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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Maxine update

Today at dinner Maxine used the word "you" for the first time that either of us had heard. It's only been a few hours, but I've already forgotten the context, just that we were both impressed. Until now it's always been "Mommy" or "Daddy". I think this marks a serious milestone in her thought and language development.

She's also becoming better at phone conversations. Feel free to call us if you'd like a demo. She can answer questions, and reply to some stock phrases like "Hello" and "I love you."

Oddly enough, she's become more whiny and prone to cry sometimes. I think she's starting to realize how restricted her life his, and it bothers her. She loves having a chance to make choices, and especially enjoys choosing "no".

My work, study and substituting has cut down on the time I can spend with her, I'm afraid. Tomorrow I sub from 7:30 until 3:30, then work at Wal-Mart from 5:00 until 10:00. Tomorrow is a Stephanie (day care) day, so Maxine will probably be picked up earlier than I leave, without really waking up, then get home about the time I get to Wal-Mart. And she might be in bed asleep by the time I get home around 10:30 or 10:45. If I'm lucky and get home quickly, and she doesn't go to sleep quickly, I'll get a goodnight hug and kiss. Tonight I was with her all evening and was refused the hug and kiss. Showing up at the last minute is really better for my chances, but it's not worth it. I got hugs throughout the evening, as well as a few times spinning around, reading a book together, and carrying her back and forth to the car from bell choir practice and the King Buffet. All in all it was a good evening.

When we first started bell choir practice in November, Maxine had a hard time with it. The director, Gretchen, has a little boy, Tyler, who is a few months younger than Maxine. Gretchen's husband watches the two kids, but it took Maxine a few weeks to warm up to him. She kept coming back to Horyon and me. I practiced a little while holding her on my shoulders, getting snot and tears in my hair as I tried to pick out my notes.

Now she plays with Tyler and his dad most of the time, only occasionally coming into the practice room to check that we are still there. Tonight Horyon had to slip out for a few minutes to change a nasty diaper, but other than that we can practice the whole time.

These days Maxine only wears diapers when she goes to bed and when she leaves the house. Horyon has successfully potty trained her! Granted, she is still working on the poopy side of the training. She has successfully used her potty for pooping only a couple of times. She still prefers to do it in a diaper. And though you may not relate to that in terms of the actual action, we can all relate to the tendency to prefer doing things the way we've always done them. I think that's what this is all about. Once she figures out that it's really more comfortable to not have your own feces being squished around in your drawers, she'll make the shift pretty quickly.

She even uses the potty at Stephanie's Day Care. Stephanie was impressed that from the first day Maxine started wearing panties there she hasn't had any accidents. She says, "My go potty," when she needs to, and that's it. She recognizes the sensation of needing to go, and knows how to hold it for the few minutes it takes to get to the bathroom and get her pants down.

The first stage of this has been keeping her little potty in whatever room she's hanging out in, whether it's the kitchen, living room, or her room. I think it's about time to start leaving it in the bathroom.

And in the last couple of days she drew pictures of Mommy and Daddy. They are not easily recognizable as such, but the intention was there. Horyon encouraged her to do them while at Small World, which has recently started back up.

As I mentioned earlier, Maxine's language has really been blossoming recently. She's added "maybe" and "I think" to her repertoire, sometimes both in the same sentence. She has also been mixing "Thanks" in her conversations. It's funny how it sounds so casual coming from her, compared to her very formal sounding "Thank you."

Horyon says she's been talking in her sleep a lot. The latest was, "No, mommy! That's MY DVD! Grandma Grandma DVD!" (Just so you know, "Grandma Grandpa DVD" is "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," one of her favorites.

She loves reading.  One of her favorites is "Goodnight, Gorilla."  It's a fun book, without many words.  At one point many different voices are called for to say, "Goodnight."  I read them in a variety of tones.  Maxine reads them either as a high-pitched squeak, or with as much bass rumble as her tiny body can manage.  Adorable.

