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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Carnival Day #86...


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

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

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

See ya there!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Odds, Ends and the SoapBox...


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

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

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

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

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

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

You get the idea.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Confessions of a Substitute Teacher...

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

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

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

by T.M. Shine

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

Read the rest of the article here:

Confessions of a Substitute Teacher

Friday, September 15, 2006

Time Owed…


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

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

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

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

Time owed.

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

Time owed

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

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

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

Time owed - two additional minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

Time owed AND a special paragraph in the teacher report.

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

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

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

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

Whichever is longer.

Time earned…

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What Does It Take – Part II…


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 11, 2006

Headache Epidemic…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ConArtist#2: Because mine really, really hurts.

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

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

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

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fridian Slip!…

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

I guess that could be called a Fridian slip…

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Subbing Assignments Are Flooding In!…

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

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

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

9/7 - Update

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

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day Weekend...

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

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

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

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

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

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

...lunch break in the shade:

Friday, September 01, 2006

I Hate Apples…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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