Search This Blog

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Quest For Extra Credit...

By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer Thu Dec 29, 6:29 PM ET

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border leaving him alone in the middle of the desert.

Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare.

But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation. And he didn't even tell his parents.

Hassan's dangerous adventure winds down with the 101st Airborne delivering the Fort Lauderdale teen to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which had been on the lookout for him and promises to see him back to the United States this weekend.

It begins with a high school class on "immersion journalism"

Full story here ->

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Eureka, They Have Found It!…

Well MUCH to my surprise, our local Post Office Officials (affectionately known as Poo’s) DID find and deliver our “not lost but can’t find it” package. It arrived yesterday.

So I guess this means I should apologize.

But wait! What’s the story with the shipping stickers on the outside?

Hummm! “This tracking number has already been used” ???

Well it looks like the sorting station DID send to the package to the Poo’s last week but they in turn sent it back to the sorting station as an OUTGOING package. Where upon scanning examination it was rejected and sent back once again to the local Poo’s before making it here.

A week later than it should have been here!

AFTER Christmas!!

Nah! No apology!!

Monday, December 26, 2005

It's Not "Lost", We Just Can't Find It...

Friday December 23 was panic time at our house.

The gifts that Claudette ordered from Barnes&Noble should have been here last Tuesday but still weren’t delivered by Friday night. Online tracking showed the packaged did indeed make it to the local post office on Tuesday 12/20 but still hadn’t left the post office building as of the 23rd.

So faced with a near panicked furiously frustrated female, I volunteered to slog down to the PO at 08:00am Christmas Eve to retrieve our package in person.

PO guy:_ “Got a green non-delivery pickup tag?”
Me:_ “Nope. The problem I have is that hasn’t been delivered. It’s been stuck here four days.”

PO guy:_ “That’s odd. The computer tracking says it’s here. It should have gone out for delivery on Tues. Let me go check the bins”

After several tens of minutes pass, the PO guy returns.

PO guy:_ “It’s not here…” while shrugging.

(I kinda already knew this would be the result of the search but I figured I had to dance the dance before continuing the conversation.)

Me:_ “Ok. So you’re saying my package is lost. Can I get a receipt indicating it's lost, so I can go back to Barnes&Noble for a credit and re-order the stuff?”

PO guy:_ “Uh, well, it IS here. We just can’t find it. Let me get my supervisor to talk to you.”
Me:_ “Fine. I need to get this sorted out today.”

PO Super:_ “I understand that you want to pick up a package?”
Me:_ “Yep, but it seems to be lost somewhere in this building”

(This is where I get to basically repeat the conversation with the PO guy including my request for some “lost in the mail” form or receipt).

PO Super:_ “Well, your package is not lost, it’s just probably in transit between the main PO sorting facility and here”.
Me:_ “Ok, how long does it take to get sorted to arrive here?”

PO Super:_ “Usually only a day or two.”
Me:_ “It’s been four days. Can I go to the main sorting PO and pick it up there?

PO Super:_ “Uh, No. They’ll sort it and send it here for delivery.”
Me:_ “But the tracking status says it’s IN THIS building, right?”

PO Super:_ “Yeeeaaa, but…”
Me:_ “So, logically, it’s already BEEN sorted and sent here, right?”

PO Super:_ “Hmmmm..”
Me:_ “So it’s here and you can’t find it, right”

PO Super:_ “Well...”
Me:_ “By definition doesn’t that make it “lost”? Now, can I have a receipt or form to submit to the package sender?”

PO Super:_ “It’s not considered lost until after 30 days. This IS a busy time of the year for the PO.”
Me:_ “So, I have to come back on Jan 20th to get my receipt for the “lost” package?”

PO Super:_ “I’m sure it will be delivered before that. The tracking info says we have it. We’ll definitely get it to you.”
Me:_ “But too late for THIS Christmas, right?...”

So I left empty handed, but mentally composing the following note to our soon to be disappointed daughter-in-law and son-in-law:


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has intercepted a possible WMD labeled “Your Christmas Gift” from a suspected terrorist group, sometimes calling themselves “GrandPa and/or Grammie Perry”. It is being held at the TOP SECURITY LOCATION known as the USPS.

Upon final determination, which can be 5 to 30 days from today, YOU WILL BE notified as to the disposition of the so called “gift”

Attached is an artist’s sketch of the suspect item.

If you have any further questions, don’t bother…..We ARE the Post Office.

Merry Generic Holiday!

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Well, I didn’t have to decide whether or not work yesterday. That’s because there were no assignments available. But I do have two assignments booked already for the first week in January.

So its two days, two weeks off with two assignments lined up for next year.


That must mean something superstitious, doesn’t it? I hope it’s not something bad.

Anyway, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all you blog readers! See ya next year when kids get another chance to make my life interesting and worth writing about!

(Now I have to go write our family Christmas letter…)


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas Assembly...


No assignment today, but I had a 4th on Tues and 5th yesterday.

Both schools had a traditional “Christmas Assembly” for the kids where actual Christmas and Hanukah songs were presented. This is in the same district as the school that presented "A Holiday Carol" a couple of weeks ago so it appears that the “School PC Censors” are localized and haven’t gone regional yet.

With only one more subbing day (tomorrow) before the break, I’m tempted to call it quits for the rest of the year to avoid a possible repeat of last year’s fiasco.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I'm "SICK" Of This Class!...


A really, Really, REALLY late morning call had me at this school at 11:30am. It seems that today, I’m going to be the sub for the sub for the teacher of this 4th grade class.

The lady sub claimed she didn’t feel well and the office called for a sub to complete her assignment. (She really DID sound bad…)

Hey! It never occurred to me that I could call for a replacement just like a regular teacher!!

Wow! Just suppose I happened to get another “class from hell”? I just might feel the onset of some rare symptoms of say……(well I don’t know)….how about “class from hell and I don’t want to be here anymore” syndrome?

“Hello? School office? I’m here (cough, cough) in room (cough!, HAAACK!) 19 and I think I’ve come down with some (WHOOP!, SNOOOORRT!) bug. I need a replacement ASAP!”

Something to think about and hold in reserve…

Thursday, December 08, 2005



I had a great class today. I had thirty-two sixth graders. I also had three girls from fifth grade that didn’t make this week’s 5th graders trip to Walden West Science Camp.

Anyway, what’s better than a good lesson plan? TWO lesson plans!

The teacher not only left a complete, detailed and word processed lesson plan but left me TWO copies! I found one on the teacher’s desk at the back of the room and one on the overhead projector in the front of the classroom. I had NO excuses for not finding one this time.

The worksheets were all organized and in order. The teachers’ edition books were all open to the pages I’d need and in the order to be used. The kids were great and we didn’t have any problems.

I would occasionally walk over to the 5th graders table to inquire “And how’re my 5th grade girls doing over here? Keeping busy?”

They would shrug shoulders and give non-committal answers, but they seemed to be working quietly so I mostly let them be.

At the end of the day as the three 5th graders were leaving the classroom, I remarked. “I hope you girls didn’t have too boring of a day today."

It was then that the cute, dark eye lashed, Indian kid with long dark hair that was pulled up in a top knot and bunched under a white doily like covering informed me: “I’m not a girl…”


Now I feel like a total idiot. I apologized but after ALL day mistaking him for a girl, I’m sure it wasn’t enough. Sheesshh!

But to be fair, it’s just that I’m ignorant about some things…

(I tried to search the web for the proper term for the white doily hat, but can’t find the proper term for it. If I do, I’ll update this post with a photo example)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dear Santa...


Dear Santa,

I’ve been mostly pretty good this year. I only screwed up once when I was sick and didn’t leave Mr. HOMEWORK a lesson plan for my class. If I promise never to do it again would you bring me the following stuff from my Christmas list? Please!

1. Four new “Dry Erase” whiteboard markers to replace the ones Mr. HOMEWORK threw away just because they didn’t work anymore.

2. One working three hole punch to replace the two busted ones that Mr. HOMEWORK almost threw in the trash.

3. One new reading center tape player or, even better, an upgrade to CD-player to replace the one that just plays “sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss….” No matter which tape you put in it.

