Tag Archives: stupid students

Lazy and getting fatter

Not quite me, though.

I needed to buy some more water this evening. When I went to the shop, there was a boy in a toy Lamborghini, celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary. In my day, it might’ve been a pedal car, but this one was battery-powered.

It was like the Escalator or Moving Walkway Problem. When there is no one to bar the way, why do the Chinese still just stand there doing nothing? If the pavements were all converted to moving walkways, would anyone walk further than the distance necessary to cross an intersection?

So instead of this child putting the effort in to driving himself around, he’s already been introduced to the idea that other things make all the effort and he is merely conveyed. I bet his parents will drive him to school, where he’ll sit at his desk most of the day.

There was an article in, er, some blog I read about Chinese students at top American universities which included an American from Yale at Peking University. Her tale was about how the students from Yale left writing an essay to the last minute while the Chinese students had taken care of it long before. She also marvelled at all the diagrams and complex data which they had included.

Clearly she’s no Old China Hand or she’d know that they’d probably written a gestalt essay larded with pretty pictures to hide a lack of content and intellectual depth, and first draft = final draft in China. I have yet to encounter a student who understood that what they write is merely a bad, unplanned first draft.

The Chinese students obviously needed a kick up the arse for being lazy in one way, while the Yale students needed the same kick for being lazy in another way. Neither group used their time wisely.

Temperature, temperature quite contrary

Make your mind up.

The high of 27° on Saturday was answered with a mere 8° yesterday. This morning was wet, contrary to the forecast, but has turned dry since. Tomorrow it’s meant to reach 20° or 21°, which seemed quite promising until I saw Wednesday’s high of 9°.

Take it onto the road.

Another episode from Moronic Chinese Motorists this morning. I was heading along the cycle lane past Vanguard and Suyou only to run into two outstanding specimens of motoring stupidity. One car was heading north and the other south, with little more than the thickness of a credit card between them. Instead of one (or better still, both) of these drooling halfwits reversing, they both persisted in driving forwards. I manoeuvred around them and continued on my way, but I shouldn’t have to be manoeuvring around cars on the cycle lane; or, Access Road as the petrol-driven plonkers call it.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting to turn down 解放路 at lunchtime on my way to Yamazaki when I hear some turbocharged engine approaching, and through the intersection comes this BMW (probably an M3), which is going far too fast. The car is also hot pink. Eek! Now while a Matchbox BMW M3 can be hot pink and get away with it, this is just hugely ghastly. I saw it parked outside the hot pot place as I was heading back to school where it was scaring the other cars away.

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.

On being decisive

If only I could make my mind up.

Last Friday the A2s had their graduation, which meant I found out who’s going to which university. We got two into Cambridge this year, and one is going to Melbourne, but most ended up at US and Canadian Universities. We didn’t have to wear gowns this year although the students did.

I was stunned to see one of the mob of nitwits had got into Rutgers, which is frankly a travesty, and surprised that the fat and skinny nitwits had both got into US universities. I also noticed that the fat nitwit was escorted from the lecture theatre just as we were running out of students to congratulate. He then returned with his robe in his fat hot hand as he walked across the theatre in front of the stage. The skinny nitwit was nowhere to be seen. The third member of that triumvirate of idiocy, who had been shipped off to the States last year, appeared at the main gate while the group photograph was being arranged.

My long weekend was interrupted by interviews of prospective students on Sunday. The aim was to assess their level of English. There were some very good ones, but also some immature basketball boys. Whether anything I say will’ve made any difference to their prospects, I don’t know. Most of the students were from a school in Zhangyi. My list also included a Chinese American girl who’s native speaker of English. He problem is going to be her Chinese because she’s probably a semi-speaker at best. The other problem is that we have nothing to offer people like her since we do first language Chinese on the IB programme and English B; she’d want Chinese B (or some foreign language) and English A. There was also meant to be an Australian girl, but like the Chinese student I saw, there was little point in interviewing her.

It’s easy to make decisions when we know what we want to do. I knew that I wanted to use some of the money which I acquired when age took its toll again to buy Balbastre’s Pièces de Clavecin Book I, Biber’s Mensa Sonora, Buxtehude’s Opp. 1 and 2, and Telemann’s Sonates Corellisantes and Canonic Duos. Those decisions were easy.

I’m not faring so well with my Kindle because I’m not sure what to buy. I’m not going to buy A Dance with Dragons. I’ve done with Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series because One of our Thursdays is Missing should’ve stayed missing along with First among Sequels, and I dread to think what the next Thursday Next book might be like. I also think Stephen Clarke has done his dash in the merde. I’m vacillating on the subject of Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste series which has felt long on promise, but been short on delivery.

