Friday, September 25, 2020

Virtual Back-to-School Night

I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was. I mean, we're doing the virtual schooling thing, why wouldn't back-to-school night be virtual? I suppose I thought it would be cancelled. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, back-to-school night is a thing that happens every year, about a month into the school year. Parents are invited to go to their kiddos' classes where the teachers give a presentation about what they're going to be doing in class during the year. 

As a sub, I'm not required to attend. But, since I'm doing a quasi long-term, I asked the co-teachers if they wanted me there. So, for the first time, I got to attend. 

There's not much a teacher can go over in ten minutes. And turnout is traditionally low. But with the virtual thing, the teachers could record their presentations and have their slides available for the parents to peruse at their leisure. 

And just like their kiddos, the parents had their cameras off and were on mute. So, I have no idea how they felt about what they saw. 

But it's a great way to touch base with parents. And I got another first for this year. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020


I'm still in that co-teaching position, and last week was all about testing. I described it a bit last week, so I won't again go into the whys and wherefores.

Keep in mind that we are doing the distance learning thing. Plus, this was a completely new testing platform that none of us had ever used before. In addition, there were technical issues that cropped up either from the distance thing or from the new testing platform (sometimes both). 

We created a "break out room" for students who had issues to go to. This was separate from the regular Google Meet. (So, I could have them show me their screen and we could work through whatever was holding them up.) 

Third period. Alvin was having issues. I took him into the "break out room", and I tried to troubleshoot. 

Let me back up a bit. Ms. W was working the testing platform, so she asked me to greet the students and instruct them on getting into the test. She had to confirm them from her end before they could begin. 

Because I was the one speaking to the class, Ms. W had muted her computer. When we're in the same room (separated at a distance, of course), it's distracting for the person speaking to hear their voice coming out of another computer. There's a lag as well. If you've ever had an echo while you're talking on the phone to somebody, you know what I mean. 

So, when I went to work with Alvin, I quieted the other room. Mostly, the kiddos have their microphones off as well as their cameras, and when they have a question, they type it into the chat. Ms. W was monitoring the chat while Alvin and I dealt with his issues. 

Did you know Firefox and Google Meet don't play nice with one another? Alvin couldn't share his screen with me, and while I knew what he needed to do to get his computer to work, explaining it was a bit hard. But eventually, he got things going. Then I was free to go back to the main meet room. 

And as soon as I got there, I heard a voice: "I need to go eat. Can I go eat? I really need to go eat." 

It was clear that Jacob had been whining like that for some time. 

And. . . I mean, if you're not getting a response, wouldn't you realize that maybe no one (besides the other students in the class) can hear you? I suppose, though, that this is more thought than Jacob gave it.

Although, I'm surprised he asked at all. There was another student who wasn't logging into the test, and he wasn't responding on the chat, so Ms. W called his house. His mother informed Ms. W that the kiddo was downstairs watching TV. 

Somehow, we managed to get most of the kiddos tested. Ah, the joys of education.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


School has gone virtual. So, what's the one thing you don't want to have happen during the school day? I mean, besides a power outage. 

Monday. First period went rather smoothly. We logged out. (There's a ten minute gap between classes. Each period has it's own meet code that's embedded in Google Classroom, so we don't stay in the same meet all day.) 

About five minutes before period two, we attempted to log into their meet. This should have happened with no issues. . .

We almost had it. I got my camera starting, but I never got fully into the meet. Ms. W didn't even get that far. 

But somehow, I still had Google Classroom (which I had opened before this). A student questioned where the link for the meet was. I managed to respond that we were having internet issues. At least, I hoped it posted. 

And then the internet was gone. From what we gathered later, it was probably a district-wide outage. And it didn't get restored until after the "school day". 

Ms. W ran home and taught her last two classes from there. As a sub, I was kind of stuck on campus, although I probably wouldn't have made it home in time for the end of the day classes, anyway. (I texted Ms. S to let her know what was happening. She was teaching from home, so she was able to continue, no problem.) 

The next day, the internet was restored. It was rather entertaining to go into Google Classroom and see all the questions on the stream. Ms. W had posted their assignment before school, so they had work to do. But I rather doubt they did it. They were questioning where we were and was class cancelled? 

Alas, unlike Google Meets in the business world, in the education side, there is no way to call into a meet. (I know. I checked.) Deep sigh.

Fingers crossed we don't lose internet again. But it was giving us issues all week. Sigh.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020


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 went into a virtual reality simulation and you couldn't get back out? 

Sorry. I know it's been done. But I had this dream, and I didn't have a "what if?" for today, so this'll have to do.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Nothing New

I, once again, find myself between projects. So, I've been making more masks. . .

The fabric for this one is from a shirt I ordered that I didn't like. The fit was weird, and the style just didn't flatter me. Because I got it on sale, I couldn't return it, so instead I cut it into pieces and the first piece became this mask. 

