Thursday, February 28, 2019

Blind Connect Four

Actually, to be fully correct, this post should be titled "Connect Four for Students who are Visually Impaired", but that's just too long and unwieldy...

I covered one period of the visually impaired class while the teacher was at an IEP meeting. And we managed to get through their entire assignment with twenty plus minutes left to spare.

I asked what they do normally when the lesson runs short. They said they played a game the last time. The instructional aide suggested Connect Four. (There were two students in class.)

In case you were wondering (I was), someone had drilled holes in all the black checkers, so one could tell by touch which checkers were which.

The two girls played one game that finished very quickly. They said they were bored with it.

Really? Bored? That tells me that they weren't doing it right...

So, I sat down with them and went about teaching them a bit of strategy.

As a child I played many strategy games with my father. (Chess. Pente.) And he was merciless. (He still is.) He will place pieces in ways meant to confuse and distract me. I learned from an early age to pay close attention, think several steps ahead (what could he possibly do next? where could he win that I'm not seeing?), and never let my guard down.

After the first girl played her first checker, I talked each girl through her move. What should she look out for? Where could she win? Where could she make an error to let the other girl win? I explained how to think two to three moves ahead.

I have no idea if either learned something. That second game took considerably longer than the first. And then it was time for them to go.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Saving Them from Themselves

Eighth grade English. They were typing out an essay that they'd been working on for a couple days.

To make it easier for me to monitor their computer usage, the teacher had turned all their desks around. (This did help me out a lot.) However, they'd never seen the class configured this way, and it threw them for a loop.

Third period. "We can sit wherever we want, right?"

So, for the third time that day, I explained that their assigned seats were in the same place, only flipped to look at the back wall.

(It was a bit confusing, but the other classes didn't seem to think it merited sitting anywhere.)

When I went to take roll, however, I discovered that a couple students chose other seats. Grrr. But once I assumed they were absent (empty chair where they should have been), they moved back pretty readily.

The teacher was on campus that day, meeting with other teachers (some curriculum thing). So, I had a chance to talk to her after school.

I mentioned the seat movement. She knew exactly who had done it.

"Those three boys are always asking to sit together." She explained that when they sit together, they talk. No work. (And this was an advanced class, so these kiddos are the type that actually do their work.)

They'd tell her, "We promise we'll get work done this time."

And she told them, "You didn't do any work the last time or the time before that."

She said to me, "They should thank me. Seriously. I'm saving them from themselves."

They should thank me, too. Because that class was silent. They all got work done. And clearly they wouldn't have if I had not insisted on assigned seats.

Middle school teachers are very deliberate with seats for a reason. This is why I don't let them sit anywhere.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Creator of Worlds

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. 😉

This week I've got nothing. So, I'm going to "borrow" a question...

Obviously, any thanks for any stories generated from this question go to the author of the above book. Credit where credit is due.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Ugly Slippers, Final

I finally got the soles sewn onto the ugly slippers. Finally.

It wasn't all that difficult, but as with all new things, it took me a while to get the hang of it.

I'm not sure how well this works at keeping the slippers non-slip. I'll have to get back to you on that, after the recipients get their long-overdue Christmas presents and try them out.

In case you'd like to try this yourself, the tutorial for this method is found here. I googled "soles on knitted slippers" and this site came up.

As you can see, her soles look much, much better than mine. I used a faux leather fabric.

Ah well. It's done now. Would I use this same method again? I don't know. It depends on how well the slippers work out.

And with that, my Christmas 2018 knitting is done. Christmas 2017 knitting is still ongoing.

Bedroom deluge update: I still have a big ol' hole in my ceiling. 

It's pretty much the entire ceiling. It will not get repaired until the restoration company knows who's paying to have it repaired. The owner of the property upstairs refuses to pay as does her insurance company. The renters still deny that anything whatsoever actually happened. So, before anything else can happen, we have to take them to court. Ugh. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Ms. V and the Rounding Expert

For Tuesday through Thursday of last week, I covered for a special ed teacher who had a rather complex schedule. He was not in the same room two periods in a row. (Well, he did have one class that was the same for two periods, but those classes were split by lunch.) He did all the travelling because he co-taught for three periods.

