teaching

a slow demise

This week has been a slow demise. Slow and painful.

A week ago, somehow, someway, I caught a bug that has tormented me and plotted my destruction. Perhaps it was a perfect storm: lack of sleep, staying up late, and just too much old fashion exercise for a fragile body (still figuring out when I became so fragile). And here I am on the mend (knock on wood) but not after a few licks.

Sunday I was in bed all day with a fever. Monday morning come work time, still had the fever but what the heck, why not head into work? Tuesday still under the weather, Wednesday was a passable day that was spent uncomfortably in the office for the most part that probably should have been spent recuperating in bed at home. Thursday I somehow managed to get through six lessons and a few meetings. Yesterday, Friday saw me into work. I thought I’d celebrate my good feelings of survival with a fast food breakfast. By 8:30am I was feeling dizzy, started class at 9:15am and was really about to topple. I excused myself, asked permission to take the day off and prepared to do so. At 9:30am I was taking a moment just to collect myself before heading home. On my way down the stairs I made it just in time to the men’s restroom to unload my dizziness in two violent and self-contained abdominal upheavals. That cured the dizziness just long enough to take the subway home and crawl into bed. I’ve been sleeping since…

The week before my troubles was filled with full lessons, no preps, staffing stress and oral examinations. Next week is similar, so that ought to be a blast. It’s all about pacing and doing what needs to be done. It’s not for the faint of heart. I’m hoping that I’m at least up to 80% come Monday otherwise I might not make it. This past week was fairly uneventful and I was running on fumes, perhaps an average of 35%. Yeah I can gauge this pretty well as normally I can do flights and flights of stairs without breaking stride. Last week I couldn’t get up two flights without feeling like keeling over.

At some point I wanted to start writing again, and documenting my demise might be a good time to start. Most likely Hopefully it will take a lot longer than a week or two. It would be a terrible pity to start such a good habit so late in life 😉

Now off to catch some afternoon …zzzZZZs and charge up the proverbial battery for next week’s festivities.

One of the reasons why I enjoy teaching…

Students are amazingly wonderful people. I gave them an access code to join Schoology as a supplement to our in-class ‘live’ interactions. A few students were slow to sign up, so as one does, I reminded them.

It seems I’m not giving enough homework if they have enough ‘free’ time to do this…

jiang-zemin-copyjiang-zemin-reply

Dunno who the culprit is, but I have some clues. Not sure whether it is appropriate or not in the current political climate so I didn’t make a big announcement about this… but in all honesty, I thought it clever and quite amusing.

Surely I can’t publically condone this sort of behavior but keep it coming Mr. Former President!

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On a side-note, it looks like today’s writing is up to maybe 200 words if I really stretch out this paragraph. Considering yesterday’s writing session was too short, and today’s is grossly inadequate, I’ll have some serious catching up to do. However, if one looks on the bright side, at least something is being writing. Two days in a row- woohoo!

 

Anew

Despite all the tasks I have listed to do today, here comes a drop of rain after a long drought. Add to it the fact that I’ve decided to ‘write a novel’ in November (more on that another day) which requires something to the effect of 1000+ words per day. Here I am barely breaking 100 for an unrelated task…

Observations

camouflageMidway through my self-inflicted hour-long walk to work this morning which began shortly after 6am, I noticed a person rummaging through the rubbish bin; noticed them collect something- if memory serves it was a plastic bottle which at one point might have held at least 500ml but surely less than 1L of some diabetes abetting liquid; noticed them upon completing their survey of the bin continue on towards the intersection; and noticed them commence the fording of light traffic to eventually arrive at the other side of the street.

I never did see the person reach the other side of the street for as they began the first few footsteps onto the cold hard concrete my attention was drawn to the projectile that left their hand and landed smack dab on a stripe of the futile attempt to control the urban zebra.

I could go tangent about the fascinating complex mechanisms of ‘waste’ collection here in the Middle Kingdom- but I wont. Equally probable on my part would be a digression, nay an exploration of the habits of a random sample of citizens and their nonchalant attitude toward polluting the surrounding environment. Something else worth reflecting on but perhaps not expanding on at this moment is my own haughty perspective and hypocritical inaction of right-ing ‘a wrong’ (I did not put this plastic in its place…and don’t get me started thinking about the fact that it’s existence has not changed merely by placing it in the designated bin rather than on the street surface…!)

All plastic is not treated equal. This thought led me to action and it was as simple as that. To be willing to dig through the rubbish bin to collect a plastic bottle and in nearly the same moment in time to discard a plastic bag of sorts blatantly without disregard in the middle (ok, near the curb) of the street was intriguing, enough to document and write about 16 hours later.

