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Monday, November 29, 2010

Stapled Kid…

I was working in a 4th grade classroom and in the middle of a lesson when a tiny Asian boy came up and asked to go to the office.

Me: Can it wait till recess?
Kid: No, I stapled myself.

Now, I’ve had enough experience with almost all kinds of excuses to take a little walk to the office for every known “imagined trauma” known to kid-kind. This sounded like the “I got a paper cut, call the EMTs!!” variety.

I wasn’t going to annoy the office because of a minor “injury” like this. A cursory look showed it wasn’t even bleeding. Though one end of the staple was still sticking in the end of his finger, I was sure that simply pulling it out wouldn’t hurt and he’d be fine.

Me: Why are we playing with the stapler? We are supposed to be reading a story.
Kid: I thought it was broken and tried to fix it. I need to go to the office.

The kid is starting to appear a bit pale as I took a closer look at the injury. He had not only stuck himself in the finger with a staple, he had managed to put the staple completely through and out the other fleshy side of his finger! The boy is quivering and looking a bit green. I think he’s gonna faint on me!

Me: Go! Go now and take a friend with you.

The last thing I wanted was for the kid to faint half way to the office. I called to let them know the situation and that I had sent someone to go with him to make sure he got there.

At recess, I received an update call from the office letting me know that the staple was successfully removed by the school nurse and that the grandparents were coming to take him home. The grandparents wanted also to stop by the classroom to “inspect the stapler”. I could only wonder what answers to questions they might have from examining a common kid sized stapler.

My guess was the grandparents actually wanted to “inspect” the incompetent substitute teacher that would let their grandson become mutilated by negligently operating dangerous industrial office machinery.

So, after inspecting the kid sized finger sticker, the grandparents and the boy had a short discussion in native dialect. The boy didn’t want to go home and convinced his grandparents he could stay the rest or the day.

Tomorrow’s lesson: “Electric outlets and metal paperclips – a no, no!”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010!

Here's wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving with lots of good stuff to eat and be thankful for!

We're partaking in the traditional dinner at the grand-kids house in town. For me I'm just thankful that I won't have to repeat the hunt for turkey parts from a few years ago. My job yesterday was simply obtain the last few ingredients for the apple pie that Claudette is preparing as I write this. The only hard thing to locate yesterday was a parking spot at the local Costco.

 P.S. I can say without reservation that Claudette makes THE BEST apple pie ever and that's not bragging. It's just a fact.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When Unions Attack...

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had a face to face discussion with the head of the Bergen County Education Association about a teachers union’s memo that included a "prayer" that suggested it was time for him to die.

Christie's response:

Email excerpt:
“Dear Lord this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor.”

Tipped from Darren over at

Saturday, November 20, 2010


You would think that an average college graduate with a BS degree in math and more than 30yrs of professional computer software programming experience, WITH an unrelated additional six years of experience substitute teaching at all elementary grades from Kinder through sixth grades would be able to handle any 3rd grade worksheet without too much difficulty. Yea, that was my personal misconception up until this week in a 3rd grade classroom.

The science lesson was to complete a worksheet on “The Parts of Plants” which include classifying, identifying parts of plants, what each part does and finally coloring plant pictures with crayons.

Guess which part was my downfall.

“What color is fuchsia?” the boy in a Raiders t-shirt asked. I didn’t have a clue. In fact I thought fuchsia WAS a flower, not a color.

“Uhhh, let me see the worksheet” is my standard stalling tactic when they have me stumped. The sheet pictured four plants and a numbered coded color diagram to indicate what colors to use.

Red, green, blue, peach and even red-orange are pretty straightforward. But there at #11 was “Fuchsia”. I was hoping to get a clue when I see that the plant part for #11 was the flower part and not something easy like the bark of a tree (brown). I sent him off to ask some buddies in class to see what color THEY might decide to use.

Next came two girls lugging a huge plastic bin with what looked like a couple thousand loose crayons asking: “What color crayon is cerulean? We can’t find it in here.” I sent them off as well. The kids eventually DID find the “cerulean” and “fuchsia” crayons in the big box.

I used them to mark a copy of the worksheet (below) to bring home and ask if this was supposed to be common knowledge among the average, intelligent, unbiased adult female that happens to be married to clueless male.

Turns out, it IS!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Books or Movies?

What do kids willingly read in school? The Harry Potter books were the top contender a couple years back before the shift toward vampires and werewolf tales. I don’t know if the movies enticed the kids to read books or whether the books made the movies blockbuster hits with kids.

One other book I have frequently seen in the classroom since I started substitute teaching six years ago is titled “Flipped”. It’s a story about a young boy who moves into a new neighborhood and meets a local girl. The book alternates between parallel story lines of the two main characters as they get to know each other in a he-said she-said style.

