped out all the passwords. So, no one could log on to it. Naturally. (This is a school district after all. It took months before anyone figured out how to log onto the wi-fi after they installed the system.)

By Friday I just accepted that it was inaccessible.

So, the following Monday, when I got the same error message, I didn't think too much of it. But I tried using the password I always used. And it worked!

Wi-fi restored. All is right with the world.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Notes

When given the option of several teachers, I pick the teacher who has the calculus class. Because easy. These are the kiddos that don't generally give a sub any problems.

But, a school only needs a couple periods of calculus to cover all the students who want to take it. The calculus teacher usually teaches other math subjects as well. Statistics. Math analysis (a.k.a. pre-calculus). Business math...

The kiddos need to take a math class beyond geometry. Those who are more academically inclined take algebra 2. Those who aren't take business math.

So, the business math class had notes. That they could access on their phones. And suddenly, the kiddos weren't sure how to get their phones to work. Because, they all said that their phones didn't do that.

But I had an instructional aide. Miraculously, she was able to get the notes to come up on just about every phone in the room. Hmmm...

Did they all take down the notes and do the assignment? Of course not.