Tag Archives: textbooks

The worst feek

And it is feeking worst.

The first week back at school seems to have outdone itself this year, being more tiring, it seems, than any other commencement to the first term that I can recall. I can’t even blame jet lag. My timetable seems to have got worse with classes at the beginning, in the middle (inconvenient for buying lunch) and at the end. Fridays are especially bad with teaching all afternoon.

PAL 2 seems quite promising [Initial impressions aren’t always reliable. –JH 13.12.12], but PAL 1 seems a little more diffident [Again, initial impressions. –JH 13.12.12]. Fred and I have split the AS classes into HL and SL for English B and, I think, so long as there’s no EAP flying about, things may well be a bit better this year. There aren’t so many new AS students, and the majority of them seem to be all right, but we have one who can barely string two words together and ought to be in, well, a school where he understands the language. He can’t even be shifted to PAL because there are students in those classes whose English is already a few parsecs beyond his.

Today a bunch of books turned up. These would appear to be books I ordered a couple of years ago, but they’re now mostly of no use because of the delay in their arrival. I’ve tried to avoid ordering books which will never be used, but two years ago, it seemed that more copies of the teacher’s manual were likely to be useful. As it is, unless we get three PAL classes again, the manuals will languish on the shelves in the library. We also got the CDs for North Star 3 Listening and Speaking, but I don’t think we have the book itself and I don’t think I ever ordered either item.

Speaking of books, I discovered that it’s possible to get a copy of Morris Jones’s (1913) Welsh Grammar. I have a old, old photocopy of the part on phonology, but this is the whole thing. I found it via Lexilogos via archive.org. I always grab the pdf, but such files can’t be read on a Kindle as I found recently.

I saw an Audi R8 today, which demonstrated just how fairly wealth is divided among imperial citizens. Speaking of cheap cars, I saw pictures on the Wrecked Exotics site of the F430 spyder which crashed in Beijing a few months ago. This story has just popped up again because of the demotion of one of the emperor’s allies.

Anyway, I see it’s time for me to take my F430 out for a turn around the park.

There’s a reason for weekends

Finally the week is over.

Working for seven days in a row is proof of the necessity of having a weekend. We’ve had our monthly tests over the past two days, which isn’t really quite as relaxing as it sounds because we’ve ended up invigilating for the equivalent of four classes, two at a time without a break. At the end up that, we then have stacks of marking to do, which will kill off quite a chunk of this weekend.

I was having a look at the critical thinking book which appeared on my desk this morning. Lisa the Librarian said she’d seen it among the books which have been dripping into her library over the past few weeks. I open the book, and there are pictures of Hitler and some Stasi officers, who look like they might be taking part in some gay revue called Germans in Puffy Trousers. There are pictures of the covers of low-brow magazine which I now realise are there to keep the boys interested, and there’s also a picture of a couple of women sunbathing in a London park. There’s quite an interesting juxtaposition across two pages later in the book with Osama bin Laden on one and sperm clustering round an ovum on another.

The book, Critical Thinking for OCR AS Level by Rob Jones and Michael Haralambos, might have some saucy pictures (I can’t imagine such pictures in school textbooks when I was in the 6th form), but it actually looks quite interesting. There is some stuff in it I could do with my AS classes. For example, I noticed a section on arguments in writing which would be useful for the AS students in so many ways.

It’s a pity that we just don’t have the time to deal with all this stuff. Apart from the TOEFL book and Listening to Learn, I’m also dishing out units from a book called Advanced Vocabulary in Context because of students’ annoying mania for those somewhat useless TOEFL and IELTS word list books. AViC takes a themed approach and focuses quite a bit on collocations, which is an aspect of English which seems neglected at intermediate level.

However, I’m afraid I have to cut this short or I’ll end up neglecting my tea.

Turn on, tune in

Book out.

To my surprise, (most of) the missing books and discs turned up this morning. The teacher’s manual for the NorthStar TOEFL book turns out to be just about useless because there were no transcripts and no answers, which I then found were in the textbook. It does get a little worse because we have somehow ended up with the manual for the intermediate level NorthStar TOEFL book (I’m sure I didn’t order it) even although we’re not using the corresponding textbook.

