When children are identified as gifted, the method of making such a determination sometimes uses a percentage of a given population, e.g., the 95th percentile of the children who take this test or the upper 8% of the students in this district on a specific measure. Sometimes, what is used is a standardized and normed intelligence test, such as the WISC IV or the Stanford-Binet 5. I have been pondering this lately and I have some thoughts about this.

Many people feel that giftedness brings with it special personality and emotional characteristics that are less prevalent in the general population, specifically, intensity and emotional sensitivity. If this is the case, then the percentage measures might need to be adjusted. Take, for example, a university or high tech community. There might be a larger percentage of gifted children in the schools in those communities, since favorable genetics and a favorable family/societal support system might both contribute to higher realization of intelligence potential. This might mean that, if the school uses the IQ test cut off, a larger percentage of children might be identified as gifted than would normally be expected. Instead of the usual 5 to 8 %, I have heard of percentages even as high as 25 % of the local population. The question is, should all of these children be identified? Should all of them be served? If the emotional and personality characteristics are taken into consideration, then I would argue that, if we think that those are valid criteria for identifying gifted people, then all of those students need to be identified and served.

But I have also heard it argued that only the upper 5 to 8 % of the students in any given population need to be identified, because the needs of those below that cutoff can be taken care of in the general classrooms. From this perspective, the level of learning in the classroom is typically aimed at the average ability level of the students in the class. If the population of students is above average, then the learning activities in the classroom will be target above the average of the standard curriculum.

Lately, I have been more convinced of the social and emotional differences of, especially, highly gifted children (and adults, for that matter). I think, regardless of percentages, all highly gifted people need differentiated support systems. Perhaps the academic needs can be based on percentages, but all students in the highly gifted group need to be offered counseling and mentoring appropriate to their intelligence level and not necessarily their prevalence in the population.

## Monday, September 19, 2011

### Cancelled Jobs and Job Shopping

I hate cancelled jobs. I accepted a half-day job for this afternoon and conscientiously set my other two school districts to unavailable - and then the job was cancelled. This time, I also turned down an additional morning job, because the two jobs were only 15 minutes apart and, since this was to be a new school for me, I wasn't sure I would be able to drive between the two schools and get there in time. So now, there is nothing for today. Sigh.

One thing that is new to me this year is that the jobs are also available online. That means you can check the web sites for each school district repeatedly and find jobs that may be available. That is an advantage, if you want to spend hours on the computer, pressing the search button every few seconds - every 15 seconds, in the case of one school district. But it also means that it is harder to get a called out job, since there are probably a number of people just sitting at their computers pressing the search buttons. It is very boring.

I am getting to the point, where I wish I didn't want to teach.

One thing that is new to me this year is that the jobs are also available online. That means you can check the web sites for each school district repeatedly and find jobs that may be available. That is an advantage, if you want to spend hours on the computer, pressing the search button every few seconds - every 15 seconds, in the case of one school district. But it also means that it is harder to get a called out job, since there are probably a number of people just sitting at their computers pressing the search buttons. It is very boring.

I am getting to the point, where I wish I didn't want to teach.

## Saturday, September 17, 2011

### Subbing - Pay and Conditions

###### I have been thinking a lot about how much substitute teachers get paid and how little respect they get for the work they do. I wrote on Facebook that I think it is a bit of an insult that subs only get a fraction of what regular teachers get. If a sub worked every single school day at $100 per day, his/her total salary would be $18,000, with no benefits, no guarantee of work. While it is true that subs don't usually have to do lesson plans or give grades or talk to parents, they do have to be prepared for different curricula, different schools, different kids, the constant challenge of change and uncertainty. I am lucky I don't have to depend on it for all of my income.

###### I am proud of the work I do. It is hard - in some ways that are similar to the difficulties for regular teachers and in some ways unique to the job of substitute teacher.

######
In response to my comments, Shaun Hately said that subs in his part of Australia typically make the same salary as a beginning teacher, around $33,000, which is a LOT better than the $11,000 to $12,000, which I about what I earned in the last two years. And, of course, in the US, health care is made available through employment, and subs are technically self-employed. They don't get any health insurance, unless they buy it as an individual (which is VERY expensive) or get it through a spouse.

Sure, subs could work during the summer at a different job, but summer jobs are also increasingly hard to come by - and also rarely provide health insurance. It is demeaning to work so hard and still not be able to take care of oneself.

