Category Archives: Work

That of Which You Can be Certain

There are certain, um, certainties that accompany the first day back after summer at the school where I work, especially if you are teaching junior high school classes.

At least five students in the class will have lost the speech contest paper and you’ll have to give them a new copy. This happens even in higher level classes.

At least four students will do absolutely nothing during the “amnesty” class in which there is no penalty for not having finished your speech. (There is, however, a penalty for doing nothing.)

Of the students who actually present rough drafts, at least half will be unreadable computer translator gibberish. One quarter will have obviously been written by the students’ cram school teachers. One quarter will be good.

Also, at least one student will surprise you. (Note: not in each class; just one per day.) Today, one of my more difficult students presented an actual speech. It wasn’t good enough for him to have had anything resembling competent help and it wasn’t bad enough to have come out of translation software. He may have actually written it; or someone slightly more competent than him did.

He didn’t make the obligatory copy of it though, so perhaps he wasn’t all that surprising.

Night of the Last

It’s a the last day of summer vacation before actual work starts.

Although I’ve dropped in twice at the school where I work in the last couple days, I haven’t actually met any students. All that changes tomorrow and things could get badly rather quickly.

All my classes tomorrow are junior high school classes which means they will be working on their speech contest speeches which, in theory, were supposed to be completed as summer homework.

In reality, probably less than a third will have completed their speeches; another third will have their names on their papers and maybe one or two actual lines; and the final third will have lost the papers or claim they left them at home.

My job is to guide them through a couple days of writing and checking and then, if necessary, drag them at lunch and after school to complete their speeches. (My students know this is not a bluff.)

For two weeks there will be a lot of stress and annoyance, for both me and the students. Then we’ll try to get back to regular classes. That has its own problems. (But more on that in a future post.)

Another Day and Another Confusion

As I start gearing up for the start of classes next week, I find myself doing something resembling actual work on my “house arrest” days. Today, for example, I spruced up the spreadsheet I use for recording students’ marks.

However, because it has students’ names, I can’t actually send it in as evidence that I did something resembling work.

Instead, I filled out an online form that said I did it.

I’m operating with the depressing feeling that no one is actually paying attention to what is being submitted. I think this because I’ve been waiting for someone to contact me and tell me where to actually submit stuff and that hasn’t happened all year.

We got a video sometime earlier this year explaining how to submit one part of what we’re supposed to do but 1) I have to watch the entire video to find out what to do because no one thought to create a written version and 2) no one told us how to submit the things we will actually probably use in class.

I’m now in an odd waiting game to see what, if anything, ever comes of this.

Enjoying the Last Day Until the Next Week

Lately my house arrest/work days have been seeming like actual work as I suddenly find myself putting in some actual effort. This is about to change.

I’ve finally reached the actual vacation part of my vacation which made today more pleasant than usual. Yes, I had to “work” and was surprised when I actually spent a lot more time than usual on the project. This might be partly out of boredom.

Now that actual vacation is starting, my bad habits can return for two glorious weeks before I have to do another week of house arrest/work before actually work starts at the school where I work.

As a result of all this, there’s not much to report except that there’s not a lot to report.


Follow Up, With Attitude

(Note: I’m feeling salty. So what?)

He has a good memory about what I said. About what he said, well not so much.

I’ve mentioned before how the company I work for tried to assign me, well, I believe the technical term is “shit work” during the summer.

I didn’t, however, report the follow up.

The day after I wrote about that situation on this bit of blather, I got the phone call I was expecting from the company I work for’s designated bullshitter. He’s supposedly a former Marine security forces bullshitter and as such is trained in talking down angry people. (Note: I don’t consider him an honorable person therefore “former Marine.”)

His technique is to remind you of what you said, interrupt your attempts to vent even if it will make you feel better, and then conveniently forget everything he’s said when you attempt to remind him of it. In fact, when you attempt to remind him of what he said, he interrupts you in order to remind you of what you said.

The problem is, there is no way to get past him. He acts as a kind of secondary firewall to keep upper level management from having to deal with the actual product that is being sold. (Yes, I have accepted that I am a product.) There is a firewall level in front of him but they don’t bullshit as well as he does and he eventually gets involved.

Oddly, he’s almost single-handedly responsible for losing the company three positions at the school where I work but he keeps his job. People feel unsupported and leave for greener pastures. In my case, it will be extremely difficult to find a greener pasture. Therefore, If you know of any jobs in the USA involving teaching or writing, please let me know.

In a final twist, those three lost positions are all filled by people who used to work for the company I work for, which says a lot about the company I work for.


No Good Deed Goes Uncaptured

I went early to discover there were no problems. Then I got stuck, which was a problem.

Today the English Club at the school where I work was preparing for their open campus presentations. At least one teacher had to be present to, in theory, check their scripts and critique their presentations. In the end, all we did was open a room and then babysit. Sort of.