Will the book make a good movie? Check it out…

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bag of Tricks…

That’s what a lot of substitute teachers call it. What is it? It’s the sum total of everything a substitute teacher thinks he/she might need to teach an unplanned lesson for the day. It manifests itself in various forms. I’ve seen the “Bag of Tricks” in the form of backpacks, canvas tote bags, duffle bags, briefcases, small suitcases and even a small rolling filing system.

My bag of tricks is more a survival backpack. It’s actually a “manly” diaper bag that my daughter let me have at her garage sale last year. This is my third after two previous bags wore out.

My bag contains a three ring binder, clipboard, pens, pencils, markers, notepad paper, day timer, calculator, condensed dictionary, some educational nature videos, basic first aid supplies, sunglasses, baseball cap and a whistle.

The binder contains blank report forms, maps of all the schools in the district, lists of completed and future assignments, and the current year substitute handbook and any other paperwork worth carrying around.

Except for the 2-3 nature videos I carry, I do not carry emergency substitute lesson plans, assignments, prize bribes, candy or fun busywork activities as some other subs do. If I did, I would have to drag a filing cabinet around to be that prepared. If I have to improvise an assignment, I try to make do with what I find in the classroom.

There is nothing of value in my bag. No phone, no iPad, or expensive electronics of any kind. No wallet, no keys or anything that would be of any value. At least that’s what I thought up until the day my bag went missing.

It was one of those “roving substitute” assignment days where I have 20-40 minute assignments in five or six different classes. After visiting the first four classes, I knocked on the door my next assignment. There was no one in the unlocked classroom. Since the classroom was unlocked and empty, the teacher and the kids must be at recess or getting books in the library.

I didn’t want to lug my bag all over campus looking for my lost class, so I set my backpack on the teachers chair in the back of the room and decided to first try the library located one building over.

The library was where I found the class. The teacher handed over the class and went to her meeting. My “assignment” for her was to finish library checkout and take the class back to the classroom for a math lesson on fractions. Upon the teacher’s return after the meeting and I went to get my backpack to leave.

My blue backpack wasn’t where I left it.

I then realized I hadn’t recalled seeing it since I returned from the library. I searched the entire room until the office called to tell me I was late for the next teacher conference. I told them I was missing a backpack.

Between my final two assignments, the principal asked for a description of my backpack and if it contained anything of value. A veteran in situations like this, he said he would have the janitor check the trash cans, roof areas of the school and ask the teachers to be on the lookout for it. Ten minutes before the final bell, there the office broadcast a “check your room for a missing blue backpack” announcement.

I left the office depressed and disappointed walking out to the parking lot sans backpack. I was wondering how much effort it was going to take to replace my “stuff of no value” when the school secretary called me back to the office. A teacher called to say that she found a black backpack in her room after all the kids had left. She was bringing it to the office to see if it was mine. It’s the wrong color but I waited until she arrived…with MY backpack!

She said she returned from her recess break and found the backpack in her desk chair. She thought one of the students left it there and moved it to the pile of student packs near the coat lockers. When the class let out, it was the only one left. I searched the bag and found nothing missing. It turns out that her unlocked classroom is next door to the one I substituted for today.

I realized then that I must have walked into the “wrong" classroom this afternoon, left my bag, went to the library and returned with the kids to the “right” classroom. I also realized that I didn’t know what color the backpack I’ve been carrying around for more than a year actually is. It’s the interior vinyl lining of my bag that’s “baby blue”.

I left that day feeling relived and a bit stupid at the same time. I also realized that I do care about my “worthless stuff” more than I thought I did.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


The Manitoba Herald , Canada
Reported by Clive Runnels

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The recent actions of the Tea Party are prompting an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and to agree with Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night. "I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota . The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?"

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much that they wouldn't give any milk."

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves." A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a single bottle of imported drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley Cabernet, though." When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans in powdered wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior-citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the '50s. "If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious about their age." an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies. "I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them." an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history majors does one country need?"

In an effort to ease tensions between the United States and Canada , Vice President Biden met with the Canadian ambassador and pledged that the administration would take steps to reassure liberals. A source close to President Obama said, "We're going to have some Paul McCartney and Peter, Paul and Mary concerts. And we might even put some endangered species on postage stamps. The President is determined to reach out." he said. The Herald will be interested to see if Obama can actually raise Mary from the dead in time for the concert.

(Disclaimer: This came via email and is circulating on the net in various forms. A search for "The Manitoba Herald" reveals that it was published daily from January 11, 1877 until August 2, 1877. If "Clive" actually is a reporter for that newspaper, he probably won't mind at this point that I share it with you...)