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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Sick Days?...

I don't usually check the details of my monthly pay check from the school district much beyond the number of days worked to make sure it's correct.

So I was a bit surprised to notice an entry in a column that has historically been blank since I started working as a substitute teacher. The column labeled "Sick Leave Balance" was no longer blank! Evidently a new California law went into effect starting July/2015. My job classification now requires the school district to pay for sick days.

How it is calculated, that still a bit of a mystery but as far as I can tell it looks like 1day/month of the school year....maybe.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


A busy New Year has begun. I just finished yesterday, working day 6 of the 11 days currently scheduled for January 2016.

As I passed through the teachers' lounge on the way to the restroom, there was a full bowl full of leftover New Year's (Christmas?) foil wrapped chocolates on one of the lunch tables with a handwritten note "help yourself" attached.

I picked up one, unwrapped and ate it whole before heading off to "important business".

Exiting the restroom, back through the lounge, I overheard the following snippet of conversation between two teachers, one of which was pointing at the bowl.

T1: She said she bit into one and it had little worms wriggling inside.
T2: REALLY??!!
T1: Yea, little white worms...
T2: Yuck!

I stopped dead in my tracks and turned around now instantly feeling a bit queasy. "Did I hear you say someone found worms in these chocolates? I just ate one!"

T1: Oh...not these chocolates. I was talking about someone I know who bought the same brand for a birthday party last year. These are ok.

On my way back to the classroom, I tried to convince myself that the chocolate was 'ok'.  And even if?....well, worms are just another form of protein.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Tis the Season To Get Fired...

Just because you have information about something, does not mean you are responsible for disseminating it without thinking of the consequences. This substitute teacher found out the hard way recently after being fired from her job after disclosing the "truth" about Santa Claus.

"Santa Claus & Easter Bunny" issues are sensitive subjects especially in the lower grades. I had to handle a similar situation a couple years ago in a 2nd grade classroom.

Even if the kids are insistent to know the truth, it should come from a parent. Even then, the youngster might not be quite ready.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Hour of Code...

My first exposure to computer programming was via a programming course through the mathematics department at San Jose State College in the late 60's.

Our assignment was to design, code, debug a simple add/subtract function calculator designed to run on an IBM-14xx?  series computer.

Program code and data was input on 80 column IBM punch cards and output was on high-speed line printer paper. This took several cycles of run, error, debug, and retest cycles to end up with a working program.

This intro exposure to software was followed by Fortran and Cobal programming courses that paid off with my first programming job at the test division of Fairchild Systems Technology in 1971 followed by a 30+ years of designing and coding programs for embedded microprocessors with several Silicon Valley companies.

State of the art programming has come a long way from my "assembly language" expertise as evidenced in the PBS Hour of Code project. The intro "Angry Bird" sessions are simple to understand and use.

Kids who want more can progress from this level to the more advanced programming levels at their own pace. Click the "Hour of Code" link below to start the online version or download the app from the "App Store" links


PBS KIDS released its first coding app called PBS KIDS ScratchJr. This comes at the right time, as Computer Science Education Week kicks off on Monday (December 7-13). As part of next week’s activities, the international launch of the Hour of Code takes place to encourage young children to learn this vital new language that will be part of the future of learning.

Designed for kids ages 5-8, PBS KIDS ScratchJr enables kids to create their own interactive stories and games featuring their favorite characters from Wild Kratts, Nature Cat, WordGirl and Peg + Cat. 

By snapping together colorful programming blocks, children can make characters move, jump, dance and sing. In the process, kids will learn to solve problems, design projects and express themselves creatively.

The app is free, and can be downloaded on the App Store and Google Play.

PBS KIDS ScratchJr Features
  • Colorful Programming Blocks: Snap together the color-coded programming blocks to create sequences of actions that cause characters to animate and interact in fun and exciting ways.
  • PBS KIDS Characters and Backgrounds: Create projects based on PBS KIDS shows and mix-and-match over 150 characters.
  • Paint Editing: Create unique characters and backgrounds.
  • Voice Recording: Use the recording tool to add sounds and give voice to projects.
  • Story Starters: Find inspiration with in-app story starters! Each Story Starter features a different set of characters and is designed to encourage children to edit and complete the story however they would like.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Yodeling Pickle...

Every teacher seems to have his or her own way of getting the classroom focus back to the subject at hand. Sometimes they revert to the kindergarten clapping cadence, (clap, clap, pause, clap, clap, clap).

 Some use gentle soothing musical chimes, musical instruments, sing and repeat cues. A few can be found here on YouTube:

All of these work pretty much for the classroom teacher and sometimes work for me.

If that doesn't work, my backup attention grabber is to walk toward the "homework box" on the board with the dry-erase marker in hand to add letters to the word "HOMEWORK". It works MOST of the time to get the class back under control.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine gave me a joke gift of the "Yodeling Pickle" also works pretty good as an attention grabber.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Brain Farts...

One of the hardest things to do in the classroom is to recover after committing an unintentional brain fart (...look it up). The older I get, the more frequently I find myself susceptible to occasional lapses. I sub in so many schools and grade levels that, while I recognize most teachers by sight, I sometimes blank on hard to remember names.

I have been in Mr. White's class several times these last couple of years. You would think that a name like 'White' would be easy enough to remember right?
I mean it's even printed on the bottom of THE LESSON PLAN!

So while dictating the instructions for the next lesson...

Me:  "Ok class, listen up! Mr. Brown would like you to take out your notebooks and turn to page ...."
Kid1: Who?
Me: Who what?
Kid1: Who is Mr. Brown?
Me: Mr. Brown, your teacher.
Kid1: You mean Mr. White?

Now forgetting the teacher's name once and being reminded isn't total devastation. I'm pretty sure associating a name to a color has contributed to similar lapses so we had a little laugh about it and went on with our day until....


Later in the day, I referred to Mr. White as Mr. Brown a second time!  That set off a chorus of laughter at my lapse, deservedly so.

Me: Ok, for the rest of the day your teacher's name is now "Mr. Brown or Mr. White", whichever one I screw up. Now let's get to work.....)

For the rest of the day, I intentionally continued to use 'Mr. Brown'.

Several days later, I ran into Mr. White on the playground and he said he had a good laugh about his new "name change"