College ramps up as the Sub jobs ramp down

Another week with bronchitis; at least I had Monday off from classes.

With the girls gone, my son and I watched movies, played games, ate out and played tennis (even with bronchitis and lots of pollen outside).  I also got all my homework done, and my portfolio – the last outside-of-class assignment that I need to turn in.  Over the weekend, I also did a training session for the Ghana Wheels for the World team (of which my son is a part).  We had a great time.

School continues.  I didn’t realize until this week that I had signed up to do my two major presentations next week while my parents are here.  This means that I’ll need to put all my effort in this weekend so I will be free when they arrive.  I did my minor presentation on “Plessy v. Ferguson” on Thursday and it went well.

On Tuesday and Thursday this week, I did exit interviews for 8th graders at the Middle School.  I had done this in past years and really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it again this time and it was made extra special because half the students I interviewed were from my student teaching class.

I also had an opportunity to sub in Music on Tuesday.  The Middle School has two part-time music teachers and both were out this day.  The electronic substitute management system couldn’t figure out that only one sub was needed so two subs were called and I got the latter half of the day.  This was fine because I could still interview in the morning.  I got to the music room early, played with all the instruments, which was a lot of fun, then looked at the lesson plan which consisted of silent study periods.  How boring!  I decided to give my half of the day to the morning substitute if he/she would take it.  At break, I found the guy who was subbing the first two periods and asked him if he wanted to do it all day.  He did, so I gave it to him.  It turned out that this sub was the “magician” guy that I had so often followed in other sub jobs.  Recently, the kids have started to ask me if I knew any magic tricks because their last sub was a magician.  He was a hard act to follow.  He was a really nice guy who had just started substituting, now that he had retired from his 30 year job.

Tuesday really wiped me out so I put myself down as sick for Wednesday.  On Wednesday, I turned in my portfolio at NHU, but not until late afternoon.  I also discovered that in order to get my ART credential (in addition to my Social Studies credential) I would need to do TPA#1 for Art, but not TPAs2-4.  Darn! More writing!  But at least it was only one TPA, and it was the easy one at that (I find out if I passed my Art CSET on Monday evening).  On Thursday, I interviewed again and was let out a little early because they had run out of students to interview.  I went home and took a nap.  Friday, I turned down three sub jobs, though I was tempted by the half day Social Studies assignment.  I really needed the rest from Thursday.

The start of the end of school

School’s back for me: six weeks of Monday through Thursday classes followed by six weeks of Tuesday/Thursday classes and then I’m done!  My last three classes are the introductory classes that I should have taken at the beginning of my first semester here (I joined NHU after the first six week module in the fall, so I missed these classes).  These classes are now ridiculously simple for me and I find that I really don’t want to attend.  They’re sort of a waste of time for me now.  My teachers know this too so I’ve sort of become a T.A. for them and they’re cutting me a lot of slack.

My bronchitis continues.  It’s very hard to shake.  All week I’ve been coughing, especially in the evenings when I have classes.  As a result, I decided to take it easy on my substitute schedule.  I only worked on Monday and Friday in classes that I knew to be excellent.  After Monday’s sub job had totally wiped me out, I was going to take the rest of the week off, but my favorite Art teacher at the High School called me personally and asked if I could fill-in.  A request like that is hard to turn down.  We watched “Life of Pi” while most of her classes went with her on a field trip.

Over the weekend, I will try to rest.  My wife and daughter are going camping while my son and I stay home for this three day weekend.

I certainly rested on my week off from school

Well, this was a different week: I was sick all week!  I guess it was convenient that I was sick this week because this is the only week this year that I have a break between classes.  The timing couldn’t have been better.

My daughter was also sick, about a day ahead of me (she got sick on Saturday, I got sick on Sunday), so the two of us spent Monday together.  We watched a lot of TV.  On Tuesday, she was better, but I had moved from the sore throat phase to the coughing phase.  I decided that today would be a “frozen disaster movie” day.  I watched six movies that all dealt with the end of the world through freezing or a global ice age.  I started with the worst rated movie and went towards the better rated movies.  By doing this, each movie got progressively more impressive.  It was a pretty good day!  Alas, by Wednesday, my cold was turning into bronchitis (I’m allergic to dust and pollen, usually well-controlled through medication… unless I get a cold, then it kicks in, and I get bronchitis).  I spent my time taking more medication and breathing a lot of steam.  The movie theme for today was the extended trilogy of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”  The first movie of this series had made it to America from Sweden last year, but I didn’t realize that all three movies had already been made.  Not only that, but the Swedes had actually made six movies: 1A&B, 2A&B, 3A&B.  Each section was about one-and-a-half hours long.  For international distribution, each A/B section was condensed into a two hour movie.  I could also watch the condensed versions on Netflix, but I had the time so I watched the full nine hours of movies instead of six.  The series was fantastic (though sexually graphic in parts).  I highly recommend it!  No wonder the book series was such a hit.  Thursday, I was in worse shape so I slept a lot and spent more time breathing steam.  I only got through one movie, Vanilla Sky, which was interesting but weird.  I watched original Star Trek episodes after that.

