One Little Piece at a Time

I was worried our youngest might learn some new words, but in the end, things turned our much simpler than I thought they would.

I mentioned before how my headphones and video card all died on the same day. Via the magic of the internet, and a part of a day spent not marking, I managed to find a part that seemed to fit my ancient, in computer/dog years, PC and didn’t cost more than a replacement computer. I also found easy to follow instructions for installing it.

This means, of course, that I was expecting problems.

The part arrived and I warned our youngest not to listen to anything I was about to say, especially if I sounded angry. However, I was able to get things up and running surprisingly quickly and without any swearing.

I was also informed that I’d be getting a replacement set of headphones. Eventually.

This means all technical difficulties are more or less solved (except for a couple other parts that need replacing).

Then there’s the problem of the dead fly in the cheese. More on that in a future post.

Closing Out With Little to Do

Note: This one is out of sequence as Monday is supposed to be stationery, etc. day. However, work has dominated so today is actually a random Wednesday. Sort of.

If I’d had something for them to do they would have wanted to do what I expected them to do today but because I expected them to do it, they didn’t want to do it and expected me to have something to do.

That pretty much sums up test pass backs.

For reasons that are too complicated for me to understand (i.e. I asked once but have forgot the explanation), we are forced to keep our students a full 50 minutes during test pass backs even though there is actually only 10-20 minutes of actual schoolwork for them to do. (Note: There is apparently a way to get shorter classes, but I’ve yet to figure it out after 17 years at this school. i.e. I asked once but have forgot the explanation.)

Normally, students bring their winter homework to do during the December pass backs. If I try to get them to work on anything else, they slowly drift to homework. Today, though, my classes just stared at me as if to say “Here we are now; entertain us.”

Instead, I told them they were on their own and many of them invented violent games involving rock-scissors-paper and slaps to the head and/or back of a hand. (This actually kept me entertained.)

Oddly, even the homeroom classes didn’t bother digging out work even though they had easy access to it.

Tomorrow I’ll have something for my classes to do. I doubt they’ll do it, but at least I’ll be ready.

When the Time Cometh It Pours

If i could summarize today with one word it would be:

bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!

Actually, the real word would involve a lot more profanity but that scream/thunderclap will have to do.

First, my headphones died. Well, actually the left earbud died, which wouldn’t bother me except they were less than three months old. This means the game of “replace them, damn you” email tag with the manufacturer and seller has begun.

Oh, and I also have final exams to mark which means I don’t have much time to play tag.

That would be annoying enough, except the graphics card in my desktop PC also decided it was time to die today. This puts me in that annoying state where I have to decide to upgrade parts or buy an entirely new computer. That leads to the decision of whether to pay up for a domestic computer, after a painful hunt to find an English langauge system, or import a computer from the USA.

I’ll decide tomorrow after I do some parts hunting at nearby electronics stores. I suspect there will be more swearing involved at some point.

 

Little Problems Not My Problem

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and it’s not your fault,
You will feel awesome and relaxed. –Kipling, more or less.

The past couple days I’ve been involved in some odd crises that effected me but none were my fault and none were blamed on me.

The first happened with my listening exam. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve experienced crises that were blamed on me but which were not technically my fault. I was a bit worried because this was the first year I used distorted voices to add a little flavor to the proceedings. I envisioned scores of students complaining they couldn’t understand and it actually would be my fault.

Before the exam, i was informed that there would be student taking the exams in another room but that the listening would be piped in from central control. I wasn’t sure what to do as I was given information but not instruction.

A few minutes before the exam was scheduled to start, it turned out that the tech guy hadn’t been informed about the room. It took two people (not including me) to tell him to push one button. All was well and the listening went well.

Today, though, was the JHS 1 exam and we had questions that involved interpreting maps. The problem is, the students had to notice that most of what they needed to do the section was in pictures in other parts of the exam. Most didn’t and we had a lot of questions. One proctor got frustrated enough to call in a suit.

I do not know what the fall out will be. Most of the students appear to have done well, but with a suit being called in, I suspect there will be more to it.

It wasn’t my fault, though, so I feel better than I probably should.

Field Notes “Resolution” Edition–Initial Impressions

The short version is: what I normally hate I actually like and what I don’t need I no longer have. Also, I’m mad I didn’t get to ruin one of them myself.

The Field Notes “Resolution” edition is offered as a productivity kit that offers two books of pre-made to do lists (called Checklist Journals) and week-per-page free diary for people interested in a pocket diary that fits Field Notes covers.

The three parts of a “Resolution” pack.

The colors are great, with my favorites being the white and blue covered versions. The red version, with blue lettering, is a bit vibrant for my taste and I wish it had white lettering.

My first serious complaint came when I discovered that my belly band had been glued to the blue Checklist Journal and I had to slightly damage the cover to take it off. (Note: this only happened in one pack.)

The damage and the glue.

Granted, this isn’t that big of a problem except that I like to ruin my own books in my own way. I compare this to having someone dog-ear the page of one of my books. Yeah, the book hasn’t changed and it can still be read, but that doesn’t mean the person who damaged it doesn’t deserve a slow and painful death.

What I really like, though, is something I usually hate. As a rule, I’m not a big fan of gridded pages. The grids break up the ink, even when it’s just a dot grid. I prefer lined or blank pages in my journals.

The Checklist Journals have an interesting spin on this problem that actually makes it work for me. The paper is grey with printed white space. Some have complained that the white printing makes the same ink look different than it does on the grey paper.

However, this also makes the various entries easier to identify. Granted, I force myself to use one line, which can lead to code breaking sessions where I try to crack my own notes, but it makes it the do lists easier to read.