Another favorite is "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?" by Eric Carl.  She likes it because she can "read" it to me.  It is very repetitious, and the pictures naturally suggest the key words that change on every page.  It's fun to see the start of literacy.

And she loves singing.  Even when she doesn't know all of the words, which is most of the time.  Reminds me of her mother.

11 and 12

I'm lumping these together because it's been a busy couple of days, and I have tons of work to do.

Yesterday was good, except for one thing: the math activity. They were continuing to work with stencils which they had made the previous week. They were measuring something with them, or maybe measuring the stencils themselves. I'm really not sure. Which was the problem, of course. If the teacher isn't sure of what he's doing, the room full of third graders doesn't have a chance. And if they don't know what's going on, they'll fill the time the best way they know how: by goofing off. And I can hardly blame them. If I were in their situation, I'd probably do the same.

But outside of that, the day went well. This was the class that liked me so much the previous week. One little boy, Ray, had "helped" me out a bit the last time. I made a math mistake on the board, and he pointed it out. When he saw me yesterday, that was the first thing he brought up. He then told me that all of his friends laughed when he told that story. I told him that my friends also laughed, so I'm counting on all of you to laugh as you read this so that I don't end up being a liar. It probably didn't help any that I told them I was planning to become a math teacher sometime in the future, "When you grow up," as one little girl put it. Yeah, like I want to wait that long.

So far my batting average in the math department was not so hot.

I did notice an interesting shift in my own preferences regarding another subject: when I was very young, I liked gym class. As I got older, I liked it less and less, until middle school when I hated it. Stopped taking it as soon as I could. Now I like it again. Maybe because during gym I stay in the classroom and try to figure out what's going to happen next.

At the end of the day I had one not-so-pleasant experience; as the kids were lining up to go to gym, Carl headed towards the front of the line. I asked him where he was going, and he told me, so I asked why. He turned on the attitude and told me, "Because I'm the line leader. It's on the board over there. IN YOUR FACE!"

I was shocked. I asked him if that was appropriate. "No." Would he talk that way to his regular teacher? "No." We were already late heading out the door, so I made my big mistake: I let him lead the class out. In hindsight, I should have made him go to the back of the line at the very least. A better idea would have been to take him to the principal's office to have a little chat, hopefully leading to an apology. Unfortunately, in today's world, it is simply not a good idea for me to keep him in the room with me for a little chat. I don't think he is a bad kid, but I don't really know him that well. And if that in-your-face attitude had a chance, it might manifest as legal action. I did manage to do that much thinking on my feet as I let the class go to gym.

And right there is the big advantage to subbing: since I didn't make any huge mistakes, it is extremely unlikely that I will have to deal with fallout from that problem. On the other hand, I have time to be the Monday morning quarterback. I did leave a note for his teacher, though. If I have correctly gaged his teacher, he might be in for a little nuclear winter.

Going on to #12. I got job #11 because the teacher called me. After school, a teacher from down the hall came and asked if I was available the next day in the afternoon. I replied that yes, I was, and I would be happy to come in. It's a good deal for me, because I can't sub all day on Wednesdays, but I can get there in time for afternoon classes.

Today was especially sweet because on Wednesdays classes finish early--two o'clock instead of four--but I still get paid for a half day, even though I started at noon. It was a bit hectic having lunch and getting there after my morning class at KU, but well worth it.

I also taught math today in this different, but still 3rd grade, classroom. It was a test review, just a handful of problems to go over with the kids.

It went well. I was relieved. I didn't make any major mistakes, the kids seemed relatively happy and did their work, and I learned a lesson: if you don't understand the lesson given, do a lesson you can understand.

And it was Nate's birthday today. We sang for him, and ate treats his mother brought, including some brownies that were deadly chocolaty. Oh my, those were some good brownies. The singing was perhaps not the most on-tune I've ever heard, but those third graders can by golly belt it out.

