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Saturday, June 04, 2016


I'm down to last few days of my 14th year subbing and at this point I'm feeling that there isn't much that I haven't

Roll call and name pronunciation is usually the first bit of unintentional humor the class gets to experience with me. Yesterday's 6th grade class was no exception.

If I have the time, I scan the roll sheet before class and try to "guess" pronunciations on the names with unusual spellings.

There is one name listed that I'm pretty sure isn't pronounced as it's written and I know that if I attempt it, it might be insulting or worse so I'm not even going to try.

As I get to that name in the roll, I just stop and look up. One girl in the back is nodding her head and gesturing to continue. In fact, the whole class is intently watching to see how I'm going to pronounce this name.

Instead I ask: "Ok, I know I'm probably wrong on this one so would someone tell me how to pronounce 'I,S,Y,S,S'. I'm pretty sure it isn't pronounced the same as a terrorist group in the nightly news."

They just stare and wait so I plow ahead. "Ok, is ISIS here?"
Nodding girl: "HERE!"

It seems I'm not the first to encounter this delicate dilemma.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Lit Up...the book

"Lit Up" is the title of a book by author David Denby that someone gave me as something I might enjoy reading which as it turned out, I did.

Truth be told, English Literature was not my best subject in H.S. ...
(...French language class was my worst. The instructor graciously gave me a 'D' instead of an 'F' grade if I promised to drop her class for anything else).

Don't get me wrong, I did like to read books that interested me but not so much the "required reading list".

As a result, my summary reports assigned by the classroom instructors were poorly executed. (...The symbolism of the "Scarlet Letter" totally eluded me. I read it as a story and nothing much deeper.)

Lit Up is the account how subject of English Literature is presented at three, diversely, different high schools and how three fantastic instructors interact with students to successfully make the subject "not a drudge".  Far from it.

It's a very readable and engrossing account of real students, some with some extremely real life problems, actually getting excited reading classics like: To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, Scarlet Letter and The Great Gatsby to name a few.

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.