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Monday, June 30, 2008

Final Check…

Hooray, hooray today is payday! School has been out for almost three weeks now and today’s the day.

The “real” teachers got their final check two weeks after last day of school. We have to wait three weeks for them to cut our checks.

They COULD have verified and run the payroll for everyone at the same time, but they make us wait until the end of June for our final check so they can earn a few more days of interest on “our money”.

I’ve previously described the how this creative accounting method works to the benefit of the district at the expense of the district substitutes so there’s no point in rehashing it.

I arrived at what I thought was the very civilized time of 10:00am to pick up my check at the district office (they won’t expend a postage stamp to send it in the mail), and I expected the usual courteous greeting with my check.

It was not to be.

“Substitutes are not supposed to be here before 10:30 to pick up checks” was the greeting I got. Sure enough there was an orange flyer posted right there on the window and it does say:

“Checks can be picked up on June 30, 2008 after 10:30am”

The box of checks is clearly in view on her desk and she didn’t appear to be working on anything else except surfing the internet. Before I could reply with a smarmy comment of my own about how long she’s had to go since her last paycheck, she added:

“But since you’re here, I guess I'll get it for you” with the unspoken tone of “but don’t let it happen again!”

Well, golly gee, gosh darn, thank you for stepping out on a limb, going to the max and thinking outside the “union” time card box to look up my name in the alphabetized shoe box of checks.

I can’t remember, but I think I forgot to say “Thanks” when I left.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Final Tally: 2007-08...

I worked a grand total of 79 classroom subbing days for the just ended 2007-08 school year.

This was working for a single district with 15 elementary schools. Surprisingly, 51 of those subbing days (65 %!!) were for a single school in the district. Two schools monopolized 69/79 (87%) of my jobs.

Not sure if it’s good or bad to be seen so infrequently at the other 13 schools.

Something to think about this next year.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Popcorn Reader...

I came across the term “popcorn reading” on a lesson plan not long after I started subbing four years ago. I didn’t know what: “Have the kids popcorn read the next chapter” actually meant. When asked, the kids explained it was just taking turns reading a paragraph from the text book or the current class novel.

Sometimes it’s drawing random names on popsicle sticks, or having the kid that finishes reading pick the next reader who hasn’t already read. With twenty to thirty kids in class, it never seems that anyone has to read more than once during the lesson.

This fact is not lost on some kids. Those are the kids that want their turn early so they can screw around for the rest of the time.

They decide to “do other stuff” while the rest of the class is reading the text. They know that they don’t have to read along because they already had “their turn”.

I’m there only for the day, so I usually don’t make a big deal when this happens unless the “other stuff” is distracting to others in the vicinity.

In one of the last 5th grade classes I had this year, a kid I’ll call “Josh”, was taking it to the extreme by crackling his water bottle, drum beating the desk or rummaging around in his desk for who knows what to the amusement his table group friends.

On this particular day, I couldn't seem to be able to overlook Josh’s antics. After the first couple of popsicle kids had read, I called on Josh to read next.

Josh not only didn’t know what page or paragraph we were on, he apparently didn’t know what book we were reading from.

After a long delay and a consult with the girl next to him, he got the book, page and paragraph identified and dutifully read the next paragraph.

I doubt that he understood what he was reading because it was out of context to the previous paragraphs he wasn’t reading, but he did “read the words”.

While the next popsicle kid was reading, I glanced over at Josh who was back to “doing his stuff”. When it was time to select the next reader, I abandoned the next random selection process.

Me: Josh! You’re up.
Josh: But…I already read!
Me: I know. You’re up again. Do you know where we are?
Josh: Uh…no.
Me: That’s why you’re up again. Find out and begin!

This required another hasty consult with the others around him before he could comply.

It took a third reading session before Josh finally got the idea that I might be out to get him. After each time a popsicle kid finished, I would ask without looking up: “Josh! What page and paragraph are we on?” If he got it right, I’d move on to the next popsicle kid. If he got it wrong, it was his turn to read again.

It finally got to the point that all I had to do was look over in his direction with a questioning look, and Josh would lift up his book slightly acknowledging that he knew I was watching and he knew what page and paragraph we were on.

More importantly, he was so paranoid about keeping track of where the reading point was that he didn’t have time for that “other stuff” he’d would rather have preferred to do during class.

Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP - George Carlin

You can't take your "stuff" with you, George...

...and, in an interesting segue, here's a guy getting rid of all his "stuff"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

What's My Line...

Went out to the movies tonight to celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary.

Dialog from the movie:

Q: You're a teacher??
A: Only part time...

That's MY line!

Guess the movie this dialog was from and you get 1 "AttaBoy" point!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pro-Choice in Education..

But not the way you're thinking. It seems that "choice" is only good when it doesn't threaten the public unions. Click the link to the full Wall Street Journal story.

From the WSJ: Putting the Children Last
June 11,2008

"...Democrats in Congress have finally found a federal program they want to eliminate. And wouldn't you know, it's one that actually works and helps thousands of poor children.

...We're speaking of the four-year-old Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that provides vouchers to about 2,000 low-income children so they can attend religious or other private schools. The budget for the experimental program is $18 million, or about what the U.S. Department of Education spends every hour and a half.

...These are families in heavily Democratic neighborhoods. More than 80% of the recipients are black and most of the rest Hispanic. Their average income is about $23,000 a year. But the teachers unions have put out the word to Congress that they want all vouchers for private schools that compete with their monopoly system shut down...

