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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Congressional Automotive!

New for 2012! The new and approved (approval pending the next election) Pelosi GTxi SS/RT!!

My favorite feature: "...the standard three speaker, fairness, octophonic, FM low band sound system"... it only gets NPR

Credit to: http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Christmas Light Show - 2008

It appears that the subbing jobs for 2008 have ended and will resume in Jan/2009 so now it's time to sit back and enjoy the rest of the year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rocks in My Pockets!

I knew I shouldn’t have made the call, but subbing assignments have been a little light this month. I had already checked the subbing line a few times Tuesday afternoon and and into the evening without success. I decided to make one last attempt before I went to bed at midnight.

The assignment was for 2nd grade the next morning at 7:30am. Since this assignment wasn’t posted when I checked at 10:00pm, I knew there was a high probably that this was a last minute deal and unless the school requires teachers to plan for such an eventuality (…yes, there ARE a few that do), there is a high probability that I’ll be walking in without a lesson plan.

I stalled for time, by replaying the assignment description while trying to decide if I really wanted to take that chance. The desire for a bump in the paycheck won out and so it was that I arrived at school the next morning 15 minutes late. The sub line hadn’t been updated to this year’s earlier starting schedule.

No lesson plan. Not only that, there were no books in the kids desks either.

No reading or math practice books that I could assign as a time killer. The teacher had ripped all the pages out of all 20 sets of reading and math practice books with the separate piles of each page in file folders that she used to make daily “work packets”.

Unfortunately for me, it looked like she makes these sets of “work packets” only one day in advance. There was evidence that she was out the two previous days and one of the subs had already used the single advanced prepared set on Tuesday. There was none prepared for today.

With no plan, I was unaware that this class “switches” with a different class for science until the teacher I was supposed to switch with asked me what time I wanted to do it. She didn’t quite believe me that I didn’t have any material for a science lesson until she went looking for books in the room.

Finding none, she gave me a text from her class to “read to them”. With her help and a copy of the current bell schedule, I had only a few minutes to get a general plan in place before I was to pick up the kids.

The bell rang for start of class and I went looking to pick up my class in the back playground where I could see classes lining up.

Not finding “my class”, I was told that the 2nd graders line up in the Kinder playground…on the other side of the campus! That item of information would have been handy on a lesson plan.

I’m exhausted by the time the first recess comes. The stacks of worksheets I’m pulling from her folder stash are coming up a couple short when I pass them out, so I have to start pre-counting material before I start handing it out.

The first recess ends, so I went to pick up the kids on the Kinder playground only to discover that the 2nd graders only line up there in morning. Of course, my kids are the only ones left standing in the back playground when I finally get there. That’s another planning item that would have been useful information.

Now, at this point, you may be wondering about the title of this post and what it has to do with pockets and rocks.

Well, the last activity of the day for 2nd graders is P.E. The missing plan should have read, “You will be monitoring the special ed class, while the 2nd graders perform P.E. with Ms. S” but…there was no plan.

I’m watching 1st graders play some form of dodge ball without rules, when I notice one of the special ed aides chasing one particular kid around the blacktop trying to prevent him from eating pieces of gravel he’s finding on the ground.

Trying to help as much as I can, I hold out my hand to have the little rock eater surrender whatever he’s got in his tight little fist. After disgorging several handfuls, he’s modified the game where he just picks up rocks to give me. A couple of times if I’m distracted watching some of the other kids, he just sneaks up behind me and dumps the rocks in my side pants pocket.

The rocks in my pocket will be a reminder about what kind of rocks I must have in my head to pick up another late night substitute assignment.

But...at least it wasn't squirrels!

From one of my granddaughter's favorite shows:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

This Test Has All The Answers!

I had a super great class of 4th graders today. The only glitch came during the math assessment test today.

Everyone had their anti-cheating privacy folders up and ready to go for the test. I handed out the test and sat back anticipating a quiet half hour when one hand went up almost immediately. The boy said he must have gotten the teachers answer copy because all the right answers were already circled.

I picked up his test paper and didn’t immediately see any circled answers. While I was trying to figure out just what this kid was talking about, a couple more kids held up their tests and said the same thing.

“We see the answers!”

I picked up those tests and after close examination and angling the exam juuussst right, I could indeed see a faint blue circled outline around the multiple choice answers on the front page. Checking page two of the test, I could make out about half of the answers there also.

Nothing much I could do now but note on my end of day report the problem. I suggested that the kids pretend the answers weren’t already there and “show work” in getting the answer they chose.

It seems that while copier technology is getting better at picking up even the slightest color shades that didn’t show with older machines, the testing standards books haven’t changed with them to make sure the answer sheet isn’t visible when copied.

P.S. One of the girls drew a portrait of me in class holding my clipboard. I thought it was close enough for me use as my blogger “About Me” profile picture. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Five Ws…

They had just returned from the five day Thanksgiving holiday. Monday's very multi-cultural 3rd graders were excited about the upcoming holidays. When it came time for the social studies assignment to write an outline for a newspaper article, they had a worksheet with the famous “Five Ws of Journalism” to fill in.

“What do we write about?”

I’ve always found that it’s much easier to write about something I’m interested in rather than an assigned, boring topic I know little about. Since the lesson plan was a little vague about answers to the kids’ question, I suggested writing about Thanksgiving or the upcoming Christmas holiday. Santa Claus is always a favorite “Who”.

Who is the story about?
What happens?
When is it going to happen?
Where is it happening?
Why is it celebrated?
How is it celebrated?

“We don’t have Christmas. We’re Jewish”

How about Hanukah, then?

“I’m Indian and we don’t do Christmas either. Can I write a story about something else?”

My knowledge of world cultural celebrations is pretty much exhausted so I allowed anyone who didn’t want to do the holiday theme choose something else as long as it followed the “Five Ws” format.

“Indian kid again: I wanna do a story about the Mumbai bombings. I already know the ‘Who’ ”

Fortunately, that’s about the time I noticed that the “News Outline” on the lesson plan was related to the earlier reading lesson on the “First Thanksgiving”. The kids were supposed to pretend to be a reporter attending and reporting on that event.

CTL-ALT-DELETE faulty instruction from the substitute teacher! Reset the topic and get back on a less controversial track.

(…although, the bombing story from a 3rd grader's viewpoint would be more interesting)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

No Bailout For Me...

Fred Thompson discloses why I won't qualify for a $illion $ollar government bailout.

I didn't screw up big enough!!!!




If YOU by chance DID screw up big time, just fill out and submit the following form for your reward:

(click to enlarge)
Form via: Carpe Diem

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Julie Amero Is Free At Last…

…but justice wasn’t served.

If you don’t remember the case of the substitute teacher Julie Amero and what “crime” she was convicted of take a look at the SunBelt Breaking News for a great summary of the case. I’ve also had a few things to say on the issue.

Short story:

Julie was substitute teaching in a class where an unsecured computer started showing porno popup ads after she tried to access her email account in class. This incident escalated into a criminal case against her which resulted in her conviction and sentencing of up to 40 yrs in prison.