###### Subs have to deal with a number of issues that regular teachers do not. See the first paragraph of this post and the previous post for sources of stress for subs (discipline, procedures, work parameters, and curriculum content). Both subs and regular teachers have to deal with disciplinary issues. Big differences, though, are that regular teachers are there to teacher correct behaviors in a consistent manner. That is, after all, what discipline should be about. Subs, on the other hand, have much less long term influence. They can use the school's administration, the threat of reporting to the regular teacher, and standard discipline techniques. But there is often uncertainty about how effective these might be. I was once subbing in a classroom, where a student took apart a small manual pencil sharpener. This can be done relatively easily, with something strong enough to be used like a screwdriver. The student then used the razor blade that was in the device to cut things. Because I was afraid that he might begin to use it to cut other students, I removed it from his desk when the students went out to recess and took it to the principal. She seemed relatively unconcerned. I was not. I still think this had the potential of being really bad. On the other hand, when the same student, a few weeks later filled a drink bottle with water, paint, and glue, and I again took it away from him and told her, she seemed much more worried. Apparently she was more worried that the student planned to deface the school than she was worried that the student might deface other students.

###### My cousin, who is also a sub, mentioned that the advantage that subs have is that they don't have to go to meetings and they don't have any worries. This is only partly true. This past week, I subbed all week for a math teacher, who was presumably sick. When I accepted the job for the first day, it was described as "basic math" at the high school. Since I am good at math, I was confident that I could teach that. But, when I got there, I found out that the teacher had taught basic math last year. This year, he was teaching two geometry classes, and 3 calculus classes. And, there weren't any standard lesson plans. There were assignment sheets for the AP Calc AB and BC classes, but there were no assignment sheets or lesson plans for the geometry classes. Because I was worried about no lesson plans and not being able to keep up with the calculus classes, I DID worry. And I worried more and more, as 1 day turned to 3, then 4, then 8 days. I tried to do some calculus at home to refresh my memory, but I was simply too exhausted from the teaching day to do much. Therefore I'd say, it is a mixed bag on the worries front. 1 day, usually is fine, but when one day stretches into 8, it becomes a bigger concern. And you don't know when that will be the case.

###### In this case, I felt confident about one day and OK with 3 days. I think it is much better for the students and for subs, if the sub who first takes a job stays for any additional days. It is hard for a sub to follow another sub, which I have done a couple of times. The degree of uncertainty about discipline, procedures, and lesson content all increase when a second sub takes over for the first one.

###### And, the longer a subbing job goes on, the more the additional worries become similar to those of regular teachers. Some of the standard subbing worries do decline, too, as the sub becomes familiar with the students, the procedures, the work conditions, and discipline in that situation.

###### I do find subbing fascinating, but, make no mistake, it is hard work - different in some respects from the work that regular teachers do, similar in other respects. I just wish that some respect for the job would rub off on the subs.

### And Again

Monday night I got called to sub for the rest of the week - four more days. It is now Saturday and I made it through the week. From what I heard, he will be back on Monday, so I am hoping I am done. Eight days in all. It really wasn't that bad, but it wore me out. First of all, I have had a year off without having to work and, even though it was frustrating in many ways, it wasn't exhausting. Subbing full time is exhausting. The exhaustion stems from several sources: discipline, procedures, work parameters, and content.

Discipline: this is always a challenge for subs. With younger kids, they are often upset that their teacher mom is gone and purposely act up a bit, so that the substitute won't stay and replace their teacher mom. With older kids, it is the chance to gain popularity points by being a clown or annoying the sub in any of many "subtle" ways. One class I was in this year, a high school math class, while the class was quietly working on the assignment, every so often, a boy would say clearly, "Penis". I think the game is to see how long they can keep it up, before the sub tells them to stop. Sigh. Another high school class: the kids were using patty paper to explore translation, rotation, and reflection. One boy took a tape roll and taped paper to his face. The question is always, how much to try to ignore and how much to intervene in. With the classes this week, relatively older students, I chose to ignore some of the childish behavior, but eventually had to intervene in some of the most egregious instances. Luckily, so far this year, I have taught essentially good kids, who are just being silly, immature, whatever, because they can. Unlike some of the schools I have been in, they aren't threatening or dangerous - just obnoxious.

Procedures are also a source of stress. How does this school organize the day? Is there a dress code - for students and/or staff? How do you get copies made if you need them? Where do you park, so you aren't ticketed? How is attendance done? What are the hall rules? What about students leaving the classroom for the bathroom, their lockers, a drink of water? How often is homework handed in? Where is it put? And dozens of other questions. This past few days, one procedural source of stress was the fact that subs in this building are not issued keys for the day. The faculty restrooms are supposed to be locked, so there isn't a locking mechanism on the inside of the door. But, since I didn't have a key, I couldn't lock the door - meaning anyone could open it. Not having a key also meant I couldn't get into the room with the teachers' desks, their supplies and the microwave and the room where the other teachers ate lunch. It also meant that I couldn't get into the computer lab for the lesson I was supposed to teach there. There are work arounds to all of these problems, but they take more time and energy than just using a key would take and they make the sub feel helpless and like a second class citizen.

