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Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Mathemagician...

I know you're still on vacation from school, but let's review shall we?

This guy is amazing...
(Thanks to Darren for the find...)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A H.S. Diploma Isn't Good Enough...

I don't think kids, in general, are any less intelligent than those 40yrs ago. I don't think teachers are any less qualified than any in the past. I DO believe that the intrusion of politics, politicians and government mandates interfere with the "old school" goals of teaching basic foundation information and problem solving skills.

While the idea of programs like NCLB and CASHEE are noble in concept, the implementation has had the unintended consequence of forcing teachers accept school administrator overrides to a "retention" recommendation, to what amounts to student "social promotion" through the school system.

It's the kind of direct observation about the current state of education or should I say "the politics of education" that seems to be driving more and more parents to seek out private schools or choosing home schooling options for their kids.

Now there may be some data to back it up.
From: Carpe Diem
"...Degrees and diplomas may not translate to on-the-job success"

From the study: More Grads, But Cognitive Ability Declines
The study suggests that because the ability level of the average high school graduate has changed over time, finding job candidates with the same level of ability as 1970 high school graduates requires employers seek out applicants with two or more years of college training.

MP: Hey, but aren't grades (and self-esteem) at an all-time high in both high school and college?

Friday, December 21, 2007

It’s the Last DAY…


It’s the last day before Christmas break.

I picked up a 2nd grade class assignment for today. The only assignment this week. The last assignment for 2007. Minimum work on a minimum, 4 ½ hr day.

A piece of cake.
…or so I thought.

Lesson Plan:

  1. Take roll
  2. Busy work
  3. Recess
  4. Busy work
  5. Lunch
  6. Play the video: The Muppet Movie
  7. Dismiss

Everything was proceeding along as “planned” until they came back from lunch. All I had left to do was play the movie and then send them on their way home.

Well is seems that this one girl had already seen The Muppet Movie and has declared it boring.

But because SHE’S bored she assumes that everyone should also be bored. She starts acting up by pushing her chair around the room until she can start loud conversations to the distraction of the other kids trying to follow the story line.

I’m not gonna force any kid to watch a Disney movie in class. It’s the last day!

My efforts to limit her mobility by having her sit next to me in the back of the room only last for a few minutes until she starts scooting away from me an inch or two at a time. I notice but I let it slide. It’s the last day!!

As long as she isn’t too disruptive and to the other kids aren’t complaining, I’ll let it go just for today because it’s the last day!!!

Big mistake. This movie lasts an hour and twenty minutes. That’s too much time to tempt little Miss Bored to act “civil”. Four return trips to the back of the room next to me is my limit.

The ultimate 2nd grader punishment of “turning her card to yellow”, writing her name on my report for her teacher or asking “What would Santa think?” had negligible effect. By negligible, I mean absolutely none.

Finally it’s time to go home. I’m sooo glad that it’s the last day!!!!

Off topic note. Today’s odd kid name for today: Malaysia (girl)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Lights Selection...

The original that started it a couple years ago:

Even an airliner inadvertently adds to this show:

The display is silent to neighbors. The music is broadcast over a low power FM signal and a sign is placed in the yard to tell you what station to tune in to to hear the music:

Vote for your favorite in a comment!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Second Favorite…

This must be Bizzaro week.

While the anticipated disaster with yesterdays 6th graders turned out pretty good, today’s 4th grade class, from which I expected good behavior, got just the opposite.

I intercepted one note passed from a girl to the guy sitting in front of her asking the question/statement: "Do you now you is sexy?"

I looked at my little 4th grade “Lolita” wannabe and with a straight face said: “You spelled ‘know’ wrong” and watched her turn a couple different shades of red as I stapled the note to my daily report.

No more notes were passed today.

All they accomplished today was one practice spelling test, a lot of goofing off and getting the floor clean before I let them out the door to go home.

On the way out, one kid blurted:
“You’re our 2nd most favorite sub!”

Me: “Oh? Who’s #1?”
Kid: “Mr. A-------! He sings songs and let’s us play games!”

No additional comment needed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Beatles 2nd Tour…


I’m back in the 6th grade “Beatles” class today.

The call came late Sunday night. I DIDN’T really want to take this class.

After checking for an alternate assignment (…there was none), I accepted the assignment. With this being a short month before the schools close for the holidays, I figured maybe I could survive at least one more day of abuse.

I was silently hoping that this class might have improved since my last visit but the first comments at the top of the lesson plan didn’t bode well.

“…This class is difficult…“All the boys except for the following four are benched for behavior last week…”

At roll call, I noted that the worst of the Beatles was absent. He’s the one who wrote and begged his teacher to:

“Please, please, please, never, never, never, never, (repeat another 10-15 nevers) have Mr. Homework subseetoot for us agan!”

Since the automated substitute line stated “You have been requested for this assignment”, I see he didn’t get his wish.

What transpired, instead, was a pleasant surprise. THEY WERE PRETTY GOOD!!

Even “sassy girl” didn’t give me too much attitude today. And only half the boys ditched recess bench duty figuring that I wouldn’t notice.

“Ditching bench duty” duly noted in my substitute report for their teacher to deal with…tomorrow.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Surprising Talent…

I’ve had only three assignments these last two weeks in grades 3, 4 and 5. All at the same school.

The following note (front & back) was done on a folded index card with fine line pens and a lot of talent. Even with the spelling goof, I think it is better than excellent work…for a 5th grader.

Whattya think?

(Click on the image for larger view)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

No Experience Necessary…

How many employment opportunities require minimal or absolutely no experience required? I certainly didn’t expect that teaching would be one of them when I first looked into substitute teaching.

There are some areas in the U.S. where substitute teaching requires an actual teaching degree. These jobs are filled by newly graduated or retired teachers. There are other areas in this country where “some” college or simply a H.S. diploma is the requirement.

