Saturday, October 30, 2004


My favorite teachers. In no particular order.

1. Buddha

2. Joseph Campbell

3. Albert Einstein

4. My mother

5. Socrates

6. Mr. Ecke, my 8th and 9th grade social studies teacher, soccer coach and teacher of 8th and 9th grade elective "Critical Thinking" class who believed in the wisdom and potential of young people enough to have us learn critical thinking skills and to think outside the box.

7. Edward Said

8. Marshall McChluen

9. St. Augustine

10. Every single good hearted, dedicated, giving loving person who seriously undertakes the task of educating and shaping young minds. There is no more thankless, difficult, important, less materially compensating job than that of the teacher.

Who are yours?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Please allow me to introduce myself...

Greetings and salutations loyal readers of The Report Card. I am thephoenixnyc, and I will be sitting in for the next six days while Mr. Teacher is away. I am an old friend of his and he has bestowed this honor on me.

To begin with, I am not a puppet (as some of you may recall, Quickos the puppet sat in last time Teach was away). No, I am flesh and blood and spirit, human in all my glories and foibles. I live and work in New York City. I run a successful International trade and consulting business and I am passionate about travel (25 countries so far) music, art, reading, writing, politics, ancient cultures and collecting antiques and antiquities.

Of course the subject of education is very important to me as well. I believe that knowledge is power and that the truth will set you free. My mother and sister are both teachers and my father left his country of birth at age 18 so that he could scratch and claw his way to a college education in the United States. Learning and education were central to who and what we were growing up and who we are know.

I have two undgraduate degrees in Journalism and Marketing and a Masters Degree in Political Science.

To achieve serenity, happiness, wisdom, mental, material and spiritual success I have relied on education and reading.

Constant, obsessive, volumnious reading.

To know and be one with the worlds of art and science, the worlds of the spirit and the flesh, the triumph, tragedy, joy and sorrow of the human experience, one needs to get an education and to read. This will lead you on the road to enlightenment and serenity.

My blog is listed on the left side of this page. Have a look if you will.



Breaking free

Right, I'm off. I've got a six day weekend so I'm escaping the country-that-won't-be-named for the Eastern-European-country-I-used-to-live-in. You lot take care.

If you're wondering, this has nothing to do with what happened last week. It's been planned for 5 months.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Don't you hate it when you click the 'Next Blog' button at the top, find a great blog, hit the back button, clear you cache and then found out you've lost the blog? I do.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A chat with Bossman

After finishing my 9h lesson yesterday, I went to the office and saw that Bossman had arrived. He didn't say anything, so I asked if he had received my email, which he had (even though he couldn't have been bothered to reply to it). He told me that Wednesday was not a good day this week, but asked if we could chat today even though Bosswoman was still at our other school. I told him that was fine.

I started off by telling him how angry I was last week, which he had already heard from others. However, they seem to have embellished the truth. He had been told that I was hurling abuse (meaning swearing). I remember using the 'F' word once, but then decided that I would keep my language under control. However, if he meant that calling the office 'a bunch of idiots', then yes, I was abusive. Perhaps it's a case where the truth hurts.

We then went into the reasons for my lividity.

Firstly, he completely agreed with me that Pompous Ponce was 100% wrong in the way he keep the log book for class S. He took the photocopies that I had made as evidence and promised to take care of that situation.

Then, we went into the issue of New Girl and driving. BM told me that when he hired her, she was able to prove to him that she had a valid, full driving license. He then said that he didn't think he needed to ask her more questions, such as if she didn't mind driving on motorways. I agreed with him, who would? He tried to tell me that she's still getting used to the signs, but I countered with the fact that the important signs are similar to the UK, and he gave me 'a look'. He then mentioned (again) that he was 99% sure that if he had sent NG to teach class S, she would have gotten lost and the class wouldn't have happened because it's tricky to find. I surprised him by saying that the only reason it's tricky to find is because the directions are the long way (they take you past the town of M and bring you back). As I found out when I returned on Friday, there's a much easier way (too bad I didn't write it down, I only memorised it).

