Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Extra Credit

Ninth grade geography. They had their unit test. 

I had warned them of the unit test for two weeks. I reminded them daily that their work for the unit was due on test day. I gave them time in class to complete some of it.

The day before the test, near the end of the period, I gave them an extra credit assignment. It was a review of the unit, so they'd have extra practice on the concepts before the test. It was due on test day. 

The extra credit was due before the test. 

Test day. The class arrived. I told them to turn in their packets and their extra credit. 

And some of them were still surprised...

I mean, I can't learn it for them. I did what I could. 

They had time after the test to start working on assignments for the next unit. (Or they could play games on the computer. I wasn't closely policing them at that point so long as they weren't disturbing anyone who was still working on the test.) 

A couple of them chose then to work on the extra credit. The review of the previous unit. After they'd done the test. Sigh.

I did not accept that extra credit. And I did not even feel bad about it. If they can't pay attention...

Freshmen. Sigh. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Close the Door

Monday, fifth period. Geography. 

Alden will not keep his mask on. (Alden belongs at the alternative education center. He would fit in so well there.) I am constantly on him to pull it back over his mouth and nose. 

In exasperation, I asked Alden what the issue was. He said he did not like wearing it. I replied I wasn't fond of the masks either. 

Ramses (seated next to him) then piped up. "You know, we could close the door, and then none of us would have to wear our masks..." 


No. Just no. 

Just that past Friday the Homecoming Assembly had to be cancelled, and pretty much the entire football team was that day (and the whole week) on Covid quarantine. And Ramses thought it was a good idea to have fewer protections? 


I just... I can't... I... 

This is why subs are needed. The kiddos can't be trusted without adult supervision.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Midlife Crisis

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 was perusing Twitter, as I do, and I stumbled upon this gem: 

 I've been thinking about this one for two days...

Monday, September 27, 2021

Moving Right Along

Octopus hat number two almost has the hat portion finished: 

At this point in the construction of octopus hat number one, I hadn't even revealed what the final project was going to be. 

I'm just about ready to start on the tentacles. So, it's coming along. Slowly. I'll get there.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? (These hats are Christmas presents.) What do you want to receive for Christmas? 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Change of Plans

Last Friday was kind of crazy. It was Homecoming Week. (I'm not sure when this happened, but now it's called HoCo, and there were all sorts of HoCo "promposals" happening all week.) 

There were dress up days. The candidates for king and queen had signs up all over school. Then Friday was the game, and during school hours was the "rally" (read: assembly).

I hate assemblies. I have whined repeatedly on this here blog about how much I hate them. Now, you'd think considering everything that there would be no assembly, but the school has an outdoor football stadium. It was doable.

So, I was ready. I brought sunscreen. I had my sunglasses. I wore my walking shoes. (It's not that far, but it is a bit of a hike to get there.) 

The classes were all shortened. We still had enough time for them to take their unit test with time left over. (And I had students who came to take the test and then leave as they had setting up to do and such.) 

It was the end of fourth period. We were getting ready to go. I had my seating chart, so I told the class where our assigned seats were. (We were up high in the stadium.) I explained that they'd have to leave their backpacks in class (phones would be in pockets, I was sure), but the room would be locked, so their backpacks would be safe.

Then, the announcement came. "Wait." And then a bit later, it was all called off. 

Minutes before things were to start, the school got word. Someone tested positive for Covid. And they were hurriedly contact tracing. 

Considering who had been called out of class, it sounded like the positive case was a football player. 

The game was cancelled, too. The dance? Postponed. 

Deep sigh. 

I mean, who thought it would be a good idea to hold an assembly during a global pandemic, anyway?

Fourth period was stuck in class for another hour. But they had phones and computers, so they kept themselves entertained. (They had already taken a test that day, and nothing else was planned. And they were seniors, so there was no need for crowd control.)

Disappointing (for them), but not surprising, really.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

No Name

One of the things that subs don't do much of is grading papers. And I'm glad of that. I'm always sure the kiddos are going to call me on something that wasn't "fair" or such. Am I grading too hard? Too easy? It's just so much to worry about, but I don't often have to worry about it.

But, I'm on a long term gig, and keeping up on the grading is one of those things I need to do.

Test day. One of the students said he had a question for me, but it could wait. 

Then, after the test, he asked about one of his assignments. He said he had turned it in, but there was no grade for it in the gradebook. (The gradebook is online, so they can see their scores for anything at any time.) 