4. One powered pencil sharpener that actually leaves a tip of exposed lead above the wood without resorting to using a whittling knife that Mr. HOMEWORK didn’t have and probably wouldn’t be allowed to bring to school anyway.

Oh, yea! I almost forgot. Would it be possible to get twenty new 1st graders? I would prefer the non-whiney, non-tattling, non-sticky models if at all possible.

Thanks a bunch big guy!

Yours truly,
Ms. H--- (Grade 1)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Half Day Roving Sub...


I was called today to be a “Roving Sub” for the afternoon.

The first 40mins was…..MY lunch!

This was followed by a total of 1.5 hours of herding three classes totaling 96 sixth graders through various field games under the direction of a “parent activity leader” and two other “parent helpers”.

The only reason I had to be there is to satisfy a state requirement that at least one of the activity adults have a “certified credential”. Otherwise, the school could have done just fine without me and saved the half day $65 substitute teacher pay.

Not sure just where the three 6th grade teachers were this afternoon. Some kind of conference I guess.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Holiday Carol!…


It was in the low 70F’s most of last week. Today it’s cold, windy and pouring rain. Winter has arrived in California.

I took yesterday off because….well…just BECAUSE! Besides, I wasn’t feeling all that great anyway.

Today’s call came at 08:35am to be there at 08:30am for my 2nd grade class.

I picked up the key from the office and proceeded to the classroom where…there were NO STUDENTS! There was also NO LESSON PLAN!

Now what?

I called the office to find out that two other 2nd grade classes had split my class and were waiting for me call to send them back.

After I re-assembled my squirmy group, I quizzed the kids on what they usually do in the morning.


Ok, great! I located the Daily Oral Language worksheet for “Thursday week 14” and had them start while I tried to figure out what comes next.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to do anything because the office called and informed me that I needed to take my class over to an assembly in the cafeteria….now!

The assembly was a performance of that classic tale of “A Holiday Carol!”.

Never heard of it? Come on! You know! It’s the one with Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the ghosts of “holiday” past, present and future?

(Dickens should be rolling in his is grave right about now…)

The assembly ends just in time for recess. We’re moving right along on minimum day accomplishments.

Next we do two pages in the math book and Bingo! It’s now time for lunch.

After lunch, the kids inform me that it’s now silent reading time. Sounds good to me, except none of the kids seem to have a book to read.

They ALL want to get a book from the “in class” library….at the SAME TIME!

Exactly 30 seconds after total chaos has ensued, I order everyone OUT of the library and back to their seats.

I then send them in pairs to select a book. I give them EXACTLY EIGHT seconds to select a book and get out! Some had to make return trips because they either couldn’t decide in time or selected crappy books.

Some examples of the crappy books from the “in class” library.

By the time everyone finally had a book they could and wanted to read, it was time to pack up and go home.

My day is done!…

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

F minus!…


Lesson plan excerpt for today:
“Write vocab words on whiteboard:”

  1. 1. agressive
  2. 2. desperate
  3. 3. ramnant

Spelling grade for Ms. C: 33% !!

…F minus!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Post Thanksgiving and Back to Work…


After a full week of non-work, the schools are in full swing again. The 1st day after a four day weekend seems to be a popular day for subs.

I picked up a two day (Mon/Tues) assignment for 5th grade. The other district that I haven’t worked in since last month has also been phoning non-stop since last night. Sorry guys!

One girl in today’s class was escorted to the classroom door by her mom and wanted me to be sure and “not let her get away with anything!” Her daughter Va__ was, understandably, totally embarrassed. I felt sorry her.

So of course, the only kid I had problems with today was ---- Va__!!

Va__: “I’m sick! (Not more than 10 minutes into class time)…I have to go the bathroom! (5 minutes before recess - Denied!)...Can I get a drink? (Denied!)...I have a headache! (Didn’t believe it – Denied!)...I did the assignment already! (Checked, wasn’t done)...I can’t run! (during P.E.) I have bad knees! shoes!...dress jeans! (I saw running during recess in the same shoes and pants)…I can’t walk! (to an alternate suggestion to running)”

Oh! Such whining!

I didn’t realize that the policy of “No student left behind” ended with “…Even if you have to drag them along kicking and screaming!).

In the good ole’ days, if you flunked, you stayed back and repeated the year. It usually took only one repeated year for the kid to figure out that he/she was going to spend MORE time in school this way and get on with the program.

But that was then…

Friday, November 25, 2005

Trade That Prius In On A New Hummer And Save!…

No school at all this week so we turn our attention to the news of the absurd:

If you thought you were going to save money and the planet earth by buying a electric, hybrid or a non-petroleum powered car, think again. While you might save a little piece the planet, you’re not going to save money if the Fed has its way.

From the U.S. Chamber of Congress on Future Highway and Public Transportation Financing:

“…To ensure adequate federal transportation revenues beyond 2015, the federal government can supplement current federal motor fuel taxes with an annual federal vehicle tax on hybrid and non-petroleum powered vehicles so that all passenger vehicles pay their fair share of highway use costs…”

Time to go trade in the Prius for that new Hummer and save on taxes!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Well it’s Tuesday night and no assignments yet this week.
No school Thursday or Friday, so tomorrow is it or nothing for the week.

I took my book and had lunch at the local McLibrary. You can’t beat the dollar menu for a cheap lunch.

While there, two young “Moms” and their kids were occupying the booth in front of mine when I overheard the following exchange:

Mom1: “Oh, yea! We’re totally into wine, now.”
Mom2: “Really? What kind?”
Mom1: “Bottled!”

Neither mom laughed, so I don’t think she was kidding!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

MeatHead Logic…

I found the following story totally bizarre:

Excerpt from linked story titled “Rob Reiner threatens hospitals on ballot issue” at

“…Hollywood director Rob Reiner warned the California Hospital Association Friday to withdraw or rewrite a ballot proposal it's pushing for 2006, saying it threatens to snatch up to $34 million a year from needy preschoolers…Reiner, a longtime activist, championed a 1998 ballot proposal slapping a 50-cents-a-pack tax on cigarettes to fund health and education programs for children up to 5 years old, now known as First 5 California…Reiner argued the hospital proposal, which calls for a $1.50 tax on each pack of cigarettes to fund emergency rooms and other health programs, would slash First 5 funding….purchases would inevitably decline as smokers shop elsewhere for lower prices or give up the habit.”

Hey Bobby! Wasn’t that the original goal? Encourage people to STOP USING TOBACCO? It sounds bizarre to me to oppose something that motivates people in that direction!

But then this isn’t really about what’s good for the people. It’s about politicians and money. In that context the logic isn’t surprising.

When it comes to California politics, anything that threatens a money source needs to be addressed and kept “All in the Family”.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Potty Humor!…


Overheard today in the staff lunch room from a 4th grade teacher:

“...You know J--- who sits in the desk at the front of the room near my chair?

He came in, sat down and just started laughing hysterically.
So I asked him: “What’s so funny?”

J--: “I just smelled my own fart from before!!”

I just looked at him for a moment and then picked up my chair and move it across the room.

The entire class, including J---, busted loose!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Quite As A Graveyard…

The last few weeks the phone has been ringing off the hook. Sometimes as many as six calls a day looking for subs to fill assignments.

The last two days was just the opposite. No calls and therefore no work from either district. The school calendars indicate that this week is for teacher/parent conferences. I wonder if that means there were no classes in session yesterday and today.

I do have a class for tomorrow, so I get at least three days this week.

This isn’t a good way to make steady income...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

101 Ways To Bug Your Teacher...


Monday and Tuesday assignments were 5th grade at different schools. Amazingly both assignment experiences were almost identical.

Both had great classes that were impressed and entertained enough with the HOMEWORK horror story that neither class had any behavior problems.

Both teachers left me incomplete lesson plans. By incomplete, I mean the book, overhead, key, manual I was to use was not anywhere to be found for the indicated activity.

“Winging it” was the order of these two days.

If last Thursdays post about the book "Thirteen Ways To Sink A Sub" was an interesting discovery, at least six of the kids in today’s class had the book titled: "101 Ways To Bug Your Teacher" by Lee Wardlaw.

They said it was sold at the school book fair and sold out in the first 20 minutes.

