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Friday, October 28, 2005

Extra Recess Drags!...


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

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

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Legend of Mr. HOMEWORK!...


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After all, I’m MR. HOMEWORK!...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005



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

Also “funny” but mostly just “annoying”…

Monday, October 24, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

Full article here:
Principal curbs kids' Internet activity

Friday, October 21, 2005

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


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

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

Duly noted on the after action substitute teacher report.

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

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

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

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

Amazingly, they appeared to be having FUN doing it!

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

What’s up wit dat?

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

Really! I want to know!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Class Spy!...


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who said that?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Class On Autopilot!...


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow what a concept! Works for me!

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Space Makes All The Difference!...


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 14, 2005

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Half Day Hell! …


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Way Children See Things!...

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

The Way Children See Things!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 10, 2005

It’s Important To Know How To Tell Time…


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

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

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

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

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

“It’s time for recess now?”

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

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

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

…and so it continues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s when I had a bad feeling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 07, 2005

Time To Buy A Lotto Ticket!…


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

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

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

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

These guys were actually FUN to be with today!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What’s It Take?…


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

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

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

Good Night!