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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Inclement Day Session...

I’ve heard rumors about some areas of the country where they cancel school due to heavy snow and impassable roads. I say rumors because I’ve never experienced one. Here, in Silicone Valley California, we rarely get snow. The couple of times in the last 40 years when it actually did snow on the valley floor, it was gone in a few hours. We do have the occasional “rainy day” session where recess and or lunch is held in the classroom but in reality, the weather here rarely interferes with school activities.

That’s why I was surprised yesterday by the office noon time announcement that due to the “cold windy conditions”, teachers should decide if they want to allow the kids to eat lunch in the classroom as there wasn’t room in the cafeteria to eat indoors. Half the cafeteria had been taken over by the Halloween Haunted House they were running this week. I stepped outside to see what “cold windy conditions” the principal was talking about.

The classroom is situated near a small curved stadium like seating area outside the classroom door. It’s in bright sunshine and must have been in the mid 60’s with just a bit of a breeze reaching the bottom steps of the protected seating area.

Eat inside because of rain, falling snow, raging floods, freezing temperatures or even typhoon force winds, I might relent. But, a little bit of Calif breeze? No way!

“But it’s so COLD!!” says the kid standing in front of me dressed in T-shirt, shorts and shoes without socks as I’m locking the classroom door.

“Remember this moment when you get dressed for school tomorrow morning”, was my reply as I lead them off to get lunch.

Coming back to the classroom after lunch, I see that the door to the classroom is wide open and no one around. Evidentially, someone had talked the janitor into unlocking classroom door to allow some kids to eat inside. I don’t know if there was any adult supervision while I was away, but no one closed the door after they left.

Fortunately, the teacher’s laptop computer, portable document camera and, more importantly, my personal subbing bag looked to be unmolested.

I see that it isn’t just kids who seem to be lacking some common sense.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Old School in the Hi-Tech Classroom…

I’m in the same classroom, for the same teacher, in the same HI_TECH classroom where I had a brain-fart, screw-up with the SmartBoard.

Everything that went so smoothly last time, didn’t work so well this time.

He was in the classroom when I arrived doing last minute preparation to configure the applications and lesson plan on the computer. After he left to make his jury appointment, I discovered:
  1. The lesson plan on the hard drive was the old plan I used last week. Fortunately he printed a hard copy for today’s class.
  2. The application files on the hard disk were the ones for last week’s lesson also and useless for today.
  3. The flash drive with the backup lesson plan and application files disappeared. I think he had it in his pocket when he left.
  4. Yard duty and library time were not indicated on the lesson plan. I missed both until it was too late to do anything about.
  5. For some reason the audio on the Apple Notebook computer was not functional so that meant the planned instructional video was useless unless all the kids could read lips.
Fortunately all the teacher edition books were still there and we conducted class “old school” style with pen, pencil, paper and real books.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Walk Don’t Walk…

At the elementary school, yard duty is actually pretty boring duty. Be the adult presence in the yard. Walk around and keep the peace. Attempt to have the eyes in the back of your head to see that errant basketball before it hits you in the back.

“Walk! Don’t run!” is the order of the day even though it seems counter productive to not to encourage a healthy activity like running just for the fun of it.

Someone might fall and hurt themselves is the explanation. But we’re sending mixed signals, commanding kids to “RUN! Don’t walk!” laps during P.E. class. These are the same kids who would willingly chase after each other at tilt-a-whirl speed for the entire 20min recess if we let them.

The playgrounds we had when we went to school were all concrete or asphalt. Yea, there were some skinned knees and sore elbows, but it was part of the risk of having fun. You quickly learned the limits of your gymnastic ability.

Now the school playgrounds, where all the climbing bars, swings and slides are located, have a spongy rubber matted surface underlay to cushion any fall. Does this reduce the risk of injury? My informal observations seem to indicate that kids tend to jump off swings and climbing bars from much higher heights than I ever remember doing.

I guess I’m supposed to discourage jumping off things any higher than a foot or so but they don’t seem to be injuring themselves, so I let it slide. They’re having fun.