I reviewed the book and it does indeed have a compiled list in the back of well known tactics kids do use to irritate and infuriate the hapless lone adult at the front of the classroom. This stuff won’t work for those online school teachers. There are probably other tricks to bug people in virtual classrooms.

I don’t remember the list by the numbers, but all the classics are there. In my short career in this job I think I have experienced at least a third of the list.

And for all you pregnant teachers, the author has also penned the sequel: “101 Ways to Bug Your Parents”.

No comment…

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thirteen Ways To Sink A Sub! …


This is one of three schools in the district that might be described as “being in the bad part of town”. Since tomorrow is Veterans Day, a school holiday, and this week I’ve only had two half day classes, I decided to tough it out and get in a full day, pay day this week. Maybe today will be an exception to the day I’m expecting.

The first page of the teacher’s lesson plan is a letter to “To: My Sub” that starts out with:
“I’ll be really honest with you…”


Letter continues:
“…These kids are really a great group, but they can get to be a handful…”

Well, so much for the hoping for an exception to expectations.

The letter goes on to describe “Isolation Island” where six desks are butted up to and right in front of the teachers desk:

“…Kids at these desks are not allowed to work in groups. They are not allowed to talk to each other or anyone else in class and no one in class is allowed to talk to them. They can only talk when answering questions from you…”

Class starts at 08:05AM and I’m suddenly very, very tired at 07:45AM.

Instead of writing my real name on the board, I write “Mr. Homework”. It’s then that I hear some voices from outside:

“His name is HOMEWORK? Really? Let me see!”

Sure enough a few pairs of eyes are peeking in the window just under poster in the classroom window. The troops are advancing on my position and I can’t call in reinforcements. I’ve done all I can do for now. I’m ready for battle!

At 08:05AM, the enemy advances to surround my position, but I fire the first salvo.

“My name is Mr. Homework” and I relate the story of the FIVE HUNDRED WORD EXTRA HOMEWORK ESSAY! I have their unwavering, riveted attention. I tell them that only two classes have ever had to do the extra essay and only three have survived the day without any letters to “HOMEWORK” on the board. I tell them, I’d like to report to their teacher that this class made it #4 with not even the single letter ‘H’ on the board!

Not a sound or a peep during this introduction to MY CLASS.

At the end, a shy, slow hand is raised to poise a question. I take a second to survey the room. It’s still dead quite as I acknowledge the questioner who asks:

“What’s your wife’s name?”

I give her an evil grin as I respond:
“Mrs. Homework!”

The kids are smart enough to know I’m kidding, so I write my real name on the board and as we begin our day. To my surprise, for the rest of the day they work really hard and whenever the whiteboard board marker is tapped on the board, they all go dead silent.

During the last period silent reading time before dismissal, one girl came up to show me her library reading selection. To my surprise the title is "Thirteen Ways To Sink A Sub"

This can’t be what I think it is, can it? It HAS to be about submarines and naval tactics right? A quick look at the back cover synopsis reveals this book isn’t about any damn boats.

It’s about a substitute teacher on her first subbing day teaching in a 4th grade class. The kids decide to have a contest to see who can make her cry first.

Imagine! She’s reading an INSTRUCTION manual on how to make my day miserable. To say I was “surprised” to find this “humorous” story in an elementary school library is a bit of an understatement.

What’s next: “Tunneling and Excavation for Dummies” in the prison library?

Fortunately, these kids either hadn’t read the book or gave me a “pass” for today because I was able to end the day by telling them that they have made #4 on my list of great classes and I’ll be sure their teacher will know about it.

"Thirteen Ways To Sink A Sub"
Book Description:
“Hobie Hanson knows that the sounds coming from across the hall can mean only one thing: 4A has a substitute teacher. And she's sinking fast. Hobie's certain 4B will never be so lucky. Their regular fourth grade teacher, Mr. Star, is as healthy as a horse.

The very next day, though, Mr. Star rushes out of the room -- "indisposed," the principal says -- and Hobie and his classmates hear "s-u-b". They are prepared. No stranger could possibly withstand the volley from their vast arsenal of sub sinkers…”

Card catalog description:
The boys and girls in the fourth grade devise a contest to sink their substitute teacher by making her cry.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Class Mom! …


If I haven’t been called for an assignment by 09:00am from either district, the chances are there isn’t going to be one for that day. I can then make plans accordingly for my non-teaching day.

So just when I thought it was safe to starting calling a couple of buddies to meet for lunch, the phone rings at 12:00 noon for a ½ day Kindergarten assignment starting at 11:30am. This district uses teachers for each morning and afternoon session. The teacher I was to replace today was the morning teacher turned helper for the afternoon teacher.

I got the impression that the school was more surprised than I was when I reported in. I’m guessing that the school is required to put the assignment out on the system even if they have other non-credentialed contingency plans.

The teacher, obviously, did not expect any subs available for the day and had called in two “class moms” to help out.

Since I was there and getting paid, I ended up replacing one of the “class moms” monitoring the kids doing crayon family portraits for the afternoon.

What can I say? A job is a job…

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Choices! …


One of the benefits of this subbing gig is to accept or decline assignments. I can also cancel previously accepted assignments. While I haven’t done that yet, the chance to trade a half day/half pay job for a full day or a better class assignment is a good option to have.

Last night an hour after I accepted a half day job at the country club school, I got a call for a full day assignment at the school from hell in the other district.

So after weighing all the pros/cons, pluses/minuses, ups/downs it took a long millisecond to decide an extra ½ day in hell for the additional $50 just wasn’t worth it…!

I’m sure the districts frown on the practice of canceling accepted jobs. If true, it’s not serious enough to offer extra “combat pay” for the more difficult schools or higher daily rates to keep us exclusive to one district.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Two Blutos and a Popeye! …


If you could just pick and choose the students you want, then maybe 6th grade students might be tolerable.

I’m a pretty easy going guy with kids, but three boys in this class seemed determined to see how far they could push me before I cracked. Two big Bluto types and a skinny Popeye character continually tried to disrupt the class during the last part of the day.

The Mr. HOMEWORK thing kept the class on target for the first half of the day. But these three boys decided, evidentially, that after only the letter “H” was earned for the first half of the day, the possibility of the extra essay assignment was out of reach for the remainder of the day. As a result, these three characters earned “OMEWOR” during the last hour of class.

They seemed to relish the power they had over the rest of the class in determining the fate of the rest of the class in earning the extra essay assignment.

That was until, after earning “R”, I announced that, as “Mr. Homework”, I can and do sometimes reserve the right to change the rules on who might and might not be included in the extra assignment.

With that, I simply added the names of “Bluto1, Bluto2” and “Popeye” to my special hit list and announced that the extra essay will be assigned to these three and anyone else that I felt needed the extra attention.

That muted my “special guys” for the rest of the day and brightened the mood of the rest of the kids in class.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Suspended Poop! …


Despite my resolve to not accept any more assignments above grade 3 at this school, I did.

With no assignment calls this week and since I do need the $SD, I accepted this 4th grade assignment about 15 minutes before the class was due to clear the classroom door.

I barely had time to get to the school and make it to the classroom to open the door before the students started filing in. No “prep time” today!

Fourth grade boys are full of crap.

As if to prove the point, several of my boys were flying in and out of the bathroom during recess yelling things like “Gross!”, “It smells!, “Someone pooped all over the seat in there!” And then, unbelievably, they’d run BACK in with a buddy or two who hadn’t seen/smelled it yet to re-experience the fascinating event.

I, myself, declined several offers to “go see for yourself!” Unfortunately, the janitor had no such option.

Add to this a call from the office that one of my boys was being suspended for reasons they declined to disclose, simply reinforced my initial pledge to resist any more assignments above grade 3.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

All I Want For Christmas Is Two Stump Teeth...Fixed!

I think this is the first day of this school year that there have been NO calls for an assignment. I turned down an assignment yesterday because Claudette and I both had dentist appointments.

One of the reasons I started subbing, is to supplement our income to backfill the “unexpected” bills that come with age (ours, the car and the house).

