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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Turkey Anatomy Search …

It’s still Christmas break for at least another week so I have time to check the statistics to see a sample of how the internet community finds their way to my blog.

So greetings to all you culinary aficionados from such far flung places as:

  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Nordrhein-westfalen, Bochum, Germany
  • Hessen, Darmstadt, Germany
  • Maribor, Slovenia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Delhi, India
  • Kenya

I hope that using the Google search engine for the key words: “turkey boobs” enabled you to cook and enjoy a traditional American Thanksgiving holiday meal.

If that’s not what you were looking for…sorry weirdo!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Hyper For The Holidays …


The phone is ringing at 05:30am this last day of the year before the start of the Christmas break. I instantly have a case of the déjà vu’s all over again. That last time I subbed on the final day in December for Kinders was enough for me to avoid all “last day” assignments forever.

But what the hell, this is a different school and a different grade. Maybe it won’t be so bad. As it turned out, it was a short, short assignment for a full payday.

Once you subtract the 15min school tour of decorated doors, the 40mins where the art prep teacher takes over the class, the 35min lunch, the 40min movie, the 20min recess and the minimum day dismissal at 01:15pm, the actual classroom instruction time works out to about 2 hours.


The kids were hyper for the holidays but still trying not to rate a mention on Santa’s naughty list. All in all, it was a fun, successful afternoon.

Maybe that’s why when the office called at lunch time; I agreed to sub for a class of left behinders four days this February while the rest of the school is off at science camp. If I was wrong about all “last day” assignments, maybe the “left behinder” assignment won’t be too traumatic.

Right?...right?...a little help here…

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pushing My Buttons…


We returned home last night to five missed calls for subbing jobs for Monday so I wasn’t surprised with this mornings call for a half day afternoon 4th grade assignment. It seems this last week before the Christmas break is a busy time for substitutes.

Lesson plan is minimal and easy.

1. Go over answers to the math exercise they were doing when I arrived.

2. Lunch (40 mins)

3. Make sure they pay attention while Parent/Volunteer reader reads the story.

4. Cursive writing exercise (20mins)

5. Social studies – 6 pages

6. Clean up, Pack up and Go home.

Total class time 2.5 hours! This should be an easy day!

It’s such a short amount of time that any one student shouldn’t have had enough time to find that button that really ticks me off.

Orlando did…

Orlando is probably the best reader in class and probably the smartest kid in class. Unfortunately, he’s also the biggest “smart ass” in class. That’s probably why his desk within an arms length of the teacher’s chair at the front of the room.

This kid has NO impulse control. Whatever thought sails through his head detours out the mouth, hands or feet. Sometimes all three at the same time! Constantly!

Hopefully my report to his teacher will allow me to have the last shot as he spends 20min of recess time on the bench tomorrow.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Left Behinders…

There are two schools in the district that have very similar names and are easily mistaken for one another. One is a country club school where discipline is never a problem. The other is the polar opposite to the point I don’t take any assignments above 3rd grade at that school.

The first school is overloaded with parent volunteers who sign up to chaperone field trips, grade papers, organize fundraisers and anything else the school might ask of them.

The other school, not so much.

So it happened that I got a call from a teacher to take his 5th grade class at what I thought was the “good” school. He mentioned I was scheduled take his class on a field trip with all the other 5th and 6th grade classes at the school to see the “Nutcracker Ballet”.

“Sure! No problem.” (I’m still thinking this is the “first” school)

When I called the system to receive the assignment number, I realized it was for the “other” school.

Now I know that either I’m going on a field trip with minimal chaperone coverage for a bunch of kids that need the maximum level OR they’ll want me to stay at the school and monitor the real bad ass kids that weren’t allowed on the field trip in the first place.

No winning options here.

As it turned out I ended up on one of three busses with about 250 kids, three teachers, two substitutes, the health aid and one parent chaperone. We arrived at the theater along with busses from about 20 other local schools. The place looks like opening day at the Giants game.

The experience wasn’t any where near as foreboding as I anticipated. The packed house “Ooh’d, Ahh’d, and clapped in all the right places. They seemed to enjoy the ballet even if there were a few grumbles from some of the kids about it being: “boring”, “they didn’t talk”, “I didn’t know what it was about”, etc.

We managed not to lose anyone after the performance and I didn’t notice any discipline disturbances anywhere from the full house of about 5000+ kids in the audience.

We got back to the school with about an hour left before the dismissal bell. My class was rejoined with the five “left behinders” kids that didn’t go.

They also rejoined us with a student teacher that had them while we were gone who informed me that four of the five “left behinder” boys were caught exiting the girl’s bathroom after lunch.

Somehow, I’m not surprised. I'm glad I didn't have "left behinder" duty today.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Let Teachers Carry Guns???

I found the following story in the news today: Nevada politician: Let teachers carry guns

"LAS VEGAS - A Nevada state senator and also-ran in this year's Republican primary for governor says the Legislature should consider letting teachers carry guns in classrooms to stem a rise in school violence.

'I would expect enough teachers would be interested so it would serve as a deterrent,' said Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas. He said he's preparing a bill to introduce when state lawmakers convene in February.

I wonder when and where Sen. "Too Many Beers" got that bright idea?

Personally, if it ever got that bad in the schools around here, that's time to give up the substitute teaching job and stay home.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Half Day Assignments…

This is a slow week for subbing. I had a half day in 5th grade Monday and another half day Tuesday in 1st grade.

I’m usually not real fond of 1/2 day assignments but if I have a choice, I prefer the afternoon half of a 1/2 day assignment. It’s usually shorter because the kid’s lunch time is part of that half day. Since you don’t have to be there until 11:30 or so, you can sleep late and not rush breakfast.

If you compute the pay by the hourly rate you are actually in the afternoon class, then it’s the highest paid job for substitutes (per hour) in this area.

The rate (a little more than ½ the regular day rate) divided by the actual hours in the classroom (around 2.5h) works out to be about $25/hr. Slightly less if you do the morning half class.

Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary in the district you work…

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Answer Key…


Substitute teaching at the elementary level isn’t all that difficult as far as subject matter goes. While there have been occasions in the past where, once or twice, I didn’t feel “educated” enough in English grammar to actually teach the subject, those situations tended to be at the upper grade levels. Teacher edition text books with the answers included and teacher provided answer keys for any worksheets to be handed out make my job fairly easy to handle.

Any functioning adult should be able to master 1st grade worksheets without any problem or aid from an answer key. English grammar at a 1st grade level shouldn’t be a problem…even for ME!

So imagine my surprise and frustration when confronted with the following worksheet involving words with vowel “U”:

(click the image to enlarge)

The instructions are simple enough.
1. Say each picture name.
2. Listen to the sound of each letter
3. Print the word for the picture name.

