Who knew math tests could be fun!

I had known about today’s gig for about a week.  My teacher and friend Dawn asked if I would do placement tests for all her math classes.  As a teacher, it’s something she’d rather not do.  As a sub, it makes for a perfect day so it was a real win-win for us both.  As was the case yesterday, the first three classes were great, and then the last two periods were progressively worse.  Thing is, her last class was an “honors” class, so I had the expectation that they would behave better.  Nope.  They were so loud that we started this timed test about 10 minutes late.  Their test was harder as well, so very few finished within the allotted time.  All the earlier classes had taken a much easier test, and most of them were done about 10-20 minutes before class let out.

During the various periods, I saw many students I recognized from art class or multimedia, two classes I had subbed for recently.  They all recognized me as well.  The art students were happy to see me; the multimedia students were not.  The multimedia teacher told me today that her classes liked the other sub much better than me, to which she said: “Good – I’ll keep asking for you then because you made them work!” (I also found out today that I might be subbing for the Art teacher again for maybe a week or two, since she has jury duty in December.  She actually asked what I’d like to teach if she wound up on a jury.  We agreed on water color exercises.  It’s always so nice to be asked back!)

During break, I talked to one of the history teachers about the possibility of being a student teacher in his class.  Much to my surprise, he was very agreeable.  I spent my prep period relaying this news to my college (after also getting permission to be a student teacher from the principal).  My college told me that they didn’t actually have any placements for me so far, so they asked if I could find a second teacher at this middle school so I could do my whole student teaching experience at the one school.  To me, it would be ideal.  The principal told me to get with the head of the history department and discuss this new strategy.  I am so pleased that things seem to be working out!

Every Friday at this middle school, the teachers try to outdo each other with “break food.”  Subs like me LOVE teaching here on Fridays!  Today on this rainy day, we had fully loaded potatoes, two kinds of salad, deviled eggs and a spinach dip with gourmet breads.  After the break, my wife’s class also made grilled cheese sandwiches and various kinds of tea.  They then delivered sandwiches and tea to many of the teachers, including me.  It was a little disruptive when the students came in right in the middle of a test, but the food was great.

Today, we also had a new student arrive from Egypt.  I had him for homeroom and 4th period.  I really liked the kid and tried to make him feel welcome.  He was a little wet by 4th period because it was raining and he didn’t have an umbrella or a jacket.  I guess he didn’t need either in Cairo.  Still, I hope he had a great first day.

Substituting for my third English teacher.

Yeah, I got a call!  Today I would be teaching English (again) at the High School — my third English teacher.  The classes started great; later classes were less spectacular.  Maybe it has something to do with the time of day and when these kids eat.  I’m seeing a trend where the later classes get more and more disruptive.  This teacher’s first class was made up of my wife’s students from last year.  I recognized many of them, and they sure knew me.  Because they were freshmen, they were feral and squirrely.  No wonder no one wants to teach freshmen.

The most fun part of my day was all the stuff that happened in between.  My dear friend Annie was also subbing that day and we had the same prep period.  She talked my ear off about how to manage a disruptive class.  I think some of the stuff she suggested might be frowned upon or illegal these days, but she’s an old-school teacher, so no doubt, that’s how they did things 30-40 years ago.

She told me that she didn’t like today’s lesson plan that her teacher had given her so she decided that today for class she would tell the kids about her march for civil rights with Martin Luther King in 1961 (Annie grew up in a segregated environment — she attended black only schools right through her college years).  Actually, living history like that is very valuable!  It’s no wonder that both the teachers and students love her.

The break and lunchtime conversations with the English department were also fun.  They talked about students, both good and bad, and about topics like the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado, and how it was going to cause trouble for that state… and yet they’d also like to see pot legalized in our state because it would reduce the number of people currently in jail (and they would also then have more happy, mellow students!).  At one point, a teacher was saying how a student had simply made her day by giving her three reams of paper just as she had run out.  That student turned out to be my son!  Once the teachers knew who I was (Father of Jeffrey), they all had wonderful things to say about him.  They then asked if I had any other kids at the school, so I told them about my daughter.  They asked who her English teacher was, but I only knew her as “Mo” because that’s what my daughter calls her.  It turned out to be the gal sitting next to me.