I then brought up the fact that him that NG wasn't living up to the conditions of her employment (cheers Tim) by refusing to drive when needed, and he agreed but mentioned that she was fulfilling the the other parts of it, and was a good teacher. He finished this part of our discussion by telling me that he was giving NG one more month to be able to drive on motorways, and after that he would stop letting her use that as an excuse. I countered that by asking if he had 'an action plan' to help her driving, to which he, unsurprisingly, responded, 'No.' So, I suggested one. I suggested that he could have YS take NG on drives at weekends, but let NG do the driving. I didn't offer to do it myself, because, frankly, I have better things to do with my weekends. He liked that plan and said he'd talk to YS and NG about it.

He then went on to tell me that I had lost a lot of respect in the eyes of YS, Old Secretary (she was there also, but kept quiet) and the two or three others who had heard it. I looked at him and said, 'I don't really care what they think of me, I'm here for my students not them', and he looked shocked, but smiled (no students were around when all this happened last week).

From there, we continued talking about all the problems that are caused by the stupidity of the office. I agreed to have more patience (again) and he agreed to try to get them to do better (again). However, we both agreed on the fact that that probably won't happen.

Overall, it was a positive chat, and I feel better now. Not completely, but mostly.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A quick update:

1. Bossman was at our other school today, so I emailed him to see if I could schedule a meeting with him and Bosswoman for Wednesday. I still haven't heard back.

2. Young Secretary is still not speaking to me, unless it has to do with work.

3. New Girl barely said anything to me.

4. Unfortunately, Pompous Ponce IS still speaking to me.

5. Good news: S came to his class today and told me that he had spent several hours of the weekend studying English.

Two classes, three teachers, a secretary, a boss and a mess

Part 2
Click here for Part 1

Young Secretary: 'If I was free tomorrow, I'd take her there and pick her up, but I'm not.'
MrTeacher: 'My God, she's 28, not 16!'
Pompous Ponce: 'It's not my fault.' and flounced out of the school.

Ring ring

New Girl: 'Hello?'
MrT: 'Hi NG, it's MrT. Bad news, PP is having a coloscopy tomorrw and someone needs to cover his class S. It's in M, 50km from here.
NG: 'I'd have to drive?"
MrT: 'You could walk, but driving would be quicker.'
NG: 'I can't. It's too far. I can barely drive to class T'

Note: Class T is 6km from the school.

MrT: *sigh*
MrT: 'You know that class K has an exam coming up in six weeks and I need to be there.'
NG: 'I'll teach it for you.'
MrT: 'I though you had never prepared students for it before.'
NG: 'I haven't.'
MrT: 'Do you know anything about it?'
NG: 'Not really, I've only used a little of the book before.'
MrT: 'That's why you need to teach class S, which will allow me to teach class K!'
NG: 'It's too far.'
MrT: 'Please?'
NG: 'No, I can't.'
MrT: *loud sigh* 'Goodbye'
MG: 'MrT, I....'

This is that point at which I accepted the fact that I'd have to teach class S, so I got out the logbook, and steam started bellowing out of my ears again. Not only did it not tell me which materials are used for the class, it didn't even have the name of the students written in it! Also, the description of what had been done in the classes was very vague. Last class, 'Past continuous.' Great. From what source? The class before: 'names of office furniture', 'tenses', passive'. What? Why would a teacher do passive with students who don't even know the names of office furniture? Fury raged again.

MrT (irritated, firm tone): 'YS, PP hasn't included ANY info on here that tells me about the class. Call him and tell him that I want a lesson plan [standard procedure at our school when a teacher has to miss a class] and to know about the level. Names of students too, if he happens to know them.'

With that, I left and went home. I was fuming the entire way. I went back to the school around 14h15 to make some photocopies for my 15h class, and YS was there.

MrT: 'Do you have any info for me on the class yet?'
YS: 'No, I just got back from lunch.'

She then called PP and he gave her ONLY the following information:
-technical English
-general English
-heating machines.