In California, the minimal requirement is a four year college degree and passing California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) on the three R’s at a 10th grade level.

The difference comes down to supply and demand economics. If you have an excess of talent in a small market, you will almost certainly need a master’s degree to step into a teacher’s role for the day.

I just finished reading “The Emergency Teacher” that relates the first hand account of Christina Asquith’s first year as a full time teacher at one of the worst schools in Philadelphia, despite being untrained and uncertified.


School District of Philadelphia, in desperate need of 1,500 new teachers, instituted a policy of hiring “emergency certified” instructors. Asquith, then a 25-year-old reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, joined their untrained ranks. More challenging than her classroom in the crime-infested neighborhood known as “the Badlands” are the trials she faced outside, including a corrupt principal, the politics that prevented a million-dollar grant from reaching her students, and the administration’s shocking insistence that teachers maintain the appearance of success in the face of utter defeat…”

She lasted a full 180 day school year and didn’t result in the typical Hollywood ending.

That’s 179 more days than I would have attempted had I been crazy enough to try. I guess that’s the difference between being young, idealistic and full of energy .vs. mature (re: much older), realistic and pooped. I think I'll stick to my part time substitute teaching gig.

It's an eye opening story and a fast read. See the "Substitutes Book List" at left for more info...

Update 12/4/2007:

For anyone curious about the content of the CBEST , check the comments section on this post for a message from "Learning Tree" about their
CBEST Study Guide and Practice Tests.

I'm not sure if the the codes to try it out is only one time deal or not, so I'll leave it unused for anyone on a "first come, first served" status. If you use it, please post a comment here and let me know what you think of the program.

(I got my CBEST card in 1994 but didn't use it until I started subbing in 2003)

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Inmates In Charge?

I stumbled across this educators method of handling substitute teacher days :

".....I chose the students-as-teachers several days before my absence. The students and I discussed the lesson plans and their understanding of the material to be covered. When my day off arrived, the substitute found complete lesson plans on my desk. The plans explained the agenda for the day and informed the substitute which student would be in charge of each class. The plans asked the substitute to allow the students to take charge of the class; they asked the substitute to take care of any discipline problems that might arise.

I have had several reactions to this approach from the substitute teachers. Most were not prepared for it. Some thought the lesson plan directions were a prank being played on them. But once the students started class, most substitutes responded with awe at the positive behavior and hard work of the students.

A couple of substitutes have refused to allow the students to take charge of the class. To prepare for that event, the students were told, in advance, to comply with the substitute's wishes.


I wonder if this would work with Kindergarten?

Just kidding! I've actually experienced something close to this method before and I really enjoyed the experience.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Do a Little Dance…


I repeat the same phrase every day I’m subbing.

Right before recess AND lunch, I tell them that if they need to go to the bathroom, now is the time.

What I said: “DO NOT return to class after lunch or recess and immediately ask to go to the bathroom!!”

What they heard: “Blah, blah, blabitty, blah, LUNCH blah RECESS blah, blah, blah…!!”

So of course, the first thing after the door closes after recess I have this kid claiming he “forgot to go” at recess. I remind him of the last thing I told everyone before going out the door and that we can’t delay the spelling test just for him. He’ll have to wait.

He’s dancing from foot to foot with both hands holding his crotch pleading: “I GOTTA GO! Please!”

I’ve seen this act before and I know if I deny the request, a follow up request is usually a drink of water. The sure sign of the faker. His act, as usual, is WAY too much over the top to be believable and I’m about send him back to his seat when an amazing thing happened.

A single bead of sweat appeared between his eyes and rolled down off the tip of his nose.

He might have been hot from running around at recess but producing the “sweat drop” while dancing was a new twist.

I let him go…

Friday, November 16, 2007

Speed Subbing…

Today set a personal record for me. I subbed for eighteen (18) teachers in four (4) hours.

I was called into be a “roving sub” for the day. The teachers had some kind of personal information audit they were required to do so my job, today, was to work 30 minutes for each teacher while they were being “audited”

As it turned out, an actual “audit” ran anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes each so I was finished by 11:00am after the initially scheduled 14 teachers were done. It was something like speed dating, as I was traversing the campus to the next classroom every few minutes of the day.

Since this was supposed to be done over a 2-3 day period to catch all school employees, the school rounded up an additional four teachers and pushed them through the audit process before I left for the day at noon.

Since I was only in each class for a few minutes, the kids didn’t really have time to goof off or act up knowing the teacher would be back, literally, any minute!

Easiest day subbing…EVER!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Predictions Come True...sorta

Back in March last year I predicted an outcome to banning vending machines on campus.

Joanne Jacobs reports on the predictable when kids see an opportunity in free enterprise on campus.

"...His parents thought he was selling drugs. He took them out to dinner to explain: He was a candy pusher using his Costco connection to buy low and sell high. Another Boulder boy got his parents to finance his candy purchases but complained when lower-priced competition cut into his profit margin."

Hot, Now Cold …

The subbing business seems to be running hot and cold.

The first three months of this school year, it was HOT. It seemed that I was getting 5-6 requests for the 3-4 assignments a week I was able to take. I had to turn down a few advance requests two weeks in advance because of prearranged assignments.

Now with the onset of winter the subbing assignments, like the weather, have turned COLD. Just one assignment per week for the first half of November and one assignment per week scheduled for the rest of the month.

If the week long school vacation in November is the cause then the months of December through the end of March aren’t looking much better. There is a scheduled week off during each of those months also.

Teachers are discouraged from extending vacations by calling in sick, so the substitute caller line tends to be quieter the days immediately before and after school vacations. Things should pick up again in non-holiday months of April and May.

I have a disappointment in store for teachers desperate to burn off those remaining union contracted sub days before the summer vacation in June.

