Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Escape Artist

It was the second week of the chemistry class. Eighth period, the end of the period. 

Several students had lined up near the door as they had all put their chairs on their desks. (The janitors ask us to do this so they can sweep up the room. Someone keeps tracking dirt in, so the sweeping up is appreciated.) 

I watch the door as sometimes students like to slip out. And the previous week, I had had someone pull that, but I hadn't caught them. 

This time, I did. Austin. 

I reported him to the office. The discipline office "had a talk" with him, and I was told if it happened again, the consequences would change. 

I'd been keeping an eye on Austin ever since, but he didn't try to leave class early again.

On my last day in the chemistry class, Austin asked to use the restroom. 

I did not think too much of this. I scanned his student number ID bar code into the app on my phone and hit "restroom pass". 

Some time later, a different student asked to go. I do a one-student-at-a-time thing. (The restroom is close. It shouldn't take them more than five minutes, and if it will, I'll give them more time.) And that's when I noticed Austin had been gone a while.

I don't usually note the time when a student leaves, but with the app it was easy enough to look up. Austin had been gone thirty minutes. 


I called the office and reported the cut. They called security. 

Austin returned a short time thereafter.

I really, really like the hall pass app. It's such an amazing tool. (I had to ask for access, and I'm really glad I did.)

Now, if only Austin would do his schoolwork. But that's a battle for another day. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022


What if? It's the basis of many stories. We ask. We ponder. We wonder.

On Tuesdays I throw one out there. What if? It may be speculative. It may stem from something I see. It may be something I pull from the news.

Make of it what you will. If a for instance is not specified, interpret that instance as you wish. And if the idea turns into a story, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements 😉 

What if you discovered that your diet was making you cranky? (In this instance, by "diet" I mean what you feed yourself, not a calorie-restricting regimen.)

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Boyfriend

On my second day covering Mrs. D's chemistry classes, Adrian approached me before sixth period. He didn't have an eighth period, and he didn't want to leave campus early, so could he hang out in the back of the class during my eighth period? 

I didn't see the harm in it. 

And on that first day, it was fine. Adrian sat in the back of the room and kept quiet. 

But I didn't realize two things. One: Adrian took my permission to mean he could hang out every eighth period. And two: Adrian's girlfriend was in period eight. 

When I start covering a class, I don't necessarily remember every student. It takes me a couple days (at minimum) to catch on to certain things. So, it took me over a week to realize that Adrian was the ingredient causing period eight to be a problem. 

(We're on a block schedule, so I only saw period eight every other day.)

First, he took another student's seat so he could sit next to the girlfriend. Once I caught on to that, the girlfriend went to sit next to him in the back. 

I mean, they were doing work. I heard them talking, and they were actually discussing the assignment. 

But, they were also all over each other. They weren't making out or anything, but it was clear they are a couple. And while it was all PG, it was still distracting, and neither were getting very much done.

Well, Adrian had overstayed his welcome. I told him not to come to period eight anymore.

That's what I get for being nice. The next student that wonders why I won't let them hang out in class can ask Adrian all about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Out of Sync

The school has started doing video announcements in the morning. 

Every morning, in the second class of the day, a couple of students from the student government read through the various things everyone at school should know. It's club meetings and sports events and spirit weeks. Stuff like that. They've been doing morning announcements every morning for the entire time I've worked for the district.

(We had morning announcements when I was in school, too.) 

During the virtual school year, they made video announcements that were pre-taped. Since going back to in-person, it was back to announcements over the PA. 

But this year, they've started doing them on camera. As of last week, they have a two day a week schedule. 

What that means for me is that I have to connect to the school's YouTube channel and play the video on the in class projector. 

Alas, this proved to be a problem. 

(I couldn't figure out how to mirror the screen of a Chromebook to the projector. It turned out that the step I'd been missing was having the Chromebook already plugged into the projector and the projector turned on. I was trying to set things up before connecting everything. Sigh.) 

Because I couldn't figure out how to project the announcements, I did the next best thing. I sent the students the link to the video and had them watch it on their individual computers. 

Great solution. There was one problem...

Not all of their videos were entirely in sync. So, when they played the audio...

It was quite an interesting effect, to hear the same thing on 20-odd computers just milliseconds off. 

Well, now that I know what I was doing wrong, we won't be having that issue again. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022


It was the Sunday before my third and final week in the chemistry class. I received an email from Mrs. D. She was going to need two more days before returning to class. 

Okay, then. 

Before we got the new (to us) substitute scheduling app, what would happen next was I would talk to the sub caller, and we would confirm that I was covering the chemistry class for two more days. But the app made this next bit a bit trickier. 

Because instead of talking to a human, Mrs. D needed to input her absence into the app, and then I needed to claim those days. 

Ideally, the teacher should be able to put in a request for the teacher that they want. I think it's possible. But again, we're new to the app, and no one has figured out how to do that. 

So, things got left to chance. 

