Friday, March 30, 2018

Too Fast

Friday. Middle school. Fundamentals of engineering.

Their assignment was to sketch out an alphabet that looked roughly like this:

I projected the alphabet on a screen at the front of the room. But I could only get two to three rows on screen at the same time, so periodically I'd have to scroll.

About half the class was diligently working. The other half of the class was playing. (This is typical in middle school electives. This is typical in middle school required subjects, too.)

At about the middle of the room, there were two girls who were all about the games. They started off by finishing off their lunch. (The diligent workers confirmed that they weren't allowed to eat in class.) Then they were gossiping, checking out their phones, chatting with the others in class, and pretty much doing things that were not on task.

But they remained in their seats, so while I kept an eye on them, I didn't do much more than periodically remind them that they had an assignment.

As the workers finished up the first row of letters (after like 20 minutes), I moved the screen up...

"Hey, wait. I wasn't done yet."

One of the girls wanted me to move the letters back. She had only finished the "A". She told me I was moving too fast.

Hmmm... So, scroll back so the goofing off girl can get caught up. Or keep things moving forward for all the students that were making progress. Difficult decision...

When I wouldn't move the letters back, the girl asked if she could go to the library to print out a copy of what she needed.

(The letters were on the teacher's website. Those who had phones could access the example that way. The teacher didn't trust them with Chromebooks when she wasn't in the room. After seeing the classes, I completely understand why.)

She returned without the hard copy. The library was "too crowded" and she couldn't get access. Her friend then decided to try... And also returned without a hard copy.

Now, they could have worked ahead. So what if they missed A-D? They could still continue with the other letters on the screen instead of wasting their time...

Oh, what am I saying? It was all about wasting their time.

I went ahead and signed up for the A to Z Challenge starting April 1st. (I'm #514 on the sign up list as I write this.) Not that anything is really going to change. You'll just notice how each day goes one further in the alphabet.

And... Happy birthday, Chris. (Feel free to wish my little brother a happy birthday :)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Avoiding Class

Math class at the continuation high school. Earvin was in period three.

Class had barely started when Earvin asked to go and talk to the counselor.

I called, but I got her voicemail. I knew she was on campus, but if her voicemail was picking up, that meant she was busy. And I wasn't going to send a student to her office if she was occupied with something else. So, I told Earvin no.

That should have been the end of it. But this is Earvin we're talking about.

He wanted to talk to someone "in the office". I knew the principal was off campus. No other administrators were around. Only the secretaries and clerks were there. But Earvin insisted, so I called to ask if he could go.


Earvin was on a mission. He wanted out of class. So, now he needed to go "work" in another class. Could he go to another room?

Okay, fine. Which class?

I called the teacher. He didn't want Earvin either. (I don't blame him. I wouldn't take him if he wasn't enrolled in my class.)

So, we're done, right? Earvin realized he was stuck and got to work, right? No, of course not. Earvin picked another teacher to try.

"Is he driving you crazy?"

Well, yeah, but that's normal. I can take it for a period. I didn't say this, however. I don't remember what I said. But this teacher said yes.

I did state that Earvin could remain with me. Earvin overheard and protested...

So, in the end Earvin got out of math class and went to PE instead. It calmed the room way down. (There was this girl chasing him, and he was running away...)

But I ran into the counselor later. She told me that Earvin has been "getting out of" math quite frequently lately. He doesn't seem to get on with the teacher. However, he's getting close to finishing, and math is one of the few subjects he needs to finish, so he needs to stay in class.

(Turns out that not having the counselor answer the phone worked in his favor, for she would have said that he shouldn't go anywhere.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


On Friday, Palmer slipped out of class about two minutes before the bell. It was the class right before lunch.

When a class lines up at the door before the bell, I get wary. I watch. Most of the time I urge them to sit, but sometimes my instructions are ignored, especially if they're used to lining up.

I didn't see Palmer leave, but when he did, others in the class commented. And I heard. I took a quick roll and figured out who was gone.