I pulled out the assignment. (I had planned to pass things back after they had all completed the test, so it was right at my fingertips.) I flipped through the pages, and at the bottom of the stack, we found the one paper that had no name on it. 

Yup, it was his.

(I'm very good at keeping track of stuff, so it hadn't crossed my mind that it had gotten lost. But, I do make mistakes, so had I missed inputting a grade? Had I entered it on the wrong line? Both were plausible.)

You'd think by senior year they'd figure out the whole put-name-on-paper thing, but alas, no.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Joke's on Me?

Fifth period geography. Freshmen (read: 14-year-olds). 

Every teacher has one. That class. It's the period that they all dread. For this class, it's fifth period. 

I've battled them on their assigned seats. One boy won't keep his mask on his face. And as I go through their PowerPoints (prepared by their teacher for which they're supposed to be taking notes), they just don't focus. 

They have the giggles. 

Tuesday. They had the giggles bad. There are four students (mask-less boy had been out all week) who just... They are seated far from each other, but there's constant communication. Two girls, two boys. 

I stop. Give them stares. But I can't figure out what the joke is. 

On Tuesday, after I arrived home, I found my fly down...

And, I am pretty sure they're laughing at me. But, as I thought back on the day, I didn't think my fly was actually down in class. I think I would have noticed when I hit the restroom after that class. (I didn't get home for a good two more hours.)

There are myriad things they could be laughing about. But I think it's better if I don't know what it is.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021


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 your romantic partner could read your thoughts?

Monday, September 20, 2021


I finished octopus hat number one: 

Which means it's now time to start on octopus hat number two. (I'm making three for the three younger nephews for Christmas.) 

I bought the yarn weeks ago, so I pulled it out and began. Things were going well. And then... 

There are many little differences between crochet and knit. (Someone once compared it to the difference between an Australian and a New Zealander, and I think the comparison is apropos pos.) One has to do with the correcting of mistakes. 

It wasn't a big mistake in the grand scheme of things. I had missed a stitch (sort of). If I was knitting, I could have just laddered down and added in the stitch. But because crochet, I had to rip back three rounds to get to it. (That I missed the error for three rounds tells you how closely I was paying attention.) 

The yarn I'm using is a wool blend, so as I was ripping back, things tangled and snagged, and I had to use scissors... 

And at this point, I gave it up as lost. That's three breaks in the yarn. 

I may fully unravel later. I'm sure I can use the scraps of yarn somewhere. But working it up in the hat would be more trouble than it was worth. (And at this point I hadn't even gotten down to the error yet.) 

So, I started over... 

Fingers crossed that I get further along this time.

(The post title is a knit/crochet reference. It's a play on words for when we have to rip out a project. What sound does a frog make?)

Friday, September 17, 2021


After a chaotic Thursday, Friday was back to normal. We were back on campus, and by fourth period, I was in my usual groove. 

The previous week, the teacher had been on campus and dropped off some work to be returned to students, including notebooks. I had returned all but the one to Edith. The previous day period four was in class (we're on a block schedule, so we don't meet with every class every day), I had left her notebook on her desk. When she wasn't there, I retrieved it and stashed it away.

Before class, I checked the online attendance. It showed that Edith was on an excused absence for the day. I left the notebook put away. 

Fourth period starts. I start up the PowerPoint for the lesson. Edith approaches asking for her notebook... 

Ah, Edith is in class. Oops. 

I apologized for not having her notebook at the ready. I mentioned the absence online. 

Edith's reply: "I tested negative..." 

I mean, I knew what the attendance code meant. I figured if she was in class, things were clear.

She got back just in time, too. There was a football game that night. She was in her cheerleader uniform. I don't think she would have enjoyed having to miss the game.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Teaching from Home, Again

Thursday morning. I walked into the classroom, and the lights did not click on. (They have an automatic sensor.) The room was stuffy. (The a/c is on a constant vent air due to Covid. It might not blow cold, but something should have been blowing.) 

The power was out. 

Before I had a chance to panic, I glanced at my phone. I had a text from the school's secretary: 

Good morning. Mr. L [the principal] sent out a message instructing teachers to teach from home today. There has been a power outage.


If you recall from last week, my car was once again in the shop. Yes, it had been a week, but it was not yet done. (I got it back later that day.) The nice person who had given me a ride had dropped me off and left. 