Instead of adding the bills up in $US, which is very depressing, I now tend to calculate our expenses in $SD (Dollars per Subbing Day)

This week’s total:

Tires for the car: 7 $SD

Dentist bill for drilling, filling and crowning my tooth stump: 7.5 $SD

Another dentist bill for drilling, filling and crowning Claudette’s tooth stump (same tooth location): 7.5 $SD

Now, doesn’t 22 $SD sound much better than 2175.00 $US?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Extra Recess Drags!...


I subbed this class about a month ago. The class behavior was pretty much the same as back then.

The only unusual item on the lesson plan was “25 minutes of extra recess” which I originally thought was going to be pretty easy duty until I had to stand around doing nothing for that half hour.

After checking my watch several times, I realized that being bored really drags…

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Legend of Mr. HOMEWORK!...


Today was a late morning call for a 6th grade, half day assignment back at the same school where the legend of MR. HOMEWORK began.

When I took the assignment, I didn’t realize that this was the same school. I walked in to the class already in progress and saw a kid look up and do one of those classic comic double takes.

Then I heard some of the kids whispering: “remember the 500 word essay?”…”the HOMEWORK guy!”…“Is that the same guy?”

Yep! This class of 6th graders had more than a few of the same kids that spawned the story of what is known around this school as “the day a sub gave a class an extra homework assignment of a FIVE HUNDRED WORD essay”.

Of course the other kids wanted to know the details and so I let one of the more knowledgeable kids relate the story. As a result I got to hear about what transpired after I left the school that fateful afternoon.

It turns out that the kids did follow through with the assignment. One kid had an extra 200 tacked on his after back talking to the principal claiming that he wasn’t going to do it. The principle told them that “she is going to count each and every word to make sure it’s done”.

The following day, the teacher lambasted the class and took all “fun” privileges away for a month for embarrassing her and the school.

As for the letter writer, I found out that she is in a different class this year. I’m glad she got her wish to be transferred out and I’m glad to see that the school administration will back a “guest teacher” when it’s warranted.

It seems that the lesson and legend still worked today, as all I had to do to gain control was raise the white board marker and look menacing to remind them that I’m not bluffing.

After all, I’m MR. HOMEWORK!...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005



They say that “imitation” is the sincerest form of “flattery”….unless it’s a vocabulary word for 3rd graders and they decide to “imitate” the substitute teacher for the rest of the day. Then it’s just plain “annoying”.

Also “funny” but mostly just “annoying”…

Monday, October 24, 2005

Going To Hell If They Don't Comply?...

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 10/24/05

When students post their faces, personal diaries and gossip on Web sites like and, it is not simply harmless teen fun, according to one Sussex County Catholic school principal.

It's an open invitation to predators and an activity that Pope John XIII Regional High School in Sparta will no longer tolerate, the Rev. Kieran McHugh told a packed assembly of 900 high school students two weeks ago.

Effective immediately, and over student complaints, the teens were told to dismantle their accounts or similar sites with personal profiles and blogs. Defy the order and face suspension, students were told.

Full article here:
Principal curbs kids' Internet activity

Friday, October 21, 2005

What’s The Deal With Adolescent Girl Screaming?...


Today’s class was twenty 3rd graders! There was an even balance of ten boys and ten girls.

All, except one, were enthusiastic about doing the daily book work without cajoling from me. The exception was one boy who either “forgot” all his books at home or someone “stole” all his books from his desk. He didn’t really know which.

Duly noted on the after action substitute teacher report.

No messing around. Mr. HOMEWORK worked like a charm to keep the noise level in the classroom down. The final 30minutes of PE before dismissal was another matter.

I had them run relay races. Since I had 10 of each flavor, I had them run boys against the girls. Pretty close race resulted in some pretty excited kids cheering their team on!

The race was over and there were eight of the ten of the girls, bent at the waist, eyes squeezed shut, fists vibrating, standing there SCREAMING.

I MEAN PHYSICALLY PAINFUL, SHRIEKING PITCH, MAX VOLUMN LEVEL SCREAMING for all the lung power these little girls were worth.

Amazingly, they appeared to be having FUN doing it!

I’ve noticed this phenomena, occasionally, over my short time on this earth, that little girls (and maybe some adult ones too?) just seem to like to scream for the sound it makes. They aren’t hurt, they aren’t scared, they aren’t in any danger, they just SCREAM for the hell of it.

What’s up wit dat?

Can someone explain it to me? Isn’t the experience as painful to their little ears as it is to mine? Does the average adolescent female actually find pleasure in this activity?

Really! I want to know!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Class Spy!...


Day #2 with the same class and it went smooth as silk. That today was a short day is just an added bonus.

As they were filing out at the end of the day, I heard several of the kids asking each other: “Who was the spy?”

Since we didn’t have any reading or writing lessons dealing with “spies”, I asked a couple on the way out the door what the deal was with “THE SPY!”.

They told me that sometimes their teacher will ask one of the students in class to “be the spy” to take notes and relate any problems the class had when she was out. It sounded like the emphasis was more on collecting intelligence about which kids were acting up .vs. how “my performance” went as the substitute teacher.

While I instinctively know that the teachers are curious how the “guest teacher” did with his/her charges and probably does ask a few questions on how the experience went, it’s still a little unnerving to find out that I might have had a “SPY” working undercover, taking notes, compiling a dossier for who knows what purpose.

Could this be the actual reason this class was so smooth to work with? Is there really a spy or is this some kind of psychological classroom technique this teacher uses to instill behavior control by telling them “…there might be an activated narc. So behave!”

Will I be subjected to “extra security” at the school office the next time I’m at the school? Am I being paranoid? Will I end up on the TSA no-fly list? Am I talking to myself again?

Who said that?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Class On Autopilot!...


I picked up another two day assignment for a 4th-5th combo class at another school in the same district. No yelling, no goofing around, no nonsense.

This class runs itself. Today’s assignments were already listed on the board for both the 4th and 5th graders and, other than taking the roll, handing out test papers and answering a few questions, I had pretty much had nothing to do.

They didn’t need any instruction on how to do the math, science, reading or writing sections.

They didn’t need me to use the Teacher’s Edition of any of the text books to correct the homework. They self correct it on their own using the TE books. And yes, they do mark the wrong answers as they each watch each other like hawks in case anyone tries to change an answer.

If fact, they didn’t need me to be there at all. This class runs on autopilot!

I asked one of the veteran teachers how this is accomplished. He told me that they specially hand pick only the most trustworthy kids for the combo classes at this school.

Wow what a concept! Works for me!

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Space Makes All The Difference!...


Today was the second day with the 4th-5th combo class from last Friday. The 4th graders continuing project assignment was to collect and document facts about the ship, Titanic. This class has in room computers that they are allowed to use for research.

So while working with the 5th grade section, I’m distracted by three of the Titanic researchers crowded around one of the computers giggling and shushing each other as to not draw too much attention.

Of course all that draws my attention and I have to go see what they’ve stumbled across. What they found was the site: Titanic in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies. It’s actually a pretty accurate summation of the movie but, as I told them with a stern look, not a good use of the computer time they should be using for finding actual facts for their project.

I thought I had them back on tract until a short time later I see the boys crowded around the computer again.

“I hope that’s not more bunny videos!” I announced loudly as I marched to the back of the room. The kid-in-chair panicked because instead of simply exiting the IE browser to delete the Yahoo search results page, he instead tried to block the data with his hands over the screen.

I made him back away to reveal the search results listing porno sites. Looking in the search window to see what he had used to get so far off topic, I saw the problem right away.

Inadvertent, hopefully, splitting the search word “Titanic” with a space after the second ‘t’ gets you into a whole ‘nother area of sniggling 4th grade boy material.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Don’t Mess With The Guy In The Wheelchair!...


I picked up a two day assignment for, yet another, 5th grade class for today and Monday. The difference between this class and yesterdays nightmare is like “Night-N-Day”. I’m looking forward to class on Monday.

Anyway, the kids had an assembly about “making the right choices” this morning, given by a guy named Trooper Johnson. He’s captain of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Golden State Road Warriors.

His story about how he ended up in a chair is pretty compelling and stresses about the dangers of alcohol and its’ affects on making some pretty serious, wrong choices. Part of his presentation involves playing some ole’ B-Ball with kids from the audience.