I went early to see if I had to make a make-up exam. I didn’t, so I sat in on the prep classes. I proofed the script of one student. Then I just sat and waited. Unfortunately they were in the computer assisted language lab which meant that at least one teacher had to be present at all times.

My colleague left at lunch. I stayed another four hours. (Note: He’d stayed for a couple hours after school last Friday, so we are, technically, even.)

Somewhere in there I got lunch by throwing students out of the CALL. Then I drank some coffee, unlocked the call,  and did my best to stay awake until 4:00.

All I did, and I wish I was joking, was entertain a student who was bored. Because I’ve studied the history of Christianity and the history of religion, he wanted to chat about religion and history.

That kept me awake, but in the end all I did was serve as key master and babysitter.

Of course, the session lasted long enough that a nasty thunderstorm arrived and I got to walk home in the rain. Yeah, it was that kind of day.

Suddenly Back to Work

Tomorrow I have to go back to work. I hope my brain doesn’t suffer from the shock.

To make matters worse, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m only sure, sort of, that I know what I’m not doing. Although I may be doing it.

For reasons I’m not privy to, open campus at the school where I work is on the 22nd instead of today (Marine Day) when it has been in the past. This gives the high school English club extra time to practice their presentations. In the past they’ve played guitars and sung songs and even tap danced. They’ve also given speeches and done power point presentations which are usually a mix of English and Japanese.

My job will be to listen/stay awake and provide feedback. This is fairly painless.

On the other hand, if anyone is failing high school second year, I’ll have to throw together a make up assignment that I’ll have to pass out tomorrow. Granted, at this point no news is usually good news, but you never know.

I could be in for a big shock. Well, at least it seems big after a couple days of doing absolutely nothing.

Closing Down the Term

Today was the last of classes for the term. It was mostly painless, although I did embarrass myself and annoy a student.

During a test pass back class, the student found an entire section of his test that I hadn’t bothered to mark. I did, however, give him a score for the exam. Usually I notice such mistakes when I’m doing the final accounting.

After apologizing profusely, I marked the missing section and made him sad. Out of a potential ten extra points he earned only two. He left looking kind of glum.

After class I completed all the required paper work, turned in every thing that needed to be turned in and then made arrangements for my final marks to be checked.

Normally, I’d be finished, but one week from tomorrow is open campus. I don’t have to go to open campus, but I do have to go to the school where I work next week to help the English club get ready for open campus. I’ll get a short preview of what I’m missing and try to make it better.

It’s something to do, but I wish it could have been scheduled on a day I have nothing to do so that I’d get credit for doing something and then could get a day where I don’t have to do anything.

Confused? Welcome to the end of the term.

Time Doesn’t Always Fly

Sometimes they surprise you. At least for a while. But not for a whole class.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Pass-back classes are a strange thing. We have 50 minutes to do 15-25 minutes worth of work. The rest of the time is spent babysitting. We’ve discussed with the powers what are at the school where I work getting a shorter class, but that involves paperwork and that one teacher who likes to fill the time. (We hate them; we really hate them.)

Usually, I’m entertaining myself during the second half of the class, but today my junior high school students kept me busy.

Several students in each class worked on their summer homework and kept peppering me with questions. I was then torn between helping them or telling them to shut up and waste time like everyone else so that I could work on my own stuff.

However, since four of my five classes today were lower level classes I decided I should probably help them out as a way to encourage them.

When I wasn’t helping them do their summer homework, I was smacking down attempts to get extra points. This also helped make the day productive.

I kind of miss having time to myself, though. Next term I may just refuse to help.

Shant Be Seeing You in September

It is the start of the time of good riddance.

Today and tomorrow morning first period are the last times I’ll see my first year junior high school classes in their current configurations. Starting next term they will be divided, sort of, by ability. What this means is that the best five of one class will join the “higher level” class and the worst five of the other class will drop to the “lower level” class.

Although it’s only a few students moving, the changes on class temperament can be profound. The new students are hearing a different voice and it takes time to get them used to the new voice and the new rules. This year I plan to have a kind of ice breaker/I must break you session where I get to know the new students and they get to know me. Last year I didn’t do this and I had trouble in almost every class. 

My worst student said his own goodbye by simply breaking out a book and ignoring everything I said or told him to do. I suspect he thinks that the lower level class will be land of Japanese and leisure, especially as he’ll be in his own homeroom near his own stuff.  He doesn’t seem to realize that the other teacher and I agreed early on not to use much Japanese. He will also be closer to the teacher’s room, where it will be easier to have him disciplined. (I’ll mostly be interested to see how tardy he is to a class in his homeroom as he’s always been late to my class.)

Or, maybe the two will hit it off and my bad student will be a decent student.

I’ll have to buy my colleague a beer someday because of this. I suspect he’ll probably need it after a couple weeks.