Work parameters: these are similar to procedures, but more specific to the teaching part of the job. Are there lesson plans? Are the materials for the lessons available? What happens if the lesson plans are absent? take too long? don't take long enough? What if the teacher doesn't specify what to do about homework? Is grading homework part of the lesson or left for the teacher? What can you do if the students don't understand the lesson at all? What if you discover that the teacher has taught a previous concept incorrectly? This has happened to me at least twice. The lesson I remember best was about scientific notation. The teacher had taught that scientific notation used the significant figures and one decimal, then powers of ten for the rest of the notation, e.g. 1234.5 X 10^8, which is incorrect. It should be 1.2345 X 10^11.

This last example overlaps with another source of stress for subs: content. What if the content is unfamiliar? There isn't a lot of time to prepare for teaching a lesson. What do you do when you know you aren't quite prepared enough? What if you are called to teach Chinese, because there is no one else willing to take that class? And you don't know any Chinese?

In the end, I did OK. I wish I had been more confident with the calculus, but maybe it is OK to let them know that this is hard stuff and you don't always get it right the first time. And, on the last days, I did have a bit of fun. I had brought in my Escher stuff for the geometry classes to look at and two of the students in one of the classes were very interested in it. So I let them take two of the models of Kaleidocycles and assemble them. They had a good time doing them and the other students were impressed, so, on the last day, I showed the geometry classes how to make tri-hexaflexagons. Some of the calculus students wanted to do them, too. I love it when something really ignites their interest.

I also like the Geometer's Sketchpad lesson I developed. It wasn't any great shakes as far as content or process, but I was proud of the fact that I developed it rather quickly and did so in spite of only having briefly used the software on one of the previous days. And, it was a valid thing to do at that point in their studies.

I hope the regular teacher is satisfied with the work I did for him. I guess I shouldn't worry about the geometry, at least, since he didn't tell me what to do. I did stuff that was helpful and consistent with what they should have been learning at that point. He may be less satisfied with the calculus. But I did what I could. So that is what he gets.

Discipline: this is always a challenge for subs. With younger kids, they are often upset that their teacher mom is gone and purposely act up a bit, so that the substitute won't stay and replace their teacher mom. With older kids, it is the chance to gain popularity points by being a clown or annoying the sub in any of many "subtle" ways. One class I was in this year, a high school math class, while the class was quietly working on the assignment, every so often, a boy would say clearly, "Penis". I think the game is to see how long they can keep it up, before the sub tells them to stop. Sigh. Another high school class: the kids were using patty paper to explore translation, rotation, and reflection. One boy took a tape roll and taped paper to his face. The question is always, how much to try to ignore and how much to intervene in. With the classes this week, relatively older students, I chose to ignore some of the childish behavior, but eventually had to intervene in some of the most egregious instances. Luckily, so far this year, I have taught essentially good kids, who are just being silly, immature, whatever, because they can. Unlike some of the schools I have been in, they aren't threatening or dangerous - just obnoxious.

Procedures are also a source of stress. How does this school organize the day? Is there a dress code - for students and/or staff? How do you get copies made if you need them? Where do you park, so you aren't ticketed? How is attendance done? What are the hall rules? What about students leaving the classroom for the bathroom, their lockers, a drink of water? How often is homework handed in? Where is it put? And dozens of other questions. This past few days, one procedural source of stress was the fact that subs in this building are not issued keys for the day. The faculty restrooms are supposed to be locked, so there isn't a locking mechanism on the inside of the door. But, since I didn't have a key, I couldn't lock the door - meaning anyone could open it. Not having a key also meant I couldn't get into the room with the teachers' desks, their supplies and the microwave and the room where the other teachers ate lunch. It also meant that I couldn't get into the computer lab for the lesson I was supposed to teach there. There are work arounds to all of these problems, but they take more time and energy than just using a key would take and they make the sub feel helpless and like a second class citizen.

Work parameters: these are similar to procedures, but more specific to the teaching part of the job. Are there lesson plans? Are the materials for the lessons available? What happens if the lesson plans are absent? take too long? don't take long enough? What if the teacher doesn't specify what to do about homework? Is grading homework part of the lesson or left for the teacher? What can you do if the students don't understand the lesson at all? What if you discover that the teacher has taught a previous concept incorrectly? This has happened to me at least twice. The lesson I remember best was about scientific notation. The teacher had taught that scientific notation used the significant figures and one decimal, then powers of ten for the rest of the notation, e.g. 1234.5 X 10^8, which is incorrect. It should be 1.2345 X 10^11.

This last example overlaps with another source of stress for subs: content. What if the content is unfamiliar? There isn't a lot of time to prepare for teaching a lesson. What do you do when you know you aren't quite prepared enough? What if you are called to teach Chinese, because there is no one else willing to take that class? And you don't know any Chinese?