Turns out that because Suzhou got a few too many books, I’ll probably get a copy of Listen to Learn Book 1 after all. However, I did borrow a copy off a student only to find that the book probably isn’t suitable for the PAL students because it’s pitched at too high a level. I didn’t order it on a whim, but our previous AQM had it down for PAL, and because they need extra listening, which is where Lucantoni falls short, it seemed like a good idea to get it.

We also have a second copy of the big fat TOEFL book.

Since the discs for Listen to Learn were my main concern, I forgot to check whether there were any teacher’s manuals to go with it, but as I’m not using LTL immediately, it doesn’t really matter too much. I was also more concerned with getting things sorted for Monday. I now have a stack of books to put to use.

I’ve been enjoying riding my new bike, which is nice and light compared with my old machine. Not sure what to do with all the gears. 21 does seem rather a lot.

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?

Better and worse

Bike and books.

Yesterday, John the Maths Teacher happened to say that he was interested in buying a bike, which has prompted me to do what I’ve long bee saying I’d do, viz. buy a new bike. I thought I may as well do it today, but when I got to school, I found that Lisa the Librarian, who alliterates much better than John the Maths Teacher, was going to be unable to get into the library until about midday.

I decided, since I had little better to do, to go and buy a new bike, and wandered up to the Giant Bike Shop on 人民西路 only to find that they no longer had the Hunter 3.0 which had been there only a few weeks ago. Instead, I had to go out to the Service Centre to buy the only model they had there before going back to the first shop where I was going to buy a lock and a basket. Unfortunately, there’s no bracket for a basket, which would have to go on the carrier instead and means that I need to carry my rucksack on my back.

The U-lock posed another problem because the mechanic attached the bracket on the side of the frame, which meant that it stuck out such a way that I had to hold my right leg at an ungainly angle to avoid bashing it against the lock. I was able to remove the bracket when I got to school, but I’ve since reattached it so that the lock now sits on top of the frame and, I hope, well out of the way.

But, the bike is certainly a decent piece of kit. I’m guessing it has a light-weight aluminium frame. The carrier seems to be plastic, again to reduce the amount of weight. It has 21 gears, which are operated by something akin to paddle shift levers. It’s all single click stuff rather than the levers that I used to have on my ten-speed bike which I’d push or pull wondering whether anything was ever going to happen. A lot of the time, nothing ever did.

The frame is red, the spokes are black, the wheels look to be 26-inchers, and it has front shocks, which is a first for me.

I went back to school. I went and bought lunch, and went back to school. I sat around. Eventually we went over to the library with some books and staggered up and down the stairs because Lisa had forgotten where the library was. We eventually found it and unpacked the boxes of books, which seemed to contain some books which were more relevant to the A-level programme than to IB, but I have no idea whether those volumes were ones I’d ordered or they’d been specifically ordered for the IB library. Anyway, I have them now.

But things don’t get any better. While there are spare copies of the AS books, there appear to be no spare copies of Listen to Learn, Level 1. There are also no teacher’s manuals for either of the Listen to Learn books (actually quite useful to have); no audio CDs (which renders the listening books useless for the time being); no teacher’s manual for the NorthStar TOEFL book (less vital); no discs for the main TOEFL book; no copy of the main TOEFL book (not counting the one we already have).

I’m going to have to try and keep AS4 amused for as long as possible tomorrow, but ultimately I think I’ll give them some newsademic. I was having another look at the Scheme of Work, to see whether I could tell them anything much about the programme this year, but it all looks so vague, and above talking about IELTS and TOEFL skills, I can’t really say much in detail.

PAL is less of a bother. I probably have enough to keep them amused for at least a class or so, and since I have the Lucantoni book, problems with Listen to Learn are less of an issue.

Still, it’d be nice if one year the audio CDs and teacher’s manuals would be delivered with everything else instead of eventually or, more likely, never. It’s still possible that they’ve ended up in the main library, but that’s like a fortress guarded by dragon.

