Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cake and Essays

Today was warm! It was 53 degrees! Oh, how wonderful!

I also have allergies, or a cold, which makes me sad.

The past couple of weeks I've been watching a lot of Veronica Mars, which is kinda like Alias if the main character loses a few years, so I've been just about holed up in a cave. But now I'm free, like a bat!

Last night, though, in an effort to rip myself away from the marathon, I fixed my stove all by myself, scrubbed the top of it, cleaned my fish grill, did the dishes, and cleaned my room up a bit. Last week I had cleaned my rice cooker and microwave. My place always feels so messy, though, just because there's so much stuff.

Funny thing about Japanese dwellings. They're small. In fact, remember when I first moved in and couldn't figure out how to put my futon in the futon closet? Well, I never did, so now my futon is under my bed, and my closet includes my clean clothes, dirty clothes, summer clothes, winter clothes, ski wear, laundry rack, blankets, luggage, pillows, linens, a dehumidifier, boxes of educational supplies, a fan, and a vacuum cleaner. That's living, cleaning, and fashion all in one place. My bookshelf is even more varied.

And why is this? Reasons are complicated; it has to do with building codes, I think, and making silly regulations to ensure the bureacrats' pockets get lined, but in the olden days there were outdoor storehouses to put all your junk. Now, people don't do that as often, especially apartment dwellers, but ever since I became aware of these storehouses I've been picking them out of the landscape where before I had never even noticed them. Anyways, here's what some people do now.

In the winter, I generally sleep a lot. It's cold! And my bed is so warm and cozy, especially with my hot water bottle. And with my wall unit broken, all I had was my kerosene heater, which functions about as well as a campfire. So I did a lot of shivering and running from one blanket to the next, and not doing my dishes because my sweater sleeve would fall in the dish water, etc. But today was warm.

Yesterday, as I was leaving to go to work, and dashing out the door in a panic, I heard a dripping sound, and discovered that water was leaking from the ceiling by my shower. I didn't have time to investigate then, but when I got home, I found a note in my door. Using the internet and my mad reading skillz, I got that the upstairs neighbor's washing machine had leaked (again), and if there was any damage to please let her know, and that she was sorry but that it was going to be noisy tonight. Well, I didn't think that the thumps and bumps were especially loud, but I guess that is why it sounds like there's a washing machine repairman upstairs, now that I think about it. Later on my doorbell rang. Instead of fruit this time, though, I got a lovely lovely surprise. She had gone out to a bakery and bought me a tiny little cake! It was so cute! It was chestnut flavored! I ate half the thing last night and the other half right when I got home from work. Can I have my ceiling leak every day please? Now I'm just wondering if I'm supposed to get her a thank you gift for the sorry gift. It's like at my old school my principal asked me to get him some beef jerky and he sent his wife out to buy me a scarf as a thank you for the souvenir gift. When does it end?

Maybe I should go to the gym tomorrow to burn off that chestnut cake. But I'm not feeling good! Poor me.... :P

This month I'm working with the 3rd years (9th graders). I'm surprised at some of the stuff they're doing. They have to read 500 word stories, and pick things to match up the plot. Today, there was a story about two British girls who grow up together, and one of them moves away, and she becomes a nurse but she works a lot, and she doesn't have enough time for her daughter. What would she be thinking then? The choices were something like, A: I'm a bad mother, I need to spend more time with my daughter. B: I need to work harder, I'm not getting enough money. C: I wonder what that girl from my childhood is up to or D: ....I dunno. Kim forgot. Anyways, the answer was A, but even I had to think about it. When I came in this month, I started to ask them questions for an activity my teacher wanted me to do with them, and one of the ones they have the most trouble is, "Which is bigger, Tokyo or Morioka?" and all they have to say is "Tokyo is." but they couldn't get it. They just stood there, not saying anything in English, whispering to their friends in Japanese, nudging each other to raise their hands. Now that they've gotten used to me asking them questions, they're getting better.

But when grading their compositions, which only have to be 5 sentences, and some of them can't even manage that, I see what the problem is. It's not a new one, but it's evident with the older kids. Instead of saying something like, "I want to be a nurse," they'll say, "I have had dreamt of to be a nurse since I was being a children." Way too complicated! They're definitely thinking too much, but the sad thing is that's what the tests ask for.

Also when grading their essays, I like to just correct the mistakes and write comments. But my head teacher came over today and asked me to put a big circle on the paper if it was perfect. I asked how perfect, and it had to be perfect perfect. I didn't like doing that, because what if the period is there, it's just really light, or the w is actually a capital letter but I can't tell because the h is too tall and so I can't compare. Or what if something is grammatically correct, but not natural, or vice versa? By this method, someone that writes "I like cats." will get a circle, while someone that writes "My favorite animal is cats. I have two cats at home. I enjoy playing with them every day after schol." which is much more talented but not technically perfect. If I don't give the second person a circle, I'm punishing them for trying. So, the kids have learned to use English as little as possible so as to reduce the possibility of messing up. It's like they're gambling, and instead of being able to bet five dollars each time, they have to bet double or nothing, so it's better to quit while they're ahead instead of trying to continue and learn the game better.

I'm on a foreigner mailing list in Iwate, and I got an email the other day with about this same topic. The subject was that they focus too much on testing, and not enough on communication. The high school students at this person's school were supposed to find the mistakes in the following sentences:

1) In one of the earliest attempts at solar heating, energy from the sun was absorbed by and large metal sheets covered by double plates of glass.

2) The death of plants beside the roads led environmentalists to investigate further to discover just how widespread the problem caused by the use of salt to prevent from ice on roads really is.

3) Some of the greatest advances in science have come about because some clever person saw a connection between a subject that was already understood, and another noticed still mysterious subject.

4) In the early years of the 21st century the trend toward the unisex look had reached so advanced from a state that it was almost impossible to distinguish males and females unless they were completely unclothed.

5) Librarians have meaningful disagreements with one another about the problem of how to classify books, but the criteria by themselves which arguments are won or lost will not include the "truth" or "correctness" of one classification system relative to another.

Hard, right? I could hardly do it. If I were a teacher, I would have assigned them a 200 hundred word essay, written without the use of a dictionary. Now, I'm thinking. I wonder how impossible it would be to get my teachers to have the kids either write or talk stream of consciousness, and totally disregard any mistakes, but reward them on effort. Even if I convinced the teachers, how to convince the kids.....

Oh, and I'm going to Hong Kong and South Korea in March. Yay!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kimbo, sounds like things are challenging and fun and crasy!! What a great experience you're having. Hope you have a great trip to Hong Kong and Korea!! what fun!!!

ps- I need to put JJPP and Lizzy to work making reservations for hotels now that we have our tickets.