All the words have either the short or long form of the vowel “U” and this being 1st grade work, all the words are less than five letters in length.

Quick, time yourself and see how well you do in identifying the word that goes with all the pictures.

Note: All current and veteran 1st grade teachers are disqualified from participating. THEY, of course, have the answer key!

(The one circled in red is a real killer. For the longest time the only thing I could imagine was that finger removing a “booger” from the baby’s nose. But that’s an entirely different vowel…) Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Turkey Boobs…

Sorry! This is about a week late but I’ve been babysitting the granddaughter while her parents are in warm, tropical Hawaii all this week. Not much time to do any subbing or blogging.

My wife is a big fan of Rachael Ray and her “30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray” show on the food network.

For the few of you who have not heard of this perky Italian-American cooking dynamo, let me give you the short stroke picture. Her claim to fame is producing a complete gourmet tasting meal in less than 30min. The show is fast paced and entertaining in a down home cooking style where a “half a handful” is a precise recipe term.

Now, the week before Thanksgiving, she had a show that purported to produce the whole Thanksgiving feast in less than 60 minutes. Claudette decided that this year, we were going to try it for the big event.

Monday (T-day minus 3), she returned from the stores with all almost all ingredients required as listed on the recipe sheets printed from the shows web site. The only thing missing was….unsalted shelled pistachios and TURKEY.

“I should have picked them up last week when I saw them all over the place” she lamented.

It was hard for me to believe that TURKEY wasn’t available at any of three local markets she tried. She then explained to clueless husband, that WHOLE turkeys are available everywhere and are dirt cheap. The Rachel Ray recipe calls for “boneless turkey breast halves with skin attached”. The Cosentino's Market had them but the price was $46! Yikes!

So confident that I could find the elusive turkey boobs much cheaper, I volunteered to complete the shopping list for her on Tuesday while she went to work. Easy-Peasy as Rachel might say.

Tuesday morning, Costco was my first stop. Pistachios and turkey breasts. No problem. Peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts…no shelled pistachios. Whole turkeys, turkey legs, chicken breasts with skin attached…no turkey breasts. The butcher behind the counter said they had them last week, but some Rachael person on TV seems to have caused a run on them this week.

I was starting to get a bad feeling about my ability to locate the main ingredient for Thursday’s dinner and called Claudette to see if she had an acceptable alternative if the required turkey breasts couldn’t be located. Claudette said she since she had already spent considerable time and effort acquiring all the special ingredients for this special Rachael Ray Thanksgiving dinner that I should really try to find said turkey breasts.

As an alternative, I also mildly conjectured on just how hard it might be to buy a whole turkey and perform a bird double mastectomy myself.

I was then informed on how uninformed I was about butchering meat so off to Lunardi’s, another gourmet market, in search of the main dinner attraction. Amazingly, they had them! Whole boneless turkey breasts with skin attached. Fifteen dollars…EACH!

At this point, I didn’t care about how much they were. I have been on the hunt for over four hours now, driving more than 20 miles (at $2.50/gallon) and was getting tired. So with $30 worth of boned turkey breast, I continued the hunt for the last item on the shopping list.

This store has an entire isle devoted to nuts. I don’t mean moi, but the edible kind and sure enough they had pistachios! Salted pistachios in shell, unsalted pistachios in shell, shelled and salted pistachio meats but…NO UNSALTED shelled pistachios! The last stop at Trader Joe's 10 miles across town in search for pistachio meats produced success.

Fifty miles and six hours later, I have finally acquired the only TWO remaining items necessary for our “quick and easy” Thanksgiving feast.

I greet Claudette at the door with the happy news only to find her standing there with a bag of turkey breasts she picked up at the local PW on the way home.

Guess what we’re having for Christmas?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More Worthless Coins...

Posted by Picasa

My stash of "worthless coins" to hand out at school was running low so I asked my buddies, still in the industry, if they'd like to donate to my stash.

Since they frequent overseas companies on a regular basis I figure they might run across a fair amount of "low status" (meaning something less than a nickle) coins in their travels.

Since I don't know Chinese, I'm finding it hard to locate a web site to identify the three coins above.

Is that "100" coin indeed under the $0.05 limit for worthless status? How about the rest?

I already attempted google for pictures of Chinese coins without luck for the modern coin variety. If anyone knows, a posted comment or email would be helpful.

Saturday, November 18, 2006



I haven’t been working for most of the week. In fact this was the first assignment call I accepted this week.

Instead, I spend a couple of days trying to extract my lungs and some parts of internal organs from one of two body orifices and occasionally both at the same time. A stomach flu will have that affect sometimes. A couple of more days to recover and I’m good to go.

The district SubFinder system called Thursday night for a 5th grade assignment at a school I been to frequently this year.

I arrived at the appointed time and was given a key to a room not in the usual block of 5th grade classrooms. Curious because I know they group the grade levels together.

On entering the classroom, I notice the desks are arranged in groups of four. Again, for some reason, it struck me as odd for 5th grade. The room, somehow, didn’t “look” like a 5th either.

It wasn’t until I counted the pods of “groupings of four” desks that I realized that this couldn’t be a 5th grade class. There were only 20 desks where there should be something like 30.

It was only then I checked the class attendance list and saw this was, indeed, a 3rd grade classroom.

Without realizing it, I had a mindset going in ready to deal with 5th graders today and was temporarily disoriented to find I had to adjust for 3rd graders. That hasn’t happened before.

It seems that this teacher taught 5th grade last year, changed to 3rd this year and the system hadn’t been updated yet.

Resetting the mindset for 3rd grade wasn’t really a problem, just a mild suprise. Third graders are a fun trip. I had one of the best “problem free” and “stress free” classes I have had all year.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mr. Shukudai...

I’ve been remiss in my blog entries lately. It’s not that I haven’t been working. In fact, I’ve logged four class days out of six since we got back from our short midweek trip. One 4th, one 5th and two 6th grades.

Here are a few of the things I learned or noticed in the last week:

  • One of the oldest schools in the district has an actual chalk board in the classroom (in addition to whiteboards). It’s the only one I’ve seen since I started subbing.
  • My nickname, “Mr. Homework”, in Japanese is “Mr. Shukudai”. Same number of letters. Maybe I’ll use it sometime in the future.
  • Is it the best idea to wear a Ralphie Wiggum T-shirt to school if your personality actually IS a “Ralphie” type?
  • On the way to my 4th grade assignment Tuesday, I saw a lot of teachers out on street corners campaigning for a “YES” vote on the local school bond issue. Is this a valid reason to call in a substitute teacher for the day?
  • Trading 5 minutes of absolute silence for leaving 2 minutes early to lunch is sometimes totally worth it. Even if that means 32 kids watch the clock for that 5 minutes instead of working. (…For the record, they weren’t doing much of any work for the past 20 minutes anyhow)

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Little Time Off...