And his co-teachers were present for all three days.

Fifth and sixth periods were integrated math 1 (read: 9th grade math or algebra 1). 

On Wednesday the topic was joint and relative frequencies on two-way tables.  

Ms. V would go over a bit, then she'd have them do a couple problems on their own before going over what they should have gotten. When they were trying the problems, I actually had something to do. I'd walk the room and help those with questions. 

They were dividing numbers, and their answers were decimals. Ms. V had told them to round their answers. And that's where most of the questions came from. They weren't sure how to round. 

I don't know why rounding is so hard. In the various math classes I've covered (and I've covered quite a few), rounding keeps coming up, and the students are struggling. 

At a pause, I let Ms. V know that that was what most of the questions I got were. She assured me that she had just gone over the topic with them. (That I did not doubt. I only brought it up so she knew what issues they were having.) 

Ms. V continued with the lesson. At the next pause to let them try out the problems, Ms. V made an announcement to the class: "If you have questions on rounding, ask Ms. A. She's an expert on rounding." 

Oh, that was sneaky, Ms. V. Sneaky...

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Mr. R and the Kiss Concert

For Tuesday through Thursday of last week, I covered for a special ed teacher who had a rather complex schedule. He was not in the same room two periods in a row. (Well, he did have one class that was the same for two periods, but those classes were split by lunch.) He did all the travelling because he co-taught for three periods.

And his co-teachers were present for all three days.

Third period was integrated math 2 (read: 10th grade math or geometry).

On Wednesday the lesson was about triangles, the triangle midsegment theorem, and such.

Mr. R did his lecture as the class took notes. There wasn't much for me to do but sit and watch.

And sitting and watching can get boring, especially when I wasn't learning anything new. I was really wishing I could take a nap.

Then, at a break in the lecture, when the students were busily copying down the notes and working a problem on their own, Mr. R stopped to talk to me.

He told me that he was a bit wiped out as he had been out late the night before. He wouldn't normally go to a concert on a school night, but it was Kiss. And they were playing close by enough. He hadn't gotten to bed until after midnight, so getting up for school had been hard.

Little ol' me who had gone to bed at a reasonable hour the night before really shouldn't have been tired. Mr. R getting through that lecture... That day, he was the rock star.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Mr. O and the Powerpoint Remote

I don't generally cover Spanish classes (silly me took French in high school), but the pickings were slim that Monday...

I arrived to find the best of surprises: a student teacher. Woo-hoo! It meant I'd be pretty bored, but at least I didn't have to pretend to have any idea of how to speak Spanish.

He'd already set up the computer when I got there. As it was Monday, he went through their usual PowerPoint of the week's vocabulary. (When I was a kid, all we had was the book. Now, he puts up pictures to accompany the vocabulary words along with other examples to make the words more memorable.) The whole procedure went so smoothly I figured this was what they did every Monday.

However, there was one issue. The remote the student teacher used to advance the slides wasn't working.

Bonus for me, as I needed something to do. I stood at the computer and hit advance when he was ready for the next slide.

But that didn't explain why the remote wasn't working. Mr. O found the replacement batteries, but that didn't help.

After two periods, he looked down at the computer and wondered where the USB drive that was usually in the computer was. And that's when I found it in the remote...

Obvious, in retrospect. We won't complain about Mr. O, either. He's only been student teaching about a month, so it's easy to see how he might not have figured this part out yet.

(And with the remote found, I had nothing to do but watch. Some days I really wish I had brought my knitting.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A Time Traveler's House

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. 😉

The clock in my bathroom is running slow. When I went from there into my bedroom, I lost two minutes I thought I had. (This is a huge deal for me first thing in the morning when I'm scrambling to leave on time.) And it got me to thinking...

What if every room in your house existed in a different time with respect to the outside? (Going from one room to another doesn't seem different, but each room could exist in a time bubble minutes, days, or years apart.)

(I know, I've sort of done this question before. But it was four and a half years ago, and today's iteration is slightly different.)

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Walking Purse, Beta Version

I finally have a finished object to show off.