With new evidence from computer professionals, the original case and verdict was overturned. I believe that the prosecutor was gunning for higher office and decided that losing this case would hurt his career so a new trial was ordered.

When it became evident that a retrial and conviction was going to be extremely hard to get in the face of “true expert” testimony, the court delayed any new trial date.

Instead of doing the right thing and dismissing the case outright in the face of overwhelming new evidence in Julie’s favor, the prosecutor still pressed for re-trial.

In the ultimate of arrogance and reluctance to admit that they were totally wrong, the prosecution and the court pressured Julie to plea bargain to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, revoked her substitute teaching license and fined her $100.

Even with the close of the case, the local paper reported:

…The decision by both parties to resolve the matter with the plea arrangement is appropriate and just. Relinquishing her teaching license and paying a small fine for failing to safeguard students entrusted to her is a more just punishment than pursuing criminal charges and jail time.

Appropriate and just? You gotta be kidding me!

What would have been “appropriate and just” would be exonerating Julie of all the charges, issuing Julie a public apology and having the school district pay any and all legal fees and fines for “not safeguarding students and employees” for lack of common sense.

...But that’s just me!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Farts Strong Enough to Kill Computers?

...at least that's what I thought I read, but just like in those infomercials for miracle "Shamoo Towels", there's MORE!
___

STUART, Fla. – A student at a Florida school has been arrested after authorities said he was "passing gas" and turned off his classmates' computers. According to a report released Friday by the Martin County Sheriff's Office, the 13-year-old boy "continually disrupted his classroom environment" by intentionally breaking wind. He then shut off some computers other students were using.

The Spectrum Junior-Senior High School was arrested Nov. 4.

A school resource officer placed the boy under arrest after he confessed about his behavior, according to the report. He was charged with disruption of school function and released to his mother.
___

Information from: The Stuart News, http://www.tcpalm.com

The official police report -> http://blogs.tampabay.com/schools/files/Martinreport.pdf

Just coincidentally, I was in a 3rd grade classroom yesterday where I ran across the following book: The Gas We Pass - The Story of Farts.

The perfect Christmas gift for someone special I know!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tell Us a Story…

The subbing assignments have been pretty light the last couple of weeks. I subbed only one day last week and a half day so far this week.

Yesterday’s 5th/6th combo class was the half day class. Most of the kids in the class know me from the previous years when I subbed their 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade classrooms so it wasn’t unexpected when they asked me to tell the story about the “bad class” again even though all of them had heard it before.

Instead I told them a story that my daughter told me a couple of days ago about my sweet little granddaughter.

My daughter was doing housework and not really paying attention to what 4yr-old Paige was singing while playing with her toys. But after a while the song finally got her attention because of the monotonous lyric of the tune. Listening closer, she heard my sweet little granddaughter singing to herself a one word tune that sounded something like:

“dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit…”

Astonished, my daughter asked her sweet little girl where she heard that word.

Paige: I dunno…
Mom: Well, it’s not a nice word so let’s not say it anymore, ok?
Paige: ok…

Mom was thinking she must have picked it up at pre-school and had several tot suspects in mind when she remembered something that happened last week.

They were visiting some friends in Boston who have a little boy about the same age as Paige. Near the end of the trip, the “guys” decided to go golfing and take the kids with them.

Knowing full well how Mike is at the Sharks hockey games and probably golfing, she had a new prime suspect. She would be waiting when he got home from work to have a little talk about “acceptable language”.

(P.S. The kids practically fell on the floor laughing when I tried to imitate the song for them)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

John Quarles…

The year is 1999.

At 50 years of age, it wasn’t the best time for the layoff to happen. I had already been experiencing signs that age was more than a little factor when looking for work in the software field.

Fortunately, a twenty year history in the software field also generates a pretty good network of friends and associates that can be relied upon to mention your name when the managers are looking to fill a software position in the department.

As a result of one such connection (thanks again, Nels!), I found myself assigned to a well equipped cubicle in what was to be, though I didn’t know it at the time, my last “professional” employment assignment.

It was there that I met a fellow cube dweller. John was also considered one of the “old dudes” even though he was less than a half dozen years younger than me. While we grew up in entirely opposite environments (the streets of Compton, Calif .vs. the sleepy pre-Silicone Valley days of San Jose), we discovered shared interests in books, lunch spots, chess, investing strategies and world views (mostly).

We had adjoining cubes with short walls. While we were assigned different aspects of the same project, it wasn’t long before we got to know and like each other while trading ideas and advice about many aspects of life on and off the job.

It was during the hi-tech bursting bubble days of 2002 that John was selected in one of a continuing series of layoffs (…my turn would come two years later).

John and I kept in touch often via email and phone. Even more so when it was my turn to hit the streets. At first, we would email each other possible leads and contacts for possible jobs. Even after I decided to retire, we would check in with each other and arrange to meet for lunch to trade bags of paperback books and catch up on the latest intel in the programming job search world.

Always optimistic, John never gave up the hope that the economy would turn and he’d be able to catch up on the mounting debts that were accruing. John would do anything he could to get back into a programming position. He even started working part time for a start-up company for the “experience” and a promise of a paycheck “someday”. After the start-up went belly-up last year, a mutual friend was able to get him an interview and a paying job in computer tech. After several long and difficult years, John was optimistic about his future again.

So it was an absolute shock when I got a call from a mutual friend last week to hear that John had a heart attack and died at work on November 4, 2008.

I’ll attend his memorial tomorrow afternoon. I will send a condolence card to the family but I don’t know what else to write that fits on one tiny card.

“I sorry for your loss. He will be missed.” just doesn’t seem to cover it.

…Mark

Sunday, November 09, 2008

California Missions Project…

The history of the “California Missions” is taught in every 4th grade elementary class in the district I work. It might even be a requirement in all elementary schools in California.

The teacher left a three page history of the California missions to read. While they read the selections aloud in class, I explained some of the unfamiliar terminology like “adobe” and “blacksmithing”. They were then supposed to complete a six question worksheet for review.

If the 4th graders I had on Friday are any indication, I think it’s a wasted exercise because the comprehension skills of some 4th graders (I mean those in this particular class) seem to be lacking.

While a few seemed to be independently working to complete the worksheet there was a chorus of the rest who didn’t seem to have a clue.

Chorus: What are we supposed to do?
Reply: Read each question and find the answers to each question in the three pages we just read. (I thought it was obvious but you never know…)

Chorus: We don’t get it!
Reply: (exasperated…) “Ok. Let’s all do question #1 together”. I also have to coach them through numbers #2 through #4 but I stop helping on #5. There is NO reason they can’t find #5 on their own.

(click on images if you're blind as a bat like me...)



Chorus: “We can’t find the five things”
Reply: (again, exasperated…) Look on page 42, third paragraph.