In the end, I did OK. I wish I had been more confident with the calculus, but maybe it is OK to let them know that this is hard stuff and you don't always get it right the first time. And, on the last days, I did have a bit of fun. I had brought in my Escher stuff for the geometry classes to look at and two of the students in one of the classes were very interested in it. So I let them take two of the models of Kaleidocycles and assemble them. They had a good time doing them and the other students were impressed, so, on the last day, I showed the geometry classes how to make tri-hexaflexagons. Some of the calculus students wanted to do them, too. I love it when something really ignites their interest.

I also like the Geometer's Sketchpad lesson I developed. It wasn't any great shakes as far as content or process, but I was proud of the fact that I developed it rather quickly and did so in spite of only having briefly used the software on one of the previous days. And, it was a valid thing to do at that point in their studies.

I hope the regular teacher is satisfied with the work I did for him. I guess I shouldn't worry about the geometry, at least, since he didn't tell me what to do. I did stuff that was helpful and consistent with what they should have been learning at that point. He may be less satisfied with the calculus. But I did what I could. So that is what he gets.

## Monday, September 12, 2011

### Math Again

Then, I was called to come back for two more days. The second day, also a "block" day, was calculus - AP Calc AB (2 classes) and AP Calc BC (1 class) - and this was described as "basic math" - haha.

There were no explicit lesson plans, but I did find fairly complete assignment sheets for the calc classes. Thursday I was supposed to give a quiz to the calc classes and then go over some basic techniques of finding derivatives. Since I had been running around trying to find lesson plans, finding the quiz, and then copying the quiz, (each of these required walking back and forth through a very large building), I was late to the first hour class, which was freshman seminar. And it was in a different room from what it said on his class schedule computer printout. Fortunately, it was co-taught by another staff member, and she saw how frazzled I was, so she took the class and let me go back to the classroom.

I spent the next few minutes trying to make sure I could do the assignment after they finished the quiz. When the first calc class came in, I took attendance and gave them the quiz - a two page quiz about applying the forward differentiation formula, the backward differentiation formula, and the symmetric differentiation formula. While they were working, I was desperately trying to figure out the lesson. He uses a book they don't have for proofs and their own book for the assignments, so I was a bit confused. And I didn't notice for quite a while that the students were completely flummoxed by the quiz. They could graph the functions using their calculators, but they had no idea how to use the formulas - which they did have in their notes, but which they could not make any sense of. Since I had assumed that the quiz would cover things they had just done, I hadn't looked at the quiz and couldn't really help them. One girl did seem to know what to do - and she volunteered to explain it, but by then, they were completely unable to listen to explanations. So, I collected the quizzes and told them that I would figure out what to do about that later. For now, we would just go on with the lesson. They were not happy, but it was the best I could figure out.

The next class was the BC class and they seemed to understand the quiz much better (same quiz). Once they were working and a few had finished and turned it in, I could look at the quiz and figure out what it was that they were supposed to do. It really wasn't that terrible - they just needed some help getting started. The lesson for the BC students was similar to the lesson for the AB students, so I could do that part, too.

Finally, the third calc class, another AB class, came in. I put the formulas on the board; gave them some hints about how to use them, and let them work. This class went MUCH better. They still weren't very sure of themselves and many got the answers completely wrong, but they had a better handle on how to attack the problems, at least. And I had done the lesson twice by then, so it went fairly smoothly.

The assignment sheets had a description of what he planned to cover in class and what their assignment would be. That isn't exactly a lesson plan, but a lesson plan probably wouldn't have anything different. So it was fine. The problem was me. It has been a very long time since I have done any calculus and it takes me longer to do the proofs and problems than I would have hoped. The BC kids were pretty much OK with just a short intro and then just letting them work. But the AB kids needed more help. I don't think they understand the proofs at all. In fact, I think the proofs just make them more confused. It is almost as though they need to do a few problems to see if they can follow the formulas, and then, once they understand the formula, maybe the proof would make more sense. Backwards, I know. It would be interesting to see if this way would work better, though.

Friday was a so-called regular day - with all 7 class periods. For first period, I apologized for not understanding that the quiz would be so confusing for them. I then gave them the same type of help I had given the last class the previous day and let them re-do the quiz. This went much better. I then gave them a shortened version of the lesson for the day. Not a great lesson, but it was the best I could do and it seemed to be enough.

The rest of the calc classes went pretty much according to the outline in the assignment sheets. So they were fine. But there still wasn't a plan for the geometry classes, so I just did the next lesson after the one we had done on Wednesday. It was on translations, rotations, and reflections, and that is a fun lesson to teach, so all in all it was an OK day.