The kids and teachers had a riot watching this guy in a chair run the ball over, under, around and through the legs of each boy and girl selected from the group.

Then good ole’ Trooper asked the kids if one of the teachers should play. The kids all cheered for one Mr. “I forgot his name already” to get out there and play. Johnson tossed him the ball and I thought that this should be good for a laugh or three.

He promptly passed the ball to the teacher guy next to him complaining about a sore ankle. Then THAT guy looks around and shoots ME the ball claiming that he’s also injured.

Well, I can play that game and turned around looking for someone who’s actually a real teacher at this school only to find the female teachers backing off and no other adult within passing range.

Then my class started yelling “Yea! Mr. Homework, Mr. Homework, Mr. Homework…..”.

The kids NOT in my class started chanting “Yea! Mr. Homer, Mr. Homer, Mr. Homer…” thinking that the kids in my class couldn’t be actually be chanting for someone named “MR. HOMEWORK”.

Johnson is waiting and waving me in, so I threaded my way through the crowd to the court where, in short order, I promptly got my ass handed back to me.

I didn’t think it was the good laugh or three I thought it was gonna be but the kids love it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Half Day Hell! …


The title says it all. I’m fortunate it was only a half day assignment in this 5th grade class.

The only time they weren’t shouting continuously was when I bet them they could not be absolutely quiet for a whole minute.

I was right the first seven times they attempted this feat. The average time to failure was 3 to 10 seconds.

They finally achieved success on try number eight where they went silent for 2 minutes and 28 seconds. After that it was a lost cause for the rest of the day.

The teacher said that all the upper grades in the school are the same.

Note to self: Nothing over G3 when accepting future assignments at this school.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Way Children See Things!...

Great black licorice pulled off two crowns so dentist today instead of school. Found the following floating around the net:

The Way Children See Things!

I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a Woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my 5-year-old shout from the back seat, "Mom! That lady isn't wearing a seat belt!

My son Zachary, 4, came screaming out of the bathroom to tell me he'd dropped his toothbrush in the toilet. So I fished it out and threw it in the garbage. Zachary stood there thinking for a moment, then ran to my bathroom and came out with my toothbrush. He held it up and said with a charming little smile, "We better throw this one out too then, 'cause it fell in the toilet a few days ago.

On the first day of school, a first-grader handed his teacher a Note from his mother. The note read, "The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents."

A woman was trying hard to get the ketchup to come out of the jar. During her struggle the phone rang so she asked her 4-year-old daughter to answer the phone. "It's the minister, Mommy," the child said to her mother. Then she added, "Mommy can't come to the phone to talk to you right now. She's hitting the bottle."

A little boy got lost at the YMCA and found himself in the women's locker room. When he was spotted, the room burst into shrieks, with ladies grabbing towels and running for cover. The little boy watched in amazement and then asked, "What's the matter haven't you ever seen a little boy before?"

While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my 4- year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. The various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs, unfailingly intrigued her. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, "The tooth fairy will never believe this!"

A little girl was watching her parents dress for a party. When she saw her dad donning his tuxedo, she warned, "Daddy, you shouldn't wear that suit."
"And why not, darling?" "You know that it always gives you a headache the next morning."

While walking along the sidewalk in front of his church, our minister heard the intoning of a prayer that nearly made his collar wilt. Apparently, his 5-year-old son and his playmates had found a dead robin. Feeling that proper burial should be performed, they had secured a small box and cotton batting, then dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of the deceased. The minister's son was chosen to say the appropriate prayer s and with sonorous dignity intoned his version of what he thought his Father always said: "Glory be unto the Faaaather, and unto the Sonnn .. and into the hole he gooooes."

A little girl had just finished her first week of school. "I'm just wasting my time," she said to her mother. "I can't read, I can't write and they won't let me talk!"

A little boy opened the big family bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible. He picked up the object and looked at it. What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages. "Mama, look what I found", the boy called out." What have you got there, dear?" With astonishment in the young boy's voice, he answered, "I think it's Adam's underwear!"

Monday, October 10, 2005

It’s Important To Know How To Tell Time…


It’s not a good sign when the lesson plan is missing as was the case today for this 1st grade class. Double checked the teacher’s staff box and cruised every inch of the classroom. All I found was a “general lesson plan” containing only subjects with no specifics.

There was also a general schedule on the board that indicated that this class had different arrival times for two sections of the class.

The first half class of “early readers” came in at 08:00am followed by the last half “late readers” at 09:00am. This meant that that there was also a staggered dismissal time (01:25pm and 02:25pm) for the two groups. Beyond that, I had no specific idea what reading, math, writing or spelling lessons I was supposed to do with them. Fortunately, the two neighboring 1st grade teachers, noting the lack of a lesson plan, brought in materials and made copies of worksheets from their classes to work with.

As a topper, for today, it was also picture day in the cafeteria. This was listed on the board for 09:15am. Just enough time to take roll and get them lined up and ready to go.

The thing that’s hard about 1st graders is that most of them still can’t tell time yet. So there is a constant clamor and yank at the shirt sleeves followed by one or more of the following endless litany of questions about the time.

“It’s time for recess now?”

“We’re ‘sposed to get our picture taken today. I think it’s now!”

“I think it’s time for lunch now! Can we go?”

“Are you sure it’s not time for snack? I’m hungry! We get a snack at recess”.

…and so it continues.

The constant reassurance that, I can actually tell what time it really is, goes unheeded. Trying to teach them how to tell time for themselves as indicated on the analog classroom clock is pretty much beyond their comprehension.

When it IS finally picture time, we take a tour around the school looking for the “big tree” on campus where the group picture is to be taken. It seems only the individual pictures are taken in the cafeteria and no one IN the cafeteria actually knows how to direct us to the “group picture tree”.

We locate the “group picture tree” to be told that we’re too early. They sent out a notice last night to reschedule individual class times. Of course without a lesson plan, there is no way for me to know of the change. The photo guy felt sorry for me and let me cut the line after 20mins waiting in the hot sun with 19 squirmy, antsy, loud 1st graders so I could take them back to the cafeteria for individual pictures.

By the time we got all the pictures done, we were already 10 minutes into the 1st recess so I let them loose as they exited the cafeteria. I went back the classroom where I discovered that someone had delivered the missing lesson plan! Finally some luck coming my way. I didn’t care where it was found or who delivered it, only that I had it.

With the lesson plan, there is important information about handing out the homework sheets before the “early reader” group leaves for the day. This is nice to know since the “general plan” had nothing about homework assignments.

Finally after lunch and “back on track” with a plan, we plow on with math, story reading and journal writing when one of the little tykes raises his hand and says: “We’re ‘sposed to go home now”. I look up at the clock and to my shock it is 20 minutes after the hour. The “early reading” group is due to be dismissed in 5 minutes and I haven’t passed out the homework sheets yet!

I get the group to put away their stuff while frantically placing homework assignments at each student desk. With 1 minute to go, homework distributed and back packs packed, I dismissed the “early group” with a sigh of relief and turned my attention to the “late group”.

A few minutes into the “late group” reading, there is a knock at the door and three of the “early” dismissed are back saying their sister/brother/mom isn’t there to pick them up yet.

That’s when I had a bad feeling.

I took another look at the classroom clock and to my horror realized it was 12:25 and not 01:25.

I had just let ten 1st grade kids out of class an hour early.

I rushed outside and rounded up a total of six of the missing. That left four unaccounted for, so I called the office, told them I had read the clock wrong, dismissed some kids early and told them I was missing four from Ms. L’s class. I of course couldn’t give them names right then, since I hadn’t sorted out the names of the six I HAD rounded up.

The office and yard duty people located three of the missing waiting at the bus pick up that wouldn’t be coming for another hour. The 4th missing showed back up at the classroom looking for his jacket he accidentally left. He gave me the evil eye for the next hour for making him stay in class when he thought he should be allowed to leave.

When I think about what bad things could have happened, I realize how lucky I was that nothing did happened this time. After class one of the other 1st grade teachers came by and asked, with a wink, “What time is it?”