There's no new news on the bedroom front. We're still waiting on the contractors to fix the hole in the ceiling. I've been in my bedroom for almost two weeks now, although most of my stuff is still sitting in the dining room. Sigh. It's good to be somewhat settled.

I present the walking purse...

In the first blog post where I mentioned it, I was asked "what's a walking purse?", so I felt I should explain.

My father and his wife go for walks pretty much every morning. (Well, barring illness or injury.) They walk for an hour or more.

Several years ago, my father's wife requested a small purse for these excursions. She wanted something big enough to hold her phone and a couple other odds and ends. She wanted it small so she wouldn't be tempted to put anything else in there. And the strap needed to be long enough so that she could wear it across her body.

I made that purse several years ago. It's gotten a lot of wear. Now it's time to replace it. (I know I wrote about it on this blog at the time, but I can't find the post.)

So, I put on my designing hat and got to work. I wanted something a bit more durable. I knew what yarn I wanted to use (and it helpfully went on sale just in time for the project). I ran a few ideas by her. I got most of the pieces done.

And then water poured out of my ceiling, and my projects all kind of stalled.

As things got put back together in my room, I got more work on my projects done. And this week I finished the purse.

It was nice to have three hours to sit in front of the TV and just assemble things. Because I lined the purse (that took a bit of time) as well as attaching the purse strap and button and such.

There are a few changes I'd make to my next attempt. I already outlined those in another post. And the question is whether the phone will go in and out of this purse easily as I stitched up the top just a bit. (There was an issue of stuff slipping out on a previous purse.)

But for now, it's done. That's one more Christmas present finally finished. Only four more to go...

(This is better than last year. I still have two gifts outstanding from 2017. Yup, two gifts over a year late.)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Sex in Scrabble

Seventh grade ELD (English language development, read: English language learners).

The teacher was out on jury duty (first day--I don't know if she got selected for a jury as I worked elsewhere the next day). The lesson plan was a bit of a scramble. This group was to play Scrabble.

If you think about it, it's an excellent way to have them doing something in English. And due to limited boards, the students played in pairs as teams, which meant they were conferring on proper English words.

Things went fairly well. I mean, they got a little loud, but that was to be expected.

Then one group called me over. They were talking as I approached.

"It means gender."

They needed a ruling. Was it okay to play the word "sex"?

Sigh. For that age... But they weren't giggling. It was an actual, reasoned debate. The team that wanted to play it rightly pointed out it had a valid definition that was classroom appropriate.

Considering the tenor of the conversation, I allowed it. They weren't being silly. They were treating it as a word. I appreciated that.

Besides, using X was going to give them issues anyway.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Missed It

It was one of those lovely days that I don't write about. Ceramics. The kiddos were pretty much on task, and my biggest concern was staying awake.

At the end of the period, they went to the sinks to wash the clay off their hands. I was seated next to one. I happened to look over as one boy was washing his hands...

I've been subbing a while. I knew this boy. I'd had him in class several times in the past. He's never made the blog before. He does his work, mostly. He's never been rude to me. He's like 75% of the students I encounter. (Yes, mostly the kiddos are pretty good.)

Anyway, I looked over and noticed... The boy had no thumb on one of his hands. (I think it was the right hand, but at this point I don't recall precisely.)

And all I could think was: how had I never noticed this before?

This boy's a senior. I've probably had him in classes for five years, if not six. I've passed him as I do class walk arounds. I've passed papers to him and had him pass papers back to me. I've called his name on the roll (or asked his name as I did a reverse roll call).

And I never noticed?

Wow. I really need to be paying better attention.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Group Work Fail

Eighth grade math. They had an interesting group assignment:

Each group got a copy of that instruction sheet. Enough info, right? (I mean, even at this size it looks pretty detailed. If you want to see it better, just click on the image and it should get bigger.)

I'm sure you know where this is going...

First period. I briefly skimmed the instructions, pausing on the line, "Facilitator, read and share this with your group before beginning." So, that meant that as a group they'd read the instructions together, right? I was to leave them to go over those directions on their own? That's what I took it to mean.

That's not what happened.