I asked Mrs. D to let me know when she added the absence to the app. Now, remember, she's in India (with a 12 1/2 hour time difference). I got the email she had added the absence at 11 PM. But it wasn't in the system. 

Uh oh. 

The next day, I asked at the school. The secretary checked, but it wasn't in the system. Luckily, we were in a window of time when both Mrs. D and I were awake, so I emailed Mrs. D. After some back and forth, she managed to get the absence into the system.

But, of course, the totally foreseeable thing happened. Another sub claimed the job. Snatched it right out from under me. 

I did not know it had ended up in the system yet. I was in class. The secretary called me to let me know. 

She has the right access to boot someone out of a job. So, she did. And told me to grab it. 

It was the start of third period, and the morning announcements were going on, so the class barely noticed me on the phone. I grabbed my cell phone, opened the app, and snatched that gig right back. 

(The secretary called the other sub to let him know why he was kicked off the job. Nothing personal.)

I know the secretary can just assign me to the job. And in future, I'm sure that's how things will be handled. But while we learn to navigate the app, I'm sure these things will continue to happen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Not Even a Gerbil

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 we didn't have pets? That is, what if it was not normal to take creatures that aren't human into your home and have them become a part of your family? 

Monday, September 19, 2022


Last week I discussed my intention to start a couple scarves over. I took this pink one:

And I made it a ball of yarn in about a half hour: 

However, the brown one: 

Yeah, this one is taking a bit longer.

I started it first. And at this point, it still looks like: 

Ripping something out usually just entails pulling out the stitches. And it goes pretty quickly. But this yarn kind of felted in on itself, so every so often, the pull to unravel a stitch became a rip. I think it's in a dozen pieces at this point. 


I've been attempting to unravel this over several TV shows. I've watched Midnight at the Pera Palace, The Food that Built America, and Stargirl. There were probably some other shows in there as well. 

Will I have made any more progress by next week? Unlikely. So, if there's no post next Monday, you'll know why.

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Mommy Option

(This is a continuation from yesterday's post.)

Mrs. D got back to me right away (relatively). India is 12 and a half hours ahead of us in California, so her email reply sent at 10 PM my time is quick. 

Mrs. D's suggestion: email Colton's mother.

Okay, then.

I took some time composing the email. Mrs. D suggested forwarding what I had sent to her, but I thought it would be better to just state the facts for Colton's mom. Where I told Mrs. D I didn't know what to do, I asked Colton's mom if she could assist me. 

I sent off the email at 11:13 AM. I got a response at 11:35 AM. 

Colton's mom? Not happy at all.

She forwarded the email to Colton's football coach and also the school's athletic director (who is also a teacher who I have subbed for a few times in the past). The game they had that night Colton would not be playing in. 

The email was sent during fourth period. At the passing into sixth period, Colton appeared at my door. He needed to speak to me. 

"Did you email my mom?"

He prefaced his discussion with, "You're just mad I outsmarted you," and then insisted that my yelling at him was the worse offense. He insisted I needed to tell his mom that I yelled. I figured it was implied, and he was welcome to share his side of the sandwich incident with his mother. 

Sixth period had started, so we eventually ended the conversation, Colton not getting what he wanted. 

I let his mother know he had been by to discuss the situation with me and he'd be telling her his side. Her reply: "Fine. He doesn't get to play in next week's game, either."

So, it was with some trepidation that I went into Friday. But I didn't have to see Colton until fifth period, and Colton's mom had given me her phone number, so if things got ugly, I'd call her with Colton there. 

And then Colton was waiting for me before third period... apologize. 

Colton had talked to his mother and gotten an "attitude adjustment". He now realized that the consequence he received was due to his actions. He had been hangry (which, considering how long it is from snack to lunch, I completely understand), and he had been out of line.

I appreciated how he came to me not on class time, and he seemed sincerely sorry. 

And so, it's over. 

Colton behaved... well, he's still Colton. But he wasn't directly challenging me on anything during class time, so we're cool. 

Perhaps he'll learn not to react when he first gets bad news. (He must have just heard about the email right when he came to see me the first time.) 

And I need to remember the mommy option when things go sideways with a student. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Sandwich Incident

Fifth period. Yup, them again

I met Colton for the first time last year while I was covering the geography class. He's a very charismatic kid, which isn't a compliment from someone in my line of work. He was in the difficult class for Mrs. O, too. And he contributed to the chaos there. But I didn't ever write about him specifically as he never did anything that rose to the level of interesting for the blog

On the first day of my covering Mrs. D's classes, I read through her syllabus. She had a no food in class rule, so I made sure to enforce that. Generally, that means when I catch someone eating, I tell them to put the food away. They know the rule, so they look chagrined at being caught, "sneak" a last bite, and put the food away.

Wednesday. Colton has been skirting the no food rule since I got to the class, but we've been playing the game, so when I saw him with a food container, I didn't worry. I'd keep an eye out, tell him to put the food away, and he could eat whatever was in the container at lunch, which was directly after fifth period.

If only.

At the bell, I still had students roaming to their desks. Colton was one of them. He had a sandwich in his hand.

