Tag Archives: exams

Mr Bamboo, Comptroller of the Weather

Mind where you park, moron.

The infamous Lolita Complex Merida bike.

A couple of days ago I took my bike outside at school and cleaned it. Now it’s raining. It seems to be a pattern. It rains, I clean my bike, it rains again. The only logical conclusion is that I can control the weather by cleaning my bike. If I want to cause a drought, I don’t clean it; if I want to cause flooding, I do clean it.

I’m sure that we’ve probably had as much rain today as we had throughout the whole of last week. The ponds on the island are full to the brim, and as I write there has been a rumble of thunder. It was very heavy at lunchtime, and just as bad on the way home. Surface flooding once again leaves me wondering why it is after 2,500 of “civilisation”, the inGlorious Motherland can send people into space and build aircraft carriers, but can’t get the drains and drainage right.

A few weeks ago I mentioned how a car had gone over the edge of the low shelf outside Houcaller, which marks the edge of the pavement. Today at lunchtime the same thing had happened, and on this occasion some nitwit had managed to get their car even further over the edge. I wonder how commonly it happens, though, if it’s taken this long (four years) for me to see it twice.

My little darlings had their Reading and Writing exam yesterday, and will have Listening tomorrow. I had a look at the paper this morning, which was par for the course.

Today’s interesting Internet find (via languagehat) was a website devoted to the correspondence of Bess of Hardwick (aka the Countess of Shrewsbury), who was a contemporary of Elizabeth I. The site is interesting for the history, the insights into the people of the time, and the language when people still wrote much as they spoke.


It’s Sunday… It’s Tuesday…

It’s Sunday and Tuesday.

Finally, this awful week (weeek?) is over. I supposed it could’ve been worse because today might have been Friday. Instead, it was Tuesday, which lasts till period 10 and ends with the pre-IB speaking classes, which have even less point to them than a sphere. (I suppose someone will probably tell me that a sphere has an infinite number of points; since it’s Tuesday or Sunday or something, don’t expect me to be coherent.)

This morning I felt jet-lagged. If I hadn’t made myself put my shoes on, I’d probably still be sitting here saying to myself that I should put my shoes on. (Although you won’t see it, I just repeated myself in that sentence without noticing until I re-read it, which just goes to show that Mr Bamboo’s brain is somewhere beyond out-to-lunch.) I did go so far as to insist on class since the exams are too close for them to be slacking off.

With that in mind, Daniel and I looked at what time we have left before the English exam. Even if there are no exams to interrupt our classes, the answer is “precious little”. Besides, it’s too late in the day for any further improvement. At best the little things such as topic sentences and paragraphing, or the final sentence in Ex. 3 might stick.

And so the week ends. I might have had hopes to do something productive during the May Day Bank Holiday, but I think I’ll probably end up wasting most of it.

The exams are almost over

Do the headlines get more exciting than this?

The news from the Top Speed website is that someone has managed to capture some shots of the next gen Porsche 911 Turbo (Spy shots: Porsche 911 Turbo Coupe). I see, though I missed the story, that there’s a limited-edition Turbo S to celebrate ten years of Porsche in China. Ten only and each ¥3,488,000 (£325,000; price of a normal Turbo S, £125,865). I’m not exactly excited by the colour, which might charitably be called bronze, but I’m sure it’ll appeal to all those ghastly mine owners and corrupt officials who like to dress in high-fashion matt brown.

The exams are mostly over for the PAL classes. I invigilated the extended Physics paper this afternoon, which was about as interesting as watching dust trying to spontaneously coalesce into celadon ware. (Or should that be celadonware?) The only excitement was the existence of a minor error in the paper and I had to read out a notice of erratum – twice. Next week we resume normal classes, but there will be interruptions for the Dragon Boat Festival and the College Entrance Exam in early June, and probably a bunch of kids will disappear off to Shanghai, Nanjing, wherever to learn proper English (i.e., that weird mixture of 19th century and American English which passes for the English language in the Empire; that weird high style over which students have no control and which makes them sound asinine).

It’s the 60th anniversary of the broadcast of he first Goon Show (The Goon Show must go on – 60 years since its first broadcast) although in those days it was called Those Crazy People. The members of the cast are all dead now, but there are still a few survivors. I’m sure one of those survivors is Eric Sykes, who used to co-write scripts with Spike Milligan. For more about The Goons, follow this link.

