Monthly Archives: October 2016

A Murder Without Blood

I hacked off a student’s head today. In my defense, he’d knocked the nose off one of my students and I was exacting revenge. He also should never have allowed me to get hold of his sword.

Today was the final class of the first term of the classes I teach on Sunday. Because it falls on-or-near Halloween, it is a tradition that part of the class is spent at a Halloween Party.

In the past I’ve borrowed a jacket to become an FBI agent but the first time I went my students got their invitations the morning of the part, which meant they couldn’t prepare costumes.

Today, though, we got notice in time for my students to prepare costumes. (I went as a cranky, ugly old teacher which, well, yeah.)

At one point, one of my students, who was dressed as a clown/harlequin lost her clown nose. I blamed the closest student, who happened to be dressed in a schoolgirl outfit complete with sword and gas mask. I threatened to burn down his town if he didn’t shape up. (Note: I do not know why that idea popped into my head.)

Somehow he decided it was a good idea to wave his sword rather than striking me with it. I disarmed him and went into a karate pose and promised to hill him and his family. (Actually I just did a dramatic pose and a dramatic sword strike whilst he did an impressive pratfall to the ground.)

There is a set of photos, but I can’t post them. Now I have a few days to rest before I start with the next class. Sigh.


Almost Completely Useless

On Thursday, I predicted to a colleague that I’d get a migraine on Friday. I knew this because it was the first day of a long holiday.

As predicted, I got my migraine aura and quickly took medicine and coffee. Despite this treatment, my body still punished me for the migraine. I spent most of the day caught somewhere between sloth-like and slug-like.

I did manage to get outside to buy some clothes and feed our youngest, but then I came back home and returned to sloth-like, slug-like mode.

That means it’s early to bed, especially as I’m working tomorrow. I did rough out some reviews for future topics here, and also weighed the pros and cons of doing NaNoWriMo this year. (Short version: It’s cons all the way down this year.)

But more on that in a future post.




Butt in Chair With Boring Translator Speak

Marking essays is hard enough as your eyes and brain glaze over after several badly written works. However, when you throw in online translator based writing you get something that looks like English but isn’t and that induces headaches surprisingly quickly.

Today I worked out the final marks for my evening class. That task involved marking a few essays I’d either recently acquired or had put off marking for much too long.

The problem with translators is that students think they produce English when what they actually produce is 90% gibberish mixed with occasional brilliance (rather like this blog, at least with the gibberish part…)

I find I can only make it through a few machine translated essays before I need a break involving coffee and or a game based on WW2 era tanks.

Eventually I finished (both essays and tanks) and managed to get everything entered in the spread sheet. Now I get to relax. At least until Sunday, when I’ll have more final marks to prepare.



A Phone and a Pen Addict

I taught three classes today and phoned them all in. I was present but not active, which suited my students just fine.

After a shortish morning, I met a fellow pen addict and her husband on the occasion of their second visit to Japan. (Note: they are in transit to other places and have given themselves a long layover in Tokyo.) I bought ink on behalf of someone else and she bought ink and a pen on behalf of herself.

After that I ate too much and marked too little. By the time I got to my evening class I was already ready to be done. I managed to pull something together–mostly a final exam of sorts–and then managed to trick the students into marking it.

It was not my greatest moment, but they all were happy with their scores. Now I have to do final marks.

But first, it’s way past my bed time.

Hump Day Usually Hurts

It is an odd quirk of my schedule that I have three of my worst classes on Wednesday. This is offset by having a shorter than normal schedule, but not by much.

I open with my worst “upper level” JHS 1 class. They’ve been loud all year, and it only got worse after they picked up students from the lower level after summer vacation. One student is especially obnoxious in a confrontational way and he leads a small pack of other students. Today, though, the pack were actually pretty good. It was other students who caused trouble.

After a break for an early lunch, I meet the contender for my worst class. They are also JHS 1s and are also confrontational. This attitude got a lost worse after the reorganization and there are times where I’ve had complete classroom collapse. Luckily, the class is right before lunch and, since I’ve already eaten, I just keep them around a while.

Today, however, they were pretty good as I plied them with a game of bingo that included stamps for early victors and scrawled versions of my initials after that.

Then I have real lunch break, during which I prep for the next day.

After real lunch, I have my worse HS 2 class. They are dominated by two American Football players who like to put on shows. The worst of the pair has been struggling the last few weeks as he’s been expected to do a solo project, rather than leech off the hard work of a partner. Because of this, he feels compelled to put on a show that involves no sitting in his assigned seat and making a joke of me telling him to get back in it.

I ignored him and started listening to other students do their speeches. He just played with his phone.

Luckily the day ends early on hump day.

Nearer Thee to the Panic and the End

Despite my best efforts to be the ant, this time of year I’m the grasshopper. Which is kind of why I used a version of that story in class today.

I start out strong and keep up with all my marking, but just as I had a tendency to finish most of my research papers in the 72 hours before they were due back at university, something about October makes me put off marking until a mad dash at the end.

