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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!!!