I had at least two books of scripts and several albums, listened to them on the radio when I was a teenager (back in the 80s; I’m not that old), and my Dad has just about as many of the broadcasts as you can get. I’d love to play an episode to my little darlings not because they’d understand it (even with a script in front of them), but because it would reveal how slight their competence in English is. A Goon Show as a listening exam. Now there’s an idea.

Hwan that yonge fresshe May

Was more like autumn al the day.

The weather has been foul. It started on Saturday evening with a few drops of rain as I was heading home from tea and it was unpleasant overnight, but drying up in the morning only to resume being unpleasant later in the day since when it appears not to have stopped.

This morning it couldn’t be seen, but there was drizzle, which has now become rain. This is most vexatious because I only have PAL 3 in the morning and then PAL 2 mid afternoon. I don’t really want to sit around at school all morning, get lunch, and then linger there until mid afternoon. Oh, I know plots will have to be plotted and plans will have to be planned because as the exams are gradually culled, there will be fewer reasons for reading books in class, which is a pity because it’s one time when I have nothing else to distract me. The students are busy doing, er, things, as they do. All I lack is a comfy chair. But at this point in time, it’s just a little soon to be plotting and planning.

Am I the only person who thinks the Aston Martin V12 Zagato concept looks a bit, well, naff? I like Aston Martin cars, but this thing looks like a Mazda RX-8.

Yet another Saturday

Time to put the washing out.

I kid you not. The machine has just beeped at me, summoning me away to put the washing out. Yes, it’s Saturday morning once again.

It’d be nice not to wake up early, but it’s hard habit to break. The day is overcast, but the cloud is thin, allowing some hazy sunshine through. The air quality is, I’d estimate, 1.5 to 2km, beyond which nothing is visible. It’s the usual light beige mist.

The boys and girls on the building site are playing about in their concrete-lined hole. There are four of those massive great tankers over there, which seem to be taking away the ground water being extracted from the site. It seems to be so water-logged that I wonder whether it was a marsh once upon a time an whether the resulting building will actually be a houseboat. One of the existing, but seemingly unused buildings over there now has a sign on the roof saying 县前三号. Perhaps the local postman has been having problems finding it.

The first week of the exams has come to an end. Life gets a little boring at this time of year because there’s nothing much to do in class. I’ve started reading Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde to keep me occupied. The reading and writing exam was on Thursday and though I asked PAL 2 about the content yesterday, I’ve yet to see the paper itself. Listening is next week, and that’ll be it for English.

I have no exact idea about next year’s English programme, but it does seem that AS will be officially doing IELTS/TOEFL and SAT classes while simultaneously failing to comprehend that they need to learn English if they want to do well in proficiency exams. I’ve dodged A2 teaching again, but don’t really know what I might do with the AS classes after the exams because I don’t really know what they’re doing next year. A2/Senior 3 remains a conundrum, the latest solution to which, I predict, will work no better than any other solution.

With the washing done (why do you think it’s taken me so long to write this much), my thoughts turn to lunch. Free bread from Yamazaki today because I filled in the rest of my discount card yesterday, but I wonder whether I can get a bacon épine today or not. What’s available in Yamazaki changes from one day (bacon épines fresh from the oven) to the next (no sign of bacon épines, bacon bread, or coffee rolls).

But that is enough idle chatter from me for the moment.

Thunder, dust, and aphids

What else could get blown at me?

The weather has been very windy recently, which has coincided with a rise in temperature, dust and aphids. If dust isn’t being blown at me, it seems to be aphids so that when I get home, I find them all over my jersey.

We had another thunderstorm last night, which woke me and, it seems, many other people in the building. It sounded like stage thunder. The door to the annex seemed to rattle as well. My initial thought was that it was an earthquake, but there was no shaking and a little later there was a little more of the same odd thunder.

Then today, just as I was heading to Yamazaki to get something for lunch, it started raining, large drops but low density stuff. The sky then turned yellow while I was teaching the remains of AS2, the wind blew, and the rain came down. By the time I’d finished my double the rain had gone, but the cloud remained.