(…Why is that teacher with the horrified look running over here? Should blow my whistle and yell at her to “WALK, DON’T RUN?”)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Looking For Nose Hair…

I was on recess yard duty today when a kid walks up: “Hi! Do you remember me?”

Honestly, the only kids’ names I remember are the ones that are memorable for all the wrong reasons. This kid didn’t jog any of the incidents I usually write about so I asked for a hint.

EW: I’m Ear Wax! Remember? You gave me and (another name/face I don’t remember) the nicknames Nose Hair and Ear Wax!! That was REALLY funny!

His new buddy standing next to him is nodding his concurrence about the funniness factor of that day.

Me: Ahhh! Yes, I DO remember that. How are you and Nose Hair doing this year? Are you still friends?

EW: Yea! We still are friends except he’s in a different class this year.

He then ran off, I assume looking for Nose Hair.

Friday, October 09, 2009

SmartBoard Clean-up…

I just finished a week long assignment in a 5th grade classroom that had THE total Uber-SmartBoard setup. This teacher is hot into the new tech classroom equipment.

SmartBoard Keyboard, SmartBoard tablet, SmartBoard stylus, SmartBoard mini-mouse and Doc-Reader.

All lesson plans, books, worksheets, videos, student selector applications, lesson videos; EVERYTHING was on the computer for use on the SmartBoard. The amazing thing was it all worked!

(He also had hard copies of the lesson plans and the teacher’s manuals for backup…just in case.)

This isn't the first time I've encountered SmartBoards. I've used them in several classes over the last couple of years. Every time I encounter one of these SmartBoard setups, there are written precautions in the plans about not treating it like an ordinary whiteboard.

Don’t use Sharpies on the SmartBoard!!
Don’t use pencils on the SmartBoard!!
Don’t use crayon on the SmartBoard!!
Don’t use ballpoint pens on the SmartBoard!!
Don’t use Dry Erase markers on the SmartBoard!!
Don’t use ANYTHING except SmartBoard pens on the SmartBoard or…ELSE!!

(See Rule #1)

So...on that LAST day (today) of the assignment, I was using the whiteboard to write something just to the left of the SmartBoard when one of the kids asked me about a question on the worksheet displayed on the SmartBoard.

You know what comes next…

I turned and wrote the number "2" while starting to explain the problem in question and…I knew it as soon as I did it. I was holding a black DryErase pen.

I didn't need the chorus of "Noooo's" from the classroom to tell me that I had just royally screwed up. I’ve never broken Rule #1 since these things started showing up in classrooms…until now!

While looking for something that might be used to clean the screen, I found a container of germicidal wipes. Luckily almost every school classroom is H1N1 phobic these days and has these things on hand to wipe down desk tops and sinks. It had a familiar odor.

Fortunately from my previous employment in HiTech, I know that Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) is used to clean electronic equipment without using abrasives or leaving residue. I hoped that it might work on SmartBoard screw-ups without damage.

I tested a wipe on just a small spot on the screen and the marker came right off. I verified that the screen still worked over that area before erasing the rest of my dumb blunder. The board was working fine for the rest of the period.

Now, I might have gotten away without the teacher knowing how bad I screwed up but there was the small matter of those 28 little witnesses seated behind me.

I added my confession to my end of day report.

I may not have a future at this school come Monday morning.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


We've been on vacation this last week so that's the reason there haven't been any blog updates.

Even though I had notified the district that I wouldn't be available for a week, I still had four SubFinder call attempts and two teacher calls waiting for me when we returned Friday night.

I don't take a computer on vacation and don't have a cell phone or email access but through a convoluted set of connections, a teacher was still able to contact me to ask that I take his 5th grade class for a week starting Monday.

While talking to the bellman at the resort we were staying at, I discovered that he is a teacher at the local high school and works at this second job on weekends.

When I told him that I was a substitute teacher back home, he said I could probably work every school day on the island of Kauai at $175/day even though the school district has implemented "Furlough Fridays" and cut the school year by 17 days.

I declined the offer...

(Guess which beach this is to win a virtual piƱa colada...)