Not busy…

hb1

…but also not that motivated right now to post.  It’s probably my sleep cycle right now that wakes me in the middle of the night and keeps me up for the next hour before I can fall back asleep.  Hopefully tonight I will sleep longer.

Tonight a message on Worthy led me to a discovery of a few things.  First off, remember Weird Al?  Well, there is now a Christian band called Apologetix that parodys popular songs, replacing the lyrics with more Godly lyrics.  As I write this, I am listening to Enter Samson, a parody of Metallica’s Enter Sandman.  They have parodies of  songs from artists ranging from Elvis Presley to Eminem.  Apparently they have releases dating back to 1994.  I am of two minds about this.  One one side, I am happy to hear Biblical lyrics to popular songs instead of the sometimes not-so-family-friendly originals, but on the other hand it’s just not the same as true worship music.  When listening to these songs, who doesn’t think of the original if known?  So even while listening to the new lyrics for Enter Samson, I am still thinking “Exit light… Enter night…” which is diametrically opposed to Christianity which would turn those phrases around.  With Weird Al, there is no problem since his songs aren’t any more Christian than the originals- just a lot funnier (speaking of which, have you ever heard Bob?  The lyrics are all palindromes!).  😀

Going to the video in the message’s link led me to another discovery when I decided I wanted to post the video here for you.  After noting this was on tangle.com, I wanted to find it on Godtube.  So I typed “godtube” in the url bar and ctrl-clicked to add the www prefix and com suffix.  Tangle.com loads.  Wait- what?  Did I type that right?  I am tired after all.   Tried again, same thing.  Well, apparently Godtube rebranded itself as Tangle.  So I figured the embedded code might still work on this blog, which led me to discovery #3- the tags C added, Godtube and Teachertube are no longer there.  They must have been lost in the last upgrade.  Well C, when you notice this post, please add them again.  Except of course, change the Godtube tag to Tangle.  The current embed code looks like this (example video):

<embed src=”http://www.tangle.com/flash/swf/flvplayer.swf” FlashVars=”viewkey=981d5415aa832f57770a” wmode=”transparent” quality=”high” width=”330″ height=”270″ name=”tangle” align=”middle” allowScriptAccess=”always” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” pluginspage=”http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer” /></embed>

Let me see if I can dig any of these up on Youtube since that is one of the default tags and hence is still there.  Ah, here we go:

Baa!  We’re Lambs

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Devil Went Down to Jordan

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Enter Samson

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And for C, Found God! 😛

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Busy, busy

The last day or so has been a bit busy.  Part of it was me wasting time on Hamsterball, a clone of the 80’s hit arcade game Marble Madness, and part was preparations for church this weekend.  I have been wasting a lot of time on Hamsterball.  Those who remember Marble Madness will remember that the game uses a trackball.  The player would madly roll that trackball to guide his or her marble downhill (in one case uphill!) to the exit, encountering many an obstacle on the way down.  Two players could even play at the same time, adding to the madness.  Hamsterball plays a great tribute to this game, but it looks like the two player game is limited to either a one-on-one battle to knock the other off a platform, or playing just one board at a time instead of an entire tournament.  Actually, the battle part can be up to four players- one-on-one-on-one-on-one, as it were.  Instead of a marble, the wonder of current technology allowed the programmers to turn it into a hamster ball, with the hamster dutifully running in the ball as it moves.  You can play in resolutions of 640×480 up to 1280×1024, in a window or fullscreen.  Unfortunately, fullscreen for me means the game is stretched to fill my widescreen display making the ball look flat.  When windowed, the game displays a correct aspect ratio fortunately.  In lieu of a trackball, I have tried to play this game using a mouse, the track-pad on this oversized laptop, and an analog Saitek game controller.  The game controller works the best for my purposes, but I still would like to get an arcade-style trackball at some point.  I missed out on buying one for $50 back when I could afford one.  The game itself starts with ideas from Marble Madness and takes off from there.  Besides the classic enemies like an enemy ball and disappearing floors, you will encounter fans, saws, giant hammers and mousetraps, and much more.  Remember the world on Marble Madness where your marble goes up ramps instead of down?  Well, add sideways to this game in a world where the gravity changes depending on where your ball is on the screen.  Here are some pictures from the game (click for larger size).  You can also find a bunch of videos on Youtube:

hb1hb2hb3hb4

The business with church involved the 4th/5th grade ministry and children’s drama.  I had a script to finish memorizing for the rehearsal which started at 3:30.  In addition, for the review game, Jeopardy, for 4th/5th grade I made some cards to draw for the categories and point values.  Sure, we could have let the students pick for themselves, but when there are 30-50 kids in the room, with half of them (two teams) having to agree that would have caused the game to drag.  One of the pastors used a die to decide in the past, but where’s the fun in that when we could have the kids draw from a box cool-looking cards instead?  On top of that it was rewards weekend.  As such I had to call about ten kids in my small groups to remind them to bring their reward sheets with them.  Most of them did, but a couple still forgot or couldn’t find them.