No homework Wednesday

No calls this morning, so I did a couple of hours of study on where the market is headed.  It seems to be headed downward in 2013, so why are all the media types saying the opposite when the economists seem to be the ones who know what’s going on?

After that, I watched a four hour sci-fi mini-series.  About half way though, I realized that I had seen this before.  Still, I watched it to the end.

A day off

The morning started off with two phone calls from the school system – not substitute calls, but information regarding an overnight shooting near the High School.  Because of this incident, one of the major roads would be closed, which also happened to block the two main roads to the schools.  The call was merely informing the teachers (first call) and students (second call) not to travel down these particular streets.  Aside from that, no phone calls for me, so I made this sort of a rest day.  I should have worked on one of my big projects, but I just wasn’t feeling it today.  Truth be told, if the layout work was ready today, I would certainly have plowed into that.  Instead, I watched TV and played Minecraft before heading off to this evening’s classes.  In class, my main teacher was back.  It was good to see him again.  The class actually started with him giving a series of instructions in Spanish.  All the Spanish speaking students had no problem with this.  The four of us with no Spanish language skills struggled.  He did this to show the English speakers how a foreign student might feel in a typical English only class setting.  It was a good exercise!  I was proud of myself for finding enough context clues to do what I was supposed to do, but it certainly wasn’t easy.  I certainly didn’t lean on any understanding of Spanish to figure things out.  The rest of the class was a combination of lecturing and student presentations – nothing memorable.

Suddenly, a homework day

I actually turned down a sub job this morning because I couldn’t understand the teacher’s name or what she was asking me to do.  The automated phone message was just fine except for the bits where she talked.  I didn’t really want my assignment to be that much of a surprise.  The only thing I knew for sure was that she worked in the English department… because the automated portion of the call told me that.  Alas, no one else called, so I concentrated on my homework assignments until around 2PM (Yeah, all caught up!).  After that, I spent a considerable amount of time building my Minecraft cathedral.  The last of the walls and the roof went up today.  The cathedral is looking amazing.  If I don’t get a call tomorrow, I’ll add the buttresses and start on the interior woodwork.

The district also called today and asked if I could sub for post-secondary (after high school in this case) special education and/or for the alternative campus for kids who got kicked out of high school.  I said yes to special ed., but no to the alternative campus kids, figuring that with my poor classroom management skills, I’d be eaten alive.  When my wife got home, she told me that the alternative campus kids were actually a lot of fun and that the teachers there were amazing.  Of course, she has excellent classroom management skills, but she also told me that once the kids are placed in this sheltered environment, the class size drops and the teachers are more relaxed about teaching.  It helps the kids immensely.  Gee, perhaps I should say yes and give it a try.  This could be my calling.

Leftover Party

The highlight of today was our annual “leftover” party at our house.  We had 16 friends over, along with their leftovers.  The food was all very good.  We played board games and card games into the night.  I think we also got through three bottles of wine, which is unusual for this group.  All in all, a very good time!

A French Thanksgiving dinner

As I would in any typical year, I started cooking our Thanksgiving meal when the Macy’s Day Parade started.  Courtney got up just in time to see the start of it.  She was being cute: she had established a tradition of watching the Parade on TV while cuddled in a blanket with her favorite childhood stuffed animal.  It was her own personal tradition; I liked it because I saw her regress back to an eight-year-old.  Stuffed animals are no longer her thing, now that she’s in High School, but she still maintains this.  She also has other personal traditions for Christmas, starting with Black Friday tomorrow and then the setting up of the Christmas tree.  She doesn’t need to buy anything tomorrow; she just likes the holiday environment.