I called her and politely asked her to turn around and retrieve me. 

Then it was a scramble. What did I need from the classroom? Being on a long-term gig, I knew what the plans for the day were. I had been leaving the flash drive with the PowerPoints for class lectures at school. (Considering getting pulled and car trouble, I wanted to make sure if I wasn't there, whoever was could keep the class going.) 

I grabbed the flash drive. I grabbed the page the economics class was going to do. And then I waited for my ride to retrieve me.

I had taught at home for a couple months (November through March, to be exact), so I had this. Right? 

Well... First period suffered through my technical difficulties. But by third, things were going pretty smoothly. Their teacher, Mrs. O, had scrambled to post the notes and the assignment for the day, so all I had to do was present things. 

I got it done. At least this wasn't a new thing, teaching from home. And I could do it without a mask. Small victories. 

(There had been a car accident that took out the power to that area. They hoped to have it restored for Friday. Or, the district would bring in generators.)  

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

In Passing

Passing period. It's the time between classes, when the kiddos go from one room the next. 

As per usual, I was standing at the door, greeting students as they came in. (It's encouraged for us to do that.)

This particular classroom opens to the lunch area. We're across from the ASB office, which opens to a wide open space. I can see to the front gate, the parking lot, the band room, and almost as far as the gym. 

A ways away, along the sidewalk, were a group of three students in amongst the throngs making their way to their next class. One called my name. I waved.

Student 1: "We miss you!"

Students 2 & 3: "No, we don't..."

They didn't see my smile behind my mask.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Not Missed

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.

Think of something you do frequently, like visiting the same coffee shop, walking in a neighborhood, or even going to work or school...

What if you don't make it one day, but no one notices? 

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Eyes Have It

...or not.

It. Is. Finished.

After last week's pics, all that was left were the eyes on top...

I'm not completely happy with the eyes, but I do like the rest of it.

Now I have two more to do (for three of the nephews), but the next two should go a bit quicker. I hope.

(Pattern: Octopus Hat.)

Friday, September 10, 2021

Car Trouble (Yet Again)

Last Thursday was Back to School Night, the night when parents are invited to campus and the teachers present what their classes are about. This is not something that I generally have to deal with, but since I started a long term subbing assignment, I was required to cover it. 

While we are in person for school, the district decided that we'd do Back to School Night virtually, although they'd require the teachers to do the presentations from campus. 

I was on a long term in April when we did Open House, which is a similar type of thing (although it's more of a "what we did this year" event). 

For Open House, I figured it would be easier to stay on campus from the end of the school day until after Open House. With Back to School Night looming, I looked back on that decision, and figured that I'd rather come home after school and just go back later in the evening. (The Open House day ended up being very long.) 

Little did I know how much I'd need that time.

The day prior, my roommate noticed a spot on the ground where I park my car. When I arrived home after school on Thursday, that spot had grown quite a bit. (From a spot to a puddle a good six inches across.) This was a leak that needed to be dealt with immediately.

But I had just taken my car in for repairs!!! Twice. (I took it in for some routine maintenance in June.)

And, the garage I take my car to has been so very, very busy. I figured I'd be car-less for at least a week. Again. 

It was the middle of the day, so I was able to drop off my car. (And my roommates were kind enough to give me rides from the garage, to and from Back to School, and to and from work on Friday.) 

Friday afternoon the repair shop called. It turns out that some gasket that they installed in June is defective. Which means the repair is UNDER WARRANTY! 

At least that's good news. It was still going to take them a few days to complete repairs. Hopefully by the time you read this all will be done and I'll once again have a car. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Schedule Change

Monday. I was woken by my cell phone ringing. It was the sub caller? 

I already had a job for Monday. I was starting a long-term gig for a geography/economics teacher.

Nope. They were short subs, and they needed me to cover a fifth grade class.

Fifth grade? Do they not know I don't do elementary? 

(Well, it has happened. I've written about it here, here, and here. But I'd rather it didn't.)

After arguing, I accepted the inevitable. 

Because the sub caller called me late, I was late to the school. The principal was covering the class. She handed the class over to me, and I was off and running.

I know how to do this sort of thing with high schoolers, but elementary kids? Well, it was pretty much the same. They had something to get started on while I figured out how to set up the computer. Once I had the technology working, I was able to project the math notes. And then it was time for recess. 

(Well, we did math notes for an hour. But it was fifth grade math, so nothing I couldn't handle.)

