Monday, September 30, 2019

A Fall Day

Before I whine, here's the progress I've made on the purple infinity scarf:

I did it again.

It was the first day of fall last Monday. I had stayed in a hotel overnight. (The floors at home were being redone. We could not walk on them for 24 hours. So, off to a hotel.) And while I had had plenty of time to plan for this (I knew about this for about three weeks), I didn't prepare as I should have.

I had meant to get some bottled water for the two-day stay in the hotel.

So, Monday morning, that was the plan. (Well, the plan was to pick up some water on my way back to the hotel after work, but alas, I was not called to work that day.)

I was going to go back to the room and look up what was nearby. But after breakfast, I stepped outside the hotel and spied a strip mall across the street.

I headed for it. I was nearly to the light at the intersection when I lost my balance.

The pavement was uneven. I had placed my left foot down on a bad spot, my ankle twisted, and down I went. I landed on my right knee. Hard.

I sat there for a bit, whimpering. I have done this before, so I knew I'd get myself up somehow. But, a couple people were nearby, and they helped me up.

My left ankle was pretty swollen. My right knee was scraped up. But I managed to limp back to my hotel room before the ankle got too sore to walk on.

And there I stayed for the rest of the day.

At some point, with my foot propped up, I was reminded that it was the first day of fall. So, I tweeted:

I will mend. But if you hear me whimpering over here, now you know why.

Friday, September 27, 2019

ELD Bingo

The first two periods of this high school English class was beginning ELD (English Language Development).

How beginning? As I was explaining the assignment to half of the class (while the other half worked on something different), I noticed that none of them were listening. They were all focused on their computers or phones. I peeked at what they were doing. They were typing in the instructions from their papers into their devices, and the computer was translating into alphabets I did not recognize.

So, I did a lot of pointing after that.

But then we were to play Bingo. It was in the lesson plan, I swear.

As soon as I pulled out the Bingo set, a couple students started passing stuff out. I instructed those who were in charge that they were. And they got to it.

The instruction was that as soon as a number was called, the students were to repeat it back. And once they started doing that, I realized what this assignment was all about.

They were practicing their numbers.

For the most part, things went pretty well. They got confused between numbers like thirteen and thirty. But, it's B13 and I30, so if they said I-thirteen, I immediately knew something was wrong.

They were very shy shouting out "BINGO!" though. I barely heard it.

Then it was a scramble for the prizes. Where were the prizes? At least I found those readily enough.

The assignment may have been about practicing numbers, but the winners wanted their winnings.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Likely Story

It was one of those "severe" special ed classes where the high school aged kiddos are doing second grader work. The teacher had helpfully left a list of all the students and the things I should look out for.

It was fourth period. Math. They were doing worksheets where they were counting change.

They complained. "Math is for little kids..."

Well, um, I took math in college. Calculus. Applied analysis. Math is for adults too. But they weren't buying that.

But after the initial complaint, most of them got to work.

Except for Jeremiah.

Jeremiah didn't need to do the work. He knew it already. And he quickly changed the subject.

First, he had a headache. He needed to get medicine from his sister who was in class two doors down.

Not long thereafter, the conversation turned to lunch. Lunch is after fifth period. He said his lunch was after fourth. Because he was a senior. (There were only ninth and tenth graders in class.) When I pointed out that seniors had the same lunch as underclassmen, he said seniors had a different lunch at the school his brother went to, which was in another district.

Then he wanted to know if I was going to go to his game that night. One of the aides then chimed in with, "I thought you didn't have a game tonight."

And around and around it went. Jeremiah would either say something that was easily proven false, or he would say two things that contradicted each other. (He has a sibling at the same school or his siblings go to another school? Both could be true, of course, but then other "siblings" showed up in the conversation.)

By the end of the period, the rest of the class had finished their math assignment. Jeremiah? Hadn't even started it.

If only they put half as much effort into doing the work as they do in avoiding it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Where're my Toys?

It was one of those "severe" special ed classes where the high school aged kiddos are doing second grader work. The teacher had helpfully left a list of all the students and the things I should look out for.

Laila was obsessed with her toys. We were to gather them from her, then give them back to her at the end of the day.

The minute Laila walked in, she wanted to know if it was time for snack yet. And then she asked again about every ten minutes. (Snack is about two hours after the start of the day.) As soon as she got back from snack, the question then became about lunch. After lunch, she wanted to know if it was time to go home yet.