Okay, I lied. I may digress a little because hell, all things are connected. I don’t have the mental energy at the moment to ‘research’ about the ethical treatment of plastics in all the bio? diversity. It does remind me of an hour-long podcast compilation about the toxic nature of the world we live in, one part focusing on plastics.

“Plastic is a term that we give to hundreds of different materials…”

…anyway (it is now about at least an hour later and I somehow have sidetracked myself into lesson planning and arranging media for class later this week…)

A proposed class

Next class will be themed under cultural diversity. It seems that as of late, I happen to be coming across multiple sources that coincide with what we are studying in class:

I’m hoping to do something different in class with this material. One student’s comments/complaints/criticisms/observations is that class time is inefficient as far as time is concerned. Teachers are taking an hour to do what students can supposedly do in 20 minutes of self-study or revision. If this is the case, perhaps s/he has point. If strictly conveying knowledge is best done individually and books/other inanimate material can manage to facilitate this process in an effective way (students are able to understand and then retain that knowledge) perhaps classtime is better spent on higher order manipulation of the ‘content’. Hopefully some of that is happening in class already, and hopefully teachers are not underestimating their students’ abilities insomuch as teachers become living conduits of information…

Reading

I’m into that reading mode at the moment, very eclectic, devouring much of anything at a great rate. This again comes after a relative drought. Perhaps it is the seasons that have prompted this change in behavior- the cold rain, the weather the shift in habit.

Bookshelf at the moment (though a little outdated):

My book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (currently-reading shelf)

2:11AM Ending

As much as my little engine that could would like to go on it can’t. Or rather it will migrate to a softer surface, lay out horizontally and read a book until unconsciousness is met… hello Mr. Sandman… hello. The last little bit left is to update the ol’ wordcount for my ‘novel’ which is slightly cheating but anything that gets me writing, whether it be a blog or a book, is a positive step forward…

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Internet articles read today:

S’moot’h Point

Today’s title is brought to you by lack of intelligence. You see, I may have already said my piece about this piece. To be sure the computer ran a little search. I asked it to find posts that had ‘moot’ in it. In all sanity I knew that I didn’t write ‘moot’ in my last post yet, the search query returned my last post. I forced myself to click on it, and when I searched the page for ‘moot’ I came up with this:

Blah, blah blah blah smooth blah blah blah blah blah… blah blah.

Serves me right.

Anyway.

Onto moot…

Students very often ask the question, “May I come in?” after they have already entered the classroom. I mean really- if I say no, are they going to stand outside or stay inside anyway? All they are doing is disrupting the classroom flow. Perhaps they are trying to show respect. If it’s the case, I advise them to show up on time or don’t shop up at all. I dunno. But it’s a complete waste of their breathe and everyone’s time, this little exchange.

IMHO… moot

Jason and the Argonauts

Today for Greek Mythology class, I’m going to show my students the 1963 version of Jason and the Argonauts. I’ve only managed to review the first thirty minutes, but it should be excellent for them to experience. In middle school, my class watched this and it must have remained in the dusty, cobweb corners of my brain. The stop-motion animation paired with epic Greek adventures should tie together nicely. The English is simple, clear and crisp. Subtitles will help with the difficult stuff. Aside from introducing them to a classic fantasy film, it’ll help soften the blow of the coming final exam next week…

too much thinking

Each week, my students get a 21st Century newspaper. Seldom do I get my hands on an English language newspaper, so I usually indulge. A quick flip through the paper nets me a handful of articles worthy of a read. It’s actually a great tool for the students- I wish there was something similar for myself as a self-study Chinese language student.

But back to the topic of today’s post: Too Much Thinking.

The article in the paper hit the the nail on the head. I snapped a photo of a paragraph (seen above) that contains a gem of truth: “… they have to worry about students who complain about being made to think too much.” They being the professors, of course, the students university students.

I suppose that students have always been complaining. That probably hasn’t changed much over the course of history. But what did you expect when you enrolled in, and paid for university classes? My generation expected to ‘think’ when they went to class, not surf the net, check Facebook, or watch Youtube videos of people doing rather [adj.] things. And we were expected to think outside of class too, at least some of the time 😉

Higher education, from what I’ve read (sorry, I should give you some links but well, it’s 5am…), wasn’t intended or designed for everyone, not intended for mass consumption, not intended for people who object to thinking, and thinking critically. This might explain some of the objection to the mental exercise.

I’d also wager that there has been an education inflation taking place, due to the deflated value of the degree. Simply put: when teachers don’t have to placate their students, quality will be higher; when teachers have to kowtow to students ‘needs’, quality may drop.