MrT: 'Which Murphy's, red, blue or purple?'
YS: 'He didn't say.' (in a 'fuck off' tone of voice)
MrT: 'Level?'
YS: 'He didn't say.' (again in a 'fuck off' tone of voice)

I had heard the conversation - she hadn't asked him any of the questions I had told her I needed to know. So, basically, I had to miss my exam class because NG wouldn't drive to class S, and was left with a class that I knew nothing about shouldn't have had to teach, and I had no clue as to what I should prepare.

The fact that no one else saw neither how illogical the above was, nor the idiocy of the whole situation were the reasons I was so livid.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


I had to go into work today to do a few things, and Pompous Ponce was in the teachers' room making photocopies. New Girl was also there teaching the Saturday class, and she came out to see who was talking. I asked her question, she responded, told me that Young Secretary would be in shortly and went back to her class. I did what I had to and left. YS hasn't spoken to me since we yelled at each other on Thursday, and I didn't want to be around her, PP or NG.

Before Thursday, I would have waited thirty minutes til the end of NG's class, then PP, YS, NG and I probably would have gone out for lunch and perhaps for a walk after.

Things have changed.

As far as part two of yesterday's post goes, I'm working on it. It'll be up tomorrow or Monday

Friday, October 22, 2004

Two classes, three teachers, a secretary, a boss and a mess

Part 1

I teach a class on Fridays (15h - 16h30) that will be taking a Cambridge exam on 4 December 2004. It's an in-company class 2km from the school and they're a great lot - hard working, studious and love to learn. Class K is a very intense, fast paced and wonderful class, and is a great way to end my week. The only time they've had a different teacher was when I went to the Olympics in August, and they were less than satisfied with his lesson (they called it a waste of time). I'll be out of town on 29 October and 19 November, so last week we decided to lengthen our 90 minute classes by 30 minutes to make up for that time.

Pompous Ponce also teaches a Friday after noon (15h30 - 17h) in-company class 50 km away and hates it. Every Friday he tells us that he's never going to teach class S again. From what he's said, they only attend to get out of working and don't like to do anything.

After my class on Thursday ended (at 11h50), I went into the office to put some documents back. Young Secretary looked at me 'You're teaching class S tomorrow and New Girl is going to teach class K. I looked at her and responded, 'No way', to which she said, 'PP is going to have a coloscopy, so you're doing it. I don't know why he scheduled it during that class.' I couldn't believe she had said that, so countered with 'We all know why he did that...he hates the class.' YS then looked at me and said, 'True.'

It should be said here that he was not too ill to work, but his doctor thought the procedure would be a good idea. He taught his classes Friday morning. Also, I want to emphasise that I am not complaining about someone needing time off for medical reasons.

I then asked her why NG, who had had Friday off, couldn't do it. She replied, 'She can't drive on the motorway' (it's important to note here that having a driving license is a requirement to be hired by our school). I was shocked and asked why a person who has had a full driving license for many years couldn't drive on a motorway, to which YS replied, 'She's too nervous, she'll crash the car'. That's the point at which steam started spewing from my ears. The conversation got louder and continued:

MrTeacher: 'You've got to be kidding!'
YS: 'I'm not.'
MrT: 'My class is six weeks away from a major exam [that they have paid €150 for], and you want a teacher who has never prepared anyone for the exam to teach them, just because she's afraid of driving on the motorway? She can take backroads. I'll find her a route on the map!'
YS: 'She can't do it. I'VE RIDDEN WITH HER! She's way too nervous. She'll crash the car.'
MtT: 'HOW IS THAT MY CLASS' PROBLEM ? This isn't fair to them. I'm going to call Bossman.'
YS: 'Go ahead.'

Ring ring

Bossman: 'This is Bossman.'
MrT: 'Hello, it's MrT. You probably know why I'm calling.'
BM: 'Yes.'
MrT: 'I disagree with your decision.'
BM: 'New Girl is new to the country and is still learning how to get around and the road signs. She probably won't be able to find it.'

1. The road signs on the Continent are mostly the same as those in the UK (NG is from Scotland).
2. I've never been to the town the class is in either.
3. NG's been here for more than two months now.

MrT: 'This really is a bad idea.'
BM: 'Class S is a lot more important to me than class K. If we cancel again, we'll lose the account.'