This class was not as affectionate as the other one. No hugs this time, but no in-your-face, either. I'm guessing that it's as much about me as them. I came in very business-like, with the serious teacher face and voice, and had them start right in on their silent reading without letting them talk or move around or anything. Because if the teacher makes you read silently during silent reading time, it is very likely that you will have to do math during math time, reading during reading time, and so on and so forth, so don't even try doing something else.

I'm starting to wear a bit thin, I think. I've already taken a sub job for Friday, with Wal-Mart from 5 to 10 that evening. Gonna be a long day. Tomorrow it's just class and bell choir, though I still need to get on my homework. So I'm going to wrap this up.

Peace,

Rob

Monday, January 21, 2008

10th Subbing (and a preview of 11)

I finally made it to high school. I subbed today at Free State High School, here in Lawrence. It made a good first impression. For starters, there were none of those kids from High School Musical running around singing randomly. I don't really know anything about HSM, other than what I've learned selling HSM merchandise at Wal-Mart and talking to a few teenagers about it. That's enough. More than enough, actually.

I got called this morning to sub for the French teacher. Well, the guy who teaches French to the students. I don't know whether or not he is French. His first name was one of those odd, sounds-like-a-last-name names. Not at all French. And his last name is Rogers. Yep. I subbed in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

The major lesson I learned today was this: 30 minute plan + 60 minutes class time = 30 minutes goofing off.

In this case it wasn't terrible goofing off. These students were mostly capable of amusing themselves (and each other) in a regular tone of voice, rather than the hoping-to-be-rescued-from-a-deserted-island shriek that most of them seem to use in between classes while roaming the hallways. A couple of the classes talked about getting together on Monday (since it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day) and preparing food to bring for Mr. Rogers. The first class, French IV and V, drew pictures on the board, including the following words of wisdom: "All you need is LOVE. And GDF." They informed me that GDF is an abbreviation of some jumble of French words that mean Cheesecake. Oh yeah. I gotta get me a class like that.

I couldn't bring myself to be too upset with the guy. The reason he was absent today was that yesterday he collapsed while writing on the board, maybe an epileptic seizure, and hit his head on something. There was a spot on the floor that my students told me was his blood. Some of them insisted on pushing the overhead cart on top of it, so that no one would walk over it. I joked that if I stood on that spot I could channel his energy, perhaps speak French without having learned it. Didn't get many laughs.

Everyone knew what had happened, though some of them didn't seem to care much. The class that actually saw it happen still seemed a bit traumatized. There was an exchange student from Sweden, Helga [remember, I'm just making up the names!] who still seemed shaken up over it.

Helga also had an interesting observation about English: it's hard to learn to swear appropriately. Anyone learning English by watching movies will get the idea that we Americans swear all the time. Another student said that Helga would frequently "drop the F bomb" when it was not called for. I told them that although I recognized many vulgarities in Korean, I deliberately avoided practicing them. Because when you practice something a lot, it comes out easily, without forethought. Which is not a good thing if the words you have practiced can get you into a fight.

It was a good day at the High School. I took a moment at the end of the day to introduce myself to the principal, and mention that I would be looking for a math teaching position in the fall. He said that he didn't have any openings at the moment, but things could change.

In the evening, I got a call from the school district. It was from the teacher of the 3rd grade class that I had enjoyed so much a few days previously. She was planning to be gone this coming Tuesday afternoon, and wondered if I could sub for her. She said her kids really liked me, and hoped that I could come back.

I was very happy to hear that. Not that I want to teach 3rd grade as a career, but that she specifically thought of me was very touching. It will make for a busy Tuesday: I have class from 10 to 11 a.m., sub from 12:15 to 4:15 (though I may get out by four), then Wal-Mart from 5 until 10 p.m. As I finish writing this up, Tuesday is tomorrow. I'm glad today was a holiday, though I am at Wal-Mart from one to ten. Subbing as well would have made for a rough few days. I do have the next two days off, other than class in the morning.