Then, on Saturday, I got called to sub again on Monday. Since it isn't a good idea for students to have different subs, one right after another and since this job was a bit more challenging that most, due to the lack of explicit plans, I took the job. And, I went back today. It was another "regular" day, with all 7 periods, so I had all 5 classes. By now, the calc classes, especially BC are getting a bit tired of me. They have done a lot of the material before - this is mostly review - and I am not doing it especially well, compared to their regular teacher - and they can tell. The AB calc students are still learning the material and those classes went OK.

With the geometry classes, though, I just did some more work with translation, rotation, and reflection. The 2nd hour class was really pretty good, but the 6th hour class was goofy. There were 3 guys in the class who were acting more like 6th graders than high school students. That part was frustrating.

So, all in all, I survived 4 days of "basic math" (not!) and it wasn't terrible. I hope he is well for tomorrow, though.

There were no explicit lesson plans, but I did find fairly complete assignment sheets for the calc classes. Thursday I was supposed to give a quiz to the calc classes and then go over some basic techniques of finding derivatives. Since I had been running around trying to find lesson plans, finding the quiz, and then copying the quiz, (each of these required walking back and forth through a very large building), I was late to the first hour class, which was freshman seminar. And it was in a different room from what it said on his class schedule computer printout. Fortunately, it was co-taught by another staff member, and she saw how frazzled I was, so she took the class and let me go back to the classroom.

I spent the next few minutes trying to make sure I could do the assignment after they finished the quiz. When the first calc class came in, I took attendance and gave them the quiz - a two page quiz about applying the forward differentiation formula, the backward differentiation formula, and the symmetric differentiation formula. While they were working, I was desperately trying to figure out the lesson. He uses a book they don't have for proofs and their own book for the assignments, so I was a bit confused. And I didn't notice for quite a while that the students were completely flummoxed by the quiz. They could graph the functions using their calculators, but they had no idea how to use the formulas - which they did have in their notes, but which they could not make any sense of. Since I had assumed that the quiz would cover things they had just done, I hadn't looked at the quiz and couldn't really help them. One girl did seem to know what to do - and she volunteered to explain it, but by then, they were completely unable to listen to explanations. So, I collected the quizzes and told them that I would figure out what to do about that later. For now, we would just go on with the lesson. They were not happy, but it was the best I could figure out.

The next class was the BC class and they seemed to understand the quiz much better (same quiz). Once they were working and a few had finished and turned it in, I could look at the quiz and figure out what it was that they were supposed to do. It really wasn't that terrible - they just needed some help getting started. The lesson for the BC students was similar to the lesson for the AB students, so I could do that part, too.

Finally, the third calc class, another AB class, came in. I put the formulas on the board; gave them some hints about how to use them, and let them work. This class went MUCH better. They still weren't very sure of themselves and many got the answers completely wrong, but they had a better handle on how to attack the problems, at least. And I had done the lesson twice by then, so it went fairly smoothly.

The assignment sheets had a description of what he planned to cover in class and what their assignment would be. That isn't exactly a lesson plan, but a lesson plan probably wouldn't have anything different. So it was fine. The problem was me. It has been a very long time since I have done any calculus and it takes me longer to do the proofs and problems than I would have hoped. The BC kids were pretty much OK with just a short intro and then just letting them work. But the AB kids needed more help. I don't think they understand the proofs at all. In fact, I think the proofs just make them more confused. It is almost as though they need to do a few problems to see if they can follow the formulas, and then, once they understand the formula, maybe the proof would make more sense. Backwards, I know. It would be interesting to see if this way would work better, though.

Friday was a so-called regular day - with all 7 class periods. For first period, I apologized for not understanding that the quiz would be so confusing for them. I then gave them the same type of help I had given the last class the previous day and let them re-do the quiz. This went much better. I then gave them a shortened version of the lesson for the day. Not a great lesson, but it was the best I could do and it seemed to be enough.

The rest of the calc classes went pretty much according to the outline in the assignment sheets. So they were fine. But there still wasn't a plan for the geometry classes, so I just did the next lesson after the one we had done on Wednesday. It was on translations, rotations, and reflections, and that is a fun lesson to teach, so all in all it was an OK day.

Then, on Saturday, I got called to sub again on Monday. Since it isn't a good idea for students to have different subs, one right after another and since this job was a bit more challenging that most, due to the lack of explicit plans, I took the job. And, I went back today. It was another "regular" day, with all 7 periods, so I had all 5 classes. By now, the calc classes, especially BC are getting a bit tired of me. They have done a lot of the material before - this is mostly review - and I am not doing it especially well, compared to their regular teacher - and they can tell. The AB calc students are still learning the material and those classes went OK.

With the geometry classes, though, I just did some more work with translation, rotation, and reflection. The 2nd hour class was really pretty good, but the 6th hour class was goofy. There were 3 guys in the class who were acting more like 6th graders than high school students. That part was frustrating.

So, all in all, I survived 4 days of "basic math" (not!) and it wasn't terrible. I hope he is well for tomorrow, though.