I'm considering writing up the pattern. But I don't know if anyone is truly interested. I found the instructions for a crochet version from Crafting on the Fly, and I just modified them to work for knit. 


The tank top I crocheted for my niece. . .

. . .successfully made it halfway across the country (maybe a bit more than halfway), and niece gave me permission to show you how it fits on her. 

It looks like she got to wear it at least once this year. Success.

Friday, September 18, 2020


Wednesday I mentioned the nightmare of testing the kiddos at a distance. Because the classes I'm covering are kind of technically a long-term gig, I was invited to the teacher training for the testing. 

It was the make up of the make up. (I was at other schools doing other assignments for both the initial training and the make up training.) So, there were only six of us. Most of the teachers are working from home, so it was a virtual meeting. 

I arrived a bit early. A couple teachers were chatting about various topics. Then the assistant principal running the training arrived. 

It was as dull as you would imagine. The assistant principal showed us a couple videos demonstrating the things we needed to know, but as those videos had been included in the email about the training, I'd already seen them. (I was prepared.) 

As the first video glitched, the assistant principal thought that all of our cameras being on might be taxing the system. So, we turned off our video. Our audio was already muted. 

And suddenly we had screens that looked a whole lot like what teaching has looked like lately. 

After the last video finished, the assistant principal had a few comments, and then he asked us if we had any questions. 

None of us turned our cameras back on. We kept our microphones muted. 

And the assistant principal said he understood what we were dealing with in our classes. 

To be nice, we then turned our cameras back on, so he could see we were still there. 

He dismissed us soon after, as we didn't have any questions. That is why we didn't respond. We're all used to sitting back and letting those with questions have the floor. But there's something unnerving on the other end when you're just looking at basically a blank screen and waiting for someone to say something. 

We're all learning with this distance thing. It's a valuable experience.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Distance Learning 13

In no particular order, today I have some random observations about this whole distance learning thing and how different things are this school year. (I'm borrowing the meme from Barefoot Susie who got it from Thursday 13.)

1. School campus is so empty, it's eerie. But there is still a small contingent that remains, either those that have to be at school or those teachers who find they work better out of their classrooms. 

2. Since no one is on campus, the teachers working from campus have started parking their cars next to their classrooms. 

3. We were prepared for this, and not at all prepared for this. A lot of the work was already done via computer and Google Classroom, so that's not new. But putting it all together online is so very different. 

4. I've completely given up with regards to wardrobe and makeup. Even though I'm on camera and on campus, I'm going for comfort. It's not like they're seeing me in person. 

5. Classroom control is a breeze when all the kiddos are on mute. I don't have to talk over them. But I wonder if they're really paying attention. 

6. It turns out that there are Extensions that one can use to make sure all participants are on screen in Google Meet (grid view) and there's also an attendance app. Now I can see all the students on screen, although since I'm co-teaching, I don't have to worry about attendance. 

7. But before they got the attendance app, the teachers were trying different things to keep track of attendance. For the first couple weeks, they'd have the students type their names into the chat box. The teachers have told the students they no longer need to do this, but the students still do, so at the beginning and end of class (and sometimes in the middle) we get random messages with student names. (Which is totally redundant as the chat function tells us who's posting the name, so the name is on screen twice.) 

(So, it turns out the chat box does have a useful function. Although, I have found that there is a way to turn it off.)

8. Throughout the period, we see messages that "so-and-so has left the meet" followed soon after by "so-and-so has joined the meet". Initially I worried about the leavings, but as they return so quickly, I'm fairly certain it's just their connection. (And the attendance app tracks this, so after class one can see when they were offline. For the most part, these are minor interruptions.) 

9. We can't see if they leave the room (if their cameras are off), so we don't know if they leave to use the restroom. Yet, I've still had kids ask if they could go. (Of course I let them go. I'm not a monster.) 

10. And I've had kiddos apologize for getting logged out or logging in late due to connectivity issues (or others in the room closing their laptops). 

11. At the end of class, we teachers remain online until everyone has logged off. Sometimes a couple kiddos remain behind because they have a question. But then there are two or three who just linger. Clearly, these are the kiddos who logged in and then walked away from their computers. (We can log them out at the end, or we can just leave them to the empty meet.) 

12. There is a designated time for the students to come in to "office hours" if they have other questions. It's as simple as setting up another Google Meet. 

13. The schedule is modified. The kiddos are attending classes every other day. Tuesdays and Thursday are periods 1, 3, and 5. Wednesdays and Fridays are periods 2, 4, and 6. (Mondays they do a truncated all day thing.) They have an hour period followed by ten minutes of "passing". After the last class, they get a 40-ish minute lunch followed by "office hours" followed by an hour of independent work time. (They're expected to complete assignments.) 

I'm glad I have the blog now. I get to tell you all how this new thing is going.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Testing Woes

Just as soon as I got back to day-to-day subbing, I got a week-long assignment that "could be extended". It's a vacant special ed. co-teaching position. 