I’m taking MY two week vacation to Hawaii mid-May because…I can!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hotel Maid Service...

With the school holiday travel season coming, here's something to think about...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The First Impressions SA …


Even though the class didn’t earn (they were close!) the extra homework essay assignment today, one fourth grader asked if she could write the “SA” anyway.

Any kid that wants to write anything is a winner in my book, so she spent the last 15mins of silent reading time composing the following:

It’s true.

I don’t laugh very much…in school.

I don’t smile a lot…in school.

But, outside of school I’m a real fun guy. Just ask my grandkids.

Friday, November 02, 2007

What Do Teachers Make?

By Taylor Mali

He says the problem with teachers is, "What's a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

He reminds the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about

That those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

What! Are You Nuts?…

That comment was from Claudette when she heard I accepted an assignment to sub for…Kindergarten...the day after Halloween.

I accepted the afternoon class in Kindergarten for a couple of reasons.

Kindergarten isn’t at the top of my preferred assignment list, but I feel that I should try a Kinder class at least once each school year to see if my bias for the upper grade levels is still valid.

The real reason I accepted the assignment was that I hit the wrong button choice on the automated caller system. So instead of declining the assignment and expecting to hear a menu of “reason for declining” selections, I heard a confirmation message giving me the assignment number and time to show up.

Even before the kids arrived for class, I knew I was in for an interesting afternoon. On the class attendance list there were twins named (…and I kid you not) “Knowledge” and “Wisdom”.

I could be wrong but I can only speculate twenty or thirty years from now, the encounters these kids might have with their unusual monikers:

“Welcome to “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader”! On the show today, we have Knowledge from California. She’ll be playing for the big prize and with a name like hers; we have a sure winner…”

“President Wisdom, are you sure invading Canada is the best way to solve Universal Health Care?...”

These kids will eventually reach adulthood. As adults, they will probably marry and have children of their own. They will more likely than not want to give those children names.

If so, my only wish for these future parents is that better “knowledge” of American culture will give them the “wisdom” to choose names that won’t cause awkwardness and difficulties as their kids grow and mature.

P.S. The twenty Kinders drove me nuts today. My bias for the upper grade levels remains intact.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How Y2K (partially) caused "Global Warming"...

A series of four video presentations on YouTube by a geologist that makes sense to me. He says we should be worrying more about a coming global cooling period instead of warming.

Each video is about 10min each so you might want to view it off hours.

Interestingly, the last video brings up a small bit about how Y2K contributed to faulty data sets being used in climate models to predict global warming "science".
Thanks to Darren at ROTLC for the link to Professor Carter's presentation.

(I haven't viewed Gore's movie that I checked out of the public library yet. I try to get to it after I catch up on my TIVO'ed "Ugly Betty" shows)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Note to Self…


Today’s lesson plan entry: “The narration for the story: (it doesn’t matter title) is in the CD player and ready to go".

Note to any/all newbie substitute teachers:

Always, always, always play a portion of any tape/CD/Video indicated on the lesson plan to make sure the equipment is plugged in, actually works and, more importantly, the media is actually the one meant for the class to see and hear.

Had I not followed my own advice today, the kids would have heard a portion of gangsta rap “music” lyrics that was mostly “Motha’ F*&#in’ this … Motha’ F*&#in’ that…” followed by something about “cappin’ this or crackin’ something else…”

I didn’t take note of the album title or artist. I was pretty sure the CD had nothing to do with reading lesson for today. I turned it off and waited for the teacher to return from the office after making some copies I needed to use for today’s class.

When she returned, I said “I don’t believe the correct CD is in the player for the reading lesson”

She opens the CD player tells me: “Umm, right. Uh, it’s my brothers CD”.

I’m not sure that “ownership” of the CD would have mattered all that much to anyone in the school administration office had thirty kids started spreading the story of “What we heard during reading time today!”

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hold It Drill…


Disaster drills are a fact of school life.

Every school in the country has the “Fire” and “Code Red Intruder” drills. In the old days there used to be that third emergency drill, but the chances of surviving a nuclear attack huddled under radiation proof wooden desks have been pretty much proven pointless.

Here in California we don’t have to worry about hurricane, tornado or floods but we do have the “Earthquake Drill”.

As a substitute teacher, I’m supposed to know the procedures in what to do during all of these drill emergencies. While I do know the basics, some of the more nit picky details change from year to year. This year is no exception.

The basics of “Earthquake Drill is:

· Duck and cover under desks. (…this used to be nuclear attack protection step #1)

· Assess and document any injuries.

· Move the kids out of the room in small groups.

· Roll Call.

· Wait for the “all clear”.

My updated emergency briefing this morning was instruction on how to fill out the damage (presumably while the building is still rockin’) report. I then have to wait (presumably while the building is crumbling down) until someone comes to the classroom to pick up “said form” to return to the official in charge.

(Note that while the kids are still “ducking and covering”, I’m walking around taking notes without even so much as a hard hat.)

We are then supposed to wait until someone comes back to tell us to leave the building in an orderly, quiet manner. In groups of five, they walk to a designated assembly area away from the building where I call a 2nd kid inventory.

Today’s “scheduled surprise disaster” was supposed to come off sometime around 09:00am when, according the lesson plan, 60% of the students in this class were in other classrooms for math while being replaced with kids from two other classes.

Guess how accurate the “emergency roll call inventory” report would be during the real thing? So for the sake of simplicity, the other 4th grade teachers decided to delay the math lesson until after the drill.

The scheduled earthquake didn’t hit until 09:45am this morning. The kids didn’t exit the building for another 10 minutes, while the emergency paperwork was completed and transported to disaster central.

With the entire school successfully assembled in their designated disaster lines, we re-inventory heads to establish that nobody remained in the building. Now we’re left waiting for the “all clear” announcement.

