Monthly Archives: September 2017

The End of the First Week

This week went surprisingly quickly, but maybe because I wasn’t actually teaching.

This week, since I have mostly junior high school classes, I spent most of my time chasing down and listening to speeches. Because of this, I didn’t have much to prepare.

This usually leads to a boring week, but this week went quickly.

Perhaps it’s because the weather, despite a coming typhoon and lots of humidity, is getting cooler. Or perhaps it’s because I’m not yet in the phase of teaching where I have to care about what I’m doing.

Eventually I’ll have to start caring and the weeks will get longer. Until then, It’s kind of fun not having much to do because I don’t care what gets done.

Once There Was a Heart

I am perhaps less sympathetic than I should be, but sometimes I just don’t care.

If I really sit down with an idea, I can knock out a 1,000 word essay in an hour or so, and still have time for at least one revision. Because I can do this, I sometimes forget that others can’t. I do remember that days when writing 1,000 words was difficult and that sometimes makes my heart grows one size those days.

However, when it comes to students at the school where I work, I’m much less sympathetic. My heart gets fairly small.

For example, today one of my 9th grade students passed me the text of his speech contest speech. He’s had since July 14th to work on it, but he had written fewer than 50 words of a speech that’s supposed to last 90 seconds to two minutes long.

This means that if he’d only written one word each day since he’d received the assignment his speech would be longer than what he presented me today. I told him to make it longer and he genuinely didn’t seem to understand what was wrong, even after I underlined the pertinent section in the Japanese language instructions.

He didn’t even seem savvy enough to copy the included example and simply change a few words as most of his fellow students did.

Luckily for both of us he listened to my advice and made it long enough that I didn’t require him to come in at lunch.

I still have a few students to chase down though. They might ruin my lunch, which makes me very unsympathetic.

Done, Therefore Nothing Done

Any serious examination of the issue proves handily that 8th graders are the worst grade to teach.

By this point in their junior high school tenure, 8th graders at the school where I work have 1) hit full, merciless puberty and 2) have figured out that they cannot fail. This combination leads to interesting leaps of logic.

In today’s class, I noticed that, despite threats of repeated lunch/writing dates with me, three students were not doing anything. Their reasoning was that because they had already finished the paper, they were done. When I pointed out that I’d not actually seen a speech from them, they said they’d left their speeches at home. I pointed out that such excuses did not mean they had free time. Instead, they were expected to write something.

However, because I was busy dealing with students who were actually writing, I wasn’t able to police the room as well as I’d have liked. (I was also dealing with a kid who spent the entire class playing Cat’s Cradle with a piece of green yarn, but that’s another story.)

Now the students, after failing today, face the risk that they will forget their paper again tomorrow and will have to join me at a lunch time writing session that will meet every day until they produce a speech.

I predict at least one will forget his speech paper.


Always Forgetting What You Forgot Before

Neither I nor She Who Must Be Obeyed seem to be able to remember that I’m supposed to take lunch on Tuesdays.

For SWMBO it’s a power thing. She always tells me the night before that she forgot to get anything for lunch. She’ll got out at near midnight to get something for our oldest’s lunch so that she can complain about having had to do so (long story) but I get an early announcement that I’m on my own.

This doesn’t bother me that much as I always pledge to grab something on the way to work. (To do otherwise risks the wrath of SWMBO in the form of heavy sighs and “I was saving that for X’s”.)

This also would not be a problem except that every time I’ve been on my own I’ve gone directly to school without stopping to pick something up. It’s only after I’ve arrived at school and begun prepping that I remember I was supposed to remember to get something.

This leaves me a short time to rush across the street to find food, carefully pick a line that’s not full of little old ladies who will spend hours trying to make exact change, and then get back to the office in time to eat and prep for class.

I always vow that next week will be different. Thus far it hasn’t been.

Jokes and Going Deaf

The day started with a joke that led to a suitable amount of panic.

Every now and then I like to start off the first class of summer by taking roll and then telling my students to turn in their homework. The reactions are a mix of confusion and panic and I can see my students replaying the events of the last class via whatever internal database they use for such things.