On Tuesday I joined the classes already in progress. (Monday was Labor Day.) Technically, my job is to assist the special ed. kiddos in class, making sure they get the extra help they need. In practice, however, the co-teacher is an actual co-teacher, doing teacherly things as needed. 

With the distance learning, I was given access to a classroom where the teacher had retired, and I was given access to the classes' online information. Fifth and sixth periods I was co-teaching an eighth grade math class, and they were prepping for a standardized test. 

Since school was interrupted in the spring, the district is testing all the students to see where they're at academically. This test was meant to figure out what they know and what they don't know. 

Turns out, what none of us seem to know is how to do these things smoothly. 

I "arrived" to fifth period on Thursday to find the general ed. teacher losing her mind. Ms. S is very technically proficient, but she had spent the day just trying to get the kiddos logged into the test. And she wasn't alone. Apparently, someone had not anticipated the volume of traffic on the testing website, and kiddos couldn't get in. 

Because this was at a distance, we couldn't just look over their shoulders to troubleshoot easy fixes. But not all were easy fixes. Some just kept getting booted out of the test. Sigh. 

At least with two of us there, I could answer various questions while Ms. S dug in on the harder technical issues. 

Hopefully the bugs get fixed. The rest of my day (first, second, and third periods) are English classes, and they take the test next week (read: as you're reading this). 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Water, Gas, Electric. . .

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 internet connectivity (wifi) was a public utility?

Monday, September 14, 2020

Personalizing My Earbuds

I didn't get a whole lot of knitting or crochet done last week. But I did manage to finally cover my earbud cord. . .

This is one of those projects I do when I acquire a new device. The phone in question I got back in December. So, this project has been in the to-do pile for months. 

It's hard to describe what I did. It's kind of me making a chain around the cord. Or, it could be described as me slip stitching around the cord. (Even if you know crochet that description probably makes no sense.) 

If I ever figure out how to make videos, this will be a technique I demonstrate. But that's a concern for a different day. 

My previous cord covers can be found here:

Friday, September 11, 2020

Familiar Faces

Last Friday, I covered an eleventh grade English class. They had a quiz. 

Substitute teaching during a pandemic is a strange mix of the familiar and our new reality. I know all the staff in the main office. I haven't seen them since everything shut down, but it was mostly the same, except we're only allowed to enter and exit through one door, and there are Plexiglas partitions up to shield the receptionist. 

There were administrator changes because new school year. I checked in, and then I had to check in with a new assistant principal because she had to give me access to the Google Classroom classes I would need for the day. 

Oh, and the masks. We're all wearing them, but oddly, when we interact, we make no mention of them. 

Once I had checked in, I headed for the classroom. The campus feels like a ghost town. There are people there, but not many, and I can feel the emptiness. Various reminders that we went home on March 13th and didn't return pop up. The ASB calendar of events wall outside still says March. And the classroom I was in still had the minimum day schedule posted. 

The teacher I was subbing for had not returned, although he was due to work the following week. That is why I was there. The sub who'd been covering his class was taking over another long term position, so they needed someone to fill the day. 

At the appointed time, the students logged in. A couple arrived at first, and then the whole rest of them started populating the screen. Only nine were visible, but the list of the 30-odd students was on the side. They immediately muted their microphones. Some turned off their cameras, but a few kept them on. 

(One girl in fourth period kept her camera on the whole time, but I don't think she realized it. She was clearly having a conversation with someone, and they were having a grand old time. Some dancing was involved.) 

As they had a quiz, all I had to do was announce it, and they got to work. And I watched a mostly blank screen. (They are required to have a certain number of minutes "in class", so they had to remain in class even once they'd finished the quiz.)

I had a chance to talk to the previous sub between classes. (There's a ten minute pause between each period.) He said the classes were fine, although sixth period could be weird. 

Sixth period weird? Imagine that. *end sarcasm*

So, sixth period started. And the names popped up on the screen. Names I recognized. Now, I recognized most of the names in the first two periods (they're only doing three periods a day), but sixth period names were different. I mean, not most of them. But about six or seven of them I remembered from previous interactions, and not in a good way. 

And all in the same class? Yikes. 

But, they're juniors now. As middle schoolers, they fought me. Now, they make a joke out of things. This is an improvement. We won't have the battles. But getting through material can easily go sideways.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

A British Calculator

With my long term assignment complete, I immediately went right back into day to day subbing. Yeah, I was surprised, too. I had thought I'd take a day or two to just be, but no, the sub caller had assignments for me. 

My first class back was the visually impaired class. 

I suppose I should back up a bit, considering how different things are this year. First, I'm working from campus. Some teachers are working on campus while others are working at home. But we subs have to come to campus to check in and get the access to the classes we need. 

I checked in, got a computer, and I got logged into the Google Classroom for the teacher I was covering. 

So, like I said, it was the visually impaired class. 

I had one student for two periods. Sienna. In the first class, we did English. In the second, we did math. 

