Tag Archives: end of term

But last week it was February

I’m sure it was.

And so the 2012-13 academic year comes to an end. Although the final two weeks dragged on, the rest of this term seemed to whizz by, mostly in a shower of rain. I know that in other years, spring and early summer have been grey and wet, but this one seems to have been greyer and wetter.

The PAL classes this year contrasted starkly with each other. Normally by the end of the year, any difference between them is very slight (and vanished entirely last year). This year, the gap between them had increased by the time of the mocks back in March.

To make things worse, in spite of me explaining to them how they could choose an appropriate class for IB English next year (A and B → HL; everyone else → SL), most opted to do HL. When I surveyed the classes, I thought a roughly 50-50 split was more realistic.

The AS SL classes also contrasted with each other, although not to the same extent as the PAL classes. AS 1&3 seemed to be inhabited by students who were, with a few exceptions, lazy and indifferent. AS 2, on the other hand, was inhabited by students who should’ve been in the HL class. As a consequence, the flattering benignity of Paper 1 (reading) resulted in unrealistically good marks, although Paper 2 (writing) tended to throw some cold water on that.

We were given next year’s timetable yesterday. I’m continuing to A2 with my cur­rent AS classes. I’ve also inherited Fred’s HL IB English class, and will be teaching one of the AS HL classes, although I don’t know what the composition will be. I assume that it may be a mixture of this year’s PAL 1 and 2, but there may also be some new students. As far as I’m currently aware, we’re not going to have a third AS class, although considering how full the PAL classes were, a few extra students would stretch them to breaking point.

Things are going to be busy because of all the internal assessment that we’re going to have to do, and unlike a lot of schools with IB programmes, we don’t just have a few students to deal with.

Not everyone is returning, of course. Daniel got his marching orders and is off to an international school in Shanghai. (“I want to go to Xiamen,” said Daniel. “Here’s some money,” said some people with money. “I love Shanghai,” said Daniel.) Luca, Kam, Ken, and Fred are all going elsewhere. Fred’s off to be the CP at Tianyi, which leaves the spot for English HOD open. Eduardo announced that he wouldn’t be returning.

So what am I going to do now? I do have books to read and DVDs to watch. I thought I might have a go at learning (about) Old Persian. I’m off to see Linda (natch), but the cost of getting to Chengdu is putting me off thinking about Hong Kong.

Open to negotiation

Easy? Moi?

As I was going into the Far Eastern at lunchtime, the woman was just leaving. The slogan on her T-shirt said, “I’m not easy, but we can discuss it.”


Tinkering.

I’ve been editing some of the very early entries here, partly to fix the formatting, and partly to add tags, which Spaces did not have. I have been wondering about deleting some entries, which were ephemeral even when I wrote them.

I’m also wondering about adding a page with links to the most frequently visited entries, although I don’t know whether that will help or not.

I haven’t been editing everything, but have generally focused on the entries which seem to be worth the effort.


Bzzz… Bzzz… Kssshhh!

The term seems determined to fizzle out once again. Classes have been cancelled next Wednesday because of some sort of universities recruitment fair, although I don’t know what this has to do with us.

We’re having a final assembly on Tuesday, but the Friday assembly, which we heard about earlier today, turns out to be one of those student faerie stories.

We’re going to be having our staff dinner at Province on Monday.

Once again, the end of the term drags on long after its use-by date has passed.


Speaking of tall tales.

Somehow the little darlings have got hold of a copy of a draft of next year’s time­table which they think is the final timetable. How did they get this? I have a theory how they might’ve got it.

I’m hoping that I can avoid doubles split by lunch so that I’m not having to rush to get lunch, get back here, and have it before class.

As far as I’m aware, I’m not teaching PAL next year, but the details of what I’m actually teaching have yet to be revealed.

Divine smiles

The benevolent face of the gods of pedagogy.

It seems that the gods have smiled on us suffering mortals, whose term has dragged on beyond its tolerate-by date. We have Friday off. Why? Don’t know, but in one respect we’re lucky because we subsequently heard that the main school was going to be back on Sunday. It was noted that we, on the other hand, would be unavailable to hate the main school for stealing time from us again.