On a more personal note, Mom and Dad came Friday, as I had the evening off. They took us to IHOP for dinner, which is always nice. Not just that pancakes and stuff are good, but having time with them is very refreshing for me. It's sometimes hard for me to believe that I really live so close to them now. It's been my mindset for the last 12 years that talking to them on the phone was expensive and complicated, and seeing them was really expensive.

Now that I can see and talk to them easily and cheaply, I find that we still email for a lot of stuff. Mostly because I get off work about the time they go to bed, but also because some stuff is just easier to do by email. Dad gives me lots of help fixing stuff around the house, which usually starts with an email from me. I describe the problem and my thoughts on it, and usually he calls (or I call him) to discuss details and solutions. He has an amazing ability to visualize problems and solutions without having the actual things in front of him. He's talked me through a couple of bathroom sink fixes in the last couple of weeks. Neither was a really big deal, but I just had no idea where to start. Thanks Dad.

Peace,

Rob

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

9th Sub

[Note: this entry was actually completed Wednesday night, the date you see above, but we had some internet problems, so it's finally working its way up here.]

Finally. It finally happened.

I really hope that everyone reading this knows what I'm talking about: If you have a job that you like, it will have good days and bad days. The bad days (in a job that you like) are the ones that just go by with nothing to mark them. They don't hurt, but there's not much there. The good days are the ones that really keep you coming back to work. Of course the paycheck is also an incentive, but those good days would be worth working even if you got paid half as much for them. You could even see doing them as a hobby. And I finally got one.

It was my half-day with third-graders at Quail Run Elementary yesterday. I wouldn't have gotten out of bed and gone to do it if not for the $46 paycheck that it brought in, but I would have still done it if I had been paid Wal-Mart wages instead. I was actually sad that it was only a half-day, instead of a full day. It was even more depressing that they also had a sub for the afternoon. The principal looked into allowing me to take the other sub's place, but the other sub had been arranged some time in advance, while I had been called in that morning.

The regular teacher had previously planned to be out in the afternoon for an organizational meeting of her team at the school, but she had to stay home in the morning because her daughter had broken her leg more recently. (The afternoon sub had been covering for another class whose teacher had been out for a similar meeting in the morning, so couldn't do the whole day.)

Now as to why the class was so much fun to work with, I can attribute it to a few things:

1. Good plans left for me. To be good students, most elementary students need to have a well-defined task on which to be. The teacher had left a great set of plans, with all the necessary materials right there where I could find them.

2. A settled morning routine. Instructions were left on the board for standard exercises that the students worked on every day. All that I needed to do was point them out, and give them a reminder or two that this was independent work.

3. My own experience. The last few weeks I've relearned what it takes to succeed in an elementary school classroom.

4. The first three points put together make the kids comfortable. They follow the regular rules, they do the work, and they talk to me like they would their regular teacher. By lunch time some of them were hugging me and asking if I would come back again. One little boy said that I was funny and weird. I think someone said I was a screwball. And once I saw them interact with their regular teacher, it all made sense. She joked around with them, let them hang on her like baby monkeys, and kept up the family-like banter that early-elementary teachers do without even thinking about it.

I guess the only low point of the day was recess duty, and that was only low because it was so frickin' cold outside and I didn't have a whistle. I really need to get myself a whistle if I'm going to continue substituting, because nothing gets their attention like a few sharp blasts on a referee whistle.

I skipped the other potential low point: elementary school cafeteria lunches. The smells and appearances bring back a wave of nostalgia that can almost be mistaken for the anticipation of a good meal. This mistake is quickly corrected with the first bit into a hamburger, or chicken nugget. The mashed potatoes are still good, I think. Or maybe the conditioning has still not worn off to this day. The price is good, at less than $3, as long as you get only one entree. Which is not a bad idea, because that way the food may not be good, but at least there isn't much of it.

Tomorrow is my first day back as a student for the spring semester at KU, so no subbing. The classes I am taking are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m., leaving only Mondays and Fridays for subbing. I almost always work on Saturdays and Sundays, so that gives me something to do every day. Should keep me out of trouble.

