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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Notes On Teaching...

That’s the title of the book I received in the mail from the co-author. It is a concise guide of 184 notes in 100 pages that will neatly fit in a backpack or glove box for teachers wondering: “Why they didn’t tell me this stuff before I got the job?”

While targeted for teachers in upper grades, there are more than a few tips that can be used at any level. Some even a substitute teacher can use.

#104Be unexpectedly forgiving
Give a disruptive student’s desk a gentle touch while focusing a smile on his neighbor. Refrain from the tongue-lashing he expects. Your tap will alert him to his own behavior, and your apparent detachment will allow him to save face. He knows you’ve noticed and can correct the situation without fuss. Class goes on. Never throw chalk.

(…I haven’t actually seen any chalk in the last seven years but somehow it sounds better than “Never throw a Dry Erase Marker”)

#18 – Prepare to be unprepared.
(…isn’t this the actual definition of “substitute teacher”? Sounds like it to me)


#105 – Keep extra materials.
Paraphrased: “People forget things. Don’t let it ruin the flow. Request collateral deposit in exchange for borrowed materials to make sure they will be returned.”
(I request a shoe in exchange for borrowed pencils, erasers, crayons, etc. Works every time.)

The book is available at Amazon, probably other book stores and at

If you’re cheap like me and don’t wish to pay for a copy, you can enter a drawing for a free copy of the book here. Just use the comment section to include your first name and email address or send an email to: on or before Aug 15, 2011
One entry per person please.

(Entries via the comments section will not be displayed publicly.) 

Drawing entries to date: 17 (odds are good!)...and the winner is:

Congratulations, Erin from Northridge Calif! She is the winner of a free copy of the book "Notes on Teaching". If you didn't win this time, check back often as there might possibly be giveaways for other stuff.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

MS Substitute Teacher Report

Working at the middle school level, I immediately discovered that my standard substitute teacher report needed a total overhaul. After a a few tweaks, here's what I came up with...

(Click to enlarge)

Fortunately I have a double sided printer to fit it on the front and back of one 8 1/2" x 11" page.

Again, as with the elementary school version anyone is free to steal, copy, edit, adapt, adjust, duplicate, replicate or photocopy mine for their own use. Also available in MS/Word format via email.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Is Risk a Bad Thing?

In reading the New York Times article: Can a Playground Be Too Safe?

I had a flashback while reading the following excerpt:

"...After observing children on playgrounds in Norway, England and Australia, Dr. Sandseter identified six categories of risky play: exploring heights, experiencing high speed, handling dangerous tools, being near dangerous elements (like water or fire), rough-and-tumble play (like wrestling), and wandering alone away from adult supervision. The most common is climbing heights..."

It's one of my earliest memories of "school". It must have been the early 50’s and the neighborhood school had a typical playground with the tall, all metal slides, steel igloo domed jungle gyms and those old style merry-go-rounds where the object was to spin it fast enough to fling everyone off.

We got bumps, bruises and even a few bleeding, scraped knees and elbows. No big deal. It was part of the “learning” process.

Anyway, my flashback memory phrase trigger in the above article was “handling dangerous tools”.

I’m not sure the girls in Kindergarten were encouraged to use tools (remember this was the 50’s) but the boys got to use real hammers, nails and saws to make stuff.

I remember that I wanted to make a boat by sawing the corners off 3 or 4 planks of wood and nailing the shorter planks on top of larger ones to make a boat with decks.

In the process, I acquired a pretty good cut on the arm when the saw blade slipped. I got sent to the school nurse, had it bandaged, and sent back to class to finish my boat. My finished project looked more like an off kilter pyramid.

I couldn’t wait to show it to mom and dad. It didn’t matter that the boat didn’t float upright when I tried to float it in a tub of water. I was proud that I had made it myself.

I don’t remember my parents making any big fuss over the injury except to check it and put a new bandage it before I went back to school the next day.

...Things sure have changed quite a bit since the good old days.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Getting Ready To Go…

School starts sometime in August (I think). I’ll probably have to figure out exactly which day at some point but first things first.

