Saturday, January 14, 2006

Friday 13th

Today I had to test a few students who'd missed testing last month for various reasons. I thought I'd finished them all, but I hadn't. It was all very messy, and I had a hectic sort of day. When you test some students you have to do something with the other students who are not being tested, and it's like trying to teach two classes at the same time. It's very stressful. On top of that, the bad students all suddenly decided it was time to start worrying about their grades, and mobbed me at the end of each class, demanding to know if they could pass and what they needed to do, or what they needed to do to get a better grade. I tell them (repeatedly) it is too late at the end of semester, but they just don't get it. Their JAPANESE professors respond to begging and apologies. How come I won't do it? Well, I won't, that's all. Hasn't my reputation preceded me?

They used up my precious ten minutes between classes with this nonsense, and I got particularly snarly when another lot also used up half my lunchtime. I need time to recover between classes, and wasn't getting it, and was reaching the end of my rope. I sometimes wonder how many non-teachers realize how full-on teaching is? I've had a lot of different jobs, and the only one that came anywhere near it was the bone clinic of a hospital on scoliosis day. (But I'll tell you that particular nightmare another time.)

The problems in the class before lunchtime were, I'll admit, partly my own fault. Remember the homework that had been copied? Well, I wasn't entirely sure about two or three of them, and tried to find out, in my tricky teacher way, whether those particular guys had also copied the bulk of what they'd written. They hadn't written much, and it was so awful it was hard to tell.

So I announced in class that I was terribly disappointed with most of the homework. I'd had to give very low grades, I said, because so many of them were copied, or had been done so badly I couldn't give them good points. I watched the reactions of the suspect students to this announcement, hoping to catch the guilty exchanged glances (or not) but to my horror most of the class jumped guiltily. Then they started accusing each other of being stupid because they'd SAID I would notice; gaijin teachers ALWAYS check the homework, they'd SAID they should have done it properly and not in a great hurry and cheating and so on. It was ALL YOUR FAULT, they told each other, and NO, IT WASN'T, IT WAS YOURS, and various arguments started. (This particular class still hasn't figured out that I can understand Japanese.)

It was a riot. It was also extremely annoying, because then I got mobbed by pleading, panicking students, worried about their grades and wanting a second chance. They wanted to be given more homework, which they promised faithfully they would do properly this time.

But the whole point of making the last homework assignment due by the last class in December is to avoid marking homework after classes have finished. I want to tell them their final grades in the last class, and I can't do that easily if they're all handing in homework on the last day. I weakened, to my regret, and made up another homework assignment on the spot, telling them sternly that they had to do it well this time. I would be checking carefully and there were no more chances after that.

I then stomped off to my severely curtailed lunch feeling extremely disgruntled, and plotted my revenge while eating. I decided that next week I will give them something to do while I mark the homework during class. Then I'll tell them their final grades at the end of the class. No fun and games in the last class for THAT lot. Ha!

But no fun for me, either.

The students in my first class after lunch are a lovely bunch, and higher level, but I had to give them a test. This was because their faculty suddenly sprang a student evaluation on me late last year, on the day I'd planned for testing, and I had to reschedule everything. By the time I went into the classroom after my truncated lunch I was dreading these tests. I was still too grumpy, and was afraid I could not be fair.

However, the first pair to be tested gifted me with a miracle cure for my black mood. They were a couple of very likeable lads who I knew would do well, which is why I'd called them first, to cheer me up. They were terribly nervous, though, and started off by introducing themselves to each other and shaking hands (which I hadn't required, but it was a nice touch). Then they both bent forward at the same time to pull their chairs up, but I'd placed the chairs a bit too close together so that when they did this there was a sharp crack as they banged heads, hard.

I would have preferred this to happen to the students who had given me such a hard time in the morning, but still, it was strangely satisfying.

Even more satisfying was the way they reacted. They clutched their heads, staring at each other, and you could see the Japanese "ITAI!" almost flying out of their mouths (and the stars floating around their heads), but they remembered THIS IS A TEST AND WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO USE JAPANESE. After a long, painful, suppressed silence one of them remembered the English word and said it, with deep feeling:


The other guy's face lit up and he responded, with equal sincerity,

"Yes. VERY ouch."

Then they sat down, carefully, and I snorted. I just couldn't help it. That set them off, and all three of us laughed uproariously for a minute or two. Then we calmed down and they carried on with the test, and did very well indeed. I told them so, and they were happy, and the rest of my day went much, much better.


kenju said...

Well, I learned a word today!
I am glad that your day was rescued by the two guys.

Shona said...

I remember how tiring teaching could be. I was especially bad at taking breaks - I was just lesson planning all the time, even in my sleep sometimes. Not cool.

Robert said...

The Three Stooges moments always help. Long weekend here...blessed relief!

Wiccachicky said...

Students jumping you after class is up there with my list of pet peeves like, thinking I should answer your emails on the weekends!

Sometimes it's good to just have a laugh on a day like that. I am laughing at your students who copied the homework. That's priceless. You're too nice to let them do it again!

Cheryl said...

I think you are a WONDERFUL teacher.
Kids only approach staff during the breaks if those teachers give the air that the work is everything, that they are genuinely there to educate.

How about a little note they have to write in Japanes on the first day of the year?
The way to pass tests in Badaunt's class is to attend, pay attention and learn. Do the homework; Badaunt always marks homework properly.

If you got that in to the front page of their books then these conversations could be a lot shorter next year!?

Wendy said...

I am so grateful that my classes are miles apart - I use my driving time to chill out. And I get to see the countryside and new villages...and I'm paid for it so it's great.

Pkchukiss said...

Teachers are great! They suffer the insufferable, and then some more!

My secondary school classes were in abundance of prank-pulling tricksters, and I really saw how long a teacher's patience could be stretched.

Try putting Donald Trump in there, and he will go crazy in just minutes. (I read his autobiography.)

melinama said...

so cute