On the other hand I stumbled across a recent book on the syntax of Old Norse, which interests me because when I did Old Norse as part of my MA, I felt that knowing Old English was little or no help. Old Norse was determined to be vexatiously quirky with its baffling array of þar, eigi/ekki, at, er, etc. Thus I’m curious to know what the language was getting up to because it couldn’t be said that EV Gordon’s Intro. to Old Norse was exactly helpful in matters of syntax. But is it worth me spending the money on it? I haven’t done any Old Norse in a very long time. In fact so long that children have been born, grown up, and graduated from university, and the last of these to them is now just a fond memory. It may be fifteen years since I last taught in a university, but I just can’t quite shake off the spirit of academic enquiry.

Perhaps I should be looking at books on music since that is my current principal interest. Music in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuriesin the Oxford History of Western Music series might be of interest although the review is not complimentary. Oh well, perhaps not.

I also read just recently that the introduction to Old Norse by Valfells and Cathey, of which I have a copy, is not longer in print. (On Amazon UK, a paperback copy is currently being offered for £188.94. Seriously?!) I never got round to having a good look at the book, but it appears to be highly regarded. I brought Michael Barnes’ A New Introduction to Old Norse Part I Grammar back with me to the inGlorious Motherland. The book is quite detailed in its 258 pages and has all manner of handy hints and tips which would’ve been useful for me nearly 25 years ago.

Finally, the weather is being absolutely appalling this morning: dull, grey and very wet, and showing no sign that it’s about to stop. I will almost certainly have to wear full dress uniform when I go out; and by the time I get back, I will be nicely stewed. The other day I happened to be on my way to Carrefour when the city was struck by a mini monsoon, half of which went up my nose and the other half into my eyes. I needed windscreen wipers.

Never so down

That it can’t be kicked a good deal more.

Freegate is still groaning under the strain of whatever is, er, straining it. It comes (here I am on WordPress), and goes (there I am not on WordPress), and at the time of writing, is going again. This has got to be the most sustained bout of buggering that Freegate has suffered since I started using it although some of the earlier versions didn’t last long.

Unfortunately, the story of Bo Xilai isn’t going to go away any time soon, and given that Britain plays a small supporting role in the drama, there’s going to be a fair amount of attention from the foreign press. I observe that no one has yet commented that if the Bo family had amassed a fortune of US$126 million, then it implies that all the Party boys have troughs of swill similarly overflowing with lolly. I wouldn’t be at all surprised that the distribution of wealth in the Empire is so uneven that it makes Western countries look like models of equality and fairness.

The other scandal that’s popped up is the use of shoes (don’t ask me how) in the production of the gelatine from which capsules are made. The real problem is chromium in the material although don’t get me started on the shoes. From what I’ve read, this only affects products within the Empire, but not the stuff for export.

Meanwhile, one of my little darlings wrote a response to Exam Exercise 7 for my perusal, but in a bout of nationalistic overexcitement from him, I was informed that his family celebrated the founding of the Republic of China, which occurred “several years ago”. The former was an oversight; the latter probably a reflection of a very poor sense of imperial history. I’ve asked students for instances of this or that from history, but it seems that anything before 1949 or even 1911 is a vast void. But perhaps the same is true elsewhere and my knowledge of history, which isn’t especially broad or deep, is exceptional.

The speaking exams finally finished yesterday and I took care of the aftermath (“Colour the rectangles HB”) this morning. The rest of the exams are little more than a couple of weeks away. At best I can keep throwing listening, summarising and writing at the PAL classes, but whether any of it penetrates is another matter. It’s too late.

Oh, bloody hell. I stumbled across another album I’d like to buy. I’m still vacillating about Couperin’s Apothéoses, but found William Byrd: Complete Consort Music from Linn Records. I have The Great Service, but little else by Byrd, who I don’t think of as a composer of instrumental music. What’s a boy to do?

Actually, he’s to go and buy some water from the shop.

Now announcing the arrival of winter

The annual plunge.

The week started out with some of the heaviest fog I’ve ever seen, and has ended with a very sharp drop in the temperature. When I looked out of the annex window on Monday, the outside world was grey and initially I thought that there was condensation on the outside of the building. But when I looked out of the main window, I could just see the cars on the lane about 50m below me, and I could see that a couple of the lights on the island were on, but I could see nothing else, not even the lights on the building site which illuminate my room so well.

It was mild for a couple of days and then the temperature dived after that, thinking that single figures were the height of fashion. It’s meant to be a bit warmer again tomorrow, but it’s been a shock to go from highs in the low 20s to a high of 9° in the space of a few days.

Overall, November was actually not too bad this year; better than two years ago. I’m hoping for a benign December: not so cold, preferably dry.