My lesson for today: “It’s important to know how to tell time…”

Friday, October 07, 2005

Time To Buy A Lotto Ticket!…


Over slept this morning and woke up only 30 minutes from when I was supposed to be at the school. I showered, shaved, dressed and was out the door 25 minutes later.

Luckily, the school for this morning’s 3rd grade assignment is only 3 minutes away so I was actually on time!

These 3rd graders were enthusiastic to be at school, did all the work with a minimum of disruption, participated in the instruction, and I had NO little weirdoes that caused ANY problems!

They responded to the “MR. HOMEWORK” noise level control technique almost instantly every time I raised the whiteboard marker to indicate the noise level was getting too loud.

These guys were actually FUN to be with today!

I'm feeling great to have gotten a terrific bunch of kids at a school close to home on a day I over slept.

What a change from just two days ago in a class that was just the polar opposite of this one at the far end of the district.

I left a note for the teacher that said her class for today was “A+++!”

I’m feeling so great and lucky today that I going to buy a Lotto ticket tomorrow to see if my luck holds out! If there is a blog post after today, you can assume my luck didn’t extend beyond today.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What’s It Take?…


What can you say about 5th grade students who still act up in class when the PRINCIPAL is STANDING IN THE ROOM! Her comment to me is: ‘Their regular teacher has a high noise tolerance’.

My HOMEWORK technique worked not so well. Three visits from the principal and one lecture from the teacher next door made for ONE LONG DISRUPTIVE DAY. I’m not sure how much the kids learn in this environment. Probably not much.

Taking tomorrow off to recuperate and spend the day with one of my granddaughters.

Good Night!

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Big Giant Lesson Plan…


The main tool I need as a substitute teacher, is a good lesson plan from the teacher. It is my security blanket. I usually carry it around with me or stick it in my pocket for reference. I experience mild sensations of panic if I put it down somewhere and forget where it is.

I NEED that plan.

I have noted in past posts instances of less than ideal plans. I’ve encountered the range of plan formats that include professional word processed plans, handwritten plans, no lesson plan, Post-It Note lesson plans, 2nd hand plans, bad lesson plans, private lingo plan, minimal lesson plan, the audio lesson plan, and "things I can't do" plan.

So you can imagine my amazement, or should I say dismay-zment, when I walked into this 4th grade classroom to confront the BIG GIANT lesson plan. Written on, not one, but TWO 3’x2’ sheets of chart paper. TWELVE SQUARE FEET of lesson plan.

While I’m just gawking at the gargantuan plan, the teacher next door drops in and greets me with. “How’s it going?” I just point at the deceased tree of a plan with a few mumbled words about “...just reviewing the lesson plan”. She looks to where my quivering finger is pointing and her single comment is “Oh My!”

I, of course, cannot carry this thing around all day. I could, possibility, use it as a sail for a small boat, but anything else is just useless.

So I take the next 15 minutes of my prep time to transcribe the BIG GIANT PLAN onto a single manageable sheet of note paper.

I thought about leaving her a BIG GIANT DAILY SUBSTITUTE TEACHER REPORT, but I just didn’t have the energy to write that big.

Maybe I should have left it on a Post-It Note?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sexual Harassment, Fight, Fight, Fight…


Second graders are a trip. Fresh from graduating the 1st grade, these kids are still in the tattle tale stage. Everything from “She said a bad word!” to “Those boys were trying to look at my underpants!”

I called the two young punks up to the front of the class and gave them my best “evil eye” demanding an apology to the girl they were curious about. I wonder what Bill Clinton was like as a second grader. Is that how his reputation started?

Today we blew off an hour going to an assembly skit for the lower graders about being the new kid in school, dealing with bullies and smoking. The kids thought it was great but I thought it was even better when the actor asked the kids about “solution choices” when dealing with a bully.

The presented choices were:
1. Hide.
2. Fight.
3. Talk it out.

Bully Victim: “Should I hide?”
Kids: “Yea! Hide!”

Bully Victim: “Should I fight?”
Kids: (chanting) “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Bully Victim: “Or should I try and talk it out?”
Kids: (continue chanting) “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Bully Victim: “Don’t you think talking it out is better?”
Kids: (continue chanting) “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Bully Victim: “I donno, I think talking it out might be better. Don’t you?”
(At this point the kids must have realized that the skit wasn’t going anywhere until they responded correctly)
Kids: (quieter) “Yea, talk it out”.

Somehow “TALK IT OUT, TALK IT OUT, TALK IT OUT” just doesn’t seem to have the same mob quality rhythm as “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Thank God for P.E…


Teacher called in sick with a migraine. If I was stuck with a class like this 6th grade class every day, I’d have a permanent migraine too.

In addition to earning the distinction of being only the second class I’ve ever had reach the HOMEWORK anti-goal, they reached it in record time. By 10:00am, I was ready to quit and go home.

Despite three surprise visits from the principal of the school, and two separate lectures from same said principal, half this class had no desire to cooperate.

Best part of my day was the last hour P.E. where I could put a little physical distance between them and me.

I’m taking tomorrow off…

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bad News…


Well, my four day sub assignment ended after just two days. Not a real biggie. I guess the teacher got everything squared away at home and was ready to re-take control of her class. I just didn’t appreciate the way I got the news. A phone or email as late as Sunday night would have been acceptable, but not at 05:00am Monday morning.

If you live long enough, bad news will come your way. It’s a part of life and unavoidable. It’s just that sometimes the delivery method and/or timing could be managed to lessen the impact.

Some of the more memorable examples how I got “The Bad News!”

1. Promise a young college graduate all year long that a job is waiting for him after college graduation and then cancel that promise two weeks before the intended job start date and one week before his wedding and honeymoon.

2. Reassure your employee that the rumors are false about his job being outsourced overseas before he goes on vacation only get the news his job left while he was on vacation. The boss delivers the news via answering machine the weekend I get back from vacation. Luckily, he didn’t have my cell number or he would have tried to call me a week earlier in London so the termination dates could have been recorded a week earlier. Nice guy, eh?

3. Have an automated system call at 05:30am and wake me from a sound sleep to tell me that my 2-day substitute teaching assignment for day and tomorrow is cancelled. Couldn’t that piece of news waited for at least one more hour of peaceful slumber? I guess I should be grateful they didn’t call at 04:00am.

As it turned out, the other school district called later and I picked up a job for a 5th grade class starting at 10:00am. The only thing I lost today was a couple hours additional sleep.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Student Elections…


Day 2 of the 4 day subbing assignment finds the school in full Election Day swing. The kids had a morning assembly to hear the campaign speeches from about 60 candidates for five student council offices. Offices of President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and School Historian were all up for grabs.

Some of the expected unattainable campaign promises:
1. Candy apples for lunch!!
2. Open access to the school playground after hours and weekends!!
3. Less homework!!
4. More recess!!

-- AND --

5. Less THINKING!!

Yep. One candidate for President actually promised “Less Thinking”. This got a big laugh from all the teachers present for the assembly.

Either this kid has his tongue planted firmly in cheek or is impressively perceptive about the apparent intelligence of today’s average voter.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Kids Are Like Pizza…

Back to the same class I had last Wednesday.

I met with the teacher before class and she said she needed to be away for the next week or so and wanted to know if I could take her class for the next three school days. Her dad is sick and needs constant monitoring at home after the hospital.

“Sure” I said. The kids were great last time so I felt confidant that today and three more should be no problem.

When I went to pick them up for the start of class, I heard a chorus of “Hey look! It’s Mr. Homework”

I had, indeed, used my tried and proven method of classroom control last Wednesday, by adding letter by letter to the word “HOMEWORK” at each noise level event, the class remained fairly workable. Last Wednesday’s effort made it through the end of class without the issuing the final “K”, so awarding the threatened essay was averted.

By the end of today, I’m not as confident as I was at the beginning of the day. The frequency rate in accumulating letters to “HOMEWORK” has increased. While it IS the same class, they might be catching on to my “system”.

These kids are like pizza! It’s great the first time just out of the oven. The next day leftovers are still good, but not great. The third day, it’s just edible. The fourth day it’s time to throw out.

Hummm. Today was left over day. Tomorrow is the “just edible” day. That means Monday and Tuesday are …. Oh, damn!...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Passin’ On the Bug…

Monday: Cured and ready to go back to school. No calls.

