Hump Day Usually Hurts

It is an odd quirk of my schedule that I have three of my worst classes on Wednesday. This is offset by having a shorter than normal schedule, but not by much.

I open with my worst “upper level” JHS 1 class. They’ve been loud all year, and it only got worse after they picked up students from the lower level after summer vacation. One student is especially obnoxious in a confrontational way and he leads a small pack of other students. Today, though, the pack were actually pretty good. It was other students who caused trouble.

After a break for an early lunch, I meet the contender for my worst class. They are also JHS 1s and are also confrontational. This attitude got a lost worse after the reorganization and there are times where I’ve had complete classroom collapse. Luckily, the class is right before lunch and, since I’ve already eaten, I just keep them around a while.

Today, however, they were pretty good as I plied them with a game of bingo that included stamps for early victors and scrawled versions of my initials after that.

Then I have real lunch break, during which I prep for the next day.

After real lunch, I have my worse HS 2 class. They are dominated by two American Football players who like to put on shows. The worst of the pair has been struggling the last few weeks as he’s been expected to do a solo project, rather than leech off the hard work of a partner. Because of this, he feels compelled to put on a show that involves no sitting in his assigned seat and making a joke of me telling him to get back in it.

I ignored him and started listening to other students do their speeches. He just played with his phone.

Luckily the day ends early on hump day.

Nearer Thee to the Panic and the End

Despite my best efforts to be the ant, this time of year I’m the grasshopper. Which is kind of why I used a version of that story in class today.

I start out strong and keep up with all my marking, but just as I had a tendency to finish most of my research papers in the 72 hours before they were due back at university, something about October makes me put off marking until a mad dash at the end.

It doesn’t help that I tend to keep student work until the end of the course. I realize that this keeps them wondering how well they are actually doing, but I also find that it makes them work a lot harder. My goal is to create neither panic nor pathos by keeping results a secret.

The problem is, my pathos at this system quickly turns to panic when the end of the term rolls around.

All Speeched Out With More to Go

Although no one had a case of the Speech Day Influenza, it was not a smooth day of speeches.

My first period class (JHS 2/ US 8th grade) appeared ready to challenge my claim that I’d bring them in for lunch if they didn’t do their speech and/or have their item for their show-and-tell speech. One student seemed stuck in “look at me!” mode and kept trying to do his speech again and again. In fact, he may have set a record for speech performances. At one point, he refused to leave the podium, so I told the other student to go ahead and start. Then, after that failed, he let the student finish and then went up and started doing his speech.

However, I have 1) two daughters and 2) a wife who likes to argue with our oldest so extra noise is something that doesn’t phase me that much. After a bit of theater of the absurd where I was talking with one student whilst a second student was determined to do his speech again and again, the speech student finally settled down.

Final result: lots of zeros and a few lunch “dates” where students get to perform their speeches rather than eat their lunches.

My second period class had a similar result, although since there was no attention seeker, it was a lot quieter.

For third and sixth period I changed gears to high school second year (US 11th grade). They were supposed to present their original supervillains today, but I ended up getting only a few speeches. This will complicated all our lives starting in a couple weeks when they start their final projects and discover they have less time.

My attention-seeker in my last class likes to change desks and use his smartphone for “research” (translation: time wasting). Today he stubbornly refused to return to his assigned desk so I gave him a zero for the day. He said okay, which means 1) he didn’t hear me 2) doesn’t understand there will be consequences because I do such things for sport.

We’ll see what happens when it’s his turn on Wednesday. He sometimes surprises me, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

A Sudden Case of Flu-Like Symptoms

The one thing I can always count on, whatever class I’m teaching, is that someone will be sick on speech day.

Today I had two students out with mysterious flu-like symptoms. (One, to his credit, eventually showed up even though he didn’t have his speech finished.) Another student left at lunch knowing she’d have to do her speech after lunch.

They will do them eventually (i.e. next week) but will have to do them a the beginning of class, not after lunch.