I’ve taken to visiting the Commando website using Frεεgαtэ to speed things up a little. Although issuu doesn’t seem to be blocked, there’s definite interference which seems to be intended to deter users because of the length of time it takes for documents to appear. Even although the timing on Frээgαтε is in four figures, I’ll still see a Commando issue much faster than I would if I wasn’t using it.

Having finished marking the PAL classes’ monthly tests last weekend, I’ve started on the AS classes’ writing. If I was marking it as an exercise in proficiency, they’d all be getting IELTS 7; but I’m not. We’re using the EAP mark scheme again, but not bothering with the Neat Handwriting Bonus. The results might seem a little cruel, but students really do need to face reality in that they can get all the As and A*s they like in Maths and Physics, but the actual academic quality of their writing, and thus their ideas, is mediocre.

Yet I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom. The problem for students isn’t what I try to teach them (which they seem to ignore anyway), but what they get from New Oriental or English First. If they could unlearn the asinine drivel they get taught in those places, then they might actually make some progress. If they could focus on the topic instead of the bombast, I’d possibly be seeing some decent responses.

In fact, they’re writing like undergraduates, which means that they believe they have to write in a sophisticated, incomprehensible style. The result is that their writing is often unclear, obscure, and devoid of meaningful content. That sounds like an undergraduate essay to me. I say, “Never assume the reader knows anything.” They hear, “Assume the reader knows everything.” (I should add, “…and doesn’t want to know what you’re talking about.”)

Jeremy Clarkson has allegedly done it again with comments about shooting striking workers. I see this morning that the number of complaints has passed 21,000, but this article on autoblog UK puts the whole thing into some sort of perspective. The joke was weak and feeble, and the disproportionate reaction seems to have brought the Bash Clarkson Fan Club out (probably via Twitter). While Clarkson has been an ass down the years, he’s merely provoked 21,000 other asses. “Wake up, Britain, you can’t be that stupid,” writes Alex Goy. Unfortunately, I think the country can be that stupid. (In a Language Log post [here], Geoffrey Pullum also makes some critical observations about the idiotic reaction to Clarkson’s comment. Since the One Show, Jezza has also gone on to insult people who commit suicide. Cue more outrage. Whether you think Clarkson is an enormous plonker or not, Swift’s Modest Proposal would probably cause utter apoplexy if it was published today.)

Speaking of motoring, I’ve seen spate of BMW Z4s about the place recently. There was a brand new dark grey one parked outside the 红豆 Building yesterday, and there have been quite a few others besides. I also keep seeing Porsche Panameras. Hideousness from £59,746. “I’d like a 911, but I have a family.”

More marking

Yet another monthly test.

Thanks to a minimal amount of invigilation during this latest bout of monthly tests, I managed to mark all of PAL 1’s papers yesterday although I did almost nothing else in the course of the day. The results were pretty much the same as they were last time, but that was to be expected.

The writing was also much the same as last time, which means dull, repetitive and unimaginative. My campaign to try and get them to be interesting in their writing seems to have failed somewhat. I had quite a few of them inform a friend that among the items they should bring with them on holiday were clothes and a toothbrush. Most merely told their friend to bring clothes; a few advised the friend to bring warm clothing because it’s getting cold here; one said that it was necessary for clothes to be brought because his own wouldn’t fit his more sizeable overseas visitor.

The other writing exercise was about the benefits of a good teacher, but students were unable to frame their response in an appropriate style. Quite a number wrote a letter instead of an article, which I was expecting. A few babbled on about their parents being their teachers, and some about their teachers being their (substitute) parents, who teach them how to behave and how to be men. (I think that means “adults”.) I’ve seen this sort of thing before, and it gets no more interesting on repeated viewings.

Will PAL 2 have done any better? I doubt it.

But first, I need to go and pay the electricity bill which got stuck to my door this morning.

Afterwards. There was only a short queue in the State Grid building, which had lengthened by the time I paid because the clown boy ahead of me had a bill of ¥1176 (哎呀!) which he paid using ¥10 and ¥20 notes. What a genius.

Maths challenges are one thing

But what about an English Challenge?

I’m kind of passing through after being reticent for the past few days. I’ve thought about adding an entry, but I haven’t been feeling inclined, or other things have been claiming my attention. In local news, John the Maths Teacher had 121 students line up in front of the clock at school so that he could get a picture of them at 11.11am on 11.11.11.

That’s one of the few dates which the Americans don’t mess up. A whole bunch were all excited recently about 11.1.11 even although that happened months ago.

One of the amusements for our little darlings has been the UK Maths Challenge, which got me thinking about some sort of English challenge which I could post on this website of ours. I was thinking of something like paraphrasing a sonnet (AS) or answering some reading comprehension questions about one (PAL). I want a text which is short and self-contained and which require intelligent thought to comprehend. It’s an idea that’s been bobbing about in my mind for the past couple of days and will almost certainly be as popular with the little darlings as a birthday made from turd; but it may get some sort of response from some of the students who think that the sun of the English language shines out of their arses.