We took advantage of one of those timeshare presentation deals to take a short, mid week, three day vacation from school ( of the benefits of part time substitute teaching).

We stayed here at the Park Hyatt Highlands Inn resort in Carmel, Calif

We spent some time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, had some good food and a few other relaxing activities.

Cost including meals? About four subbing days! Totally worth it!!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kerry! U Gots Emial...

I see my original impression of John Kerry continues to be validated…

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Standard Substitute Inservice...

The last two days in a 5th and 2nd grade were really great. The kids had a good time, I had a good time and things got done.

Even though the 2nd grade assignment was a last minute call and, of course, didn’t have a lesson plan (…the teacher was in a car accident on the way to school today), it was a pretty mellow class and we even got some math in before the minimum day dismissal bell sent them home at 12:45pm.

It was a REALLY short full payday from 09:00AM to 12:45PM which included a school assembly, two recesses and lunch!

The only real downer of the week was the annual substitute teacher in-service seminar at the district office.

I was hoping to learn some stuff related to student discipline techniques, classroom management, how to turn off the substitute system caller after I already turned down an assignment because I said I was sick (…he was too sick for that 3rd grade class today, but let’s see if he’s well enough for the kinders)

No such luck. Instead we had a presentation of the FOCAL / CTAG (Closing the Achievement Gap) students and how it relates to us. (…We didn’t find out what FOCAL was a acronym for)

For the non-academically affiliated, FOCAL and CTAG are programs supposedly implemented to focus more teacher/class attention to the under achieving and/or slacker students with the goal of getting them to kick it up a gear and buckle down to business. (…my simple minded interpretation, not theirs)

The obvious question was asked: “How does this relate to us? We’ve never seen a list of CTAG or FOCAL students on any lesson plan or what we’re supposed to do with them.”

There’s a Catch-22. For confidentially reasons, the teachers aren’t allowed to disclose kids identified for CTAG/FOCAL to the substitute teachers. We’re supposed to figure it out for ourselves and do the best we can.

Doing “the best we can with minimal info and preparation” is pretty much the job description of a “substitute teacher” anyway, so this in-service was pretty much a waste of time.

Maybe I should change the post title to: “Sub Standard Inservice...”

Monday, October 23, 2006

Yes, No, Hello, Goodbye, Trashcan...


While I have subbed in classes where some of the kids don’t speak or understand much English, but there have always been other bilingual kids there to help translate instructions and questions. Not so with today’s class of thirty-three 6th graders. I had one very shy Thai girl, “J”, that didn’t speak or understand English.

I asked the kids if there were any other bilingual Thai kids in class. No!

I asked if there were any other bilingual Thai kids in the school. “YES! She has a sister in another class, but she doesn’t speak English either.”

I evidentially didn’t emphasize the “BI” part of bilingual. Surprisingly, her parents didn’t send her to school with a “Thai-English” dictionary either.

“How does your teacher communicate with J.?”

“She knows the words ‘yes, no, hello, goodbye and trashcan’… For everything else the teacher uses hand signs and gestures”

With few alternative solutions, we began our day of classroom assignments. The little Thai girl could handle most of the math assignments well enough until we got to “mean, mode, median and average”. Try to explain those concepts with hand gestures.

The rest of the assignments were a total loss for her. She sat quietly watching the other girls at her table during class.

During the writing assignment, a cart of thirty-five wireless Apple laptops was wheeled in from the computer lab. These laptops are available for the kids to access the internet for informational research.

This gave me an idea. I asked one of the other girls at J’s table to do a search for an online “English to Thai dictionary”. Surprisingly, they found a pretty good one that allowed English words and phrases to be translated into Thai. Unfortunately it is a one way process as the laptop has only the English keyboard character set.

But this allowed J. to hunt and peck English words and learn the meanings. I checked and got permission from the computer lab to let her keep one of laptops for the rest of the day.

I feel like I accomplished something useful today!

“Hello. Goodbye Trashcan!”

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Substitute Union?...


"...The workers who fill in as teaching assistants, special education assistants, clerks and custodians reached an agreement with the Santa Clara County Office of Education on Sept. 18, winning the right to collectively bargain for improved wages and benefits as members of SEIU Local 715."

Interesting to see what category of "substitute" isn't included.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sony Bravia, So Cool...

Not school related but this is so cool, I had to share...

Video link here

Seeds Week...


A couple of weeks ago, our TIVO “suggestions feature” picked and recorded the PBS Nature series: “The Seedy Side of Plants”.

It’s all about seed propagation, plant cycles, seed dispersal and…..bats and aardvarks pooping fig and melon seeds. Perfect addition to my backup activities bag for that unplanned dead time in class.

This week was ALL 4th graders. Two different schools, two different districts, totally different atmosphere.

The first two day assignment at the country club school was with 24 very well behaved, intelligent kids. It all went pretty easy. They were running through the assignments so fast, that they were becoming bored with all that extra silent reading and down time between lessons.

Me: “How many of you have seen the movie “Holes”?
Them: “Yea! It’s really funny! Are we gonna get to see the movie?...”
Me: “No! You get the sequel about what goes into holes. It’s all about seeds.”
Them: “GROAN!”

By the end of the video, the class comments seemed pretty evenly split between:

1) Eeeeewwwww! Grossss!
2) This is so awesome!

The third day was with a class of 35 kids. Lesson plan included a “Halloween art project” involving paper, scissors, glue, crayons and black paint! This turned out to be more or less partially controlled chaos.

No matter how carefully you explain what parts to cut and what not to cut, they cut wrong, painted wrong, colored wrong. I had a mess of paper parts and paint mixed with glue on tables and carpet.

After lunch, the lesson plan indicated a science project on.......“Seed identification and dispersal”!!!

The lesson plan explanation was an entire page, included worksheets, six little cups with different kinds of seeds to be passed from table to table, magnification lenses for seed examination that the teacher was very worried about losing. I was also directed to do a reading from a book about “Plant Sex”.

I looked at all six delicate little seed cups, the precious magnifier lenses and then at the art project debris on the back table that I would have to clean up after class and saw visions of seeds dumped all over the floor in the paint and glue mix.

The temptation and video topic convergence was too tempting to ignore. I bagged on the project and science class got the video instead. First time viewing for them, second time this week for me.


1) Eeeeewwwww! Grossss!
2) Oooohhh!
3) This is so cool!

I penned a note the teacher report that I wasn’t confidant about doing the seed project the way I knew she would want it done so I showed the video instead.

I hope she understands.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Matters of Compelling Importance...