She repeated several things throughout the day. Besides the snack thing, she told me repeatedly that she missed her mom. I told her she'd see her mom after school.

And Laila could be stubborn. For history, they were to cut out the names of the original 13 colonies and paste them next to the outlines for those states. One of the aides color-coded them, so they'd be able to paste the names in the correct positions. But Laila was being unruly, so they sent her to work one-on-one with me.

She wanted to cut. So, I let her have a pair of scissors. She randomly cut slices into the paper, through the names, and all over the place. That's when I took the scissors away and did the cutting out of names.

At that point, Laila was done. She would not paste anything. She wanted to cut. But as soon as I got done cutting, she noticed that her paper had all these random cuts in it (that she had made), and that made her sad. She walked away from the project, refusing to do any more.

Finally, the end of the day arrived. The students were all escorted out to their buses or to be picked up by their parents. Laila went right for the teacher's cabinet. This cabinet had been locked all day, and none of us had the key.

We couldn't get into the cabinet. Laila refused to leave the room. The aides reminded her that her mother was waiting for her. Nope, she fell to the floor and refused to go.

She wanted her toys. They weren't in the cabinet, of course, because no one could go in there. We eventually found them, and then she willingly left.

This is what makes these days interesting. There's always at least one kiddo that keeps you on your toes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Peeking In

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 happened upon your bedroom window, looked in, and saw yourself inside?

Friday, September 20, 2019

Art Class Drama

I was asked to cover an extra period after lunch. Middle school art. Insert groan here.

I ate my lunch in the classroom I was covering for the day. Then at the bell, I called to get security to unlock the door for me. (I've found that if I call before I leave my "home base", I don't have to wait as long for security to show up.)

When I got to the art room, the door was open. Security had arrived before me, and she had let the kiddos in the room already. I walked in, looking for the day's lesson plans.

That's when I spied Victoria. She's been on security at that school for years. She was hovering over a student, asking the crying girl if she wanted to go to the health office. The girl said she was fine.

After class got started, Jaci explained that the reason she was limping was because a boy had hit her leg at lunch. She had had surgery on her ACL not too long ago, and she wasn't fully healed. (She said it'd take a year to get fully healed with the implication that she was taking a year off her sport for this.)

Jaci bent and moved and figured no major damage had occurred. I told her she should report this boy. She said she wasn't going to get him into trouble. Apparently, he's been in enough trouble. My point was that since he deliberately injured her, he should suffer the consequences. She didn't agree.

If she doesn't report him, he's never going to learn. Sigh.

Jaci and the rest of the class got to work. They were creating "graffiti" versions of their names. They did the usual sort of stuff that middle schoolers do. I kept an eye on them. I didn't have to intervene too much, which meant things were going pretty well.

But then Kristen walked up to me. She was shaking, and she said that she needed to step outside. I do stop to question students when they make those sorts of requests unless it's obvious what's wrong. I waved her on.

I went to the group she was sitting with. What did they do? I had been watching them...

Jaci said Kristen was having a panic attack. Kristen sent her a text. And the group said they hadn't done anything.

It's possible I missed something subtle. But I'll believe the group unless Kristen says otherwise.

A short time later, Victoria came in to retrieve Kristen's stuff. I assume she went home.

All sorts of drama always in the middle school classes. At least it keeps it interesting.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Computer Issues

"Their assignment is in Google Classroom..."

These words in a lesson plan make me nervous. About half the time, the kiddos log in, find the assignment, and everything goes smoothly. Alas, this day fell into the other half of the time.

Middle school woodshop. Yes, woodshop. A good 1/3rd of the class already knew me from the vacant English class.

They logged in. The assignment was supposed to be from chapter three according to the lesson plan. Only chapter two appeared in Google Classroom.

Because, of course.

(When there's a sub in certain classes like woodshop or graphic arts--classes where kiddos use equipment that they really need supervision for--they always get "bookwork". But nowadays much of that stuff is available online.)

I did the only thing I could do. I emailed the teacher to let him know.

Towards the end of first period, the assignment appeared. Per his email to me, the assignment was in "drafts" and for some reason hadn't been posted. Oops.

Well, at least the rest of the classes would have the assignment posted.

Everything went fairly smoothly until sixth period. That's when several students got Chromebooks that were nearly dead.