Because I was sick, I had to turn down sub jobs for both Monday and Thursday.  Both these were jobs requested well in advance so I hated cancelling these because they had requested me specifically.   By not taking them, I felt I was letting the school and the teacher down.  On Monday of this week, I had gotten another specific request (for Friday) and this one was in the History department at the High School.  Yeah! Finally!  Up to this point, the History department wanted to have nothing to do with me, or any other sub, because they had a sub they liked very much and they didn’t want to “risk” using any other sub.  I had mentioned my frustration about this last week to the sub they were using, who happens to be a good friend of mine and suddenly, I get this request!  She had put in a good word for me!  This was quite an opportunity, and one I could not pass up.  Dead or alive, I was going to take it, so on Friday, I dragged myself out of bed, breathed in a lot of steam, took a lot of meds and headed off to school.  The teacher was going on a field trip with his AVID class and he was there when I arrived.  We had a great chat.  My wife is also an AVID teacher at the Middle School so this teacher knew my wife and has worked with her.  He learned that I was looking for a History job and that I liked Geography and World History best, which were also his favorites.  The both of us also talked about our mutual love of travel as well.  We really hit it off!  If I did a good job, he may recommend me to the department!

I had seen his classroom before and thought it was the best classroom I had ever seen anywhere.  It was so full of interesting things; one couldn’t help but learn in an environment like this!  Today, I would be showing a video on the Philippines to his three Geography classes and a video on Israel/Palestine to his AVID class and World History class.  The AVID class had two students, since the rest of the class had gone off to UC Santa Cruz.  These two students were staying behind so they could take a college placement exam.  The Israel/Palestine video was interesting: it showed six different perspectives of life in and around Jerusalem as seen through the eyes of children of different faiths.  The other film on the Philippines was interesting, but also full of blood and gross foods.  Many of the freshmen students were squeamish.  This teacher’s prep was third period.  There was also an assembly today and there was a break somewhere in between as well.  As a result, I had a two hour block with nothing to do.  I rested on a couch and watched a Star Trek episode and an episode of Top Gear on my iPad.  After that rest, I felt pretty good.  The last three periods of the day were a breeze and all of this teacher’s classes were wonderful.  I even knew a few of the students in one of his classes: our new pastor’s son, and friends of my daughter.  I would also see the pastor’s son tonight at my house because we were having a potluck with his family.  It was a good day and I survived to tell the story!

Saturday will be a day of rest… and maybe I’ll start that portfolio now.

OK, now it’s done

I’m still only writing weekly blogs – I’m too busy!  Monday and Tuesday were TPA#3 all the way.  I am so glad my teacher asked me to look this over: it was not consistent across its 24 pages and it lacked depth (My teacher recommended that I use the State-provided rubric to self-score my TPA.  I was in the 2 – 3 range in most sections and I needed to be in the 3 – 4 range to guarantee a minimum passing score of 3 for overall content.  My TPA#3 could have gone on either side of 2.5, the tipping point between passing {3} and failing {2}.).  To solve this, I looked up all the technical explanations of what I was attempting to do for my experiment and made sure I included all that in the text.  I also did a complete read-through and tweaked my explanations and procedures so that they were consistent throughout (part of the reason the front didn’t match the back of this TPA was because I had initially written the first five pages of material before I ran the experiment and by the time I ran the experiment, I had changed some of what I wanted to accomplish… and then I didn’t write about it for five weeks, so I sort of forgot about what I had originally intended and wrote about what I had done instead.  I was in such a rush to turn TPA#3 in last week that I didn’t do a complete read-through (as I had done with the other three TPAs) because I barely finished the conclusion in time to turn it in.  The TPA is now 30 pages long and so much better.  I might even get a 4 out of 4 on this one.  Now I’m a little worried about TPA#4.  I don’t think it was as good as TPAs 1 & 2 and those got 3s.