The automated substitute calling system is a great tool for any school district that can afford one. The sub can set a “not available” date range to tell the system not to call for assignments. Likewise I can indicate certain days of the week I’m otherwise occupied.

The system accurately tracks which assignments are still open, which assignments were taken, which assignments were canceled by the school, and which assignments were declined by the substitute.

The last feature, declining an assignment, requires the substitute to provide a reason for turning down the assignment. The choice has to be selected from a carefully researched and significantly important list of district reasons for ducking an assignment.

Presumably the data is collected and carefully analyzed to determine trends or problems with the quality of the substitute labor pool or schools using the system. Presumably, reports of epidemic illness among substitutes could be quickly detected and a response team would be activated to deal with the crisis. Assignment turndowns for all assignments at a particular school just might indicate a problem that the district might want to investigate.

All in all, it’s a pretty neat tool if correctly used. So what am I supposed to make of the following list of “significantly important” reasons to decline an assignment from one of the districts I work?


Reason you are declining this assignment is…

Press 1 – Illness

Press 2 – Vacation

Press 3 – Jury Duty

Press 4 – Matters of Compelling Importance

Press 5 – Medical / Dental

Press 6 – Legal

Press 7 – Graduation

Press 8 – Paternity Leave

Press 9 – Maternity Leave

In the three years I’ve worked for this district, I’ve only used codes #1 and #4 when declining an assignment. The rest don’t apply to any real world statically useful purpose.

For example:


If I’m on vacation, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be around to answer the phone to decline the assignment and enter this code.

#3 & #6

Subs don’t get compensated for jury duty. Anyway wouldn’t “legal” include “jury duty”?

Also, if I’m going to be away for a sentence of 2 to 5, I’d use the “vacation” or “matter of compelling importance” reason.

#5 & #7

I have an important appointment. Medical, dental, legal, graduation, I wanna see my kid’s first soccer game. It’s all the same to the school district as to why I’m not available for the day. To me it’s all a “matter of compelling importance”.

#8 & #9

Oh, come on! Maternity OR Paternity leave? Isn’t this just splitting hairs just a bit TOO thin? We don’t get paid for either so I believe this should fall under #2 or #4


So what would I propose instead of the current “reason to decline” list? It would certainly contain some useful information that a school district might make use for one thing. As a first attempt, how about:


Reason I’m declining this assignment is…

Press 1 – Sick.

Translation: real or imagined illness, sports injury, one too many TSINGTAO’s last night, mental health day after yesterday’s disaster of a class.

Press 2 – No transportation.

Translation: School car is in need of repair again. Suggest I’ll work if you send a ride or pay me more so I can keep my car in good repair.

Press 3 – Not available.

Translation: Not sick and I don’t want to give you a specific reason.

Press 4 – Scheduling conflicts.

Translation: Medical, legal, parole officer or other appointments I need to keep.

Press 5 – Working in a better paying district today.

Translation: All else being equal, you guys are always going to be second choice.

Press 6 – Won’t work in that school again.

Translation: self explanatory. Call me if you want details.

Press 7 – Won’t work that particular class again.

Translation: self explanatory. Call me if you want details.

Press 8 – Won’t work for that teacher again.

Translation: self explanatory. Call me if you want details.

Press 9 – Personal business.

Translation: Matters of Compelling Importance


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lack of Planning...

Whoever said: "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" wasn’t a substitute teacher. Lacking or getting the plan last minute certainly DOES constitute an emergency on my part.

Arriving for my classroom assignment, I have exactly 30min before class to go over the plan for the day, locate all the materials indicated and try to make sure I know when the recess, lunch , dismissal important stuff is supposed to be happening.

This class assignment was arranged more than two weeks ago, so I wasn’t expecting the teacher to be in the room hacking away on his computer when I arrived.

“I’m just finishing up your lesson plan for today. Just a couple more minutes…”

I’m polite and say: “Sure no problem…” but quietly, I AM concerned. Last minute plans even if nicely data processed aren’t going to be checked for accuracy and that’s guaranteed to cause an emergency problem for me.

The “couple more minutes” actually lasted more like “all the minutes”.

He printed off the plan and got it to me about two minutes before the first students hit the door. As a result, I messed up the very first student assignment after the roll was taken.

xx:xxam “Handout worksheets for Mountain Math & Mountain Language. The kids know what to do”

I dutifully handed out worksheets and the kids started working on them.

Then hands started rising and I was informed that they had already had these two worksheets yesterday. That’s when I checked page two of the plan and found:

“Before the students enter the room, please turn over the colorful cards on the wall”.

Not knowing that “colorful cards” was part of the “Mountains” assignment and not having advance time to figure out exactly what “colorful cards on the wall” was all about, I of course lost about 15mins of class time flipping the f-ing cards and having the kids erase the part of the worksheets they had partially filled out.

xx:xxam “State capitols test”

Before handing out the test papers, I checked farther down the plan where I found a last minute note

“also, have D. roll up the United States rug with all the capitols listed before handing out the test”.

I’m beginning to catch on quick to this stream of conscious lesson plan format.

The day progresses and we have a break a few minutes before dismissal. I ask the kids if they had ever had a sub in this class before me. They inform me that I was the first one for a whole day. The last sub was only in to cover for an hour.

I met with the teacher after school and went over some of the disconnects I had with the lesson plan. He profusely apologized numerous times for the last minute planning and some of the not so clear plan directions. Evidentially, I was his first “real” substitute.

I’m sure this experience will benefit the next substitute in his class.

It might even be ME!...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wondering About Being Paranoid...

Sorry for not posting much lately but as it happens I’m taking a short sabbatical from the classroom in order to care for granddaughter #2.

Both were born on the 13th of the month and at 18 months, she is exactly 6 months younger than granddaughter #1.

While the little pistol naps, I get some “online time”.

I’ll be back in a 5th grade class on the 12th.

While browsing the statcounter blog statistics, I saw that someone in Admin. Office of the U.S. Courts in Washington, D.C. spent 13 minutes reading 18 of my blog posts.

Does this mean I’m about to get tagged for jury duty?

Just wondering about being paranoid...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tooth Fairy Inflation...


Lots of substitute call activity this morning:

1) 05:50 I missed this first call. By the time I fumbled the phone off the hook and realized the phone was switched to the second line, the answering machine downstairs had taken a message and sub system had hung up..

2) 06:30 First grade class assignment would have been “ok” except the teacher attempted to leave a verbal sub plan on the special instructions part of the recording which included the first three digits of her cell phone number to contact her if I needed anything before the sub line recording cut the rest of it off. I interpret this to mean there is no written lesson plan available today. Pass.

3) 06:40 Call from my shit listed school. Hang up before even finding out what class assignment it was.

