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Monday, September 27, 2010

Foot (Feet?) Loose...

Just a fun video. How many movies can you name?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Is Your Mother Smarter Than a Sixth Grader?

The job was a half-day 6th grade class in the afternoon. The Social Studies homework assignment was to locate a recent local, state or world news story and summarize it for the rest of the class. The result was less summarization and more copying verbatim the actual news article to read.

I’m sure that once the teacher saw the handed in work, the definition of “summarization” would be a follow-up lesson on Monday morning. A few actually read and summarized the news story as instructed, demonstrating the skills needed to extract and comprehend written information.

Then we came around to Henry (not his real name). When I called on him for his turn to “stand and deliver”, he began fumbling around his backpack for the homework assignment.

You’d think that he would have been ready since we had over half the class do theirs before we got around to him. After what seemed like several minutes rummaging, I asked if he had done the homework, while getting ready to mark his assignment missing.

Henry: Yea, yea! My Mom picked it out. I just can’t find it.
Me: Well then, just tell me briefly what it was about.
Henry: Ummmmm…

Me: Did you write a summary?
Henry: Uhhh…yea!

Me: …but you don’t know what it’s about?
Henry: I forgot.

Henry finally locates his homework about the hoax bomb threat to the Eiffel Tower last week. He reads the news story verbatim and turns it in. The story is a Yahoo News page print from the website and the attached news summary is an excellent computer printed summarization of the events from Paris, France.

Me: Did your Mom write this summary?
Henry: (short pause) No?

Me: Hmmm…Henry? The article is about the Eiffel Tower, right?...Where IS the Eiffel Tower?

Henry: (longer pause)…New Zealand?
(Collective murmurs from the class): OMG! Henry…Paris!
Henry: No, no…Paris!

Me: And where is Paris? What country?
Henry: Texas!!
(Collective groan from the class)
Me: …Okayyyy!

Note to the teacher: Henry’s Mom does excellent summarization work!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Limited Access Update…

The first month of the school year (mid-Aug to mid-Sept) is in and despite my reservations about lack of work this year, it hasn’t happened.

Of the 22 possible school days, I’ve been in class 14. That’s a bit above average for this time of the year. Since teachers can’t request favored substitute teachers anymore, ALL assignments are posted to the random substitute assignment pool. That may be a factor in the apparent increase of available assignments. I don’t really know if that’s the case but it seems that the phone is busier than normal for this time of year.

One month after the fact, the district finally sent out a “SmartFindExpress” reference card to tell us how the system works. Next week the district is holding a workshop to tell us how to use it. The workshop is a bit pointless at this stage since everyone has been using it for a month but they promised cookies and soda. Anyone who personally knows me knows I’ll be there.

The reference card they sent DID have some useful information. For instance, those of us who are “limited access” don’t need to hang around the phone before 05:00pm or after 10:00pm. Those are the only hours the system does assignment calling. We don’t have to hang around on Saturdays either. The system only calls for “future dates” Sunday through Thursday night.

The “day of” calls start at 05:30am and continue until taken or cancelled by the school. I have missed a few of those because I wasn’t home to take the call. If I had been permitted to access the website for current day assignments before I left for Costco at 10:00am this morning, I might have taken the assignment that was left on my answering machine at 10:15am. I wonder how the district will handle the flood of last minute assignments as they go unfilled during flu season.

That might be a good question to ask at the workshop next week!

Monday, September 13, 2010

In My Own Backyard…

Every parent has observed their kids go through developing “awareness stages”. I think the earliest stages from the “self absorbed, right now” to a dawning awareness of a past, present and future existence is sometimes one of the most interesting to witness.

One such moment occurred on Labor Day this month. The family was over for backyard BBQ and swimming at our house. The grandkids are always excited for the chance to go swimming when they come over. Of our four grandkids, Paige a 1st grader was excitedly bouncing up and down waiting for Dad to get changed into swim shorts to go swimming.

It was then that she had one of those “awareness” moments…

Paige: Papa? Why do you have a pool in the backyard?
GrandPa: Lots of people have pools in the backyard. (I later checked Google satellite maps to verify that about 20% of the homes in our California neighborhood have backyard pools)

Paige: Why don’t we have one in our backyard!
GrandPa: But, you used to have a pool in your backyard, Paige

Stunned silence… A quick glance at Dad confirmed that Papa isn’t just kidding around like he sometimes does. I could almost hear the thought processes in the transparent facial expressions as my granddaughter digested this earth shattering bit of newly revealed information:

(…“WHAT!!?? Mommy and Daddy had a real swimming pool in our yard! You mean we could be going swimming every day we wanted just by walking out the back door instead of only once in a while when mommy has to get my brother and me ready to drive to the cabana club to swim? Where did it go?)

Paige: “We did?” looking suspiciously at Dad standing nearby.

I could see her visualizing the backyard swing set, sandbox and the lush green lawn where her puppy likes to run and “do his business”.

Paige: “Where is it now?”

Dad explained that before she was born, they decided that the pool wasn’t safe for little babies and puppies to fall into so they had it taken out.

This led into more questions about “how” it was removed (they buried it). “What did it look like” (deep end is under the swing set and steps are under one end of the lawn). If I dig under the swing, will I fall into the water?” (No, they dug holes in bottom to let the water out and filled it with dirt). The questions continued until everyone else was ready to go out and swim.

I look forward to more “light bulb” moments from all four of my grandkids. While I wish it could last a bit longer before the “surly teen years” to enjoy, I know it will pass far too quickly.

Now I wonder when (or most likely “IF”) I should reveal to my youngest grandson (currently 18 months) the story of his father jumping off a bridge with bungee cords wrapped around his feet without telling us.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Special Education Class…

I’ll admit it. When assignments for SED (Special Education Class) or SDC (Special Day Class) are offered, I tend to check what else might be available. My trepidation is that I’m never sure what I’m supposed to do or what to expect mentally or physically from the kids in the class.

Given the realities of this potentially lean year in subbing, I arrived at school last Thursday morning ready to survive the day. The teacher left a detailed lesson plan that involved several folders with assignments for each student. All the assignments were tailored for the abilities of each student.

She had left me a quick summary of the twelve, 8 to 10yr old kids I would shortly meet. In addition, there were two aides assigned to help with any issues that might come up. That was a big relief and they reassured me that this was an easy going group and should I experience any problems, they were there to take care of it for me.

If you are waiting for the horror story of the day, I’m happy to disappoint. The kids were curious, friendly and much better behaved than the three “normal” 1st grade assignments I had earlier that week. The few potential incidences that did come up were quickly and quietly handled by the classroom aides.

Will I sub “SpecialEd” in the future? Sure, why not!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You…

Well, it is two weeks into the new school year and I’m surprised to report that I AM getting calls to work. Even though I still can’t call in to the substitute system for any assignments, I have been getting called almost every day from the system for work.

I have heard through the grapevine that most of the RIF’ed teachers have been rehired into other schools or different positions so the competition pool is lessening. Assignments are more than trickling down to the “on call only” substitutes. At this point, I believe that I’m working more at this time of the year than previous years.

I still don’t like the fact that I can’t call in to plan my week more than a day or two in advance, but maybe that restriction will disappear as the year progresses.