I’ve just finished listening to the podcasts of the R4 series, A History of the World in 100 Objects, which I got just in time before the Empire blocked radio on the Internet and podcasts. Quite why it did this, I can only guess and I haven’t checked to see whether the block has been lifted. (Have now; it’s back; time to grab the next episode of The News Quiz.) It might have been the fuss at the Κίrтй monastery, or the fuss about some al fresco Easter worship, or some other matter such as the naming of some new Тйβέтaν leader.

I see the Americans are going to have a chat with the imperial government about its excessive paranoia recently. Actually, that’s probably just an excuse. The Americans are really coming to ask if they can borrow the keys to the Empire’s spaceship now that the shuttles are being retired and the Americans have no way of getting into space. Or perhaps the Americans are sending psychiatrists. “Just because your mother didn’t let you watch DVDs doesn’t mean that no one should be allowed to watch YouTube.” It’s the old cycle of abuse. Will some people never learn?

Long weekend coming up, and then, hot on its heels, the exams. Scream now, children.

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ.)

There go the mock exams

Here comes the marking.

The last of the English exams were sat today, and I now have stacks of papers to mark as a tsunami of banality comes rushing towards me.

I managed to plough my way through the PAL listening paper this morning so that I could try to deal with the sections of the exam which were missed out because the CD wasn’t behaving. Ironically, I had to track down the source of the exam, and then found I had a copy of the original exam disc sitting in the drawer of my desk. We hadn’t been told which exam we were using. So far I can’t say that the little darlings have done outstandingly well, and I’m already gearing up for more listening practice in spite of certain drawbacks, viz. no CD to go with the listening practice book, which means I have to do it all myself.

In fact, because there were problems with the English exams in more than one centre, we don’t have to use the official score sheet.

I made a start on AS writing which was painful in its dullness. The first task was a compare-and-contrast essay about teaching some sort of rudimentary language to chimpanzees. The notes in the paper took one point of view, while the accompanying lecture took another. All rather mechanical stuff, methinks, which required no particular mental effort on the part of exam candidates, and even less for those who copied bits of the text. The other essay was about universities spending as much on sports facilities as they do on library books. Obviously, since this is an exam, the answer can be as fantastical as the topic because a realistic answer would take 300 words to say, “With the gross underfunding of universities, there is money for neither books nor sports facilities.”

In answering the topic, I’m sure my little dears will leave no cliché unspouted.

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ with some slight alterations.)

Duplicitous little

I had a phone call from Linda about mid morning saying that there was something to discuss. It turned out that there’d been a meeting with the Dowager Empress about the recent exam fiasco at which it was claimed that Glen had told Class 6 they had yesterday afternoon off. My reaction was that Glen had been winding them up, but when I asked him about it just before the exams this afternoon, he said he’d sent no such message.
It turned out that the kid who’d had the tantrum yesterday was Arthas (which is, I find, the name of a character in that online money vacuum cleaner, World of Warcraft[1]). In the end, we decided that Jason would mark both sets of reading results and award the better mark. I marked Arthas’ papers myself. A patterned selection of answers got him the equivalent of IELTS 1.5, but his more considered answers got him IELTS 5.5.
Today saw the last of the exams, Use of English, time which I used to get through most of the reading papers. I had some stunningly good results for that as well as some stunningly bad ones. The pattern follows that of other years with the two classes being about a band apart in reading proficiency.
Once I’ve finished the marking, we have to send the results to Central Command via the programme website. I wish they’d just let us use a spreadsheet as they’ve done in past years. And once that piece of tedium is out of the way, it’s time to fill in the report books. Unfortunately, Class 7’s have vanished. According to my half of the class (well, two kids in my half of the class), Brian took them in. In spite of a search, Glen and I have been unable to find them in our office, and if they’d ended up with Linda, she would’ve passed them on to us. I haven’t seen Brian in ages, but whether he can recall what he did with them (if, indeed, he did get them back), I don’t know.
I’ll be making my usual sarcastic constructive comments for some and bland murmurings for others.
I note (in unrelated news) that Spaces was off air earlier this evening. Perhaps they’re undoing all the recent changes which irritated so many people. I also note (as an aside to the aside) that the amount of traffic I’ve had on GB since before Christmas has declined dramatically. I’m sure last year I was still getting a goodly number of visitors at this time. Oh well. They’ll come back. I guess.
1. When I tried to find out more about the name, I found the WoWWiki site blocked. That’s probably because it’s considered injurious to the soggy-brained youth of the inGlorious Motherland. [13.09.14. As an allegedly English name, Arthas is still in use. It was the name of a particularly somnolent blob last year.]


