Tag Archives: new term

What? Read a whole book?

But… but… but…

Certain matters have been resolved. First, I tracked down the CDs which go with the official TOEFL book.1 It then turned out that the NorthStar TOEFL book was over in the library being processed. The CD for Listen to Learn was never ordered. My theory is that because the CD was listed after the title of the book, the person ordering the books never read as far as “audio CD”, and thought that the title had been doubled up. We’re going to switch back to the second edition until the CDs for the third edition arrive – if they ever do. Mind you, I still don’t have Listen to Learn 1.

The AS classes have been quite mixed together. AS3 contains some students from PAL 3, and a lot of apparently new students. AS4 has a lot of PAL 3 and some PAL 1s and 2s. I quizzed last year’s little darlings as a means of introducing myself to the new students in the class.

I had PAL 2 this afternoon. I think the word “shell-shocked” would describe them quite well, but I fear that with the advent of the IB programme, we’re now back to being vegetable gardeners. I’ll have a word with them tomorrow about getting used to listening to the other teachers, and that it’ll take them a little time to get used to the range of accents they’re hearing. I’ll see PAL 1 tomorrow.

The Australians have found the remains of Ned Kelly who, I thought, was a notorious bushranger who liked dressing up in armour. But now it turns out he was some Irish freedom fighter. The BBC, trying to be impartial, says in its article, “Ned Kelly was seen by many as a cold-blooded killer and others as a folk hero of Irish-Australian resistance.” Irish-Australian resistance? Huh? I’m getting images of German soldiers guarding top secret radar installations and signposts with French place names.


1. To further my rant from the other day, anyone doing TOEFL or IELTS knows that the books can be horrifically expensive. If you just learnt English and read a summary of what happens in the TOEFL exam, you could save a lot of money. The publishers of those big fat American books are banking on you mistaking the obesity of their material proportional to your success in the exam. The book is enormously overweight, you think. How can I not succeed?

The rise of ¥1

The fall of the coins?

Have things changed in Pyjama Province? When I last lived in this part of the Empire, I noted a fondness for ¥1 coins, and when I came back, there was still that fondness for them. In all the time I’ve been here, I’ve barely seen a note, and have to go to places like Chengdu to get them as change. But in the past week, I’ve suddenly been getting more than the occasional note. Perhaps the imperial government is going to ship them to the States so that the Americans will have some money to spend. (“Shiny metal things? Them’s used fer buyin’ stuff.” Grandma, you’s bullshittin’ us. Everyone knows we ain’t got no… no… “Money. Leastwise I think that’s what they call it. Ain’t seen none since 1984.”)

Got my timetable for school today. No major changes. All right, none at all really. I have both PAL classes, and AS3 and AS4. I assume the former are last year’s PAL 3 class, and AS4 are the new arrivals. The pre-IB classes are also doing the IGCSE ESL exam, though just this year.

There wasn’t much point in hanging around at school today. No textbooks yet, but I know what I’ll do on Thursday and Friday. Yes, it starts again on Thursday. It’s not a matter of what I’m going to do for two days, but rather why bother?

When I got back to school, the money plant appeared to have had it. They’re meant to be robust, and I didn’t hold out much hope for mine, but watered it anyway, and found that there was some life in it yet. A few of the leaves have perked up, but may have survived because, in my ignorance, I overwatered the plant last term. I note that the money plants which were in the loo over the holiday have flourished without the slightest amount of watering.

Brevity is the soul of wit

But though this is brief, I’m unlikely to be witty.

Our start-of-term conference has been vacuuming up my time one way or another over the past three days. It hasn’t been completely pointless, but the extra day the English teachers had served no real purpose other than to overload us with information starting with SATs, which we won’t have to worry about until the second term. Yesterday, the excess continued with a 90-minute lecture which overran by about half an hour, which truncated lunch, and which was then followed by a (much briefer) Q&A session.

We had dinner at the Kempinski last night, which is where the out-of-towners have been staying. Won’t be rushing back because although it’s nice, a pint of beer was ¥58 (not including additional gratuitous charges) and a glass of Pinot Noir was ¥88, which I would rather not pay for a whole bottle of wine, let alone one glass.

But the weather has been foul, especially yesterday as we waited outside the school for a taxi to go to the hotel. Once again I ask, “Drainage, where is thy sting?”

I had thought we’d only have two English teachers, and a librarian (for the IB programme), but there are actually three of us just teaching English. We’ve been wondering how that’s going to work, but we won’t really know till Monday. My theory is that Mark and I will probably deal with the standard part of the programme, while Fred may be doing some business, and English-related matters.

And once we’re done, I have to go shopping. Bollocks!

