Monthly Archives: January 2017

At the End of These Things

Saw a group of students today and reminded them that the next time I see them will be their last class. Or maybe not. It depends on the weather.

One of the schedule quirks at the school where I work is that entrance exams for junior high and high school muck up the schedule. Some JHS 3 classes meet six times. One meets three. Some classes meet each week. Some meet twice this month, once next month.

My first and lasses classes today both had their second classes of the term and I reminded them, as I sent them away, that the next class would be their last class, and that we’d talk about the final exam.

The only catch in this is marathon day. If the weather is bad, the marathon will be cancelled and we’ll have regular classes. This is the only day that students hope they can have class.

As for me, as useful as the extra class would be, I’m hoping mother nature sends us a gorgeous day.


Takingeth Away and Givingeth

They were happy for a bit, then I told them what had really happened and they didn’t seem as happy.

The students in the class I teach two evenings a week got a present of sorts from me when I declared that today was the last day they’d have to write journal entries. Since class started last November they’ve been required to write a 150+ word journal entry on any topic they like. Occasionally I will give them a topic but they are mostly on their own to come up with topics, leading a couple to “improvise” a questionable solution. If my math is correct, and they wrote every day, they should have written over 10,800 words.

Hearing that today was the last journal entry brought a lot of smiles but then I revealed that the reason I’d stopped the journals is so that they’d have time to do research for the their next writing assignment. Their research can include conducting a survey if they feel so inclined.

The smiles went away and now we’ll see what happens.

The Beginning of the Shift That Changes

Some are young men; some are still boys. Those that are still boys will be young men by the end of summer.

Third term at the school where I work is odd. There are entrance exams; some classes meet only three times whilst others meet seven times; different grades finish at different times and everyone sees themselves as a grade older than they are because in a couple months they will be a grade older.

My first year at the school was the first year it accepted junior high school students. This created a funny contrast between the taller more mature high school students and the tiny seventh grade kids in over-sized blazers. Every year those tiny seventh grade kids got taller and the blazers smaller whilst a new batch of tiny kids in over-sized blazers entered every year.

Now, in third term, some tiny kids have hit their first growth spurt and abandoned their jackets and others still can’t quite fill out the jackets.

What I find the most fascinating is the change in temperament. The biggest change is the first year students. The third year students will be gone next week (more or less) and the second years already see themselves as upperclassmen. The first years, even though there is actually no one below them, also see themselves as upperclassmen.  This means they have a casual attitude about classwork and there really aren’t that many threats I can make. That said, with the end of the school year approaching, there aren’t that many threats I want to make.

Today, in my worst class, they got some work done, but my worst student spent time lying on the floor again and another student did nothing at all, but copy the work of others. In his defense, that is an improvement.

Next year, they’ll be worse, which is a tradition for second year junior high school students (eighth graders). They’ve figured out the scam (they can’t fail) and, after the summer, they will be unrecognizable as the last of them hit their growth spurts.

Luckily, at least after summer, I’ll still be interested in making their lives miserable. Then it will all change again.

The Hoarse is the Joke of Course

One student couldn’t stop laughing. Another pretended he was dead for half the class. Otherwise it wasn’t that bad of a day, all things considered.

My voice this morning was two parts Yoda, one part Chewbacca and three parts the sound your expensive new sneakers make when you drag them on concrete to stop your bicycle. (There were also traces of the shriek your mother makes soon after witnessing the latter.)

I, of course, opened with my worst class. They snickered at my voice. One student stared at me in stunned amusement as if he was waiting for a punchline. They were pretty good, though, as most of them did the work, with a little prodding. My worst student, though, thought it would be fun to feign death by lying down on the floor. Since that actually quieted him down, I let him stay there. Also, since the floors in the school get dirty rather quickly because the janitors clean at odd hours, he was lying in several hours worth of dust and crud, which might, in fact, hasten his death.

My next class went well, as did my third class. However, one student in that class burst out laughing every time I spoke as if I was delivering the punchline the student in my first class had been waiting for. Although I’ve been at this job for over a millennium (I started teaching in the second millennium AD and it is now the third millennium AD–do the math) it is still disconcerting to have someone laugh at me when I’m trying to give instruction.

My evening class went well as my voice has begun to recover. Also, I gave them lots of reading and writing to do, which helped quiet them down a lot.

More Than Three Frogs

A short one tonight as I need to get some rest and try to chase out the frogs.

This morning, during “my goodness, why are we still doing this to ourselves” prep-time conversations at the school where I work, one of my colleagues noted my hoarse voice and suggested I had a frog in my throat. I suggested it was at least three, if not more frogs.

