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Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Know What We’re Gonna Do Today!

"...There's 104 days of summer vacation
And school comes along just to end it
So the annual problem for our generation
Is finding a good way to spend it!"

Unlike Phineas & Ferb who ALWAYS know what they're going to do on this bright summer day, the substitute teacher is out of a job until the next school year starts in August.

What does a substitute teacher do during the summer? Well today I attended the Yahoo stockholders meeting (...we own 40 shares) in Santa Clara to see what the new CEO Carol Bartz is like in person.

I have to say I'm impressed. Very personable and engaging. I don't know if she can do anything about improving the situation with Yahoo but time will tell.

In addressing a question from the floor about Yahoo's decision nine years ago to turn over IP address information that was used by the Chinese government to imprison a Chinese national named Shi Tao, she responded in a serious subdued tone: "We made a mistake 10yrs ago but it's not our job to fix China"

A leader that admits a mistake without blaming her predecessor is a refreshing change these days.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Silver, Gold, Diamond, Rock, Paper, Scissors, Laptop?…

Women can always tell you what the traditional anniversary gift is supposed to be when that special date rolls around. We guys can’t remember the last time we changed our socks.

So to celebrate our wedding anniversary, Claudette told me “39” is laptop computer and wireless router. What could I say? We’re not much into sharing one computer anymore.

Now if only I could find someone with Goggle’s video chat feature, I could try out the web cam …

Update 6/23/09: Video chat works (kinda)! Daughter installed it and "called" us. The audio and video not synchronized too well. Probably a result of the speed of our ISP. It's still pretty nifty!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Perpetuum Jazzile

Cool choir provides their own "passing storm" sound effects...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Final Tally:2008-2009…

This is the last day of the eight day assignment in this classroom. It’s a minimum day.

Some of the teachers tried to warn me. I just didn’t quite believe how tough a final “fun day” could be.

I’m walking out to my classroom in the portables at 08:00am to find workmen boarding up the windows with 4x8 sheets of plywood.

“Securing the classrooms against the summer vandals” was the given explanation. The entire row of classrooms looked like foreclosed, abandoned housing units.

I thought it must make quite an impression for the parents of the graduating 6th graders to see the slum dwellings where their kids got their education. Couldn’t they have “secured” the classrooms for summer AFTER school?

The final day lesson plan:
  • Clean the classroom
  • Go the 6th graders “clap out” assembly
  • Recess
  • Show movie
  • Lunch
  • Stack desks and chairs
  • Pass out report cards
  • Go home at 1:20pm

This should have been an easy day and for the most part it was. The problems came during the movie in the classroom. Everyone was laying out on the floor because I had the kids stack desks and chairs right after recess. With the windows boarded up, the classroom was pitch black, movie perfect atmosphere. I turned out the lights and started the video.

Once my eyes adjusted to night vision, I noticed a couple of boys standing over by the teachers’ desk in the back of the room. Knowing that they were probably up to nothing good, I made my way back to where they were, only to see that one kid had my sunglasses that used to be in my backpack!!

“WHAT THE F-(remembering at the last fraction of a second that the next syllable would probably get me fired) ARE YOU TWO DOING! GIVE ME THOSE! HIT THE LIGHTS! TURN OFF THE VIDEO!”

“YOU!”, pointing at the kid with MY glasses, “GET OUT OF HERE NOW! OFFICE RIGHT NOW!” as I grabbed my glasses back.

I was so mad, I surprised myself. I could hardly talk to the office secretary to describe why I was sending the kid over. I was stunned that any kid would be going through my backpack in class. Even more stunned that he would do it while I was in the room. On the last day of school, even! I was so stunned that I even forgot about the second kid that was with him!

I went by the office at lunch time. Almost every chair available was occupied by a kid evicted from one classroom or another. The school secretary said it happens every year.

“The kids just go nuts the last week of school. We tried to warn you!”

Final Total: 78 of 180 days subbing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Anthem Apathy…

It’s the same starting routine every day. Take attendance, take lunch count, stand up, sing the national anthem, salute the flag, sit down and begin the school day.

Unless exempted due to philosophical or religious reasons, every kid is required to follow the plan. Unless I hear a good reason, every kid is going to at least lip-sync with the rest of the class the salute and anthem.

Almost every class has a clown that likes to go against the flow and act up during the song or salute. All it usually takes from me is a hard stare from my location at the front of the room to get the clown back into sync with the rest of the class. If that doesn’t work, a hand gesture (no, not that one) usually gets the point across. But sometimes I need to escalate the situation to get my point across.

So it was with one 5th grade boy this last week of school.

The stare was enough to get him to stand with the rest of the class but executed with the vacant stare of defiance.

The escalation gesture step was noticed by everyone around him but had no affect on “mute boy”. A second silent request to get with the program was met with a blank expression.

My final “persuasion” technique was to walk over and stand directly behind him and sing the anthem as loud as I could. The other kids were starting to crack up and even the clown was trying not to break character. He ultimately gave in and completed the anthem with the rest of the class.

The next day, all it took to get the clown into gear at anthem time was to walk over and stand behind him while he sang with the rest of the class. In the afternoon, the class attended a school-wide spirit rally in the front of the school. The kids are grouped around the flag pole, school mascot, and principal with featured cheer leaders. The rally, of course, opens with the flag salute and singing of the national anthem.

At the start of the anthem, clown boy leaves his class group to come stand in front of me at the back of the crowd to sing the anthem.

A clown with an attitude is one thing but a clown with a sense of humor is ok by me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Do You Know About Girls?

I’m in the last week of the current school year subbing in a 4th/5th combo class. I’m riding herd on 28 kids with no lessons being given. Indoor movies or outside field games dominate the lesson plans for this final week.

During one outside activity with three other classes, one 4th grader boy from a different class comes up and asks: “Do you know about girls?”

I’m pretty sure I misheard his request and asked him to repeat the question. I’m not sure why he’s asking me about this subject. Maybe I’m the oldest adult he knows at school and figures age wise, I might be the best source of “girl information”.

There are a lot of potentially problematic mine fields with a loaded question like that but until I know more…

K4: Do you know about girls?
Me: Uhhh. I know some things. What specifically do you want to know?
(If it’s what I think, he’s going to have to ask ‘Mom or Dad’ or wait till they cover that next year in health class.)

K4: About dancing…
Me: Ok, What about dancing?

K4: I’m supposed to dance with a girl.
Me: …and?

K4: Do you know how to ‘Tango’?
Me: Actually, no. Does your Mom know how to ‘Tango’?

K4: Yea, she does.
Me: I suggest you talk to Mom when you get home. I'm sure she'll help you out.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Water Park Field Trip…

Part of the motivation in writing this blog is to answer the question: “What’s it like being a substitute teacher?” Sometimes, it’s not actually teaching anything!

I worked on Monday to stay at school with the “left behinders” from two of the 4th grade classes. I had approximately twenty-five kids, while the rest of the 4th grade classes went on a field trip to the local water park for the day.

Status: Minimal inconsequential busy work. Boring day!

Yesterday, I subbed for the teacher of a 4th grade class from a different school on their field trip to the same water park. We walked to the park from the school and back with about 200 kids and six teachers. We didn’t get back until two hours after school let out.

Status: Longer workday. I sat in the shade reading a book, while the park personnel performed one lifeguard rescue, one vomit victim cleanup for our group. Relaxing day!

Next time I’m taking the swimsuit and getting wet.