Ben Folds

I just got Ben Folds 2006 CD "supersunnyspeedgraphic, the lp", and it is the best CD I've listened to for the first time in a long time. Ben leads his band in vocals and on the piano, an uncommon combo these days. But what really sets him apart is the lyrics to his songs. And supersunnyspeedgraphic has some serious lyrics, as well as driving tunes.

I should probably warn you that the language on this one is pretty harsh. Ben never seemed to mind sprinkling in an occasional s**t or the "f" word, but this CD has tracks on which they have been applied with a shovel. His cover of Dr. Dre's "B*****s ain't S***" is everything you would expect from the pen of a "gangsta" rapper, only performed with a piano combo in a musical style that sounds more like a well constructed ballad. To a non-English speaker, it

But even when he is not covering professional swearing artists, he can get pretty blunt. "All U Can Eat" is portrait of a man talking to his son about what's wrong with modern consumerist America. The lyrics are clever and catchy, with the "F" word featured prominently in the chorus.

"God made us number one 'cause he loves us the best
but he should go bless someone else for a while and give us a rest."

And then on the positive side (depending on your view of "cool"), is "There's Always Someone Cooler than You":

"Make me feel tiny if it makes you feel tall,
but there's always someone cooler than you.
Yeah, you're the s**t but you won't be it for long,
oh there's always someone cooler than you."

The chorus is catchy, but don't get caught singing it around your mom. I like the basic message that "cool" is so relative that if it's all you focus on, you automatically aren't.

The album itself is a compilation of songs originally released directly to iTunes on the internet. Ben writes in the liner notes that he really enjoyed working on such a direct create-to-fans process, without all the hassle of working through a record label. Of course, the album as released was polished a bit, though he admits that he isn't sure whether it's an actual improvement. It seems to me that this process has taken him back to his earlier Ben Folds Five days. "Super..." isn't as catchy as his earlier "Whatever and Ever Amen", but it does seem to be closer to that creative vein than 2005's "Songs for Silverman".

If this at all intrigues you, follow the links to Amazon.com (just click on the album titles here in my review) and they will give you a chance to listen to clips from the albums.

Friday, January 11, 2008

7th and 8th Subs

Wednesday was another inter-related resource job, this one at Woodlawn Elementary. I was there all day, but all elementary schools in this district finish at 1:30 on Wednesdays. Score!

The teacher I subbed for had her own office, to which some children came. Well, two boys came on my watch. I reviewed their spelling words for a bit, then we tried playing a spelling game. When one boy lost (he kept putting "e"s in words that didn't need them), he started crying. He wasn't out of control about it, and the other boy didn't make fun of him, for which I was grateful. All it took was switching to a pictionary style drawing game (with no score), and he pulled it together, laughing and playing along.

I sat in on a 5th grade classroom, spending part of the time helping one boy to stay focused on his work. He didn't need much help, though the teacher assured me that such is not always the case. It was interesting and informative to watch her teach. She was obviously a veteran: the way she kept the classroom under control. The way her activities were interesting to the kids and skill building at the same time.

Before lunch, I was privy to this conversation in the Library. A little boy was carrying a book open to a picture of a statue of Atlas holding up the Earth. In it, Atlas is buck naked, and his business is right out there where you can see it. The boy was talking the librarian, when a girl his age (5th grade? They weren't mine.) put in her two cents:

Boy: Is this picture OK to have in the library?

Librarian: Yes, but maybe you shouldn't carry it around open to that page.

Boy: Maybe some people don't want to look at it.

Girl: But you have one!

Boy: Not a man-sized one, though.

There was another teacher standing close enough to hear this exchange. We both struggled not to burst into laughter.

And I had lunch with a fourth grader, Mikey. Mikey apparently has behavior problems, but I didn't notice. The teacher I was subbing for eats lunch with him every day in her office, then he catches a bus for another school. So Mikey and I ate lunch together, and chatted about the relative merits of different school cafeteria entrees, his schedule, my substitute teaching, and life in general.