## Wednesday, September 07, 2011

### Lost and Found

###### OK, so yesterday, I was in the library of the high school for a half day. They told me I could put my purse in a cupboard in the work room, which I did. I put my driving glasses on top of my purse. But, when I got to my car at the end of the day, I had forgotten to get the glasses. So, I returned to the library and checked the cupboard. No glasses. I looked around a bit more, as I was SURE I had the glasses when I got to the school. Still, no glasses. So I went home, resgined to the fact that I probably need to get my eyes checked again anyway and might need new glasses.

###### But, then I got a sub call to go back to the same school the next day. And it was math. I generally like teaching math, even though this said "Basic Math". Well, at least it would be easy (haha - see post below). And, I could check again for my glasses. Meanwhile, I checked the car seats, front, back, and under. And lo, and behold, I found....

###### THE U-HAUL KEY that I had lost a full year ago, when we were moving from Alaska to Colorado. The key that had caused me so much grief - from everyone teasing me about how I could possibly lose a key on a giant key chain, when we hadn't even gone anywhere yet. I laughed about that most of the way to the school.

###### Then, while I was waiting for the secretary to check for sub plans, I went back to the library to check once more for the glasses. Yay! I found them on the floor, under the counter where the purse was stored. $300 saved. (although I probably still need to get my eyes checked)

###### But, at the end of the day, I left my emergency sub notebook in the teacher's room. Sigh. Found: 2; Lost: 1.

###### So, when I got a call this evening to return for the same teacher tomorrow and Friday, I took the job. I am not particularly happy about no sub plans, but maybe I can get my notebook back.

###### Is this a sign of old age???

### Subbing - High School Math

I had one job recently that was designated as "Advanced Math". It turns out that the teacher actually taught algebra 1, algebra 1 advanced, and algebra 2. OK, so today I took a job that was described as "Basic Math". Guess what this teacher teaches: Geometry and AP Calc AB and AP Calc BC. BASIC????

And the "best" part was that there were NO LESSON PLANS and little help from the other teachers, including the department head. Fortunately, it was a "block" day, with only the geometry classes.

So, the above are taken from my Facebook status postings. Here are the rest of the details: the sub message said that the job started at 7:30. Since I am never sure if the time they give me is the time I am supposed to be there or the time the kids actually show up in class, I got there early: around 7:00 am. I checked in at the office and she gave me the map of the school, the bell schedule, the attendance lists, and his class schedule. Unfortunately, this school doesn't give out keys, but the custodian unlocked the room very promptly. But I couldn't find the sub plans. I asked the teacher across the way and she checked her email: no sub plans. I checked with another teacher, she said to check in the office (a LONG walk from the room). So I did. No sub plans there, either. But, never fear, the whole math department was having a meeting in a room right next to mine and they would take care of it. Only none of them had the plans either. So they called the teacher. He said that one of the assistant principals had the plans. Only it turns out, he said a different assistant principal had them. Only he didn't have them either. Finally after an hour and a half, still no sub plans had been located - and the students started arriving.

In between waiting for people to check with this and that person for the plans, I had tried to figure out where the students might be in their book. Last week's assignments were on the board, so I tried extrapolating from that to where they would probably be. I found a page that had a math game and a couple of puzzles, so maybe that would suffice. Fortunately, there were two aides in the first class. While the man went to look around to see if he could figure out what the assignment might be, I taught the students Sprouts (the game in the book). The kids said that they were supposed to finish an assignment in the computer lab, but I had no key to the computer lab. Across the hall to find someone who might have a key; down the hall to the department chair - she had a key. Into the computer lab: Geometer's Sketchpad. I have seen it before, but haven't used it. Kids have, so they get busy: inscribing and circumscribing circles and triangles. Fortunately, they seemed to know what they were doing. Then when they finished, we went back to the classroom to work on the assignment the aide had found (where, I have no idea - no sub plans were ever found, that I know of). But the rest of the hour went fine. I could do this assignment. Yay.

The next hour, was his planning period, so I went back to the computer lab to see if I could do their assignment by myself. I could do most of it - so that was good. Then kids started coming in when I thought it was lunch time. Turns out, they had a different lunch schedule from what I expected (I have no idea why I expected it, because no one had told me which lunch schedule he had.). At any rate, it was another geometry class, so I just did the same thing we did in the first class: Sprouts, computer lab, assignment.

All in all, it really wasn't such a bad day. But, I accidentally left my games notebook in the classroom. And, they called me to come back for Thursday and Friday. I would have said no, except, I think it is important to have kids have as few subs as possible, and I need to get my notebook, and, if there are no sub plans tomorrow and Friday, I at least am familiar with some of the routines and can possibly figure stuff out.

Enough excitement for one day. Now the funny part. See next blog entry.