4) 07:10 Duplicate call for #2. Evidentially all the other subs turned down the “audio lesson plan” teacher and the system had run through the entire sub list without any takers. Pass for a second time.

5) 07:30 Call for the same school as call #2 and #4 but for grade 3 starting at 08:00am. Does this indicate an attempt for a “bait-n-switch”? Show up for grade three and get the phoned in lesson plan grade 1 assignment?

So today after passing on the first four calls of the morning, I had a great day with this third grade class. The only thing of blog worthiness was the dark haired girl in the front with a loose tooth giving me hourly updates on its attachment status. She finally pushed it loose toward the end of class.

I asked what the going rate for tooth fairy collections was; she told me it was $5 !! This was a shocker. I was expecting maybe fifty cents.

I took an informal poll with the rest of the kids asking what the going rate was at their house.

A good number of kids informed me that they get $10/per!! Others informed me that they get $20/per if it’s a “silver tooth”!!

This last rate coming from kids whose dental work seems to have been done outside the U.S. as I don’t think silver caps are done here anymore.

Most of the kids verified that $1 was the median going rate for dental exchange in their home.

This must have a shocker of a news bulletin for the one little girl who told me she only gets twenty-five cents.

Monday, October 02, 2006

JMHO - Half Day...


If you have a choice of taking the morning or afternoon session of a half day assignment, take the afternoon. The pay rate is the same.

With the afternoon session, you can sleep late and it usually includes your 40min lunch.

Seats Up or Down...

...just when I thought some of OUR government laws were getting a bit too intrusive, along comes News From Norway.

(Reprinted here anticipating the story will age off the net soon...)

"...A local decision that schoolboys must sit on toilet seats when urinating has provoked political debate.

The head of The Democrats Party, a splinter group of former Progress Party hardliners, Vidar Kleppe, is outraged that boys at Dvergsnes School in Kristiansand have to sit and pee.

Kleppe accuses the school of fiddling with God's work, and wants the matter discussed at the executive committee level of the local council, newspaper Dagbladet reports.

"When boys are not allowed to pee in the natural way, the way boys have done for generations, it is meddling with God's work," Kleppe told the newspaper.

"It is a human right not to have to sit down like a girl," Kleppe said.

Principal Anne Lise Gjul at Dvergsnes School would not comment on Kleppe's plans to make political waves and regretted if anyone was offended by the ban on standing and passing water.

Gjul told NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) that the young boys are simply not good enough at aiming, and the point was to have a pleasant toilet that could be used by both boys and girls.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Girl-On-Boy Fight...


I spent another Thursday/Friday stint in grade six this week. This two day assignment started out great the first day, but ended in a fight in the classroom only two hours before dismissal on Friday.

The class was great all day Thursday and most of Friday. They were on track, attentive, doing the required work. We had just come back to the classroom after P.E. I was looking in the teacher’s history text for the indicated afternoon lesson, when a chair was overturned. I looked up to see two students exchanging a couple of wild punches with each other.

The surprising part was that it wasn’t boy-on-boy or girl-on-girl but……girl-on-boy!


Was that ME who said that? I surprised myself by immediately ejecting the pair from class. It was reflex.

I wasn’t surprised that the boy was involved. He’d been giving me just a touch more attitude than anyone else in the class, but the girl surprised me. She hadn’t appeared anywhere on my radar as a possible problem.

I guess after last week’s G6 assignment, I didn’t want bother to find out what the fight was about, who started it, who was right or wrong. I just wanted them gone. Let the office sort it out and inform me of the results if they want.

Over the next hour, three calls from the office, and four different student witness visits the principals’ office evidentially sorted out the guilty culprit(s).

I don’t really know the outcome. I’m only the sub. I’m sure the teacher will get a full accounting of who did what to whom first and the imposition of any punishment to be dealt.

But…when the sub line called tonight to work in another tough reputation of a school for yet another sixth grade assignment tomorrow morning, I didn’t hesitate long in declining the job.

I need more time to forget…

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Carnival Day #86...


Lesson Plan for today:
"Let Ms. T, the student teacher, handle the class today as much as possible and help out when needed."

She didn't need much help so I had a GREAT day!!

In fact, I had so much relaxation today I think I'll grab a box of popcorn, a soda and spend the rest of the day strolling the midway at the Carnival Of Education: Week 86.

See ya there!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Odds, Ends and the SoapBox...


After last week's hell hole in the 6th grade, it was a relief to finish off a three day run in the lower grades. Second, third and forth grades to be exact. While there is nothing of great import to report, we do have these few odds and ends:

1) One kid learns why it’s not a great idea to stash his juice box in the BOTTOM of his book bag loaded with 30lbs of books.

2) One teacher’s lesson plan was evidentially copy, pasted, edited but not proofread for today’s class as the lunch helpers were listed to go help the lunch servers an hour AFTER the kids lunch time. Also the indicated plan entry “Explain the ‘Akiak’ packet pg 30-31” wasn’t done because the packet had only 15 pages to date. The kids had already completed the packet to date and there were no additional pages 30&31 to hand out.

3) I was chastised by a 2nd grader after telling the girls at the back table to sit down and pay attention. “I’m NOT a girl” said the cute little waif with the dark braid down the back to “his” waist. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this apparent inability to determine gender based on appearance.

4) The 2nd grade journal writing project: “Pretend you are a scarecrow. What do you look like? Who do you talk to all day? What do you do all day?”

The “Columbine Kid” at the back table, dressed all in black, baby “bling” neck chains and an abnormally black spiky haircut writes: “I’d have knives for fingers and I’d slash and kill, kill, kill the farmer and the kids and blow up the corn field and barn and …”

You get the idea.

This one gets a special extra comment in my “sub report” to the teacher to proof read this journal for today.


Teaching “estimating the answer” as part of 2nd grade “Math” makes absolutely NO sense to me at all. They don’t get it. They told me so every time I tried to show how to get the “estimated answer” which isn’t the “real answer”.

Repeat after me: “Round the numbers then add to get the estimate”.

They know how to round numbers; they know how to add numbers. They know how to get the correct “estimate”. But, as they continually pointed out, “Why are we doing this? Can’t we just add the numbers and get the right answer?”

What could I say? I whole heartily agree. But it’s in the “State of Calif. approved Grade 2 Math Book” lesson for today.

For the record, the teachers in the staff lounge agree. Save it for later when it matters, like Geometry, Algebra or Calculus class where “estimating to check the answer for reasonableness” is a useful talent.

But there are assessment tests later this year where they check to see if the know how to get “almost the right answer”.

Math at the elementary level is an exact science. There is only ONE correct answer to addition and subtraction problems!!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Confessions of a Substitute Teacher...