I logged on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing site to pay the yearly renewal fee that allows me to work for the 2011/12 school year. I work ½ the first day assignment of the year to recoup that fee and it isn’t even tax deductible.
Ready to go…

I got one of the cars back after getting some needed repairs. That’s another 10 days of subbing to pay for.
Ready to go…

I browsed a few of my favorite edu-blogger sites to see if I should read up on stuff I should already know. Joanne Jacobs had something interesting about geography for 4th, 8th and 12th graders. It’s been more that 40yrs since I was in a geography class, so I took the all three tests to see if I still knew anything. I got 100% on all three.
Ready to go…

See how you rate here:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Minor Celebrities…

I was at the local Costco food court last week having the $1.50 bargain lunch, when an older fellow sat and shared the table with me. We were casually commenting on the crowds and got to the point of “casual guy introductions”.

The “casual guy introduction” consists of exchanging first names followed by answering the standard inquiry: “So, what do you do for a living?”

Al said he was in the ice-cream business. I’m thinking maybe a manager at a 31-Flavors shop but he elaborated that he started making ice-cream in 1939. He is the founder and owner of Treat Ice Cream in downtown San Jose. He asked me if I’ve ever heard of it.

Of course, anyone who’s lived in the area more than a few years knows that Treat’s Ice Cream is the best but hard to find because it’s only available at select local markets.

Al is still running the company at 92 years old!

Then there was the time I was helping a friend clean up a vacant house he owned near Santa Cruz, Calif when a watchful neighbor wandered over to check on who was at the property.

Again we did the “guy introductions” and discovered that Robert ran a sports shop business in Calif and also had outlets in Hawaii.

Since we’ve been to Hawaii several times, I asked the name of the shops and discovered that my friend owns the house next door to Robert Wintner aka: the famous “Snorkle Bob”!

You CANNOT turn on the TV or radio in Hawaii and not know “Snorkle Bob”. I even called Claudette and Bob was kind enough to say “Hi”.

Now, while it’s not unusual, for kids to recognize me “out of context” at the local Costco or McDonalds, it is extremely unusual for their parents to do so.

The most recent was when a guy at McDonalds in the next booth asked if I was the “Mr. Homework” his daughter talks about at home. She had evidentially pointed me out the last time she saw me there.

Overheard, a fellow sitting at a table nearby turns and says: “Hi, Mr. Homework! My boys told me all about you!”

While I’m certainly not a "minor" celebrity like Al or Bob, I’ll settle for all the fame and fortune that comes with being a "micro" celebrity.

…I’ll have to practice signing my autograph!

Friday, July 08, 2011


 Contest Winner: Congratulations to Kris in Kansas City, Mo

(...In case anyone is wondering how the winner was selected, check out It's a nifty random number generator that can be used for picking  winners from a range of entrants )

School is out but my job monitoring young children continues.

Daughter and SIL went on a week vacation to Kauai a couple weeks go and left the grandkids with us. Two on two is doable, but when Claudette goes to work, it’s just me with a 2nd grader and her younger brother the Kindergartner for 5-6 hours. Coincidentally, that’s about the same time span as a daily substitute teacher assignment.

Whether it’s two or twenty, it can be exhausting when “they” are in a different environment/routine and every response starts with: “Yea, but…”

Request: ”Let’s (insert whatever you want them to do next).”
Response: “Yea but, Mommy/Our teacher doesn’t do it that way.”
Response: “Yea but, I’m not tired.”
Response: “Yea but, I can’t find it.”
Response: “Yea but, I can’t do it.”
…and the ever popular
Response: “Yea but, I don’t want to.”

So, I made a new rule during their stay: "No YEABUT’s allowed!”

Every time they started a response with a “Yea, but”, I’d interrupt to remind them of the rule. After constant reminders, it was interesting to watch them try and think of another way to rephrase their response.

I’m thinking of putting it on a T-Shirt for the next school year…

What do you think!

P.S. the folks over at gave me one $25 gift certificate as a give away for my blog readers. The random drawing opens today and the will be open until Friday July 8. Email or use the comments section to enter. First name and email address required. One entry per person, please.

Meanwhile visit and start designing your own custom shirt.

Current # of entrants for the drawing: 6 (...odds are pretty good!)