We wait 5…10…15…20…TWENTY-FIVE minutes before they called it a success.

The delay, it seems, was due to the inability of the other nineteen schools to execute this synchronize district wide evacuation plan in one massive, coordinated effort.

I’m just glad that my 4th graders had good bladder control because the school bathrooms were off limits for the duration.

One Kindergarten teacher, on the other hand, wasn’t so fortunate.

One of her little guys really, really had to go and her request for an emergency bathroom exception was turned down which resulted in a predictable result.

I would have really liked to listen in on the phone call home to “Mom” explaining the reason why little Billy needed a change of underwear and pants today.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Amnesty …

I sometimes don’t understand the goal or reasoning of some parents in the determined effort to burden their own child with thee most unique, original, inventive, odd, whimsical, quirky, eccentric or tongue twister fanciful name.

When taking the roll in class: “Is Amnesty here?”

I have to wonder if it’s just a case of the usual “it sounded pretty” choice or a family celebrating the change in legal residency status that saddled this little girl.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Student Issues…

I seem to be stuck in the same school lately. Last week was all 5th grades. This week it’s all 4th grades and starting Monday it’s 6th grade. I’m not really complaining. It’s a pretty good school with mostly reasonably, happy kids.

Yesterday’s 4th grade lesson plan was appended with a note from the teacher about three particular student issues:

R. has ADHD and has behavior issues.

D. does not follow directions well and needs to be constantly reminded to “get back on task”

A. Likes to wander out of her seat and get into other peoples business.

I lucked out in that “D.” was absent and all I had to do with “R.” was call out his name a few times to bring him back to a tolerable level of disruptive behavior.

Then we come to Miss “A”.

How should I describe her? The teacher “issue report” on her is dead on accurate. I predict that she’ll be a future clone of “Miss Issipi” in just two short years from now.

If for any reason the classroom door was open, she had an uncanny ability to dematerialize from her seat and reappear standing just outside the classroom trying to get attention from anyone out on the black top.

If I turned my back or had to help another student for more than a few seconds, I’d turn back around and, more often than not, see the empty desk where Miss “A” was last seen.

The only school related activity she actually seemed to engage in was: “writing”.

During “journal writing” time, I observed a note being passed back and forth between Miss “A” and the girl next to her. My previous experience with classroom notes sometimes reveals more than I should know about the maturity levels of today’s youth.

Evidentially, Miss “A” was attempting to double team the boy of her interest by getting her friend to convince him to “Get with Miss A or…”, when I interrupted the note composition before her friend could complete the “or else” plea.

As I was walking back to the teacher’s desk with the note in hand, Miss “A” asks: “Can I have it back at the end of class?”

With a “no-ing” look, I let her know that she wasn’t getting it back and stapled the original to my “end of day” teacher’s report…

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Brewing Unseen Storm?

I got my first paycheck for this new school year. It’s been a long 44 day payroll period wait but the check is looking pretty good because this has been a busy year so far.

…And that predicted unseen storm brewing over the horizon mentioned in the last post? It might be coming in the week after next. I agreed to take a 6th grade class for an entire week…for a teacher I haven’t worked for before.

The unknown is SO exciting…

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Who Wants To This Job -- FOR FREE??

Local parents said they were shocked and outraged to hear that a man who was acting as a substitute teacher during the Harrison Hills teacher strike was never hired by the district.

A school resource officer from the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department told NEWS9 that Frederick Saunders of Youngstown acted as a seventh-grade social studies substitute teacher for several days at Harrison Junior High.Saunders was charged with misdemeanor assault after police said he hit a picketer with his car on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

Then the school district made a big discovery; it says Saunders was never hired.Superintendent Jim Drexler released a statement to NEWS9; where said Saunders made it through security and apparently was working as a teacher, even though the district had never hired him.Many parents who talked to NEWS9 said they were shocked.“

How do they know there's not somebody else that's not supposed to be there, that wasn't hired?" said Cindy Sinquefield of Scio.

Just why someone would WANT to fake being a substitute teacher is a mystery but the fact that someone could show up at a school posing as a substitute teacher isn't all that far fetched.

In the four years I've been walking into school offices, I've never had to actually show any identification to verify that I am who I say I am.

They might ask who I am to match with a list of who they are expecting. They might ask who I'm there for to match with someone who they know is out and has a sub coming in. There have been a few times that the phone system garbled the teacher's name bad enough that I could only identify the school and grade level I was assigned. Even in these instances, I've never had to actually show any actual identification to verify who I was.

But...the REAL question here is: Who would want to impersonate a substitute teacher for several a middle school... and... not get paid for it?

That's just three times, plain insane!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Substitute Vacation …

I haven’t posted anything about school since last week because, quite frankly, the three 5th grade classes I had on Monday, Tues and Friday didn’t provide any problems, illnesses, tribulations, vexations or funniness that would make for interesting reading.

It then struck me that I should say when things DO go as expected otherwise it’s like the national news that report only the bad, catastrophic stuff.

Sooo…Last week was like a vacation. The kids in all three classes at two different schools were excellent and fun to be with. I had a great time.

Kind of like a sunny vacation before the unseen storm brewing over the horizon makes landfall…

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

CA Health Insurance Rant…

With the exception of government and some other highly unionized professions (education, auto makers, etc), the employer paid health insurance ends when you leave your employer (or your employer leaves you!).

The few times I found myself between jobs in my previous career, we had no problems signing up for a policy from one of the “Big Blue” named insurance carriers to protect us from a potential catastrophic health event.

That was before we got “old”.

After the last layoff, I found that being over the age of 55 was a definite problem for the “Big Blue” Insurance Co. who happily took our check just a few years earlier. After some negotiation and intervention by our insurance agent, they reluctantly accepted us back as an insured couple. We were, once again, covered for any catastrophic event over the first $5000.00 deductible.