## Sunday, September 04, 2011

### Not Young, Gifted, Bored, but Young, Gifted, Lazy

I was reading about a book with the title of Young, Gifted, and Bored by David George. As I typically do (and I suspect a lot of people do, when they see a book with such a title), I thought of myself, in relation to the title. When I was young, would I have described myself as Young, Gifted, and Bored? I was certainly young and gifted, but I am not sure that the description "bored" would have fit me as well.

As background, I have to explain that I attended a two room school for elementary school. Upstairs was Mrs. Jones, Elsie Jones, to be precise, with the Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders. I don't remember much of her class, except that a couple of us were allowed to work in a small art room on the north side of the classroom, that had an even smaller walk-in art closet on the east side. I remember eating paste. So maybe, I was bored. But my mother tells me that Mrs. Jones had me read to kids when she needed to keep me busy.

I do remember the downstairs class better. Mrs. Morse, Marie Morse, if I remember correctly, taught the 3rd and 4th graders. Our 3rd grade class consisted of 9 girls and 1 boy. The next class up had 9 boys and 1 girl. There wasn't such a concept of differentiation at the time, but I think my teachers did what they could. They realized that I was very smart, but there weren't many outside resources available to help me much.

Personality-wise, I was a very agreeable child. The third of four children in my family, I was often the peacemaker. I felt uncomfortable when there was conflict around, so I did my young-self best to avoid conflict. What I learned was not boredom, but rather self-doubt. Everyone else seemed fine, so I should be fine, too. I also learned to be lazy. Why should I work hard at something, since it came relatively easy to me? I was one of those seemingly all-around gifted children, who could pretty much do anything that I tried. There were a few things I wasn't particularly interested in - I couldn't see the reason behind throwing a ball back and forth and calling it playing catch, for instance, but, in general, I did what I was told, especially at school. It never occurred to me that I was learning to be lazy.

My fifth grade year was spent in a different school with a fabulous teacher. I can't remember learning to work hard there either, but the class was so interesting, it didn't much matter. It was my sixth grade year that was the problem. This was long before the concept of middle schools, but the number of children had exceeded the capacity of the local elementary school, so the 6th graders were sent off to the junior high school. By then, I had learned that everything was pretty easy and I didn't have to work very hard to learn anything in school, but I also didn't have as fascinating teachers. And, then, indeed, boredom did set in.

My point in all of this history, though, is that, yes, boredom was eventually a problem. But an even bigger problem, for me at least, was that I had already learned two important things: I was good at most things that I tried without working very hard at them and that working hard at something (which other kids had to do) meant that you weren't very good at it.

For me, it took until college, before I found out that you were really supposed to learn how to work hard at something, so that you could master it. I discovered that I wasn't very good at memorization, but I had no tools to help myself learn how to cope with the necessity to memorize a lot of information. I had learned that I was good at most things without really working hard, so if these now were things that I had to work hard to learn, then I must not be as smart as I was always led to believe I was. I floundered, especially in classes that really did require hard work.

Since then, I have had several university courses and jobs where I had to work incredibly hard to do well. I can work hard and I have mastered some of the strategies of learning, when the work is difficult. But I wish I had had to work hard much earlier in my life. I think it would have made me more confident in myself. And I think it would have prevented some of the effects of Impostor Syndrome: I must really not be as smart as I thought, since I actually have to work hard to get this.

Why do I think it would have served me better to learn, while still young, that hard work at something doesn't mean that you are bad at it? I look especially to my daughters. The older one is a gymnast. Through her gymnastics, she learned a LOT about challenging yourself, about goal setting, about trying difficult things and eventually mastering them. She is much more able than I to work through difficulties without giving up. Both kids were in academic settings where they, in spite of being exceptionally gifted, had to work at learning. The younger one was a swimmer, and participated in quite a few sports. I think the fact that they were in an exceptionally difficult high school helped them learn what I didn't learn until college: skills to use when learning is difficult. And, the personal attitude that, if things are difficult, that doesn't mean that you have finally reached too far for your abilities; it just means that you have to put in some additional effort.

As background, I have to explain that I attended a two room school for elementary school. Upstairs was Mrs. Jones, Elsie Jones, to be precise, with the Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders. I don't remember much of her class, except that a couple of us were allowed to work in a small art room on the north side of the classroom, that had an even smaller walk-in art closet on the east side. I remember eating paste. So maybe, I was bored. But my mother tells me that Mrs. Jones had me read to kids when she needed to keep me busy.

I do remember the downstairs class better. Mrs. Morse, Marie Morse, if I remember correctly, taught the 3rd and 4th graders. Our 3rd grade class consisted of 9 girls and 1 boy. The next class up had 9 boys and 1 girl. There wasn't such a concept of differentiation at the time, but I think my teachers did what they could. They realized that I was very smart, but there weren't many outside resources available to help me much.