"Put the food away," I bellowed.

"Where do you want me to put it?" Colton asked.

That container? Gone. 

I didn't realize that at first. He brought food in. When I say to put food away, I would think he would realize he should put the food back in the container it came in. But he was making him having thrown out the container my problem. 

And so, now the rest of the class was riveted by the drama. 

(From experience, I knew telling him to throw out the food would have shot this conflict into the stratosphere. They get very defensive of their food. "You can't touch my food.")

In the end, he got to eat his sandwich, but not until after the whole class got to witness our argument. 

But now I had a problem. I've still got a week to go with this class, and I can't have Colton bringing food in every day. And if he can eat in class, the rest of the kiddos will, and that just leads to a mess. 

How do I deal with this? 

That's when it occurred to me that maybe Mrs. D would have an idea. So, I emailed her.

She's in India. I looked it up to find that the time difference is 12 and a half hours. So, I wasn't going to get a response right away, but at least I'd have something by the next time I had Colton in class. (We're on a block schedule, so I see each class every other day.) 

Colton again got no work done in class. (He took offense when I pointed out that his grade would drop when Mrs. D input the three weeks' work into the gradebook, and he might not be allowed to continue to play football.) This was definitely an issue I needed to deal with as soon as I could.

(Conclusion tomorrow.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Substitute Training

They don't train substitute teachers. We kind of get thrown into the classroom after a quick orientation after being hired. It's a very learn-on-the-job kind of gig. 

As the classrooms acquire new tech, we subs have to kind of figure things out as we go. Luckily, the teachers need us to use things from time to time, and they'll clue us in on how to use them. 

Tuesday. It was the teacher's first class of the day. The students got out their Chromebooks and logged on as I figured out where the roll sheet was. The phone rang. 

Mr. J was out due to some family emergency, and he was calling to let me know what the class was doing. But more importantly, he needed me to reset the Chromebooks. 

He explained that it was something he does every year. The students were doing a light simulation activity, but it wouldn't load due to cookies and such. Every year he does a hard reboot on the computers so that the loading issue doesn't occur, but due to the family emergency, he hadn't gotten around to it.

So, I got to learn how to do a hard reboot on a Chromebook. Yay. New skill. 

(By the way, it's holding down three keys at once: escape, refresh, and power. That opens the screen that allows you to command the computer to reboot.) 

After getting one computer rebooted, I hung up with Mr. J and informed the class of 8th graders why I had been on the phone so long. (They're always a little shocked that I was talking to their teacher. I think if they had known that, they wouldn't have been as loud while we were talking.) And then it was time for them to repeat what I had just done.

Because the quickest way to reset 36 computers is to have the kiddos reset the computer they have in front of them (and for me to repeat on the remaining five that weren't claimed by a student). 

It was an advanced 8th grade class, so it went pretty smoothly. And the kiddos told me that they could then access the activity they were to do.

Until one girl called me over, more than half way through the period. She couldn't submit the assignment she had completed. 

We did the usual restart of the computer, but that didn't work. Would rebooting the computer again help? 

Yup, it did. 

So, now I have a new trick to pull out when the technology fails. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022


Speculative fiction has a long history of taking the issues of the day and reframing them in a new context with the hope that people will look at them in a new way. Our "unprecedented" times are bringing all sorts of old ways and old thinking back to the forefront. On Tuesdays, I present "what if?" questions. Previously, the intent was as an idea generator. It still is. But now, I ask that you really think about all the repercussions that these ideas will have. If only these were just thought exercises. 

What if our current polarization of opinions (yes, the same question as last week) was an unintended consequence of corporations only looking out for maximum profits? (Like, for example, a media corporation pushing a story that is problematic, but it's popular, so it sells ads.)

Monday, September 12, 2022

Starting Over

Last week it was too hot. I just couldn't with the yarn. But I'm kind of between projects at the moment, so it wasn't like I was neglecting anything. 

But I've been thinking about a couple scarves I have in progress. 

I think it might be time to frog and start over. 

I started "In the Meantime" a couple weeks ago. Then I realized that I had misread the stitch pattern, so I ripped out the wrong row and redid. And I didn't like it so much any more. 

I don't hate it. But I think I might like a different stitch pattern more.

Then there's the scarf I started in 2019.

Again, I don't hate it. But as long as I'm looking up crochet stitch patterns, I might as well see if I can find a way more interesting stitch pattern for this one. 

So, I found a couple. One is the cobweb stitch. The other is called the astro cluster. (Check out the links to see what they look like.) It took me a while to winnow it down to those two, but I think that's where I'm going to start.

Only now, which is which? Initially, I thought cobweb would be for the pink yarn, which is a light yarn, but bulkier than the brown. But maybe the cobweb would look better on the fairly fine brown yarn, and the astro would look better in the pink. 

I'm going to hem and haw about it a bit more. It's supposed to cool into the 80s F this week (that's in the upper 20s C), so while it might be a bit warm, I might be more inclined to do something. I can at least rip out these scarves so I'm ready to start anew.