My lesson plan stated that after recess, they were to go to PE. So, I went to pick up the class (after fumbling about for where I met the kiddos), and I told them it was time for PE. They informed me that it was not.

Apparently, the schedule had changed. They did PE at 11 AM, not 10. (From what I gathered, their teacher has been out for a bit, and they've been taught by subs for a week or two or more.) 

There are times when I go by the lesson plan even when the kiddos tell me that's not how they do things. Because sometimes the teacher does change the way things are done because substitute. But this time I trusted the kiddos and took them back into the classroom.

I flipped the PE lesson with the English lesson. At the time I was told to pick up the kiddos from PE, I took them out to PE. And it appeared that I was on time. Whew.

Forty-five minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Because I had a wrong schedule, I did not know when PE was over (when I should have gone out to the yard to collect the class). Oops. 

Well, I made a lot of mistakes that day.

At least I had the correct time for their lunch. And to release them at the end of the day. 

We all made it through relatively unscathed. If all my elementary days went like this (the actual subbing day, not the getting there), I'd do more of them. Maybe. I still prefer the older kiddos, though.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Current Chaos

Have I mentioned that there's a substitute teacher shortage? I mean, I may have alluded to it several times as this is the reality I'm living, but I don't think I've come out and said it. It's bad enough that it's made the media

Two weeks ago (last week's posts on this blog) I was covering a vacant English class. On Tuesday of that week, I ran into Mrs. O. (In the bathroom, but that's neither here nor there.) The next day (Wednesday), she was starting her leave (she had to have surgery, and she's now recovering from that). And she didn't have a sub to cover her classes. 

When I worked the second day of school, I ran into Mrs. O. She mentioned the surgery and asked if I was doing long-term jobs. I gave a non-committal answer. She said she'd request me. 

(No, teachers aren't required to find their own subs. But when teachers are going to be out, they can request who takes their classes. That's how I got that long-term gig in April. The sub caller gives us the option, which we can turn down, but if I've said yes to the teacher, I take the gig.) 

Of course, I didn't know I'd be in the vacant English class when Mrs. O needed to be out. And I didn't know that there'd be no one else to take the class. 

Seriously. No. One. 

Mrs. O was told that in all likelihood, her classes would be covered period-by-period daily by different teachers on campus. For the entire month that she's due to be out. 

But then, on Wednesday after school, I was informed that they had hired someone for the vacant English class, and Mrs. B was starting on Thursday. Yes, the next day. 

Because the English classes were scheduled to take a standardized test, I did two days of transition with Mrs. B (because I'd already set everything up), and then the next Monday (last Monday) I'd transition into Mrs. O's class. 

I had lesson plans. I knew what was going on. I was ready. 

Then, Monday morning...

I got a call. Sub caller. They needed me to cover a fifth grade class, and I had no choice in the matter. 


(Tomorrow's post is all about how that day went.) 

I heard later how the school had to scramble to cover Mrs. O's classes yet another day. 

It's bad. If you've ever considered becoming a substitute teacher... 

Yes. Okay. Fine. 

It wasn't that funny. 

Still laughing? 

I'll give you a minute before I continue on...

So, yes, I'm now covering Mrs. O's classes and will do so (unless pulled again) for the rest of this month. And every day, there will be classes that go uncovered. It's been like this since day one of the school year, and it doesn't appear to be changing any time soon.

So, how's your job going?

Tuesday, September 7, 2021


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 had the strangest dream the other night, and I woke up with the following question. (The dream had nothing to do with the question. That's the weirdest part.)

What if we could access books written by ghosts? (Specifically: The books are written by ghosts. I'm not talking about being haunted by a writer who has books that were published while they were alive.)

Monday, September 6, 2021

Curly Tentacles

It's just after midnight, and I finally completed attaching the outer tentacles to the inner suckers...

Next up, the eyes.

And then it will be done. (At the rate I've been working on this, I don't know if I'll have a finished hat by next week. At least I'll be able to get better pictures.)

Friday, September 3, 2021


Friday. Sixth period. We were doing some district mandated standardized test, so the kiddos were quiet, and the room was calm. It was after the middle of the period, so the majority of the students were actually finished.

Helen asked for a restroom pass. She returned a short time later.

Not too long after her return, she approached me. Whispering (so I had to ask her to repeat as whispering and masks do not work well together), she informed me that she felt like she was going to throw up, and could she step outside? 