Okay, then, I need to go over the page with them. No problem. Starting with second period and continuing with all the other classes, we read it together.

Now, you'd think that taking five minutes to go over the instructions in detail should be enough. Apparently not.

Not one period followed the directions. They did the math, mostly. But they didn't complete the page the way they were supposed to.

(Group work is a large component of Common Core. And they were preparing for a quiz. The point of the group stuff was to have those students who understood the concepts--triangle stuff--help those that didn't.)

I had them read their individual roles. I explained how the tasks were to be completed again after reading through it with them on the page. As I walked the room, I repeated to the groups how they were supposed to proceed.

Not a bit of it made an impression.

The students who knew what they were doing completed the page. The students who were struggling played around. They would not confer. They did not time anything. They did not work as a group.

I don't know if they grasped what they were supposed to do. It was as if the instructions were too much for them. That, or they turned off their brains the minute they saw a substitute teacher.

Sigh. Well, I tried. I'm not sure if they did.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Hearing the Future

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'm back in my bedroom (yay!) after the deluge. It's not quite put all back together, though. There's still a big hole in my ceiling.

The contractors should come in about a week to replaster. Until then, there's a plastic tarp over the guts of my ceiling and the bottom of the upstairs' floor.

This means no insulation and no muting of the sounds coming from the bathroom above me. Which is what inspired today's question...

What if suddenly and inexplicably you could hear everything coming from one room in your neighbor's house from tomorrow? 

(I'm specifying a day in the question, but feel free to change the timing. The point is: what you're overhearing is not happening right now. Because I rewrote this question using tomorrow, yesterday, three years ago, and two years in the future, and I couldn't decide which timing was better.)

Monday, February 11, 2019


If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen my knitting photo for this week...

Aaaaand, that's about all I got accomplished. About five rounds of the infinity scarf that I've been working on since...

*checks Ravelry*

...since June.

I pulled out my knitting. Looked at it. And didn't do a whole lot with it.

I am back in my room. There's a big hole in my ceiling that'll get patched up in the next week or so. Progress.

But my stuff is still living in the dining room until the guys come to replaster the ceiling, so I'm not wholly back in my room. It's great to sleep in my own bed. I have access to all my belongings. But I still feel a bit displaced.

That's probably why I've gotten out the ugly slippers and the walking purse but have been unable to do anything with them. They're at the sewing up stage, and all I want to do is sit and knit.

I even have new pictures of my seasonal earrings to post. I was going to get that listing ready for Etsy. I still will. It just got pushed back a bit...

Friday, February 8, 2019

Not on the Vocabulary Assignment

"What does 'prostitution' mean?"

It was a seventh grade science class. They were supposed to be working on a vocabulary assignment dealing with erosion and weathering (earth science stuff). And mostly they were.

But seventh graders can be easily distracted by random stuff. And even though they weren't supposed to be on their cell phones (I had banned them as they had abused the privilege the day before), clearly something had caught the eye of a group of three boys sitting on the right side of the classroom.

I said something about them having an assignment to complete.

So, the one boy sitting behind the other two looked down at his lap and quoted, "Violators subject to prosecution..."

Oh, so the boy just misread something. Again, not on topic. And we didn't need to go down that particular rabbit hole. I again directed them to get back to work.

But you know they didn't. One of the three had to look up on his phone the word "prostitution"...

I'd've thought they would have heard the term before. Apparently not. Because suddenly all three boys were looking around with wide eyes...

And I made a note of this for their teacher. Because, well, it was that kind of day.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Three Subs

Seventh grade math. The lesson plan warned that the classes had been difficult (this was accompanied by an apology), but I was to have a co-teacher.

Of course, not thirty seconds after reading that, the phone rang. It was the office informing me that my co-teacher was also out sick, and a sub for that co-teacher had not been ordered. I begged the secretary for help. I knew I was going to need it. She said she'd see what she could do.

First period I wasn't to have a co-teacher. I muddled through, but it was as bad as advertised. Second period was the teacher's prep (and I went elsewhere to cover an extra period). Third period I returned, expecting more of what I had had in first period.