Chorus: We can’t find the five things!
Reply: Ok, Let’s ALL re-read the last sentence, out loud, the third paragraph on page 42

As they got to the word blacksmithing, I held up my hand and started counting with fingers as they read each “skill” mentioned.

Chorus: So what are the five things?
Reply: (…standing there with my hand up, open palm out, five fingers spread).

Chorus: Can we color the pictures?
Reply: Sure, why not….

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Substitute Teacher Performance Review…

Unlike most other professions, substitute teachers don’t seem to get any kind of yearly performance review or even any feedback to see now well they’re doing or not doing on the job.

It can make you a bit paranoid if the phone doesn’t ring for a week or more. The frequency of calls is pretty much the only feedback you have to gauge how well you are or are not doing.

If they keep calling, I guess you must be doing an “OK” job. If you screw up badly enough, I guess they’ll just stop calling.

Unless…

I found this note on the lesson plan for a fourth grade class last week:

“My kids talk about you at home (uh, oh!). A mother told me her son was super happy about you coming this week!”

If that’s all I get, I’ll take it!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

President Joe Biden?

Trick or Treat Halloween question of the day:

If Barack Obama does come out of the election as "president elect" and Philip Berg's lawsuit is successful in challenging Barack's natural-born citizenship status, does that mean Sen. Joe Biden takes over as President in 2009?

Eeekkkk! Eeekkkk! Eeekkkk!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Come in Early?

What do you say to a teacher who asks you to come in and sub a "half day" (ie: half pay) for her class but wants you to come in earlier than the half day assignment time because she's afraid she'll miss her vacation flight out?

"After all it's only an extra 15 mins..."

I'm thinking, What balls! At the pay rate subs get, you expect me to take a 50% cut in pay for the day AND work illegally without being paid because "after all it's only an extra 15mins".

But rather than suggest something rude, I told her that the district dictates the times and pay rate rules. I, instead, suggested that she might want to take the whole day off so she wouldn't have to worry about her flight.

She has decided to get one of her cohorts at the school cover her class for 15-20 minutes before I get there.

While I DO sometimes arrive at school 10-20 minutes early, I'll will be there exactly on time for this one.

Nov, 6 Update:

She called back and decided to take the whole day off after all.
That's more like it...

UNiversal Health Care - Aussi Style

Since we have a little election coming up where universal health is an issue and a campaign promise, I found this story interesting from the who decides what "universal" means category...

Excerpts From:
Australia: No residency for boy with Down syndrome
From TANALEE SMITH, Associated Press Writer

SYDNEY, Australia – A German doctor hoping to gain permanent residency in Australia said Friday he will fight an immigration department decision denying his application because his son has Down syndrome.

Bernhard Moeller came to Australia with his family two years ago to help fill a doctor shortage in a rural area of Victoria state.

...His temporary work visa is valid until 2010, but his application for permanent residency was rejected this week.

...A medical officer of the Commonwealth assessed that his son's existing medical condition was likely to result in a significant and ongoing cost to the Australian community.

..."This is not discrimination. A disability in itself is not grounds for failing the health requirement — it is a question of the cost implications to the community," the statement said.

...The immigration department said it appreciates Moeller's contribution to the community but said it must follow the relevant laws in considering residency applications.

..."If we did not have a health requirement, the costs to the community and health system would not be sustainable," the statement said.

...David Tolleson, executive director of the Atlanta-based National Down Syndrome Congress, said he was disappointed by the decision.

"What is the cost implication to the community of a doctor shortage?" Tolleson asked. "I assume the son had the same costs for the last two years and they were happy to have the family and use the dad as a doctor."


(bolding mine)

So here we have another real world example of government run UN-iversal health care:
Health care must be prioritized, rationed or denied according to the cost/benefit goals of a central government.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When Will it End?

I posted this before, but figured it's even more apropos during this election with all the negative campaign ads.

Now I hear that candidate "O" has bought 30mins of advertisement time on ALL the major networks. He even got the start time of World Series game #6 pushed back to convince us how bad the other guy is.

"...Fox, interested in airing a half-hour commercial from Obama from 8 to 8:30 on Oct. 29, asked Major League Baseball to push back the first pitch from about 8:20 to 8:35 p.m.

Baseball agreed to the change. The Hollywood Reporter reported that Fox would receive about $1 million for Obama's "buy"; the Democratic candidate for president will air his ad on CBS and NBC at the same time.
..."

I'm just glad we have TIVO for this election. We're still catching up with the missed episodes of "Mad Men" while we were on vacation earlier this month.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Classroom Money...

A majority of the classrooms I substitute use some form of "classroom bucks" or "tickets" as rewards to participate, behave, do work or punishments for missing assignments, disruptions, etc.

Originally implemented in the lower grades as a lesson for adding and subtracting, the novelty and effectiveness starts wearing thin approaching 5th and 6th grades.

Of course it's all over if you get a "Stanely" in class.

(...I sometimes use "worthless coins" for exceptional performance or insightful comments but I emphasize the word "worthless" while handing them out.)


Proposition 8

California's Proposition 8 is causing all sorts of controversy here in California.



...BUT, surprisingly, both national candidates agree on this one

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why aren't we hearing this in the media?

...because there is no such thing as "unbiased" media anymore.

--------------------
By Orson Scott Card a Democrat and a newspaper columnist

Found in the World Tribune via The Rhinoceros Times of Greensboro North Carolina
link-> http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/.../2008/....asp

An open letter to the local daily paper — almost every local daily paper in America:

...I remember reading All the President's Men and thinking: That's journalism. You do what it takes to get the truth and you lay it before the public, because the public has a right to know.

...This housing crisis didn't come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration.

...It was a direct result of the political decision, back in the late 1990s, to loosen the rules of lending so that home loans would be more accessible to poor people.

...The goal of this rule change was to help the poor — which especially would help members of minority groups.

...But how does it help these people to give them a loan that they can't repay? They get into a house, yes, but when they can't make the payments, they lose the house — along with their credit rating.


...They end up worse off than before.

...This was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them.

...I have no doubt that if these facts had pointed to the Republican Party or to John McCain as the guilty parties, you would be treating it as a vast scandal. "Housing-gate," no doubt. Or "Fannie-gate."

...Instead, it was Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, both Democrats, who denied that there were any problems, who refused Bush administration requests to set up a regulatory agency to watch over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and who were still pushing for these agencies to go even further in promoting sub-prime mortgage loans almost up to the minute they failed.

...These are facts. This financial crisis was completely preventable. The party that blocked any attempt to prevent it was ... the Democratic Party. The party that tried to prevent it was ... the Republican Party.

...Yet when Nancy Pelosi accused the Bush administration and Republican deregulation of causing the crisis, you in the press did not hold her to account for her lie. Instead, you criticized Republicans who took offense at this lie and refused to vote for the bailout!

--------------------

When it comes to reliable sources, let's ask for facts and form opinions with B.S. detectors set on maximum stun.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Signs…

I seem to be stuck at the same school this year. Yesterday was no exception.