What do you think. Cobweb for the finer yarn or the thicker? I'm open to suggestions.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Entertaining Themselves

Friday. Fifth period. 

I got a new student. And he was lost. 

It's always a bit awkward to get a new student when a sub is there. And it was worse because he had missed most of this week, so he started off behind on a packet that's meant to take them three weeks to complete. 

Understandably, he had questions. 

The assignment for this day was an interactive activity having to do with interactions between atoms. (I lucked out and found a way to access the activities, and then I found a video explaining what they were doing, so I was able to steer them in the right direction.) They were confused. Several had questions. 

So, I got busy. I got so busy it took me twenty minutes before I managed to get the roll taken, and then I was back to going from student to student, answering questions. 

Alas, not all of them were on task. Those who weren't busy asking me questions and working on the assignment were doing other things.

They were throwing wadded up paper at each other. 

Ah, sophomores...

I growled at them. I reminded them that they had work. I asked them if they were so confident of the material, would they want a major test upon Mrs. D's return? ("Not gonna lie," one girl said, "I'm ignoring the assignment.")

Things settled a bit after that. Some still were playing around, but they were making less of a mess.

Until the end of the period. 

They had left trash all over the floor. That paper they were throwing around? Yeah, they left it there.

And I wasn't having it. 

The next period was lunch. I put myself in front of the door and told them that no one was leaving until the paper got picked up. ("It wasn't me. I'm not touching it.")

The paper got picked up. (By the girls who it was being thrown at. The boys who were throwing it are going to get all of my attention next week.) 

Fifth period is the class. Every teacher has one. The dreaded period. It's the class with the most misbehavior, the least attention paid to the work. 

At least with tenth graders (15 year olds), things shouldn't be as bad. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 8, 2022


Tuesday was a minimum day (so the teachers could prep for Back to School night, which I did not have to attend--yay!). 

Because it was a minimum day, there would be no lunch. Nigel was not happy. 

"Great. No lunch. So, I don't get to eat." 

I pointed out that while we weren't having a lunch period, food services was providing a "grab and go" lunch. It's a sack lunch that students can take with them when they exit the school. (Here in California, all school meals are free to students.)

"Great, now I'll get into trouble for bringing outside food home." 

I mentioned that perhaps he could eat the lunch on the way home, thereby avoiding any of those thorny issues. (I really didn't want to get into why this was a problem, although it probably merits further discussion.) 

Nigel's next complaint was mumbled, something about riding a bike or the bus, so he couldn't eat his lunch while getting home. (The bus driver doesn't allow open food containers on the bus.) 

It was at this point that other students in class chimed in, saying that Nigel was always like this. I could tell. Nigel was determined to be annoyed that we had a minimum day. He did not want to go home early. 

About then was when this whole conversation got interrupted. Another student wanted to use the restroom. 

There is a cool new app that the school is now using for restroom passes. I just got access. I stopped to let the student go. And I thought Nigel and I were done. Nope.

Now Nigel complained about the new app. Why didn't the school get the app earlier? (Not the complaint I was expecting.) I argued that the technology wasn't really right too much before now. But Nigel disagreed. 

At a certain point, you know the discussion isn't going to go anywhere. And this is where I "got busy" doing other stuff. Because there was going to be no pleasing Nigel. Whatever came up, he was going to complain about. 

I suppose it passes the time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Not Quite All Set

On the Monday of the week I was covering ceramics, I ran into Mrs. D, the chemistry teacher. She asked if I would be interested in covering her classes for three weeks.

(Mrs. D isn't out often, but I have covered her classes in the past. In the before times and during hybrid school.) 

Mrs. D had to go to India for family issues (her daughter). She knows that I'm familiar with chemistry (as my degree is in physics), so her classes wouldn't get behind while she was out. (Although, at this point I wonder who they would be behind. The other chemistry teacher at the school has been out all week as well. I haven't heard for sure, but I suspect Covid.) 

On the prior Friday, she sent me her lesson plans. She gave me access to her Google Classroom, although her lessons were in Clever. Because I don't have Clever access, she made hard copies of the answer keys. (We had a couple discussions before she left so that I knew what we'd be doing and she could make sure I had everything I'd need.) 

So, this past Monday it began. 

And I was ready.

Yeah, famous last words...

Because that Monday, everything went sideways. 

(Okay, well not everything...) 

For some reason, I was running late. And that heat wave that we had mostly avoided the past month hit us full force. So, I get to school, and the secretary who normally checks subs in was out sick (not Covid, just a run-of-the-mill toothache). 

Alas, that school doesn't have back up people who know what they're doing, so it didn't go so smoothly getting keys and the passwords I need to take attendance. (Actually, I didn't get that password. I had to take roll via a paper roster. Annoying, but doable.) But I got my stuff, and I headed for the room.

Only to have to return to the office as the key I was given was for the wrong classroom. Sigh. 

By the time I got into the room, I was a puddle of sweat, and I had just a few minutes to get situated to start the day. 