Note: Class S's company only has one class with us and class K's company has six!

MrT: 'How about if NG agrees to it?'
BM: 'Then it's okay.'
MrT: 'Cheers. Bye'

I told YS what BM had said, and she said, 'NG will never do it. She CAN'T.'

More later. I have to get ready and then leave to teach the class.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Apparently, I'm still furious

Why the hell can't bosses respect their employees? Why the hell don't they realise that we're not their slaves? Why the hell don't they realise that we have personal lives?

I'm still so aggravated that I can't sleep.


I'm absolutely livid! ! ! So livid that I'm literally shaking! I had to get out of that hell-hole that masquerades as a school, so I came home for a while. I've been trying to write about what's gone on today, but I can't. I'm still way too angry.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Note to self: Find instruction manual for mobile

I'm at home right now due to the fact that our morning classes are on holiday, and Young Secretary has just rung me on my mobile. She informed me that New Girl was ill and Bossman had told her to call me to see if I would fill in. She wanted me to teach NG's 13h45 - 15h15 class as well as her 19h10 - 20h40 class after my 17h30 - 19h class. I really didn't want to teach either, as I'm using the extra time to catch up on correcting essays and exams, but after a bit of convincing I told her I'd take the earlier class. They can't possibly expect me to take everyone's classes when they're ill.

I really have got to learn how to use the 'call screening' feature on my mobile.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

An update on the piece I wrote about S last week

On Wednesday of last week, I had to email him about a few administrative things in regards to his upcoming exam. As a last minute effort, I decided to put a strongly worded bit in to, hopefully, encourage him to study. Here's what it said:
It is very important that you study English the next five weeks, up to the exam. Your English is good, but it needs to be better. You have a lot of potential to do well on the exam AND better your English, but it's up to you to do it. You have a lot of vocabulary to learn, writing to do and other things that you need to know. You can do it, but you have to want to. Try setting aside 30 minutes a day study, you'll be surprised how much that'll help.
It made some kind of impact on him, because a good friend of his (K - a student in my Friday afternoon class) mentioned it to me. He said that S took it as my way of saying he was lazy. Switching from 'frustrated teacher' to 'politeness' mode, I told K that it wasn't meant that way (even though, of course, it really was), it was just a preview of a small lecture I'd be giving to all of my exam students this week - full well knowing that he'd pass that back to S. I'm not sure if S will buy it though, as he's a smart guy. He didn't email me back, so I assume he was quite steamed over it (on the rare occasion I've had to email him in the past, he has always replied).

S came to class at the beginning of it today and handed in his essay. However, he said that he couldn't stay because he had a report to finish. I have no idea if that was true or not.

Progress? Hopefully.

Anyway, on the recommendation of his classmates, I emailed him yesterday evening to invite him to attend the Friday class this week due to the number of lessons he's missed. I also threw this in:
I hope you didn't take my email last week the wrong way, all of my exam students will be getting that lecture this week.
I probably shouldn't have, though. I'm walking a fine line.

****** Update 19h43 ******

Here is his reponse to my latest (and final) email (I didn't clean up his English):
No problem, I know that I'm sometimes a little bit lazy, and I need some extra motivation... It's very good, how you do that!
It's over now. If he wants to work, I'm here for him. If not, that's his choice. I hope he does, though. It'd be a shame to see a talent for languages like his go to waste.

Monday, October 18, 2004

I'm rude?

I was called 'rude' three times today at work, once by Pompous Ponce, once by New Girl and once by Girlfriend of Tall Colleague. PP quite often insults people, so I've learnt to ignore him. However, this is the first time the NG and GoTC have. Granted, they did it in a joking manner, but this bothers me a bit because I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything that could be considered rude. I think part of the reason is because of the bitchy and other incidents that happened in March with different colleagues.

Should I ask them what they were on about, or let it drop?

Too funny

From The Guardian
My fellow non-Americans ...

