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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

From the Moms Behaving Badly File...

BEN LOMOND -- A 52-year-old woman was arrested early this morning near the Ben Lomond Conservation Camp on Empire Grade Road after authorities said they saw her dump two bags full of meth, marijuana and other items outside the minimum security facility for inmates to retrieve, the CHP reported.

Rhoda Lea Dydo Nunley, of Wheatland, was arrested about 2:50 a.m. after officers said she dropped two large bags near the facility's entrance, said CHP officer Sarah Jackson. Officers said they watched two inmates try to pick up the bags, and one of the intended recipients was Nunley's adult son, the CHP said.

The bags contained meth, marijuana, tobacco, food, a cell phone and other items, authorities said. Nunley was with another son, who is a minor, and the boy was taken into protective custody following Nunley's arrest, the CHP said.

Out of Context…

This year’s restriction by the school district not allowing teachers to request favored subs in their classrooms has had the unintended benefit that I’ve had a few more calls from the middle school. My personal inclination and schedule didn’t mesh with my taking any last minute, middle school P.E. assignments, but when an 8th grade science assignment came up, I accepted.

While I haven’t encountered any of these kids for the last two or three years, still about a third of them in each of the five periods remembered me from their elementary school days.

The teacher had seating charts with photos for each period that made taking roll five times a lot quicker than wasting time calling names. It was a bit social (ie: noisy conversation) at times but as long as they did the work I didn’t mind.

It was a good day and I realized that teaching the same subject to five different classes is much easier than teaching five different subjects to one class. By the time the 2nd or 3rd period shows up, I have ready answers to anticipated questions from the previous periods.

Switching topics, my wife and I have attended the same small church for more than 25yrs. In that time we’ve observed many changes. It is most noticeable in the changes the kids go through from infant to functioning adult.

Evidently one of these, now a 7th grade teenager, attends the middle school I was at last Friday. As she didn’t attend any of the elementary schools that I work, she only recognizes me in the context of “church”. When her mother approached me Sunday morning to ask if I was at her daughter's school on Friday, I was amused.

Her daughter had come home and related that she thought she had seen someone who looked exactly like me walking across the campus on the way to the teachers' lounge. She wasn’t sure if it was me or not. And if it was, why would I be at her school on a Friday afternoon?

I guess it can be a bit freaky to encounter someone “out of context” on a weekday.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Substitute Teacher's Ultimate Nightmare...

I can't even imagine how this COULD have happened...TWICE!
(At least it wasn't a substitute teacher in the class..)

"...A teacher at an East Oakland elementary school has been placed on leave as officials investigate accusations that two of his second-grade students engaged in oral sex in the classroom and that some ran around without their clothes on, a district spokesman said Friday."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Black Licorice and Kindergarten Teachers…

I really, really like black licorice. Not the sweet “black vine, movie theater” stuff but the good, strong anise extract stuff. Our Finnish exchange student from 20yrs ago still sends me 3-4 packages of the stuff for Christmas every year. But like too much of any good thing all at once, it can make you ill. That’s why I try to apportion my stash as long as possible to thoroughly enjoy it.

Kindergarten is like that. Good in small doses but not so much all at once.

I turned down five of seven Kinder assignments so far this month. One assignment I turned down twice the same night as I guess the subsystem didn’t find any takers the first time around.

I’ve come to believe that Kindergarten teachers are a special breed. They have to have that slow, calm, special “voice” when speaking with Kinders. And to keep it every day in class is truly amazing.

It’s a bit startling to hear Kinder teachers outside the classroom using an adult voice to realize they are great actresses to stay “in character” while in the classroom and can switch it off to become “real people” outside.

It’s really impressive to witness.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weird Numbers - Kaprekar's constant

Amaze your nerd friends and win bar bets:

6174 is known as Kaprekar's constant after the Indian Mathematician D. R. Kaprekar. This number is notable for the following property:

Take any four-digit number, using at least two different digits (Leading zeros are allowed.)
  1. Arrange the digits in ascending and then in descending order to get two four-digit numbers, adding leading zeros if necessary. 
  2. Subtract the smaller number from the bigger number.
  3. Using the result, go back to step 1.

The above process, known as Kaprekar's routine, will always reach 6174 in at most 7 iterations. Once 6174 is reached, the process will continue yielding:
7641 – 1467 = 6174. 

For example, choose 3524:
  1. 5432 – 2345 = 3087
  2. 8730 – 0378 = 8352
  3. 8532 – 2358 = 6174
  4. 7641 - 1467 = 6174

Using the above process,  the number "0050" takes 7 iterations to reach 6174. 
Try it and see!

(Hat tip to Darren at

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Substitute Teaching in the U.S.

Recently, I have been receiving inquiries from others to "guest post" here. I haven't previously entertained any interest in accepting these proposals until now. Since the year is starting off kinda slow and I personally don't have anything worthwhile to say yet this new year, let me introduce you to Sarah Casey who researched and wrote the following first ever "guest post" for JAST:

Use the comments section or the "Reactions" check boxes at the bottom to record your feedback. If this goes well, I may entertain the idea of other "guest bloggers" in the future.


