Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Dew point

I use an App called AccuWeather on my iPhone, and have always wondered what the 'dew point' number meant. I just looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered that while I still do not really understand what it means, I do know why I am feeling so cranky even though the temperature is only 27C and the humidity 88%. The dew point is at 25C. At the 24–26C dew point, according to the chart, it is "extremely uncomfortable, fairly oppressive."

This is not news to me. I knew it was extremely uncomfortable and fairly oppressive.  But it is nice to have official confirmation of that fact.

(Four more days of work until the summer vacation arrives, but four more VERY BUSY days. And I have a cold, which doesn't help with the crankiness.)

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Lucky day

(Written on Friday evening, but I forgot to post it and can't be bothered changing the times. Please pretend you are reading it on Friday.)

This morning after getting up, I was drinking a cup of tea and waiting for my body to decide it was possible to start moving around without fainting at the earliness of the hour, and it occurred to me, as it so often doesn't, to check what my plans were for my day's classes.

Friday is a lovely day this semester (which is almost over) – four small classes. Small classes are rare at universities, but in this particular department they have decided, correctly, that smaller is better. It is a shame that we only see the students for one semester instead of two, (there is always a compromise) but still, I always feel that the students learn a lot more than my bigger classes do in a whole year. In some ways the classes are harder work, but the work is teaching work, and not merely class management. That makes a nice change from the rest of the week.

Anyway, as I was saying, I decided to check what my plans were for the day in case there were materials I should be taking with me when I left the house. To my horror I discovered that today was not the last day of teaching before exam week. That is NEXT week. What I'd thought was happening was that I'd be doing speaking tests today, then the paper exam next week. In fact I'm doing the speaking tests next week and the paper test is the week after. I had no plan for today. "Give them something fun to do," I'd written in my teaching notes, optimistically assuming I'd come up with something 'fun' on the spur of the moment when the time came.

It was time to bring out the trusty quiz cards.

They worked, of course. They always do. Not only did they work well, I had also forgotten that today was the day for the teacher evaluation surveys, where the students get to criticize their teachers. Doing this right after they've had a particularly hilarious class was a bonus for me.

So it might have been Friday the 13th, but it turned out to be my lucky day. I got to spend the class time grading homework (instead of having to bring it home to do), the students used English for the entire class period, and they thought I was brilliant, AND said so on the evaluations. Win!

I had a very hard time keeping a straight face during one particular exchange, though. I try not to interfere when the students are playing this quiz game, unless they ask me directly. They like figuring things out for themselves, and usually do.

One student in a group of five had taken a card, but wasn't quite sure of the pronunciation of a word. The question was this:

"How many pennies are in a dollar?"

He hadn't seen the word 'pennies' before. I had taught it to them before the game, and written it on the board, but the word up there was 'penny,' not 'pennies,' and he didn't make the connection at first. He read, hesitantly,

"How many penis in a dollar?"

He frowned at the card, puzzled, probably trying to figure out why the answer was 'a hundred.'

The other students were leaning forward and listening intently. When they heard the word 'penis' they leaned forward even more intently. There was a word they knew but weren't expecting to hear! (Students always know the bad words.)

One of them said,

"What??? Say that again?"

The questioner frowned heavily at his card, and repeated, hesitantly,

"How many … penis … in a dollar?"

"Penis? REALLY? But that doesn't make sense!"

"That's what it says. P - E - N - N - I - E - S," he spelled out.

Everybody thought about that for a moment, then one of them suddenly turned and pointed to the board.

"PENNIES!" he shouted.

Uproar ensued.

It was my turn to frown heavily, at the homework I was reading. It was FASCINATING.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Calling Lippy


Why have you deleted all your blogs? I'm in Auckland. WEST Auckland, to be precise. Are you here? Lippy? LIPPY?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


Oh, my goodness. I wrote a blog post last month sometime and forgot to post it. Now that exams are upon us I will be busy for the next couple of weeks, after which I will be heading to New Zealand for six weeks (SIX WEEKS!), but for now, here is something to keep the blog alive. A bit rambly, but never mind.


So here I am, sitting in the teacher's room, alone. I don't have a class this period, and everyone else is in their classrooms, teaching. I have marked all the tests that need marking, all the homework that has been handed in, and I'm just sitting here listening to music on my headphones and enjoying the peaceful bit in the middle of what is my busiest and most frantic day.

But any moment now the other teachers will burst in and start complaining about their students. Whoops, here's one now.

… And that is where my blog writing collapses. THERE ARE TOO MANY NOISY TEACHERS. But oh my goodness I work with some interesting people!

But never mind, it's two days later and now I have my students grading themselves using a oh, bugger it, here's one with a question…

All right. A day later and I'm in class and students are writing busily so I have a free moment. I have them writing about what they CAN DO, what they're GOOD AT, and what they LIKE DOING, and the plan is to have them switch papers and come up with suggestions for jobs for each other. What amazes me the most about my students when they write is how I can sit here and listen to pencils (yes, PENCILS, at UNIVERSITY) scratching on the paper for what feels like hours, then said students proudly present their papers to me, on which are written three malformed sentences. How can they write for so long, and with such concentration, and produce so little and so badly? It is an endless source of fascination to me, and makes me feel like a bad teacher.

… (Two days later.) After that particular exercise, however, there was another surprise for me. It was getting near the end of class, so to hurry them up I told them that when they'd finished they were to bring their papers to me for checking and then they could go. That worked to hurry them up but not necessarily to make their brains work better. Even though the entire chapter of the textbook we'd just done was about jobs, and qualifications for jobs, at least half of the papers that were turned in had sentences like:

"I am good at tennis. I like playing tennis. I can play tennis."

To which their partners, understandably, had responded,

"I think you should become a tennis player."


"I like listening to music. I am good at listening to music. I can watch TV."

And his partner had written, somewhat stymied,

"I think you should become a musician."

(Yeah, RIGHT. Listening to music turns you into an instant musician.)

This is why these students are studying business management. It's so they can become tennis players and musicians.

But near the end of the class, I was handed a paper on which at first I only read the final sentence (because I wanted to leave by this point). His partner had written,

"I think you should become a professional cleaner."

This caused me to glance at the student, who was, unexpectedly, one of the cool kids. It also caused me to look down again and read what he'd written, instead of saying defeatedly, as I had been doing, "OK, you can go."

He had written,

"I am good at cleaning bathrooms. I am good at cleaning floors. I am good at cleaning toilets. I like cleaning. I like cooking. I can clean kitchens."

I looked up.

"A professional cleaner?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied.

I stared at him. I could not wipe the grin off my face.

"When did you leave home?" I asked him.

"March," he answered, slightly puzzled.

"Did you cook and clean when you lived at home?" I asked.

"No," he said.

"But now you've learned how to do it yourself?" I said.

"YES," he said, proudly.

I paused, watching him closely, trying to figure out whether he was winding me up. I was also trying to figure out what to say.

He stood up straighter.

"And I'm GOOD at it," he added, in case I hadn't read that bit. He really wanted me to know.

I thought about it.

"I'm sure you will be a FANTASTIC professional cleaner one day," I told him, finally.

He was still beaming happily when I left the classroom.

You just never know what to expect when you do stuff like this in the classroom. A declaration of a new-found passion for cleaning toilets was certainly not what I had expected, anyway.

Monday, 23 January 2012


I stole an umbrella today, but ended up not needing to use it. On my way home I put it back where I'd found it.

Does that make me a good person or a bad person?