An odd thing happened this weekend.  There was a guest pastor from California, and for some reason on Saturday night he thought the service was two hours (it’s really 1½ hours) and so we were wondering in kids ministry what was going on when 6:45 rolled around, then 6:50 and the parents still weren’t there to pick up the kids.  I learned the next day of what happened.  The pastor was corrected and had to shorten his message by a half-hour otherwise chaos would have ensued between the two morning services as people for the second service arrived to a full parking lot because the first service hadn’t left yet 😯 . In the end, everything worked out well.  The review game was only its usual chaos, the drama went well- if not always perfect- for the three services, and the kids were too fully engaged in the room games Saturday night to care that their parents hadn’t arrived yet (I do feel for the other classrooms though that didn’t have carpetball, four-square, and air hockey).

Seen but not heard

That’s how the saying goes, only it’s talking about children while I’m talking about me.  Welcome to my journey in a deaf and hard-of-hearing classroom.  I always like to joke about how I am monolingual, speak only one language, but even with others from another country, when I talk to them they can usually understand me at least a little.  The problem with subbing in this sort of classroom, I know extremely little sign language.  At least in Spanish, I can tell them I don’t speak Spanish in, er, Spanish (“No hablo español).  Without a translator I am hopeless in a deaf classroom.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in one of these rooms.  In fact, I subbed for this same teacher once last year so I knew what to expect.  I arrived there and first thing I noticed was there were no plans.  Sub plans that is- she did have the plans she expected to teach herself.  For the most part, these plans worked out fine.  For two hours in the morning the kids worked on packets called “News-2-You.”  Another teacher in the room for the morning actually taught that.  What did I do in the meantime?  I cut out word cards and laminated book pages, and put together number cards.  They would have had me make copies too, but the machine was taken over by the PTA for the morning.  I did get to teach one lesson though, aided in part by an assistant who was none too happy about being sucked into a translator role.  She was replaced by one much less cold to me about 10-minutes into the lesson (she had to be somewhere else).  I taught the math lesson.  It was an… interesting… experience.  The students were at a lower level than I expected them to be, and I had to skip parts of the lesson and adjust.  Yes, be a real teacher for the hour. 8)

The afternoon was far different from the morning, but I was about as useful.  For most of the afternoon I was in other classrooms acting as the third wheel a teaching assistant for the classes.  I couldn’t help the deaf students mainstreamed in the classes- that was left to an assistant who could sign.  I just walked around, made sure students were working, and in rare instances helped a student or two.  There was a small portion of the afternoon where I was scheduled to teach.  However, when the time rolled around it was myself and the two 6th grade kids (there were two each of 4th, 5th, and 6th-grade kids in her room).  No translator.  Well, scratch teaching.  The cold assistant came in and set them to read for the half hour and then left again.  About 5-minutes later a translator came in, sent by one of the assistants or a teacher as she said she normally wasn’t in the room.  Lesson time?  Nope.  I didn’t have the materials for the lesson, so they continued reading before going off to speech at 2:30, leaving me to act as an assistant again in the 4th grade room where the two 4th-graders were mainstreamed for the afternoon.

All-in-all it was an easy, unexciting day.  Compared to my time in this room last year, it went great.  I remember some dramatic moments, one where a student swore at me in sign language- not that effective since I didn’t understand and he was seen by the teaching assistant, but strange just the same.  I also saw one of my weekend kids in the hall.  When I call him up this week- I’m calling all of my two small groups to remind them of rewards week- I’m sure he’ll want to talk about it.

