Category Archives: Teaching

A Pleasant Surprise or an Evil Twin

He said hello and asked if I remembered him. I said “Of course I remember you, Mr. Dramatica” and then we exchanged a fist bump. After that, well, things got weird, and although he looked familiar, I’m not actually sure he was the same kid.

Although I’ve seen bad students change for the better, I’ve only seen it happen once and heard about it happening one other time. I’ve never seen it happen in the year when students are supposed to be bad. In the former case, one of the worst students I’ve ever had in junior high school became a decent high school student after being held back at least once. In the second case, I escorted a student to the principal’s office (even though I shouldn’t have) and heard that he became a better student after that.

In the current case, though, the student has changed fast enough that it has me kind of paranoid and I’m convinced I had the evil twin before and the good twin now. Or maybe he’s still the evil twin and I’m just being played.

That said, he not only acted friendly, he followed instructions and asked questions when he didn’t understand. Just when I thought things couldn’t get stranger, he volunteered to do his speech. Making things even more bizarre, he wasn’t the worst student in the class. (Note: he is now an 8th grader/Japanese JHS 2.)

I didn’t say much about his behavior in case 1) I might spoil him and encourage bad behavior or 2) I might wake up from the dream I’m in.

Then again, it is early in the year…

 

 

 

 

The Last Day Before the Whatevering

Today is the last day before classes actually start and I’m befuddled that two people are actually optimistic. Well, actually, I understand why: They are new or have been absent.

It is a tradition at this point in the start of the year to carefully study class lists and either celebrate or swear and drink heavily.

In my case, my list isn’t that bad, although I do have a couple problem students from last year and one class that promises to be problematic. At least that class is before lunch.

As for the optimists, one is a replacement for a teacher who found a different job and the other was on maternity leave last year. The former is naive and the latter claims to have relaxed more than she’s ever relaxed in her life.

At this point I went: do you actually have two kids?

That said, new classes bring new dynamics because the worst players appear to have been split up. JHS 2 (8th graders) will still be terrible, but at least they are only once a week.

Oddly, I remain oddly optimistic.

Riddance is Good With Near Profanity

I said goodbye to one of my worst classes today. I was ready to swear at them as much as they were pretending to swear at me.

One of my worst students saw his final exam score and said something that sounded like “F@#kity F@#k” but which was most likely “Huckity Huck”. It seems they think they can get away with saying “Huck” since Japan doesn’t have a proper “fu” sound. It’s more of a “hu”.

Well, at least they can get away with it today. (On a regular day I’d make them write the swear words 500 times with a promise that the next time they’d need an entire notebook to finish.)

Today, though, I couldn’t have cared less. This led a couple students to experiment with “Sit” and “City” which in Japanese pronunciation usually come out as “Sh#t” and “Sh#tty”.

The funny part is, this is the best they’ve pronounced either of these words all year so I just let them sort of swear.

In the end, I was glad to be rid of this class. This means, of course, that I’ll get a large portion of them in class next year.

Huck that sit.

Locked in Place With Red Ink and Bad English

I get up and move around every now and then, but it doesn’t help much. Oddly, my students have been helping.

I’m the last push of marking my last batch of exams. This is an easy test to mark but I hit the wall a long time ago and have been subconsciously refusing to establish a rhythm. This means I’ve been taking a lot longer than necessary. It doesn’t help that these are some of my worst classes.

However, several students have either written no long writing or have written only a few lines. This is good because it allows me to quickly mark the writing, or lack thereof, and that makes it easier to finish.

I just wish I could convince them to write nothing at all.

Once More The Wall

Even with a modest amount of exams to mark, I always find myself hitting a wall where I find I just can’t be bothered to finish. I feel as if I’ve been working hard but I don’t seem to be making much progress. Sometimes this is the fault of the exam, but mostly, I suspect, it’s my fault.

It’s a bit like those moment when you’re reading and you suddenly find you’ve been rereading the same passage for twenty minutes and still don’t have a damned clue about what it was you just read. You then spend 20 more minutes rereading and never get a damned clue.

In the case of exams, it’s mostly a lack of focus caused by constantly reading bad English through questionable handwriting. I’m convinced that constant exposure to bad English from students has a permanent effect on a teacher’s ability to use English correctly.

Eventually, I push through, and my standards either get tougher or easier. Don’t have a damned clue which it will be, though.