More likely, it won’t get any response at all because they don’t want to face up to reality, viz. the inferiority of their language skills even when they get 110+ in TOEFL.

As I’ve said before, A*s in maths are so common here that they’re meaningless as a measure of the academic prowess of students. The list of students who did well in the UK Maths Challenge also included the names of some complete nitwits whose English is appalling.

Of course, their English might not be that bad, but if they behave like little bastards in class, it’s hard not to conclude that I’m dealing with some imbecile because I have no positive interaction with the halfwit in question.

We are trying to do something about improving the attitudes of students as they progress. The A2s have continued the tradition of absolute arrogance, which has them doing what they please without so much as a proverbial by-your-leave, and quite a lot of this term has included Adrian or Fred coming into the office after class and reporting how few students they had in class. Students can only pull this sort of stunt with the permission of their Chinese tutors and our approval. It’s not an issue for PAL, but there have been one or two instances of AS students disappearing.

I’ve still been wondering about what to do with the AS classes. I’ve more or less abandoned TOEFL, but I am keeping Advanced Vocabulary in Use and Listen to Learn. I need something for reading and writing, but I’m not sure what. The problem with TOEFL is that the AS classes have been getting it from elsewhere (in school and outside), or they’ve done with it and I’ve been wasting my time doing it. I was led to believe that it’s what they’d want even although I didn’t want to teach TOEFL myself.

Ironically, we have some TOEFL and IELTS training coming up, but I just don’t see the point. With any luck, we can drop IELTS and TOEFL altogether next year and deal with something different in class so that we’re not always an also-ran in the proficiency exam race.

Time for a stew

90% humidity.

I know it’s been uncomfortably humid today, but until I looked at my hygrometer just before, I had no idea how humid. It’s about 20° in the bedroom, which might have me donning a jersey under other circumstances, but I’ve had a jersey on in class today and have stewed as a result.

I gave AS3 a quick quiz this morning, mostly on vocabulary, to which they paid no attention, the result being two out of ten correct. One of the correct answers was the name of the Greek PM, George Papandreou, but that was a complete and utter guess.

Because the Emperor has been in Europe, I asked questions about the financial crisis in the Eurozone and asked what Greece was probably going to have to do. The choices of answer included “Become part of Germany”, “Rejoin the Ottoman Empire”, and “Sell the rest of the Parthenon to the British Museum”. I think this question was answered correctly because they’ve never heard of Germany, the Ottoman Empire, or the Parthenon, and thus if they don’t understand something, they probably assume that it’s the wrong answer.

I’ve taken to reading Commando comics online first thing in the morning because that seems to be about the only time that I’m able to see them on screen. At other times of the day, I get large amounts of wheel spin, but I don’t know whether this is because of problems with issuu (who seem to use a Flash-based viewer) or whether it’s the rubbish Internet connection in Jinma (actually, it doesn’t seem to be; I had no better luck using the school’s much faster connection) or whether it’s interference from the Imperial Institute for Advanced Paranoia and the Inhibition of Thinking. It is a bloody nuisance, though.

The reliability of my Internet assistant has been inconsistent, running well enough yesterday for me to watch a 20-minute TED lecture on YouTube, but collapsing faster than the English batting attack with just as much regularity. As usual, I’ll have to hope that I post this entry just at the right moment. (And right now can’t delay; no, too late; there goes the connection again.)

I see the US is accusing Russia and China of being the top cyberspies, but the news must be the accusation. Does that mean that the US is ranked No. 3? [Er, I don’t think the Americans are probably spying on themselves. –ed.]

What do we want?

Something. When do we want it? Some time.

I chose not to teach the A2s for a good reason, and the stories which Fred brings back from class are quite sufficient to confirm that I made the right choice.

Sooner or later, though, the AS classes start turning into A2s. That generally really happens in the second term when the final exams are suddenly much closer. This year, AS3 have already gone A2. They are the Economics class, which means that they have a grossly inflated view of their abilities as if they know it all already.

There’s not much you can do with such classes. It’d be easy to keep trying different things to see whether something will satisfy them, but I dislike pandering to students in this way and I know that there’s nothing which will satisfy them. If I tried to do some proper English lang. and lit. with them, they’d find it too hard and hate it.

There’s no passion for English. What we’re meant to be doing is giving them the skills to do tests such as IELTS and TOEFL, but it’s like programming a computer to do some mundane administrative task. The code isn’t interesting and the result a yawn.

I can always pretend that everything is fine and nothing is wrong. I’ve already spent one year of my life talking to myself in class. I don’t see why I can’t do the same again.