Perhaps my view is influenced by having sat through boring lectures with nothing to do but listen. Maybe I’m jealous not having had mind-numbing entertainment just fingertips away while attending mind-numbing education. But maybe what I’m getting at is that if it comes too easy, what is it worth? If you show up to class, don’t pay attention, don’t think about it, don’t find it difficult yet still ace the class you’re either a genius or not learning anything you didn’t know before. If the latter, you’ve been bamboozled out of both money and an education…

The article I read seemed to be referring to students in the US but in my experience, it may as well be applicable here in China. Also, I find the title of the article humorous. The part about inspiration might be useful: who doesn’t like an inspiring, charismatic educator? I’m all for that. But “Profs who inspire and challenge students”? Sounds like the challenge is sitting still, focusing, and thinking.

Heaven forbid we would have to think…

~peace~

Symbolism

I did a lesson on symbolism this week for all my classes, both high school and university. There’s nothing like watching the same music video over one hundred times to make your week complete.

But to be honest, the more I watched it, the more details I enjoyed, much of what I was trying to get the students to notice. The music is not bad, the storyline in the video is dramatic and scandalous but what can we expect in our day and age right? But the symbolism is unbeatable and there is nuance aplenty!

Several years ago I found an awesome blog called No Fat Clips which reviewed short clips, music videos, indie productions and the like. It was an amazing teaching resource with high quality download links to the videos (in multiple formats even!) And as a lot of the productions were indie, the themes and topics were more, how do I say it? … interesting. Very good for the learning environment.

The sad part of the story is that the blogger stopped updating his blog. I’ve pretty much gone through all the posts and snatched anything I might conceivably use in class. I may try emailing an inspirational email to convince him to start back up. Sounds like his computer crashed… but by now it ought be fixed, right?

😉

~peace~

Tiger Moms

There has been a lot in the news recently about so-called ‘tiger moms’. I recently saw one in the wild and would like to say they are a force to be reckoned with.

In my winter phonics camp, one class of students- let’s just say they would be on Santa Claus’ naughty list and would not be getting any presents at Christmas time. My assistant actually happened to be a teacher as a profession, as well as a mother (by nature?).

Until about three days before the ‘exam’ she seemed calm and controlled. Then she just went berserk. Apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back was in fact a bundle of straws: several students were unable to read the text. On top of this fact, several students had also either lost or had left their books at home. Enter the tiger.

Nice calm, collected Chinese teacher and mother becomes queen of the jungle. I fearfully watched as she began her diatribe. The Chinese phrases were flung in short, powerful bursts. First came a description of the situation. Then pause. Not a one or two second pause, we’re talking a good 10-20 seconds that let the gravity of the situation settle in. Then rhetorical questions by no means answerable by any student wishing to remain alive.

And at first I couldn’t quite interpret what was going on. I wasn’t sure how to gauge the teacher’s actions. At one point I thought the teacher was on the verge of tears. At the next, I was about ready to step in and lighten a situation, that at the end of the day, was not worth getting this worked up about. But where and when to intervene. Was my lack of intervention making it worse, pause after critical outburst stuck in a repetitive cycle.

The under-performing group of students were lined up and ordered to read. Now at this point the chief offender began the reading and was fiercely corrected at each error. The nine year old boy had not burst into tears so far but it wasn’t out of the question. His quivering voice matched his trembling hands. He managed to get through a paragraph and was rewarded with a reduced sentence, a ever-slightly reduced scolding.

I somehow managed to interject myself into the situation, though I don’t exactly remember how. For the most part I tried to do things diplomatically without undermining the tigress’ effects. The ‘good’ readers were dismissed for a rest, and fearing the worst, I stayed in the classroom with the delinquents just in case. I couldn’t in good conscious leave them with a ‘Tiger Mom’. Plus I wanted to document what happened, my curiosity getting the best of me.

No one died, the proverbial, as well as the literal face was still intact and we were all the wiser from the situation. To be honest, it may have been a bit too much of harsh reality for these kids. After all they hardly have mastered one language and here they are forced to uptake another.

The tactics were severe and not for the faint of heart. It was a roller coaster for me and I’m a grown man (well, almost). Effective? The jury’s still out. Check back in ten years from now. Only then can we gauge how well this slightly traumatic encounter with a tiger mom truly succeeded.

Pig Me

A great resource for entertainment (and teaching material) is No Fat Clips!!! This website has reviews media and links to downloads of shorts, independent productions, music video productions, etc. Most are animated. 
For a written exam, I asked my students to watch a short animated clip in class, write a summary of the clip and give a perspective analysis. The short film is titled, “Pig Me”. I think a few students even got the pun. 😉 There are several themes one could ponder. Have a watch and tell me what you think!
These lessons go over well because they are entertaining and provoke the students (and therefore perhaps educational), while not being totally for-fun-only.
And as I grade (or read) their writings, I’m amused with their insights and, more often than not, word usage. Example: “In the movie, we can find that the little pig wants to change his bad fate by himself. So he runs and runs in order to find a refugee.”
Ah- you’re killing me softly