Wednesday, June 30, 2004

As fate would have it,


I bumped into O this morning on my way to work. I live behind the train station and our school is across the street from it, so I walk in the back and out the front of the track area everyday on my way to work. When I was half way through it today, I saw O entering it with his duffle bag and daypack on his way to the track his train was leaving from. We both only had time for a very brief exchange of cordialities and a handshake, then we went out separate ways.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

An update on O

This post is a follow-up to my post about O on 9 June 2004.


Despite the death of his mother the day before exams began, he made it through all of them (grammar, translation, dictation, oral and correspondence all in both English and French as well as the Cambridge FCE exam), passing his final oral one at 11h today. I was on the exam jury and I think it made a difference (the other members were Bossman and Bosswoman). He started off slowly, looked at me and I smiled at him to let him know that everything was alright (we hadn’t planned that in advance). I tried not to write too many things down, because I could tell it made him nervous when BM and BW did. During his ten-minute presentation, he glanced at me quite a bit for reassurance, which I provided by a kind expression on my face. After the question part of the oral exam he left so that BM, BW and I could decide on a grade for him.


BM and BW are perfectly well aware of what he’s been through the past few weeks, and we all commented on his courage. He could have easily had his exams deferred due to the death, but didn’t want to. None of us thought he would…it’s just not O’s style. We discussed the fact that both BW and I knew he could have done better (BW had been his translation teacher), but could only grade him on what he did today. We decided on the  grade (a bit lower than he was capable of, but still good), called him back into the room and told him the result. We could tell he was disappointed by his performance, but he agreed with us that he could have done better.


After signing the acceptance of the grade, he told us that making it through exams had been very difficult. He said that he had had trouble concentrating on most of them, which is why all of his exam grades were slightly lower than usual. I extended my hand and shook his, BW did the same, BW gave him a hug and he went home to pack. He leaves tomorrow for his two-month job in Switzerland and starts on Thursday.


O and I actually said our informal goodbyes yesterday. I was on a long break in the teachers’ room when he walked by, so he came in and we chatted for a while about he past two years, about exams and also about the future. We exchanged email addresses and are going to keep in touch, hopefully meeting for lunch from time to time after her returns to our country-not-to-be-named - distance, time and funds permitting. 


As I’ve been sitting here typing this, I’ve (selfishly) grown a bit sad realising that O has left our school - students like him are few and far between. We’ve just graduated a fine young man and have unleashed him on the world. Days like this are really what being a teacher is all about.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

2 Years

Today is my two year anniversary at the school. Look for a short review of that time to be posted soon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


We were given the schedule of the intensive courses that begin in mid-July, and I asked Bossman who'd be splitting the first one. He told me it'd be me and Incompetent Colleague. I tried to confirm that IC and I would also be splitting the August intensive course, and he said, 'I really don't expect IC to be around after the end of July.'
Hopfully, the end is near.

How are teachers viewed in your country?

In the country I come from, they are viewed as hard workers who do a thankless job.

In the country I resided in before the-country-that-won't-be-named, they are viewed as well educated people who make their students work hard.

In the-country-that-won't-be-named, they are viewed as lazy people who work very little and like long holidays.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A bit of a rant

21 May was pre-exam day at our school. The Cambridge exams were rapidly approaching, so we gave the students a practice exam that day so they could experience having the whole thing at once. Actually, I gave them the exam. It was my project and I ended up doing it alone, which wasn't so bad.
Here are the levels and number of students:
BEC Preliminary - 1
BEC Vantage - 6
PET - 4
FCE - 7
CAE - 7
(Attendance was low because the pre-exams are optional. A lot more actually took exams)
It went pretty well for the most part, but the ending frustrated me. None of the CAE students wanted to do the writing, the excuse being that they didn't feel like it. I tried to convince them to stay, but it didn't work. All the work of preparing that part of it down the drain. Did they think I wanted to be there on my day off giving the exam to them? Trust me, I didn't! I did it because I cared about their education and wanted to help them as much as possible. Lazy sods.
In the Eastern European country I lived in before moving to the-country-that-won't-be-named, we had two practice exams before the Cambridge exams and all of my students did every part of them (year after year in many cases), with the only complaint being that they were tired (which was totally understandable).

Thursday, June 17, 2004

As expected

I got to work today and was eager to find out what happened to my classes while I was out sick. I checked the log book for one and saw that Incompetent Colleague had taught it and had written "book confusing" in the log book, meaning that he didn't understand it, even though the name of the book I used with that class was clearly written, as well as the page numbers we did during the last class. Not to mention the fact that I sent the following email to Bossman for whomever taught that class (IC confirmed that BM gave him the email before the class):

Room # 515. Whoever teaches it can just continue on in the [name of book] book - we finished up to page 39 (inclusive) last class. There will be a visitor from my Monday class, [name of student], who won't have a book (his class uses a different book), but I made photocopies for him yesterday. Please mark his attendance on the Monday class' records.

Sorry, but I find the above message to be crystal clear. I gave him the name of the book as well as the last page number we had finished. What more could I have written? Also, IC didn't mark the visiting student's attendance on the Monday class' attendance sheet, he put the student as a guest in the class.

