Category Archives: classes/esl

Neglect and Change

I’m at a point in my life that I need to make a decision.  I can stay here in Houston or try to make a new start in another country.  I love Mexico, but I don’t know if I could make it there.  I would love to go back to Eastern Europe, but that would be more expensive.  South America seems to be a good possibility.

However, before I make that move, I have to cut back on my stuff.  This will be difficult, but I think I can do it.

Having lost my job, I can see how losing all of this stuff — just stuff — would make my life much easier.  It would also make it easier for me to move south.

I’ve neglected this blog for far too long.  Perhaps this will be the beginning of my move to another culture and another life — before I am too old to do it.

Feeling a little under appreciated

that’s me.  I won’t go into it, but all I can say is that I tried.  I tried to connect with a group that has many other dynamics going on that I don’t know about.

It’s been a disappointing term overall, but for one class — my Reading class.  We have celebrated everyone passing the last two tests, and they have learned reading skills that I’m sure their counterparts in the other equal class have not.

Despite the added time of having both morning and afternoon classes, I think I will continue with it.  I refuse to teach one particular level, but I will do a split schedule from now on.    I think it is important for a master teacher to teach at the lower levels.   If we only have weaker teachers at the lower levels, then we reap what we sow.

I want to work with the lower level students to give them the foundation they need to succeed at the upper levels.  I feel that I have done that this term.  Nobody but me and a handful of students know that, but it’s ok.

So My Students are Struggling with the Passive Voice

From their test scores, they are also struggling with comparatives, superlatives and reading directions, but ever forward!

At least for this group, tomorrow will be consumed by going over the test from today and stepping back from what I taught them Monday.

For Thursday, I will have together an activity involving the SmartBoard and I Am Legend to explore the passive voice.

From today’s class, I know that I need to teach my lower level students about function words for reading like although, until and yet.  No video can help with that.

My last class decided today that class was over when I brought a successful activity to an end at 20 til.  I pointed out that they were confused about when class ended (having just taught them time in English).  The couple who had left returned and the rest who had collect their bags sat back down, and we completed class, finishing another exercise.

To Boston!

I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to go to a professional convention in Boston this spring.  I’ve never been there.  I attended the New Music Festival in NYC pre-Disney and stayed near Times Square;  I traveled to Baltimore to give a presentation when I was in graduate school many years ago.  I still have the sweatshirt I bought there.  It’s one of my favorites.  I’d like to visit there again.

I did some research yesterday and decided to stay in Cambridge and take public transport into Boston each day.  It turned out to be just the ticket as far as what is allowed for expenses.

I’ve got a lot of researching to do!  I want to ask my colleagues which presentations they are interested in and try to make them all while trying to see every place I can before I have to leave.

I didn’t expect this — I actually had thought it was an impossibility — but now it’s come true!  I’m very excited about it and yet, it means much more to juggle.  I will have to plan a lot more  and by the end of March, there will be plants to care for in the garden.   I’ll miss a weekend of working on the yards.

If only I could stay awake for four days.  Yipes, now that I typed that . . . it was only a wish.  Having gone to Denver last year, I think I can get myself together for Boston (even on short notice) this year.

Found It!

I’ve got to put together a final for my advanced reading class.  It’s not comprehensive — just over the last chapter we covered in the text.  While the first four chapters were right down my alley — Big Bang, Evolution, Primates, Early Humans — this chapter is about art.  I have no test prepared for it.   Until now.

The reading focuses on Picasso’s Bull’s Head and delves into how he could have put those two things together.

This reminded me of one of my most favorite paintings — Salvador Dali’s The Hallucinogenic Toreador. I looked for the Venus pencil box that in part inspired it today on the internets, to no avail.  Tonight I looked for the book I knew had the picture and found it more easily than I thought I would.  (YaY! me!)  I’ll put the test together on Friday.

Most of my students in that class will not be attending class on Friday, so I had to get this together today. For those who will attend on Friday, I have decided (after taking a poll) that we will read The Story of an Hour. They voted for a drama with mystery.  I think it fits the bill and we can do it in less than an hour.

I really want to take my afternoon tomorrow, but it depends on how much I can get done in the morning.  I have several writing papers I must edit and more are due.  I don’t know if I can get it all done.  I graded papers all afternoon today and only made a dent in my pile.

The reason I want to leave early is because something wonderful happened today.  The two very large and very annoying crepe myrtles were destroyed today.  How I wish I could have been here to see it.  While it won’t keep my neighbors from concern trolling me about other parts of my yard, it was and is a great achievement.  The front yard goes forward from here.  Those plans in my head — much like the test for my advanced students — will all come together.

I can do this.

Tear Down This Wall

I work with people from all over the planet — every continent and almost every country.

Not a single one of them credits Ronald Reagan with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I lived in (not as a tourist) a former Soviet Republic.  Twice.  No one there credited Ronald Reagan with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I visited Gdansk.  I didn’t see any monument to Ronny.

But this freaking meme will not die.

Even Gorbachev and liberal historians agree that Reagan was the driving force behind ending the cold war. Why would you want to deny it? So strange to me.

Completely unsourced and untrue.  I lived with people who lived through it.  I didn’t just visit them or read some book.  I lived with them.

What nonsense this woman spews.  She doesn’t even know what she is talking about.

On The New Hour tonight, West Germans admitted that while they paid for reunification monetarily, the people of East Germany paid in other ways, painful ways.

I will always remember my colleagues.  There were some good aspects of their system.  Ones that they missed.  Before independence, women weren’t assaulted.  Just go and search you tube for Russian prisons.  And now parts of the former Soviet Union have “leaders for life” — that’s progress if you don’t care about the people who live under those rulers — or don’t even know where those places are.