Her sister logged her into our video chat, conference call, meet, whatever you want to call it. Sienna had her brailing machine out. We read a story for English class. For math, Sienna had two math "worksheets" to complete.

I read Sienna the problem. As per the lesson plan, I asked her what operation she needed to perform to complete the problem. She told me. Then I asked what numbers we needed, and she responded with those. Then she needed to do the actual problem, and she used a calculator to do it. 

None of this surprised me. And when she plugged the numbers into her calculator, I wasn't surprised to hear a voice calling out the numbers. What surprised me was the voice. 

This voice had a bit of an accent. Well, it was rather pronounced. The dude sounded very, very British.

So, I have questions. . . 

Does the calculator have a name? I imagine it would be something very British, like Clive or Nigel. Does he like math? He really hits those fours and sevens. Does he only say the single digits? I think I heard other numbers for the answers, like seventy-seven and ninety-four. 

And mostly I wondered if it was a British calculator or if it was one of those where one can choose the voice. 

I didn't get a chance to ask Sienna. We were kind of busy doing her assignments, and then her sister shut off the meet once we had finished. So, this is just going to have to remain a mystery.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

September Vacation

On Monday, Basim told me that he wasn't going to be in class on Monday. I had forgotten that Monday was a holiday, so I didn't assure him that he wouldn't be missing anything. 

But, I also didn't mention that I wasn't going to be his teacher any longer, either. 

I have what is called an emergency credential. I am authorized to cover a class for no longer than 30 days. Last Wednesday was day 30. (Day one was back in July with their summer session.) 

Instead, the conversation drifted to why Basim wouldn't be able to log into class. Turns out he'd be travelling. To Egypt. He has family there. 

How long was he staying? Why a trip now? None of that matters, really, because Basim could still attend class while in Egypt. That is one of the unintended consequences of our virtual schooling. They can really attend from anywhere (so long as they have an internet connection). 

I let the new teacher know, and I'm sure Basim mentioned it to him as well. 

Part of me was sad to leave the class. Part of me was relieved, as running a class day to day is hard work. (This is why I sub.) So now, it's back to day to day subbing in our new reality. (And yes, it turns out they really still need subs. Tune in tomorrow.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Pay It Forward

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.

So this just happened to me (as I write this on Friday). . .

What if the car in front of you just paid for your drive through order?

Monday, September 7, 2020

Summer Crochet, Part 3

I finished it! 

It wasn't a difficult project. I should have finished it two weeks ago. But school started, and I got slammed with lesson planning and teaching and such. By the time evening rolled around, I didn't have the mental capacity to do all that much, and the top fell by the wayside. 

Because, seriously, those straps should have taken maybe two nights. And that's including after showing them to the niece and having to redo them because they were too wide for her. 

Something that I've hidden in previous posts and pictures is that there is a seam at the back of this thing. . . 

It took me by surprise when I started the pattern as the designer had hidden it. It was worked in the round, but it was also worked back and forth. It was an interesting design choice, but I see why the designer did it that way. (I only mention it so it doesn't take anyone else by surprise.) 

So, now it's done. Finally. (As is my gig at the alternative education center, but more on that on Wednesday.) 

My next planned project needs to not be mentioned on the blog for a couple of reasons, so I have no idea what I'll show off next week. (I'll tell you all about it once it's finished or abandoned. Either outcome is possible.)

Friday, September 4, 2020

Bait and Switch?


I have five chemistry students, but the school had no chemistry books. I made do with some intro to chemistry online assignments for the kiddos. But then the chemistry books arrived, and I could delve into them. 

So, it was last Thursday before we really got into some real chemistry work. It was the section introducing problem solving in chemistry. 

"We're doing math in chemistry?!?" 

Massey was incensed. I suppose he thought he only had me for one math period. 

I calmly explained that yes, math would be required for chemistry. That we would be solving problems. 

Oh, they didn't like that. Not at all.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Lost My Video Feed

The kiddos pretty much leave their cameras off during class. (I briefly fought the camera battle, but it didn't last long. You only have to have one kiddo show off his weed *cough*Brandon*cough* during class time to realize that maybe it's just better not to see what's going on in their houses.) 

But I like to have my camera on so they can see me. And there were times when I needed to use the white board, so I had to let them see me. 

White board? Yup. I'm teaching math and science, and the best way for me to explain math concepts is to demonstrate. 

But the white board is at school. I tried a portable one, but that was awkward. I tried creating a presentation with an example, but when Ronan and I went through one example, he wanted to do the problem a slightly different way than I'd planned. Sigh. 

But there are ways to virtually write on a computer screen. I've seen them. And the tools were in the classroom. But I didn't have the software to connect them to the computer I was using. 

I contacted the school's tech guy. We set up a time for him to load the software I'd need. It would be third period, which was fine as it was my off period. 

Tech guy arrived fifteen minutes into class. He loaded the software. Now I had a document camera that worked (so I could present books or I can write on paper and they can see). He left, and I had less than five minutes to log in for my fourth period class. 