Tuesday: Couldn’t take any sub today jobs because today the car seems to have contracted my flu bug. It’s stumbling, stuttering and cough like balking down the road. $600 bucks later, the car is well again. Now I’M feeling “poorly” again.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

L’ill Germ Bags Got Me…

No calls Thursday and sick on Friday. The little germ bags must have got to me at school somewhere. Hope to be feeling better for tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Standing Out…


As a sub, you go into a classroom not knowing what to expect from that morning’s group of kids. They don’t know you and you don’t know them.

It is only a small minority that stands out and then it’s usually for the wrong reasons. I know from my brief experience that the kids’ names I get to know quickly are those that give me the hardest time.

A smaller minority of kids stand out for the opposite reason. These are the kids that are the helpful, enthusiastic, active (in a good way) and are fun to have in class.

For the most part, the majority of the kids don’t particularly stand out because they don’t act out; they do their work quietly and fly mostly under my substitute teacher radar.

Today’s 5th grade class, as a whole, was great. No trouble makers. The lesson plan and materials were exactly right. No “stand outs” for the wrong reasons.

But there was this one kid....

She was smiley, bright eyed, quietly responsive, and was doing all the work. Bright-eyes was just like the rest of the “not standing out” kids.

The only thing I DID notice about her was a slightly odd speech “quality”. Not exactly a speech impediment or lisp, but something just vaguely off. It was certainly not odd enough to divert my attention in a school district where accents and native foreign languages are the norm more than the exception.

At the 5th grade P.E. period, I was exchanging pleasantries with one of the other 5th grade teachers, when Bright-Eyes walked by with a small group of friends. The teacher asked me how she was doing in my class. I responded that she and all the rest of the kids were doing great.

He then told me, “I’ll bet you didn’t notice that she is deaf.”

I must admit that I was kind of stunned speechless at that statement. The teacher told me that when her family emigrated to the U.S., the kids had received a slew of immunization shots before their visa could be approved. A reaction to the immunizations left both her and her brother deaf. The prognosis they were given is that it might be up to 5-10 years if and when they might regain their hearing.

I tried to remember how many times I had called on Bright-Eyes to answer some question or read a passage from a book assignment without noticing anything even hinting that she couldn’t hear me. She just didn’t stand out.

The only clue I had that I missed was her speech pattern that the non-signing, hearing impaired sometimes have.

When I asked how she manages in class, the teacher explained that she can read lips, and watches for visual cues from the kids around her to figure out which books and the pages she needs to be on to do her work.

After P.E., and for the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but be amazed how this girl functioned in class. I now noticed that she was constantly in tune with the other girls at her desk. Quick glances at what papers and books she needed were very subtle. During reading when Bright-Eyes was called on, the girl next to her gave her elbow a nudge and pointed in the book the passage she was supposed to read and off she went without a hitch.

After the kids have left for the day, I had to correct a “capitalization exam” the kids had taken earlier that morning. Twenty-five mal-formed sentences in all lower case. Of the 23 exams I corrected, only one near the bottom of the pile, had no errors.

It was Bright-Eyes, the most “Out Standing” kid I have met so far.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005



I checked in at the school for this 4th grade assignment. I was assured that the attendance sheet was already in the room. The teachers’ desk had the lesson plan and two thirds of the books and work sheets to be done for the day but no attendance sheet. A trip back to the office and a repeat check of her box didn’t produce the missing attendance list.

I’m running out of time as the kids are due through the door in about 10 minutes and I still haven’t found the other third of the material I need or that damned attendance list. So it’s hide-n-seek time.

I start at the classroom door and hunt on every exposed table top, filing cabinet and finally found the attendance sheet on the overhead projector stand. I found what looked like the other third of the teaching materials on a low table under the map of the world.

With the newly found work pile there was also a second stack of math tests completely different in content and difficulty from the stack piled under the lesson plan.

Now I have to give a math test not knowing which one to give when the time comes.

I’m starting to feel like a contestant in a game called “Let’s punk the sub!” I asked a couple of the more reliable girls which math test looked correct when it came time for the math test.

If it was wrong, it’s not my fault. Bad planning on teachers end results in marginal quality on mine.

Friday, September 09, 2005

What Time Is Lunch?…


The detailed three page lesson plan for this 2nd grade class assignment was clear, concise and complete. The required materials were labeled and arrayed in order of use on a desk in the corner of the room. I couldn’t ask for a better start.

Then the kids came in.

No one in this class can seem to ask a question unless their nose is planted squarely in my face.

ME: “Ok! RULE for today! You have sit down and raise your hand to ask a question.”

I think I repeated this phrase ten thousand times that morning and still there would be a tug on my [shirt/pant leg/hand/arm]: “[Where/what/when/how/why/can] I [read/ write/ get/ put/ have] [that/ this/ he/ she/ it/ them]?”

Each time I’d look the little yanker kid (YK) in the eye and ask: “Are you in your seat with hand raised”?

YK: “Oh…I forgot.” And back to his/her seat they go.
(Repeat this scene all morning…)

Finally, during the math work sheet, a hand is raised! The little YK is IN her seat!

Praising the little YK for being seated and quietly raining her hand, I smilingly ask: “Now what question do you have?”

YK: “What time is lunch?”

ME: Eyes closed, rubbing forehead with thumb and index finger. “Ok. Listen up. New rule! You have sit down and raise your hand to ask a question AND the question has to be about the work we are doing NOW!”

The rest of the day we worked on the “…work we are doing NOW!” with not much progress.

Class behavior report:
Four boys earn first level warning cards for acting up in class.
One boy earns a second level timeout after throwing a fit about getting a warning card.

Injury report:
“Throwing Fit” kid fakes fall and points to elbow claiming to need a cold pack from the health office. He becomes indignant and starts to cry when request is refused. Somewhat mollified when supplied wet paper towel.

Oh Damn! report:
Kid waits too long to ask permission to go to the bathroom. We have leakage. Janitors do “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to do choose who gets damage control.

The lesson plans were great but execution of the plan not so smooth.

I’m taking Monday off…

Thursday, September 08, 2005

First Call For This Week...


First call of the week came for a late morning half day for a 6th grade class. The moderately noisy thirty-four kids got really into keeping it down after I related the story of a 5th grade class that got the HOMEWORK assignment I handed out last year.

They were impressed enough to behave the rest of the day. I think I found a new classroom behavior tool.

It was an easy day. Lesson plan indicated that they had work already assigned and no instruction from me was needed except to answer questions. Lunch, PE and recess pretty much took up most of my half day.

I had only one kid try to scam me. She asked to go to the bathroom OR get a drink of water? I guess she thought that by throwing out a bunch of options, one might actually get granted. I’m guessing she’ll get better at the game as the year progresses.

I got a call for a full day 2nd grade tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

English As She Is Spoke…

No calls for today after the long three day Labor Day weekend.

Surfing the net did uncover this hilarious gem of literature. “English As She Is Spoke” or EASIS for short is without question the worst phrasebook ever written. Click the link and read it aloud for the full effect.

Excerpt from: Anecdotes

A man one's was presented at a magistrate which had a considerable library. "What you make?" beg him the magistrate. "I do some books," he was answered. "But any of your books I did not seen its.--I believe it so, was answered the author; I mak nothign for Paris. From a of my works is imprinted, I send the edition for America; I don't compose what to colonies."

Excerpt from: Familiar Phrases

These apricots and these peaches make me and to come water in the mouth.

Excerpt from: Idiotisms and Proverbs

Take out the live coals with the hand of the cat.
A horse baared don't look him the tooth.
Take the occasion for the hairs.
To do a wink to some body.
So many go the jar to spring, than at last rest there.

Excerpt from: Familiar Dialogue With a Bookseller

What is there in new's litterature?
Little or almost nothing, it not appears any thing of note.
And yet one imprint many deal.
But why, you and another book seller, you does not to imprint some good wooks?
There is a reason for that, it is that you cannot to sell its. The actual-liking of the public is depraved they does not read who for to amuse one's self ant but to instruct one's.
But the letter's men who cultivate the arts and the sciences they can't to pass without the books.
A little learneds are happies enough for to may to satisfy their fancies on the literature.
I have only been able to procure the octo-decimo edition, which is embellished with plates beautifully coloured.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Back Story…

Last Tuesday’s 1st grade lesson plan included reading "Substitute Teacher Plans" to the kids.