But the gods decided to gild the lily because next term doesn’t start till the 20th, which is now two days on from the original date.

This has been a tryingly long term overall, which was made worse by the eight-day week following New Year. Even two weekends later, I’m not sure we’ve recovered at all.

The term has also been trying because it seems to have been characterised by one thing giving way to another. Thus, for instance, it took me a month to mark some writing because every week there was something else which demanded my more immediate attention. I don’t seem to have done quite as much as I was hoping, but perhaps that’s an illusion. Possibly, I’ve done as much as ever, but I don’t feel I’ve  done a sufficient amount of it.

Perhaps part of that feeling stems from groping our way through the first term of actual IB teaching. Perhaps part stems from PAL 2, whose academic performance is a concern, which is not helped by changes to the exam which mean that students will probably have to do that little bit better to achieve the same sort of marks as previous years. (I don’t know how the grade thresholds will affect things.)

I also signed the new contract today. Quite a jump in my pay on this occasion, and there’s now a new package which includes the cost of two flights a year. None­the­less, the amount I’m being paid is going a mere step below the top of my scale while being somewhat south of the scale for teachers. While I’m not greedy, this continues to be an insult to how long I’ve been doing EFL teaching and the higher level of my academic qualifications.

After some improvement in recent days, the smog worsened. It started out clear, but the cloud came over, the smog built up, and the day turned chilly. I won’t be sorry to see the back of this dirty and disgusting place for a couple of weeks. Like many of the other reprehensible things about China, the government will make a lot of noise, but achieve nothing because there are too many indifferent, pyjama-wearing barbarians to contend with.

The Alexandrine Term

That like a wounded Snake, drags its slow length along.

I keep coming here with the vague intention of writing a post, keep looking at the admin page, and keep leaving. This has to have been the worst end-of-term ever because of the way in which various breaks and stolen weekends were intermixed, especially the eight-day week from which no one seems to have recovered. Instead of the term winding down, it seems to have been as relentless as ever.

(I’ve realised just now that I need to go back to school because I meant to bring home the remaining AS exams which I haven’t marked. Once again I’ve had neither the time nor the energy to deal with them this week. They’re not especially onerous, but they will take time.)

I keep having students come to me to write them references for summer programmes in the States. In fact, I’ve had a lot of these things this year and am now wishing that I’d been a deal more honest, viz. that almost none of the little darlings could be described as gifted. There was one exception. I could say nothing nice about one of this year’s special pupils (and I mean “special” in the wrongest sense of the word) who was deluded enough to think I might write something nice about him. I did start writing vacuous nonsense on some of the forms, which partly came from being so tired.

Ian did a runner. At first, as far as we were aware, he was seriously unwell again, but time passed and we then heard he’d gone. He sent a mail message to everyone yesterday with his reasons which, I’m fairly certain, are completely erroneous. (When Beverley resigned last year, there were no consequences.) It means that people are having to babysit the remains of the A2 classes, and I’ve acquired more students for my pre-IB oral class. Ian’s replacement is going to be Tom the Maths Teacher’s mum. I have sitcoms running around inside my head.

There are two other departures this term, one of which has implications, but that story has yet to resolve itself.

The smog here may not have been as horrendous as it was in Beijing, but it was possibly the worst I’ve ever seen it. I did have (do have?) a satellite image of a big brown cloud sitting over much of China from a couple of years back, but this time the smog seems to have been more widespread. It has had its effects. There’s been a burning sensation in my throat now and then, and Lisa the Librarian’s persistent cough has continued to persist.

But the school is trying to do its bit for the environment. About three weeks ago some holes were dug at various corners around our building. They sat for some time before they were filled in with concrete, and I guessed that we were getting new lights or signs. Earlier this week a truckload of lampposts and poles with loops was delivered, but apart from the basic function, there was no obvious rhyme or reason to the whole thing.