I know it’s a much more interesting to read about the trials, tribulations, ordeals and hardships of substitute teaching but to be fair and balanced, I want to say that it isn’t always a disaster.

The teacher is new to the school this year and this was my first assignment for her. The room I walked into was probably the tidiest room I’ve seen in quite a while.

The teacher’s desk had the books stacked and pages marked for what I’d need. The two page lesson plan was neatly word processed without any ambiguity as to what she wanted.

Student desks had no residual leftover mess from the day before and books stacked neatly in every desk

All the signs all pointed to a “good class”.

Despite the fact that there were a few jugheads I recognized from the previous year that would never be candidates for student of the month club, the day went well. The classroom was organized on a corporate structure with jobs assigned for everyone. Everyone actually DID know what to do…and did it!

No complaints here!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jugheads…

Yesterday’s 4th grade class was a great group of kids. For their earned free time, they played games like chess and checkers while others played the piano.

What a difference a school year makes. All three 4th grade classes last year were a pain in the ass. I know, because I subbed all of them at least once. This year the same kids, at the 5th grade level, are driving the teachers batty. Needless to say, I try to avoid 5th grade assignments at this particular school.

Every teacher (and substitute teacher) has had or will have a “bad” class if you stick with it long enough. But what about an entire grade level?

I haven’t been subbing long (this is my 5th year), yet this is the second school (different districts) where I’ve experienced the entire “difficult grade level” experience.

Interestingly enough they were 4th graders both times I experienced it but the principal at the previous school said it was that way since her particular group of kids entered Kindergarten. Attempts at breaking up the “core troublemakers” had largely failed. There were just too many of them.

Now I know that not EVERY kid in a “bad” class is a jughead, but I wonder just what the critical ratio of jugheads to “good kids” determines the overall “character” of a class?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Runaway...

Checking in at the school this morning, I was met at the door by the school principal.

Prince: You’re subbing for Ms 6th-grade Teacher this week right?
Me: Uh, yep.

Prince: Did anything unusual happen yesterday in class with “Tony?” (…not his real name)
Me: Not that I can recall. He’s been one of the better behaved kids in class.

Prince: Well, he never made it home last night. His grandma called the police and they are here on the off chance that he’ll show up at school this morning.

Me: The last time I saw him was out the door at dismissal time yesterday.
Prince: Ok, thanks.

Well, it turns out that Tony did arrive at school today to find the principal, two police detectives and his grandma waiting for him. I heard bits and pieces of the story throughout the day, from Tony, kids and other teachers who were questioned by the police and school officials.

He didn’t join the class until just before lunch and then only for about an hour before being called back to the school office for the rest of the day.

It seems that Tony, for some undisclosed reason, didn’t want to go home yesterday and instead went to several different friends’ houses before spending the night at the local park in a culvert drain…according to Tony.

His clothes looked too clean to have been sleeping on the ground all night. I suspect that he spent the night at a friends’ house and didn’t want to “narc” out his buddy. As to why he didn’t want to go home, this kid isn’t talking.

I just hope I don’t see this kid featured on some late night news show some day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Science Camp…

It’s that time of year again when all the 5th graders at this school are set to go off to Science Camp next week. Ten kids to a cabin for a whole week of fun and hopefully some learning about the environmental science of nature.

The writing assignment for today’s class of 6th graders was to: “Write a letter to a 5th grader about your Science Camp Experience”

Seemed like a pretty straight forward assignment. No additional explanation needed right? Not so with these less than motivated 6th graders. This is the laziest bunch of kids I’ve run into in quite a while and I’ve still got two more days with this bunch.

Whine: “I don’t know any 5th graders!”
Reply: Then address it to: “Dear 5th Grader going to camp”

Whine: “I don’t remember anything about science camp!
Reply: Try and remember or ask your friends what they remember.

Whine: “I don’t get it!”
Reply: (…eye rolling look)

Whine: “Do we hafta?” and “Why do WE hafta do it?”
Reply: Yes and because your teacher said so!

Whine: “How many sentences does it have to be?”
Reply: If you want me to set a minimum limit then I’m going to say fifty! Do you WANT me to set a minimum limit? Na, I didn’t think so.

Whine: “How many paragraphs do we gotta do?”
(See previous reply)

Whine: “What do we write about?”
Reply: Write about what you did, what you liked, what you didn’t like, did anything unusual happen, did you go hiking, swimming, sing songs around a camp fire. Stuff like that!

Whine: “I didn’t go to camp last year. Do I still hafta write a letter?”
Reply: Yes! Either ask someone else what they remember or write about how it was to miss going to camp.

Now that I had pretty much covered all “How little can we get away with” questions, most were grudgingly complying with the exception of one wise ass boy.

WA-boy: “You said we could write about anything that happened at camp?”
Reply: Yep…

WA-boy
: Well one kid in our cabin was sitting on his bed and playing with himself…
Reply: STOP!

(Everyone stopped)

WA-boy: But it’s TRUE. Just ask…
Reply: Nope, I don’t need to ask! Let’s just keep it to “camp” activities, ok?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Out Sick?

Not really. I'm playing hooky. Well, not exactly hooky.

We're currently in Long Island after a week in Boston. Fantastic trip visiting friends and relatives. It really was a hard choice. Teaching sixth grade history or experiencing history by touring Paul Revere's house, Old State House, Bunker Hill, walking the freedom trail (in two parts as we couldn't do it in one day) and sampling the "real" Boston Cream Pies.

We arrived by train in NY yesterday. We walked half of central park and Times Square before the legs gave out.

Now it's time to explore the "long island" the rest of this week and then...

...back to 6th grade Monday morning

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Dad Wants To Talk To You…

The assignment was a 5th grade class at the same “Not Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” elementary school. I was cautioned by their teacher that her kids are really “sweet” but can be difficult in a lack of attention and laziness kind of way.

In reality, they were easy to get along with and responded when I wanted the noise levels to be toned down a bit. This was a much better experience than the 2nd graders earlier in the week. The only howls of protest came at the end of the day when I listed the homework on the whiteboard before dismissal.

-- Reading: 20 minutes

-- Math: one page with maybe 10-15 problems left (we did the first 5 in class) dealing with improper fractions.

-- Any unfinished class work.

Kids: “…But, but, but…teacher promised that we’d NEVER have more than six math problems for homework!…EVER!!”

After checking the lesson plan to make sure I hadn’t misread the homework section for math, I informed them that I had my orders. It didn’t include any restrictions or references to any promises of homework limitations.

After locking up, returning the key to the office and on my way out to the teachers lounge for one last “restroom break”, a voice called “MR. HOMEWORK!” from one huge SUV in the parking lot.

I gave the usual customary wave and smile as I continued to my urgent appointment in the men’s room.

“MR. HOMEWORK! MY DAD WANTS TO TALK TO YOU!”

My urgent restroom break just became more urgent.