Personality-wise, I was a very agreeable child. The third of four children in my family, I was often the peacemaker. I felt uncomfortable when there was conflict around, so I did my young-self best to avoid conflict. What I learned was not boredom, but rather self-doubt. Everyone else seemed fine, so I should be fine, too. I also learned to be lazy. Why should I work hard at something, since it came relatively easy to me? I was one of those seemingly all-around gifted children, who could pretty much do anything that I tried. There were a few things I wasn't particularly interested in - I couldn't see the reason behind throwing a ball back and forth and calling it playing catch, for instance, but, in general, I did what I was told, especially at school. It never occurred to me that I was learning to be lazy.

My fifth grade year was spent in a different school with a fabulous teacher. I can't remember learning to work hard there either, but the class was so interesting, it didn't much matter. It was my sixth grade year that was the problem. This was long before the concept of middle schools, but the number of children had exceeded the capacity of the local elementary school, so the 6th graders were sent off to the junior high school. By then, I had learned that everything was pretty easy and I didn't have to work very hard to learn anything in school, but I also didn't have as fascinating teachers. And, then, indeed, boredom did set in.

My point in all of this history, though, is that, yes, boredom was eventually a problem. But an even bigger problem, for me at least, was that I had already learned two important things: I was good at most things that I tried without working very hard at them and that working hard at something (which other kids had to do) meant that you weren't very good at it.

For me, it took until college, before I found out that you were really supposed to learn how to work hard at something, so that you could master it. I discovered that I wasn't very good at memorization, but I had no tools to help myself learn how to cope with the necessity to memorize a lot of information. I had learned that I was good at most things without really working hard, so if these now were things that I had to work hard to learn, then I must not be as smart as I was always led to believe I was. I floundered, especially in classes that really did require hard work.

Since then, I have had several university courses and jobs where I had to work incredibly hard to do well. I can work hard and I have mastered some of the strategies of learning, when the work is difficult. But I wish I had had to work hard much earlier in my life. I think it would have made me more confident in myself. And I think it would have prevented some of the effects of Impostor Syndrome: I must really not be as smart as I thought, since I actually have to work hard to get this.

Why do I think it would have served me better to learn, while still young, that hard work at something doesn't mean that you are bad at it? I look especially to my daughters. The older one is a gymnast. Through her gymnastics, she learned a LOT about challenging yourself, about goal setting, about trying difficult things and eventually mastering them. She is much more able than I to work through difficulties without giving up. Both kids were in academic settings where they, in spite of being exceptionally gifted, had to work at learning. The younger one was a swimmer, and participated in quite a few sports. I think the fact that they were in an exceptionally difficult high school helped them learn what I didn't learn until college: skills to use when learning is difficult. And, the personal attitude that, if things are difficult, that doesn't mean that you have finally reached too far for your abilities; it just means that you have to put in some additional effort.

### The Colorado Department of Education, Again

And now, I have found out that my application for endorsement in computer information science will be or has been returned to me. The reason: Other. I don't yet know for sure what the reason is, but I think it is probably because there was one last form to fill out - a form that was supposed to be filled out by me, vouching that I have all of the relevant skills, and then co-signed by my school administrator. The problem is, that I don't have a school administrator, since I don't have a regular job. As a substitute teacher, I don't have anyone who can vouch for me. I may have a master's degree in computer science, and recent coursework, and past experience, but I don't have a current administrator.

And, now I understand the Department of Education's strategy. They are trying to reduce their workload by making it a) extremely onerous to even file for an endorsement and b) put so many obstacles in the way of endorsements that most people just give up and decide to do something else.

And I am just about at the point where I want to give up. I have subbed for 4 days this school year, 3 for one teacher and 1 for another. Maybe I will just stick with subbing. There are advantages to subbing: I can still attend my World Affairs Discussion Group at the local branch library, which I have greatly enjoyed. And I don't work myself into a frenzy, as I have done with past full time jobs. There are disadvantages: I don't actually get to know kids very well and my influence on them is minimal. But the biggest advantage is that I won't have to deal with the Colorado Department of Education any more.

And, now I understand the Department of Education's strategy. They are trying to reduce their workload by making it a) extremely onerous to even file for an endorsement and b) put so many obstacles in the way of endorsements that most people just give up and decide to do something else.

And I am just about at the point where I want to give up. I have subbed for 4 days this school year, 3 for one teacher and 1 for another. Maybe I will just stick with subbing. There are advantages to subbing: I can still attend my World Affairs Discussion Group at the local branch library, which I have greatly enjoyed. And I don't work myself into a frenzy, as I have done with past full time jobs. There are disadvantages: I don't actually get to know kids very well and my influence on them is minimal. But the biggest advantage is that I won't have to deal with the Colorado Department of Education any more.

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