From the Amazon review section:

“…A too-tired teacher takes a personal day after carefully making plans for her substitute and the class, and for herself during her time off. In her weariness, Miss Huff inadvertently reverses the activities lists, to everyone's delight. As the children and the sub go off to ride a roller coaster, skydive, build a huge sand castle, and so on, the teacher happily settles down to read, write, practice math by paying her bills, etc. … When Miss Huff returns the following day, she finds a thank-you note from her stand-in. The principal arrives asking for an explanation and is promptly invited to join Miss Huff and her class to take acrobatic flight training…”

Now the kids really liked it and all bought the story line but I think the there are some serious questions to be answered here:

Item 1: Miss Huff CLAIMS to be too tired, yet she was planning to ride roller coasters, do skydiving, skiing, scuba diving, visit the circus AND build sand castles at the beach. ALL IN ONE DAY! Does this sound like a “too tired” teacher to you? I think not!

Item 2: Miss Huff mixes up the lists and yet doesn’t realize it the entire day. Is Miss Huff in that much of a chemical fog that she “forgot” all that fun stuff? Me thinks she’s been “huffing” the glue sticks a bit much.

Item 3: Amazingly Miss Huff’s sub, Mrs. Martin, doesn’t even question her very odd lesson plan for teaching the kids. She just calls the office to get an instantly available school bus to cart 20 kids off campus without even ONE permission slip!

Item 4: Just where does Mrs. Martin GET all the MONEY for tickets to the circus, scuba diving rental, sky diving lessons and lift tickets to ski for 20 kids? Substitute teacher’s pay rate? School has loads of extra cash? A mystery it is!

Item 5: When the principal Mr. Johnson confronts Miss Huff and Mrs. Martin the next day, do they get the bums rush out the door? NO! Miss Huff arranges for her class AND Principal Johnson to go take acrobatic flight training!

Clearly these people are all in cahoots, embezzling school district funds to cover for a deranged teacher, an underpaid substitute teacher and an unscrupulous principal who may or may not have lecherous intentions toward his favorite chemically dependent 1st grade teacher.

Now where’s that number for “60 Minutes”…

Tuesday, August 30, 2005



At first, things started smoothly with these seventeen first graders.

Then, while returning from the first recess one of the girls said she didn’t feel well and wanted to go to the health office. As a second year veteran substitute teacher, I know that the kids are always trying to get out of class to the bathroom, health office or anyplace that’s not in the classroom. Instead, I applied the medicinal cure-all wet paper towel. She was happy with that, but I kept an eye on her just in case.

Ten minutes later I sent her off to the health office with a note. She was back less than ten minutes after that with a note from the school nurse saying she seems fine now and her temperature was 99F. It WAS a hot day and the kids WERE running around at recess.

By the time lunch bell rang she looked a lot worse and was complaining about a headache so I dropped her off at the health office once again on the way to deliver the rest of the kids to the cafeteria. During lunch I got word that she was going home with a temp of 102F

After the lunch recess, the yard duty people informed me that another one of the girls in my class had fallen on her back from the monkey bars and was being sent home.

Back from lunch, yet another girl was staring at the ceiling while pointing to her bloody nose while the boy next to her pulled up his pant leg and promptly picked a scab off his knee that started bleeding.

YIKES! In less than half a day, almost 25% of my class is sick, maimed or injured! Fortunately the wet paper towel cure worked on my last two mini-patients. I closed out the day reporting only a 12% medical emergency loss of students in my report to the teacher.

What a day. I hope I can get through the next class injury free.

Monday, August 29, 2005

BE the Alpha Dog…

Claudette and I spent the weekend visiting my cousin, her sister and their respective mates at their, soon to be, retirement place on the coast in Pacific Grove, Calif. Two pleasantly cool days spent enjoying the soothing sound of Pacific waves crashing the shore line while the home front roasted in 90+F heat.

My cousins are full blooded teachers of what must be many, many, many years of experience (2nd grade and Kindergarten) and cousin-in-law, Tony, is a retired teacher while Terry, the other cousin-in-law, is just an ordinary…..rocket scientist! Really!

What a wealth of minds to pick from for advice in the up coming school year!

Anyway, between glasses of cold beer on the terrace of the restaurant at Spanish Bay and more wine attending Carmel’s outdoor Theater in the Forest presentation of “Beauty and the Beast”, I came away with the following two teaching tips.

#1 Be the “alpha dog”…

When escorting the kids to lunch or the library, always lead the line. Never follow. They should always be behind you and in line. Show them who’s the boss right off otherwise you’ll have them running farther and farther ahead and finally off the leash. Thanks Mary!

#2 It’s OK to cry…

If you have a crying kid demanding attention, just gently let them know it’s ok to cry but to go over in some isolated part of the room until they feel they’d like to come back and join the group. After a while, they’ll see that they are not getting the attention they wanted and are missing out on all that Kindergarten fun. Thanks Connie!

Connie had no advice for me if it was the teacher that needed a good cry…

Thursday, August 25, 2005

And So Begins The Second Year…

Six-Forty-Five AM call. It begins with the automated call system voice. “Hello! This is the OG School District calling. We have an assignment for (insert my name here). Please enter your PIN….”

Seventeen 3rd graders still acting a little like the 2nd graders they were a short time ago. Very concerned about the time when recess and lunch are.

The teacher has a wind chime that dangles from the ceiling in the front of the room at just about 5’ 7” off the floor. I’m 5’ 9”, so the kids had a giggle every time I backed into it getting papers and books for the next lesson. The kids said the other sub yesterday had also threatened to chop it off as he, evidentially, had the same problem.

This is the third day of school and I’m the second sub they’ve had in so many days. Word is that the teacher’s mother is very old and in her last days. This was ON the lesson plan! I can sympathize, but the kids are getting short changed here. The school would probably do better by the kids in hiring a full time sub (not me) to take the class for the indefinite time this teacher needs to be away.

My day ended with a first. I had “yard duty” directing car traffic of parents continuously circling the parking lot trying to pick up their kids after school. What a waste of gas at today’s prices.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


School starts up today. No calls to sub yet and therefore no new “subbing in the classroom” blog material to post about. So I thought I’d venture into a topic that I previously deemed a bit “too snarky” for public review.

The first thing I discovered is that “snarky” is a real word! : “adj. Slang snark·i·er, snark·i·est Irritable or short-tempered; irascible”

I first time I heard this term was from Ginny on her Singing Pigs blog.

After listening to a friend of mine complain of his mail delivery (both too late AND too early), I accused him of being a “happiness vacuum” (thanks again for the term Ginny…). He now, sometimes, calls and leaves what my wife terms “obscene sucking noises” on the answering machine.

Slightly rude and obscene. That’s how we guys are with each other. But you gotta love us anyway, right?

Disclaimer to still new brides: Snarky behavior on our part probably does NOT apply to your newly married beausband. To all new beausbands, I apologize if your wife interrogates you about your sympathies related to this post. (You can blind email me later…)

Anyway, a bunch of us old married “guys” were standing around before church just BS-ing when one of our fellow chuckle heads announced that he’d really like to have a “pause” button once and a while for his wife. She DOES talk a lot, but in order to protect the guilty no names will be mentioned here.

From that simple, single statement we “guys” brainstormed and invented the “TIVO-Wife”!!.

TIVO-Wife feature list:

Pause: Obvious.

Volume: Obvious

Channel: Can we change the topic?

Re-play: For when we finally tune back into the conversation at the phrase “Are you listening to me?”

Record: Remember when I said “I Love You”? Just play the recording again when you feel neglected.

Erase: Remember that time I (…fill in your own worst foot in mouth event here…)

Fast Forward: We don’t want the long story. Get to the point!

Thumbs-Up: To train the TIVO-Wife what conversations we like.

Thumbs-Down: To train the TIVO-Wife what conversations we don’t.

This is as far as we got before the wives came out and we hastily changed the subject…

Too snarky? Leave a comment and let me know.