Then the rates started going up like clockwork every six months. We countered by adjusting our definition of “catastrophic event” to mean anything over $7500.00 in the futile effort to just “maintain” the cost of insurance. For this coverage we paid “Big Blue” approx $6000.00/yr

If you do the math, you would see that we were spending $13k before we get any help to cover a major health problem.

One of the reasons I started substitute teaching was to cover insurance costs for just such an event. There are 180 teaching days in a year for a max potential income of about $18k (after taxes) per year.

Since subs on call rarely work all possible schools days, my experience these last four years has been that subbing will bring in approx $7k-$10k per year.

When the “Big Blue” insurance co. notified us late last year of yet another increase to $760/month, we started hunting for a more affordable alternative.

We found an insurance company located in the Mid-West, hence forth to be referred to as Crap Ass National, Inc.

The agent for CA described her company’s coverage as a $5000 deductible (per scheduled incident) policy for the same price as our “Big Blue” policy before the latest rate increase.

With over 30 years experience dealing with employer PPO plans and additional downtime years with “Big Blue”, I thought I knew how the system was supposed to and did work. In the four years since the layoff, we had no health issues that even came close to the deductible limits. Other than semi-yearly rate increases, there were no surprises.

The CA National plan sounded good to us, so we signed on the dotted line and felt we had an “ok” deal.

That was until we had our first major event covered under CA National.

I got a call, one day, last June that Claudette had fainted in the beauty salon and that the paramedics and ambulance had been called. By the time I got there, she had regained consciousness and was strapped to a gurney to be transported to the hospital for further tests.

The resulting diagnosis and cause was: vasovagal syncope. In layman’s terms: “fainted – no apparent reason”. Evidentially I also have vasovagal syncope because I sometimes faint when I get shots.

Three months later we get the bills.

Ambulance: $1,896.00

Hospital ER: $13,450.00

Ok, Ok, that’s a lot of money but we’re covered, right? This should cost me only my five grand deductible and the rest is up to CA National – Right??.

Not exactly!

It seems that the ambulance isn’t a network provider, therefore not covered. CA National doesn’t pay for anything not on their “schedule of allowed medical treatments” and only up to a company specified limit of the procedures that ARE allowed.

After the insurance PPO discounts, disallowed coverage and limits of the allowed stuff, CA National cut a check for exactly $1000.

CA National then sent us a notice of an insurance rate increase of $800/year and leaving me holding the remaining bills for $8800.00

I called CA National to ask what happened to my “five thousand deductible” limitation.

It seems that I hadn’t been diligent in reading and understanding all the fine print that the agent, selling me the policy, glossed over.

(I know this post is long and boring to most people, but it lets me blow off a little steam…)

But there IS some good news. After contacting the ambulance company and the hospital on my own, I was able to negotiate a 25% discount off both bills, just for asking!

I also discovered that the hospital offers an “uninsured patient” discount which happens to be just about the same amount that ALL the insurance companies get as a PPO discount. This means that had I not had insurance, I would be paying about the same amount as I am paying with CA National except that I wouldn’t have wasted thousands of dollars paying premiums.

Needless to say, we aren’t going to remain a client with CA National.

If “National Health Care” is going to be the driving issue in the next presidential election, I have a few ideas to propose.

It’s clear to me that what this country needs is LESS insurance industry involvement in our health care and more individual control on what we spend and how spend it.

I propose the following:

1. Allow anyone to establish a tax deductible Health Savings Account (HSA) without the requirement that it be tied to a health insurance company policy. Require that the money from the account can only be spent on health care or additional private health insurance only.

2. Have our benevolent government cover the costs of any catastrophic medical conditions in excess of some large deductible, like say $20k/year.

This should allow “we the people” the choice on how to save or spend our own resources for actual medical, dental and/or additional insurance to offset the huge government deductible.

I’d vote for a guy or harpy running for office with something like this idea in mind!!!

Saturday, September 29, 2007


My week long assignment in 6th grade is finally over. It’s been a long week to say the least. One kid, who was MIA most of last week and this, showed up on Wednesday.

Just my luck, he’s part of the clown crowd of the previously identified “Beatles” (John, Paul, George and a 4th whose name isn’t Ringo but DOES end in ‘O’) and the sassy girl.

I swear, if these six aren’t already diagnosed with one of those popular 3-4 letter acronym mental syndromes, I’d offer to make a case for this one: ADAH (Attention Deficient A$$ Holes).

It’s draining to repeat the same phrase over and over and over all day long.

“(Insert ADAH kid name here)! (Insert one of the following)!”

· “Sit Down!”

· “Stop talking!”

· “Stop Interrupting!”

· “Leave him/her alone!”

· “Why are you wandering the room?”

· “No, you can’t eat Froot Loops in class!”

· “Stop throwing that!”

· “Get off the floor!”

· “Clean up your mess!”

· “Get your book out!”

· “Start working!”

· “Get back to work!”

· “No, I don’t have an (extra pencil/ paper/ paper clip/ eraser)

For the final writing assignment, I had them write a personal letter:


Dear, Ms. Teacher

We are glad you’re back! Let me tell you what’s been happening the two weeks you’ve been gone…


Most of the letters were of the “compare and contrast” styles of the four substitute teachers they’ve had these last two weeks.

The worst of the ADAH “Beatles” kids wrote (and I’m paraphrasing with intentional misspelling here because it’s true)”

Dear, Ms. Teacher

We are glad you’re back! Let me tell you what’s been happening the two weeks you’ve been gone.

We’ve had four subseetoots and it was real noisey. The wors one was Mr. Homework. He is really mean. Please, please, please, never, never, never, never, (repeat another 10-15 nevers) have Mr. Homework subseetoot for us agan!

