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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Teacher Gift...


I completed the last day of my 3 day country club school assignment in this class. With only ten school days left for this school year, the class mood was “excitable” to say the least.

We were not only visited by the principal today, but also the vice principal and the “Student principal for a day”.

The “SP4 a day” greets me with “Hi! Mr. Homework!” Evidentially I was a substitute in his class earlier this year but I couldn’t tell you which classroom he was from.

This greeting generated some odd glances from the P and VP but they didn’t request an explanation and I didn’t volunteer one.

As stated in the previous post, the “Read-Aloud” assignment cost me one worthless coin for yesterday and another for today. Student readers mangled the “elves, gnomes, dwarves” names almost as much as I did on the first day.

With today’s end of day handouts, there was a note from a parent volunteer asking for a $20 donation from each family for the end of year “teacher gift”.

Less-see….twenty-eight kids….times $20.00/ea….carry the one…that’s...WOW…almost $600 !!!

I wonder what Christmas time is like around here?…

Sunday, May 28, 2006

It's All In A Name...


I’ve always been bad remembering names.

It takes me at least three or more encounters before I can remember the name to attach a face. This may be a major character flaw or maybe it’s just something I can attribute to the frequency of changing work groups while working at twenty three different high tech companies over a span of the last thirty three years.

Getting to know the names of the people with whom you work is easier because almost everyone in “the industry” wears a company ID name badge with picture.

Even so, for the first few weeks I would make lists of people’s names that I had to interact with until I could greet them by name without first searching for that ID badge clipped on a belt, purse or hanging from a neck chain.

I can still go blank when I run across someone I “know” from only a year or so back if I encounter them out of context in a location like a hardware store or a fast food court in the mall. I usually end up confessing in an awkward exchange that I “blanked on your name” and try to laugh it off blaming it on genetic Alzheimer’s.

I’m finding it harder to play the same trick with this substitute teaching gig.

I rarely sub for the same teachers more than three or four times in a whole year. Nobody at the schools wears ID badges. I meet a new group of twenty to thirty kids every day I go to an assignment at which time I usually see the name exactly once during attendance.

Of those thirty or so names, a small percentage will be unpronounceable (…”Is Pwllheli here?”). Another group will be spelled correctly but pronounced wrongly (…"Is Joel here"…"It’s pronounced JOE-ELL!!"). Lastly we have the “clever, cute” names: Afrika, Contessa, Chynna, DeStani (pronounced “destiny”).

Add to the mix we have kids with first names that might or might not be fully printed because the parents INSIST on the full hyphenated last name on the “last name first” column of the class attendance sheet.

I don’t know how many times I’ve asked if Alber was present only to be informed that there was no Alber in class, but there IS an Alberto.

I have even been known to compensate for what I assumed was a “truncated name” asking for Christopher only to be told that the name is indeed Christoph.

Even with all these hurtles, I still make feeble attempts at names instead of referring to the kid as “third from the back in this row”.

Now we come to Friday's 5th grade lesson plan entry. I was to read from the next chapter of The Book of Three (Prydain Chronicles) which their teacher is reading to them in class.

Truly a cruel joke. It’s a fantasy story about elves, gnomes, dwarves with …you guessed it…unpronounceable names.

Why can’t elves, dwarfs and gnomes have names like Tom, Dick, Mary and Butch?

Instead we have Melyngar, Eiddileg, Dallben, Doli, Ffewddur, Nevvid, Gwydion, Medwyn, Eilonwy, Gurgi, Prydain.

So stumbling half way through the assigned chapter, I gave up and announced we’re going on to something else. Problem is that I have this same class for Tuesday and Wednesday this coming week and I’m sure this lesson item is on the plan for both days.

If I can’t get a student volunteer to read the next chapter(s) for me, I may have to bribe one with a worthless coin or two.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Movie Buzz...

What’s all this buzz about a fictional movie?

Everyone knows it IS fiction! Right?

Thanks to Darren for finding ->

Monday, May 22, 2006

Compare & Contrast...

Last Friday and today, I had two consecutive 4th grade classes. Different schools in different districts. The following are a few observations.

See if you can group the observations to my school of preference:

Class size: 29 kids

Class size: 35 kids

No whiteboard space left to use as it is plastered with “Genealogy of the entire Donner Party

The kids had an assembly featuring a “Rain Forest Musical” featuring native made musical instruments followed by an offer to sell the CD ($15/ea) or Tape ($9/ea). No successful sale to any 4th grader was observed.

At recess time some of kids ask me: “Can you come out and play with us?”

Confiscated student comic drawing during class featuring a guy asking “Who wants a blow job?” and also provides the following: “def: sucks balls and dicks as a hobby.”

This schools PTA holds an annual “Black Tie Formal” affair to auction off donated items bringing +$100k/year to the school. You can name your own street for the year if you have the highest bid.

Teachers lounge has free chips, salsa, jumbo burritos and sodas for the teachers (and me!)