Today’s high school second year students bought the joke completely and some were looking around for people who would be could sources for homework copying. I then told them it was a joke, making me suddenly much more popular.

After that I had two first year junior high school classes in a row. By the time I emerged from those noisy messes I felt as if I’d just come from a night club where I was the designated driver and all I got from the evening was ringing ears and a voice that was too loud.

Tomorrow I’ve got higher grades, but I don’t think they’ll be less noisy.

Daze of Rest

Taking today off, except for a place/habit keeper.

The only interesting thing was that I forgot to finish using the notebook I was planning on reviewing. I’ve been using it as part of a morning routine (more on that in a future post) but because it’s the weekend, I completely forgot to use up the last page.

Yeah, I could have done the review anyway, but I’m weird that way. (More on that in a future post, too.)


Lines and Lines and Prizes

I almost won a prize today but changed chairs because I was too lazy to run the video camera.

Today was our oldest’s culture festival. Because her band club had failed to progress in the national contest they were going to perform today. (Note: last year they’d progressed in the contest and didn’t perform on culture day.)

Because it was our oldest’s second culture day, I couldn’t be bothered to go for more than her performance. However, once I arrived, I was made to stand in line for cookies. The school’s baking club sold cookies and chocolate chip scones twice each day. By the time I got to the school, She Who Must Be Obeyed and our youngest had been in line for 20 minutes.

After cookies and scones were acquired, I went to save a place in line for the band performance. I ended up in line for 20 minutes and managed to find the good seats where we’d actually be able to see our oldest.

However, because I wanted to watch the performance live rather than through a video camera screen I changed seats with SWMBO.

Our oldest had a nice flute solo and at the end of the show the band gave away prizes. Certain chairs in the audience had anime characters taped to them. If your character was called you won. The winners got a bag of goods and and interview. As it turned out, the seat I’d traded was labeled and was called. SWMBO won a small bag of sweets and praised the flute section.

I think it would have been funny if I’d stayed in the chair and won. The interview would have been funny as the band members panicked.

The Dynamic of the Newly Defined

It’s always interesting to see, at the school where I work, what the new dynamic in a junior high school first year class will be once everyone has been defined.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, the school where I work splits first year junior high school students by name/number for the first term, and then assigns them to a higher or lower level class starting the second term. Once they are defined as higher or lower, though, there is no changing.

This means that the class that I got to know last term now has five new people who don’t know me and don’t know the rules. It’s almost as if it’s the start of the school year again. The new students start testing me and I start pushing back at them.

It hasn’t started yet, but it will.

I’m most interested to see what happens with my newly defined lower level class. I sent better students  up and received lower level students. Once students are defined as low level, they tend to behave badly especially as the class I teach doesn’t move students each term as other classes do. I’ve got a few activities I hope will keep them busy but I’m not optimistic.

So far, the students have been okay, but it’s only day one.

That Which Parents Do Not See

I got called out by some parents today. I quashed their complaints pretty quickly though, even though we’ve never actually met.

One of my colleagues brought me a student’s exam with an impressive score on it and explained that the student’s parents were complaining because, despite the high score, the student had received a score much lower than that as final mark. (Imagine earning on A on the final exam but earning a B for the entire course.)

Part of the issue is that final exams are only 50% of the final mark. (Which is too high, in my opinion, but that’s the way things are.) The other 50% is class participation and class projects. This often helps bad to average students. For example, it is possible to earn a 0 for class participation but still receive a passing score by doing well on the exam. (A 0 class mark plus a 62 on the final exam equals  a 31% final mark which is passing at the school where I work, albeit with a few unpleasant consequences such as not getting automatic promotion to the attached university if that kind of mark is normal for the student.)

I quickly determined that although the student had done well on the exam and on a couple projects, he’d generally not done well on the other projects and had done the bare minimum on day-to-day participation. He actually had a B+ and was just a little extra effort away from an A.

Luckily, my colleague understood and promised to notify the students and the parents. I expect that student will be much more active this term…


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.