Sinserly, (The worst of the Beatles)

For the first time this week, kid I totally agree…

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Miss Issippi…

Well, I’m back in the 6th grade class with the backed-up plumbing problems (now fixed) from last week and I’m not sure if I’ll survive the rest of the week. It seems that they have had a diet of three other subs since I was here last.

They chewed up one sub a day since last Tuesday and couldn’t seem to get anyone to come back for a repeat performance. That should either be flattering that they want me back for four days straight or I’m missing a big clue as why no one seems to want to take more than a single day with these guys.

Maybe it’s the lack of lesson plans, an over abundance of “bad actors” in the class or they aren’t as desperate for a big check this month to put a dent in some unexpected medical expenses due to the crappy health insurance policy we switched to last year (…more about that in a future blog posting).

A fantastic teacher spent over 45mins this morning generating lesson plans for me to cover the rest of the week so I’m not left hanging. I’ve subbed for this guy before and will take his class any time he asks.

But for what ever reason I find myself here this week, I’m glad that 25% of the assignment is now over.

I got so tired of hammering on the Beatles guys (John, Paul, George and a 4th whose name isn’t Ringo but DOES end in ‘O’) and a sassy girl with a cutesy name of a state in the U.S.of A. that I kinda lost my control of the class.

After she slammed a book down on her desk after I told her to stop knitting (yes, the yarn and needles thing) and get back to work, I kicked her out to the office for being disrespectful. I tried to notify the office but no one was answering so I went on with the lesson.

Fifteen minutes later, “Montana” returns and tells me a tale about talking with the principal, apologetic contrition, and promises to behave and being allowed to return to class. This is out of character for the principle I know who is pretty tough on class clowns, but “what the hey?” Maybe he’s got too much on his plate today to deal with “Virginia

Since I couldn’t contact the office by phone earlier, I stopped on the way to lunch to let the office know why I booted “Carolina” earlier in the day.

The secretary looked confused and asked who I had sent. When I repeated the name, the secretary said that “Ohio” HAD come to the office in the morning and said she was here to pick up more raffle tickets for the sale and then returned to class.

Miss “California” was then called out of the lunch room to have a “real” conversation with the principal.

Now that she knows that I do talk with the office staff about what goes on in the classroom, we’ll see what stories “Miss Issippi” will come up with in the next three days.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Far Out!

You know you’re old when the slang of your youth has been elevated to a "Idioms and Clich├ęs" worksheet.

…and not even ONE fifth grader had ever heard the term “Far Out!” before.

For the record, the kids couldn’t match ANY of the following...DOH!

(click to enlarge):

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Backed Up …

I just love a lesson plan that starts off: “These kids can be quite noisy at times”.

The teacher who called me Sunday night didn’t mention that item of information when she asked me to take her 6th grade class for Monday morning. She saved it for…Monday morning…SURPRISE!!.

Well, it’s only one day and I had a pretty complete lesson plan to work from. By the time the kids figure out that I’m all bluff, it’ll be over and I can walk away free and clean.

Of the thirty 6th graders, she has five boys and one girl that are the driving force behind the class turmoil. If it wasn’t for the “tainted six”, this class would be a dream.

I sat hard and tight on all six…all day. We made it to the end of the day in pretty good shape and nobody ended up crying or composing a “Kill List”.

As I’m packing up to leave, the office calls down to ask if I can take the class again tomorrow. The teacher has contracted some kind of infection of the thyroid and is on her way to the hospital. She’s seriously sick so I agree knowing that I’ll have to come up with a lesson plan for tomorrow. Something I haven’t done before so therefore so it’s probably doomed from the start

With the help of two other 6th grade teachers, we come up with a lot of work to fill the day. Only the math section is a logical extension of the previous day. The rest is mostly reading and writing stuff till the dismissal bell.

The “tainted six” are corralled by having their names on the board in a box labeled “The LIST”. I haven’t told them what the list means. The longer I delay telling them, the implied threat seems to have their attention…especially after I put check marks after each offenders name when he/she forgets I have “The LIST”.

By lunch time, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Near the end of our 40min lunch, one of the male teachers exits the teachers lounge bathroom and asks one of the female teachers to go in and flush one of the toilets in the womens room.

She returns right quick. “There’s black water backing up in both toilets!”

A check in the student bathrooms confirms that the plumbing is seriously compromised campus wide.

Back in the classroom, I tell the kids: “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that all the restrooms are closed because sewage is backing up in the plumbing”

The kids ask: “So what’s the GOOD news?”

“The good news is that I won’t have honor any further requests to “go to the bathroom” for the rest of the day AND requests for “drinks of water” will be discouraged due to the bathrooms being closed”

One of the “tainted six”, one that’s had an unusually weak bladder today, later told me that the toilets were backed up with “black water” since the 10:00am recess.

Evidentially neither he nor any of the other 785 kids on campus thought that was worth mentioning to any adult on the school grounds.

Fortunately, I’m not working there tomorrow or Friday due to advance scheduling. I’m busy for the rest of the week…or at least until the plumbing gets fixed.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Kill List…

After subbing the first two full weeks of the new school year, this week came down to just this one assignment on the last day of the week. It started as just another typical 5th grade class of thirty kids.

The teacher had left one actual spelling test and a pile of typical “time killer” worksheets to fill the academic day. The kids were restless but not really out of hand. It was a little more talkative than I care for, but the threat of “extra homework” had its usual temporary calming affect.

If it weren’t for that single incident, this day would have passed unnoticed, unremembered and forgotten as soon as I drove from the parking lot at day end.

The “incident” was a worksheet that one boy brought to me about 30mins before the dismissal bell.

On the back of the worksheet was a hand written list containing the names of three boys and three girls in the class with the title:


I quietly called the worksheet owner (his name was on the front) over to the teacher’s desk and out of hearing range of the other kids.

I quietly asked if this worksheet was his. It was.

