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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January a Busy Month?…

January 2007 has been the busiest month I’ve ever had guest teaching.

In December, the calls were starting to be so frequent, that I notified a second district I work for that I was unavailable for the entire month of January.

With only half the schools calling and the short month that started Jan 7th, I was in class 12 of the 18 possible school days this month. I could have been teaching 15 days this month, but I had some personal stuff on the three days I turned down assignments.

In the last two and a half weeks of January, I taught one 2nd grade, one 3rd grade, two 6th grades, two Kindergartens, and five 5th grade classes. (Yea, you read that right, TWO Kinder classes).

All of the classes were pretty stress free. Yea, even the Kinders were kinda fun.

This week has been a blur but one memorable conversation comes to mind from a 5th grade boy.

The teacher that runs the “Homework Club” asked me to let the kids know that the after school club was canceled for the day and to let them make calls home from the classroom to arrange for early pickup after school.

Kid: Can I call my uncle to come pick me up?

Me: Sure…

(Kid begins dialing…stops…hangs up)

Kid: I don’t know my uncle’s number.

(--Awkward pause—looking at me expectantly)

Me: Aaaand…you think I know your uncle’s number?

Kid: Well….you ARE the teacher!


(I made him use recess time to go to the office for help in arranging his ride home.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Autism and Technology...

The blogging has been pretty sparse lately due to overwork. More about that later, but today I ran across this video from a non-verbal person with autism "speaks in her own language".

It's pretty interesting where technology intersects and enables communication in a whole other area of human interaction.

Other autistic video communiques:

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Failure To Communicate …


Communication is the key. Most teachers will tell you that they have “A Look”.

When some student in class isn’t paying attention or is pushing the limits of a teacher’s patience or just plain defiant, the teacher will give them “The Look”.

The message is clear. “Enough is enough! Knock it off, NOW! Get back to work!”

Most of the time, the targeted student will get the message and comply…at least for a while.

For me, I’ve found that simply standing and without saying a word, staring at the kid in question will provide a quieting affect within less than a minute. Even if the “kid” has his back to me, the room will eventually go quiet until the oblivious “kid” is the only one in the room still ignoring me, yakking away.

Eventually the “kid” will notice that the classroom environment has suddenly “chilled” and get the message. Sometimes the clueless one needs a table mate to nudge and point in my direction that he’s missing an important communiqué about desired classroom behavior.

If that doesn’t work, a raised eyebrow and a look of incredulity to the rest of the class will usually generate a few giggles from the rest of the class to get his attention.

Rarely, will a kid dare to push beyond that point.

A 6th grade boy, named after a famous outlaw, in Wednesday’s class is one such rare case. Having failed several attempts to end his antics in showing off for his two buddies in class, I approached him one-on-one, in his face, and in a low voice have a point blank conversation:

Me: “This isn’t working for me or the class. This is a final warning. The next time I have to deal with your acting up in the classroom, you will be spending some time in the office. Clear?”

Outlaw: “Yes, sir.”

As I’m walking away, I hear Outlaw tell his buddies “He has bad breath…”

I pretend not to hear the comment and things remain pretty good for a while until they return from lunch when Outlaw starts up again. I remind Outlaw of our earlier conversation and his comment to me is:

Outlaw: “I think a visit to the office would be nice…”

Me: “You got it!”

I call the office and ask if I could send a student down for a little timeout. They tell me to send him on down.

Outlaw: “I’m not going!… ”

Me: “What do you mean, ‘You’re not going’?… ”

Outlaw: “I’m not going!… ”

The class goes dead silent. (Long pause…)

Me: “Fine, I’ll have Principal D. come here to talk to you about that.”

(I start dialing the phone…)

Outlaw: “Ok, I’m GOING!!”

I sent a trusted student with him to make sure he didn’t lose his way to the office. I called the office secretary again to let her know that 10-15 minutes of “quite contemplation” on his part should be enough before they should let him come back.

Office: “Oh, he’ll be longer than that. The principal wants to have a word with him before he’s allowed to return.”

I believe that I have finally communicated my message to Mr. Outlaw. We’ll see the next time I sub this class.

I think I'll start with “The Look”…

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

First Day of the New Year …


This is the first day back in class (grade 3) for 2007. This wasn’t the first opportunity to work this New Year as I turned down the call to class every day since January 3 (the first day school resumed).

I think I had an excuse to not take all those Kindergarten assignments. If not, I made one up. I just didn’t feel up to it yet. Just exercising the only “guest teacher” perk I have.

BTW, the 3rd graders today were great. Lesson plan was complete, the material readily findable, in a brand new school room with working heat.

I’m in 6th grade tomorrow. Maybe something excitingly blogable will happen...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tax Time…

It’s that time again.

It’s the time the government starts demanding a cut for every last nickel you “earned, found, gifted or eBay’ed” this last year. The 1099s, the W2’s, the K1’s, the DoWakka2’s will all start arriving in the mail so the arduous process of deciphering the United States tax code can begin.

I have a college degree in mathematics. I have successfully designed, coded, and programmed some pretty complicated, complex computer programs over the last 30 years. But for the life of me, I have a block when it comes to filling out tax forms.

I despise the process.

Not the actual writing the check which I also don’t enjoy, but the process of trying to decode the government legalese used in the tax forms. The “combining of lines 1 and 2 to enter on form SE10$orkU line 46”, the itemizing every last lint ball that might be considered income or a deduction. The whole process. Hate it, hate it, hate it, I hate it all!!

That’s why I don’t do it.

I let my friend, Gary, do all the heavy lifting. He REALLY, REALLY loves this stuff. The plowing through all the minutiae, the excitement of new tax forms, the installation of this years version of TurboTax Deluxe (plus state). The whole ball of wax.

If you’ve ever seen the TV series NUMB3RS, Gary is my “Charlie” guy of taxes.

I’m more like the detective guy sitting at the desk in the back whose eyes start to glaze over and head tilts back in a coma when “Charlie” starts spewing chalked tax equations and explanations in the analysis of crime patterns of crazed serial income earners.

If only the answers to real world questions were somehow made available in the tax preparation process, it might go something like what I found online at Consumerism Commentary:

Q. This year, I’ve been taking bribes to keep the caviar smuggling ring off the FBI radar. Do I have to report this?
A. Yes.

Q. I found an abandoned car and kept it while the person who lost the vehicle presumably wept. Do I have to report this?
A. Yes.

Q. I hosted a party to sell products to my friends (and use my social circle for multilevel marketing from some corporation), and my guests brought me gifts. Do I have to report this?

A. Yes.

Q. Do I really have to give the government a cut of my estimated $0.65/kid/hr substitute teaching job where I get to deduct absolutely nothing?
A. Yes

I can hardly wait till April 15 when it’s all over.

…until next year.