The day? I mean, it wasn't terrible. I had the usual (for this time of year) drops and adds of students. Mrs. D had already passed out their packets, but they hadn't quite understood that she'd be out and that I was to check their work after each assignment was completed. 

It was just that all day I felt as if I was catching up from behind. 

As I write this (after the first week is over), everything is pretty well situated. But that first day was a doozy. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Deliberately Divided

Speculative fiction has a long history of taking the issues of the day and reframing them in a new context with the hope that people will look at them in a new way. Our "unprecedented" times are bringing all sorts of old ways and old thinking back to the forefront. On Tuesdays, I present "what if?" questions. Previously, the intent was as an idea generator. It still is. But now, I ask that you really think about all the repercussions that these ideas will have. If only these were just thought exercises. 

What if the current polarization of opinions (we're all feeling this, right?) has been deliberately cultivated?

Monday, September 5, 2022

And Then It Was Done

It was finished last Monday the 29th in the evening. 

The finishing went easily. I was rather expecting something to go wrong. I attached the horn and tacked down the front of the mane (although that part happened Sunday night). 

I rather like how the pink horn works with the black hat and purple and light blue mane. You don't really seek the sparkly of the yarn I ordered from Denmark, but I assume under lights it should shine. 

The last bit, that I did Monday night, was to add the braids down by the ear flaps. I had been worried about this part as I was to use the hat yarn and the mane yarn, but I was just about out of mane yarn. (That is, the purple. I still had plenty of the blue.) 

In the end, through a misreading of the instructions, I ended up making the ear flap braids half the thickness from the pattern's pictures. But I rather like them this thin. And, this was all the purple I had. 

So, it's done. Now all that's left is packing this up and mailing it off. 

All the posts about this hat: 

Friday, September 2, 2022


Friday. Art. 

It was one of those boring days (so boring I brought along a project to work on) where the students do what they're supposed to do. I take roll, verify they're on task, and then I try to stay awake. 

Sixth period. Class went much like the rest of the day. 

I've started a new note system this school year. I created a Google doc where I can rate each class, list names for out of class, and leave a brief remark about anything needed. I can then email this to the teacher at the end of the day. 

So, on this day, I had completed my note, attached it to the email, and sent it off about ten minutes before the end of the period. 

The class had had an assignment in Google Classroom. (It was on line which is an element of art.) They had returned the Chromebooks to the Chromecart, and I was making sure they were all plugged in for the weekend (read: plugging them all in). That's when I heard the door. 

I turned, and sure enough, a couple students had slipped out of the classroom minutes before the end of the period. Grrrr. 

Such an event belongs in the note, but the note had been sent. 

Well, I guess the note needed an addendum. 

Rather than get a computer out or try to send it on my phone (I don't know the teacher's emails, but they pop up when I compose the email on computer; on my phone, their emails don't pop up), I grabbed a sheet of paper and wrote that out. 

I hate it when students slip out like that. (If a student must leave early, all they have to do is ask. If it's a reasonable request, I generally allow it.) It's cheating. And the teacher is definitely going to hear about it.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Back to Normal

Ninth grade math. (It's basically a bit of algebra and a bit of geometry, the easier topics of both.) 

It's early in the year, so the class had a simple review of solving for X worksheet with a coloring component. 

(To make some of these math review worksheets "fun", they make them with puzzles that can only be solved if the students work the problems correctly. It can be a riddle with the answer being a really bad pun. Or they might make a picture in a color by numbers thing. There are hundreds of these things for most math levels, and teachers generally give them out on sub days.)

I got class started and passed out the worksheets. 

I noticed a boy not doing any work. In fact, he didn't have his worksheet on his desk. I questioned him on this. 

He explained that he was waiting for his neighbor to get done. They were "working together" which he interpreted as meaning his neighbor did all the work, and then he'd copy. 

Yeah, no, I wasn't having any of that. If they wanted to work the problems together, fine. But the whole copying thing... Doesn't fly with me.

The boy didn't understand why I had a problem with this. 

I asked if the neighbor was going to be available to do the boy's test for him.

(He had some excuse, but I got distracted by something else.) 

Did he do his own work? Nope, not really. But this is how one gets one's name in my note, so his teacher knows to watch out for him.

Sadly, this sort of thing is common. They never listen to my explanation of why it's a bad idea, so it always gets referred to the teacher. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Define Ray

Eighth grade math. 

I was covering for the special ed teacher of a co-taught class. (He's at home with Covid.) These are generally pretty easy days. The general ed teacher does all the heavy lifting, while all I have to do is help out as needed. 

But it turned out to be a testing day. 

Over the last two years, I have administered this test four times. Three of those times it was just me doing it. I am fully trained. 

This time, all I had to do was assist. Yay! 

So, I made sure to answer as many of the students' questions as possible. 

A girl called me over. 

"What is a ray?

I looked at her question. That was the question on the test, and it gave her four possible diagrams to choose from. 