I asked him if he had written the list on the back. He had.

I asked him what this list was. He said it was a list of kids in class he didn’t like.

I was stunned. This boy is one of the smallest, skinniest and probably one of the smarter kids in this class…AND HE’S ONLY 10!!

I’m almost positive he didn’t actually mean anything by his use of the word “kill” but since he did use it, I can’t ignore it. With all the post-Columbine incidents involving kids and violence in schools I couldn’t take the chance even if it’s a small one.

I quietly said: “You know I have to show this to your teacher, don’t you?”

He just nodded and started tearing up. I quietly told him to return to his desk and he spent the rest of the time, head down, quietly crying until the final bell.

After everyone left, I took “the list” to the principal and told her that this is something she needs to know about. After making a copy, she thanked me for bringing it to her attention and said she’d be contacting the parents that same afternoon.

I’m at a loss for words as how stunned I feel right now. I hope the list was just as he described: “kids in class he didn’t like” and nothing more.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Where Did U.S. History Go?…

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention but, when did the “History” book become a “Social Studies” book? At least some U.S. History was listed in the lesson plan under “Social Studies” for last Fridays 5th grade class. Not in the book, but a 1996 video titled:

Three Worlds Meet
Origins – 1620
Vol 1

The back cover synopsis:

“History comes to life in this dynamic series for grades 5-12. A comprehensive study of U.S. History from the earliest Native Americans to the Cold War years following WWII”

Had any of the kids been paying attention to the video (they weren’t), it could have been summarized as follows:

“The invading Christian conqueror, Christopher Columbus, intentionally spread small pox, other diseases, new invasive plant life, harmful animal life and slavery to the lands of the peaceful natives of the newly discovered continent…”

Not quite the same as taught in the HISTORY classes of the 1960’s. No mention of Columbus’s famous ships: the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria in this video. Not relevant I guess.

How many of you remember learning this oldie in school?

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He took three ships with him, too,
And called aboard his faithful crew.
Mighty, strong and brave was he
As he sailed across the open sea.
Some people still thought the world was flat!
Can you even imagine that?

Class dismissed…

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Carnival of Education #136...

The 136th performance of the CoE (hosted this week by History is Elementary) hit town last night with a three ring(worm) circus act to see.

And I especially like this one on:
A good substitute is worth his or her weight in plutonium

Stop Asking…

A time honored tradition since the opening day of the first one room school house has probably been the business of secretly passing notes in class. Hopefully unobserved, sometimes unsuccessfully, the message content probably hasn’t changed very much at the elementary level.

The hand-to-hand pass is easily detected unless the teachers back is turned. Even then it’s risky because you never know when he’ll turn around and catch you mid-pass.

Modern times might have changed the delivery method but even a substitute teacher can read the telltale body language of cell phone text message thumbing.

It might be that head down posture and two handed “fidgeting” below table level (at least that’s what I hope it is) that might be the giveaway. The proof is the surprised look on the kids face when the message recipient’s phone goes off in her backpack across the room.

This class seems to have perfected a version of the “dead drop” method used by the CIA and international spy rings to pass secret messages in a safe and undetectable manner.

The method perfected by these 5th graders is to agree on a book title in the classroom library. The sender inserts the note in the book as it’s being returned during “silent reading” time and returns to her seat. The recipient then asks for permission to get a new book for reading time and retrieves the book and note.

Since this is the first time, I’ve seen this method, I guess it works pretty well and it would have gone unnoticed if it hadn’t been for the eagle-eyed classroom librarians (their job is to put the books back in the shelves) that brought the following notes to my attention:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

From the "Moms Behaving Badly" File...

Mom Drives Son to Gang Fight at H.S.
"VICTORVILLE, Calif. - A mother was arrested after she allegedly drove her son to a school to fight with members of a rival gang. Sophia Elam, 41, drove her 16-year-old son and several adults to Silverado High School to fight with gang members who had been threatening her son in an ongoing dispute

...She was arrested at her county government job [emphasis added] at the same time the search warrant was served at her home in the 13600 block of Sylvan Oaks Street, officials said.

...As a dozen teenagers were being searched and detained by authorities at a local home Thursday afternoon, one of them pleaded, “Can’t I just call my mom?”

To which a Victorville detective replied, “No, your mom is already in jail.”

Full story from: The Daily Press


And to think, all I had to worry about this week was contagious diseases!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ringworm Saga Continues …

G5-Day 6

This week finds me back in the same 5th grade classroom with the “Ringworm Kid”.

The Labor Day weekend makes for a short week and the probability of no work since teachers are discouraged from calling in sick after any extended holiday weekend. I therefore took the guaranteed 4-day assignment strictly for the money.

Yesterday (Tues), I received one call from the school health aide asking about today’s bandage check (he didn’t have one) and two calls from the district health nurse asking about a note from the kid’s doctor (he didn’t have one) and the second call letting me know that if she HAD known just WHO the specific kid was (she WAS notified by the school secretary) that she would have handled the situation differently.

She didn’t elaborate what “differently” meant, but tried to convince me that the kid wasn’t likely to be contagious but I should still attempt to avoid any kind of skin contact.

I told her that I wasn’t so much worried about me but more concerned about the other kids at his table pod. He and the kid sitting next to him practically rub elbows with each other. Fortunately, it’s the OTHER arm the “ring” is on…but STILL.

So today, “Ringworm Kid” walks in and I have him show me his ring area to see if his ring is bandaged and IT WAS! The kid also told me that his mom told him to let me know that he used the medicine today.

I guess that’s SOME progress, at least. The school health aide called shortly after class started to ask about the bandage situation and was happy to hear that the parents had finally gotten the message.

That was until…His personal aide walks in and says: “I suppose you already know that I got it?”

Not quite sure what she was referring too, I dumbly ask “Got what?”