On the Chip front, I was simply too focused on TPA#3 to do any chip work so I didn’t get to it until Wednesday.  Fortunately, the job was pretty easy and I completed it in a few hours.  The next step is for the company to decide how to proceed, and their two contract designers have opposing opinions on how to solve the problem.  I don’t expect to see any more work for maybe a month while they hash this out.

Thursday was spent cleaning my office so I could move on to my next project: creating a portfolio – the last hoop towards getting my credential… aside from completing my classes.  The office doesn’t look much different than at the beginning of the day, but my piles of paper are organized by subject/topic, making it much easier to compile the portfolio.

On Friday, I was a substitute for Middle School Science.  The kids were taking a sex ed. test.  I suspected that this test (a quiz really) wouldn’t cover the whole 50 minutes, so I had prepared a mini-lecture on the adolescent brain as a back-up.  Good thing I did; many of the kids were done in 10 minutes, and the last kid was done in 30.  That left 20 minutes in all five classes to do “something.”  Depending on how good the class was, I either gave my lecture as “punishment” or I allowed them to choose what they wanted to do.  Three classes got the lecture, one class chose to do homework and read silently, and one class chose to sing camp songs.  I taught them the “bunny” song.  For my prep period, I filled-in for another Science teacher.  That class was writing blogs on the science of everyday activities.  I really liked the breadth of topics I was seeing.  My two favorites were the science behind playing the piano and how practicing typing skills leads to increased typing speed and accuracy.

Saturday, my family, plus some friends, went to the river.  I read a book.  I’m not much for the river park, but I do like being with my family.

The last TPA and another CSET

Early in the week, I finished up TPA#3… or so I thought.  When I was turning it in, my teacher warned me that the official grader for all TPAs has had a string of 10 unacceptable TPAs in a row this week and does not want to see any more.  The teacher recommended that I take my TPA home and spend the week with it to make sure it is thoroughly complete and of high quality.  These things are graded on a 1-4 scale and anything under a 3 is a fail.  Anyone who fails has to redo their TPA, and the grader has to grade it again.  The grader has just seen 10 that she will have to grade again, so she was pretty mad.  I asked what I got on my first two TPAs that I passed.  I got 3s.  Wow, any drop in performance and mine wouldn’t pass.  And here I thought I had turned in two 4 papers.  Now I’m concerned about TPA#4, which I turned in last week.  Both TPA#3 and TPA#4 were not as good as TPA#1 and TPA#2 in my opinion.  My enthusiasm waned after spending 80 hours to complete the first two.  I had “only” spent 30 hours each completing the latter two.  I took TPA#3 home.  I’ll look at it over the weekend.

So, after Tuesday, the rest of the week was spent studying for my CSET (Bachelor equivalency test) in Art.  I had purchased a practice test booklet from a company two weeks ago, and it had not yet arrived.  I was a little concerned because these practice tests really do help and I felt I needed it.  Fortunately, in the case of Art, I have a massive collection of books so I grabbed a dozen that I thought might help me.  I studied some of those on Wednesday.  Wednesday evening, I got the practice test book in the mail.  I took the test Thursday morning and got a 22%.  Ouch.  It turns out that if one relies on the retained knowledge from a now 15-year-old Art History degree, one will fail this CSET.  I had a lot to study.  I read an entire art book on Thursday and took notes, and then read another book on Friday.  I also looked up every term and process I didn’t understand on the pre-test, which was a lot.  I know next to nothing about photography, printing, textiles, ceramics, Modern Art, African Art and Asian Art, which represents about 80% of the test.  I know European Art, architecture, graphic arts and drawing/painting, and even then, I was getting fooled by some of those questions.  On Friday night, I took the pre-test again and got an 88%.  Yeah!  Saturday morning, I took the two Art CSET tests.  They were tough!  It took me four hours to complete both.  I was really happy to find that maybe 10% of the questions on the test had also been in the pre-test book, as was one of the two drawing demonstrations that I had to perform (drawing a pyramid and a sphere in two point perspective with a light source).  Had I not practiced that at home, I might not have been able to do that – I’m a one point perspective kind of guy.  I was a little miffed that I only had to write essays on four of my six art project photographs.  I had studied how to write an effective essay for all six.  Several hours were spent looking up art terms and processes for two pieces of art that I now didn’t have to explain at all, but simply submit.  For the record, I turned in three graphic arts items (CD covers I had made) to show my depth in one area of art, and three other pictures to show breadth: architecture, photography and ceramics.  I explained the photography submission because it seemed to be the easiest to explain of the three and I only had one page with which to explain it.

When I got home from the test, I was too tired to do anything but take a nap.  Maybe I’ll look at TPA#3 on Monday.  Sunday, I have a chip to look at.