The result of the US election will affect the lives of millions around the world but those of us outside the 50 states have had no say in it - until now. In a unique experiment, G2 has assembled a democratic toolkit to enable people from Basildon to Botswana to campaign in the presidential race. And with a little help from the folks in Clark County, Ohio, you might help decide who takes up residence in the White House next month. Oliver Burkeman explains how.
More about the project

The responses: Dear Limey assholes

****** Update 19 October 2004 ******

Yahoo News has finally found it.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Gmail anyone?

I have six Gmail invitations. Would anyone like one?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Shameless plug part 2

My entire interview with the Guardian is now online.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


New Girl, Young Secretary and I went out for a few drinks yesterday evening after work. YS invited Bossman, but luckily he had too much work to do. Don't get me wrong, I like BM, but things were said that wouldn't have been said had he been there.

Here's the gossip:

- Neither YS nor NG like Pompous Ponce. They're tired of hearing about how wonderful he thinks he is (he tells us every day) and, frankly, so am I. He constantly babbles on about how good of a teacher he is, of course after prefacing it with something like, 'I don't want to blow my own horn, but...'. We're all hoping he actually follows through on his weekly threat to go back to England.

- BM had a chat with NG yesterday about one of her classes. It seems that he 'had been told' that her lessons with group P were too easy. YS and I have been around long enough to think that BM was full of crap on the 'had been told' thing...more on that in a future post.

- NG's September pay appears to have been shorted by a few hundred Euros. After a bit of probing, though, it appears that a portion of her pay that comes out of a different account than the rest (yes, it's legal) hasn't made it's way into her account. We explained how it works to her, and she's going to talk to BM soon about it. It could be something as simple as a wrong account number (the bank entered the wrong account number when it set up my electronic funds transfer when I first moved here).

- According to YS, BM and BW both like and respect me. I believe her because she's their right-hand-man, so to speak. That was good to hear.

- YS has broken up with her twonk of a boyfriend who treated her like crap. I actually found this out a week and a half ago when NG, YS's flatmate, told me. However, she had sworn me to secrecy, so I had to act surprised.

Update 18:02 - forgot one.

- Neither YS nor NR like Correspondence Teacher. My opinion? CT and I have a playful love/hate relationship. She's okay.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A teacher's frustration

One of the biggest frustrations a teacher can experience is a student with great potential who doesn't want to even try to live up to it. That's happening to me at this time.

S is a student in one of my in-company classes, he's 35 years old, reads/writes/speaks English quite well and I've seen heaps of potential in him since the first day of class. He'll be taking the BEC Vantage exam on 4 December 2004, and will surely pass with a 'C' grade (the minimum required to pass). He hasn't done a lick of studying or homework and has skipped many lessons, but is still good enough to pass. I've been trying to encourage him to live up to his potential since our lessons started in January, but it hasn't worked. He continues on as before.

If he studied, wrote essays for me to correct and attended class, he could surely pass with the highest grade possible. However, that doesn't interest him. He just wants to get by.

My feelings of frustration are somewhat placated knowing that I have made a 100% effort to try to get him to study (and will continue to do so for as long as he's my student), but I am still quite disappointed that he is refusing to try.

What more can I do?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A real businessman?

At the beginning of the year, our school got a 12-month contract to teach six weekly in-company classes at a large utility company in our city. I teach four of the classes, Tall Colleague teaches the fifth and New Girl teaches the final one.

Now that the end of the year is approaching, a normal businessman would be out there trying to renew the contract. Has Bossman done that? No. Until I mentioned it today, it hadn't even occurred to him that they might want to continue. I knew this would happen, because he's done it before - and will probably do it again. His attitude is appears to be 'If they want to continue, they'll tell me.' It's a wonder our school still exists!

When I asked him about it, he replied that he'd like to keep the contract, if there's interest. Over the past few months, I have frequently told BM about my students' progress (10 will be taking Cambridge exams in December) and enthusiasm about our classes. Apparently that was all a waste of breath, so I told AGAIN that my students were keen to continue their lessons.

He said he'd make an appointment with the personal director of the company next week to see about renewing it.

I should start charging commission.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Annoying the office part 2: Backfire

Today was the second day of my 'Annoy the office' project (see 1 October 2004 for more details), and it backfired.