This happens more often in my high school classes at the school where I work. It happens enough that I’ve given it a Japanese name that translates as “Speech Day Influenza”.

The symptoms are sudden headaches that require trips to the nurses office; sudden stomachaches that require long trips to the toilet; or sudden disappearances before class that can’t be explained by friends.

There’s also a wave of memory loss that involves either forgetting the speech paper, which means it can no longer be studied for memorization, and the assumption that such forgetfulness constitutes immediate amnesty.

I expect that to happen tomorrow, too, as I have two classes that have yet to finish speeches. It might be the same as a plague zone.

The Praise of Neutral Parties

For us it’s kind of expected. When you hear other people say it, though, it’s kind of cool.

Today was our youngest’s school festival. She would be playing the piano for the singing part of the show and a keyboard for the instrumental part of the show.

I wasn’t as interested as in all this as I had been in the past so I arrived late and left early. In my defense, this is her fifth show and that makes it the least interesting. The first was the most exciting and everyone since then has been less and less interesting whilst my patience with the crowd grows thinner and thinner. Next year will be her last performance in elementary school which will make it both interesting and emotional.

My job at each performance is always the same. Stand taller than everyone else and make a passable video recording of the events. Each class marches in and sings a song. Then they reposition and perform an instrumental. Our youngest had won an audition to play the piano for the singing part.

After the first part was over, the ladies near us commented about how impressed they were by the piano part. Both She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were gushing but we couldn’t actually hear what she was doing as the drums were positioned in a way that made them seem louder than normal and a toddler near us was freaked out by the shockingly loud bass drums.

After it was over, I ran away. I’m sure the open class was interesting but, quite frankly, been there, done that.


Ten Ideas But Not Much Point

It seemed like a good idea. Now it needs some modification

For the past year and a half (ish) I’ve been writing a “daily” list of ten ideas on select, or random topics. They were intended to be part of a morning practice, but for a while they’ve become an end in themselves and it’s time to change them.

Part of the problem I have is that 1) I have no plan to follow up on the ideas and 2) for the past few months the ideas have become an end unto themselves (kind of like this blog) and writing them has taken up time that could be spent on other things.

Because of this, I’ve decided to implement a few new rules.

First, I’ll only write the ten ideas in the morning. Once lunch rolls around, it’s time to focus on other writing.

Second, if I miss a day, I will not attempt to fill the missed days before moving on.Instead, I’ll just start from the current day. Until now, I’ve attempted to catch up by filling in days I’d missed before moving on to the next batch of ideas.

Third, once every couple of weeks, I’ll select ideas at random and attempt to mix and match them with other ideas. After that, I’ll toss out the notebook. (After a quick, cursory search, though.)

Disaster After Disaster, Calmly

Today was a day filled with disaster alarms. They didn’t affect my teaching much though.

First, during my fourth period class, a voice blasted over the intercom that we were all about to die. All my students quickly crawled under their desks to await their doom. Well, that’s how it sounded, and that’s what happened, but after the earthquake warning and the desk crawling, nothing else happened. A few minutes later, my students emerged from under their desks and we continued with class.

I thought it might have been a drill, but later confirmed there’d been an earthquake somewhere.

Then, during my evening class, the fire alarm started ringing. I went out to check and found a bunch of people playing with the alarm box, but no one seemed to be in a hurry to get out of the building. One guy was coughing though, but it didn’t seem to be from any kind of smoke or a from a gas leak. I was then told to go back to class and await my doom. I announced to my students that we were probably all dead and they laughed and continued doing their assignment.

Eventually, the staff completed their quick inspection of all the floors and determined that we were probably not going to die. After 10 minutes or so, someone found a way to turn off the alarm.

An hour later it went off again, but then was quickly turned off and I think it was another test.

Although I’m glad we all ended up being safe, I find myself less trusting of alarms, and that probably won’t end well in the long run.