When the workers started assembling these things the other day, the whole became clear. These will be lights powered by the wind and the sun. On top of the poles are solar panels; in the loop there will be a wind turbine. Peter R says the latter will be silent, but I’m waiting for high-pitched screeching from them because they’ve been allowed to rust. Also, if we get another Haikui blasting us, I’m having visions of the turbines spinning off the posts and scything through our building.

The school agreed to the new package for teachers, which now includes airfares for flights out of 烟雾国 twice a year and a renewal bonus.

Term has another tedious week to run before it’s all over, which can’t be soon enough. Everyone is at the end of their tether, but we somehow have to keep the flag flying, even if now looks like a pair of matron’s tatty knickers sliding lazily down a drooping flagpole.

Term, gentlemen, please

Everybody out, again.

I didn’t rush into school yesterday, but spent the morning buying more music. This time I added to my tiny collection of 18th century English composers who are not called Handel. My sole representative of the period had been Boyce’s Eight Symphonies (Op. 2) to which I’ve now added the complete trio sonatas. In addition to that, I bought Arne’s Trio Sonatas played by Collegium Musicum 90 (he’s Mr Rule Britannia, I believe), and Opp. 1 and 5 to 8 by Charles Avison played, but not ironically, by the Avison Ensemble. Boyce seems to be the most Baroque of the three whereas Arne and Avison have hints of the galant style even although the three were of the same generation. Bits of the latter pair’s music will suddenly sound like the Bach Boys (who wrote California Girls [What a fine example of the academic quality of this blog. –ed.]) Haydn or Mozart in short bursts. That’s another reason for buying this music. The style is slightly different.

I also bought an album of sonatas for violoncello and basso continuo by Geminiani, who was in London at the same time as Handel. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything by him before.

I went and bought lunch and then went to school where I watched people playing musical desks, a game which I played early, but almost no one joined in. I can understand why we should be grouped by department, but I liked things mixed because it gave the office variety.

And then it was time to go and babysit PAL 2. Well, that didn’t happen. I got up to the classroom to be told by their form teacher that she’d told them to go and play outside. I’ve been trying to get them to do that for the past two or three months, but at the end of each class about 95% sit there inertly. We ought to have them move from one room to another between periods although that’d just be an invitation for the dim bulbs to forget to bring anything each time.

The temperature and humidity have soared over the past two days. We’ve actually had some blue sky and sunshine, which is a relief after weeks of predominantly grey weather. But even as I write the haze and cloud is building up and we may yet have the thunderstorm which qq originally forecast.

The orange bike scheme which has appeared around Wuxi does seem to have been being put to use although I’ve yet to see anyone riding one. There are bikes outside Walmart, but the scheme hasn’t got as far as Baoli. I noticed that outside Houcaller, someone had parked their electric scooter beside one of the orange bollards to which the bikes are locked. I’m expecting other people to follow suit until the orange bikes have been displaced by scooters.

I’ve never really surveyed the park outside Baoli, but I note that the vast majority of vehicle parked there are electric bikes and scooters. As for bicycles, I’d say they’d count for less than 5% of everything in the parking area. What will happen when clowns on their electric scooters graduate to cars?

I’ve also heard, but cannot confirm, some story that the Metro may never see the light of day because of instability in the vicinity of the 360 building. Why Wuxi even needs a Metro is beyond me. If it went out to Tesco, Auchan and Metro (the German supermarket) in the New District or out to the airport, it might be useful. But as far as I can tell, it’s merely going to circle the centre of the city.

In the end I bought Faarlund’s Syntax of Old Norse and Volume 1 of Ringe’s A Linguistic History of English. From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic for my Kindle. I decided that two reference works were better value for money than a bunch of novels which I’d probably never read again.

I note that I’ve ended up being disappointed with quite a number of authors over the past ten years. Stephen Clarke’s Merde series wore a little thin when he seemed to depart from the semi-autobiographical stuff into the world of pure fiction. Stephen Hunt should never have been published. Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series stopped being any good two books ago (and, sad to say, I see another volume will be out soon). George Martin also lost the plot and his compass. Brandon Sanderson dragged on so much that it made Martin look like a model of succinctness. Alexander McCall Smith, I can take or leave, but would generally leave. Arturo Pérez-Reverte has never ultimately sustained my interest in the Captain Alatriste series.

