Stanford Day

The field trip to Stanford went great yesterday, and all the kids loved it. And what could go wrong with bringing 60+ kids to Stanford by way of two transit busses, a train and a shuttle – each way. The kids (and the two teachers and six chaperones) walked at least six miles, and I think I might have walked eight.

Since the transit system can only realistically handle about 30 kids during rush hour, we split up our two classes by taking busses 20 minutes apart. Almost immediately, problems started to happen. There was major construction along our route (BART is coming to Milpitas!) so the first bus was 20 minutes late and our bus, the second bus, was also 20 minutes late. Fortunately, somewhere along the line, our bus made up 14 minutes, but that still had us missing our connecting bus. No problem though, our bus driver told us that a different bus also went there and that it was literally right behind our bus. We ran off our bus and ran onto the other bus. We got to the train station with nine minutes to spare. We didn’t see the earlier group, so they had made their train as well. Once we got off the train, we just missed the shuttle bus so we had to wait 20 minutes for the next one. This was going to put a crimp in my museum time. Truthfully, it would have been better for us to walk the 0.9 miles to get to the museum, but no one wanted to walk there.

Once we got to the museum, another 10 minutes were spent putting backpacks away in lockers, since they were not allowed in the museum. Once we got going, my little docent tour went great, though in every room, those “look around for 2 minute” periods between what I was talking about were often 10 minute periods. No problem, we were on a somewhat flexible schedule, and whenever group two was ready to start, Barbara would finish the tour with group one. That didn’t happen because group two was running about 30 minutes late from eating lunch and they were a VERY slow group when walking from one place to the other. By the time they arrived, I had 25 minutes to show them art, and this included stowing their bags. I got the kids moving faster, and we got everything stashed in 5 minutes. With only 20 minutes left, I concentrated only on the Rodin collection. I actually had more time to talk about Rodin, since we weren’t seeing the rest of the museum, so it was a really good lecture, if I don’t say so myself. The kids and the chaperones were mesmerized. I even picked up about 10 adults who were simply in the museum at the time. They thanked me after the tour was over.

After that, I marched group two to the visitor’s center where the campus tour was to start. Group one had not appeared yet so we texted them. They had taken their time getting to lunch (seeing additional Rodin sculptures along the way), so they were now eating while walking about a mile to the visitor’s center. When they arrived… about 20 minutes late, we started, again in two groups. Our tour guide was good, but the kids were so tired from walking that they didn’t seem interested and didn’t ask any questions. I was impressed that our guide walked backwards the entire time (for around three miles) and never fell or hit anything, even though we were walking across streets and through bike and pedestrian traffic that also included poles in the ground. We saw the newer sections of the campus (engineering, computer science) and the original buildings, including the very beautiful church on campus. I had never been in this church before, so it was a highlight for me. Eventually, we wound up at the very fancy housing and frat house section. These places were palatial! After the tour was over, we had only 25 minutes to get clear across campus to the train station, so we were not able to go to the book store. The students were bummed about this. We got on a shuttle bus just as it was about to leave. This was fortunate because when we arrived, our train was scheduled to be there in just two more minutes. Group two would not make it, so they would take the train 20 minutes later… in theory. In actuality, our train had had mechanical issues and was now running 20 minutes late. Two trains were now scheduled to arrive at the same time. Group two arrived and a few minutes later, so did our train. We all got on. At the train station in San Jose, group two went straight to the busses. My group had several who needed to use the bathroom, and one student had left his backpack on the train so they had to run back to find it. I took most of the group on the next available bus. My wife, plus four others, stayed behind to look for that backpack. As my group pulled into the transfer point, we could see the teacher from the other group literally pushing kids onto the next bus. It was packed to the gills. We would wait for the next one in 20 minutes. We waived to group two as they drove past us. While waiting, my son called. He is now graduating on June 13th, so if he takes the redeye to New York, he can attend his cousin’s wedding with the rest of us. This was good news! Also good, my wife showed up before the next bus arrived. Alas, the backpack had been stolen, so the student was out a backpack, about $10 in cash and some food. We caught the bus and made it back to the school in an hour. It was now 5:30 and we had been going since 8AM. It was a very full day!