I go to join the meet, and my camera is turned off. And nothing I could do would turn it back on. Sigh. 

What to do? Well, nothing for fourth period. After school for the day, I could try restarting the computer. Or I could poke around and see if I could fix it. But in the moment I had to do fourth period without the camera. 

At least I could use the working document camera to run class. It appeared that knocked out my video feed. 

We got through fourth period. I logged out. I logged back in for fifth period, and the way to switch my camera to the computer popped up. And suddenly my video feed worked again. Naturally. 

Ah well, now it works. And I have new tools to use. So, a win in the end?

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Brandon Rule

Because we're doing the online thing for school, our schedule has been modified. We only have half hour classes where we virtually meet with the kiddos. There is time later in the day for them to do "asynchronous" work, e.g. the math problems we generally have them do in a math class. 

When I planned class, I only took into account the kiddos earning points for the work they'd do asynchronously. But I discovered that was an issue week one. 

The kiddos pretty much keep their cameras off. And they have a mute button. So, I don't hear what's going on on their end. That can be a good thing. Horatio's niece visits him at least once a day during class time. (She's probably about 3-years-old.)

But, it's disastrous when I ask a student a question and they don't respond. 

So, I instituted participation points, a.k.a. The Brandon Rule. They don't have to give me the right answer. They just have to respond when I call on them. 

Why Brandon? Well, it's Brandon who has a tendency to not be there when I call on him. Funnily enough, since I instituted the points, Brandon answers when I call on him. 

And extra added bonus: I informed the kiddos that texting during class time with off-topic messages (i.e. emojis) lost them a participation point per instance. I only had to deduct two points total (for two different students) before the off-topic texting stopped. Hooray! 

(I say "off-topic" because there's one boy who refuses to turn on his microphone ever, but he will answer my questions via text. Not ideal, but good enough, so I'll take it.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Mistaken Assumption

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.

Are you sure? 

What if what you believed turned out to be wrong? What if the "lies" of the other side turned out to be the absolute truth?

Monday, August 31, 2020

Not Quite Finished

I was a bit busy last week. Ah, the joys of a new school year. I'll get more into that in the posts later this week. 

But for today, that means that I didn't make a whole lot of progress over last week on niece's tank top. 

I removed the loops from the bottom before I posted last week, so all I really accomplished were one and a half straps. 

Which I now get to rip out. 

I texted the pics to niece to make sure they looked okay. She wants them narrower. Sigh. 

But I learned my lesson with the loops from last week. Have niece approve before finishing up. This way she's sure to like it.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Emoji Boys

Have you ever done a Google Hangout? 

I know most people are doing the Zoom thing, but my district decided that they'd utilize the programs they already had, especially since the computers that the students use are Chromebooks. It's a little clunky, but we're all learning how to do things in this new reality we find ourselves in. 

In Google Hangouts, there is a messaging capability, where users can type in their thoughts. I knew this was there, but I hadn't really thought much about it. 

The boys are broken down into two classes: the freshmen and sophomores, and the juniors and seniors. 

The frosh/soph class discovered the messaging. And they've been using it. 

So, while I'm talking about the biosphere or absolute values, a little dialog box pops up in the bottom right hand corner of all our screens with some random emoji on it. And then another. And then another. 

It's very distracting. 

Ronan keeps typing in "Massey= *clown emoji*". Then Massey has to retaliate. The poop emoji has made several appearances. So, then Miles (if you remember my summer session posts, he was the "third boy") has to join the fray. And I'm trying to, you know, teach, so I'm not really reading and deciphering. But they think it's all good fun. . . 


Half of me wants to find a way to turn off the messaging. The other half of me is thinking this might be a useful way of checking understanding of concepts during lessons. 

I should have known the boys would find some way to goof off during class, even from their own homes via a video conference.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Technical Difficulties?

The first week of school (last week) was the weirdest first week I've ever seen. Naturally. 

The first day was a Tuesday. It was pretty much the kiddos who had attended the summer session. By Friday, all but two or three students were attending at least one of my classes a day. (I'm covering the math and science classes, so I have them all twice a day.)  

And then there's Juan. 

I worked from campus on Thursday. I went up to the office for one thing or another when I ran into the principal and Juan. Juan hadn't attended any classes thus far. Supposedly, it was because his computer wasn't working. 

So, they'd given Juan a new computer, and the principal asked me for my Google Classroom codes so Juan could add my classes. (I didn't have them on me, but I had sent Juan emails with them. The principal easily located those emails and got Juan signed in to my classes.) 

I've been emailing the kiddos the link code for the Google Meet daily. (There are reasons why I'm doing it this way.) They seem to be getting them as I have five to six students in each class. (It's a small school with sixteen students total. I have eight students enrolled in each period.) 

I worked from home on Friday. I got this email during second period:

Juan has been on line, but couldn't join first and now second period because he doesn't have an invitation. 

Please all teachers, send Juan an invitation link. 

My response: 

Sigh. I send out the meet link daily to all their emails. I sent it to him again. Is he checking his district email?

