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Monday, April 30, 2007

I Get Letters...

Had a good time in last Friday's 3rd grade class...

Third graders are still in the "we like school" mode...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Court of Common Sense…

Have you ever read the warning list of disclaimers on ladders, microwaves and anything else you’ve ever purchased? You just know that all the stupid things they warn against is the result of someone suing for doing something stupid.

For years I have felt there should be some way to reject all those groundless, baseless, obviously wrong, money and time wasting legal exercises of our sometimes peculiar legal system.

Anyone can sue for anything.

Winning or defending against a suit is a time consuming and expensive process. Most of the time it seems that whoever hired the better liar lawyer, is the one who comes out on top. Other times, jury selection seems less like a “jury of your peers” and more like a “jury of the most gullible and/or uninformed”.

I have long felt that there should be some process to weed out the obvious.

Maybe a “Court of Common Sense” whose job it is to pre-examine the facts and accusations of selected lawsuits to decide if it passes the smell test of “common sense” before allowing it to proceed farther up the legal food chain.

Possibility a panel of individuals, generally considered to be “rational and relatively intelligent”, would by majority vote decide if a legal filing is reasonable enough proceed or be rejected on the grounds as “just plain stupid”. I’ll forego any ideas, for the moment, of how the selection of “rational and relatively intelligent people” should be accomplished, but I’m not ready to give up on the idea.

In the case of Julie Amero and the recently announced third sentencing delay, it appears that there are so many things wrong with the original indictment that the D.A. and the court seem to be looking for ways to just make it all go away while saving as much face as possible.

I’m sure if my “Court of Common Sense” currently existed; the case would have been dispatched long before it ever reached the level a trial let alone the conviction and possible 40yr. jail sentence.

My “Court of Common Sense” would have surely concluded, before indictment, that computer porn pop-ups are a fact of life these days and Julie was just the innocent, victim bystander of the day.

My “Court of Common Sense” would have had the school “Say sorry” to Julie and maybe send her home with some instruction on what to do with the computer next time if it ever happened again.

My “Court of Common Sense” might also suggest the school remove the computer from the classroom until they get someone competent enough to maintain the computer with up-to-date software.

Case dismissed…

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nothing Much Happenin'...

Evidently I'm on "vacation".
No calls this week.
So let's see what's on the ole' YouTube...

"What am I going to do??? I could always design software!..."
--Paddlin' Peggy

Monday, April 23, 2007

Holy S---!

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian teachers sprinkled cow urine on low-caste students to purify them and drive away evil, reports said on Saturday, in a country where millions of people remain oppressed at the bottom of the ancient Hindu caste system.

Upper-caste headteacher Sharad Kaithade ordered the ritual after taking over from a lower-caste predecessor at a school in a remote village in the western state of Maharashtra earlier this month, the Times of India reported.

He told an upper-caste colleague to spray cow urine in a cleansing ceremony as the students were taking an examination, wetting their faces and their answer sheets, the newspaper said.

"She said you'll study well after getting purified," student Rajat Washnik was quoted as saying by the CNN-IBN news channel.

Students said they felt humiliated.

Substitute lesson plan for the day:
1) Take roll and lunch count
2) Pass out the test papers
3) Sprinkle a little cow urine...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What’s Yer Job?…

Spring break has ended and the sub-season has reopened. No call on Monday and I missed the first call on Tuesday. I didn’t mind missing the Tuesday call. I was feeling down about sending checks for taxes owed to Uncle Sam and Gov. Terminator.

I did sub one 6th grade and two 5th grades on Wed, Thur and Friday. The lesson plans for all three assignments were all pretty much “time killers” and not much in the way of any actual educational substance. As a result, my personal pain threshold to in class noise is considerably higher than it was two weeks ago. Maybe it’s just my personal apathy this time of the year.

The only note worthy comment came from one boy in Thursday’s 5th grade class. Evidentially, they’ve only had “girl” subs before me.

Kid: What’s yer job?
Me: What do you mean? I’m the substitute teacher.

Kid: No, I mean your REAL job?
Me: You don’t think “substitute teacher” is a REAL job?

Kid: What I mean is…the other substitutes are “Moms”. So I just thought you took the day off from work to come in to be the substitute.

It’s a simplistic yet somehow insightful view of my job from a 5th grader and not too far off the mark. A “Dad” with a “real job” COULD, if he was crazy enough, take the day off work and do my job. It’s not quite how I started doing this but it’s not impossible.

Substitute teaching doesn’t require any “substitute teacher” training, apprenticeship or instruction manual. It’s all OJT (On the Job Training) from day one.

