Friday, March 28, 2008

Frightening In My Heart Forever

The following is an unaltered piece of writing by a student. She was assigned to write on the topic "a frightening thing that happened to you."

One day, I went home. I found a little sound and only me at home. I am every afraid of me. I think there is a mouse at home. I shouted "Oh no! This mouse is very dislike and frightening." Suddenly, I look at a fat mouse in my eyes. I shouted "Oh! Don't come on"

I run to my house's corrior. Then, I was crying. I was shy. The mouse still run to me and it seem not to listen to me. I shouted again and my face became red. I hoped my parents would go home at once. I know they didn't until midnight go home, because I called them. The mouse run to me again. I run quickly. I was awaying from this mouse. It is very terrible in my heart. I shoued angrily: "Go out!" I didn't want to look at it. This mouse run to me again. I awayed from it again. Finally, My parents went home. I was peaceful. That day is frightening in my heart forever.

I hope you didn't read this right before going to bed. I probably should have warned you.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Horrible Truth About My Life

The horrible truth about my life is that it's so wonderful, no-one would voluntarily read a blog post about it. Most people only want to read posts with titles like "Ten Things I Hate About Everyone" or "I Just Met A Big Jerk" or "Defenestration Hurts." So I must resort to trickery in order to get people to read this stuff. My hope is that once you've gotten this far, you'll be resigned to your fate and keep going until you get to the end.

I have the world's greatest job. I've been a librarian, which was pretty good, and a helpdesk technician, which was great, and a mortgage broker, which was lousy, and a security guard, which was weird and kind of fun, but nothing compares with teaching. It's not for everyone, but by golly, it sure is for me. I love my students. I love explaining stuff. I love that look of dawning comprehension that comes over their little faces as they realize that that's how they use semicolons. It's just the best ever.

I have the world's most superb living arrangements. I live in a tiny apartment (more like a hotel room, really) on a floor with thirteen other wonderful people. We all live together and work together and hang out together, and we like it that way. We cook and eat dinner together four nights a week. We celebrate birthday parties as a group. We lift weights together and take vacations together. Every morning, I can get up and go down two flights of stairs to my office. When I'm ready for class, I get to walk five hundred feet to work. If I need some groceries or something, I just hop on a bus. I make enough money to live comfortably, but not so much that I worry about what to do with it. Every five months, the school pays to fly me back to the USA so I can see my friends and family on the other side of the ocean. It's just the best ever.

I am posessed of the world's most amazing wife. Desiree is intelligent, careful, thoughtful, funny, cute, diligent, caring, inquisitive, creative, beautiful, fun, organized, talented, hospitable, and helpful, and I didn't just grab a thesaurus for that sentence; evidence of every single adjective on the list appears on a regular basis. We do everything together and still wish that we had more time. In spite of the cynical predictions of my co-workers when I first got married, we're approaching our fifth anniversary, and not a day goes by that I'm not amazed that I have her. She's just totally the best ever.

Sure, there are a ton of other things that I love about my life -- the friends, family, weekends, books, music, games, ideas, education, hobbies, goals, and growth, but I can't even talk here in this blog about what's really most wonderful. All of the stuff I've written about already doesn't compare to my divine sonship, or my confidence about my eternal destiny, or my being transformed day by day from lesser into greater glory. Best of all, those most important things are the things that anybody can have, because they're free gifts of our loving Father.

So if you ever hear me complaining (as human nature is wont to do), just forward me a link to this page. It might just be my best blog post ever.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Well of Lost Teachers

One of the big goals that Desiree and I have for our tenure here (however brief or long it may be) is to overhaul the English program within our International American department to make it more robust and easy for new personnel without prior English teaching experience to move into. We're introducing a big-time new emphasis on vocabulary, writing detailed lesson plans, and focusing the individual semester emphases more tightly. I teach the second year of English, and second semester second year (i.e., the one we're in now) attempts to emphasize development of writing skills.

Practically speaking, this means that I teach a particular type of writing (narrative, descriptive, argumentative, and so on) and assign the students various and sundry papers to write in order to see if they've understood it. I then grade the papers, carefully marking their mistakes, and give them back to the students so that they may learn from their misdeeds (and, usually, from their misspellings).