This morning (now the next day), I was to sub for PE, but the PE guy didn’t put me in the system correctly. I got to school and learned that they had already given the job to someone else. I’m surprise that this hasn’t happened to me more, but today, I was out of a job. I’m OK with that though – I’m tired from yesterday, I have to plan our New York trip, and I have some chip work to do. It’s going to be a good day!

Memorial Day

Today is a holiday. The only thing we had planned was cooking steak in the evening. It was a perfect day to just “bum around.” Well, not wanting to simply lay around, watching TV, Barb and I decided to ride around on public transit and see if there would be any glitches when taking her kids on a field trip this Wednesday to Stanford. It was a Holiday Schedule (a Sunday schedule), so there were certain busses that weren’t running. This did not seem to affect us though.

The trip from the school to downtown San Jose went just fine. Our transfer was easy. We got to the San Jose Train station in 1 hour and 40 minutes, which was a little longer than we wanted, but certainly wasn’t too bad. We checked out the facilities there (where the bathrooms were, which tracks we would need to get on) and then decided we were hungry. Being that this was Memorial Day, many of the downtown restaurants were closed. The only thing that seemed to be open was a British Pub (Britannia Arms). The food there was excellent, and I was a little surprised that the beer wasn’t. Oh well, it was still a great lunch. Afterwards, we headed back and then cooked that steak in the evening, which was very yummy.

A bittersweet day

Yeah, back at the high school. Today was ELL, Honors English and Philosophy. I especially liked the philosophy class because they were studying Kierkegaard, who was a nineteenth century philosopher, but also a Lutheran pastor. I knew a lot about this! This allowed me to do a 10 minute mini-lecture on Christianity (within the context of Kierkegaard). How cool is that! The school was short on subs today so I also filled-in during my prep period in a marketing class within the Travel and Tourism Academy. Man, those kids are spoiled – flexible schedules, massive amounts of technology, and every student had an $800. chair to sit on! There were no sub plans for this class, but it didn’t matter because the students were comfortable, had a computer to play with, and apparently could leave the classroom for almost any reason. I wonder how they’ll do when they get into the real world? There are no Travel and Tourism jobs out there and few people would hire the caliber of students I saw there today – entitled, uncommitted, and lazy.

Since this might very well be my last day substituting for this school year, I made it a point to get some intel on the upcoming history job – the one that, at one point, I was favored to get. I think I made the right move by talking to the history teachers first. They had already seen next year’s roster and, without asking the school or the principal, the district office put a person in that position from their offices who needed a transfer. Usually, the principal can stop this from happening, but with him leaving, I guess the district office just pulled the trigger. Bummer – the principal wanted to put me into that classroom! There was a silver lining though, the guy they tentatively put into that class is a friend of mine, and I happen to know that he’s interviewing for an English position at another school. This English position would better suit him, so he just might take it. I’m not even sure he knows that they have penciled him in at the high school. Should he take the English position, the district office still has another person to place, but rumor has it that she’s already been placed at the middle school (which I believe to be a false rumor, since no one is leaving at that school). So we’ll see, but it looks like I may not have a job at the high school for next year – at least not immediately. The high school teachers are asking for a part-time guy in history who may also become a full-time person with the addition of some English classes. I’m certainly that guy, but the district office may not add the position. This job, if it does happen, has two issues: 1. It wouldn’t open until after school starts in all likelihood, 2. There are no free classrooms anywhere on campus. The history teachers told me to stay positive, but also apply to more than just this district, since there may not be a job for me this coming school year. Again, bummer.

Well, it’s a three day weekend. All the teachers are happy about that. I also get to celebrate baptisms with all of my god kids (young and old) at a Chinese restaurant tonight!

Sub row

Today were Middle School Science Teacher Meetings at the district office, which meant that there were wall-to-wall substitutes in one quadrant of the school. It was fun. My neighbor was Mr. Peterson, whom people get me confused with all the time (I get called Mr. Peterson maybe 50% of the time). He had the “bad” kids who weren’t on an all-day field trip. Good news for him: he only had 2-7 kids per class. I had mostly 8th graders. The teacher wanted them to do silent reading, which really doesn’t work with middle school kids. I offered to give each class 10 free minutes if they could do the work and stay absolutely quiet for 40 minutes. Four out of five classes did. The fifth class had two kids who were very talkative. I wrote them up for not following directions, but still gave the rest of the class their 10 minutes because they were good.