Yeah, I don't want to deal with any of that, so I let her go.

She returned shortly thereafter, went to her desk, and put her head down.

I asked her if she wished to go to the health office. She did. (I probably would have insisted if she hadn't.) 

This was my last day covering the vacant English class (the new teacher they hired started and was in the room with me during this), so I went up to the office to check out at the end of the day. 

Because it had been sixth period, Helen had ended up in the office where I check out. (The health office only has coverage part of the day, and no longer is there an actual nurse on campus. Well, sometimes, maybe. But not usually.) The secretary told me that Helen had been taken away in an ambulance. Drugs. 

Helen took something. Her body didn't react well. (Apparently, her parents were close by, so they were at the school quickly.) I'm not sure if she was coming down or if she had taken it when she used the restroom. (She hadn't taken anything in class. At least, if she had, she managed to do it in a way that three adults in the room did not notice.) 

I just... 

I mean, I hope she's okay. I hope she learned that drugs are bad. But, I know this sort of thing is going to happen again.

Thursday, September 2, 2021


I've been scrambling. 

A "vacant" class is one in which there is no teacher assigned. Because of this, a sub who arrives has nothing but a room, a class full of students, and a class period to fill. This is why I was trying to avoid covering a vacant class at the start of this school year. As you know by now, I failed at this.

It took a few days to get my feet under me. First, I had those class periods to fill. What to do? Teachers who also teach the same subject let me know what we should be covering. 

Once lesson plans were established, then I could focus on getting some things for the class. Books and seating charts and staplers and dry erase markers and papers don't miraculously show up. Full-time teachers have planning days to get this stuff ready. Subs in vacant classes have to figure it all out on the fly while they have bodies in the classroom.

It took me a couple days to create Google Classrooms for the classes. It took a couple more to get access to the attendance/grading software and then set up their gradebook for the year. 

When I finally set up the gradebook, the students who had not been on campus could finally access Google Classroom for the class. (I had the kiddos in class add themselves to the class. Adding in the attendance software automatically uploaded the other students.) 

A couple days after I got that all set up, I got an email from a student who had been absent since pretty much the first day. 

Anaya apologized for not emailing sooner (which she couldn't have done as she only just got access to my name via Google Classroom) and for missing class. Her brother has Covid, so she's on quarantine. And she was worried about keeping up with her schoolwork. 


We're supposed to keep all work on Google Classroom for students in just that predicament. And, considering the circumstances, those students are afforded extra time to get things in.

My reply: 

Yikes, I'm so sorry. Don't worry. I will be posting all work to Google Classroom, so whatever we do in class you can do from home. (The assignments aren't posted yet, but they will be by the end of the week.)

To which she replied: 

Okay thank you! I'll try my best to get everything done and turned in on time. Have a good day!

Turned in on time... Considering how far behind I was in getting things posted, there was no way I was holding her to a higher standard. 

I got caught up on grading by Friday of last week. Anaya has an A. Full credit for everything assigned. There are kiddos that haven't missed a day who have Fs. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Not the Boss

One day, I had the eighth graders make "pull cards". (Note: the week kind of ran together, so I don't recall which day this was.)

Sometimes, it's nice to call on students randomly. The best randomization method I've run across is having a stack of cards with all the students' names. I can then pull one from the stack (shuffling it before I do so), and whichever student's name comes up is called on.

Some teachers have them. Some don't. When I start a class, I make sure to get some made.

I passed out index cards to all the students, and I had them write their names on them. But, I told them to write the name they wanted to be called on it (along with their "official" roster names). 

Some students shorten their names. Some go by their middle names. There's one girl whose preferred name is something I've never heard of before (it sounds vaguely Hawaiian). I try to use their preferred names in class. There's no reason to not to.

Most of the time.

On Wednesday, we read the story "The Monkey's Paw". (They're doing a unit on suspense.) After, I had questions. I pulled a card...

It was Leroy's card. In the middle, it had an arrow pointing to the name with "prefer to be called". And the name was... Boss. 

No. Just no. 

I am not calling a thirteen-year-old child "Boss". 

Sure, there may be a great story behind it. If I knew him beyond the classroom, I might feel differently. But we've just started the school year, and I'm trying to establish myself as the authority. This is a challenge as a sub with eighth graders in the best of times. Using "boss" in this situation just seems like a terrible idea.

I pulled his card. I saw the name. I called him "Leroy". 

He answered.