I taught til 11h today, then had to wait til 15h for my third class. I passed the time by checking airfares on the computer in the office, then went out for lunch. By the time I came back, Young Secretary had arrived and was busy answering phones and typing on her computer (probably pretending to be working). After she hung up, we chatted about how cold it's been lately, and then I told her that Christmas was coming. I then broke into song, and started singing 'Jingle Bells'. To my surprise, she joined me and we sang the song together.

Back to the old drawing board.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Just put them anywhere

Fun Colleague is still on holiday, so I had to teach her Thursday evening course. I've taught it before and know the students, so I'm her permanent substitute (so to speak). It consists of two older ladies, one in her 50s and one in her 60s, both of which are beginners. Today, we had a guest student.

The guest student told me that she had called a few days ago and explained to the secretary that she had previously taken lessons at our school and which book she had used - basically telling the secretary which level she belonged in.

Being a top notch secretarial staff, she was scheduled to be in a class for total beginners.

The writing on the guest card? Young Secretary's.

The Guardian

The article I was interviewed for about anonymous work blogging is online in the The Guardian today. The writer has only printed part of it, understandable due to the fact that a few of us were interviewed, so I'll email him and see if he'll let me publish the whole thing.

Shameless plug....for those who have anonymous work blogs, or feel like starting one, you're welcome to join the Anonymous Work Blog Blogring .

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Teaching sound clip

One of my favourite sound clips about teaching. It's from an American TV show called Boston Public, which used to be on weekly in the Eastern European country I lived in before moving to the-country-that-won't-be-named. It doesn't exemplify my current situation, but still says a lot. It'll take a minute to load.


Believe it or not, I'm planning lessons at this ungodly hour of the morning. I have a full day today...too full. My first class starts at 7h30, and my last one ends at 20h40 - partially due to Fun Colleague still being on holiday. I have two fifteen minute breaks and a one hour break, but other than that, it's straight through.

If that wasn't enough, yesterday I had to teach an intensive course for four hours, then spend three hours making an exam to be given on Thursday of this week. We are normally required to turn exams into the office one week in advance so they can 'check' (like they'd know if there was anything wrong?) and photocopy them, but having had to work 14 extra hours last week (12 this week), I told Bossman that there was no way I was going to have it in on time. I explained why, and he didn't argue with me and extended my deadline til Monday. Of course, I could have done it at the weekend, however: 1.I had to do something else work-related that was more important (that I actually got paid for); 2. I didn't feel like it.

Next week should be a lot less busy.

Monday, October 04, 2004

To blog, or not to blog?

Something happened at school last Thursday that I've been trying to decide whether to blog about or not. If I did, it would give away the country of my origin and/or make the country-that-won't-be-named much easier to guess. Either of those things could lead a colleague, or even Bossman, to my blog depending on what they put in a search engine - which would cause a lot of problems for me. So, I've decided not to.

The perils of being an anonymous work blogger.

Sunday, October 03, 2004


I had to go into work yesterday to get a few things done. Young Secretary was working in the office, so I went in and accidentally said, 'Hi, Young Secretary,' instead of using her real name. She gave me a strange look and continued working.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Operation annoy the office has begun

My latest project is to annoy the office. I'm fed up with the stupid things they do, so I'm fighting back. For example, I have two classes on Fridays, the first of which is at 7h30. It's an hour and a half class, and my second one doesn't start til 15h. They've scheduled me with a six-hour break in the middle (!), effectively ruining my Friday. I have to get up early, but can't really do anything (like head out of town early) until after 16h30. Something else that brought this on was not being told til Monday about Fun Colleague's holiday and that I'd have to teach some of her classes.

So, I stayed in the office and used the internet for an hour after the class, talking to Old Secretary (she was the only one there). I didn't talk about anything in particular, just a lot of nonsense..the weather, the upcoming weekend, telling stupid jokes, etc. I even took a photo of her with my new mobile phone!

When Young Secretary came in, OS told her how busy she had been, and added 'and HE has been sitting here bothering me.'

I'd say it's off to a good start.