"That's what the question is asking," I informed her. 

She argued the point. She couldn't possibly answer the question since she didn't know what a ray was. 

This particular test is geared towards figuring out at what "level" the students are at. Each question they get right triggers a next question that's a bit harder. Each question they get wrong triggers an easier question next. So, if they don't know something, they should get it wrong so the test doesn't rate them as having more knowledge than they do. 

She needed to get that question wrong. 

She was not happy about this. I left her to "guess". 

She raised her hand again. The general ed teacher went over to answer her question. 

And... he gave her the same answer I did. 

I mean, I wasn't being cruel. I know eighth graders haven't learned about rays yet. (If memory serves, that's the first week of geometry. For me that was tenth grade.) 

That age. They hate being wrong. But in this case, she really needed to be.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022


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 other day I was in line at the grocery store. Specifically, I was in the "15 items or fewer" line. I had two items.

The person in front of me... had considerably more than that. And so, I got to thinking... 

What if grocery stores imposed a penalty, a "fee", for every item over 15 in the "15 items or fewer" checkout line? 

A couple specifics: This would be something that the register would automatically calculate, not something the cashier would be required to input. The policy would be communicated clearly before being instituted. And the penalty wouldn't necessarily be imposed on 16 or 17 items (there would be a buffer for people who miscount by one or two). 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Of Fiddly Yarn and Unicorn Horns

Last week the shiny yarn that sister-in-law wanted for the horn of her unicorn hat arrived. On Sunday I got right to work...

...Only to discover that the yarn would not work for the horn. It just would not.

I tried. I tried it a couple different ways. I mean, I could have gutted it out and kept going, but it was a mess, and I ultimately decided it wasn't worth the trouble. Sigh. 

But, the horn has a spiral that is to be embroidered on. Would that be enough bling for the horn? 

I crocheted a horn, but in plain white.

Realizing my Friday assignment was going to be one of those where I had not a lot to do, I decided I'd bring this along and get the spiral embroidered on. 

It took me all day. The class was as well-behaved as anticipated. But the embroidery was tricky, at least for someone who doesn't do a lot of it. I ripped it out three times before I ended up with...

Which... Meh. 

The spiral is too wide. And the pink doesn't really pop. I attempted to add a second spiral to this, but I ran out of time. But while contemplating it, I thought, maybe I could come up with something better. 

So, I decided I'd find a yarn that would work but in the right color. And I'd use the shiny yarn held with it. 

And I think I've got it.

I still used the shiny yarn for the spiral (and this time the embroidery went much easier--the practice before helped), and I used the shiny yarn on the horn. I don't think it shows up as well as SIL envisioned, but really, it's the best I can do. 

(The shiny yarn was just as fiddly as before, but carrying it along side a "stable" yarn made using it doable.) 

I'm not 100% satisfied with this, but it'll do, especially as my deadline is fast approaching. (Her birthday is at the end of September, so it needs to get finished and mailed sooner rather than later.) 

All that's left is to attach the horn and to braid ear flaps. Unless next week gets crazy, I should be able to get this done by then. Fingers crossed.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Four Doodles

As it was the first full week of school, the ceramics class hadn't yet been instructed on how to handle clay. Which meant that once they had done some of the intro lessons, there wasn't much more they could do in class. 

So, on Friday, I gave them the Four Doodles assignment. 

This is an assignment he does start the classes with every year. The ceramics 2 class (the group who had this class last year) recognized it. 

It went about as I expected it to. Some of them took the assignment seriously. Some of them half-assed it.

But I mention it because I thought some of you might like to try it. It's a great Zen-out type of mindless drawing. 

You'll need a pencil and a piece of computer or copy paper. Fold it half and then in half again, so you have four boxes each taking up a fourth of the page. 

Each of the boxes should be filled when this is complete. 

In the first box, fill it with circles and circles only. Big ones. Little ones. Varied or not. 

In the second box, fill it with squares made up of horizontal and vertical lines. Like, the first square is made up of only horizontal lines. Then next to it, the square is made up of only vertical lines. The sizes of the squares can vary. 

The third box is full of wavy lines. Start by dividing the box with a wavy line. Then to the right of this line, try to make a line parallel to it. Fill up all the space to the right with wavy lines. Then do the same thing to the left.

And finally, the last box is filled with any random lines you like. The only limit is THE LINES CAN NOT CROSS. The next line can go all the way up to the previous line, but it must not go across it. 

I totally would have created a couple of these, but alas I was busy doing teacher things--taking roll, answering the phone, and the other random things that tend to pop up when all I want to do is stare into space (or play on the computer). 

I hope you all have a peaceful weekend.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Adjusting on the Fly

Because of our new online sub scheduling system, Mr. P knew who his sub would be before his week out started, and he emailed me the lesson plans. 

While normally the classes would be making something with clay (ceramics class), because it was the first full week of school, the students had assignments on the computer. (They were to read the syllabus and to learn about the elements of art and principles of design.) 

