Hate that Cat

hate cat

Sharon Creech’s Hate that Cat is a super quick read, perfect if you have a book report due tomorrow and hadn’t started a book. Though Creech’s Walk Two Moons is among my favorite novels for children, Hate that Cat didn’t grab me.

Evidently, Hate that Cat is the second book in a series. The hero writes letters to his favorite teacher and shares all his thoughts about poetry, cats, dogs, and writing with the teacher. The book introduces young readers to poets like William Carlos Williams and Edgar Allen Poe. The most interesting facet of the book was that the narrator’s mother is deaf and he can sign ASL.

For a mature reader, there isn’t much in the theme that isn’t well worn ground. The book doesn’t delight readers of all ages, which is a hallmark of the best of children’s literature. The narrator seemed like a cookie cutter Creech hero, but one who shares little of his personality or background.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge

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Each week Cee challenges bloggers to share black and white photos based on a theme. This week we’re challenged to share photos of the back of anything. I’ve found a photo of the back of a school boy’s back.

For more black and white photos from this week’s theme click here.

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The First Week

Our first week back at was last week and it was sheer pandemonium and chaos. That’s always the case, but this was more so. On Tuesday there was confusion over a classroom that two classes thought they were assigned to and on Friday my students got lost. Eventually they found our room.

In China the students take most of their courses with their cohort. There are very few electives so you’re basically herded through your college years as you were in high school. You live and take classes with your homeroom.

Only half the first year students have books and the listening CDs and DVDs aren’t here.

It never ceases to amaze me but it’s as if we arrived by surprise a week early. Several of the apartments have plumbing and other problems. Now I’ve got water dripping from the apartment above and the heat lamp in my shower is dangling preparing to fall. All these things have been reported and usually they get fixed in a timely fashion, but I’m still waiting and nervously taking very short showers.

Things are looking up though as the students have settled into school a bit. I’ve had my English 3 students before and have half as many new names to learn. I’m in the clean brick building with actual desks and chairs rather than benches. And, I can’t smell the bathrooms from where I am! That’s such a blessing.

After a rough week, I did get a free drink at Starbucks on Saturday and got some great emails over the weekend. The weather is toying with us, springlike last Thursday till Saturday and now back to the 50s, but that glimpse of spring reassures me that the real thing is on its way.

Midterms & Cheating

I offer the YouTube on cheating as I give my midterm tests today. I tried so hard to make it unnecessary and impossible to cheat. We practiced a lot for the test in class. There are no surprises in terms of tricky questions. It’s all stuff that if you’ve paid attention, you can pass. You might not get a B+, but you’ll pass.

Then before we begin, it’s a big production of seating the students. I know some kids arrange to sit near a classmate so one can look off the other’s test. Well, I randomly assign test seats and don’t allow any belongings other than writing implements with the students. Everything else is at the front of the room.

On top of that there are two versions of the test and the papers are color coded. You have to know that the students with yellow tests probably have different questions than you do.

Let me reiterate, the questions are not surprising and they are on topics like movies and life experience so they aren’t arcane.

Well, two kids smuggled their phones with them. That’s cheating in this class. From law school and just life in general, I’ve learned to make the rules something that’s indisputable. We could go on and on till the cows come home about how, “I wasn’t looking at my phone.” That is hard to substantiate, but whether you’ve got a phone or not is clear. A nice bright line.
I suppose 2 out of 32 students isn’t a bad percentage though.

Tally of Shame

Cheat It Up, Cheatin' Cheater!

Cheat It Up, Cheatin’ Cheater! (Photo credit: Mr_Stein)

It’s the last week of my semester. Unfortunately, the academic honesty rates are soaring. I caught 5 people cheating on the exam. One in the first class and then another in class two. I then announced to class three if no one cheated in that class everyone in the class would receive 5 bonus points. Everyone needs every point they can get in that class.

I’m sad to report that I found 3 cheaters.

Don’t get me started on all the plagiarism. It’s gotten worse.  In the past I’ve had one person cheat on an exam per semester. I tell everyone to put their phones on the podium at the front of the room.

I know these students see education as a game with the object of gaining as little knowledge or skill as they pass through various school systems. I’d have a little more respect for them if in their downtime, they were inventing the next technological gadget or even say rock climbing. Nope. I doubt many are using the time they don’t spend studying on anything with merit.

Weird

I had a weird experience in class on Friday. As I was teaching, a young woman with big pink glasses walked into my class. She told me she needed a native speaker to review a speech she was writing. I asked her who she was and she replied, “Daphne” and mentioned that she wasn’t a student here.

Huh?

I said I had no time at all that day.

She then asked if I’d refer her to another teacher. I said that since she wasn’t a student here, she’d have to pay and that I thought most teachers would expect at least $50 a hour.

She got real huffy and indignant. “What kind of teacher are you?!”

Rather than define “professional” for her, I asked her to leave reminding her that the 30 students gawking at her were in fact in the middle of a lesson for which they had paid. She didn’t want to budge. I told her I’d call security and she left sputtering and insulting me.

So are all Chinese students shy? Of course not, though few have this audacity.

I now won’t leave my door open no matter how hot the room gets.

A Bit of Luck

English: Gentaur schedule

Image via Wikipedia

Any teacher will tell you the first week of school is draining. No matter how prepared and experienced you are getting used to a new schedule, learning new names and really figuring out what you want to do with a new crop of students takes a lot out of you. Things are going well, but I listen to my students and think, “Oh, dear, they’ve been learning English since they were 10 and this is how far they’ve gotten.” Or “I wonder what he’s trying to say? Is the talking about school or soup?”

I’ve got a decent schedule for teaching 24 hours a week. I’ll teach 6 hours on Monday and Wednesday and may need to be carried home those days. Tuesday I have a long morning break from 9:50 to 2pm. This week I was able to get into town and back to run some errands. Thursday I’m blessed with a free afternoon and Friday I don’t have to start till 10. Not bad.

Today I got a kind of bonus. After 2nd period ended, I ran over to the administrative office to order some copies. When I returned, I expected to see my 3rd period students. No one was there. Though class wouldn’t start for another 10 minutes in China that’s odd. I waited and waited. The bell rang and still no one was there. I called the Foreign Affairs Liaison and she said she’d look into this. Eventually, I got a call from a student with poor English. I really didn’t know what he said, but I figured there was a scheduling error. Maybe they were double booked.

In time a girl came in with a paper in Chinese that she showed me as a way to explain the problem. I really don’t get how she thought I’d be able to read it. From day one, I make it clear that I don’t speak Chinese. I guess that hasn’t sunk in. In time another student with poor English joined the girl. It seems the students’ schedule showed them as free during this period. Since some were off campus it was impossible to round everyone up.

I was glad that they weren’t somehow double booked and say in Chinese at that time, which might mean I’d have to teach Thursday afternoon. That free afternoon is rather precious. All seems well (fingers crossed) and next week we’ll hold class as my schedule shows. The pair wondered if we should make up class on Friday evening. I said that shouldn’t be necessary and if need be we’ll figure out a make up time. As I see it, it wasn’t my mistake and I was ready to go. Over the course of the semester we’re sure to cover all we need to. Down the road we can see about a make up but I think we can just let this go.