It DOES help, though, to BE a Dad (or a Mom) when it comes to handling kids. But that is a different OJT job in itself.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

114th Carnival of Education...

The midway to the 114th Carnival of Education is open for business. "Hop" on over (Easter vacation, get it?) and see what hidden Easter eggs of information you can find.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Four R’s…


I was in the local Costco yesterday with discount coupon book in hand looking for the $2.00 off two-pack of Reynolds Wrap Quality Aluminum Foil when I heard someone call out “Hi, Mr. Homework!!” It’s still Spring Break so I wasn’t expecting to interact with any school kids until next week.

Momentarily stunned, I turned and looked at a happy cheerful smile of the typical “generic” 6th grader. Now I sub in two different school districts, seven grade levels, an average of three classrooms at each grade level and an average of thirty kids per class so of course I didn’t recognize her and had to subject myself to confessing as much.

She told me the school (nope, not yet). The class (getting warmer…). Her teacher's name Mr. Fuji --- (BINGO!).

Me: “Now I remember your class. It’s the class with all the jobs, right?”
Her: “…and the bet” she added helpfully.

I DID remember this class and their teacher Mr. Fuji . I wrote some notes about that class that I had meant to use in a post about this amazing teacher and his classroom concept but hadn’t yet gotten around to doing it.

I first met Mr. Fuji in the teachers lounge at lunch a week before the assignment. He mentioned that he needed a sub and wanted to know if I was available. Before accepting, I jokingly asked if he had a “good class”. Mr. Fuji bet me that they would be on their best behavior or he would give me $100 if they got anything less than a good report from me. Evidentially, he had warned his class about the $100 bet and he didn’t want to pay up.

Now that’s a confident teacher.

On morning of the assignment, it only took me a few minutes to go over the lesson plan and materials. Mr. Fuji is super organized and detailed.

Fifteen minutes before class there was a knock and and a head peeking around the door.
“Can I come in to do desk checking? It’s my job!”

Now, I have been in lots of classes at all levels where the kids have “jobs”. Line leader, paper passer, homework checker, phone secretary are the familiar kid type jobs that I recognize. “Desk Checker” (DC) was a new one for me and prompted the following dialog:

Me: Just what does a desk checker do?
DC: I check each desk to make sure the books are neat, no junk on the floor and no garbage on the top.

Me: …and if you find something wrong?
DC: They get a fine of $10FB (Fuji Bucks) which I split with Mr. Fuji

After a few more minutes of Q/A with Mr. DC, I discovered that Mr. Fuji rents the school desks to the students for $20FB/mo.

Evidentially, in addition to the standard Three R’s of education, Mr. Fuji adds a dose of a fourth ‘R’ as in “Real Life”.

Throughout the rest of the day, I was able to delve deeper into how intricately this classroom society operates.

There are two class accountants that maintain student checking accounts for each kid on the teacher’s computer. The kids all have homemade wallets where they carry their spare $FB spending money and ALL the kids have one or more jobs to pay their desk rent.

Mr. Fuji requires the kids submit written job applications to the class CEO to apply for any one or more of 41 designated classroom jobs.

Job pay scales differ according to difficulty, responsibility and time. Some jobs, like “desk checker” are on a commission basis. Commissioned income is split 50/50 with Mr. Fuji .

There are no tenured jobs (sorry teachers) and the CEO can hire/fire the employees for bad job performance or misuse of job authority. This keeps the “Desk Checker” from padding his take with excessive fines.

Mr. Fuji can hire/fire the CEO if abuse of power or favoritism becomes a problem.

In addition to “desk rent”, FBucks are used bathroom breaks, water breaks, new pencils and other small classroom supplies.

FBucks can also be used for daily rent one of four cushy, swivel chairs at $5FB/day, buy an empty spare desk for $200FB as an alternate personal desk or rent it out to other kids at $20FB/mo.

A couple of times during the year, Mr. Fuji will hold a swap meet where the kids can buy, sell or trade their personal stuff from home with their parent’s permission and an end of year party where remaining $FB can be used for food and drink.

(Mr. Fuji told me that he started requiring “parent notes” for all items after an incident where one kid brought his Dad’s CD collection to a swap meet without asking…)

Class Job List and weekly pay rate (C is commission)

Zoo Keeper


Waste Management


Zoo Keeper Asst.




