Category Archives: English

It’s Never Ending, But Things Move On

Another session is in the books or almost.  I didn’t finish all of my paperwork today.  There are books to sort and lots of other paperwork to clean off my two desks.  (At times I wonder what I would do if I only had one desk.  Probably put stuff on the floor, like I do now when I run out of desk space.)

I expect there will be no shortage of tears tomorrow as some students get the news that they didn’t make promotion.  It’s difficult to stay on an even keel when you’ve been on a roller-coaster or  in a spinning teacup for the last week.  I think I did ok today.  I only got a little testy when someone used the “I’ve been teaching for 25 years” defense for failing to address cheating during a test.  If you’ve been teaching for so long, then you know how to handle cheating and additionally should have reported it instead of waiting for your supervisor to bring it up.  meh.

Sometimes I feel invisible at work.   I work very hard to make things run smoothly through the term and finals and then scoring.  My co-workers’ smooth experience through all of it is my goal.  I rarely get any appreciation for it.

Today, I did hear from a couple of people.  It was good.

Otherwise, I am mostly invisible.  At times I wonder if anyone thinks about how finals or scoring would be if X (name your co-worker) were doing it.

Never mind.  I don’t even want to think about that.

Our family cooking tradition is this weekend.  We’ve decided on pizza.  I volunteered to make the pizza dough and sauce.  My Grandma — dad’s mom — loved pizza with pineapple.  This was back in the 1960’s.  It’s a cooking memory, which is what we are recreating for the girls.  It’s not one of the recipes in the BOOK, but I will help my middle niece make brownies — recipe from my same Grandma — which is in the BOOK.

This non-official holiday experience is quickly overtaking Thanksgiving as my favorite.  It’s a mixture of frenzy and patience.  Hurry up and get it done and waiting until something is just right.  Care and love mixed with what the hell are you doingness.  I love it.

And then Santa comes by on a firetruck, and we get to tease the little one about how she used to hate him but now she loves him and cries.

I’m really looking forward to next Saturday.

Hell, I’ve got to look up a good pizza dough recipe and try it out before then.  I’ve got the sauce covered.


I’ve done it now!

In my beginners class, we have finally come to food.  The last two days it has led to lots of first language usage in class, which drives me crazy.

After yesterday’s craziness, I decided to show them pictures of the food we were learning from my garden.  They asked me what I had now, and none of them know what beets are, so I told them tomatoes and parsley.  And that lead to tabouli.  I think we are going to make it.

I picked tomatoes this evening, as well as parsley.  I  tried to get volunteers for the other ingredients, but I think I will just buy them tomorrow after work, prepare it during my break and we will enjoy it Friday during class.

I don’t want to buy a cucumber, but I will since my plants are way behind from last year.  I’ll buy some mint and I will see if anyone brings an onion tomorrow.  I can make it easily and I think it will be a good bonding experience.

I also don’t want to play favorites.  I think I will buy ice cream and serve it with the blackberries and pom that I canned tonight for my other afternoon class.  It should be a surprise.  I will have to taste it first, but also be ready.

In other words, the best thing about having a garden is sharing with my students.  It seems to make them think I am human and not just a language nazi.

I’m almost back to the point of letting students come to my house.  With Gretchen and Buddy, it was easy.  With Dora, Tammy and Murphy, I have to be more careful.

Still, I like it that my students will get to eat food I have grown in my garden.

And if someone stops by tomorrow, there will be pan-seared cod, beets, and zuccini.


Life Outruns Blog


I’ve been living my life and have been preoccupied with other things online (mostly trying knock out a zombie lie started by Michael Berry).

Work has been overwhelming.  I am definitely not complaining.  It’s good to have so many students.  I had some good news today — a student who was belligerent in my class and complained walked out of one of our new (but very experienced) teacher’s class, claiming to have written a research paper, without being taught, in a week’s time, and wouldn’t listen to her teacher.  Sorry, but that the woman is from Venezuela, older and weirdly focused on one theme throughout her course in our school — I’m now glad it’s not me having to deal with her elitism.

Classes are going fine and I only have one problem student — who happens to be a problem for everyone.  We will deal.

One of the quirky things about my job is that when I listen to international news, more often than not, I know someone from the country being reported on.  Most times, I can ask them about how they feel about the events in their countries.  One of my South Korean students stopped by today and we talked about just that.  It made me think about just where in the world I know people.

I think I will start by continents.

Europe:  France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Latvia

Eurasia:  Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan

Middle East:  Saudi Arabia, Yemen, U.A.E., Qatar, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria

Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Mongolia, Thailand, Burma, Nepal

Africa:  Tunisia, Cote d’ivoire, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Somalia, Angola, Chad, Kenya, Tanzania

Americas:  Mexico, Guatemala,  Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia

If you are a regular person, you know you remember your teacher better than your classmates most times.

One day I will see one of my students on teevee, a leader of something.  I know it will happen.