This evening, when we finally celebrated our oldest’s birthday with cheesecake, there were definitely more than three frogs.

The start of the term is the worst time to lose your voice at the school where I work. Students have arrived from a short vacation and each grade is beginning to see itself as the next grade. First year junior high, especially, are developing an attitude as they suddenly imagine themselves as middle-classmen rather than lower-classmen.

I try to get them writing and then speaking, but that usually involves speaking. Tomorrow I start off with my worst class, followed by a class that’s suddenly competing for the second place title. That means that tonight I’m hoping a bunch of frogs die.

If they don’t, tomorrow could be really interesting.

Do or Do Not; There is no Next Week

First I suggested he leave class. Then when he told me he actually was leaving early, I suggested he do his speech before he leave. He didn’t like this.

Started class today with students I meet on Sundays, but haven’t seen in a while, by trying to remember their names. I couldn’t remember the last guy’s name and he thought he’d be cute and not tell me his name. I told him to tell me his name or get out because if he didn’t have a name he didn’t need to be there. (Note: I am on cold medication.) He told me his name and got to stay.

Then, after I announced to the class that they’d be doing their speeches after lunch, he said he couldn’t because he had to go to an exam after lunch. I said he could do the speech before lunch and he went into panic mode as he clearly hadn’t finished his speech. He recommended that he go next week and I said that wasn’t possible. Even the people absent today wouldn’t get to the do the speech next week.

Eventually, he worked up a speech. It was too short and he stumbled through it even though his eyes stayed fixed mostly on his note cards, but he finished it and got an actual score.

After that, he ran away. Maybe I’ll see him next week.


Revolving Sushi and Birthday Girls

We went to a sushi restaurant tonight, but not because the birthday girl wanted to. In fact, she technically wasn’t invited.

Last week our oldest managed to get herself grounded. Grounding however, is not as easy to do as it sounds as going to school requires her to go out and her club often keeps her late which makes a fixed early curfew difficult to enforce; the public transportation system makes it easy for her to get around without a vehicle; and because of the Japanese New Year’s money tradition, combined with being one of only two grand kids/nieces, she has a shockingly large slush fund at her disposal.

Now, in a different world, we’d force her to stay home from club, but that would cause both her and us problems with the school. The slush fund has cost her an allowance until she turns over a chunk of the money to be saved. We tried to get the family to play along with a plan to save most of the money but “oldest of only two grandchildren” ensued.

All this has led to frequent arguments between our oldest and She Who Must Be Obeyed. (Argument, in this case meaning: SWMBO rants whilst our oldest listens to music via headphones.)

Adding further complications, our oldest declared she wanted neither presents nor cake nor a special dinner for her birthday. She only wanted cash. SWMBO obliged her by doing nothing for her birthday. Instead, she let our youngest choose the restaurant.

I invited our oldest along and paid for everything. We all managed to have a good time, even if it, technically, wasn’t a proper birthday dinner.

Our oldest is doing dishes for a month and I’ve set a hard curfew. I’ve been putting off the nuclear option: seizing her smartphone and holding it hostage in a bank bag and/or just cancelling the plan. (The latter is problematic, as it is nice to be able to spam her phone with texts and calls when she’s out.)

Now we have six months to prepare for our youngest’s birthday. She’s perfecting her backtalk techniques. Actually, she’s perfected them, so our oldest may get to choose the restaurant next time.

Sweet Sixteen, indeed.


One Out of Three is Bad

Today was unusual because I met students I’m only going to see three times. I also got mad at students I wish I was only seeing three times.

One of the quirks of scheduling at the school where I work is that during the winter term, different grades finish at different times. We are marking and passing back exams whilst still teaching other classes. There are also long periods of “self-study” when the school is locked down for entrance exams.

This term, my Friday third year junior high school classes get entrance exams and the marathon. (Note: this latter can be cancelled because of weather so four classes is possible.) I’ll see them this week and next week and then a month later for their final class before the exam.

Both of my third year classes were good. The problem was the one I’ll see the most. They are a first year junior high school class that has started to become rowdy. Granted, they can’t help it. They’ve just received a dose of chemicals that has scrambled their brains and will render them unteachable for at lest the next seventeen years (aka puberty).

That said, it is unusual for them to be bad the first day back. One student seemed to think he could sleep and was annoyed when I woke him up. He then served as the ring leader for the problem students.

All this means they will have new seats next class. And homework. Lots of homework.




The Long Day Back

Today was the first day of actual work after the winter holiday and it was a nasty one.