New Guy taught my other classes and as far as I can tell, everything went well.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Tough questions

I  just rang work to let them know that I was feeling better and would be back tomorrow. Bossman wasn't there, so I spoke to Old Secretary. I gave her my message and then wanted to confirm the time and class I'd be teaching - June is exam time and not only do our times change every week, we frequently have to sub for other teacher who are giving exams.
I asked her if my schedule still said 8:20 and which class I had. She got up to look, came back to the phone and said "You start work at either 8:20 or 8:30 and it doesn't say which class you'll be teaching."
Realising that further questions would be fruitless, I thanked her and hung up.
Let us not forget that OS is the one in charge of scheduling.

Sick day part 2

The coughing and sneezing continue.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

One of my favourite quotes:

Show me a teacher who doesn't almost lose his or her mind sometimes, and I'll show you a teacher who's not trying.
Where is it from? Boston Public episode 3. I heard it more than two years ago and wrote it down. Any teacher will tell you that it is so true.

Taking a siccie

For the first time in more than thirteen months, I'm taking a sick day. The bad part is that I'm actually ill. When I woke up this morning, my throat was so sore that my voice had dropped a few octaves. Bossman was very cool about it when I called in and told me to take it easy today.

***** Update 14:34 *****

A'll be interesting to see if the lesson plans Bossman asked me to email him have been followed. Although, I think I already know the answer to that.


Runny nose
Sore throat
Can't sleep.

Monday, June 14, 2004

New Guy

New Colleague started today. Our schedules are quite different, so I didn't actually meet him, but Incompetent Colleague did and said he seems nice. Doesn't everyone at first? So, after I officially meet him and decide what he's like, I'll give a nickname on here. Until then, I'll just call him New Guy.

Back to work

I had a four day weekend, but now it's back to work to find out surprises await me. Estonia was fantastic. You should visit some day. Here are some photos I took. The lighting is bad because it rained most of the time.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Happy International Webloggers' Day!

When I first heard about IWD, I tried to decide what to post. I finally chose 'Why I started blogging' as the subject and wrote the post many times in my head, figuring I could easily sit down and bang it out in a short amount of time this morning. However, something that happened last week made me change my mind yesterday. Instead of making this post about me, I'm going to tell you about a student at our school. He's not my student, but I'm a 'permanent substitute' for his class and talk to him from outside of the classroom from time to time (as we pass in the halls, in the computer lab, etc). His name starts with an I, but that could get to be a bit confusing, so I'll call him O in this post.
O is originally from Angola, but has been living in my country-not-to-be-named for thirteen years now. Fourteen years ago, there was a knock on his front door. His father answered and was greeted by some of the local militia leaders. They told him that they had heard he as quite a few sons, and wanted to buy them for their militia (child soldiers are a problem in Angola). His father politely refused, then realised he had to get his family out of there immediately as he knew they'd be back to take his sons. Not having a direction in mind but wanting to preserve his family, they fled that night. They ended up in Luanda, the capital, going door to door to different embassies, telling them what had happened and trying to get out of Angola. My country-not-to-be-named accepted them as refugees and a bit later, they were here.
Moving on to modern times, O is currently a very good student in our school and will be graduating at the end of June. He's smart, funny, very popular, quite studious and always in a good mood. He speaks his local African language (sorry, I can't remember the name of it) as well as three European langagues fluently. He has a love for life that is quite uncommon here. In the two years he's been attending our school, I've never heard a bad word said about him by either students or faculty.
Last Tuesday, O's mother died of cancer. She had been ill for a few years and finally succumbed to the disease. Understandably, O was absent from school that day, something very unusual for him. Exams started last Wednesday and O was there for them. Thursday also, but he was absent again on Friday (no exams) and Monday (no exams), but was there for his exam on Tuesday, and was his usual cheerful self.
On Monday of this week, I had to fill in for his class' regular teacher because she was on holiday, which is when I found out the above info about his mother. N (another student - his best friend) told me that they were going to start a collection for him, so I immediately opened my wallet and donated 20 Euros. The students gave what they could. I then told N to go around to the other classes, explain what had happened and see if anyone wanted to donate. He said, "Do you think they will?" to which I replied, "I'd be surprised if there was someone who wounldn't." N came back a bit later with close to 200 Euros for O and his family. After class, I called Bossman (he was at our other school), let N tell him what had happened and he said that the school would donate 50 Euros - which Young Secretary gave him from the petty cash. Later that day, O's entire class went to his mother's funeral.
I also found out a few other things about O on Monday when talking with his class...he's the third oldest of nine children and not only spends a lot of his free time studying, but also helping his dad raise his younger siblings (his mom had been too ill to do that for a few years before she passed away). To help support his family, he works after school one day a week and all day on Saturdays at a local shop.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to O about his plans for after graduation. He told me that he has a job lined up in Switzerland as a receptionist at a hotel for the rest of the high season, and then he'll return to our country to look for a job to be closer to his family again.
To end, I'd like to tell you about an oral report O did last November (I just happened to be subsituting on the day he was giving it). I found out most of the biographical information that I have included in my second paragraph about O on that day as his oral report was on Angola, however one thing really struck me...his description of the Angolan flag. The main colours are red and black, the former representing the blood of the Angolans that was shed under Portugese rule and the black representing Africa. In the centre, it has a cog wheel representing the industry of Angola, a machte representing the common people and agriculture of the country and a star symbolising the progress the country has made since independence and hope for the future - all three of which are yellow to represent the country's wealth.
So, O, on the first ever International Webloggers' Day, I want to tell you that I'm glad I know you, thank you for being the great person you are and proudly fly the Angolan flag on my blog in your name.