New books. Where are the new books?

And the old ones are obsolete. Damn.

What’s a boy to do this time? PAL’s not much of a problem this Thursday because things more or less stay the same, but I forgot that for AS things change quite a bit. We’re still using NorthStar, but a different book in that series, and Listen to Learn has been cut in half (Book 1 for PAL; Book 2 for AS). Some of the book I’ve been using still survives in both parts, but not really enough to be able to continue using it.

I’ll be seeing AS4 first thing on Thursday, and since they’re the new AS class, I suppose I have to do some sort of introductory spiel, which will include revealing just how little I know about what we’ll be doing this year. Not having seen one book and having a hunch-backed mutant for the other, I can’t really say anything much beyond, “TOEFL. It’s, er… The dog’s bollocks!”

Actually, I don’t really give a damn about TOEFL. Or IELTS. A whole term of this stuff? Yes, there does need to be some objective means of measuring the proficiency of non-native speakers of English, but if the aim is to see some improvement in the language, then learning English would help far more than learning how to do the exam.

So, if you’re a non-native speaker of English and the words “IELTS” and “TOEFL” washed you up on the shores of my island, you should spend your time learning English instead of wasting it on exam preparation, which won’t make a significant difference. There’s no quick and easy way of improving your proficiency in another language, and exam preparation, which can be left until the last minute, impedes your improvement.

But people who know nothing about languages and learning languages always know best, and that’s why I have to waste whole terms on something which barely helps. I think you’d better go because there are internal rumblings which are making me think last night’s tea is still having its terrible revenge.

Things get unbent

You wake up late for conference, man,
You don’t wanna go.

My Audi A3. Or it would be anywhere else. As I suspected, WordPress was only out of sorts until the Party boys had finished having their conference. Why this happened is beyond me. I don’t know and doubt whether there’s any direct access to their meeting in the Central Clubhouse, and I doubt whether those who know the password and the secret handshake actually know what a blog is, or can even switch on a computer without assistance from their grand-children.

Anyway, to celebrate this momentous occasion, here’s a picture of my hypothetical Audi A3 because all the cool cars are pearl black and have two doors. Brrrmm! Brrrmm!

The news from the education front was good(-ish) with the arrival of some of the extra books I ordered, including the selected readings from English lit., which I can give to the PAL classes to spare them the grief of a diet of articles from newspapers and magazines. I haven’t had a good look at the book, but it covers a range of excerpts from Jonathan Swift to P.D. James. I need to try and get things organised so that I can try to get as much of this stuff done as possible. I’d rather not acquire the books and then not use them.

The news of spending cuts in the UK sounds depressing to say the least, although a lot of people will be asking why they have to pay for the incompetence of bankers. If you believe the hysteria, the universities are going to become little more than advanced job training centres for everyone apart from the few wealthy enough to amuse themselves in the humanities. I expect that Ricardo is going to find himself addressing his students as “My lord” or “Your ladyship” or “Jia Baoyu”.

At university, as I’ve said to my little darlings when the matter has arisen, students should be studying the subject of their choice. If it happens to be vocational, that’s a coincidence because I’d hope they’d have an aptitude for and interest in it. Of course, with Chinese students, their parents have quite probably told them what they’re going to be studying. A girl in one class I once taught said that she actually wanted to be a school teacher, but because her parents were in banking, it was expected that she would do the same. Robots are obviously self-replicating.

Meanwhile, the British military are going to have so little in the way of weapons and equipment that the only means they’ll have of deterring some foe is to expose themselves à la Carry on up the Khyber. And if it’s not a deterrent, the other side will be laughing too hard at British weaponry to be any threat at all. Empire, here we come again. Mind you, why does the UK need some vast military machine except to play poodle to the Americans? Of course, the BBC could employ all those soldiers as extras in Dr Who or Torchwood.

Oh, hang on. Wasn’t the licence fee (£145.50; rip-off) going to be frozen for five or six years? No cameo for General Kitchener. “Oh, hell,” said the general. “Panto in Bognor again.”