Because of the nomadic nature of a substitute teacher, I rarely have any encounters with parents of the kids I see during the day. Even then, it’s mostly dealing with delivery of birthday cup cakes, “Hi, How are ya!” introductions before school or notes to be delivered to the regular teacher tomorrow. Never a “My dad wants to talk to YOU!” encounter.

The guy behind the wheel is HUGE! Sleeveless shirt, tattooed from the shoulder to the wrist on both arms, shaved bald and Fu-Manchu mustache. He didn’t look like a guy I wanted teed off at me, so I resisted the urge to run. Instead I approached the passenger side door and informed “Killer” that I wasn’t Junior’s teacher and that she’d be back tomorrow if he needed to talk to her.

Killer politely said that he, indeed, wanted to talk to me if I had 10 to 15 minutes to spare. He suggested that we could go to the classroom and have a chat if I didn’t need to leave right away.

I bought some time by agreeing to meet with him and his kid in the cafeteria after I finished some business in the teachers lounge. I didn’t elaborate about what kind of “business” that had suddenly become extremely urgent.

I spent the next several minutes trying, among other things, to figure just what Junior told his dad that would warrant the pulverizing of an underpaid substitute teacher. I came up empty so I exited the teacher’s lounge to find the duo resting in the shade of a campus tree.

Instead of the closed classroom (with potential lack of witnesses), I suggested the cafeteria where after school homework session was in full swing.

At a table near the back and away from most of the noise, I re-introduced myself to Killer with my real name instead of “Mr. Homework” and asked what the problem was.

Killer told me his son didn’t understand about some of the homework and he (Junior) wanted some clarification.

“Go ahead, Junior. Ask the man!”

Junior: Ms. Teacher PROMISED that we wouldn’t have any more than six math problems for homework.

Me: So, you’re questioning the “amount” of math homework and not how to do it? Your teacher is the one that listed on the lesson plan what the homework was. If you have a problem with the amount you need to talk with your teacher tomorrow.

KILLER: (to Junior) What? I don’t care about the amount. You told me you didn’t understand!

Junior: Well, I don’t understand it either.
Me: Ok, show me the math page.

He removes from the backpack the math page worksheet on improper fractions. The first five problems we did in class are still blank on his.

Me: Well, do you remember that we did these first five in class? I don’t see anything done here.
Junior: I don’t understand it.

Killer asks me if I could go over a couple of the ones we did in class again with Junior.

After being tagged teamed between me and his dad, Junior works his way through the first three. Killer is satisfied that he can do the rest at home.

Me: Ok, is that all?
Junior: I didn’t understand the grammar (identifying declarative .vs. imperative sentences) worksheet either.
Me: Show me!

Again, Junior removes from the backpack the grammar worksheet and again it’s completely blank.

Me: We went over this in class. We even did the first five as examples. All you had to do was write a “D” next to the “declarative” sentences, an “I” next to the “imperative” sentences and identify the subject of the sentences. Remember?

Junior: (no response).
Me: Let’s go over the first few again.

After the first three examples, Junior concedes that he can finish the rest of the worksheet. Killer, looking on, agrees. Killer thanks me for my time with his kid and had Junior shake my hand as I head to my car alive and un-bruised.

I’m not sure if I violated some school district rule about outside contact with parents and students but I did let the teacher know that it did happen just to cover the bases.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not Mister Rogers' Neighborhood…

In four years of subbing, I’ve subbed at this school on only three previous occasions. It’s one of the farthest schools in the district from my house. It’s considered one of the more, let’s just say, “troubled” areas of town.

Mister Rogers' neighborhood it’s not. This impression was reinforced in yesterday’s 2nd grade class. The assignment was a Social Studies lesson on the differences between a neighborhood, community and a town.

Suggestion Example: A “neighborhood” is made of families who live next door (neighbors), in the same apartment building, on the same street, or send their kids to the same school. People in the “neighborhood” might get to know each other by having 4th of July BBQ’s, neighborhood cleanup days, football parties or back to school night at the local school.

Prompt: “Ask the kids about activities that happen in their neighborhood”

Here’s the short list, before I cut them off, of some neighborhood “activities” that they experience in their neighborhood: car accidents, robbery, fire in the back yard (arson), stolen car (multiple), car break-ins, car vandalism, car fire (intentional) and two murders.

I tried to steer them back to examples of “positive” activities, but no one came up with anything other than one birthday party “bounce house” that some uninvited neighborhood kids asked to play in.

(This was also one of the toughest assignments, behavior wise, I’ve had in a long time.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Drought Then Flood...

My 5th season substitute teaching started mid-August. My average subbing assignment schedule usually runs two or three days a week during the school year. I’m happy with that frequency as it gives me some down time if I happen to get clotheslined with one or two of those unexpected difficult assignments in a single week.

So it was with some apprehension when the first three weeks went by with absolutely no calls. I was starting to wonder if I was even on the subbing list.

I don’t have to wonder anymore. The subbing drought ended with the first call late last week that resulted in a flood of five consecutive assignments starting Sept/12.

The first random call was for a school I rarely get assignments. Three days for 2nd graders. At lunch in the teachers lounge the first day, a 5th grade teacher asked if I was available for her class on Wed this week. Today, also in the teachers lounge, another 2nd grade teacher who knew I was subbing next door asked if I was available for Friday, also this week.

There are two schools of thought about substitutes in the teacher’s lounge. Some subs feel the atmosphere is basically hostile to subs and will eat in the classroom or the car to avoid uncomfortable situations. I have the opposite view. It’s a great place to meet and greet teachers for potential future assignments.

But enough is enough for this week. I want Thursday off so I might be eating my lunch in the car tomorrow.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Substitute Teacher Report...

...and I have nothing to report.

We are starting the 3rd week of school already and it's all quiet on the subbing front. By this time last year I was almost too busy.

Anyway, the blog has been getting several hits with query's for "substitute teacher report" so I thought I'd oblige by posting a copy of the report I use for elementary school classes.

Anyone is free to steal, copy, edit, adapt, adjust, duplicate, replicate or photocopy mine for their own use.

Click image for larger view:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The New Profanity...

The second week of school hasn’t offered any substitute assignments so we went to the mid-day, discount ($6/ea) movies yesterday. It’s almost like having your own private theater room. There were only 10 people attending. Very nice. The only downside is that I can’t pause the movie for a potty break.

It’s not unusual to find graffiti in public restrooms offering various “services”, “art” and “news” written with sharpie pens or carved onto restroom walls.

I’m not sure when it started but restroom profanity seems to be posted by the less gifted.

“Four letter words” are now being shortened to three, mostly by eliminating the letter “C”. I suspect that the letter “K” also might be on the way out to reduce the time required to get your message across.

It’s probably an easy supposition that this development can be traced directly to cell phone text messaging and internet chat room acronyms. But I think that the trend in not highlighting spelling errors in favor of phonetic spelling in school as part of the creative writing process might be partially to blame.

Well, time 2 zip an get bak b4 I mis 2 mch of da moo-v “De Drk Nite”.

Friday, August 29, 2008

NY Kinders Taking 90min Tests...