This evening’s band practice was excellent because we had a very good mix of musicians. We were very loud, but precise and practiced.

A fantastic voyage to nowhere

I didn’t get a job on Monday, but that’s OK because I got to do some chip work, and wound up making more money.

Today, I was a sub for a sub of a special needs class – the other sub wasn’t available today, but he subbed yesterday and he’ll sub tomorrow for a teacher who just had another baby. I had subbed with this group of so I knew them and they knew me. . The teacher trusted me enough to take them on an all-day field trip. The thing is though, the teacher’s plans were very “light” with things missing like: destination, how to get there, where to get money for this. After a few texts back and forth, I had enough information to carry on; the rest I Googled.

Our first trip was across the street to the High School. They were having a student exhibition of art, and today was an art-themed day. It took a while for us to get over there, but once there, the kids looked over the art for about 10 minutes and were then bored. I had forgotten to get the money for the rest of the trip so I run-walked back to the middle school to get the money while the rest of the aids watched the kids at the bus stop. We eventually got on the bus and headed for San Jose State University to go to the Thompson Art gallery in the campus’s Art wing (where I had spent five wonderful years getting a Masters in Art History). We got off one stop too early so we had to walk a few blocks. It was OK because our walk there included a sidewalk art gallery exhibit. After bathroom breaks in the massive Martin Luther King Library, we ate lunch at Togo’s then headed across campus. So much has changed in the 15 years since I have attended the school. They are currently just finishing a very large food court where the old food court and pub used to be. Well, we got to the art wing and couldn’t immediately find the Thompson Art Museum (new since I had attended there). I went into the teacher offices to ask for directions and I met my old master teacher! It was so nice to see her – it was so nice that she remembered my name! She gave me some pointers for my job search, and also directions to the Thompson Art Museum… which was closed for the summer. Great, we trekked all the way there to see the (rather attractive) dark blue door of the closed museum. We walked back across campus and saw some statues, which sort of made it an art walk. The whole way home, one of the aids nearly talked my ear off. When we got back, the kids played with iPads for a while, and then school was over. What a day! The teacher kept texting me to apologize for how poorly things had gone, but you know what, I had a lot of fun, and I did see a lot of art. It was not a wasted day at all!

AP testing, Stanford, and questioning my beliefs

Another very full week; this time, five days in a row, though they were pretty easy days.  OK, the first day, Monday, was not so easy.  The teacher had a lesson plan that maybe covered half a class, and then forgot to put the most important bit on the internet for the kids to use.  I had to track her down to get that document online for second period.  After that, it wasn’t too bad, but I think I messed up her plan because (with her approval) I doubled the lesson plan, and then the kids couldn’t finish!  Tuesday through Thursday was AP testing, which lasted until noon.  Yeah! Half a day, and full pay.  One kid threw up on the first day, projecting over three theater rows of seats.  It was spectacular.  After that, it was kind of boring.  Through this three day period, I met three of the four counsellors.  They had all heard good things about me.  Good!  During that period of time, I kept running into former students.  They were all giving me hugs.  This makes teaching very rewarding – the kids remember you, enjoyed your company, and learned something in the process.  On Friday, I was back in a favorite teacher’s class.  The kids were great.  That day was also an assembly, which ran so long that it went through the break and into the next period.  The result was that third period only lasted 30 minutes.

On Saturday, Barb and I went to Stanford to map out what we would do for the field trip in two weeks.  We attended an excellent docent tour of the Rodan section of the museum, which will help us greatly, and we met some grad students who showed us a few things on campus, which was super nice of them!  We also took the Porsche, so it was a really fun “date.”  On the way home, we saw a woman trying to apply makeup while driving.  She almost ran into several cars and couldn’t stay on the road, yet she was determined to get that makeup on.  She eventually ran into a car that was right next to me at a stop sign.  I probably should have called the cops on her when I had first seen her weaving.