The same ink on different lines. Looks different, but each entry is easy to identify.

Because of this, and because I like the size, the Checklist Journals will stay in my office and will serve as my work to-do lists. I’ll have a more thorough review of them some day.

As for the Date Books: although I like their red on white covers, I don’t need them and have already given them away to people I’m slowly infecting with the Field Notes virus.

One Day of Madness and Panic

I caught other people’s problems and am probably doing my best to guarantee mine. The days exams are due is that kind of day.

On Due Day, we have a rush of last minute panic as people finish their exams, usually after a wave of critiquing from other teachers. We also have to check the listening CD against the test itself to make sure it is possible to answer the questions. (Note: in the past I’ve checked to make sure the CD was fine without checking it against the test; This ended badly.)

Because we check each other’s listening tests, I caught a mistake in a colleague’s test. We caught it early enough, though, that she was able to fix it.

As for me, because I’ve had problems with the listening portions of final exams before, I decided to triple down and include funny voices. Both voices are mine, just one sounds a bit like the Batman voice from the Christian Bale Batman movies.

I’m already anticipating the waves of “I don’t understand” complaints and am ready to hand out many free points and return to boring listening tests. If it works, though, things could get interesting.

Doing What They Wilt

As we approach the final days of classes for this term at the school where I work, we’ve entered a period that involves passing out review sheets, answering occasional questions, and doing our best to stay awake.

In my case, I become much more tolerant of bad behavior than normal. I don’t tolerate sleeping in class, especially students who can’t seem to wake up when the bell rings; however, once the review sheets are passed out, I stand back and watch what unfolds.

In every junior high school class, regardless of level, one third of students will work, with one or two actually completing the assignment. They, in theory, earn free study time that some of them mishear as “Free time! Let’s PARTY!”

The next third will keep the review sheet out and, perhaps, write one or two things, but for the most part they do very little. Many of them adhere to the “I don’t understand the first question therefore I am exempt from all questions” school of studying.

The final third ignore the review sheet completely in favor of chatting with their friends. Many turn their back on the review sheet and never bother getting their pencil cases from their lockers.

Because review time is their time (and exam time is my time) I do not care if they actually study. The only thing I will do for those who’ve written nothing is encourage them to do the same on the final exam. It’s easier for all of us if they write nothing and I have nothing to mark.

Spreading the Joy/Addiction

I think I’ve got my colleague hooked now, and all it took was some colorful pretty dyes.

As I’ve used my nearly endless supply of fountain pens, my colleague grew intrigued by the also nearly endless supply of different ink flavors I used. She liked the teals and blue-greens and the orange inks. Eventually, she bought a selection of gateway drugs: a Pilot Cocoon in orange;   a Platinum Preppy; and a couple other cheap, small fountain pens.

She started out using cartridges, but would swap ink colors without cleaning the pen. This led to a few interesting colors getting ruined by leftovers.

Recently, and without any direct prodding from me, she’s decided to try bottled inks and converters. She bought a few cheap Chinese pens to play with. (Note: I will eventually give her a converter for her Pilot so that she may fully witness the horror that is Pilot converters.) She also bought an impressive first bottled ink.

I showed her how to fill the first converter full, getting ink on my fingers as is appropriate. I also brought a couple flavors from home for her to try (Kingdom Note Kabutomushi and Bungu Box Hamanako Mandarin) in her other pens.

Since then she’s refilled on her own, getting ink on her fingers as is appropriate, and had discovered which kind of nib she likes. She’s also discovered the joys of nib creep and getting ink on your fingers without even trying.

Next, it will be time for her to realize that spending over $50 dollars on a pen isn’t that crazy. Once that happens, the escalation will begin and she’ll be fully addicted.

Then my work will be done.

 

One Day in Four

Today was a work day which was kind of annoying as it interrupted a bunch of days off. All of us at the school where I work responded by running out the clock for this week.

Yesterday was Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan which was a very nice day off. However, because it fell on Thursday this year, we found ourselves back at work today. This wouldn’t be so bad if tomorrow were also a school day. However, although it’s a school day for our students and many of our Japanese colleagues, it is not a school day for us.

This creates the unusual situation where the students are fairly active and we just don’t care. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve just been called in during a four day holiday to fill in for someone.

This means that a lot of what we did today was filler. My students got a dodgy spelling “quiz” that involved more time than they needed to write words under pictures and a “Scout’s Honor” answer check where they were supposed to look up the answers and score their own “quiz”. I made a show of recording their results, but most of what I did was only for show.

Next week is the final week and that means it’s review time. This is pretty easy. We don’t do much. We just pass out assignments and run out the clock.

Not Caring Enough to Care

My plan for my worst class was something along the lines of: assign textbook page and hand out worksheet. As long as no one started a fire or hurt anyone else, I wouldn’t care what anyone was doing.

I was not alone in this attitude.

This is the time of year where we stop caring as much as we used to care. Mind you, we probably didn’t care that much before, but now caring is right out. Worksheets are less fancy and concern for discipline is less of a concern.

This is partly because we’ve just come out of a period of holidays and special events and that has the students in a strange mood. Also, as we approach the last week before a longish holiday, students have either given up or decided they’re already safe.

Also, we are more focused on getting through all the material whilst simultaneously writing final exams. Teachers with third year high school students (12th graders) are also facing exams early to allow for early make up exams. (Third years are essentially done after this term except for some baby-sitting next term.)

We’ve also reached the end of most of the material. Next week will be review and/or final projects, which means the students are doing most of the work.

Next week I’ll talk about the final exams with the students. We’ll see how many of them actually care.