It all started first period, with one of my worst classes. Luckily, they didn’t turn out to be so bad. Then I had a good class and then a bad class. Somewhere in there a student questioned his grade from last term. I showed him how he earned the score and how he could do better.

Then I had to stay for high school club which involved an interesting discussion, in English, of whether or not English should be the official language of the club. (Long, long story involving the club meeting on different days with different teachers.)

Then it was the mad rush to my evening class where I found myself slowly grinding to a halt. As it turned out, I ground down less slowly than some of my students, which was good, because I ended the class by giving them some pretty rough homework, and that required some extra time be spent explaining/justifying it.

Then, to top it all off, the train home was delayed.


My Current Sinclair Seven (Plus One)

Rather than do a top five pens of the year or Greatest of All Time (GOAT) post, I thought that today I’d update my Sinclair Seven. The main news is that my Karas Kustoms Ink fountain pen has been relegated and that there is now a Plus One. (More on that in a minute.)

For those who didn’t read the earlier post–which is, when you round up, 100% of the population of the planet–my plan was to focus on the seven pens I would keep whilst keeping  the three that were on the bubble in a separate case.

Well, things have gotten slightly complicated. (Translation: I am weak.)

My Sinclair Seven (Plus One)

Bottom Row, From the Left:

Pilot Custom 823 (Amber Barrel)
This pen is a relatively new (used) acquisition and it may be on its way to being my new work horse pen. I love the ink capacity and the smooth nib. I also enjoy shooting ink across the room at my enemies with the pump filler. (Oddly, this does not win their hearts or their minds.) I’m torn about having to unscrew the top to use it during a long writing session, but more on that in a future review. It’s currently filled with Writing Lab Vintage Denim ink. (Note: in the picture above you can see the finial brown, not black.)

Nakaya Cigar Portable Akatamenuri
I have a “love it with all my heart” / “love it but not in that way” relationship with this pen. I bought it used, which is the only way I could afford it, but the nib needs some work. For some reason, every Japanese made nib is thinner than advertised except the broad nibs. I may replace the nib at one of this year’s pen shows or send it to someone for some modifications. It’s currently filled with Aurora Black ink.

Shawn Newton Moody
This should be a workhorse as it feels great in my hand but I’ve been using it too much to play with inks. As it doesn’t like every ink I’ve put in it, that’s made me reach for it less than I could. The red/blue swirl ebonite has grown on me and I like the gold M nib. It’s currently filled with Diamine Majestic Purple. As I said in the review, I’m still tempted to send it in for a silver plated clip.

Second Row, From the Left:

TWSBI Diamond 580 Rose Gold
Still the workhorse of the collection, although lately I’ve been reaching for it less and less. It has a smooth nib and I like the ink capacity. It’s a comfortable pen to use. It’s always inked with Fountain Pen Hospital‘s exclusive Noodler’s Old Manhattan “Bulletproof” Black ink.

Edison Glenmont 2014 LE
Currently has a 1.1 mm stub nib which, lately, has become fun to play with not much fun to write with. As such, I’m tempted to switch back to the steel M nib it originally came with so that it has a chance to become a workhorse. Currently filled with KyoIro Stone Road of Gion ink, which is a terrific looking, but surprisingly dry ink, even with the 1.1 mm stub.

Pilot Custom Heritage 92
One of the smoothest nibs I own and one of my favorite writers even though it’s right at the edge of too small. I love the piston-filling mechanism and the ink capacity. Hate trying to clean it. Currently full of KyoIro Soft Snow of Ohara ink which is kind of between a purple and a blue.

Platinum 3776 Chartres Blue (Rhodium Coating)
One of my best looking pens. Even pen skeptics have looked at it and their eyes have gotten wide and they’ve said “It’s beautiful.” It has a smooth Platinum nib with that love it and hate it platinum feedback. Currently filled with Maruzen Athena Eternal Blue ink.

Top Center–The Plus One:

Lamy 2000
This is my newest acquisition. I got it because it was used and relatively cheap because the cap has issues.  I liked it as soon as I wrote with it and that means it’s forced its way into the Sinclair. I’m not yet sure about how I’ll like it after I’ve put it through a marathon writing session, but I love the looks and the F nib. It’s currently filled with Kingdom Note Kabutomushi (Rhinoceros Beetle) ink, which is quickly becoming my favorite brown ink.

At this point, the Custom Heritage 92 and the Platinum 3776 risk relegation to the Lookout. That said, maybe, because I have a notebook in internal pocket, I might be able to make it a Sinclair Seven (Plus Two).