Thursday, December 10, 2015

Whew! What a (half) year!

My life isn't really that exciting, but new things are happening that take up all of my time. I'll start with the least interesting (to me) first.

I'm well into my 5th year teaching. As expected, teaching has gotten easier but holy hell, the students are different. I have some difficult classes, notably my form 4, 5 and lower 6 classes. I've been teaching long enough that I had some of the L6 students back when they were in Form 3 and since then it's been a challenge. I love technology, I really do, but it seems that as the students are more ingrained with it, the less they think. Computers and other devices are supposed to make DOING easier, but THINKING seems to have taken a backseat so they don't even know what to do! Critical thinking is more important than ever.
I'm thinking of holding a workshop in January to sort out some of the issues because our exam results will wow us, and not in a good way.

I'm at the end of my 3rd semester at Johns Hopkins. This course was not bad at all - the lecturer was more engaging in the discussions and she graded everything in a timely manner. There was a group project, and I worked with a really good student and a really useless one. The experience doesn't make my dread on hearing 'Group Project' ebb at all.
This is the last week of the course and I am hoping to rack up enough points to secure another A+. These courses are not difficult (yet) so I'll take the A+ when I can confidently and comfortably earn them.

I've moved! I'm finally out of the parental unit's house. There are very few people in Trinidad who leave home, to be honest. Kedar bought a house last year and renovations have been ongoing to make it ours. It's crazy difficult to get good contractors to do ANYTHING in a TIMELY manner, OMG. We got our appliances delivered this week (before the companies call us to ask is WTF with the stuff we paid for ages ago) and lo and behold, the fridge is too big. Some maneuvering and re-designing of the cabinets should fix this (I hope).
In the meantime, we are sharing his room at his parents' place which is actually down the hill from ours. While his family is nice and non-prying, I'm ready for our own space. I just wish it was ready for us. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we are out of here and in there before Christmas.

I turned 30! The backaches from sitting hunched by the computer remind me that I'm not 18 anymore and dancing around won't pop the pain away. I also have a host of health issues that I don't think are related to my age (acid reflux, a chronic hoarse voice that I'm getting checked next week if it doesn't go away after school closes tomorrow and I don't have to *project* my voice).
As for my 30th, Kedar and I went to Fort Myers for the weekend. My birthday is September 24th and is a public holiday in Trinidad, so I took the Friday off and we went away from Thursday till Sunday. It was quite lovely. I might post pictures next week if I remember. We visited the historic town, went to a Slough and shopped. It was nice.

The most interesting thing that happened since my last post - Kedar and I got married! It only took 12 years and all my youth, but we made it before our 30th birthdays. I'm obviously fishing for optimism there.
We chose the Waterville Estate in Santa Cruz as our venue for the ceremony and reception. I got dressed in the Hilton Hotel. Kedar's family did the decorations, mine did the favours and we hired Annemarie Akeung for the catering and Studio 19 for the photography. EVERYTHING WAS PERFECT... except the Pastor's speech but the Imam made up for it.
I will post more on this another time (with pictures).

Sigh... I think this is enough writing for today.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Books, books and more books!

I finished my second postgraduate course in early May. Since then, I have read two trilogies (I had to re-read the first two in each), a duology (re-read the first book), and this morning I finished re-reading another book so I could start the sequel.

What did I think of them? I loved them all.

Penryn & The End Of Days trilogy by Susan Ee.

World After (#2) > End of Days (#3) > Angelfall (#1)

The Cahill Witch Chronicles trilogy by Jessica Spotswood

Sister's Fate (#3) > Star Cursed (#2) > Born Wicked (#1)

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina (#1) > Shadowscale (#2)

I'm currently reading Rose Under Fire, the second book in the Code Name Verity series by Elizabeth Wein who wrote an absolutely brilliant first book.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hanson and Blues Traveler

I was in the kitchen and glanced at the TV and I saw Zac Hanson. Cue freak out because I didn't know they were going to be on the Today show. I only caught the last 20 seconds of the performance so I got to watch it from NBC's website.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

I am not very nice

When I was about five and my family had just returned from living in the U.A.E. for a couple years, I had a British accent. This was not pretentious at all, but a direct result of attending a British-run school with a menagerie of other international English-speaking children. I also knew a couple words in Arabic which I promptly forgot in my first year back in Trinidad. I remember my uncles and cousins teasing me about the way I would say things (they also teased me a lot because I cried very easily) and I would argue that I wasn't the one with an accent. My mother had to 'translate' quite a lot of the trini slang because I didn't understand what most people said around me.
Anyway, after a while I couldn't stand the teasing so I started to retaliate. If one called me 'chinee girrrl', I would call them 'indian maaan'. If one said catfish (they used to go fishing) like 'cyatfish', I would say, "You're saying it wrong. There is no 'y' in that word. Check your spelling." This was only the beginning.