The State of Substitute Teaching In The United States

If you can read this, thank a substitute teacher, if you can find one. Substitute teaching is one of those thankless jobs that require a huge amount of patience be on call and ready to go when needed. It is also a job that can be very rewarding and allows people who love to teach an opportunity to do so, once you can figure out the requirements your state and school district are looking for in a substitute.

The requirements to be a substitute teacher vary greatly from state to state, and school district to school district. The one requirement that the majority of states do agree on is that substitutes must have a high school diploma or a GED.

Substitute Teacher Shortages

According to a study by the Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University, substitute teachers are in over 270,000 classrooms in this country every day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for regular teachers will increase about 12% by 2016, as the need for regular teachers increase, so will the need for substitutes. As most states are struggling with full time teacher shortages, the substitute shortage is even worse. Some of the ways different states and/or school districts are trying to deal with these shortages is by offering higher wages and even offering substitutes the same benefits as regular teachers, once they work so many hours for the same school district. Some are even creating permanent substitute positions, allowing their substitutes to work in other administrative areas when they are not needed in the classroom. With the budget shortages that many states are facing today, however, these options are limited.

The main reason for the shortages of substitute teachers, surprisingly, does not include wages, although in some districts this can be a factor. According to the website,, substitute teachers make an hourly rate of 9.84 to 15.16 an hour, depending on their level of education, experience, skills and the amount of hours worked. Poor training and very little respect by school personnel and students are two major reasons substitutes cite for deciding not to go back to teach in certain districts.

Almost all school districts do provide training to substitutes, but not enough, which is one area many experts agree needs to be improved on if they want to find and keep quality substitutes. Training not only builds confidence, it gives the substitute a blueprint of what the school district expects from them as teachers. It helps them in classroom management techniques and empowers them to step into the classroom armed with what is required of them, as well as what is required of the students. Finally, many substitutes have complained about the quality, or lack thereof, of the lesson plans left for them by the absent teachers. Too many times the substitute ends up being just a babysitter because sufficient information is not given to teach the students effectively, and that is not what they signed up for when accepting the job.

Because there are so many shortages in every state for substitute teachers, many school districts have been forced to loosen up their policies and requirements for substitutes. Some districts have even resorted to pulling their special education teachers into the regular classes to sub. This means that the special education classes for that day may have to be cancelled, and the parents of these special needs children become extremely upset, and rightly so, that their children are put on the back burner during these times. Many times students are herded into the cafeteria or auditorium and given an impromptu study hall or movie viewing because no substitute could be found.

Requirements for Substitute Teaching

As far as what type of education and/or training a person is expected to have in order to even qualify to become a substitute teacher, one would expect that they at least have a two-year college education. However, not all states make that a requirement.

States that do require two to four years of college, some of which also require at least some of the credit hours be in education, are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa (a regular teaching certificate is required), Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska (must be a BA in Education), Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington State, West Virginia, Wisconsin (a regular teaching certificate is required) and Wyoming,

Some of these states, however, will waive the college requirements if the person has appropriate work experience, or, in emergencies, for short-term assignments. Many states are governed by districts, some of which require college, others, different types of certifications, while still others, background checks and fingerprints.

Even with the issues surrounding what it takes to be a substitute, it can be a very rewarding, part-time career, and can help those who want to teach full time get a step closer. There are many good online schools for teaching that a substitute teacher, who may want to teach full time one day, can check out. States are constantly looking for better ways to fill their substitute coffers with quality people, and the demand is high, so the outlook is good for anyone seeking this career.
Bio: Sarah Casey is a lover of education and is always educating herself! In her free time she is a freelance writer for

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Flipped Update…

The Christmas break is over and a new year begins. Well…should begin as soon as I get that first call for 2011.

One of the last classes I covered before the Christmas break was a 5th grade class. Of course the lesson planned, end of day video listed wasn’t anywhere to be found.

Fortunately, I had in my bag a DVD video of the new movie Flipped that the publicist for the production company sent me as a freebie for mentioning the movie in a previous blog post. Since I hadn’t viewed the movie beforehand, I consulted with another grade level teacher to see if it would be ok to use as a substitute. She really liked the idea as they had just finished reading the book as a class a couple weeks earlier.

Just before lunch, I told the class that I had a movie that they hadn’t seen before (it was released a few weeks before) and when I told them the title, they were excited…well most of them anyway. One girl told me that she had already seen it on Netflix, PPV or some such like video service. Fortunately, she was the only one to have seen it as the rest were really interested to see the movie adaptation of a book they knew so well.

Normally, classroom movies are hit and miss attention wise. I don’t require students to actually watch the movies as long as they aren’t disruptive for those who do. This was the first movie I’ve shown in class where almost everyone was engrossed in the story line. Unfortunately, the movie had about 15 minutes left when the end of school bell rang. But that didn’t result in the expected mass exodus of kids storming the exit before the movie ended. Most of them lingered as long as possible until about a third of the class who didn’t have a bus to catch or parents waiting, stayed to see the end.

From the first and single viewing with the class, I guess I’d have to call the movie a “hit”!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!

Have a safe and sober drive home for the New Year 2011!!

Did you make your New Year's Impositions List yet?