It doesn’t help that I tend to keep student work until the end of the course. I realize that this keeps them wondering how well they are actually doing, but I also find that it makes them work a lot harder. My goal is to create neither panic nor pathos by keeping results a secret.

The problem is, my pathos at this system quickly turns to panic when the end of the term rolls around.

All Speeched Out With More to Go

Although no one had a case of the Speech Day Influenza, it was not a smooth day of speeches.

My first period class (JHS 2/ US 8th grade) appeared ready to challenge my claim that I’d bring them in for lunch if they didn’t do their speech and/or have their item for their show-and-tell speech. One student seemed stuck in “look at me!” mode and kept trying to do his speech again and again. In fact, he may have set a record for speech performances. At one point, he refused to leave the podium, so I told the other student to go ahead and start. Then, after that failed, he let the student finish and then went up and started doing his speech.

However, I have 1) two daughters and 2) a wife who likes to argue with our oldest so extra noise is something that doesn’t phase me that much. After a bit of theater of the absurd where I was talking with one student whilst a second student was determined to do his speech again and again, the speech student finally settled down.

Final result: lots of zeros and a few lunch “dates” where students get to perform their speeches rather than eat their lunches.

My second period class had a similar result, although since there was no attention seeker, it was a lot quieter.

For third and sixth period I changed gears to high school second year (US 11th grade). They were supposed to present their original supervillains today, but I ended up getting only a few speeches. This will complicated all our lives starting in a couple weeks when they start their final projects and discover they have less time.

My attention-seeker in my last class likes to change desks and use his smartphone for “research” (translation: time wasting). Today he stubbornly refused to return to his assigned desk so I gave him a zero for the day. He said okay, which means 1) he didn’t hear me 2) doesn’t understand there will be consequences because I do such things for sport.

We’ll see what happens when it’s his turn on Wednesday. He sometimes surprises me, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

A Sudden Case of Flu-Like Symptoms

The one thing I can always count on, whatever class I’m teaching, is that someone will be sick on speech day.

Today I had two students out with mysterious flu-like symptoms. (One, to his credit, eventually showed up even though he didn’t have his speech finished.) Another student left at lunch knowing she’d have to do her speech after lunch.

They will do them eventually (i.e. next week) but will have to do them a the beginning of class, not after lunch.

This happens more often in my high school classes at the school where I work. It happens enough that I’ve given it a Japanese name that translates as “Speech Day Influenza”.

The symptoms are sudden headaches that require trips to the nurses office; sudden stomachaches that require long trips to the toilet; or sudden disappearances before class that can’t be explained by friends.

There’s also a wave of memory loss that involves either forgetting the speech paper, which means it can no longer be studied for memorization, and the assumption that such forgetfulness constitutes immediate amnesty.

I expect that to happen tomorrow, too, as I have two classes that have yet to finish speeches. It might be the same as a plague zone.

The Praise of Neutral Parties

For us it’s kind of expected. When you hear other people say it, though, it’s kind of cool.

Today was our youngest’s school festival. She would be playing the piano for the singing part of the show and a keyboard for the instrumental part of the show.

I wasn’t as interested as in all this as I had been in the past so I arrived late and left early. In my defense, this is her fifth show and that makes it the least interesting. The first was the most exciting and everyone since then has been less and less interesting whilst my patience with the crowd grows thinner and thinner. Next year will be her last performance in elementary school which will make it both interesting and emotional.

My job at each performance is always the same. Stand taller than everyone else and make a passable video recording of the events. Each class marches in and sings a song. Then they reposition and perform an instrumental. Our youngest had won an audition to play the piano for the singing part.

After the first part was over, the ladies near us commented about how impressed they were by the piano part. Both She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were gushing but we couldn’t actually hear what she was doing as the drums were positioned in a way that made them seem louder than normal and a toddler near us was freaked out by the shockingly loud bass drums.

After it was over, I ran away. I’m sure the open class was interesting but, quite frankly, been there, done that.


Ten Ideas But Not Much Point

It seemed like a good idea. Now it needs some modification

For the past year and a half (ish) I’ve been writing a “daily” list of ten ideas on select, or random topics. They were intended to be part of a morning practice, but for a while they’ve become an end in themselves and it’s time to change them.

Part of the problem I have is that 1) I have no plan to follow up on the ideas and 2) for the past few months the ideas have become an end unto themselves (kind of like this blog) and writing them has taken up time that could be spent on other things.

Because of this, I’ve decided to implement a few new rules.

First, I’ll only write the ten ideas in the morning. Once lunch rolls around, it’s time to focus on other writing.

Second, if I miss a day, I will not attempt to fill the missed days before moving on.Instead, I’ll just start from the current day. Until now, I’ve attempted to catch up by filling in days I’d missed before moving on to the next batch of ideas.

Third, once every couple of weeks, I’ll select ideas at random and attempt to mix and match them with other ideas. After that, I’ll toss out the notebook. (After a quick, cursory search, though.)