After that, my afternoon went by slowly. No one showed up in the office, so I made myself comfortable with the book I was reading. I don't feel too bad about it. The money I make as a sub is usually well earned. There are times when I don't get any rest at all, so Wednesday sort of made up for it.

Thursday was one of the days when I was completely on the run. I got the call to sub at Woodlawn, the same school I was at Wednesday, this time for the band teacher. The instructions said to call him, and he would email lesson plans to me. So I did.

The lesson plan called for me to be at six different elementary schools during the day. Often there was only 30 minutes between the end of one class and the start of another. I had only been to two schools on the list, the first and the last. It looked to be a fun day.

Actually I enjoyed it a lot. The first couple of classes were kind of a mess, simply because leading band is very different from teaching a class, but some of the same basic rules apply:

1. Don't give them any time to goof off.
2. Let them know in no uncertain terms that goofing off is inappropriate.
3. Don't worry about being "fun" or "likable". If 1 and 2 are going well, "fun" and "likable" will likely seep through on their own. And if they don't, at least the kids aren't goofing off.

The big difference with band is that you have to have some sense of how fast a piece should be played, how many times to play it, how to get most of the kids to finish at the same time, and when it is so bad that you just need to stop in the middle.

The bands ranged from Quail Run with more than 70 kids, down to New York with ten flutes and clarinets. The bigger ones are easier to deal with. They have some idea of how fun it can be to play in a band.

I did have a two hour break from about 9 to 11. I ate "lunch", even though I wasn't that hungry yet. It was nice to be home for a bit in the middle of the day, though.

I ended up driving about 16 miles that day. The school district reimburses $.47/mile, but I have to remember to do the paperwork at the end of the quarter to get my almost eight dollars. I'll probably forget.

I found later that the band teacher is at all six schools four days per week. I bumped into him later while subbing at Quail Run again. As much as I enjoyed subbing for him, I don't think I'd like to do that job regularly. Too much car time, and not enough time to work with individual kids.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sixth Sub

I got the call just after 8:10 this morning, for a job that was supposed to start at 7:48. I took it, then called the school to tell them I could be there by nine.

South Junior High. Inter-Related Resource (used to be special ed.). Easy day. There were plenty of paras and co-teachers, so I didn't do a whole lot of teaching. I spent one class period with a group of four students, going over a reading assignment and discussing the concepts of beauty and art. I don't think they got it. I'm not sure how many 8th graders do.

The best class period was doing some one-on-one math tutoring with Dave. [Once again, a friendly reminder that all student names have been changed in Roblog.] Dave, like all the students I dealt with today, was what they call "high-level functional." He has some learning disabilities, but he was actually following in his algebra class. With the problems we worked on, I felt that I helped him to get a more solid grip on the concepts. I think that he may have actually followed what was going on in class, but had trouble understanding what the formulas meant.

And Dave was just a good kid. He listened to me closely, he worked really hard, and he actually thanked me when it was time to go. That's something that can make a teacher's day, because it just doesn't happen very often.

There were absolutely no problems today. I got in more than an hour late, left half an hour before the official time (planning period! Yes!), and still get paid for the whole day. I had a chance to talk to the principal, and he seemed very together. Ran a tight ship. Reminded me of Edward James Olmos, who plays Admiral Adama on the new Battlestar Galactica. He had similar features and the same calm, totally in control demeanor. Wouldn't want to get on his bad side. He told me that he was looking for a modern tech teacher to replace their guy who is retiring this summer. Unfortunately, I'm nowhere near that kind of certified. I'm barely scraping by on the entrance requirements for the Baker program that starts this fall.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Fifth Sub

I've gotten my first couple of subbing paychecks. The first one went right into our church offering. We decided some time ago to dedicate our "First Fruits" of every labor to God. Sometimes it can be a real test. $212 may not seem like a lot, but coming before Christmas, at a time when our reserves are running low, it was tempting to hold on. But faith is about letting go, and so we did. And so far we are still living in our house, and getting enough to eat, and we have two cars, so I guess it's working. I'm thinking this may be an even bigger challenge when I start full time teaching, and the first paycheck is a full month's worth, and I don't have income from another job to help us get by. But we will face that challenge when we come to it.