Cultures & ELL

I bookended my three days in elementary (Tuesday was in a mentally impaired classroom) with middle-school jobs at the same school.  Monday I subbed for a specialty teacher who teaches a course about cultures.  I am not sure what it entails, but is a separate course from the normal history/social studies courses.  Being a specialty course there are two classes each of grades 6-8.  Actually, 8th grade is a completely different course from the other two grades, so I guess the cultural studies is only for the two grades.  8th grade was a course on business- they were making products and campaigns.  It wasn’t too exciting a day.  The 8th grade classes were working independently in their groups so I just walked around and watched mostly, occasionally giving some input.  6th grade had videos, and 7th grade had a test.  The highlight was 6th grade, before the videos.  I got to read them stories with problems they had to find solutions for, like for example a couple of kids who wanted to build the largest snowman their town had seen.  They did eventually build it, and without special equipment (you know how heavy even a normal snowman can be- just think back to the last time you made one and had to push those large balls to become bigger ones, then lift two sections into place on a traditional snowman).  They had to figure out that the kids built a ramp out of snow to push the giant balls up to form the head and body, then tore it down after the snowman was done.  It was really interesting to hear some of their solutions like making the sections by throwing snowballs at a smaller one until it was big enough, or the snowman was laying down.

So that was Monday.  Friday I was down the hall in a different multi-age room.  It wasn’t one grade at a time- each class was mixed.  It was ELL, so the classes were according to their ability in English.  My largest class was six students.  What made this ELL class different was the large variety of cultures represented.  Rather than 95% Hispanic, the students were from Poland, Albania, Taiwan, Korea, and several other places in addition to Mexico.  They ranged in ability from new to English to lived in the US all their lives (what were they doing in ELL??) with immigrant parents.  The students were all very good, willing to learn.  There were only a couple of chatterboxes, but even they worked.  The classes consisted of three writing classes abtly called Writing I, Writing II, and Writing III.  These classes all had a writing prompt and spent the period making an organizer, writing a paragraph or more, then editing and finally sharing their pieces.  Two of the classes were literacy courses and we read stories together, went over vocabulary, then they made sentences from the vocabulary words and worked on packets about the story for the rest of the time.  The last class was a class of just one.  This was the student who knew very little English.  We worked on a noun packet together.

Either of those two classes I would sub for again in an instant.  That ELL class was completely unlike the one at the other school in behavior.  In actuality I had another ELL class at the other middle school in the district last year that was similar, but a little crazy due to an assembly.  Like this one, I had a period where I worked with just one student.  In that case it was an Italian student instead of the Korean student at Friday’s school.  Both kids were really great to work with.  Overall Friday was more pleasant even than that day.

Well, Monday will be an off day due to Presidents Day.  I remember when I was in school we actually got two days off in February for Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, but in the 80s they combined the two into a general day to celebrate all Presidents.  I felt cheated when this happened.  A year or two later they added a day off for Casimir Pulaki (I think that’s how it’s spelled) but that didn’t last more than a couple of years.  I’m still not sure who Pulaski was.  In any event, I’m not sure what my next post will be about.  I’ll figure it out I suppose.

EDIT: Oops- forgot a title!

The little ones

Last week when looking for jobs, an assignment for this week came up and I jumped on it even though it’s an age group I normally don’t work with outside of specials like gym or music, or potluck (floater) assignments.  However, it was a two-day assignment so I figured why not after all the middle school assignments I’ve had lately.  It was first grade.  It actually turned out not so bad.  One of the reasons I tend to stay with older kids is the type of management younger ones require.  It’s not just teaching with them, but mediator, parent, shoe-tyer, and other roles.  Well, I didn’t have to tie any shoes this time around in any event.  The first day had a slow start.  After taking attendance, bilingual kids (some Hispanic, many Indian) would leave ordinarily, a good third of the class, but this time only a few left while a teaching assistant came in to help with the rest.  Teaching assistants- always good to have.  They are a familiar face to the kids when there is an unfamiliar face like mine there- young kids love consistency.  The slow part was when we did calendar.  The lesson plans, generally well-detailed, was not so with the calendar time.  They pretty much just said the kids would help me.  The thing about that is younger kids always want to help, so as expected I had at least half a dozen little ones all trying to show me what to do.  Once the chaos was sorted out, I flipped through the cards they gave me and let each child do one of the dozen calendar activities until we made it all the way through.  We started the next activity, reading, about 15 minutes late.  I had to skip independent reading, but we eventually got back on track.

So the morning went- reading, stations (centers), some writing, and then the Spanish teacher came in for his lesson before lunch.  During centers, there were a couple of students who were at the computer center.  Unfortunately in this district there is no general log-in, and the teacher didn’t log in for me beforehand or leave me the password, so- no computer center.  They got to read instead.  Once the Spanish teacher came, it was a little break for me, but I stayed in the room anyway.