One of the fun things about writing a blog is finding what search strings people used to find it. Some of the search strings are bizarre while others are obvious. I sometimes check the search strings to see what other hits the search produced to see if the hit list found other stuff I might find interesting.

Today, someone using ASK.COM search: “what do kids think makes a good substitute teacher” found:

Where's Waldo? He's a substitute teacher in South Florida.

by T.M. Shine

"I guess I had six or seven troubled kids in my class that day," Mr. Pool says. He can’t remember if they suffered from ADD or STD or STP or LDS or LSD or whatever. It’s all become a bit confusing. "I just know they were troubled. Sometimes, they wear those house arrest ankle bracelets," he says…

Read the rest of the article here:

Confessions of a Substitute Teacher

Friday, September 15, 2006

Time Owed…


After yesterday I really, REALLY wanted to dump this class. Even more so after I got calls from three of the best schools in my favored district last night. I came real close to pulling the trigger, but I did give my word to teacher that I’d be there.

When I arrived at the school I got a class list from the office and before class began, I gave a little lecture about how I didn’t appreciated what happened yesterday. As a consequence, I would be assessing “time owed’ in 15s (yes that’s seconds) intervals of time for each time someone acts up, misbehaves, punches, trips, insults, throws, shouts out, throws tantrums or are not where they’re supposed to be during class. Each kid’s “time owed” will be tallied and appended to the report I’m writing for their teacher at the end of the day.

The first few demerits handed out early on actually held them in check to the end of the math test. But by the time we reached the first recess, several of the boys had already accumulated multiple minutes of time.

At lunch time, two boys trashed each others desks and disappeared. The time owed tally sheet was starting to look like an ant infestation. One boy that spoke perfect English yesterday wouldn’t speak anything except Spanish to me today.

Time owed.

Five boys, in particular, just couldn’t seem to physically control themselves to occupy a seat or silence that pie hole they call a mouth.

Time owed

Lunch time finally arrived and I was ready to dull the pain with a cold Diet Pepsi in the staff lunch room. What I found was a vending machine, door open and devoid of any drinks. Another teacher came in to announce that the police were out front taking a report from the vending driver about some forth graders that were caught stealing drinks from the truck while he was attempting to restock the machine.

At lunch, I actually met the teacher that had these kids last year. She was asked to follow this group by moving up to 6th grade this year but wisely decided to move the other direction down to 4th instead. She wasn’t surprised to hear that I wasn’t having a good day.

The last hour of today’s lesson plan was to have them “write a letter to Ms. R (their teacher) to let her know how their day went.” One kid tried a bribe me with “I’ll write you good evaluation” if I erased his “time owed” points. Otherwise he threatened to write “everything bad” about me.

Time owed - two additional minutes.

Twenty minutes before the end of the day, I finally gave up.

When it’s time to give up, turn out the lights and play a video. I have a video titled “Seeds” I Tivo’ed from the Nature channel I carry in my back pack.

The VCR in the classroom was broken. So instead of a video, I opened the door and announced: “Free Play…Get Out”.

I just couldn’t take being trapped in the same room as these future illiterate jail house inmates.

I held all their backpacks hostage in the classroom so they couldn’t leave the campus early as I had overheard some of them planning to do. Shortly after I followed them outside to monitor the little demons from hell, “Spanish Only Today Boy” was caught entering the girls’ bathroom claiming to retrieve a ball. He exited without any evidence of “said ball”.

Time owed AND a special paragraph in the teacher report.

All of this and more took me forty minutes of carefully edited reporting for their teacher to read on Monday.

I was so wore out and pissed that I stopped by my friend’s house for some decompression time. He wasn’t there, but after hearing about my day his wife made a pitcher of margaritas which we shared until my buddy returned.

If the teacher follows through, and I hope she does, with the “time owed” penalties, several of the boys in this class are going to miss most of an entire lunch period some day in the future.

I’ll never know because I’m blacklisting that school for at least the next two years or until the margaritas wear off.

Whichever is longer.

Time earned…

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What Does It Take – Part II…


I have a short memory. If I had a better memory I wouldn’t have accepted this class that remembered me from last year.

They were acting out, disruptive, loud and obnoxious then. Today seemed even worse, if that is at all possible. And today was only a half day assignment!

It was not so much the ten girls in the class, it was the remaining twenty boys that fed off each other all afternoon and pushed my buttons at every opportunity.

The worst part is that this is a two day assignment. I have to go back again tomorrow! For a FULL WHOLE @#$@%@#!!! DAY!

I wonder if substitute teachers can call in “sick”. In any case I’m going to be sure to make a notation in my district schools map to redline this school for the rest of the year….and maybe next year also.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Headache Epidemic…


They were only two years old when the terrorist attack on 9/11 occurred. So while these second graders were silent for the office announced moment of silence for “the events of 9/11”, they didn’t know what they were being silent for.

I know because I asked if they knew why they were having a “moment of silence”. They didn’t. I didn’t see the need to elaborate before we began our planned day. Innocence is hard to keep and should last as long as possible.

Today’s most popular personal question: “Are you married?”

Today’s most frequent request: “Can I get a drink of water?”

Today’s most frequent complaint: “Can I go to the office? I have a headache!”

It has been my vast experience (of almost two whole years) that the first complaint is usually warranted. The next three complaints for the same ailment are usually copycats.

So I wasn’t surprised that after one girl returned from the health office with a cold sponge in a plastic bag for her headache that I was approached by two more girls.

ConArtist#1: I have a headache and she has a “MyGain”. Can we go to the office?

Me: You both have headaches? How unusual. So how do you know she has a “MyGain”?

ConArtist#2: Because mine really, really hurts.

Me: Do you REALLY have headaches? How about waiting until recess time and then go to the health office?

These two poker faced Pollyanna’s couldn’t be dissuaded. They both insisted that “it really, really, reallllly hurts” and that they couldn’t wait until recess. So off they went to get their prized chilled colored sponges in plastic bags for their “headaches”.

On today of all days, I’ll let it go. It’s worth the apology I offered to the health clerk at the end of the day. She graciously let me off the hook with: “That’s ok. It happens a lot at their age during the first weeks of school”.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fridian Slip!…

The worst part of subbing, for me anyway, is the early morning assignment call. I’m sleeping peacefully and the phone rings at 07:30am.

I HATE that. I know it is part of the job. I know I’d have to get up that early anyway if I had a pre-scheduled assignment for today, but I still don’t like early morning wakeup calls.

I’m fumbling for my Daytimer appointment book at the same time trying to come fully awake to write down the assignment information.

School name…got it! That’s the one WAY out on the far end of the district!
Teacher name…got it! Don’t know her.
Grade 6…got it! Second least favored grade right behind Kindergarten..
Time…got it! I gotta be there in 30 minutes


I didn’t confirm and get the assignment number. They ALWAYS drill you that you don’t hang up until you get that assignment number. Without it, you aren’t assigned and the system will go on to the next sub in the list.