Today, unlike previous years, there would be no turkey.  The family wanted me to cook a full-on French meal, and so I did.  In the morning, I cooked the desserts because they needed at least three hours to set.  I then pretty much cooked the courses in progression.  As with a real French meal, the meal would be served in courses over a two to three hour period.  The first course started at noon, right in the middle of the first football game.  It was the cheese plate with some figs, nuts and baguettes.  Next up was the appetizer: pruchetta wrapped figs.  They were very tasty and popular.  For the next few courses, we sat down as a family at the table.  We had French onion soup followed by a cheese soufflé and green beans with garlic and Fontana cheese.  We were too full for the main course, so we opted to save that for dinner.  The family did want one of the desserts now, so I served the mocha mouse.  In between lunch and dinner, we played tennis.  Dinner was fillet mignon in a green peppercorn sauce served with a 2005 Francis Coppola Cabernet.  Delicious!  Dessert was a berry torte served with a coffee and orange flavored dessert wine that we had bought from a recent trip to some Gilroy wineries.  Again, it was pretty good, though I did learn earlier in the day not to add lemon to a custard (the middle part of the torte), as it will curdle.  The consistency of the torte was wrong, and the wine did not match up perfectly with the torte (berries & lavender versus coffee and orange).  An ice wine would have been better.  On the whole though, it was a fantastic dinner.  Perhaps this will become a new family tradition!

Trivial Pursuit day

I had the same classes today, minus homeroom.  Today was a minimum day, so each class lasted 30 minutes.  With the shortened time, and the general unruliness of the kids, I opted to make today a team trivial pursuit competition.  All the Multimedia kids loved this.  The Play Production kids were mostly OK with it, though some thought it went too slow.  I have the feeling that a lot of these kids are hyper by nature and don’t like to sit patiently for too long.  Still, even they had fun.  By the end of the day, I had lost my voice from speaking so often in a loud voice.

After that, I went Thanksgiving foo shopping.  My family had voted to cook French rather than a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  I’m sure it will be yummy.

Multimedia and Play Production

My friend Shelly had called me early on Monday morning to see if I could substitute in her classroom.  She was having trouble breathing and would much rather go to the hospital than go to the classroom.  Unfortunately, I had the Art job at the High School already.  During the day though, I got a text message asking me if I could sub for Shelly for the rest of this shortened Thanksgiving week.  Shelly had a clot in her lung and was being held in the hospital overnight.  The doctor told her to rest this week, and to not consider going back to school.  She called the office, the office called Barbara and Barbara texted me during Art class.  I took the job.

Today, I taught a collection of classes that Shelly teaches.  In homeroom, her students do the morning announcements for the school.  They have video and audio equipment.  Since the video is currently broken, they are uploading everything to YouTube.  If the teachers want to have their students see the announcements, they pull the YouTube.  All others get audio.  Well, even before the homeroom announcements, this class of kids shows up at school an hour early to pull the latest news off the web and put it together to be read.  It’s just like a newsroom: lots of activity.  These Middle School kids are really dedicated!

After homeroom, it was four periods of “Multimedia.”  Shelly had asked me to introduce Excel to the kids… but had also told me that I could do whatever I wanted to.  After a quick assessment, it seemed the better thing to help the kids prepare their 30 second powerpoint “Advertisement” spots.  In theory, the spots were due today, yet 80% of the groups throughout the day were not close to finishing.  Some hadn’t even started!  Since powerpoint and presentation skills are something I do for a living, I spent the periods coaching the kids on how to improve their powerpoints and presentations.  Come Monday, they should all get better grades.

The last period of the day was Play Production.  The group had just finished a play, so they were spending the week celebrating.  Shelly had cookies, chips and drinks for the kids.  We spent the class period doing improv.  About half the class participated; the other half was content to eat… and talk.  Most of the kids had a good time, though it wasn’t all that great for the improve kids – they had no audience!  Still, at one point, I had the kids laughing so hard that they were on the floor and unable to breathe.  They certainly enjoyed that activity!

Art Class again

The weekend was a lot of fun.  Sunday’s class on Advent went well.  I’ll continue to teach on Advent until Christmas comes.  My son also got the whole family involved in playing the new Call of Duty, which has a team play section where you kill zombies.  We’re not very good, but we’re acting as a team.

Today, I taught Art again at the High School.  The teacher liked me enough to have me back.  I see this as a good thing.  I also really like her class.  I’m discovering more and more that I would enjoy teaching Art more than teaching other subjects.  It’s more fun, relaxed and creative.

In the evening, the family played tennis.  My tennis elbow is getting worse, so I played right-handed about half the time (I’m left-handed).  It relieved my left elbow, but my family had to run a bit more for the balls; I have no aim!