I had him again fifth period. Did he show? Nope.

It seems like Juan either doesn't understand how any of it works, or he's figured out the way to ditch class without getting penalized in his attendance. I'm not sure which. 

When I went to check the work turned in, guess who had done the day's assignment? 

It'll be interesting to see if Juan shows up to class next week. 

Classes now have the "in person" component, that is when they meet with me in Google Hangouts, and they have their "assignment" component, that is when they do assigned work and turn it in via Google Classroom. They can do one and not the other, although more of them are "showing up" to class but not turning in any work.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Teaching to an Empty Room

Every time I do a first day of school, it's different. And every time I learn something new. 

And this year is so much different than any year that has come before. 

I am continuing the class that I was covering in summer school. Sort of. Instead of teaching English, I've been swapped into teaching math and science. (The principal discussed this with me during the summer session, and as I'm way more comfortable with math, I was quite happy to make the switch.) 

When the principal asked what books I wanted the kiddos to have, as they were putting together what they'd send home for each kiddo, I had no answer. Since we did the summer session virtually, I hadn't been to campus. What books were available? What did I have to work with. 

So, for the first time ever, I got prep time. . . 

Friday before school started, I went to campus. I got assigned a classroom, and I checked out a key. 

So, instead of scrambling on the first day of school, I had some time to set something up. I had time to look around the classroom and figure out what I had to work with. (For summer session I used an old summer school classroom photo. The photo above is of the actual classroom.) 

I'm still scrambling, of course, but it's not nearly as pronounced. The school had no chemistry textbooks, yet I have five chemistry students. I don't have access to the online component of the math textbooks yet. (I've seen what they have in other math classes I've covered.) And I was on my own to figure out lesson plans and such. 

But, I walked in on the first day knowing what I had to work with and having a plan for the kiddos. That's huge. 

Yes, walked in. I taught in an actual classroom on the first day of school. Of course, I was the only one there. . .

I live in Los Angeles County in California. Our Covid numbers are up, and the county has said no to in person school. We're teaching virtually. 

I don't know what each and every district is doing; I only know what my district is doing. We have a modified schedule. We meet online in Google Hangouts. And teachers have the option of working on campus or from home. 

The office staff is there. The principal is on campus. The instructional aides are working on some project. The janitorial staff is keeping it all clean. 

We have to wear masks, of course. They check our temperature when we get to school, and if we're going to be on campus, we need to do a "self check" before coming in. (If sick or possibly exposed, we're to stay home.) 

It's a balance between the familiar and the new normal. 

At least it'll keep the blog in stories. 

For the record, I'm working about half at school and half from home. I've been going in to get materials, and if I need to get materials, I might as well do my lessons from the classroom. They have the good air conditioning. I have a desk to work from. But if I have everything I need, I can sleep in another hour and do the lessons from home. 

We'll see if I keep going in. I haven't decided just yet. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Virtual Learning

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.

School started up for us here last week. And we're doing the virtual thing. There are pros and cons to school this way, which is where this week's question is coming from. . .

What if, after all of this is over, schools keep the virtual school option?

Monday, August 24, 2020

Summer Crochet, Part 2

I'm making progress on my niece's top. 

I texted her Wednesday with the warning that I would soon need a decision (and measurements) about the straps. . . 

Thursday night I finished the body part. . . 

And she really wasn't feeling the loopy, lacy embellishment at the bottom. Which, honestly, wasn't a surprise. I mean, I like it, but the pictures she's been sending me are fairly plain with more of a clean aesthetic. 

I removed the loops Friday. But I haven't gotten a picture of it yet. This was enough to get her strap measurements, so I'm good to go on that. 

Hopefully I'll be done by next week. We'll see. It depends if the straps go easily or not so much.

Friday, August 21, 2020

100 Most Popular TV Shows


This week I've gone back to the list site for our quiz. Unlike last time, this list has a bit of authority behind it via the IMDb (Internet Movie Database). 

The list is weighted way more heavily towards more current TV shows. Since many of us are running out of things to watch (I can't be the only one), the list might spark some ideas. Just a thought. 

100 Most Popular TV Shows (IMDb)

I got 27 out of 100. I didn't count any shows I'd seen an episode or two of, like shows that I watched the pilot and decided they weren't for me (Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Lost). But I did count shows that I started, watched two or three seasons of, and then gave up (Psych, Supernatural, NCIS). And I counted Friends even though I was more of a hit or miss viewer.

I'm generally more of a completest when it comes to TV shows, so more often than not, I watched the full run (or I'm up to date). Giving up on a show does not come naturally. I'll let you judge whether or not to count a series as "watched" or not however you wish. 

How many have you seen? Are there any on the list you're tempted to try?

Thursday, August 20, 2020


As we begin a new school year, I thought it appropriate for today's #ThrowbackThursday to revisit the beginning of the school year last year. Which was a different world compared to our beginning this year.