Yeah, well, you wasted my time for much of this term, and now I’m wasting yours, you whiny little bastards.

It’s exam time, and we suffered a little misfortune yesterday. The classes have been split in two with my half going to the labs where they’re super­vised by some Chinese English teachers, while Glen’s half have remained in their form rooms under our charge. Yesterday’s exam was writing. Un­fort­unately, when Rose got the papers from the office, she took both writing and reading. Class 7 seems not to have done the latter; Class 5 made a start on the reading before Linda intervened; but Class 6 did both papers, as we discovered afterwards.

It’s not as if the Chinese teachers didn’t know that it was the writing exam. Linda produced bilingual notices and no doubt told them verbally which exam was being done yesterday. I also have to wonder why, it seems, none of the kids, having found the reading exam, said nothing. It’s possible that some of them did the reading exam first and then attempted the writing exam, but if they knew sooner rather than later that they’d been given two, why did none of them draw this to the teacher’s attention?

So this morning, I dug out an old FCE exam from June 2007 and Linda went off and got the reading part photocopied – for all of the students. The intention was that we’d start from scratch for everyone, even my half of Class 6. That seemed the fair thing to do because they might benefit from having the full 75 minutes for reading, a skill at which they are often rather weak.[1] In other words, it gave them a chance to improve their scores.

But apparently at least some of Class 6 were having none of this. Some refused to do the exam because they’d already done it. One huffily wrote his name on the answer sheet, but did nothing else. Today’s exam was an infringement on their “leisure” time. Now if for one moment I believed that they’d all put the time to good use, I’d be deluding myself. I don’t expect that although sitting another reading exam is undoubtedly an imposition, they’d understand we didn’t have them do a second one out of malice, but rather for their benefit.[2]

As for the writing, I’ve told Jason that if they’ve only produced a decent answer for Part 1, then he should assume that they would’ve got a similar mark for Part 2. In my experience, that’s true of FCE writing. The second part is often slightly less well done than the first, but the difference is rarely more than a mark.

And what do we do with the reading? If we mark them on the basis of yesterday’s exam, then they were at a disadvantage. If we mark them on the basis of today’s reading exam, their petulant, childish behaviour may have produced even worse results. At the moment, I’m feeling inclined to mark both papers (not exactly onerous) and then give them the lesser mark. Or I could give them the greater.[3] If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since I’ve been in China, many (even most, I’d say) of my pupils don’t really actually care about the marks they get in our exams.

Certain elements in Class 6 have been a pain ever since I inherited them from Row. Not all of them are annoying,[4] but I can think of eight whose removal would improve the class considerably. These are kids who loutishly chant, “DVD” or “Movie” (emphasise the initial syllable in order to reproduce how stupid they sound) when they come into class. They never ask politely, instead simply demanding such treats as if I’m some servant who’s merely there to do their bidding. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a CAT scan of their brains revealed that the neurons which fire when they see, say, a picture of a waiter are the same as the ones that fire if someone showed them a picture of me.

Anyway, let’s finish by reviewing what sort of kids are to be found in my classes. They’re either lazy or academically below average or both. They’re at the school because their parents have paid for them to be there. Their level of maturity is probably comparable to that of 12-year-olds in Western countries, but their manners resemble those of a three-year-old. Their ability to think logically and rationally or comprehend logic and rational arguments is somewhat limited.

The end of term is nigh. I have end-of-term-itis, the ailment that arises when the pent up rage and fury of the past few months turns my spleen gangrenous, and thus entries like these result.

1. It requires effort; this lot are lazy by and large; most of their reading isn’t done for pleasure.
2. One of those paradoxical moments where the thing is bad, but it’s good for you. Probably.
3. In all likelihood, it’d probably make no difference. Reading, as I’ve noted, is not one of their strengths.
4. Indeed, quite a number of kids seem rather decent.