I am now very familiar with Google Classroom, so when I saw the plans, I asked Mr. P to add me to his classes so I could troubleshoot any issues. Because I knew there would be an issue.

Thursday. I logged into the computer and double checked the day's assignments. They were scheduled to post... on Friday. Sigh.

Yes, I was very glad that I had access. It was very easy to post the lessons for the day, and the only thing the students noticed was that I had posted the day's assignments rather than Mr. P. 

And this is why I'm glad I insisted on being added to the class. (It's really easy to remove myself from the class after I'm done.) It's so much easier for me to just fix the issue while I'm in class rather than having to try to contact the teacher. (And since I don't know why he's missing class, getting a hold of him might be difficult in the moment.) 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Repeating the Class

For the first full week of school (school started on a Thursday of the previous week), I accepted a week-long assignment in ceramics. I covered this class before a couple years ago for three-ish (?) weeks (when the teacher fell off his bike and broke his collar bone), so I had a basic idea of how the class was run. 

Because the year is just beginning, the students were given introductory assignments having to do with the syllabus and the elements of art and the principles of design

The assignments didn't take the whole class period. So, I was on guard to make sure the students didn't get into anything they shouldn't. 

It was early into the last class of the day when I noticed that a student wasn't even attempting the assignment. 

Lucia didn't speak any English, so her table mates translated. Lucia showed me that she had done the assignment... in a different period. 

After some back and forth, I figured out that she was in both third and eighth periods. 

Deep sigh. 

Every year, there are mistakes in the schedules. Students are missing classes during a period. Students have two classes during one period. Students are missing required courses. Students get the same class twice...

The entire week new students were starting and other students got dropped. A student who was new to the class wasn't in my attendance software three times (that is, three different students). 

Some students were moved from one period to another. Some just joined the class. 

You really don't want to know what the paper rosters looked like at the end of the week.

I would have thought that Lucia would have caught the error and done something to fix it by eighth period, but the language issue was probably a contributing factor to that slipping through the cracks. (The school is on a block schedule, so third period was on Monday and eighth period was on Tuesday.)

The next day that issue was fixed. Lucia was dropped from third period (to take something else then, I assume). She remained in eighth. At least when she got to eighth period on Thursday, she hadn't already done the assignment. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Big Mad

Speculative fiction has a long history of taking the issues of the day and reframing them in a new context with the hope that people will look at them in a new way. Our "unprecedented" times are bringing all sorts of old ways and old thinking back to the forefront. On Tuesdays, I present "what if?" questions. Previously, the intent was as an idea generator. It still is. But now, I ask that you really think about all the repercussions that these ideas will have. If only these were just thought exercises. 

What if the free-floating anger is the point? (Yes, I'm being vague. Interpret this however you wish.)

Monday, August 22, 2022

In the Meantime

I did not touch the unicorn hat all week.

When my sister-in-law and I started talking about me making one for her, she had a specific yarn in mind for the unicorn's horn. This yarn came from a shop in Denmark. I figured I'd find something similar that I didn't have to order from outside the country. 

I found a yarn, but it wasn't shiny or really, the right shade of pink. But I was going to use it anyway. And that ended up being a big fail. I started the horn with that yarn last Saturday, and I stopped working on the horn last Saturday. It didn't look right.

So, there was nothing for it. I was going to order the yarn from Denmark. I ordered it last Sunday. I was given an arrival date of between August 29th and the 31st. Fair, I thought. 

What should I work on in the meantime? 

I found some yarn in my stash that needed to become a moebius infinity scarf. I looked up how to cast that on again (it's been a while). I searched out a stitch pattern to use. And I started. 

I'm on the second row.

So far, it's going well. 

And then, this just past Saturday, guess what arrived in the mail? 

Yup, that's a week earlier than they said. But cool. That means I can start right in on the unicorn horn. And now I have another begun project that can sit until I need something else to work on. 

Hopefully this yarn will work for the unicorn's horn. 

Friday, August 19, 2022

A Makeshift Birthday Card

In every workplace there is that one person who takes on the emotional labor of keeping track of everyone's birthdays. They remind those around them of the upcoming, and they make sure that those birthdays get some sort of recognition. 

Friday. The second day of school. 

As we got things situated on Thursday, the aide commented that she had never worked on her birthday before. (Our school year is starting a whole lot earlier than it used to.) She wrote her birthday on the calendar. It was the next day. 

Ms. D had been one of the aides in Ms. S's class last year. (This is the class I covered from November to the end of January.) And Ms. D was the one who kept track of the students' birthdays and such. 

It totally slipped my mind that it was her birthday the next day, so I didn't remember to go out and at least get her a card. But I did remember when she arrived, so the class sang "Happy Birthday" to her. 

As soon as she went out of class to do something, I grabbed some construction paper and created a card for her. I had the students sign it. 

Then, quietly, I got the other aide to distribute the card to the rest of the school. 

I wasn't that sneaky about it, but Ms. D seemed surprised when I presented the card to her at the end of the day. 