From: http://wcbstv.com/cbs2crew/Testing.Youngest.Pupils.2.804505.html

"...The city is asking public school principals to consider giving math tests to kindergartners, a proposal that comes amid debate over the growing use of standardized tests nationwide.

The experiment could involve tests as long as 90 minutes and change reading assessments for kindergartners through second-graders in the nation's biggest school system, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration has enthusiastically embraced testing. The approach dismays some parents and educators who see it as mechanizing education.

The Department of Education unveiled the $400,000 program in an e-mail Monday inviting elementary school principals to participate. About 65 principals have expressed interest, and as many as 12,000 pupils may ultimately be involved, said James Liebman, the department's accountability chief.
..."

I find it interesting that they aren't inviting Kindergarten teachers to comment. The Kinders I come in contact with rarely have an attention span of more than about 15mins...MAX.

(Click the link above to read the whole story)

Naming Cars...

School has been in session for a week now and the teachers are, evidentially, healthy as Olympic athletes. No calls for a substitute yet.

The old school car, “Sally”, has found a new home. Needless to say, “Craig’s List” is my new best friend. As soon as my asking price for the old Saturn SL2 hit rock bottom, the phone was ringing off the hook…the day after I sold the car.

I know a lot of people who name their cars. I have a friend who calls her Honda Odyssey van “Homer” and her husband named his Mini Cooper “Marge”. He also has an old GTO named “green machine” or just “the goat” since EVERY GTO is known as “a goat”.

We kinda tried to name our cars at one time. But we hardly ever use the chosen names and usually fall back to make or style descriptions as a reference.

It’s usually:
“I’ll take the Saturn to school. We need a Costco run, so let’s take the van for the big stuff. The weather’s great, let’s take the sports car and put the top down.”

Hardly ever:
“I’ll take Sally to school. We need a Costco run so let’s take the van (we never really named the Caravan) since we need big stuff. The weather’s great, let’s take Silky and put the top down”

The new car may have to be the exception. It begs to have a name other than -- YARIS.

“The Toyota” has too many syllables for such a tiny car and “YARIS” sounds like some kind of demented pirate with a speech impediment.

“Avast, me hardies! Captain “YARRRRRR-HISSS” is on deck!”

So far, every woman has used the phrase “It’s SO cute”. So…we’ve started calling it “Cee-Cee”. Claudette says it stands for “chick car” or “cute car”.

Claudette has forbidden me to use the phrase “Clown Car”, but it really DOES remind me of one of those tiny cars in the circus that disgorges streams of endless clowns!

So it’s official. Our new “Toyota Yaris” will be hence known as “Cee-Cee”!

(…the “clown car”)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008

TB or Not TB, Is That the Question?...

“Your personnel records indicate that you will be prevented from taking any assignments on or after Sept/4.”

That’s message I get when I try the school district SubFinder system. To fix it, I simply pay a fee to renew my substitute teaching permit, submit a copy to the district and everything is right with the world until next summer.

School is back in session starting Monday. Several weeks ago, I renewed my “Emergency 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit” and submitted a copy to the school district office as required.

I called the SubFinder system this week only to still hear:
“Your personnel records indicate that you will be prevented from taking any assignments on or after Sept/4.”

Ok, so the office hasn’t noted my renewal yet but school DOES resume on Monday. I don’t want to be “prevented from taking any assignments”. It’s surely a simple clerical error to be corrected as soon as I point out the problem.

A second visit to the office verified that they do have a copy of my renewed permit but it seems that I need to have an updated TB test to bring my personnel records up to date.

It WOULD have been helpful had the automated system tell me what PART of my “personnel records” was preventing me from class assignments. It WOULD have been helpful if the district office, while noting my renewed permit, could have mentioned the expired TB test.

Ok, so now I’ve paid for and passed my TB test and am now in “good standing” with the district. But what would have happened had the test and the subsequent x-ray came back “positive”?

I understand the initial requirement for a TB test starting the job. They don’t want contagious people exposed to kids but I didn’t know that I needed to be tested for TB every four years to continue.

I know of no other industry, except health care for obvious reasons, that requires periodic TB testing. The only reason to periodically test employees is there must be a risk of contracting TB from the classroom clientele.

I’m starting to wonder if this job really worth the risk of contracting TB for such minimal compensation and no employer provided insurance.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hurry Up Already!

We're having a late summer this year. In the 90's so we had the grandkids over for a swim.

Younger cousin thought the lesson was taking too long.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Before It’s Too Late!....

We have to act fast!

Professors at MIT are working to end one of the longest running and most successful reclamation and recycling projects the world has ever seen.

The earth is polluted with this stuff. It’s buried under vast land masses of almost every nation on earth. It’s lurking off shore under the surface of the oceans threatening marine life and some of the most popular beaches on earth.

Before the global reclamation-recycling project came to be, there were reports of farmlands so polluted with the stuff that farmers had to turn to subsistence trapping and hunting just to survive.

In just one such incident, a farmer named Jed was shootin’ at some food one day, and up from the ground came this bubblin’ toxic crude.

Jed was frustrated until the multi-national global reclamation-recycling project (OilCo for short) came and offered to get rid of the toxic pollutant on his land. They told him it wouldn’t cost him anything.

In fact, they would PAY Jed to allow them to help reclaim his farm. They would even relocate him and the whole family to a pollution free (and thinking free) area until they finished reclaiming his farmland.

What a deal!

Since the early 1900’s, OilCo has been hard at work, locating other pockets of this hazardous waste and ridding the planet of the danger to life and the environment.

They recycle it into useful products that can be sold on the open market. The sale of this recycled product more than pays for the good work OilCo needs to locate and clean newly discovered toxic sites.

Now, along comes this professor from MIT who threatens to end the good work OilCo has been doing for more than 100 years.

If we don’t act fast, this new technology will make the market for the recycled products OilCo sells obsolete and place the burden of costs for continued restoration of toxic sites to individual governments (ie: taxpayers)

But we still have time. The new MIT technology is years from practical implementation and in that time we should urge the efforts of OilCo to continue at maximum possible speed.




Drill it now! Drill it fast! Drill everywhere we can find it!

Before it’s too late…

Friday, August 01, 2008

I'm a good guy -- really!!

I haven't been able to post for a while and I don't actually know when THIS post will appear if ever because...

Message from blogger.com tonight (July 31)

"...This blog has been locked due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations. You may not publish new posts until your blog is reviewed and unlocked.
This blog will be deleted within 20 days unless you request a review.
..."

I'm not alone. There seem to be several hundred (thousands?) of blogs that were tagged recently.

It seems that in their zeal to clamp down on the violators of their Terms of Service their automated anti-bad guy filter software doesn't seem to be perfected quite yet.

Now an actual human must sort through the anti-bad guy suspect list to restore me to "good guy" status.

I guess if YOU are reading this, then I that means Blogger HAS determined I'm not such a bad guy after all.

(Let's see how long this takes...)


Thursday, July 31, 2008

The New School Car...