I call back only to get the automated system telling me there are no assignments available. The system has already dialed the next guy/gal on the list.

Oh, well! Someone else will handle it. Back to sleep till 09:00am.

Did I really want that Friday job after all? Freudian slip on Friday?

I guess that could be called a Fridian slip…

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Subbing Assignments Are Flooding In!…

I had three class assignment calls all within about a single five minute period.

Sounds like a promising start to a busy week doesn’t it? Well it’s not. All three calls were for assignments mid to late October. I did take two of the assignments but I just can’t commit to Kindergarten over a month and a half away.

In an aside, what the hell is happening in October that is pressuring teachers to book substitutes now?

9/7 - Update

Another mid October assignment call came in today. Looks like I'll be pretty busy....NEXT month!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day Weekend...

I spent a couple of days this weekend volunteering for the Tapestry Arts Festival in town. My volunteer job? Pouring several hundred cups of beer each day.

While it may be argued that what we had on tap (Bud or Bud Light) isn’t really beer, it was all we had at this pod. What all the buyers did agree on was they ratio of beer to foam ratio. The all wanted 100% liquid – 0% foam. I tried.

In reality, this talent seems to be in short supply as evidenced by the number of beer pod volunteers that attempted it and abandoned the taps to take tickets instead.

To be fair, this is a talent I learned only two years ago the when I was a newbie volunteer at this festival. A veteran beer aficionado, volunteering as part of his community service sentence, demonstrated the proper way to maximize the liquid content while minimizing the “too much foam” comments of dissatisfied customers.

The basic technique is to hold the cup as close to the tap as possible while holding the cup at a 45 degree angle to “slide” the beer gently into the cup.

While the beer is refreshing, it does nothing for your singing abilities as the Jesse Charles Band discovered when they invited some festival visitors (and evidentially beer patrons) up on stage to sing:

...lunch break in the shade:

Friday, September 01, 2006

I Hate Apples…

I was promised a class of “great kids” for today. This is my first subbing day of the new school year for a 5th grade teacher I had subbed for last year.

The promised “great kids” performed as advertised. They listened, worked, and were helpful in all that I asked them to do. We stayed “on plan” without any hiccups until the last five minutes of class.

This is one of the newest schools in the district. That means everything still works.

The A/C will actually keep the classroom at the required temperature. The walls are insulated against “neighbor noise”. The outside walls are almost floor to ceiling windows for lots of natural light. All the classrooms are pre-wired for audio, video, and computer communications. Each teacher has a high end MAC computer, large flat screen monitor, color laser printer and video and multimedia projector.

The last item in the lesson plan right before dismissal was: “Have M. access the homework data file in my computer to put up the homework assignment on the projector for the weekend. She knows how to set it up”

M. is absent today and nobody else is allowed to use the computer.

All this hi-tech stuff for the teacher does nothing for this substitute teacher.

Even if I had the computer password, trying to navigate his fruity computer with a one button mouse when I’m used to a fully functional PC mouse, is like trying to do word processing using only thumbs. It can be done, but it’s extremely aggravating and impossible under a five minute time constraint.

Note to all teachers reading this post. Please include hard copies of everything you want me to convey to your students to avoid just this type of unanticipated situation.

For today, the kids got a homework free Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

School Car…

A teacher I subbed for a couple of times last year called and asked if I would take his class of 31 fifth graders. With that call, my first official substitute assignment for the 2006/07 school year will be on Friday 9/1.

Today I took “School Car” in for a free oil change (w/coupon) and of course it wasn’t actually free. The oil change WAS free but the list of “other” suggested repairs wasn’t included.

The “School Car” is a twelve year old Saturn four door with 135,000 miles on the clock.

The ignition key sometimes jams in the ignition and can’t be removed without significant effort and repeated shots of “Liquid Wrench”.

The head liner in the rear half is separating from the roof and flaps when the windows are down like a sideways flag.

The transmission has a tendency to howl a bit at speeds above 40mph. It does wet itself in the driveway with what appears to be oil, tranny fluid, and maybe a hint of coolant.

At least two of the tires have had repeated shots of “flat fixer” over the last few years to try and stem the loss of overnight tire pressure. The tires are showing “worry line” age cracks in the sidewalls.

As a result, “School Car” is no longer allowed to meander more than about ten miles from home anymore.

So I wasn’t surprised or unbelieving when the service guy called with a litany of several “other” pressing maintenance items that should be taken care of.

The “suggested repair” bill would have totaled maybe twice what the car was worth IF it were in better condition. So we opted for just ONE of the more pressing repairs.

With that, I’ll have to work at least two solid weeks of Kinders to pay it off. With some luck and a traveling virus or two, I might earn enough subbing during September before the credit card bill arrives.

I don’t know when “School Car” will finally succumb to ravages of time and friction but I hope to make it just one more year.

…then maybe one more year after that.

I’d really hate to risk “School Car’s” younger sister to the possible abuse of the school parking lot.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

128 Students Suspended...

This has to be some kind of record.

"...HAMMOND, Ind. - Classrooms were a little less crowded at Morton High School on the first day of classes: 128 students were sent home for wearing the wrong clothes."

The full story here:

Friday, August 25, 2006

Last Days of Summer....

The last days before school starts should be at the beach, right?

Seacliff State Beach, CA is a 40 minute trek over the Santa Cruz Mountains from our house. (traffic permitting)

The Palo Alto
aka: "The Cement Boat"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sub Season #3…

The schools aren’t back in session until next Tuesday the 29th, but the substitute season started today with an unexpected job assignment call.

It was a multi-day assignment.

Next Tuesday through Friday.


Their first real experience in “real school” and they get a substitute right off the bat?

Sorry! I can’t do it! Declined, matters of compelling importance just came up.

Nope, Nope, Nope, Nope.

(At least I know I’m currently “activated” for this year…)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mystery Meat...

Remember the old tales about the school caferteria "mystery meat" dish of the day?

Maybe the residents of Turner, Maine have found the source...

"...It was charcoal gray, weighed between 40 and 50 pounds and had a bushy tail, a short snout, short ears and curled fangs hanging over its lips, he said. It looked like "something out of a Stephen King story..."

Sourced from:

Monday, August 14, 2006

Testing, testing, video testing...

In my ongoing effort to continue retirement, I've been working on the minimizing expenses part of the process.

One of those recent choices has been to disconnect the second phone line used for my cheap dialup ISP and get DSL.