You know, that new show “Cosmos” (an updated version of the original “Cosmos”) is a great show, but it’s really making me begin to question the Bible.  Neil Degrasse-Tyson makes no bones about not believing in the Bible, calling it superstitious myth.  Unfortunately (for me anyway), his arguments are quite persuasive.  I will have to assess what I truly believe and why.  I have no doubt that there is a God – the universe all but screams that there is – but I am suddenly (and maybe not so suddenly) coming to the conclusion that the creation story is not literal, which means that the Bible is not inerrant (at least not that part), which is one of the tenants of LCMS Lutherans.  Perhaps I am not a true LCMS Lutheran after all?  I shall have to ponder this further.

A pretty regular week

It was a very full week, though it did start with a day off – Cinco de Mayo.  After that, it was a string of rather enjoyable classrooms.  All the teachers were excellent and organized.  It made a difference.  Their lesson plans were awesome and their students were well-behaved.

Still no word on the job front, though I did apply to four high schools and two colleges.  I did get a phone call from a Vice Principal, but it was for photography, which I probably shouldn’t teach.  There are better candidates out there.

Waiting for a job

It is now May. This is the month that I hope to get a teaching job for next year. Many districts have posted next year’s job openings already, but not Milpitas. This may be because they just got a new principal and she’ll need some time to figure out what’s going on. I hope that’s the case. Rumor has it that there is an available job in my field for next year. It has never been posted. I hope it’s still available.

Friday was just nuts at school: 26 teachers were out at the high school, and there were only 20 available subs (I had personally received 9 requests for this day and had to turn down 8). All of us subs, plus a few teachers, were dispatched to random classrooms on our prep periods.

My English 1A classes were doing Romeo & Juliet, and this was a particularly light day on the agenda so I had them debate this for about 15 minutes:

  1. Is Romeo & Juliet truly a love story, or is it merely a tragic three day crush that resulted in several deaths?
  2. If teenagers carried swords today, how would dating be different?

They had a great time and it produced some great discussions. Even so, after the 5 minute quiz, 5 minute video and 10 minute vocab worksheet, I still had 15 minutes on my hands so I turned to physics: there were available pieces of wood (used as dividers during quizzes/tests), so I had table groups attempt to create the tallest structure, all using the same pieces of wood. Let’s just say that none of them will be structural engineers, but it did get them thinking. Afterwards, they challenged me to beat their tallest structure. I handily beat it by about 4x. The students were amazed and took many pictures to post on Instagram. For my prep period, I wound up in another English class. These sophomore students did not know me, and they were not thrilled to be in this class. I had to be on them constantly, which was exhausting. It was not a fun class. But hey, now it’s a three day weekend and I can rest. My cold is subsiding. I should be better for next week’s full schedule of subbing opportunities.

A rare college job has opened up at a nearby trade school. I will definitely apply. It may be my only opportunity to teach at the college level around here with “only” a Master’s degree. I’ll also apply to some of the more lucrative and nearby districts who are hiring Social Studies, English and Art teachers for next year, all the while still hoping that Milpitas gives me a call.

Fun, fun, fun

For much of this week, I’ve had a cold. This has not stopped me from teaching though. It’s been a weird week. On Tuesday, I subbed in a class that I swore I would never sub in again, my first ever sub assignment from last year, but this year, the classes were awesome! Last year’s students were just that bad. On Wednesday, I got a phone call to come in just 10 minutes before class started. I got there five minutes late, not knowing what subject I would even be teaching. It was math. The teacher had been out all week, and there were no lesson plans. I had to improvise. After lunch, I moved to an English classroom, where I would be teaching for the rest of the week. I knew these kids, and they knew me. The teacher’s lesson plans were detailed and wonderful, but only covered about 20-30 minutes of instruction in some of the classes, so I had to find ways to stretch this out. I was alright with that, as it is a skill I will no doubt need when I start teaching my own classes.

Thursday night’s band practice was the best we’ve had in a long time. The band mix was good, the set list was good, and everyone seemed to have practiced ahead of time. It was quite the high energy affair. I hope we have this much fun on Sunday!