Time to Put on Your Sackcloth

Is President Obama no longer the Leader of the Free World?  Well, the Washington Times and Kathleen seem to think so.  And it’s all his own fault because he didn’t say anything against the three most terrible people in the world while he was addressing the U.N.  I guess if you don’t say nasty things about people that means you are weak.  Or something.

So who does Kathleen and the Washington Times think is the new Leader of the Free World?  Why, Mr. Netanyahy (sic), of course!

Mr. Netanyahy’s (sic)”Have you no shame?” speech to the U.N. brought tears to my eyes. It was a long time coming. The U.N. shamefully allows such evil as Ahmadinejad, Chavez, and Qaddafi to speak as world leaders and no one had a thing to say against them. Until Netanyahy (sic).

Gee, I don’t know.  I’d like my Leader of the Free World to be above the fray and above calling people out, but that’s just me.

Ahmadinejad stole an election and killed his own people protesting, and let’s not forget that little nuclear proliferation issue. Pres. Obama then adopts a resolution to curb the proliferation and testing of nuclear arms and move toward total disarmament. (I’m thinking of adopting a resolution in my home that my teenagers keep their rooms pristine. I’m sure it will work. I mean, a resolution always works, right? They worked so well against Saddam.) The text of the resolution doesn’t even cite Iran by name. Why is this?

Because then he might have to name Israel as an outlaw nation as well????  Maybe???

Kathleen seems to be confused about how U.N. resolutions work and the state of nuclear weapons in the world.  It’s a public secret that Israel has a rather large nuclear arsenal, it has never let the IAEA inspectors in and is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Just today, Syria demanded that Israel must comply with  IAEA .  I’ve always felt that it is dishonest of Israel not to comply with treaties and rules that every other nuclear nation does with the exception of India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Obama stated that the UN resolution was “not about singling out individual nations.” Oh no, heaven forbid we do that.

Se my above comment.

But Netanyahy (sic) didn’t have any such misgivings. It was nice to see strong leadership in the face of evil.

Because he’s the only kid on the block with the bomb?  Could that be why?  Or he’s just petty?

It doesn’t look like Russia or China are interesting (sic) in any serious sanctions on Iran. So it looks like it’s up to us. Great.

That’s news to me.  And I guess the U.K. and France don’t count.

The White House reveals (sic) a few days ago that Iran has (sic) building a secret underground nuclear facility. Iran responds by test firing a series of missiles yesterday.

Which was expected by the administration.

As much as Pres. Obama and his “flower power”  (ed. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH) foreign policy goes, Iran is clearly not going to “unclench it’s fist.” It’s now time for Obama to step up to the plate and be the kind of leader Netanyahy (sic) has clearly shown to be.

C’mon Obama, get up in front of the world and shake your fist in the air angrily!  NOW!

There you have it: sloppy and stupid.

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.


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.

If you work at a place that employs more than 500 people, you will have to experience this

People who have never had a job never have to go through training like people who work do.  They have no idea.

Three hours. Two afternoons.   (Total 6 hours)  Nothing that applies to my job.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will lead a group of students around the tunnel system that exists downtown.

At least it starts at 2:00, otherwise I don’t get a lunch break — I haven’t gotten one the past two days.

It makes me wonder how Kathleen or Michael would deal with not getting a lunch break week after week, year after year.   Yet I keep my job.


Because my job is very cool and unusual.  I get to meet and work with people from all over the planet.  Kathleen doesn’t.  Michael Berry doesn’t.

I do.

So tired

More and more students (good thing) — one expected teacher out of the mix (bad thing).

Lots of nonsense from the director (bad thing) — new office mate (ok thing).

I’m excited about my advanced reading class.  It’s a small group but a good mix — Brazil, Jordan, Mexico, India, Kazakhstan, Korea.  They trust me to a point — why are we doing this is a common question.  The answer I give seems to satisfy them.  I’ll get them blogging by Monday.  I set up a private blog for this class.

My low-intermediate grammar class has real potential.  They listen and seem ready to interact with each other.  I plan to put that into practice next week.  I have to learn their names because most of them are new to the program and I didn’t teach lower levels last term.  They are eager and even though I was sleepy this morning, they helped me get into a groove.

My last class is more of a challenge.  They have decided upon a weird classroom organization — everyone huddle at two small tables — but I broke that up today.  The young ladies are lovely.  They outnumber the guys.  They are just great.  One male wanted to dominate the class yesterday, but by breaking them up and encouraging the quieter students, we achieved a good balance in today’s class.  One thing that made a difference, I think, is that I used an example yesterday about speaking in one’s native language.  The dominant language in that group is Russian (I didn’t let on that I still understand some Russian).  I used an example with two Spanish speakers, which makes more sense, given where I am from (having told them).  They were better today about not speaking Russian in class.

Almost all I can think about is my classes and the mechanics of work right now, but I have been paying attention to what is going on in wingnut world.

At least on local radio, it has been wall to wall about President Obama talking to school children and the attendant teacher materials supplied by the Department of Education ( a department that republicans have wanted to kill since the time of Bill Bennet but haven’t — so they just get guys who call teachers terroists).