Normally I'd make a note of this and move on. But I was returning Monday...

Early in the period on Monday, I gently chided Palmer for leaving early. He admitted it. I asked, "You'll make this up today, right?" He agreed.

At the end of the period I reminded him. He said he remembered.

And he did. He didn't fuss and he didn't protest. I kept him long enough to "make up" for the time he missed on Friday.

Normally I'd've still made a note of this. But I appreciated not having to fight him. So, I let that be the end of it.

If only the kiddos realized how easy it is to get out of my note...

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


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. 😉

Have you been watching Black Lightning? It's a newish show on The CW. It's another superhero show, but it's coming at it from a different direction than we usually see (read: not an origin story).

Anyway, some things have been happening with the main character's daughters. That's what prompted this week's question...

What if you learned a family member had superpowers?

Friday, March 23, 2018

Too Much Fun

The chemistry classes I covered last week fell into a rhythm. They turned in homework. I gave the lesson via Powerpoint. And then most days they had time to work on their homework for the evening.

As is usual in a high school class, many of them got right to work. I would not be surprised if some of them finished all their work in class. However, there were others...

This one group of boys over to my right were having way too much fun. Laughing. Throwing paper at each other. I approached.

"While chemistry should be fun," I told them, "I rather doubt it's the chemistry you're finding fun."

High school boys *shakes head*

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Teaching Fail

When I agreed to cover this chemistry class for a week, I did not know I would have a cold relapse. And because I knew the chemistry teacher had specifically been looking for someone who knew enough chemistry to keep the class going, I didn't want to call out that first morning. I figured I could limp through the day...

I was feeling better. I had rested the whole weekend, and I called out on Monday (bailing on day three of a three day assignment) so I had a whole three days of rest. But I wasn't quite at 100% yet. (If it had been a one day assignment, I probably would have cancelled.)

I blame the cold. That's all I'm saying.

First period was AP chemistry. The first day I covered, they had a test review. The second day, they had a test. I didn't have to attempt to "teach" them until the third day. I had plenty of time to prepare.

But did I? Of course not. I got through my day. Then after getting home, I ate dinner and pretty much immediately went to bed. (You may have noticed I was absent from blog commenting until Wednesday.)

I figured I could wing it. The teacher left his Powerpoints for the lesson. I scanned through it. I could present that.

Only, I couldn't. The chapter was on electrochemistry. And it started with redox reactions. I never really learned redox reactions. Which became apparent as we went through the lesson.

I read the slides. I paused so they could work through which element got which charge. Which was oxidation and which was reduction. I explained how the "battery" needed a salt bridge to keep the reaction going. I explained that electrons would flow through the wire...

They had questions. I managed to pull up a prior slide that showed oxidation/reduction and hoped that helped answer the question...

Yeah, the kiddos saw right through me. They knew I had no idea what I was talking about.

On the bright side, they are AP kids. They're used to studying. They can figure things out for themselves. And they had the teacher's notes.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

(The regular chemistry classes weren't as big a deal. I did actually remember enough of those sections to give those lessons.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Right Not to Protest

You may have heard that last week there was a little national walkout (#NationalWalkoutDay)...

All week I covered a chemistry class (well, Tuesday through Friday). 10 AM occurred just after the start of third period.

We had just finished correcting their homework. I looked at the clock. It was nearly 10 AM. Not enough time to start their quiz before, so I hit pause on the lesson. Whoosh. The students all got up and left...

Well, not everyone.

"I'm going to stay and do my homework."

One boy told this to his friend. The friend was urging him to go. It wasn't like he was going to miss anything as practically the whole class had gone.

They argued. But the boy didn't really want to go.

I opened my mouth to urge the boy to go. This was one of those moments where someone can stand up for what's right. As the school was supportive of the walkout, it wasn't like there was going to be any blowback for him going.

But I realized that just as the rest of the class wanted to go, he didn't. And pushing him to go when he didn't want to was as bad as keeping kiddos in class when they felt it was important to walk out.