I do need to see the inside of a real bookshop to have a decent look at what’s available. Trying to browse Amazon is a painfully slow experience and a lot of the time I’ve scanned the titles before any of the cover images have even appeared. I suspect that the usual Forces of Darkness are to blame for the tardiness of the site because opening channel D does seem to speed things up.

The recent news about the puerile fuss about the girl in the see-through dress on the Shanghai Metro puzzled me. As I’ve noted before, a large proportion of the female population is now in short skirts, shorter shorts and prostitute shoes. This doesn’t seem to excite any comments from the pundits, but some twentysomething in visible granny knickers does. Linda noticed a lot of staring when she was here, and, by coincidence, I’ve seen quite a bit of that over the past few days.

I’ve been reading about the reddening of the South China Morning Post over the past week or so. I like the SCMP – or did –, but there’s something distinctly unsavoury about the paper’s apparent shift towards Beijing and the way in which a respected, award-winning journalist was treated. I didn’t know the SCMP’s owner was Malaysian, either. The recent news from Hong Kong seems fairly gloomy, but is that because of the imperial government’s interference or because of economic problems or some combination of both? Several years ago I concluded that the fifty-year period of grace after Hong Kong was returned to the Empire was not because the latter would become more like the former, but rather the other way round. One morning the people of Hong Kong will wake up and find that much of the Internet is unavailable because it upsets the feelings of the Chief Executive; that the maternity wards are full of mothers from the Mainland; that the posh shops won’t admit locals; and that all the signs are in simplified characters.

They knew it was going to be all over

It is now.

Finally, the term has ended. Well, not exactly. It officially ends on Monday, but we don’t have to go in for one last and enormously pointless day.

Looking back on this term I can say that the PAL classes have done much better than I was expecting, but the AS classes I teach, especially 3, have been disappointing, and the syllabus isn’t really working with them. The problem is that they were supposed to do IELTS and TOEFL before some were supposed to move onto SATs next term. It hasn’t worked like that. Students have been going off and doing IELTS or TOEFL just as they please, which makes a mockery of what we have been trying to do.

The weather (to reduce this post to an even more mundane level) has been comparatively mild so far. The ice on the duck ponds outside has only slightly frozen once or twice, and the January plunge has yet to arrive.

Meanwhile, the cats of Jinma are facing hard times as the wheelie bins are encased in locked containers which prevent them from scrounging. I wonder whether this has come about because some woman has decided (as many of my students’ mothers do) that cats are dirty and must be discouraged. I assume that the cats are more beneficial than harmful because they keep down the rodent population. This new measure is also preventing some of the elderly residents from scrounging in the bins themselves for anything they can sell as scrap.1 I’m surprised there hasn’t been a mass incident involving cats and geriatrics protesting about this imposition on their livelihoods.

The latest supercar sighting just recently was a matt-black Audi R8, possibly the same one I saw being parked outside the brothel spa next to Jinma a few weeks ago.

Notes

  1. Since Jinma isn’t exactly Peasant Hovels™, it might seem a little strange that any of the elderly residents would be bin diving, but they do. I guess that a lot of them are put up here by their first-gen corrupt offspring, who can afford flats in Jinma. 父母 are still peasants at heart and think “vulgar” might score some decent points in Scrabble if you can place it on the right squares. Wuxi may be a quite opulent place, but it lacks the sensibility to raise it from the rustic depths.

The Dracula Squeak

It keeps coming back.

Well, blast and botheration! The squeak is back. This is the squeak on my bike which had me replacing the pedals and various other bits before it disappeared. It’s not that I think the repairs to my bike are poor, but rather that after nearly two years of me pushing it about as hard as I can, something has to give – probably my knees. I need to go over to the repair place even though I’d rather not bother venturing out into the heat and the wind.

We’ve had the programme for the meeting at the start of term in August. We English teachers, lucky bastards that we are, have an extra day. The meeting is going to be in Wuxi, probably at school, which means I’m on home turf. The content isn’t quite as awful as I feared it might be, with distinct programmes for the new teachers and the old.

