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Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day - Joe Convey

While on our visit to Red Rock Canyon last week, it was the flash of red on a desert background of brown and green that drew my attention. I walked out to pick up what I assumed was a bit of visitor dropped litter. The "litter" was a small red, white and blue American flag.

So it was quite by accident that I came across this memorial plaque and flag for war veteran Joseph Convey.  I don't know who Joe was or how he came to be at this final resting place but I think it's fitting to share the following images on this Memorial Day - May 30, 2011 in peace Joe and thanks for your service.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I haven’t been online lately because Claudette and I drove to Las Vegas for a five night “kinda free" vacation deal.

One of the advantages of working as a substitute teacher is that I don’t have to ask for or get approval to take time off. I’m just “not available” to the calling system.

As we aren’t frequent visitors to Vegas (this trip makes twice), it’s always interesting to note differences from our usual environment.

  • Don't take any cards from strangers on the street -- especially if your wife is with you.
  • Alcohol seems to impair hearing because drunk people talk loud.
  • Buy tobacco stocks, there doesn't seem to be any shortage of smokers.
  • I played $3 in the slots. Lost it all. Maybe it's a rip off.
  • There appears to be more pawn shops per square mile than anywhere else in the country.
  • People seem a lot more normal as distance from the Vegas Strip increases.
  • There really IS a desert out there. Red Rock Canyon is beautiful this time of year.
  • Almost everything is a dam joke at the Hoover Dam.
  • Dam that bridge is high. We walked across it both ways. We had to. The eastern end is a dead end.
...and finally:

The world didn't end as predicted the day before we got there

Friday, May 20, 2011

Odd Sub Types...

The following is a guest blog submission from the freshmen H.S. team bloggers  Phil & Ted and their take on "odd substitute teacher types" -- Mark


You walk into class.  All of a sudden, you’re back outside class.  You walk in again.  Then the same thing happens.  In the class is a teacher.  It’s not your teacher.  Then, you wake up, but you’re still in class.  Then you wake up again [to a clock radio], and again.  It turns out you’re falling off a bridge.  Then you wake up again, and you realize the point of this lengthy introduction was to make fun of the movie “Inception.”
 But what if you’re teacher didn’t show up for the day?  What if it was someone else?  In that case a substitute teacher takes over. While most subs are normal, there are basically five slightly less-normal substitutes. They are detailed in this scholarly article (along with common introductions).
            The Musically-Oriented Substitute Teacher

“Hello, students [Gmajor7] isn’t the world just full of [changes to a C chord] music?  [Breaks into “The Hills are Alive...”][Catches self]  Ooo-oooo-ooops [hits D, F#, and A on the “oops”], I forgot to take attendance!  [Breaks into “My Favorite Things”].”

This substitute teacher loves music.  The classic give-away is carrying an instrument case or in extreme situations, yodeling.  The best way to handle this substitute is to play some popular music, which will thoroughly ruin any sense of rhythm and melody the sub possessed previously.

            The Inexperienced Substitute Teacher

“Hi, it says here...introduce self...introduce self?, my name is Mrs. Someone-needs-to-show-me-the-ropes (my family has gone through a lot of divorces/remarriages). 

Now-please, don’t do that, I think the lights are supposed to stay attached to the ceiling (although it isn’t clear in these directions)-who wants to take attendance?”

Due to rising oil prices, some schools grab substitute teachers from their posts at the gas station (…except in Texas, where people stick a tube in the ground to fill up their car.  There, schools grab inexperienced subs from college, because, after all, if they got that far, they might as well stop).  Needless to say, this sub has no idea what to do, and begins to worship the teacher’s directions, which often include complicated words such as “cabinet” and “desk drawer” (unless, of course, they accidentally picked up the attendance sheet, in which case they worship Andrew Anderson, or whoever else is at the top of the list).

             The Last-Minute Sub

“[Panting heavily] Hey, students [breath], sorry I’m late, there was a six-car pileup in my garage.  When the helicopters tried to get the news footage, they crashed into my house, so I had to stop and save my California Condor pet, which was glued to the set in the living room watching Fox News.  I didn’t get the call to come in until last month, so it was kind of last-minute.”

These subs can be identified by their tie which is suspiciously, meticulously tied in a .5673 Windsor knot (conflicting with their story of being ‘last-minute’.  Clearly, they weren’t in traffic, they were stuck in front of a mirror).
            The Cheerful

“Hiya, students! So glad to see your bright and shiny faces.  Just for kicks and giggles, let’s be great friends!  I’m supposed to take attendance.  Do you guys like attendance? No? Then let’s not take attendance.  What’s that, you say? Tuesday is always graffiti practice day? Let’s do it!”

Contrary to popular belief, these subs are not extremely happy.  Instead, it is their extreme fear of the students that drives them to attempt to befriend the students (these are the people who attempt to respond to all of their 6,743 Facebook friends every week).