I have one hundred and eighteen students. Teaching a writing course for the first time to one hundred and eighteen EFL students is kind of like living at the bottom of a deep well. A well filled with papers, specifically. Some of them are good, more of them are bad, and a few of them are plagiarized. I spend my time struggling to swim upward through these papers, and every few days, just about the time I get my head above the crimson ink and scribbled corrections, the students peer over the edge far above me and shovel another load of unfiltered syntactical obscenities down into the well. Sheets of A4 stock white flutter down onto my head, and, brandishing my red pen like an oar, I doggedly make my way for the surface again.

"No problem!" I shout up to the students. "Bring me another one on Monday -- 250 words, double spaced, and watch the infinitives this time!" The students, for their part, don't say much, although occasionally I'll hear a faint voice calling down to me, "Teacher, I have not typed my paper. Is it OK?"

Sure, sure, whatever. When you're drowning in comma splices, it doesn't make much difference whether the curlicues are Times New Roman or not. I vaguely remember that Elijah, my predecessor, didn't get out much. "D'you want to watch a movie tonight?" we'd ask. "Well," he'd reply reluctantly, "I'd like to, but I have about two hundred papers left. I'd better not." We'd make consoling noises and leave him to his work. Little did I realize that the reason we didn't see him that much was that he was stuck at the bottom of a well.

For my part, I don't really mind it down here. Sometimes you read some funny typos, and a few of the papers are genuinely interesting. If I find the bones of one of the previous teachers, though, I'm telling the students that we're watching movies for the rest of the semester.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A brief gem . . .

. . . from a paper entitled "My Best Teacher." My student writes, "In my life I have had many good teachers. They are all very respectable. But for me, Miss Wang, who was my class teacher in my high school, left the deepest depression on me."

Apparently, it remains to this day.


Monday, March 3, 2008

A perfect man

First, let me apologize for my late posting. The Internet must have gotten confused somehow and mistakenly backdated my post so that it's now late. That's the only possible explanation I can think of.

So with that out of the way, I'd like to continue to the next installment of "Speeches My Students Have Made." Since we were studying Jane Eyre, I had some romantically themed speech topics. One of them was "What kind of man do you like?" This, as I had hoped, produced some rather amusing results. In terms of the most popular traits overall, the ideal male specimen would be tall ("maybe not too tall, but taller than me!"), kind, funny (or, as the girls say, "humorous"), responsible, and respectful to parents and elders in general.

Some were more particular. "He must love small animals," declared one young lady, "because I love small animals, and we can have many of them in our house." "The best boyfriend will be very romantic," said another. "He will think of a wonderful surprise for me every week." "He must be handsome," noted a third. "And he must have good skin."

A few of my students had more . . . unusual tastes in men. Three of them said that they wanted men that were slightly ugly, generally unmotivated, and possessed of less than scintillating personalities. Their reasoning (wait for it) was that "then no other girls will want him, so he can only stay with me." Others, perhaps losing something in translation, said that their perfect boyfriend would be "macho," or even "a male chauvinist." One girl said she thought that "fat is handsome, so I want a little fat man." Based on my experience with Chinglish, I adjudge that she means a man who is slightly fat, not a spherical man.

One noble girl said, "My best man will not wash dishes or do housework at all, because I can do all these things for him." The earth trembled slightly when she said this, but it was probably just Glora Steinem rolling over in her grave (all the more impressive considering that she's not dead yet). The girl's classmates all clapped at this line, though.

Others took a different approach. "He should think I am right even if I do something wrong," said one girl firmly. Another, summing up her speech (to peals of laughter), concluded "The most important thing is, he must obey me very well." On financial matters, one reasoned, "The money we have should go to me, because if a man have a lot of money, he will do bad things." Others expressed suspicion about men in general. One explained that men must be watched carefully, "because men always pretend themselves until after marriage."

My favourite line from the whole speech, though (and one of the favorites of the class, to judge from the volume of laughter) was from Emma, who, in explaining her ideal man said "He needn't be rich, like Bill Gates, or handsome, like Tom Cruise, or lovely, like Dave, but he must love me very much."

That's right, friends. You are reading a post by the ne plus ultra of loveliness. I am to lovely as Bill Gates is to rich. You can look it up in the dictionary. In fact, go ahead -- I'll wait.