Today's school was New York elementary, just a few blocks from downtown Lawrence. It's an old school, though it has been well kept and remodeled in places. The secretary told me that there is a fireplace in one of the kindergarten classrooms, and there was a belfry tower over the main entry way.

Today's challenge was a room full of fifth graders. There was good news, and bad news. The good news was that I only had them for the first half of the day, with their teacher arriving at 12:15. (Her son had the flu, and her husband took off his afternoon to stay home with him. Nice arrangement, don't you think?) The bad news was that the class had already had a substitute last Thursday and Friday (today being Monday). So when they showed up and saw me, they were not too happy.

Fortunately, the teacher had planned well. She had obviously come in over the weekend and straightened up, as well as leaving a note on the board to her students. Her plans were extensive, and all the materials I needed were out on the desk. I had almost half an hour before the students were to arrive, so I had time to get a handle on the schedule and materials for the first part of the morning, up until they went to art class.


Unfortunately, the best laid plans, etcetera, etcetera.

Fifth graders are definitely boundary testers. There were three or four students in that class who wanted to see how much they could move around, talk to their neighbors, talk to me without raising their hands, and get out of work. But when they finally had something to work on, they were amazingly capable of sitting down and focusing on it for 30 minutes at a time.

There were a couple of times during the morning when some students left to join another class. These went very well for me. It was not a large class, only about 16 students, but when it was cut in half it sort of snapped into a well-behaved little unit. Of course, I've learned this lesson many times before, but it bears repeating: a small class is much easier to teach than a large one. If you really want to leave no child behind, provide enough teachers!

I guess my biggest trouble maker was Phillip. [Once again, I remind you that I am not using real names on the Roblog when writing about substitute teaching.] Phillip managed to find every reason in the book to move around the room, and quite a few that weren't in the book. He must have sharpened his pencil down to a nub, he was up there so many times, and it's amazing that he could hold as much water as he did. And when I asked what he was doing up this time, he always acted as though I had accused him of something terrible: "Who? Me? I'm just blah blah blahing. It's ok if we do that!" Still, he worked when it was time to work. Wrote quite a bit during writing time, and plowed through the math assignment. So even though I said his name quite a few times, I doubt that I will remember it a week from now. Especially if I teach every day for the next week.

The next biggest challenge in the room was Tiffany, who seemed to be working with the attention span of a 3rd or 4th grader, instead of a 6th grader. She danced around a few times, and sang a song or two when she was supposed to be working on something else. She was really good at finding reasons to talk to other kids, but she was always polite to me, and actually sat down or stopped talking when I told her to. It just wasn't usually too long before she was doing it again. But again, she wasn't really a trouble maker, or a headache. Just a challenge.

The other challenges in the room were some kids struggling to define themselves, caught in that grey area between the little kids who don't know how silly they are and the big kids who want to both be serious and impress their friends, even when the two are mutually exclusive. Devin was an odd kid: he said some things that were funny, and some that were funny in an out-of-left-field kind of way. He whipped through his math, even the extra problem I made up on the board, and came to me to get his book (Ripley's Believe it or Not, believe it or not) rescued from the teacher's drawer from last week. I could see him heading down a path that would not lead to popularity, but might eventually get him into the Peace Corps, or something equally strange.

I taught math, reading and social studies. I took them to art, and presided over snack time. I threatened to punish them, and complimented them on their good behavior. Nobody got hurt, nobody cried, and I didn't have to send anyone to the office. In other words, it was a pretty standard sub day. If they all go like this, by summer it will all be a big blur. And while no news is good news, I do feel like I learn more when things go wrong.