The bell rang, and I fought for attention. That's when another sub showed up.

She was so helpful. I went over what they were to do, and Ms. F clamped down on them.

The kiddos were working. They were even nearly silent. All was well. Until the phone rang...

On the way over, Ms. F had fallen, and she was a little sore. (It was raining out. It's slippery. And she had come from across the campus.) This had been reported to the office, so they called to have her come to the office to fill out an incident report.

I found this all out later. While Ms. F was on the phone, another teacher walked in. She had been called to cover, but finding two subs in the room...

It was a bit chaotic. Once I realized that Ms. F was leaving, I assured Ms. E that I did need her help. It didn't appear so as the kiddos were quietly working, but considering how much effort was needed to get them there, I didn't want to risk losing the help.

Third period was totally lovely. (Well, not totally. They got a little crazy at clean up time. Par for the course with seventh graders.) But Ms. E had her own class to get back to, so I was left alone for period four.

Alas, no more subs arrived for the rest of the classes. I was alone. And things didn't go well. Not at all.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

All the Drama

Iris seemed fine as she entered class. She wore a t-shirt with "Baby Girl" emblazoned on the front. And she was talking and joking with her classmates.

The class: seventh grade science. I did my intro and got the class started. Then someone asked to use the restroom.

When that girl came back, she didn't go right back to her desk. She hovered at Iris'. (Iris' desk was next to the door.) When I went to shoo her back, she informed me that Iris was crying.

Whenever I'm crying, the last thing I want is "sympathy"...

(I'm not heartless. I offered to let Iris go see her counselor or even just to sit outside. She said no and left her head on her desk.)

Another girl from across the room when to "help" Iris. I overheard something about a boy and "finding out on [her] own". I shooed girl two away.

Not five minutes later, Iris and the girl seated next her her are happily sharing a set of earbuds and discussing the music on one of their phones...

Okay, fine. If she's no longer sad, she can get to work, right? I made sure she had what she needed, and she did indeed get started.

But, she hadn't made much progress by the end of the period, when the assignment was due.

Seventh graders... Typical.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Not Quite the Fountain of Youth

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'm stealing this week's question from another blog post. (She posted an interesting question. I'm only modifying it somewhat.)

What if you discovered a formula for immortality, but you could only freeze your aging? That is, what if you would never get any older than you are now, but you'll also never get any younger?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Trying It Again

I didn't do a whole lot of knitting last week. I know, I say this a lot, but this last week I had an excellent excuse. I'm still out of my bedroom.

I'm hoping it'll be about another week until things have been repaired. But considering how the clean up has gone, I'm not going to hold my breath.

(It's gone well, considering. But, just when I think something is going to happen, a contractor cancels. Or, one contractor tells me that I'll have access to my stuff, and then the guys who are doing the work on Saturday morning inform me just as they're about to start that I won't have any access until Tuesday late afternoon. And I have 20 minutes to grab everything I might need until then.)

So, yeah, it's been interesting...

And just as I'm contemplating finishing my father's wife's walking purse...

...I realize that I don't like what I've knit.

(Apologies for the pics. My normal background fabric is in my sealed off room--there was mold--and my lights need charging--someone brought out the lights but not the charging cables.)

The one on the left is the first attempt. I knew I could get it not to curl, hence the second attempt on the right. (This is the flap for over the purse.)

Once I reknit the flap, I figured I could reknit the purse...

In an attempt to prevent that curl (the top), I decreased the stitches (the bottom), and found that it didn't make much of a difference. Sigh.

Next time (if there is a next time), I'll crochet an edging on it. It'll be much easier, and I can probably fix that curl better. I hope.

Friday, February 1, 2019

How Many Books?

So, it's been a week...

Last week ended up being very boring, subbing wise. And then with the deluge in my room, well, it's time for a quiz.

This week's quiz is more of a reading test. How many books can you read in a year?

According to the test, I can do 34 books. If I read a half hour every night...

A half hour a night... 

Yeah, most nights I'm lucky if I can pry the book out of my hands prior to 2 AM. Half hour... 

(Although, this week I haven't been doing much reading. So, I guess it balances out in the end.)