            The Story-Teller

“Good morning, students.  Oh, speaking of students (and good mornings), did I ever tell you about the time I was caught in a Chilean Mine? No? Well-oh, I have to take attendance first.  Speaking of attendance (and first), there was this one week of my life where I got my arm caught in the toaster, seven consecutive days in a row!”

When growing up as a child, these subs had the type of parents who always listened to their child, because, after all, they were “special”.  When tossed into the real world (on March 14th, 1987, for you readers keeping track), these subs naturally assumed that everyone would love to listen to them.  
These are the five oddest types of substitute teachers.  Remember, though, that these are the exceptions, and the substitute that's the norm is more-well, I'm not going there. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Government Offer...

I got the following notice enclosed with my tax refund...

(Click to enlarge)

Pardon my skepticism in taking any financial advice from an organization that's over $14 TRILLION in debt.

Might I suggest that we can eliminate all demonstrated, ineffective "commissions" like the Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission as a minuscule step in the right direction?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Is Subbing a Popularity Contest?

I recognize other subs, if not by name, by sight fairly often after a year or two on the job. So when he entered the staff lounge at lunch time and I hadn’t seen him before, I assumed that he must be relatively new.

I invited him to share the table as we exchanged the customary first time meeting introductions. It turns out that we have very similar histories in how we both arrived in the role of a substitute teacher.

We are about the same age; both came from computer programming backgrounds and ended our careers in much the same manner. The only difference was, his was a layoff five years ago while mine was seven.

I was a bit surprised to find out, since I hadn’t seen him before, that he’s been on the subbing list for this school district for most of those five years and yet we hadn’t run across each other until now.

I originally enrolled in three districts when I first started and quickly reduced that to only a single one after a couple years. I assumed incorrectly that he must have been working other districts and just recently signed for this one.

In comparing “assignment frequency”, he was surprised to hear that I’m averaging 2-3 days a week in this single district we both share while he is having problems getting 2 days a week despite working for four separate districts. Next year, his plan is to enroll in one additional elementary district that has a reputation (not a good one) but has a higher pay rate to increase his assignment chances.

With several newer-hired subs and last year’s change in assignment procedure priorities to favor unemployed teachers, I’m surprised that I’m still working about the same frequency as normal but at fewer schools.

His parting comment: “Doesn’t seem to make any sense…must be a popularity contest.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Hate Paint…

Spring break ended two weeks ago. My personal “Spring break” continued for an additional week as there were no calls.

With only 20 days left in this school year, I should take all the assignments I can get before the summer income drought begins. So of course, as fate dictates, the first call this week is…Kindergarten!

Now, normally I wouldn’t take this particular class for one reason. This Kinder teacher is the only one I’ve encountered (so far) that has “painting” as a free choice activity at the end of the day. The before class preparation is a time consuming and messy process with the added bonus that some combination of shirt, pants and/or shoes will not escape an inadvertent color makeover before the end of the day.

The tri-sided art station, containing six color pots on each side, meant replacing all 18 pots of paint and cleaning all 18 brushes while attempting to avoid ending up looking like a cast member in a production of “Joseph and the Multicolor Dreamcoat

As per lesson plan instructions, I discarded the 18 old plastic bags of paint and grabbed the box of new plastic bags…There were only four Ziplock bags left in the box!!!

I suddenly realize that I’m at a crossroad with two choices. Do I persistently scour all the cabinets in the classroom looking for a new box of plastic bags or employ the old standard “…can’t find the pencil/book/homework in plane sight” student excuse.

There was no “free choice art” activity today.

Monday, May 09, 2011

HS Intern Interview...

From my online interview questions for the high school tag team bloggers Phil & Ted 

1) At what point in your academic (pre-academic?) career did you realize that you had a talent for writing?

While I’d love to capitalize on the “pre-academic” part and say that I actually wrote a few pieces while I was still in the womb, I don’t think you would believe me. Basically, I’d have to say that I started to seriously develop my writing due to my fourth grade teacher. Then, in seventh grade, I had a very funny English teacher, so I began writing humorous pieces. Recently, as a high school freshman, I started publicizing my humor writings in many ways, and was told that my writing, in terms of amusement, was just below watching a cat chase a laser pointer (so, of course, I started a blog). I suppose some of you would call this a talent, but for all I know I can blame both this and my bad teeth on genetics.

2) Do you write for any other media other than the blog? (School newspaper, English composition class, paid essay-writing services for fellow students, wall graffiti...)

Yes, there is a portion of the US federal tax dollars that is allotted to professional graffiti artists, and I think I have really found a niche in train boxcars. Ha ha, not really. So far, I’ve only written for my English class, speeches, my school’s annual literary magazine, and my blog. I would love to write for many other venues, such as my school paper, community paper, and marketing venues (such as advertisements. Something like, “This product has been recommended by your doctor/dentist/favorite celebrity, and is everything you need in life [insert guy, talking fast, with legal disclaimer] except for the various upgrades and other products we sell”).

3) Why blogging? Class assignment, experimentation, fame, fortune, just for fun...?