Knock on wood.

Peace,

Rob

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Trip to Wichita, pt. 2

It wouldn't be Christmas without a family photo.Unfortunately, the pictures Horyon took of all of us together came out too dark.

I'm still figuring out how to use this camera properly, and it's usually too slow to catch Maxine doing something cute. But every once in a while I get one like this:
Or this:
Or this:
Is it time for me to worry that she will grow up to be a thrill-seeking speed-demon?

Could be worse. She might grow up to be like this:
There. Now I've gotten some of the photos out of my system, I can write about what happened in Wichita. As you might guess from the pictures, we went to a mall. It had coin-op rides for kids, though Maxine was happy even when we didn't put coins in. I think the horse was actually moving when I took the picture, but that was the only machine I fed. The rest were just her sitting on them, acting goofy.

A Trip to Wichita, pt. 1

On New Year's Day we drove to Wichita. Believe it or not, we left our home here in Lawrence at 6:15 in the morning! (I actually woke up at 5 o'clock to shower and dress, hearing the first part of NPR's Morning Edition live for the first time since leaving Korea where it comes on at a reasonable hour--in the evening.) The plan was for Maxine to sleep most of the way, which she did. Unfortunately, she spent the first 20 or 30 minutes awake. This was unfortunate because we had planned to stop at McDonald's for breakfast, and didn't want her to be awake for that. We figured that if she's awake, she'll want to eat, which will make her more awake, and make a three hour drive seem more like three days. So I didn't get breakfast until Emporia, about an hour and a half out of town.

And just let me say this about McDonald's: their food may be bland and predictable as well as fattening, they may be grinding American food culture into the dirt with a steel-toed boot, and Ronald isn't funny, but they make breakfast sandwiches that you can eat in a car without making a mess.

The most stunning thing we experienced in Wichita was a visit to the most impressive display of Christmas lights that I have ever seen. The following is a quick video, about 15 seconds total, comparing The House with the house next to it. If you have a slow internet connection, don't even bother, just skip to the pictures below. If you have a beefy internet connection, check the following post, which is nothing but a video tour of The House.
video
Maxine was a bit impressed, but no more so than she has been by hundreds of other things in her short life.
Horyon was impressed.
I was impressed.
I swear, these people spent more on their electric bill in December than I made working at Wal-Mart. AND they managed to out-tacky Wal-Mart!
Allow me to draw your attention to some details that you may have missed while struggling to keep your intestines from jumping up your throat to strangle you:

1. Santa in a Box. 2nd floor. Clear crystal box, like the one the bad guys used to take away Superman's powers in the second Superman movie. Insures that Santa is unable to reach his sleigh, with is not very well lit.

2. Snowman Sentry. 3rd floor, right above Santa. Further insurance that Santa will not leave the premises.

3. Electric Nativity. 3rd floor. Complete with Electric Heavenly Hosts.

4. Life-size Snowman and Snowchildren in Snowglobe. Right foreground. Fan-blown artificial snow inside the globe looks much nicer than the dirty snow on the ground outside.

5. Glowing, Ghostly Candy-Canes (G2-C2). Scattered across foreground. Well over ten feet tall, these G2-C2s not only provide low-level illumination, but the ambiance that can only be found when surrounded by insubstantial peppermint candies.

I am tempted to point out everything of interest to you, but as with the "Where's Waldo?" series of books, the fun lies in finding the details for yourself.

And lastly, I will leave you with a link to Square America's Christmas Spectacular, part of a site that is dedicated to web-publishing photos from the days when photograph pictures used to be mostly square. Some bizarre stuff in there. An interesting glimpse into the past, if not your own specific past.

It may be late, but I hope you all had a good holiday season, whether Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or just a winter vacation.

Peace,

Rob

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Travel Today

Today we are driving to Wichita to visit my Uncle Bob and Aunt Charlotte.

It's 6 a.m. and I want to be back in bed.

More later.

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.