So, I said if he wanted to stay, he could stay.

In the end, three students remained in class (out of a class of twenty). I don't know why they stayed in. It wasn't my business, really.

From the sounds of it, the majority of the school walked out. They returned shortly. And once they were all back, I gave the class their quiz. After, we went on with the rest of the lesson. (They quiz took them five minutes.)

I kind of wanted to see the walkout, so I was sad to have to remain in class. But then again, I've been working through a cold, so it was nice to sit and rest for a bit.

How did the walkouts go where you are?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Making It Up as You Go Along

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 while giving a talk to a room full of people, you suddenly realized you had no idea what you were talking about?

Monday, March 19, 2018


theme reveal

So, yeah, I, um... I don't know if I'm doing the A to Z Challenge this year. But as I was sick all week last week, I have no new knitting to show off... 

I kind of want to. My "theme" is business as usual. That is, I post normally, just making sure to adhere to the letter of the day. It makes for some fun shuffling when I'm trying to figure out how to make the funny thing that happened at work fit. 

But, I haven't signed up as of yet. If I do, it'll probably be towards the end of next week. If I decide I really want to do it again. 

Show of hands... How many of you are doing A to Z this year?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Bad Forgery

My second day of a three day assignment in the eighth grade English class was a Friday. It was "Fun Friday". Any student who met certain requirements (namely, good grades and attendance) got dismissed to lunch 20 minutes early and admitted to a fun activity.

I had the list of students. I had their passes. I passed out the passes to the seven students in class who had earned it. And at the allotted time, I allowed them to leave.

Jesse held up a pass, said he was part of the group, and attempted to leave the class with the group. But Jesse wasn't on the list.

Why do the difficult students think they can get away with this stuff?

Jesse wasn't "bad" per se. These classes were pretty good overall, so the worst I can say for Jesse is he got out of his seat a bit too frequently. I had to take an extra moment to ask for his attention when I was giving the class instruction. But nothing out of the ordinary, especially for a sub.

But trying to sneak out of class with "the good kids"? Nope.

After the rest of the class had been dismissed for lunch, I found Jesse's "pass" on the floor. The passes were preprinted class schedules (with student ID numbers) for each student. Jesse had scratched out someone's name and printed his name in pencil above it.

I don't know what he was planning to do with that pass if he managed to get past me. No one would mistake that for an actual pass for this activity.

Eighth grade logic escapes me.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stolen Time

I used to have this small travel clock. On days when I was in a classroom where the clock didn't work or was missing, I would pull it out so I would know what time it was. (I don't wear a watch, and my phone lives in a buried part of my bag.) I need to know what time it is so I can time things like when it's time for the class to pack up their stuff.

It was day one in an eighth grade English class. They had a writing assignment, and things were going pretty smoothly. Third period was a bit of a challenge, but nothing too terrible for eighth graders.

At about three minutes until the end of the period, I noted the time via my travel clock, and then I announced to the class it was time to clean up.

They packed up, returned their books to the shelves, and generally did the get-ready-to-leave stuff.

The bell rang. As the class left, I went back to verify my travel clock's time was about right. (It's something I do frequently. If my clock is more than a couple minutes off, I'll fix it. If it's about a minute off, I remember to take that into account when I'm watching the time.)

I went back to where the clock was, only it wasn't. It was gone.

So, naturally, the next day I confronted period three about the missing clock right off the bat.

And they... were offended... by my accusations.

Offended. Them.

So, yeah, the clock is gone. And I'm sad about that. (It wasn't anything expensive, and it's probably time to replace the thing anyway, but that's not the point.)

But I'm not real happy with how they treated my announcement.

Two students "had to" step out they were so angry. At me. For accusing them of stealing my clock. (No, I didn't accuse them specifically. Because I have no idea who took it.)

Others complained that I had no right to accuse them of the theft. They weren't to blame. And they were so upset they couldn't take the scheduled quiz that day. (They took the quiz. I wasn't about to let them get away with that too.)