Upon examination of the Chromecart (where the computers live--and charge--when not in use), I discovered the plug was halfway out of the outlet, and nothing was charging. Oops.

I plugged it in, turned "on" the cart, and charging happened. If only I had discovered this issue so that everyone had a charged enough computer...

(A fully-charged Chromebook has about eight hours of charge. Most teachers teach five hours, so there's no good reason to have dead Chromebooks sixth period. Still, I should have checked...)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Hero Worship

I am now firmly back in the day-to-day subbing routine. Oh, how I missed it!

On Monday, I covered one period of WEB (We All Belong), which is a class of eighth graders who host activities for the newly arrived seventh graders. (The high school has a similar program called Link Crew where the juniors and seniors support the incoming freshmen.)

It was a small class of ten students. They weren't a difficult group, but they were a bit strange.

Hailey was this little blonde bundle of energy. She was quite a bit like Dug from Up, only her "squirrel!" was Ms. P.

Ms. P is a science teacher whose classroom is about three doors down from Ms. W. I've seen her, probably said hello in passing once or twice. I've covered her class a couple times.

Hailey was obsessed. And, apparently, the rest of the class (Aisha in particular) enjoyed the entertainment. To a point.

Upon entering class, someone claimed to have just seen Ms. P.

"Where?!" Hailey almost screamed.

Then someone else explained to me that Ms. P had a restraining order against Hailey. This was a joke, because Hailey would be all over the teacher when she'd stop in.

(For the rest of the day, Ms. W. teaches science, so Ms. P and Ms. W confer frequently.)

Somehow, we diverted Hailey to other concerns (although little miss bundle of energy couldn't sit still).

But the topic of Hailey's obsession came up again, and Aisha gave her two minutes to gush.

"Oh, she's just so... She's getting married. In Paris! I'm going to go..."

"You weren't invited," someone else in the room said.

Then someone else claimed to be going, and Hailey needed pictures!

Oh, to be a thirteen-year-old with a crush on a teacher...

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

In the Trees

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 ran across this article the other day. In case you don't want to click the link:
By removing carbon dioxide from the air, trees are one of our strongest allies in the fight against climate change. And if we planted a whole lot more of them in just the right places, they could reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to levels not seen in nearly 100 years, researchers say.
By Stephanie DeMarco, via the L.A. Times, July 4, 2019.

Which sparked this question:

What if we built towns (or cities!?!) in the forests?

Monday, September 16, 2019

I Knit a Hat

This is what I accomplished this week on the knitting front.

Or back.

It's a bulky weight yarn. I used size 13 needles. Cast on 48 stitches. Did a 2 x 2 ribbing for 2 inches. Increased by 2 stitches for 50 stitches total. Worked until the piece measured 7 inches. Then decreased by 5 stitches every row until 5 stitches remained.

(That was for me, in case I ever want to replicate this hat. It's easier to find it online, although my knitting notebooks are fairly organized.)

Friday, September 13, 2019

Process of Elimination

Back to day-to-day subbing, my next assignment was for one of those very special ed. classes. This was one of those classes where the students were ninth and tenth grade aged, but the assignment for first period was a challenge.

First period is "calendar" period. They take time to go over what day it is, what the weather is like outside, what season it is, what tomorrow will be, and what yesterday was. (All these types of classes do this.) Then they had a couple worksheets to complete.

The first worksheet consisted of them tallying all the boys and girls in the room (and tracing the alphabet). The second worksheet required a bit more thinking on my part.

The top half of the second worksheet was all the months with boxes underneath. The bottom half had little pictures. There was one with hearts, one with a leprechaun hat, one with a pumpkin, one with a Christmas tree, with twelve images in all.

Clearly, they were to color in the images, then cut and paste them into the proper months. Easy enough, right?

Only, three images weren't so obvious. They were: a sun, a pencil, and an apple. (If you know exactly what month those images go to, pat yourself on the back.)

These are the sorts of kiddos that needed help figuring out which month the leprechaun hat went into. Of course, the first one that the kiddo that asked for my help grabbed was the sun. I told him to set that one aside until we had pasted the images we knew.

Once the leprechaun hat went into March, the Easter basket obviously belonged in April. The flowers had a tag that said "mother", so that got us May. Once we got the nine obvious months done, we were left with June, August, and September.