The best line I heard about the parents who don’t want their children to even hear President Obama is that teachers could teach evolution or any other of the topics that the same old tired people complain about.  Let’s use that time to teach about historic people like MLK or Thurgood Marshall or Cesaer Chavez.

Then when all the kids come back the next day, they can talk about Reagan, Newt and Rush.  Oh and Hannity and Berry.

The Press Conference, the Blog and a Pregnant Kitty Update

Yeah, I’m too lazy to write three different posts.

The press conference was very good — it held attention, not only because the answers were comprehensive, but also there was the anticipation of the possible questions.  I particularly liked and identified with Pres. Obama’s ending remarks.  Perseverance is a virtue.  It’s what gives people hope.  The recovery and foreclosure prevention policies and funds have already started to work and will continue.  I hope that the budget process will be fair and responsible, and more importantly forward looking.

The President inspires confidence through his competence.  He nor his team has given me any reason to doubt.

Tomorrow I leave for Denver for the annual TESOL Conference.  I haven’t been to one since I was in graduate school, so I am looking forward to it.  Also, I’ve never been to Denver, so I hope I will have a bit of time to do a little sightseeing.

While I’m gone, a friend will be tending to the blog and my pups and kitties.  He’s a published author and promises some poetry!  He’s posted here before, so some readers may recognize his writing.

The pregnant kitty girl is still pregnant.  This morning she had put everything in her crate in her makeshift litter box, so maybe she hasn’t firgured all this shit out yet.  By the time I got home this evening, she had gotten out of the crate and was tooling around in the bathroom.

(Murphy is barking at me right now.  He seems to think he hasn’t had enough chewies this evening.  Oh, and now Tam is here to back him up.)

I talked to my mom today.  She gave me the info to use her calling card, so I don’t have to buy one.  It was really sweet.  She also said “I love you” as we were saying good-bye.  I said the same to her.  I think she’s feeling her age these days and making sure that we all know how she feels.

Could it be the weather forcast?

Cool kitty video and more

This kitty (via rump roast) is cool.

Poor Kathleen, she can’t find any fun, only sadness and Marxism talk.  No ‘scandal’ worked to defeat Obama.

On a more serious note, the continent of Africa is blowing up — it’s more than Somalia or Sudan, but the Congo.  Snarky me thought that Sarah Palin might put her expertise to work helping the Congo make their natural resourses work for the general population.  But she’s back in Alaska and that sort of ‘share the wealth’ program only works there.

I love it when my boss calls at 4:59 on a Friday about some web edit and then uses something I said about a FTP issue from 5 years ago to criticize her failure to edit copy — especially when she edited the copy all those years ago.  She’s recently taken to quoting my exact words (in her mind) from several years ago — all the while lying about simple stupid things that have happened since.  As always, my hope is just to last until she retires while making my work as interesting as possible.

RW&B is Chris Bell and Joan Huffman.  We’ll see if it’s interesting (TX Senate seat 17).

Oh, and Obama made a joke about Nancy Reagan. PLEASE.  The woman was horrible to everyone but those she trusted (very few) in her time.  GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK.  Let Nancy cry about being the butt of a joke.  She’s got an entire organization and mouthpiece lauding her hubby day in and day out.  She deserved it.

Obama, Typical American and Other News

Since I am an ESL teacher, I work with people from all over the world every day.  Not only do I teach them English, but I introduce them to American customs as well.  One of the things students learn early on is that when an American says something like “Sounds good” in response to an invitation, it’s not really a commitment.

For example, I used to be friends with a couple from Kazakhstan — they were ethnic Russians — and every time I spoke with either of them, they wanted to plan something — a movie, lunch, on and on.   I would always say “sounds good” and leave it at that.  This couple would always say in response, “ok, so next Friday?”  I would say maybe.  They would say, “Saturday at 8:00?”  Maybe.  I couldn’t handle it.  I mean we had just had a good time doing this that or the other and they wanted to specifically schedule the next this that or the other.  Eventually, I stopped answering their calls.

What’s my point?  Well, history happened on Tuesday.  Obama made that history, along with all of us — 18 plus million of us.  We nominated him.  Also on Tuesday, John McCain gave a speech.  W00T.  On Wednesday, McCain said to Obama, let’s do something 10 times and do it the way I want to.  Obama said that that was appealing.  McCain says let’s do it next week — no matter what Obama may have planned.  It’s annoying, like someone who won’t take no for an answer.

Perhaps the two campaigns are negotiating.  I don’t know.

Meanwhile in Burma, the government has been setting up photo opportunities and then leaving the people to fend for themselves.  (The  segment should be up by tomorrow or Monday.)  A post on Salon fleshes out the helicopter ride Senator Landrieu took and which was aired on This Week.  I’ll leave the comparisons to you.

On a personal note, my sweet, sweet Tammy has a mast cell tumor, maybe two — one on the inside of her lip and the other in her limph node on the same side.  She’s ok for now.  We don’t have all of the information yet.  My hope is that she will live.