I have mentioned this story before:
A couple years ago, I was in the Principal's office (as a teacher, never as a student - I would have died from the stress) and he was trying to back me in a corner to temporarily teach a subject (Physics) that I haven't done higher than O'Levels. He told me that I had to do it or they would have to justify my number of hours to the Ministry of Education. This was mid-September and he already made up his mind despite my saying, "So right now you have to justify my hours? And what about when the replacement arrives? Will you have to write the Ministry then? You aren't making sense."
When he 'asked' me at the end if I would do it, I said, "Well it doesn't sound that I have much of a choice, do I?" As I said, he already made up his mind. So when he asked again, I said, "I can't promise that I will try my best." I was not the only one in that meeting - my Head of Department and Dean were there and their silence made me respect them a little less.
I taught the class for about a month and a half before a replacement arrived and they didn't report my hours.
The next year, I didn't even get the courtesy of being asked. I was assigned Physics. In Parents' Day, I sat by the Chemistry table so when students from that class brought their parents by me, I would get asked if I was a Physics teacher to which I replied that I am a Chemistry teacher who is teaching their sons Physics. They expressed their concerns to the Principal, who told me that I should not say such things to the students or parents. "I'm not a liar," was my response.
Last year, I was not assigned the subject.

My mouth has gotten me in trouble recently with a co-worker. Let's call him Matthew. Matthew is quite possibly, one of the laziest teachers I have met. He doesn't teach without a projector. He doesn't write his own notes. He doesn't plan his own labs (he takes them from books or from the internet and doesn't test them). He doesn't always come to work. He agreed to teach Chemistry at the Form 3 (8th Grade) level, when we really only introduce these topics for the entire year: The States of Matter; Atomic Structure; Elements, Mixtures and Compounds; Separation Techniques; and Chemical Bonding.
I should mention that he was asked to do this outside of the confines of the Principal's office, he could have said no, and he did Chemistry courses at the University level.
On Wednesday, the only free periods I had were the first two in the morning. I typed notes that I wanted all the 8th graders to have. I checked it with two other teachers to ensure that it was written in a student-at-that-level-friendly way. I put them on his desk. I had to sort out a lab I had that day before class. After 4th period, students had questions so I spent recess responding. During 5th and 6th period, 9th graders had a lab, and some of them were total morons (telling me the reaction wasn't working when one of the reagents was still in their hands) so they finished well into lunch. I had to buy lunch from the cafeteria. I walked across the compound ten minutes before the end of lunch to get food so I could not feel to bite anyone's head off in the afternoon classes. I just walked into the staff room, lunch in hand. Matthew asked me for some clarification on the notes.
My reply? "What do you need clarification with?"
His? "The notes."
Me: "What do you need clarification with? I wrote it for the students at that level to understand."
Now I know how it came out and I meant that the boys should not have trouble as long as you stick to what was written. No more information, no less. I am still not sorry.
One teacher heard and Matthew complained to another.  The two teachers reported me. I got in trouble with my HOD who told me that:
1) I should not have to write anything for him. Let him look it up.
2) I should be nicer since we are supposed to be professionals. (Their frequently racist comments could have fooled me).
I actually feel unburdened because:
1) He won't ask me stupid questions again. If you see something and you need an explanation, consult a text first. The person he ended up asking was appalled at how basic she had to explain it to someone who did Chemistry at the University level. Especially since Matthew teaches Biochemistry and he would have to know all this crap anyway. Especially especially because he is supposed to be an educated adult.
2) I don't have to expend the effort of writing class notes for his sake when I have my own work to do.

Will I be nicer? No. I never once uttered the statement, "I am a nice person." I would say that I am honest, impatient and reliable. I am hardworking. I am consistent in getting students to excel in exams. I am being paid to teach students, not teachers. Let the HOD deal with him when he wants help in the next topic. I never wanted to study anything that would take me to a corporate environment because I don't like politics. Plus, if another co-worker can say, in front of the HOD, that since I have no children and I have only been teaching for a few years that I cannot relate to the students properly, or say that she was surprised I was socialising with the staff (I always show up and never see her), and not be told anything because they are friends, then I will be mute instead.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

It has begun...

I returned to work on the last Thursday of August after a restful vacation. Returning to school is like childbirth - over the vacation, I forget the havoc that Port-of-Spain wreaks on my skin, I forget the almost constant sore throats from projecting my voice, I forget the unbearable heat in that OSHA-violating science building. It all came back last week when classes started on Monday.

Okay, that is a lie. I remembered the parents I never want to make any contact with whatsoever ever again. Just thinking about one in particular makes me testy.

This year I have two 3rd form (8th grade) classes ON THE SAME DAY. The programme that generates our timetables obviously hates me. That is the just-hit-puberty age when the boys are most restless. Luckily, the classes I got this year only have 1 or 2 slackers each, which I can deal with. I'm a don't-cross-me teacher and I know I come off as being a bitch, but as long as the boys pass my assignments and ace their external examinations, I could care less what they think.

Most of my form 4 students seem capable. I hope they used the weekend to study everything I reminded them that they forgot over the vacation. I'm hoping they don't turn out like my form 5 students who STILL don't study! They have O'Levels in May and they have a lot of work to do in class and on their own. I really hope they get their acts together.

I also have a whopping 31 students in my lower 6th Chemistry class which is really ridiculous since we are only equipped to handle 25. I queried it with the people in charge of accepting students and I was told that I have to make it work. Oh, the joys of teaching. I have a lower 6th form class as well, which I like so far.

My upper 6th class is good for the most part. Most of them are working consistently. I already ran one lab and one boy chose to skip it. If he thinks he can submit a report for grading on something he hasn't done, he is mistaken.

My first postgraduate course started this past week as well. It has a Wednesday to Wednesday schedule and I'm still reading for it.

All in all, the first week of school did not suck. It wasn't great, but it could have been so much worse.