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at their audaciousness. At this point, please laugh.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Wasted Day

Eighth grade math. I covered the class for two days.

On day one, they were finishing up a lab. They had measured their heights and their armspans the previous day, and they were comparing the two. It was the kind of assignment that they should have easily finished.

But, they were on sub behavior.

It took them the whole period to graph all of their data. (That was roughly 30 points per class, but still, a whole hour?)

As Mr. J, their teacher, had been at a training, he stopped by at the end of the day to see how things went. When he learned that they hadn't finished what they needed to finish, he told me to go ahead and finish it up the next day.

And we did. One class even got some free time. Another got finished with only about five minutes left in class, so no free time. But they finished, so all was good.

Then sixth period arrived.

The prior day they had been difficult. But on this day...

I was authorized to do the assignment with them. That means, if they were following along, they got a complete assignment without having to do too much thinking. (Oh sure, I called on students to provide answers, but I made sure what they wrote down were the correct answers.)

But sixth period wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise.

I stood up in front of them. I got their attention. Then I turned to go over the first question, and they started talking.

I stopped. Waited. Asked for attention. Then I tried again.

They started talking again. So, around we went...

After about forty minutes of not being able to get to the answer to the first question because they wouldn't let me do it, I gave up. There are only so many ways one can ask for a class to stop talking and pay attention so we can do the work.

(The other classes that day managed to let me teach. So, it wasn't beyond the capability of an eighth grader.)

I had them pull out a sheet of paper and write a letter to their teacher explaining why they got no work done that day. I rather doubt they took any responsibility for their actions, but I was done at that point.

This is why most teachers give their classes worksheets on sub days. Although, not all classes behave this way. It's just so frustrating when they do.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Gone and Forgotten

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.😉

Did you know that the Aboriginal people of Australia do not use the names of people who have passed away? I saw a reference to this in a movie several years ago. However, this thought just hit me recently...

What if we stopped listening to the music of artists who have passed on?

Friday, March 9, 2018


Friday. Sixth period. On a day that had been drizzly and dreary. For a middle school special ed math class.

They were... interesting...

Samuel decided he wasn't going to do a thing I said. I asked him to complete the practice problem. He refused. I asked him to get out a pencil, he wouldn't move.

He took offense when I stared at him. I told him I'd stop if he started working. Ultimately, I got distracted by another student.

Because it wasn't just Samuel. Ashley didn't like sitting in the back. And Edward was looking at her. So, Ashley was moved. And Edward was talked to for twisting around in his seat. But Ashley was angry at Edward for calling her name, only it wasn't Edward. Nope. It was Samuel.

Did I mention these kiddos had a quiz?

Luckily, the instructional aide was there. She did all the work. I can't imagine how bad things would have been without her being there.

Some hours seem longer.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hiding the Phone Prank

Advanced eighth grade English. So, I figured "the good kids" and no problems, right? Ah, not so fast...

Third period. They had just finished their warm up (defining the root word of the day: mort/mor, and fixing the grammatical errors in a given sentence). I was passing out their assignment for the day while another student was stamping their homework.

There was a commotion on the other side of the room.

A boy was chasing a girl.

Girl: "I didn't take it. Here, check my backpack."

Boy: "Give me back my phone!"

Oh crap. And, of course, these are eighth graders, so the whole class was now into this. Several students were looking for the phone while others were enjoying the scene. One girl in the back far corner couldn't stop laughing.

Somehow, I got the two of them seated. I reminded them that their teacher, Ms. R, was not going to be happy when she heard about this. That seemed to quell most of the merriment. Although, the boy still wanted his phone.

Well, the girl in the back far corner who enjoyed the show way too much? Yeah, she had it. She hadn't taken it, however. No. That was the girl who protested her innocence.

I've seen this show before. One student steals item. Then she deposits it somewhere else. Student two plays dumb, because she didn't take it. She's just hiding it.