Partial Goodbyes at the Partial End of Business

Today I said “see you later” to groups of students I probably won’t actually see again or won’t see for a couple years except in the hallways at the school where I work. None of us were actually moved. Pretty soon I’ll remember names but won’t be able to match them to faces.

The end of the term brings a certain good-riddance feeling to even good classes. We’ve spent the better part of the year facing each other and it’s time to be done.

Complicating things is the problem that even though we are finishing some classes we are only partially done. We turned in JHS 3 marks (9th grade) today and high school marks are due Wednesday. After that we have another week of marking to do before we finish with the JHS first and second year students.

In my case, my worst classes are all either first or second year meaning I still have to deal with bad students. The dread of dealing with them one more time (and, knowing my luck, next year as well) has me more glum than I should be at the end of the year. This is especially true as there’s only a few weeks between “see-you-later” and “later”.

That Which is Important to Them is Not You

This week all the classes I taught were review classes. One student refused to review my class. Others understood a pun that almost got them bonus points.

Depending on the class, I’ll let the students study any subject for the last 20 or 25 minutes of the lesson. I usually give them material to work on for the first part of the class and in case they neglected to bring anything else to study.

One student, though, refused to even take out a pencil when he had the material for my class. He kept complaining that he wanted free study and I kept saying no. I also postponed the free study time for an extra five minutes.

Eventually I let the students study whatever they wanted an the the student who didn’t study started to study.

In my worst class, when it was free study time, four students just stood in the center of the room chatting and playing air sports. When I asked them what they were studying they said “Social studies”.

I said “I see. So you’re talking and being social.” They seemed to get that and then sat down and didn’t do any work.

Because they at least seemed to get the joke I almost gave them bonus points. Except that they didn’t actually do anything so I couldn’t.

Back in Being Almost Finished With Business

Two studied. A few pretended to study. The rest weren’t even aware they were supposed to be doing something. I didn’t care either way.

This is a strange week and it makes it hard for me to care very much.

A few classes still have class. A few classes have been moved and have class at a different time. A few others are not having class at all. At the same time I’m marking final exams but the constant on-again/off-again nature of the week, and the small number of exams currently in hand, makes it easy to put off dealing with them.

At the same time, if I have one or two classes in a day, I don’t really care what happens as long as blood or protruding bones aren’t involved. (i.e. As long as I don’t end up having to do any paperwork and/or interviews). If the students don’t want to study for their final exams, it’s not actually my problem. In fact, anything that increases the chances of them passing in a blank exam is good as that makes my job easier.

Eventually, I’ll be passing back completed exams on the same day I’m collecting exams for the classes I’m still teaching. At least then I’ll have large blocks of time available and will be able to get into a marking rhythm.

I still wont’ care, but at least I’ll get through things faster.

 

Once More Into the Time of Confusion and Dread

A short interlude from the Olympics has been necessitated by the necessities related to an actual job.

This is the time of year at the school where I work when we all go slightly mad.

Classes for different grades end at different times and we find ourselves finishing exams for one grade whilst we have several days left to teach in other grades.

By next week we’ll be marking exams at the same time we’re planning and teaching other classes. During that time we may have one class on Wednesday afternoon and one class Thursday morning.

This seems awesome, but it requires we keep careful track of time and days lest we miss one of those classes. (Note: this happens more than it should.)

Eventually we’ll be passing back exams the same day we are getting others.

At some point we’ll stop caring, but today is not that day. Close. But not yet.

Miscommunication, Confusion, and Shell Shock

The new guy was warned but thought he could handle it. When he came back he appeared to have been handled.

For at least this week, maybe more, we are a colleague down at the school where I work. Because of this we’ve had various substitute teachers rolling in and out of the office. The first was assigned, for his first class, one of the worst classes in junior high school first year. He came back looking worse for the wear but went away with some energy so the day wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Today there was a bit of confusion as many people rushed in to assist the newest substitute and give him different visions of what he should do. The results were a bit backward from what was expected by the lesson plan that no one seemed to notice. It’s not a fatal problem, but it does complicate speeches and the final exam.

For my part, I’ve been staying out of the mess. My voice would only succeed in complicating things further. I’ll help out with writing exams if necessary but the day to day stuff I leave to people who are much more competent than I am.

Things should start to settle down tomorrow when the first sub comes back. At least, that’s the hope.