Staff lounge has NO vending machines of any kind. I was informed that having a soft drink anywhere in school in the district is illegal. Funny, all the other elementary schools that I’ve been to in this district HAVE at least a soda machine in the staff lounge.

Teacher lunch - $3.25: One pizza slice measuring EXACTLY 6”x6” with EXACTLY three pepperoni slices, 4floz carton of apple juice. I didn’t even know juice cartons that small existed!

I encountered “Smencils” in class. These are smelly pencils that come in a variety of odors. Most of the kids had at least two each.
Flavor list: Root Beer, Chocolate Milk, Cherry, Hazelnut Latte, Orange, Peppermint, Cinnamon, Cookie Dough, Grape and Bubble Gum.

Teacher in the staff lounge indicates there is a demand for private one-on-one tutors by parents at this school. Rate is $50-$120 per hour.

I need a code and my own paper to operate the copier.

I can make as many copies as I want.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sub Qualifications?

Over at the Education Wonks there is a piece about how Boston is attracting quality substitute teachers for the Boston Public School system

Benefits and better pay! What a concept!

Thursday, May 18, 2006



I don’t really know why schools have “shift” periods at the elementary level. It’s more difficult for a “guest teacher” to face three different sets of kids for three different subjects (reading, math and science).

My sentence was only for a day and a half (Wed and Thurs) for a crime I have yet to determine. I served my time in this 6th grade class and was paroled Thursday afternoon. It might have been bearable with only one set of jailers, but this prison term I was subjected to three sets. Five if you count three for the full day and two for the half day.

With three sets of jailers, I have three different sets of notes on the lesson plan warning me about certain individuals sitting with each other. Three different notes about who is likely to give me problems due to ADD, ADHD, ACDC, ABBA, WAS, AAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEE and what ever else the kid has likely forgotten to take his pills for.

Just about the time I get a handle on dealing with one set of kids, the time is up and the next shift arrives and we get to start over.

After moving one obnoxious kid away from the girl he was stabbing with a pencil on the first day to a desk away from everyone else (he told me his dad had “run out of his pills”), he proceeded to piss me off enough that I sent him to have a talk with the principle.

Unfortunately the principle had left for the day. How can you be the boss of the school and not BE at the school during school hours? The office staff said they’d keep him in the office until the end of the day.

Kudos to the office staff! Boo’s to the principal!

I’m off to the country club school tomorrow to decompress in 4th grade...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Guest Teacher Appreciation Day...

No, there is no “official” recognition day for substitute teachers. But when I get an email like the following, it IS appreciated.

You've subbed a couple of times for me this year and the students request you every time I'm absent.

I need to be out of town from Friday May 26 through Wednesday May 31 and was wondering if you were available on that Friday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Let me know so I can plan accordingly.


S.O. Elem, grade 4/5

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cast Of Characters...


From yesterday’s half day 5th grade class:

Candy Man
I’m giving the math lesson when I notice three empty chairs at one table where it used to be full. I angle around for a look-see and notice three boys under the table with butts in the air hunched over a bag. I haul the boys out and confiscate a Halloween size cache of candy to the protest of the “candy man” owner. I inform him that I’ll let his regular teacher give it back when he returns in the afternoon.

Teddy Bear Boy
Is it me or does it seem more than a little odd to see an 11yr old boy in class with his teddy bear. He claims it gives him the answers to the math problems.

On the way out the door I ask one of the other students how long he has been bringing the teddy bear to class. “Oh! It’s new! He just got it today!”

Concentration Pill Girl
Then we have the ultimate unmotivated girl. She’s the only one without a Math book on the desk long after the class was instructed on the page number and problem set.

me: Where’s your Math book?
cpg: In the desk.
me: Let’s get it out and start working. Ok?
cpg: (opens book)


I notice the book still open but no work has begun.

me: Having any trouble with the problems?
cpg: No! (Looks up with the “aren’t I cute” grin)
me: Then how come I don’t see any math done on the paper?
cpg: I’m going to do it at home.
me: Let’s do it today in class instead.
cpg: I didn’t take my pill. (With another “aren’t I cute” grin.)
me: What pill is that?
cpg: The one that makes me concentrate in school. (Still with the perpetual “aren’t I cute” grin)

Only one more hour more to go!

Monday, May 15, 2006



My 4th grade assignment for today was arranged last month. It’s in a newer school where everything still works. I was on time, ready to go and about to receive the keys and attendance list from the office secretary when the phone rang.

“Yes, he’s here in the office right now.” (Silence, facial expressions, rollie eyes) “So who are we getting to sub for Ms. K’s class today?” …(more silence, more rollie eyes, with a slight grimace)…) “Ok, I’ll ask”

“Mr. P? The sub coordinator needs you over at (the school of the perpetually broken A/C and wild kids -- my description-- elementary) instead of here today”.

I must have had that “deer in the headlights” look, as I didn’t immediately answer.