Now, it was time for me to make some guesses.

Well, the pencil was obviously for back-to-school. My teen self would have put that in September, but we started school mid-August. Okay, so pencil went to August.

And then the sun made sense. First day of summer, anyone? Because the apple has to go to fall, and that has to be September.

At least, I hope I was right. It makes sense.

I wasn't the only one confused. The instructional aides also questioned those three.

These sorts of classes are a real change of pace. It was pretty opposite of the spectrum from the day before.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Transition

Mr. F, my replacement in the vacant middle school English class, arrived bright and early on that Thursday. I gave him the run down of what he was walking into. (The sub caller gave us an overlap day. We needed it.)

He had done his student teaching last school year. As such, he knew all the teachers in the English department, and he was familiar with the routine. I saw him interact with the classes, with the school staff, and with the other teachers in the department. I could tell that I was leaving the class in good hands.

I expected the students to be happy to finally have a settled teacher. But they're middle schoolers. Even though they knew this was coming, they're not fond of change. Although, I figured the eighth graders, the classes that had been so oppositional to me, would be happy to see the back side of me.

One boy, who had been one of my challenges, had fear in his eyes when he asked me, "Is he..." gulp, "gay...?"

Like that even came up in our conversation...

I don't remember exactly what my response was, but it was along the lines of, "I don't know. It doesn't matter."

I know he's a gamer and likes death metal as he told the kiddos that. Anything else...

However, London in sixth period had a totally different concern. "How old is he? He looks twenty."

Um, he's probably about that. He just finished student teaching. But that wasn't my answer.

"It'll be fine. Don't worry."

And it will be fine. And now I'm free...

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Recent Poem

In all, I spent three weeks covering the vacant English class at the middle school. Luckily, the seventh grade English teachers were all doing the same lesson plan each day. (So were the eighth grade English teachers.) This meant that I didn't have to come up with lessons from scratch. That was a big help.

(I still had to figure out how I was going to present said lessons. And I had to take care of roll and classroom control. I was on my own for grading. It was a lot of work, but figuring out what they were going to do each day at least was something I didn't have to worry about.)

We were discussing figurative language and looking at some poetry. And this was one of the poems we were discussing...

Gotta love seventh grade teachers picking something by Neil Gaiman. I approve of their taste. 

(Last year I caught them teaching The Hunger Games. Imagine that as the novel the whole class was reading.) 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


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 the missing character, the one everyone believes is dead because they've been missing for months, turns out to actually be alive? 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Finally Done

And just like that, it's finally done...

It's been that kind of week, really. The subbing gig abruptly ended on Thursday. (Yes, I knew it was coming to a close, but it still snuck up on me and surprised me.) And when I no longer had lesson planning to do every night, I suddenly had time again to work on the windmill bag.

It's been a few weeks since I talked about the windmill bag. It was almost finished the last time, and it totally would have been finished if school hadn't started and I hadn't gotten sucked into that vacant English class. Because all I had to finish were the straps. And I had started the straps that week. (School started on Thursday.)

When I picked them up again, I used the wrong size hook. If I were to show a close up of the straps, you would notice that they suddenly shrink about halfway through. But considering how many mistakes I've made with this thing, I decided to embrace one more and keep going.

So, there it is. The windmill bag is finished.

Friday, September 6, 2019

My Favorite Movie, Seventh Grade Edition

The topic for the day was writing a summary, so for the seventh graders' warm up, they were to write a summary of their favorite movie.

You'd think this would be easy, but several didn't have a favorite movie or didn't like movies, or some such. But once I took away the onus of it having to be their very favorite, most found something to write about.

I asked for volunteers to read out their summaries without telling us what movie. And for the most part we knew what the movie was just from the summary. There was Toy Story, X-Men, Spongebob Squarepants, The Lion King, and several other movies that weren't at all surprising.

I may have mentioned a time or two that sixth periods tend to be different. They can be wild. But I've got a good group, and I'm not allowing wild, so this group is just kind of strange. There are a couple girls who act way more mature (and seem to have a good head on their shoulders) than I generally get in a seventh grade class.

I gave the same warm up to sixth period. London hemmed and hawed.

"I'm not sure which movie to pick. I have two favorites. Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill."

Seventh graders are twelve years old. Generally. (Some may turn twelve in the next couple months, most will turn thirteen sometime during the school year.)

It's not my place to tell a parent how to parent their child. And this child acts way more mature than most of her peers. (Seriously. She seems pretty aware of social issues and current events.) But those movies...

I told her that either would work for the warm up as I wasn't going to hold her to that being her very favorite forever and ever. So, she wrote her summary on Kill Bill.

On the bright side, no one else in the class was able to guess what film she was describing.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Find the Floor

Back in my retail days (at the evil toy store), I worked for a time in the cage where they lock up all the video games. (They got rid of the cage in the latter days of my employment with them.) It was a small booth where we constantly were filling the shelves only to have the games (and other electronic stuff) sell.

We'd get trucks in. We'd place the newly arrived merchandise on the shelves. People would purchase things, and we would hand them out to them.

It was a decent system most of the time. But, it was retail, so from time to time, we would get new items in that didn't have room on the shelves. Or we would get shipments and it would be so busy we didn't have time to put them away. At those times, the floor of this very narrow booth would fill so one could barely walk back and forth to get stuff.

When I'd arrive some evening (I was in college at the time) to find the booth piled with boxes, I would play a game called Find the Floor. The object was to get every box off the floor of the booth by putting all of the games and such on the shelves.

Some days this was easier than others, depending on how busy the store was.

The only way to play the game was to take it one box at a time. And keep plugging away until all the boxes were gone.

Ever since then (we're talking 25ish years now), any time I get overwhelmed with anything, when I feel so buried that I think I'm going to be living in whatever figurative mess I'm in forever, I take a deep breath and play Find the Floor.

So, I found myself back to Find the Floor these past couple weeks.

On the first day of school, I thought I was there for two days. Then it grew to two weeks. Then longer...

And it was a mad scramble. The room had been a math room last school year, and there were still math posters on the walls. (If you notice, each week the picture up top has changed. I've slowly gotten seats moved and math stuff off the walls.)

I had nothing in the room. The remote control for the projector wasn't working. (It needed new batteries.) I had no lesson plans, a barely working computer, and three classes of seventh graders and two classes of eighth.

On the third day, I got in touch with the English department chair. The English classes all do the same work, so now I had plans. Only, how do I execute those plans?

I learned to make copies (something subs don't usually have to do). I learned where the keepers of the supplies are (I had two broken staplers in the room). And I scrambled to get syllabuses (syllabi?) copied so the kiddos could get their supplies and not get behind the other classes.

Every day, the list grew longer. I still needed to get the math stuff off the walls. But when I had a spare minute, I was figuring out what I needed for the next lesson. I made seating charts. I got their books from the library to check out. Grading...

I collected homework and assignments, but grading kept getting pushed back.

The second week I had the lesson plans before the week, but still every night at home I was prepping for the next day. The dream was to get two days ahead. It almost happened.

And then last Thursday, I finally found the floor.

I got the desk cleared off. I hadn't graded the papers, but I managed to organize them. The math stuff was finally off the walls. I had established a routine for the classes, and the seventh graders were kind of starting to follow it. (The eighth graders... Well, let's just say there are some issues.)

I had the plans for the next week. I had many of the copies I'd need. Things weren't 100% done, but suddenly it all felt manageable.

Then Friday the sub caller left a message. She had "news".

The permanent teacher would start the following Thursday (that's today), so I was just about done.


These assignments are hard. I avoid them, generally. But when I find myself in this situation, I like to stick it out so that the kiddos don't get too much of a disruption. (There've been classes that have as many as three different subs before getting a full time teacher. Needless to say, by the time the full time teacher starts, it's bedlam.)

It'll be nice to get back to my usual day-to-day subbing. But I've got a few more days before that happens. But the end is in sight. I've found the floor. And I'm up to date on my blog reading.

It's nice to feel like myself again.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Big Joke

I'm still in that middle school English class I started off the year in. There's a reason I don't do these sorts of assignments all that often. They are hard slog.

I have three periods of seventh graders. They've been lovely. A little squirrelly, sure, but for the most part they've been fine. The eighth graders, however...

This day was going a bit better than some others, but the group at the back thought something was hilarious.

"They're laughing at you," a girl informed me.

Because, of course they were.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Musical Greeting

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 random thoughts I have while driving...

What if we greeted each other in song? That is, what if when we met someone (like on the street), and instead of saying, "Hello, how are you?", we sang something instead?