Following lunch the kids always spend five minutes quietly listening to music to settle down from recess.  Then the “star student” talked about her family, showing some photos.  I presume all the children get to do this throughout the year.  Once she was done, it was gym time, then music.  Another break- yes!  As asked in the plans, I graded homework while they were away.  The final part of the day was math.  I had two teaching assistants this time helping out, so it went well.  They learned about fact families for addition and subtraction.  Well, most of them learned.  I found out on day two, a rarity since most assignments are one day, when grading their homework that five or so did not in fact understand.  Well, I tried.  Finally, at 2:30 they were dismissed, I straigtened up, and left a note.

The next day was mostly the same, except no Spanish, art instead of PE and music, and dismissal was 3:00 (Wednesdays are early days in this district for teacher meetings- why they don’t just have the teachers stay a half-hour later one day I don’t know; I guess it works for them [and for me 🙂 ]).  The math lesson was more fun though- candy heart math in the spirit of upcoming Valentine’s Day.  They of course got to keep the candy hearts to take home afterward.

I should probably note that the biggest issue was one boy in particular.  He was one of the ELL kids, and he was all over the place- so much so that one of the counselors came in and marked off an area for him that he had to stay in.  I wonder what the teacher thought of it when she came in today?  Fortunately, her class uses a behavior plan where the kids have to change cards if their behavior is unacceptable.  They start on green and get two warnings, yellow and orange, before landing on red which means trouble.  For the one student, it meant a note home to his parents.  I’m not sure if it’s the same for the rest of the class, but whether it is or not as I said it means trouble for the student.  Only that one ended up on red one of the days, but several more wound up on yellow or orange.  The Spanish teacher was most unhappy about the class today- something about “worst day in five months…”

Well, in any event I survived the two days in first grade.  Next up: Friday’s ELL.  No silent h before that this time, but I do have things to say next post.

Teaching poll (part 2)

Okay, here is the long-awaited part 2 of the teaching poll.  Please choose as many as you would want to teach.  And please feel free to comment/expound on any of your choices. 🙂

What subject(s) would you want to teach in your favorite grade level?

View Results

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The Young and the Restless

Continuing in the soap opera theme of a couple of posts ago, I have one to share from my own experience on Thursday.  I didn’t even have to adjust the title to fit as it works well just as it is- they are of course young, and they were quite restless.  If anyone knows about autism, one of the things even the higher-functioning kids need is a structured environment and schedule- everything should remain the same from day to day.  It appears that the same holds true for kids with behavioral issues.  I was in a middle school BD/LD classroom on Thursday.  I should start by saying I was in this class before several times and have never really had a problem before Thursday.  The fact that there are usually two teachers and two assistants in the room has always helped a great deal.  However,  this time both teachers had subs.  Also, the day before both teachers and both assistants were out sick- believe it or not, this was not engineered!  Between these two events, the kids just fell apart.  It didn’t really help that the plans included having the kids do something they apparently never do even when the teachers are there.  This was mentioned, loudly I should add, by 6th grade and 8th grade students alike- “We never do vocabulary!”  In addition, they absolutely would not listen to any instruction from me.  I tried to follow the plans as given, but they were already trying to go ahead, and were actually getting upset at me for trying to do what the teacher had written.  Sigh.  In the end I just had to give up and let them work on their own.  The 8th graders I think actual did the work.  The 6th graders, on the other hand, for the most part chose to do their own thing.  One even brought in a video game book and would read only this.  The assistants tried too, but in the end they were just back after being sick for a few days so it really wasn’t worth getting on them until the teachers returned.

However, trying to get them to work was only part of this story.  All day many of the students had anger issues, threw thing st one another, and had to be pulled from their regular classes.  There were a couple of teachers or social workers who were in on and off trying to keep the kids in line.  Parents were called.  What a drama.  Even the class where I had only one student was a bust.  She came to school late the period before, ate her lunch for that period (she was supposed to be doing math), and continued eating it during her social studies period.  She refused to read until she was done, never mind that girls are generally good at multitasking.  Clearly she was just stalling.  Of course, when she did start reading she couldn’t concentrate thanks to other kids in the room creating problems.  If you’re confused at this, you’re not alone- it can be confusing.  Most of the day there are two classes going on at once- one by each teacher.  Additionally, there can be kids in there who cannot be in their regular classes for some reason or other (remember above where I mentioned pulling kids out of other classes).  At this time, I had social studies with 7th grade (the one student), but the other sub had math with 6th grade.  One of the 6th graders had big issues all day.

Well, tune in next time for hopefully a post with less drama.  Well at least a better day for me- drama is great for the reader 😛 .  Otherwise, I will have to work in another soap opera title. 😉