Because the person who remembers everyone else's birthday deserves to have her birthday remembered. Even if it was kind of makeshift. Sigh. 

I informed Mr. G of the event. I hope he brings in a cake or something for her.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Soft Opening

The first day of school kind of feels like the grand opening of a restaurant or other business. Everyone is there. Everyone is on their best behavior. You've got crowds and new things and all the focus is on the beginning. 

The past couple years, I've felt like a brand new employee (with no prior training) on the first day of school. I've moaned about falling into "vacant" classes, that is, a class with no teacher assigned. And while I know that's mostly how one works on the first day of school, I wasn't really looking forward to having to do that yet again.

And then a gig at the adult transition center popped up for the first two days of school. For Mr. G. Who I know didn't retire. 

While I had never subbed for Mr. G before, I spent 117 days at the adult transition center last school year. I've met the students. While I might not know Mr. G's exact schedule, I do have a rough idea of what he usually does. 

So, instead of jumping right into the school year, I'm kind of easing into it, like having a soft opening before the official grand opening. 

Things were a bit of a mess, as the room hadn't been prepped and Mr. G's usual aides weren't there. (One was out and the other got moved to a different class.) But I had Pizza, Leanna, and Brittany. And I'd been around the other three students before. (We were supposed to have incoming new students, but they didn't show up.) 

Not a bad way to start the new school year. And this group was way easier than Ms. L's group. (Although I did get to see many of them as well. I just saw them before and after school.) 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Getting the Job

Most of the school districts in the area, probably in the state, use a computerized scheduling system to fill substitute teacher jobs throughout the school year. The district I work for, however, still used a sub caller--a human being who manually called subs to get jobs filled. Until now.

We have now joined the modern era with a subfinder app. Finally. 

Alas, because the system is new to us, there are a few kinks in the system. 

School officially started on Thursday. The teachers started on Tuesday. They had professional development days. No students.

However, the continuation high school is on a different schedule. They have been in session since mid-July. 

(Covering a couple classes at the continuation high school before school officially starts for the rest of the district is a good warm up for the school year.) 

The prior Thursday, the school's secretary told me she had a teacher out on Monday, but no one had taken the gig yet. I told her the job wasn't showing for us subs. For some reason the job kept popping up as "no sub required". 

The secretary worked the problem from her end. I kept an eye on the app on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It did not appear. 

On Sunday, the secretary called me. She wondered why the job was still vacant. I told her it still wasn't in the system. 

And then, the job popped up. Only, I had been assigned the job with no way to decline. (I had a rough weekend and had planned to not work. Although, once I accepted the job, I could cancel. But by that time I figured getting out of the house might be a good idea.) 

On Monday, the problem was diagnosed. Because the other schools didn't need subs, the system wouldn't let the one open school request any. 

(The secretary had to call the district and get things fixed as she had another teacher out on Tuesday, and the job wouldn't post.)

Problem fixed, I was able to catch the assignment when the teacher I covered on Monday requested another day out. 

It's always something, isn't it? School has barely started, and I've already had three different issues with the new (to us) app. Well, not me, per se. Let's just say I'm kind of enjoying watching the teachers figure out how this whole thing works.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022


Speculative fiction has a long history of taking the issues of the day and reframing them in a new context with the hope that people will look at them in a new way. Our "unprecedented" times are bringing all sorts of old ways and old thinking back to the forefront. On Tuesdays, I present "what if?" questions. Previously, the intent was as an idea generator. It still is. But now, I ask that you really think about all the repercussions that these ideas will have. If only these were just thought exercises. 

As school begins for the year for us...

What if they did away with public schools? (And did what? Either just left a child's education up to their family or turning all schools into private and/or charter schools.)

Monday, August 15, 2022

The Mane Event

I'm afraid I didn't make much progress on the unicorn hat this week. I went from this...

To this...

I blame the heat. And school started up last week, so I went and got busy again. 

I'm going to set this aside for just a bit. I had to order the right yarn for the unicorn's horn, and until it arrives I'm at a standstill. (I bought something local, but it didn't work up right.) But I can find other projects to work on until then. 

The hat thus far:

Friday, August 12, 2022

Word Ladder: Legen-wait-for-it-dary

I don't really know how random this quiz is, as it took me at least a dozen hits of the "random quiz" button on Sporcle before this one popped up. 

(Ones I skipped: sports puns, distance from Praetoria, characters on cartoons, geographic features of Canada, countries close to Brazil, most popular names that start with B, and several others I can't now recall.) 

A word ladder is where each "rung" is one letter different from the "rung" before (and after). So, if the first word is AND, the next word could be END. (This is good for when you get stuck. The next word only has one letter difference.) 

You can do the words in any order, so start with a clue you know. Only answer the ones you know. Then you can go back and fill in if you have time left. (Yes, this is timed. Sorry.)

Word Ladder: It's Going to Be Legen-wait-for-it-dary!

I got 39/42 for 93%. I'm rather pleased, as I never saw the sitcom on which this word ladder is based. 

Let me know how you did in the comments.