Well, one of my various classes used a blog, and when I participated, I thought, “Wait, this is online? So, like, anybody could read this? Like, even the life forms that may or may not exist on Mars could read this (assuming that they have a cafe with free wi-fi)? That’s horrible! We must have totally ruined our galactic reputation!” So, naturally, I set out to remedy this (using the principle that too much of a bad thing will eventually become a good thing). It’s an enjoyable experiment, because it provides readers for my writings and uses all sorts of technological skills. I’d love the fame and fortune, but unless the aliens are controlling our minds and don’t mind being the butt of jokes, I don’t think that is too likely at this point (except for, “Alien spaceship descends, fries teenage blogger, and leaves!”).

4) Any goals to turn this into a future career and if so, what area?

I have no definite goals for my career as of yet (aside from not being a technical writer, but, as you, Kauaimark, pointed out, the pay is good), but I would certainly enjoy making humor writing, or another aspect of original humor, a career (such as comedian, author, or politician. You know, “I promise to fix the federal deficit,”-what a knee-slapper).

5) (Just curious...) How are your grades in the other non-literary subjects?

Well, I’m not sure if I should tell you this, but my school adopted a system where all of the grades start with an  A: Amazing, Above average, Almost above average, Average, A bit below average, A fair amount below average, and Are you joking? 

Seriously, though, I have a 4.0, and I’m in some pretty difficult classes (such as: P.E., DA (department assistant or district attorney, I forget which), and lunch).

6) Any questions you might have for me?

Well, I noticed you started blogging way back in 2004. How old ar-I mean, what got you to start blogging, and why/how have you kept it going for so long? On a different subject, what are three things I absolutely have to do before I leave high school?

From me:
Well the exact number isn't important but there are enough clues in my blog to guess that I'm older than your parents but probably younger than your grandparents.

When I got married (to my H.S. girlfriend, BTW) after graduating college, I started a handwritten journal of our life together. I think the journal lasted a couple weeks and forgotten after a couple months. Too many other things happening with life, work, kid on the way, etc.

Fast forward 30 or so years and I received an invitation to try out something called "Blogger". At the time I was just checking what "blogging" was. It's turns out that "online journal" was an apt description. My original attempt was to revive the personal journal concept when life happened again and I wandered into a totally alien career change.

...and so my life as "Just a Substitute Teacher" was born.

On a different subject, what are three things I absolutely have to do before I leave high school?

1) If you haven't already, learn how to use credit cards responsibly. If you can't pay the balance(s) at the end of the month, don't use the any credit cards until one month after you've repaid all the balances in full. Pay with cash or go without. It will save you loads of grief in the future. Trust me!

2) Realize that your parents are probably smarter than you think they are. Don't think you can't ask for and get good advice. 

3) Everything else should be pretty well covered by #1 & #2

7) ...and finally, is there really a "Ted"? If so, his writing style is indistinguishable from yours. Very suspicious.

Yes, there really is a Ted. I, Phil, run the technical aspects of the blog, but Ted is a great humor writer that I knew of from school, so I brought him to the blog, and, rather than creating another blogger account and author, simply added his name to mine to keep things simple. Normally, I would have entertained your theory, but I could come up with no motive for taking on two pseudonyms. It’s hard enough remembering that have to sign comments and e-mails as Phil, and I’m sure I’d mess up if I had a third name to keep track of.

8) Is there anything Ted would like to contribute to the interview or would he rather stay the silent partner?

Hello world. It is I, Ted. I exist, and stuff…Well, I considered ending it right there, but I guess I have a little more to say. My story ismuch the same as Phil’s. I really began to enjoy writing during elementary school. 

Additionally, I have always had a hunger for some good humor (I mean, those guys on C-SPAN are the best comediansaround. They can keep me entertained all day). Soon, I realized thatif you mix writing with a little humor, you get something that people(or at least toddlers, family dogs, vegetables, etc.) like to read.Therefore, I thought Phil had a great idea when he mentioned creatinga humorous blog about high school. So I joined in as a co-writer, and,since then, it has been my goal to write deeply philosophical pieces regarding the important issues of high school life. However, I do not quite have Phil’s prioritization skills nor ability to write substantial amounts of work at high speeds, so I am a rare compliment to the rest of the blog. But looking forward, I hope to write much more, especially considering that millions of people around the world spend their time clicking the refresh button on our blog-page. So that’s me, but please, just call me Ted.

This is also from Ted, but is not part of his answer to the question:

Thank you for taking an interest in our blog! I have had a lot of fun looking around your blog, and I'm glad someone enjoys reading Some High School Blog as much as I enjoy writing for it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Tips for a Substitute Teacher…

The high school blogger team of Phil & Ted offers the following: 100 tips For The Substitute Teacher

It’s really, really long but I have personally used #’s 1, 2, 3, 26, 30, 34, & 84.

(Note: I might have Phil and/or Ted as guest bloggers, so your comments would be useful in determining that decision.)