“It’s for a half day assignment”

Now I must have switched to the “ARE YOU KIDDING ME??” look.

Give up a full day pay assignment for a last minute, half day pay assignment at the school of perpetual migraine?

“She says they’ll pay you for a full day if you agree”.


Sunday, May 14, 2006


I didn’t work at all this past week and it was by choice.

We had both grandgirls over to spend the week with us. They are 20 and 14 months old and a blast to be with.

My job as a substitute teacher allows me to take unpaid days off whenever I need. That is the one and only benefit of the job. This week I took it.

I work in two different school districts and both issue paychecks once a month to substitute teachers.

The pay period for my favored district (#1) is from the 26th of the previous month through the 25th of the current month with checks issued on the 10th of the next month.

The other (#2) district cycle is from the 6th of the previous month to the 5th of the current month with payday the last day of the current month.

This means that for any one day you work, you won’t get paid for that day until 10-35 days later from district #1 and 25-55 days later in district #2.

Both districts prefer “day labor” employees pick up their checks at the respective district offices on payday. Neither district offers automatic deposit as they tell me that it is not available to “day labor” employees.

This creative accounting means that District #2 gets to earn about another month’s extra interest on the money it owes the “day labor” employees. (This has always bugged me since I signed up for this district and one of these days I might have look up the state rules to see if this is actually legal.)

District #2 WILL pay the postage to mail your check if you don’t personally pick it up at the district office by 04:00pm on payday.

To make a long story even longer, payday was Wednesday this last week in district #1 and I chose not spending expensive gas money driving to the district office to pick up my check.

Instead, I walked the grandgirls down to the park for some play time figuring I should see a check in the mail a day or two later. No biggie.

Well, Friday’s mail doesn’t include my check. I call the district office and find out that they are still holding my check waiting for me to pick it up.

Come to find out that District #1 WON’T mail my check unless I provide the postage. They will, begrudgingly, spend the postage and mail it to me five days after payday. I did not know this until this week.

This is the same district that cut the substitute teachers daily rate by $10 this year claiming budget cuts.

In exchange, I should think that the least they could do was give each substitute teacher an extra 39 cents a month to mail a lousy check.

Monday, May 08, 2006



There are a more than a few things I don’t do well.

Singing, dancing and playing musical instruments are all out of the question while being a guest teacher for the day.

Explaining math, reading aloud, inserting DVD’s are all well within my talents while following a teacher’s lesson plan.

Mixed in with the books for today’s 6th grade assignment included a title called “"What's Happening To Me? A Guide to Puberty…”

The book includes a section titled:

Worlds most embarrassing questions (WMEQ):
  • Why is my chest getting bumpy?
  • What’s an erection?
  • What’s a period?
  • Why is my voice acting funny?
  • Why do I get pimples?
  • What’s masturbation?
  • Why am I getting hairy?
  • What’s a wet dream?
  • Why is mine not like his?
  • What happens next?
Did I forget this is an “illustrated” book?

A VERY illustrated book! No way is this going to work in a mixed boy/girl classroom environment of thirty kids without losing control.

A quick double check of the lesson plan did NOT include any lesson plan assignment involving this book.

That’s very good, because it had already made my current and future “Do Not Do” list.

No Way! No How!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bird in the hand...


What’s the deal with all the “half” day assignments lately? Half day assignments also mean half day pay. You always take a chance turning down a half day assignment hoping that a full day assignment might still be possible.

It’s the classic “bird in the hand” choice.

I missed two calls offering half day kinder assignments yesterday. I took today’s half day assignment in 6th grade when they called at 10:00am because any hope for a full day was long gone.

So what to do about this afternoon’s call for three, contiguous “half day” assignments in 4th grade the rest of the week? Take it or chance that you can pick up at least two full days to make more? After today’s experience, I’ll chance it.

Today’s half day seemed more like a full day. I’ve been in this class exactly once this school year about six months ago. I remembered that day as soon as I recognized "Popeye" sitting in the back row. It wasn’t a happy memory. But, for some reason, THEY were happy to see me! Go figure.

Guess what? This class hasn’t changed a bit in six months. Last time, I declined the offer to “send any trouble makers next door” to the other 6th grade, seeing that as a challenge to persevere. Today I harbor no such allusions.

Popeye and the two Blutos are going to be “outa here” the moment I get too frustrated with them. So to my surprise, while people WERE sent next door, it wasn’t them.

Two girls got into a shoving, wrestling match just before last hour so they got the boot instead.

Popeye and the Blutos were borderline “booties” today but survived only because I felt that sending almost 20% of the class out for discipline reasons might have been a bit much.

Next time I might not care…

Monday, May 01, 2006

Calif Proposition 82, the Preschool for All initiative...

I turned down two requests for subbing Kindergarten today. I just couldn't handle it today.

I don't even want to contemplate the concept for subbing PRE-Kindergarten.

My vote is NO on 82!!

Pro/Con debate rages here: