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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…

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Carnival of Education update 138

Free admission to the Carnival of Education #138 is now open!

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!"