The flag of Angola.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A bit confused.

On 10 April, I signed my blog up for International Webloggers' Day, and have been looking forward to it ever since. I know exactly what I want to post, and had planned on staying up until midnight tonight to post it.

I checked the IWD website and saw it had been revised, and that I have been left off of it. I wonder what's up? As far as I can tell, all the others who found it off my blog are still on it, but not me. Perhaps my blog isn't interesting enough (which might actually be true). I've emailed the proprietor.

Won, two, three

In an elementary level class, we were talking about the Olympics and a student formed a sentence that said, "The teams wons medals." Realizing that he might not know that the word won (which is actually the past simple tense of the verb "to win") was the same in singular and plural, I said to him, "What is the plural form of "won"?" He replied "Two." The entire class, including me, burst into laughter.

I couldn't argue with him.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Poll Results

Twenty-five people voted in the poll I posted last month, and here are the results:
Continue only posting work things  12%
Post other things also  72%
Post other things on a page linked to this one  16%
I didn't vote, but I probably would have picked the last entry. However, being one who feels public opinion is important, I'm going to start by posting a few work related non-rants from time to time - leaving the option to create a different page for non work related things open.
Thanks to all who voted.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

A talk with 'the man'

After work today, Bossman asked me if had a few minutes. I did, so I sat down and we had a quite interesting chat.
He said that he wanted to warn me about 'all hell breaking loose' with Incompetent Colleague going freelance (see my 'Out the door in '04?' post from 24 May for more info). He said that IC has no idea what that means and that it was a stupid thing for him have done. I agreed. He also mentioned that when IC demanded to go freelance, BM explained all the legal things needed to be done and gave IC two months to comply with them, or BM would have to stop doing business with him. BM also made me aware of the reason why he thinks all hell is going to break loose - since IC is now freelance, he's going to cut his hours back to 10 - 15 per week, as teachers on contracts have priority over freelancers - and he expects IC not to be very happy about that.
From there, BM went on to tell me about a new teacher he's hired and will be starting later this month (he's been looking for an additional teacher for about a month now).
So, I guess working today was worth it after all.

***** Update 7 June 2004 *****

IC came into work this morning, looked at the schedule and discovered he would only be teaching four classes this week. The look on his face? Priceless :)


Saturday Colleague needs a few Saturdays off this month, so I have to cover for her. When I was scheduled for it (last month) I thought that it'd be no problem, but now that the day is here I don't want to work. There's something wrong about working on Saturdays, even if it's only for four hours.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

June, July, whenever

Before work this evening, I picked up one of the flyers that are available for prospective students in the office to see if anything I needed to know about was coming up, and noticed that an intensive class was supposed to be starting on 19 June. I didn't see how that was possible, as it'd be right in the middle of our day classes. So I asked Bossman about it. He also looked surprised and asked me what I was talking about, so I showed it to him. He said a few Lylish words and threw the entire stack (about 100) out.
One of the secretaries had put the wrong month on it. It starts in July.

Perhaps I should feel guilty,

but I don't.
As with every Wednesday morning, I took the blue car back, parked it behind the black one and put the key on the rack - making sure that Secretary from Hell saw me do that. I took a look at the schedule and saw that Tall Colleague needs a car at 15h today, and Part Time Colleague needs one at 16h, both as usual. However, I also know for a fact that Young Secretary needs one at 14h45 to take some students to a nearby school for an exam and that she has to wait for them. Two problems...

1. The only key on the rack was the one I put there, and neither TC or PTC had arrived at school when I left so lord knows where the other key is;
2. We only have two cars and TC, YS and PTC all need to to go in different directions (there's no chance of YS being back in time for PTC to get to where he has to go on time).
I could have said something to someone about it, but with all the crap the school has put me through, chose to keep my mouth shut and come home on my break between classes instead.

I can't wait to get back to work in a couple hours and hear what happened.

********** Update 2 June 14:40 **********

Bossman just called to see if I had the key to the black car.

********** Update 2 June 19:55 **********

It turns out that YS had to take her own car and TC took off with the blue car as soon as he realised that they couldn't find the key for the black one, leaving PTC with the black car and no key, so he had to cancel his class - which BM wasn't happy about. BM is pretty sure that Incompetent Colleague forgot to turn the key to it in yesterday, and (of course) he doesn't a phone - I'd hate to be him tomorrow.

Oh, and the spare key to the black car is in BM's top right drawer. He and I are the only ones that know that, and he has a terrible memory. Should I have mentioned that to the office earlier today?