Diet Busting and Possibly Expensive, With Models

It could have been worse. Well, some of it could have.

A friend and former photography teacher to treated me to lunch in exchange for reading the first several pages of his novel. (It just keeps getting better and it may be time for him to submit it.)

Because it was an all-you-can-eat salad bar that featured soft tacos, various pastas, soups, ice cream and cake (oh, and actual salad) I did as much damage to the salad bar and my diet/lifestyle change as I could.

I also got a couple contacts from him for people to read my current work in progress.

After that, we went to the Olympus Gallery which is a kind of porn shop for people interested in Olympus cameras. My friend turned out to be their most effective salesman and convinced me that getting one the cameras used might be a good idea, especially as the value is dropping thanks to a new version coming out. (Luckily there were no used versions around.)

While we were there, we saw a small exhibition off to the side that seemed to be staffed with women dressed in flowing robes and/or togas. We were both immediately impressed (with the photographs, not the women, although, well, more on that later) and spent a lot more time studying the photographs than we’d planned.

The photographer has a fantasy style that involves lots of costumes, make up and smoke machines that let him print the photos on large sheets of paper that look like paintings. We were trying to figure out how he spliced in all the models so seamlessly but later, when we spoke with him he assured us that everything was taken in one shot with no heavy post processing.

Eventually we realized that all the women in robes/togas were models who appeared in a number of the photographs, including one that was the center piece and that explained why they were dressed the way they were. (Note: we met the one on the far left and the one center left who appears to be wiping a tear.) Even with the robes/togas, they looked much different without all the stylized make up and bank of Profoto lights. Also, because it was the last day of the show, other models showed up to get pictures of themselves next to their pictures.

Eventually I got home and She Who Must Be Obeyed asked how my day was and I said it was good. She asked what I did all afternoon and I said “Looked at models, um, of cameras.”

Which is not, technically, a lie.

Simple Instructions Are Difficult

One student sends me screen shots that are too small for me to read.

Another student sends me screen shots of the wrong page.

Yet another student sends me screen shots that show he didn’t finish.

Today, one sent me a screen shot of the page with the instruction that tells him what to do but which, alas, he didn’t do.

All of them are supposed to click on a link that emails the results to me.

Part of the requirements for the night class I’m teaching is that the students read several articles from an online source and then email the results. Unfortunately, because the website requires flash, they can’t do the assignment on their phones. This creates a lot of problems for them as they have to track down a regular computer.

Once there, they are supposed to follow the instructions, answer some questions, and follow more instructions. This is supposed to help prepare them for reading English instructions when they get to the USA and help them conduct online research.

This weekend, just for fun, I may send them to a different website. I can’t wait to see what happens then.


For Want of a Stun Gun

One was worse, the next one was bad, only one made me wish I had some sort of stun gun. Both are causing me problems.

Today I met two classes that hadn’t met, thanks to sports, for three weeks. The problem is, because of other holidays, they will only meet seven times this term whilst other classes will meet 11 or 12 times. Because of this, today, which was only their third class this term, was supposed to be their speech contest for my class. After that, we would move on to the textbook.

Unfortunately, tomorrow is their mid-term exams and because my class doesn’t have midterms, suddenly becomes unimportant to them. Also unfortunately, the topic is show-and-tell which means the students are supposed to have a “treasure” to show to the class.

Between the two classes, only four people out of 32 had their “treasures” and only four out of 32 actually practiced and memorized their speeches.

The first class was rowdy and thanks to my “if you’re noisy, you are next” rule, one student had to go up front three times (the record is four). About half way through the class I was ready to start using a stun gun but, alas, I have no such item readily available. Instead I’ll be giving them homework and watching them not do it later this term.

The second class was better behaved, but not actually better. I’ll have to do another speech class next week. After that, I’ll be meeting people during lunch time and after school.

Something tells me I’d better pack a lunch every day next week. But I’m cynical that way.