Whatever. All I want is peace for the period. Ms. R can sort the rest of it out upon her return. Because, you know I did tell her all about it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Saved by the Internet

Did you know that if you type in the title and the first couple of questions of a worksheet, you may be able to find a copy of that worksheet online?

I discovered this trick quite by accident. I was looking for the answers to something or other. I did just this, and the original popped up.

So, when the worksheet that the ELD (English language development. Read: students who moved here from elsewhere and are learning English) class had was missing key components, after not finding the book it came from in the classroom, I checked for it online.

(This was the third day the teacher had been out due to illness. She'd left early on Friday because she wasn't feeling well. Then she called in sick on Monday and this day which was a Tuesday. That she managed to get a very detailed lesson plan to me, with worksheets!, is pretty amazing. We'll forgive her for the worksheets being incomplete.)

They were supposed to identify the tense of the verb, only the verbs were missing. Oops. Somehow, the copy had everything that was italicized blanked out. I was going to come up with some random verbs, but the list was rather long.

So, I typed in the publisher of the worksheet (it was printed on it), the title, and voila... It actually popped up. Not only that, but the whole book it came from. Wow.

And because the computer was connected to the projector, I was able to project what was missing from the worksheet for the class to copy down.

The Internet saves my butt yet again.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Battle Scars

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 that mysterious ache/pain you woke up with this morning (that you have no memory of getting) is from some battle you fought last night of which you have no memory?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Porcupine Stitch Torture

I got some yarn for Christmas. So, now I'm knitting a scarf for me 😎

I found a stitch pattern in one of Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries. Something reversable. I swatched. It seemed to be a fairly easy pattern. So, I thought I was good to go.

Then, Saturday, I discovered I had made an error. I spent a while trying to fix, until I ultimately had to ladder back several rows (but just in the one section).

(Luckily, the pattern repeat is only 12 stitches. It made the section I needed to fix very contained. Totally doable.)

I still have no idea where I went wrong. But I got it fixed.

I kept going, only to run into another error. That I had made just after discovering the first error...

Some days I just need to set down the knitting.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Big Hint

Special ed. middle school science. Friday. They had an open book quiz.

About halfway through first period, the instructional aide (Ms. S) noticed that the four blood types were listed on the board. Identifying them was one of the questions on the quiz. Oops.

Since erasing them would have drawn attention to them, we decided to leave them up. It was an experiment. Would the students notice?

The students who finished early enough had the opportunity to fix wrong answers. (They get docked a point.) Many had found the blood types. They were in the book. What wasn't in the book but was a question was, "What's the universal donor?" And they all missed that one.

Ms. S pointed out that their teacher Mr. M had gone over that with them. But still, they couldn't recall it.

Towards the end of the period, Mr. M came by. (He was out due to a field trip, but the group hadn't left yet. He was checking in.) We pointed out the blood types listed on the board. We also mentioned that the class didn't remember what the universal donor was.

Instead of erasing the blood types, Mr. M made a slight modification to the board...

So, the rest of the day saw this right away and got the answer correct, right?

Eh, not so much.

We basically had to hint rather strongly to get them to notice. And still...

There's a reason they're in special ed. Although, I know plenty of regular ed students who would miss the obvious as well.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Bus Stop

I was back at the adult transition center, and of course we ended up at the mall.

This was a different class than the one I'd covered previously. These students were a bit more high functioning than the other class.

Outside the mall, we waited at the bus stop. I noted the signs. There were four different bus lines that stopped in this one spot: one for the city we were in, two for neighboring larger cities, and one for the neighboring county. (If you know the area, that all four lines met here would make sense.)

I have a car. I don't normally take the bus. So, while I knew what color bus ours was, I had no idea which route we were on.

When a bus that was the right color stopped, I didn't know if it was ours. I asked the students as if I knew the answer and I was just testing them,"Is this our bus?"

Nope, it wasn't. Our bus showed up a short time later.

(There was also an instructional aide with us, so it wasn't like I was doing this solo. But she was a ways away, and I wanted to know if we needed to move just yet. The students didn't appear to care one way or the other.)