Seafloor Spreading

Crazy that I just gave my advanced students a test on this and it comes up.

There’s a really cool video that I showed my students of the continents spreading apart and coming back together — all over millions of years.

In time, lots of time, the national boundaries that we have will no longer exist.  The land that exists will change.  How I wish I could live for millions of years just to see that happen.  It’s a foolish wish, I know.  But to see the plates move and reconstruct themselves would be fantastic.

A Trade-off of Sorts

We have survived.  I work for the state, but with a twist.  I work in an income producing department.  After 9/11, we had some very dark days.  For the past year or so, we have been building our student population.

We’ve got over 140 students and it looks like it will increase.

One reason is because the dollar is weak and it is cheaper for internationals to come here — another reason is how cheap it is to live here in Houston.

Frontline is depressing.

Tomorrow classes begin.  I’m ready except for recording some more commercials for my writing class.

And I guess I am still an Obamabot.  He’s doing everything I could hope for and pushing just the way I think he should.  Steady on.

Late Session Snafu Rescue

I’ve been teaching “War of the Worlds” this session and had planned on showing the film these last two days of classes.  Well, my last netflix DVD got lost in the mail and I didn’t realize it until yesterday, so the “War of the Worlds” DVD did not arrive on time as I had expected.   What to do?

I searched Blockbuster, but the site doesn’t indicate if a particular DVD is at a particular store.  So after work today I set out on my search.  I wanted to show them the original 1953 classic and not the Tom Cruise remake (I really don’t care for Cruise).  Additionally half of the students have seen the newer film.

The first Blockbuster I went to had the Cruise version for rent, but it’s almost two hours long — too long for my purposes, so I asked the clerk if they had the original in stock — just on a whim.  He checked and they did . . . somewhere.  The clerk and I started our scavenger hunt through the store.  We looked and looked and then the clerk got cornered by another customer and I was on my own.  I kept going and going and finally, behind a copy of Jim Cary’s “Yes Man,” I found it!  Huzzah!  And it was only $10.  Hurray!

The day is saved.

On a different note, the past three days we’ve had a visitor:

siamese

(I took this pic with the zoom through the side door window — that’s why it’s fuzzy.)

She’s very Siamese, in that she wants my attention but hisses and snaps at me.  Perhaps it’s because I keep telling her to GO HOME.  She’s clearly not a stray (she’s not a cow kitten, tortie or orange tabby).  I think I will try to put out some signs tomorrow if I have time.

Oh, and the other kittens think she’s stinky . . .

Tales from School

Does three make a trend?  Last week a student wore a T-shirt to school that said, “Females wanted for sex experiments” or something like that.  I didn’t see it.  But the co-worker who did was standing at my office door when she saw it and she went ballistic.  “Someone should do something about this!  Someone should tell the director!”  she railed, fist in the air. (Not really, but she got really worked up really quickly.)  I agreed to “do something” but apparently wasn’t sufficiently enraged, so my co-worker took over the righteous march to the director’s office.

After calling the legal department and having cerebral discussions of free speech, we all got an email stating that we could do nothing about it.  I offered — practical person that I am — the opinion that someone should at least warn the student that someone might take offense.  (The student is in level 2 with limited English skills.)  You know, so when he’s at a club and some girl comes up and slaps him, he would know why.  But I was a minority of one.

Until the second incident.  A student came to school with a naked lady on his T-shirt.  Not a cartoon, but a picture of an actual naked lady.  FREE SPEECH!!!!!! was not the cry.  Someone went to the book store and bought him a new, bland, T-shirt.

This morning I was giving a test when I noticed the T-shirt one of my students who was sitting in the back had on.  In large letters it declared, “I have a PhD.*”  The * started “pretty h” and that’s all I could see because he was leaning over his desk.  I was hoping hoping hoping that my hunch was wrong.  He’s a nice guy and a good student.  Unfortunately,  I was right.  The “h” word was huge.  You can guess the rest.  I warned the teacher for the next class and told the director.  We wondered if there was some connection.  The three students were from three different continents.  The only commonality is that all three were guys.

What’s wrong with you guys?!?!?!?!?!

In another class, I was playing a listening/pronunciation exercise from a CD.  I asked the students to say the sentences like the person on the CD (it was a female voice).  Simultaneously, several of the male students repeated what they had heard in a falsetto voice.  (Like Michael Berry did this evening while he was mocking Nancy Pelosi.)  Ha ha ha.

What’s wrong with you guys?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?

In the same class, but on a different day, the topic was accents.  One question from the text was about different accents in the students’ native languages.  All of the students responded with examples of regional accents in their home countries, except for the Kazakhs.  NO.  All people speak Russian without an accent!  It was the language of the Soviet Union!  Everyone speaks Russian the exact same way!

So completely predictable.  You see, I’ve heard this nonsense before, when I lived in Latvia.  Like other Soviet myths (Russians invented baseball, a Russian wrote the Winnie the Pooh books) this one just won’t die.

As I patiently tried to explain that Russian is no different from any other language, one student fought back:  You’re wrong!  Another student was crestfallen, seemingly on the verge of tears.

I’m sure it’s the same reaction that the chain emailer dupes felt when that mean old Michael Berry told them that, no, they hadn’t found a 9/11 terrorist sympathizer in their midst, but rather a devoutly religious person who happened not to be Christian.

Pobrecitos.

Should I add a tag, “What’s wrong with you guys?”?

Update:  It lives!  It lives!  In comments to the Chronicle post I linked to, one commenter insists that the date wasn’t September 11th, so the shop owner is dubious.  Dispel rumors?  I think not.