My dialup ISP was $5/mo. but the 2nd phone line was $11/month. The taxes on the 2nd line are $9/mo!! Add all that up and it's cheaper to go to DSL on the house for $13/mo

In addition to faster access, I can now try out some stuff that would be just too painful using dialup. Like online videos more than a minute or two long and attempting to embed videos in the blogger.

This short test vid is our gargage guy who , for some reason, likes to move and leave the containers in front of the mail box. Maybe he's got a beef with the mailman or with me. Who knows but the video is short so it makes a good subject for me use as a test to see how it works.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

California H.S. Exit Exam - Quote of the Day!!...

The Judge Ignazio Ruvolo has it right on target! Social grade promotion should not override actually passing the classes needed to advance, and passing grades should reflect actual learning.

State Appeals Court decision:

"...The state is apparently short-changing 20,000 students who failed California's high school exit exam but is not required to give them diplomas, a state appeals court ruled Friday.

While sympathizing with students whose schools failed to teach them what they needed to know to pass the test, the Court of Appeal panel in San Francisco refused to reinstate an injunction that would have entitled them to receive the diplomas they were denied in June..."

"A high school diploma is not an education, any more than a birth certificate is a baby''
--Presiding Justice Ignazio Ruvolo

Sourced From:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Eight and a Half Grade Class...

Pretty inventive practical joke for graduates of the eighth grade class:

Cube Farm...

After working in “the industry” for more than 30 years, I initially found the classroom environment a bit unnerving. There are times when you want some peace and quite, time to reflect to think things through before acting. This doesn’t exist in a classroom. I have at most 30 minutes to read the teacher lesson plan and execute that plan for next five hours until the class day ends. I have nothing to take home from the current day’s work except maybe a few observation notes that will probably end up posted here.

Having spent more than 3/4 of my previous working life in a cube farm, I would find that sometimes the job stayed with me even after the work day was done. I would sometimes have the best ideas about a problem on the drive home, in the shower the next morning or even a walk around the block. It was an interesting and engaging profession. If the job got boring or the conditions not to our mutual understanding, I could easily leave and find a more suitable project to work on.

It doesn’t seem to be that way anymore. Outsourcing and management directives to “do more (work), with less (people)” have taken its toll in the valley. It has a lot of former co-workers keeping the current job in an attempt to just “hold on until I can afford to retire”.

My exit from the industry was made for me when my job was outsourced. There was some fear of “what next”, but it’s working out. We’re making the adjustments toward maximizing income while minimizing expenses. I think we’re going to be ok.

For my former “cube farm friends” still out there, take a moment and have a laugh. It’s good for you: The Cube Farm Song

Monday, August 07, 2006

Childs Play…

The summer is almost over.

The new school year begins on August/29. I received my renewed subbing certificate this week and made the rounds of school district offices. I’m now on the “reactivated” lists for the 2006/07 school year. I don’t anticipate the first subbing assignment until the following week.

Being “off” for the summer has enabled me to spend a lot of time with the granddaughters. The oldest is just shy of her 2nd B-day and the other is six months younger.

While the moms appreciate the babysitting time, I’m having a blast with child’s play. This is a great age when they are just starting to talk and starting to develop a sense of fun, play and imagination.

Because language is still limited to single words and baby language that only one of us can understand, there are no rules except to have fun, be surprised and laugh often.

The games we play now are strictly for giggles and fun:
  • Stealing grandpa’s chair.
  • Pull/push grandpa over.
  • Walking in grandpa’s shoes.
  • “Reading” picture books.
  • “Almost” singing and dancing with "The Wiggles"

As they get older (5-10), I’ll introduce them to games their parents loved to play:

Astronauts and Indians:
This tickle game involves a storyline invented on the fly when my kids were little.

While they were face down and shirtless, I’d tell them that they are surface of the moon. Astronauts are slowly approaching the landing area in the lunar module which looks, coincidentally, like Daddy’s hand with all fingers pointed down toward the moon’s surface.

After a long decent (including sound effects) the lunar module lands usually in a tickle sensitive location on the lunar surface. (The moon usually exhibits a moonquake on landing.)

The astronauts get out of the space craft and walk all over the moon exploring for rocks. These walks seem to include more the ticklish centers of the moon.

Suddenly, they spot the lunar Indians!

The Indians try to scare the astronauts away by shooting arrows up into the sky. Because of the moon’s gravity, it takes a long time for the arrows to come back down one-at-a-time. They all seem to miss the astronauts and, instead, poke the surface of the moon (in more ticklish areas).

The astronauts run, ticklishly, back across the moon surface and escape in their lunar lander.

They rise higher and higher when “Oh NO!”….They start to run out gas and are headed back to the lunar surface where repeated encounters with lunar Indians ensue.

Game ends when “the moon” has had enough for a while or Dad gets cramped fingers whichever comes first.

Brain sucker:
Every kid in our family knows that I can remove a kid brain by simply placing my hand on top of his/her head and with a scritch of fingers and a sucking sound extract the brain whole and intact.

I can then reverse the process to install said captured brain into a different kid who now would have two brains. Sometimes, I’d just hold the brain in hand while the brain owner would try and pry my fingers open to retrieve the stolen property.

If brainless kid attempted to retrieve original brain from a two brained kid, I would claim that the brain he reinstalled was actually the wrong one and watch the fun while they acted out how to correct the situation.

Each kid also knows that he/she can protect against the brain sucker by covering the head with hat, hands or even a single piece of paper. But beware, the brain sucker is always watching for any uncovered brains to snatch.

It’s not unusual to see kids marching in a line around the room with hands on heads when in reach of the brain sucker only to taunt while singing that ever popular song: “Na, Na, Na, Na, Na…Can’t get my Brraaain!”

Bed Sandwich:
At bed time, I would announce that I was getting hungry and walk down the hall with kid in trail. I would then tell my young one that I wanted to make a bed sandwich to eat.

While pulling back the covers and removing the pillow, I would have him/her help make my sandwich.

The mattress was the bottom piece of bread. Kid would pretend spreading the butter and mayonnaise and add the pillow as a marshmallow.

“What kind of meat should I put in my sandwich?.... I KNOW, I want a kid meat sandwich!.... Now where would I find some kid meat?”

I would snatch the kid meat off the floor plop them in my sandwich. We apply ticklish layers of sheet mustard followed by a blanket of ketchup, and a final bed cover of bread.

All that’s left is to munch and enjoy with kisses my “Kid Sandwich”

I would sometimes have to make two or three sandwiches before the “kid meat” would be ready for sleep.

While I didn’t think of it at the time, I now realize that “kid play” is instrumental in teaching our kids a part of how to be future parents.

I first realized this when my then teenage daughter reported in after a babysitting session that “Kid Sandwich” worked perfectly getting her charges to sleep without the usual tantrum.

Hurray for Childs Play!!