Last year I ended up covering a middle school English class for about the first three weeks. This year I'm continuing with the alternative education center's classes for about two more weeks. This year I get to do a bit more planning ahead, so that'll be nice. Last year I walked in cold, but I had a contingency plan anyway... 

Yesterday I whined about getting stuck with a vacant class. But this wasn't my first rodeo. Even when the sub caller told me it wasn't a vacant class, I prepped for the day as if it was. And that saved my butt.

Because while there was a school-wide activity prepped for the first day, there wasn't one for the second.

I decided to have the kiddos interview each other.

It was a simple activity. I prepped ten questions for them to ask each other. Then I gave them a sentence frame to insert their partner's answers into. Finally, everyone got a chance to read their sentence frames out loud.

The seventh graders did very well. The most popular wish was to ask for more wishes. I was surprised how many students considered Alfredo their favorite food. One student told how his partner had gone to Ohio over the summer. The partner clarified that he had actually gone to Idaho.

The eighth graders...

Yeah. Um. They finished interviewing each other. That was cool.

However, we did not have time for them to read their interview answers. Because, um, yeah, it took that long to get through the interviews.

Did I mention last year how horrible the seventh graders were? I may not have. But let me just say, um, yep, horrible. And this year they're eighth graders.

On the bright side, that means we'll probably go through half as many lessons. And hopefully, the honeymoon period will last until they get a teacher in to cover the class for the rest of the year.

Last year's horrible eighth graders are this year's ninth graders. Oh joy. And they did hire a teacher to take over the class, as I think I mentioned in my posts last year. 

I got a chance to chat with Mr. F much of the year (until we shut down), and he was happy with the group. He managed to get the difficult eighth graders to accomplish something. (He had been hoping to get a middle school placement.) He came in as a long-term sub for the first semester, then he was asked to finish off the year, and then he got offered a full-time contract. (I had told him that the class was essentially vacant, and he proceeded accordingly.) 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Airwolf for 8 Cellos

I'm keeping this week light for me as school started back up on Tuesday. (Stories about my first week will appear next week.) I am continuing to cover the class I covered in July for summer school, with my end date being at the beginning of September. (As a sub on a sub credential, I can only cover the same class for 30 days total.) 

A couple months back I shared Samara Ginsberg's rendition of the theme from Knight Rider. She's continued to post a new video about once a week since then. (If you're as enchanted by these as I am, you might want to subscribe to her channel.) 

This week I'm sharing her video from July 5th, the theme from Airwolf


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Swapping Times

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.

Today's topic: time travel. 

What if you could go (and stay) in a different time (future or past), but you had to swap places with someone (who was willing to make the swap)? 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Summer Crochet

My niece finally texted me her measurements, so I was finally able to start on her tank top. She picked out the Crochet Tie Strap Crop Top, which conveniently was a free pattern. She's not too into the tie straps, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

It's a very simple pattern. The only reason I haven't gotten very far is entirely due to the amount of time I've put into it. Where does all the time go? I mean, it's not like I've had that much to do, but it seems like my days just fly by. 

Anyway, I've got about five inches done. She wants it eight inches long. . .

If you take a look at the pattern, you'll see that there is a bit of an embellishment at the hem. Then the straps. But it's really a pretty simple pattern. I should thank niece for giving me an easy project. 

Although, she hasn't really given me terrible requests in the past. I mean, there was The Gray Behemoth. . . 

. . .but that wasn't difficult, just cumbersome. And I had been curious as to how to knit something with yarn that chunky, so it was a good experience. Shipping the thing to Ohio was a challenge, however. 

The top will easily ship. I first have to finish it, though. 

I hope you all are staying cool.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Which Golden Girls Character Are You?


I found today's quiz via Facebook. I haven't watched The Golden Girls since it aired originally, but it is still in syndication. And it's more popular than ever. 

(How popular? I know Earvin was a fan. How do I know this? He told me. Plus, he had this Golden Girls t-shirt he frequently wore. Just imagine it: Black teenager in t-shirt about old white women. It was memorable.) 

Which Golden Girls Character Are You?

I ended up with Sophia. I always figured I was more of a Dorothy. . . Ah well.

Are you a Golden Girls fan? Which character did you end up with? 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Wrong Name

While plotting out my blog posts for this week, I flashed on this particular incident for #ThrowbackThursday. I didn't write about it at the time as it was a bit too complex, especially when I had other stories that were easier to write. But I might as well tackle it today as classes haven't started up for us just yet. 

Setup: I have worked for and with Ms. K many times. She's a special ed teacher, but she co-teaches much of her day. 

It was spring. I was covering the general ed English teacher that works with Ms. K for two or three periods. So, between classes, during lunch, and while the kiddos are working, we'd talk about various things. 

I don't know how or why the topic came up, but Ms. K told me that her name change had finally come through with the district. She and her husband, Mr. K, were now divorced, and she had gone back to her maiden name. 