Newspaper Editor








AR Chart Monitor






Paper Distributors


Bench Monitor






Ball Monitor


Door Monitor


Tardy Monitor


Grade Book




Homework Checker


Floor Checker




Addenda Checker


Accountant Asst


Student of the Week




Personal Reminder


Dictionary Monitor


DOL Monitor


A/C Monitor




Computer Monitor


Art Bin Monitor




HW Board


Desk Checker




Personal Asst


Kinder Bus Monitor


Classroom Nurse


My final query of the day asked the ultimate “What if?” question.

Me: What if someone doesn’t have enough to pay their desk rent?
Class: They can borrow from a friend or the bank.

Me: What if someone doesn’t want to do a job and refuses to pay rent?
Class: Then they are on “welfare” and we all have to chip in and pay the rent for them.

(This question evidentially hit a sore point with the system as following comments got louder)

Class: It’s not fair! My dad doesn’t have to pay for someone else’s welfare from his job.
Me: Oh, no? What do you think some of the State and Federal income taxes do?

Class dismissed!...
P.S. Mr. Fuji got to keep his $100

Friday, April 06, 2007

Nobody Will Forget This Lesson...

I was sure the following was just another urban legend until I checked it out on


In September of 2005, a social studies schoolteacher from Arkansas did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with permission of the school superintendent, the principal, and the building supervisor, she took all of the desks out of the classroom. The kids came into first period, they walked in; there were no desks. They obviously looked around and said, "Where's our desks?"

The teacher said, "You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn them."

They thought, "Well, maybe it's our grades."

"No," she said.

"Maybe it's our behavior."

And she told them, "No, it's not even your behavior."

And so they came and went in the first period, still no desks in the classroom. Second period, same thing. Third period. By early afternoon television news crews had gathered in the class to find out about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of the classroom. The last period of the day, the instructor gathered her class.

They were at this time sitting on the floor around the sides of the room. She said, "Throughout the day no one has really understood how you earn the desks that sit in this classroom ordinarily. Now I'm going to tell you."

She went over to the door of her classroom and opened it, and as she did 27 U.S. veterans, wearing their uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. And they placed those school desks in rows, and then they stood along the wall. By the time they had finished placing the desks, those kids for the first time I think perhaps in their lives understood how they earned those desks.

Their teacher said, "You don't have to earn those desks. These guys did it for you. They put them out there for you, but it's up to you to sit here responsibly, to learn, to be good students and good citizens, because they paid a price for you to have that desk, and don't ever forget it."


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pre-Teen Tattle Tales…


If there’s anything worse than Kindergarten tattlers, it’s got to be tattling 6th graders. The group I had today was infested with them.

All day I heard:

“Can you tell him/her to stop bugging me?…”
“She said…”
"He said…”
“She did…”
“He did…”

Now I expect it from Kindergarten and 1st graders, but it’s especially irksome the older they get. The kicker was during the last half hour “free time” before the dismissal bell, when one boy runs up to me with urgent, important information:

Stud: Can you go tell Monica to stop telling rumors that I “like” her?
Me: Why?

Stud: Because it’s not true!
Me: …and this is causing problems how?

Stud: Because my girl friend believes it and is mad at me now!
Me: How old are you?

Stud: “Twelve”, he replies with a smirkin’ grin.
(…insert my long, astonished look here…)

Me: Oh, just go away…

Boy, am I glad it’s a minimum day and the start of Spring break week...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More Bad Kid Names...

From the AP: Couple Fights to Name Baby "Metallica"

"... STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Metallica may be a cool name for a heavy metal band, but a Swedish couple is struggling to convince officials it is also suitable for a baby girl."

School pressure is hard enough without some parents thinking it's cute to saddle their kid with a really stupid unusual name.

Spring Get Away Friday …

Easter break for the two school districts here starts this Friday.

I know, I know, it’s all been re-PCified to call it “Spring break”, “Spring Bunny”, and “just Friday before Spring break” But, that’s neither here nor there.

One of the unintended perks of substitute teaching is the extended break surrounding the official breaks during the year.

Understandably, the days before and after the actual break are usually pretty bleak for subbing assignments.

There’s probably something in the union contract about requiring a Dr’s note if a teacher calls in sick the day before or after a scheduled school break. I don’t really know but the slowdown of calls around the break week is noticeable.

This means that I have only one day of work this week lined up for tomorrow. I don’t expect to have an assignment on the Thursday before “Good Friday”.

…or as it’s now known, “Spring Get Away Friday”.

Late afternoon update: “…I don’t expect to have an assignment on Thursday…”
Two teachers called me this afternoon to sub for them on Thursday so I guess that blows THAT theory.