Incoming new replacement...




...for the, hopefully, outgoing "Old" School Car.


Friday, July 25, 2008

It’s a Biggie…

It might be completely dead this time. Don’t know for sure yet.

School resumes a month from today and it’s been almost exactly one year since I hoped to get one more year out of the “school car”. The car spends most of its time parked on the side of the driveway during the summer.

Then it began last week. I noticed that the battery indicator light was on when took it out to get gas at the local Costco. It’s been sitting idle for most of the summer so maybe the battery is just weak from non use. I’ll start driving it on short trips to at least keep the battery charged. Not a biggie.

A few short out and back trips didn’t persuade “school car” to extinguish the battery indicator. Well the battery IS five years old, so maybe it’s time for a new one. Note to self: pick up new battery on next trip to Costco. No biggie.

Uh, oh! Now I have “battery” AND “anti-lock brake” indicators showing. Coincidence? Can I make it until the weekend? It still runs and the brakes still work so hopefully not too much a biggie…right?

Yesterday, I agreed to baby-sit for my grandson and there is a Costco nearby. The plan is to take “school car” and pick up a new battery on the way back. Half way to my daughter’s house I notice that I have “battery”, “anti-lock brake” and now “air bag” indicators on…

I’m thinking it’s starting to look like a biggie…

With the grandson down for a nap and the baby monitor moved to the garage, I used son-in-law’s tools to dismantle the “way too complicated” battery cover and mounting bracket to get at the battery and terminals. Topped off the water levels, tightened all the connectors and re-started the car. No change.

Leaving my daughters place, I still have all three indicators on but now the car is idling at twice the normal rate. Half way to the Costco, the turn signals stop working.

It’s a biggie!

Plans to stop at Costco are now abandoned. Now I’m hoping to just make it to the Saturn dealer a few miles further down the road before the wheels fall off.

Two miles from the dealership, the engine is racing and ALL the engine indicators are on, no turn or emergence flasher signals work and I can’t roll down the power windows to attempt hand signals to make turns.

I’m almost hit twice for changing lanes without signaling. I’m glad I can’t read lips, but I know the intent of silent shouts I see in the review mirror.

Miraculously, I make it to the dealership, coast to a stop in the service driveway and shut the engine off. Everything electrical in the car is dead. Even the dome light doesn’t come on when I open the driver’s door.

They were pushing the car into the service garage when I left. I’m tempted to just hand them the keys and walk away.

-- Sunday July 27 update --

Heard back from the Saturn dealer yesterday. The conversation was something like a bizarre automotive version of "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly"

Dealer Guy: Well, we located the problem with your car.
Me: ok...

DG: The battery is completely dead. (...my original thought exactly)
Me: And?

DG: and...the cause was traced to the alternator. It's completely failed. (...good call Law and Order Teacher-- see the comments section)
Me: Anything else?

DG: Well, it appears that the power steering pump was leaking fluid onto the alternator that caused it to fail.
Me: Ouch! ...how much is this going to cost me?

DG: Uhh...(long pause)...we have to special order the power steering pump, alternator for your model year and a new battery it's going to run...(sounds of keyboard typing in the background)...Uhh, looks like $2150. We'll need your authorization before we proceed.
Me: Uhhh...Mmmm...$2150?...Uhhh...That's more than the car is worth!...Uhhh....ok?

So now the car is running again. My wallet is much lighter. Now I have to wonder if this is the end of major repairs for a while or just the start of a never ending litany of unknown problems to come.

(BTW: We looked at a Toyota Yaris while we were in the neighborhood)


Monday, July 14, 2008

California BBQ...

In case you haven't heard, the whole state of California is just one big BBQ with only a guess when the last wildfire will be out.

On the good news front, one of these will be flying out of the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field to help out


Friday, July 11, 2008

Achievement…

What can the average person expect to achieve in his or her lifetime?

While some will, I’m pretty sure most of us won’t snag a Nobel, Emmy, Golden Globe or even first prize at the county fair.

What most of us can expect to achieve is a high school diploma, a college diploma, maybe even a PhD if the money and brains hold out.

Most of us can expect to achieve finding that special someone to share a life.

Most of us can expect to achieve parenthood if so inclined.

Most of us will experience a few years in one or more careers before settling into the retired life.

I just had one of those “decade birthdays”.

I won’t say when it was or what number it was, but there were fireworks involved and let’s just say that “The Sixty’s Generation” has a whole ‘nother meaning for me now.

While any achievement in my previous career may now be obsolete (such is the pace of cutting edge software design), I now realize that true achievement isn’t all about attaining recognition, wealth or status. It’s really much more basic.

For my surprise birthday party, Claudette and daughter Jene’ compiled a “memory book”.

Now that my real memory is beginning to encounter a few “bad sector” faults, they felt that a hard copy backup was necessary. As I started to peruse my birthday book, I came across pictures and comments from lots-a-people I hadn’t expected and others I hadn’t seen for a while.

I must admit that this was an emotional moment as I realize that the following is MY true life achievement:







It’s the best I could ever have hoped for...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pull My Finger...

Claudette and I were watching one of those odd science shows on the BBC-A the other night that proposed that higher exposure to testosterone levels in the womb is a predictive indicator of sex, human behavior and performance levels in adult life.

They claim that differential ring and index finger measurements in adults is an indicator of womb exposure to testosterone. As such, finger length can be used to predict both physical and mental performance in both men and women.

Men usually have a longer ring finger than the index finger. The bigger the difference the more testosterone exposure. Women tend to have just the opposite. Index fingers longer than ring fingers.

After Claudette and I stopped measuring our ring and index fingers, we exchange bemused looks as we verified the researcher's findings.

In one test, a researcher visited a college track & field team of six male runners. He measured finger differentials of each and then predicted the finish order in a race based strictly on the measurements. He got 1st, 2nd and 3rd place correct. Reversed 4th and 5th place finishers and got the 6th correct.

A little Googling on the net, I turned up the following:
From LiveScience.com
"...Exposure to testosterone in the womb is said to promote development of areas of the brain often associated with spatial and mathematical skills, he said. That hormone makes the ring finger longer. Estrogen exposure does the same for areas of the brain associated with verbal ability and tends to lengthen the index finger relative to the ring finger.

To test the link to children's scores on the College Board's Scholastic Assessment Test (for which the name has changed a number of times in the past 100 years), Brosnan and his colleagues made photocopies of children's palms and measured the length of their index and ring fingers using calipers accurate to 0.01 millimeters. They used the finger-length ratios as a proxy for the levels of testosterone and estrogen exposure.

The researchers then looked at boys' and girls' test performances separately and compared them to finger-length ratio measurements. They found a clear link between high prenatal testosterone exposure, indicated by the longer ring finger compared to the index finger, and higher scores on the math SAT.

Similarly, they found higher literacy SAT scores for the girls among those who had lower prenatal testosterone exposure, as indicated by a shorter ring finger compared with the index finger."