She then displayed a bandage on the side of her neck indicating a fresh ringworm infection.

She said: “The district health nurse told me that I couldn’t have got it from “Ringworm Kid” and that I must have gotten it from someone else! Can you believe it?”

I answered in the extreme negative and mentioned something about lack of common sense with the handling of the whole situation. She wholeheartedly agreed.

Shortly thereafter, the school health aide calls down to have me send “Ringworm Kid” over to personally check on the ring status.

“Ringworm Kid” returns with bandage dangling from arm. Seems this particular bandage seems to have lost its adhesive properties after the health aide finished inspection. I sent “Ringworm Kid” back for a NEW bandage.

(Is this fiasco getting too long winded and boring yet?...)

Afternoon, I get yet another call from the school health aide. She’s sending over the custodian to wipe down “Ringworm Kid’s” desk and chair. While he’s here festooned in HazMat-blue rubber gloves, the newly infected “Ringworm Kid” aide has him do the adjacent desk/chair also.

Two more days and I’m outta here no matter what!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Amazing Talent...

"What a Wonderful World" that has people with amazing, unusual talents...



Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sub Sues School District...

From the Daily Democrat Online:

"...A Sacramento substitute teacher filed a federal complaint Friday against the Woodland Joint Unified School District for allegedly violating his civil rights without due process after certain schools within the district placed him on a secret "do not call" list which prevented him from obtaining employment."

Ross said he discovered his name had been placed on a secret do-not-call list that essentially removes a substitute teacher's name from the job selection pool. Each school maintains their own list, Ross said."

"...Ross spoke with the director of Lee Middle School's summer program at the time. The school stopped offering him work after the summer of 2006 and was told his name was on the list but was not told why or what he could do about it."

"...To this day I haven't heard from anybody. No one has told me anything except two things: I am on the list and I am not an employee and they can do whatever what they want," Ross said."

"...Mike Stevens, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Woodland Joint Unified School District, said the district does maintain a "site exclusion list" for substitute teachers and it is not as much a secret as it is confidential.

"You just don't go and blanket this stuff out," said Stevens, who added that the district maintains the list in confidence to protect the teacher's reputation [emphasis added] so they will be able to find work elsewhere."


When the a school district doesn't tell the person targeted that they are black listed, they aren't protecting anyone except themselves and I doubt that the list is all that confidential among school secretaries at different schools in the same district.

Hank Hill had it right when he says: "They won't fire you Peggy, they'll just stop calling!"

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Contagious Inclusion …

G5-Day 3

The health aide was manning the front desk this morning, so I had the opportunity to find out more about my ringworm kid situation.

Me: What’s the deal with the boy with ringworm?

I was hoping that he was told not to return to school until he had it cleared up and under control. The answer I received was a bit cryptic.

HealthLady: “He’s an inclusion student”, she intoned as if that summed up the situation.

Me: I looked up “ringworm” and it said it was pretty contagious especially in close quarter classroom settings.

HealthLady: Inclusion students can’t be excluded from the classroom for any reason.

Me: But he’s contagious!

HealthLady: That doesn’t matter. He can’t be excluded.

Me: So what can I do if he shows up today?

HealthLady: Well, if he comes to school and the infected area isn’t covered, send him over and I’ll put a Band-Aid over it to cover it up.

The circular logic here is stupefying. The implied reasoning would dictate that “normal” students with contagious stuff COULD be sent home but “special” students are protected by a blanket waiver even if it means the “black plague” for the rest of us.

As my luck would have it, the kid did show for school this morning.

I asked if he had been to the doctor yesterday after school (probably a violation of his civil rights for me to even ask). He did see a doctor and was given some medicated cream to use.

I asked him if he used the cream this morning (another questionable rights violation, I’m sure) and he said the doctor put some on yesterday but he didn’t use it this morning before coming to school.

I also saw that the “ring” was still visible and uncovered on his inner bicep, so I sent him off to see the “HealthLady” for the promised miracle Band-Aid.

This can’t be right, can it?

The teacher, I'm subbing for emailed and asked if I would be interested in taking his class next week .

I think I’m pushing my luck just finishing out the week tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ringworm Worries! …

G5-Day 2
Only a few of items of note:
It’s damn HOT! Yesterday, today and predictions for the rest of the week are the same. Temperatures are pushing the three digit levels.
Since the math lesson today is “rounding” up and down, it’s safe to say that all this week we’re always rounding up to 100F. At times today, we didn’t even have to do any rounding at all.
Ever see those fools without cars standing at the crosswalk continuously hitting the crosswalk button in the belief that the more you push it, the quicker it will go green?
Well, the A/C controls in all the classrooms in this district are much the same way. The temperature on classroom push button thermostat bottoms out at 70F. This didn’t stop me from giving it a couple of jabs each time I happened to pass by. Even with the A/C running continuously, I don’t think it ever reached its target temperature.
To make matters worse, one of the Special Ed kids in class displayed an alarmingly large sized mark the size of a silver dollar on his arm that looked like ringworm. His classroom aide trundled him off to the health office to hopefully to have him sent home, but it was not to be. The aide returned with student in tow and informed me that the health aide said it did indeed look like ringworm but not to worry saying: “It’s not contagious”.
Asked if anyone else in his family had similar marks, the kid said his brother and cousins all have them.
Almost every source of information I found on the net says something quite the opposite.
“…Who is at risk for Ringworm?
Anyone can get Ringworm. Scalp Ringworm often strikes young children; outbreaks have been recognized in schools, day-care centers, and infant nurseries. School athletes are at risk for scalp Ringworm, Ringworm of the body, and foot Ringworm; there have been outbreaks among high school wrestling teams. Children with young pets are at increased risk for Ringworm of the body.
I think I’ll have a little chat with the health aide if this kid shows up in class tomorrow.