We returned our textbooks today in another end-of-term ritual. I also finished off the last of the reports this morning before I even got to class. I should’ve saved them to spare myself a little boredom time. I wasn’t really in the mood to read or write.

Ite, missa est

Deo gratias.

Today sees the end of teaching our usual classes. We now have exams to look forward to, followed by a little time off for the college entrance exam, followed by IELTS classes for the Senior 3s (to which I’ve already predicted a dismal end) for the rest of June.

So, how did things go? Did the little dears show you some glimmer of the respect they’re been lacking for you all term?

Class 14 was a bit of a fiasco because I couldn’t find the tape I needed. It was meant to be a listening class and forgot that the tapes for Book 3 are in a brown box and those for Book 4 in a blue box. I couldn’t work out why the text I wanted was missing. In the end, I got them to give me some general details about some pictures and then write a paragraph about them. It worked well enough in the end, but wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

They also wanted me to change the time of the speaking exam because, it seems, school may be over at lunchtime on Tuesday because of the college entrance exam. I explained to them that it wasn’t within my power to change the time and that they’d have to go and speak to Tracy about it. They didn’t want to do that.  

And what of Class 13?

Pray mention that troupe of cretinous clowns not. It started badly, continued badly, and after that there was a general decline. First, a bunch of kids who were meant to be in Todd’s and Jane’s classes malingered; then a bunch of other idiots wandered into class obviously after they’d been shooed off the basketball courts. During the whole class only two pupils paid any attention whatsoever. We’re thinking about showing them Chicken Run tomorrow. They behave like six-year-olds (actually, they do; this isn’t an instance of my more usual hyperbole); they’ll get to watch a movie for six-year-olds. I’m wondering which would be worse. No subs, or subs in English. Actually, no subs and frequent interruptions to explain points of English usage.

Will you really do that?

Probably not. They’re just not worth the effort.

How do you think the exams will go?

Overall, I suspect that the results will remain much the same. Class 14 might show some small improvement, but Class 13 could well go backwards. It’ll be “Overall, no change” at best for them.

So, after another year of teaching ninnies and numbskulls, my humiliation is now in therapy.

Although the behaviour of Chinese school children is pretty uniform, I’m hoping that the academic quality of the pupils in Chengdu will be a significant improvement on what I’ve had here. My experience at the school in Jiangsu Province last year showed how important the regime at the school is. The kids hated the headmaster, who was, they thought, more like a prison governor, but they were better disciplined (and academically way better besides). Here, the school’s made it’s money out of the parents of the intellectually deficient and doesn’t much care beyond that.

I’m reminded of the time I watched the pupils doing the morning exercises early-ish in the first term. They flopped around like a bunch of boneless whales on a beach. In Jiangsu Province, some of the kids got out of sync, but they never flopped lazily. So watch the pupils do their morning exercises. It seems to be a good means of gauging the character of the school itself.

Moving out

It’s the old left hand, right hand problem.

I now know that I’m moving out of the flat on Monday. I’d been told a couple of weeks ago that the plan was to put me up in accommodation near the International School in town, but I sent a mail message to Central Command (the people who told me what was meant to be happening in the first place) and learnt that I was, supposedly, staying in the flat over the summer. That was news to me. In the end, I left it to the school to speak to Central Command, and was told today that the original plan is back in effect.

We had lunch with the school, but the High Commander never showed. The excuse was that he was at a meeting in Changzhou. He might’ve been, but I suspect it was a calculated snub. The man is merely a high school headmaster and, therefore, someone who’s prone to believe in his own importance. Lunch was a decent enough affair, though.

I’m not sure how easy it’ll be to get Internet access over the summer. I’m hoping I’ll be able to go on line from the school at least once a day, but it’s going to be a nuisance not having ready access to Cyberia.

19.01.13 Tidied up HTML mark-up, added tags, and replaced the ugly ASCII apostrophes. Spaces, when it existed, didn’t have tagging.