...The reason unions want to shut the program down immediately isn't because they're afraid it will fail. They're afraid it will succeed, and show that there is a genuine alternative to the national scandal that are most inner-city public schools. That's why former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and current Mayor Adrian Fenty, both Democrats, support the program.

...Hopefully," says Mr. Chavis, "Congress will focus on the kids, not the politics here." Barack Obama might call that the audacity of hope, if he finally showed the nerve to break with the unions on at least one issue and support these poor D.C. students.


Also check out Mark at Carpe Diem for comments about which "choices" Congress does and doesn't like.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Thought I Was Done...

The last week of school is pretty much a “do nothing” week.

Field trips to the water park, Great America theme park and year end parties dominate the educational scene. There usually haven’t been many calls to substitute the last week in previous years. So I was surprised Monday afternoon by a call to sub for a 3rd grade class on Tuesday.

The teacher’s additional note announced: “Tuesday is field day”.

Of course I took it. It’s one last “pay day” before the financial summer drought.

Dressed appropriately in jeans and running shoes, I ran soccer relay races for half a day in the warm (ie: low 90F’s) California sun followed by an afternoon in the air conditioned classroom watching: “Garfield the Movie”.

Now, I'm done...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Obama Won't Win...

...if it's up to the Clinton's

With school out and time on my hands, I thought I'd float my own conspiracy theory to see if it has potential.

Clinton wants to be president. She's not gonna get it this time. That's a fact.

The next best shot for Clinton is 2012, but not if Obama is an incumbent running for 2nd term.

I predict that Hillary&Bill will be working behind a facade of cooperation and support for Obama's to hopefully engineer his defeat without exposing their back door support for a McCain win in 2008.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Daily Double...

It’s Tuesday and the last day of this four day assignment in 5th grade. It’s probably the last day of any subbing assignment for me this school year. The last day of school before summer is next Friday. No more pay checks until school starts again in September.

Not a whole lot for the kids to do today. It’s mostly busy work and they know it. Yet, it’s my job to hand it out and attempt to get them to do it. My real job today is attempting to minimize the noise levels and chaos that naturally erupts from boredom.

The only bright spot today was when I got a call from the office asking that someone send the backpacks for Mr. Attitude and Gang-ster to the office as they wouldn’t be returning to the classroom today. It seems that they were throwing gum at a yard duty person at lunch recess. At least that’s the explanation I got.

There’s probably more to the story but I felt like I had won the daily double at the track. My afternoon just got considerably more pleasant without these two.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Anti-Social Studies...

This is the third day (Monday) of my four day subbing assignment in this 5th grade classroom.

The school district has a no tolerance policy about gang related dress, references, art or threats of any kind. Of course, the classroom wannabe gang-ster was violating just about everything in a one page notebook production instead of doing the social studies assignment this afternoon.

Note the irony here? Anti-social studies? Get it? Nah, he didn’t either.
I let the principal try and explain it to him that last hour of class.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


They say the most common fear for people is: “fear of public speaking”. Fear of the “unknown” is probably up near the top of many lists also.

As a substitute teacher without any experience or information as to what to expect, walking into a classroom facing 20-30 new faces can generate a bit of anxiety. When I decided to try substitute teaching after the layoff, I knew that I’d have to face both of these personal demons myself.

Curiously, my fear of public speaking is limited to the adult population while talking to kids comes easy. …One down, one to go.

In my previous professional career, I discovered a technique that worked to help overcome the “fear of the unknown”.

I’d gather as much information about what I was supposed to do, ask friends what they might know about the situation I was considering and then finally ask myself the following question: “What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?”

If the answer didn’t involve death or major injury, financial bankruptcy, or losing the respect of family and friends, I felt good to go.

And so each time I accept an assignment in a new school or a class I haven’t had before, my answer to that question is: “I experience five classroom hours of total tortured chaos and then I go home.”

That I can live with!

Last Thursday was the start of a four day, 5th grade assignment where the teacher’s lesson plan gave me the following information:

On the whiteboard was a list of names that made up 1/3 of the entire class and was marked “Benched!!” For what reasons, I didn’t know why the benchees were to have no recess that day but my anxiety level was spiking just imagining what I was in for with these kids.

When they arrived that morning, I dispensed with my usual easy going classroom attitude and went for the “no nonsense” approach to gain the upper hand. I let them know what their teacher said and that I’d follow through on all threats she had listed for them. At recess time, I read the bench list and told them they’d better behave.

The usual offense that earns sitting on the bench during recess is missing homework or a missed deadline for class work. The idea is to have the kids complete the work on the bench while the other kids are at play.

After a short break in the teachers lounge, I went to find my “benched kids” only to discover four of them missing. I asked the others where they were and they told me they were out playing football.

I collected names of all who were there and considered what punishment to mete out.

Back in the classroom, I waited until all the kids were seated and then calmly walked over to the names listed on the whiteboard and put check marks next to the four names that skipped out on me.

The classroom was dead silent when I turned around and asked each checked kid why they didn’t report as required. One claimed he did but the others ratted him out by saying that I had collected names of everyone on the bench. A second kid with attitude claimed that his name shouldn’t have been on the list in the first place and so it didn’t apply to him. The other two just said that they didn’t think I’d check.

In addition to the usual homework, I assigned the bench skippers to write a letter of explanation (200 words minimum) for their teacher as to why they skipped their benching. I told them that an action like this was not helping to get back “FIELD DAY” for the rest of the class. I also told them that they still owed me a bench day on Friday.

Friday morning I received the following letters of explanation from three of them. The fourth kid is going to spend Monday on the bench again.

Guess which one is from Mr. Attitude