Rain, rain

You know the rest of the rhyme.
The topsy-turvy weather continues. We’ve had brilliantly clear days. We’ve had a day with such thick fog that I couldn’t see the canal. And today we’ve had a day when it’s been so humid that the buildings are sweating. The floors of the building at school were wet in spite of the rain, not because of it. There was fog in the subterranean bike park at school. There’s condensation on the outside of the windows of this building. The humidity level is about 80% at the moment, and it’s exceptionally dull and grey.
The return to school hasn’t been a comedy of errors in as much as it’s just been of errors. I went into school two days ago, but no one had the keys to the office. I went in yesterday with the same result but met Caleb who did have a key to the office, and I was able to claim a desk. We had Internet access, but no printers (that’s now been solved), and the photocopier had almost no paper left. That’s now extended to the printers as well.
To make matters worse, someone broke the key in the lock of the door to the photocopier, although without any paper the machine is about as useful as sun cream is here right now.
I was going to indulge the PAL 2 class because this is another instance of a holiday coming to a conclusion at the arse end of a week, but there’s no Internet access in the classroom. I tried haiku poetry from the Writing Course with them, but the first class finished before the whole exercise could founder on their apathy to creativity, and in the second I left them to their own devices. There was no point in starting any formal lessons with them this week because it’d only put them ahead of PAL 1.
AS 1 also seemed to be suffering from the same absence of Internet access, but that appeared to affect the operation of Windows Media Player. Fortunately, it was possible to use a different media player, but it took some time to sort things out. Overall, I think the class set the tone for the term – one of witless indifference on the part of the students. Various students were absent, and a number were late to class. They’re going to have to do listening until the photocopier is sorted.
And there you have the start of the second term.

Somewhat busy

To say the least.

Yesterday was a mixture of time-wasting and business as I prepared for classes today. I wasn’t deliberately wasting time, but I was unable to do my job properly because my computer at school not only has ubuntu on it (and no one knows the username or password), but the spare machine in our office is sluggish, unreliable, and unstable, and possibly unsafe.

Planning for double periods is going to be an enormous pain. [31.08.13. Not really, as it turns out.] When I was able to use a computer, I spent all my time putting the lessons together and hoping like hell that I had enough material for two classes. I did have enough for the AS class this morning, but it doesn’t help matters that we don’t have the textbooks and that the system of photocopying is grossly inefficient and potentially disruptive.

The AS class was all right, although some of those kids should definitely not be in there and all of them are deluding themselves about getting into Ivy League or Russell Group universities. [31.08.13. No, this class was not all right. They had a serious attitude problem and ranged from one student who went to Oxford to those who couldn’t have tied their shoelaces with­out garrotting themselves. I don’t know whether the class had been poisoned by my predecessors or whether they were toxic  to begin with.]

Posts here may be a little bit few and far between until things settle down.

[31.08.13. Four years later and it’s more of the same. We come in a week early, but the rest of the school isn’t here, which means I can’t get any industrial-strength photocopying done. (Necessary because we don’t use a textbook.) The first week is a matter of survival. I’m regretting throwing the rest of the handouts at the A2s last term. I could’ve done with them.]

Ironic connections

Students and weather.
Back to the chalk face today. And in bloody typical fashion, the weather’s been absolutely brilliant. Clear blue skies with barely a cloud to be seen. Couldn’t have happened in August, could it? And in bloody typical fashion, most of the students had misplaced their books or left them at home or <insert dumb excuse here>. I had to resort to a speaking exercise I had planned for this afternoon’s conversation class.
With them (this afternoon’s conversation class, that is) I did introductions, but as you can imagine in a class of about fifty or so, not everyone’s going to get a turn. I don’t actually mind if some of them would rather do homework. In fact, that might be all they have to do most of the time for the aforementioned reason. Pity. I’ll get them doing some role playing in due course. Or show them DVDs.

And so the cycle begins again

Wasn’t I doing this this time last year?

I got out the gate this morning to find parents delivering hordes of primary school children to the school next door. The entrance has a new façade, and I assume that the rest of the school survives somewhere out of sight. It’d seem that they merely demolished a couple of old buildings over the summer, although there still appears to be some sort of work going on.

This morning was mostly taken up with housekeeping matters. The books have arrived and will be distributed this afternoon because we have double periods. in fact, I’ll need the book in the first period as well. I filched a copy of Book 3 while I was unpacking that lot. I should really have kept the copies I was given four years ago, but whole sets of CES are too bulky to lug around. If I’d known that I was going to spend most of my time teaching Senior 2, I would’ve brought Books 3 and 4 with me.

Quincy and I had Class 16, Senior 2 this morning. Where are they? we wondered. Fortunately, as we went in search of them, we encountered Linda, who knew where their classroom was. I ended up with Katie’s half of the class, although afterwards one girl came and asked if she could join my class because she wants to learn British English. I got them all to say who they were and one thing they did during the holidays. A group of them had been on a tour of the States; one had been to London (worst summer for holidaying ever); one had been to Korea; and one had been to Hong Kong. A couple had had some sort of summer school.

Thus the start of class was delayed, and then delayed further because the protective film that was covering the blackboard needed to be peeled off. Things were, as they predictably are, disordered. I managed to compensate for the chaos, but there were things I’d forgotten to do.

The class itself is mostly girls; only two boys and they sat at the back. I was hoping I could rearrange the desks somehow, but there really isn’t the space.

Class 6 after lunch. I think I’ll head back to school early to find their classroom and to make sure the tape is in the right place for the second lesson because we have them for the first two periods after lunch, which means we need more than just an introductory lesson.

I realise now why we’re teaching six classes a week. The school would, if it could have its way, make us work on Saturdays, I suspect. Actually, this is a blasted nuisance because I’m geared up for four classes a week and a multi-media event. But, I’ve had an idea.