Her maiden name was (not actually, but for blog purposes) Ms. James. Simple enough, right? But for some reason, everyone mistook it for Ms. Jones. Telemarketers. Her bank. Any time she made an appointment. Grocery clerks. Basically anyone who saw her name said "Jones" instead of "James". 

The school year ended. A new one began. I figured she had introduced herself to the new classes as Ms. James, especially as she was listed as Ms. James on the teacher phone list.

The incident: I had had a couple periods on my own, but for 3rd period, I was co-teaching with Ms. James. It was passing period. She hadn't arrived yet, but I knew she'd get there in good time. 

But seeing just me, the kiddos asked the usual question. 

Because of sub shortages and both teachers being out on the same days sometimes, there were a couple possible configurations to class coverage. It was clear that Ms. B was out because I was there. Would Ms. James be there, too? Did she have a sub? Were both teachers out, and I was the only sub there? 

By "usual question", I mean they asked something along those lines. 

And I said, "No, Ms. Jones is here today." 

Ms. Jones. Uh huh. I went and said it. 

And what's worse? Ms. James was walking in the room just as I said it. 

I just. . . I don't. . . Yeah, as soon as the name was out of my mouth, I knew I had gone and done it. Sigh. 

Luckily, I think there was so much noise in the room Ms. James missed my faux pas. I mean, I hope she missed it. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


Lately, I have been partaking of streaming TV. Netflix. Hulu. Apple +. I've been starting a bunch of new shows, and. . . When I'm checking the time to see how much longer until it ends, it's a sign that that might not be a show for me (*stares meaningfully at For All Mankind*). Or when I find myself fast forwarding through a fifteen minute stretch because I just can't sit through the idiocy (*side eyes Hollywood*). 

But occasionally, I've hit gold. 

Marcy Hatch mentioned Travelers to me, so when it popped up as I was scrolling shows on Netflix, I figured I might as well give it a try. And I'm hooked. 

Travelers is a show about time travelers from the distant future. They've come back to our time to "fix" things. But they don't come back in their own bodies. The hand-waving mechanism of choice involves quantum entanglement whereby they take over the bodies of people who are about to die. The consciousness transfer is fatal to the host, but they were about to die anyway, so it's kind of okay? 

Like many Netflix shows, this only has three seasons. I'm currently through season two. (I'm deliberately holding off on season three partly because I don't want it to end.) 

It was created by Brad Wright, who worked on shows from the Stargate universe, which might be one reason I took to it so readily. Or it just could be that it's an interesting show. 

We get to see how they finance things (betting on horse races and lottery numbers), how they figure out how to live as their hosts, and how they get instructions from the future (consciousness transfers to children apparently aren't fatal). 

If you like this kind of show, you should check it out. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A Redo

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 rediscovered Good Eats on the Cooking Channel. I've been recording and rewatching episodes for months now. Alton Brown even has a "new" show called Good Eats: Reloaded where he takes one of the episodes and reworks the recipes. Which got me thinking... 

What if you could go and redo/re-edit/revamp your finished (published) work from bygone years? Would you? 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Mystery Project Reveal

You know the project that I've been working on? The one that I didn't want to talk about, but I managed to write three blog posts about? (The posts: The New Toy, The Tangle, and Frogger.) 

Guess what I finished this week? 

Before I get into the pictures, I should explain the why. I bought a light box a year or so ago. It helps with my pictures. 

But I was having one small, tiny, minuscule problem with it (aside from avoiding using it due to how long it takes to set up). And you can kind of see it in the above photo. I didn't have a good background for my photos. 

It came with a long piece of plastic, but that doesn't cover the sides of the box. If I aim my camera straight in, it works fine. However, I usually like to change angles, and it's easier to do that from my end rather than repositioning what I'm photographing all the time. 

So, I'd been using a piece of fabric to cover the sides, but it was awkward to use. Recently, I bought white cardboard, but that didn't work much better. I thought about pulling out my sewing machine and making something up, but my sewing skills aren't all that great, and I have a tendency to put things like that off. 

Then it occurred to me: why don't I try to knit a backdrop? 

It took me way less time than I expected. 

As you can see, I didn't bother to set the whole light box up for this photo shoot. I think it's easier to see just with the light box frame, anyway. 

Yes, it's a bit smaller than the frame, but that was by design. It'll stretch a bit. I used stockinette stitch for the plainest background, and that's also why I used white. 

Alas, the seams are kind of visible. But still, this is better than what I was using before. 

I even included tabs to hold the thing onto the frame. . .

How well it will work will be determined the next time I need to have a photo shoot. It solved the problems I was having before, but we all know that new problems can crop up with the new solution. 

But I'm happy with it. 

And it was completely a stash project. Those buttons? Yup. According to the packaging, they were 15 cents. The yarn had been purchased for a sweater I was making myself that went horribly wrong, hence the game of yarn chicken

Obviously, I won the yarn chicken. . .

Yeah, I cut it kind of close. But it was a great project to use up that yarn that had been sitting in my stash for years.