Not sure if all this is on the up and up, but it's going to be hard not to stare at the hands of the little monsters in class starting September.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Algebra Required in 8th Grade...

If the national studies are true, then California has no chance to make this work.

From the SFGate:

"...All California eighth-graders in public school will have to take Algebra 1 beginning in 2011 under a policy approved Wednesday by the state Board of Education in an 8-1 vote.

The board decided to make algebra testing mandatory in the eighth grade over the strong objections of Jack O'Connell, the state's elected schools chief."

---and--

From: Carpe Diem and USA Today

"...
Summertime means school for an increasing number of high school students who have struggled in their math courses....In March, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel reported that U.S. students lack a deep understanding of basic skills, including a grasp of whole numbers and fractions.

One reason for teacher frustration is that the state's math gurus have de-emphasized memorization in favor of "conceptual thinking." The same philosophy has crept into English classes, where "creativity" has been elevated over knowledge of grammar, and into history classes, where knowing historical trends — "the big picture" — has replaced knowing dates of important events."

Monday, June 30, 2008

Final Check…

Hooray, hooray today is payday! School has been out for almost three weeks now and today’s the day.

The “real” teachers got their final check two weeks after last day of school. We have to wait three weeks for them to cut our checks.

They COULD have verified and run the payroll for everyone at the same time, but they make us wait until the end of June for our final check so they can earn a few more days of interest on “our money”.

I’ve previously described the how this creative accounting method works to the benefit of the district at the expense of the district substitutes so there’s no point in rehashing it.

I arrived at what I thought was the very civilized time of 10:00am to pick up my check at the district office (they won’t expend a postage stamp to send it in the mail), and I expected the usual courteous greeting with my check.

It was not to be.

“Substitutes are not supposed to be here before 10:30 to pick up checks” was the greeting I got. Sure enough there was an orange flyer posted right there on the window and it does say:

“Checks can be picked up on June 30, 2008 after 10:30am”

The box of checks is clearly in view on her desk and she didn’t appear to be working on anything else except surfing the internet. Before I could reply with a smarmy comment of my own about how long she’s had to go since her last paycheck, she added:

“But since you’re here, I guess I'll get it for you” with the unspoken tone of “but don’t let it happen again!”

Well, golly gee, gosh darn, thank you for stepping out on a limb, going to the max and thinking outside the “union” time card box to look up my name in the alphabetized shoe box of checks.

I can’t remember, but I think I forgot to say “Thanks” when I left.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Final Tally: 2007-08...

I worked a grand total of 79 classroom subbing days for the just ended 2007-08 school year.

This was working for a single district with 15 elementary schools. Surprisingly, 51 of those subbing days (65 %!!) were for a single school in the district. Two schools monopolized 69/79 (87%) of my jobs.

Not sure if it’s good or bad to be seen so infrequently at the other 13 schools.

Something to think about this next year.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Popcorn Reader...

I came across the term “popcorn reading” on a lesson plan not long after I started subbing four years ago. I didn’t know what: “Have the kids popcorn read the next chapter” actually meant. When asked, the kids explained it was just taking turns reading a paragraph from the text book or the current class novel.

Sometimes it’s drawing random names on popsicle sticks, or having the kid that finishes reading pick the next reader who hasn’t already read. With twenty to thirty kids in class, it never seems that anyone has to read more than once during the lesson.

This fact is not lost on some kids. Those are the kids that want their turn early so they can screw around for the rest of the time.

They decide to “do other stuff” while the rest of the class is reading the text. They know that they don’t have to read along because they already had “their turn”.

I’m there only for the day, so I usually don’t make a big deal when this happens unless the “other stuff” is distracting to others in the vicinity.

In one of the last 5th grade classes I had this year, a kid I’ll call “Josh”, was taking it to the extreme by crackling his water bottle, drum beating the desk or rummaging around in his desk for who knows what to the amusement his table group friends.

On this particular day, I couldn't seem to be able to overlook Josh’s antics. After the first couple of popsicle kids had read, I called on Josh to read next.

Josh not only didn’t know what page or paragraph we were on, he apparently didn’t know what book we were reading from.

After a long delay and a consult with the girl next to him, he got the book, page and paragraph identified and dutifully read the next paragraph.

I doubt that he understood what he was reading because it was out of context to the previous paragraphs he wasn’t reading, but he did “read the words”.

While the next popsicle kid was reading, I glanced over at Josh who was back to “doing his stuff”. When it was time to select the next reader, I abandoned the next random selection process.

Me: Josh! You’re up.
Josh: But…I already read!
Me: I know. You’re up again. Do you know where we are?
Josh: Uh…no.
Me: That’s why you’re up again. Find out and begin!

This required another hasty consult with the others around him before he could comply.

It took a third reading session before Josh finally got the idea that I might be out to get him. After each time a popsicle kid finished, I would ask without looking up: “Josh! What page and paragraph are we on?” If he got it right, I’d move on to the next popsicle kid. If he got it wrong, it was his turn to read again.

It finally got to the point that all I had to do was look over in his direction with a questioning look, and Josh would lift up his book slightly acknowledging that he knew I was watching and he knew what page and paragraph we were on.

More importantly, he was so paranoid about keeping track of where the reading point was that he didn’t have time for that “other stuff” he’d would rather have preferred to do during class.

Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP - George Carlin

You can't take your "stuff" with you, George...



...and, in an interesting segue, here's a guy getting rid of all his "stuff"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

What's My Line...

Went out to the movies tonight to celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary.

Dialog from the movie:

Q: You're a teacher??
A: Only part time...

That's MY line!

Guess the movie this dialog was from and you get 1 "AttaBoy" point!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pro-Choice in Education..

But not the way you're thinking. It seems that "choice" is only good when it doesn't threaten the public unions. Click the link to the full Wall Street Journal story.

From the WSJ: Putting the Children Last
June 11,2008

"...Democrats in Congress have finally found a federal program they want to eliminate. And wouldn't you know, it's one that actually works and helps thousands of poor children.

...We're speaking of the four-year-old Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that provides vouchers to about 2,000 low-income children so they can attend religious or other private schools. The budget for the experimental program is $18 million, or about what the U.S. Department of Education spends every hour and a half.

...These are families in heavily Democratic neighborhoods. More than 80% of the recipients are black and most of the rest Hispanic. Their average income is about $23,000 a year. But the teachers unions have put out the word to Congress that they want all vouchers for private schools that compete with their monopoly system shut down...

...The reason unions want to shut the program down immediately isn't because they're afraid it will fail. They're afraid it will succeed, and show that there is a genuine alternative to the national scandal that are most inner-city public schools. That's why former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and current Mayor Adrian Fenty, both Democrats, support the program.

...Hopefully," says Mr. Chavis, "Congress will focus on the kids, not the politics here." Barack Obama might call that the audacity of hope, if he finally showed the nerve to break with the unions on at least one issue and support these poor D.C. students.

..."


Also check out Mark at Carpe Diem for comments about which "choices" Congress does and doesn't like.