Monday, May 01, 2006


Today I had ANOTHER two new students in my mostly-foreign-students class. This was the fourth week, and they're still joining. WHY? I started out with only a few students, and it is now my biggest class at that university.

It's a good thing I chose a good textbook for them this year. This is not always a given, especially with a text I have never used before and students whose level I can't be sure of before the first class. But luckily the students are mostly very low level, as is the book, and luckily the publishers contrived to make the text tapes funny. It is a very low-level text, but even the "What's your name?" conversations are funny, or at least dramatic. Even when they did the "My name is..." and "Are you a ....?" bit, they did one conversation with an apparently famous woman asking, arrogantly, "ARE YOU A JOURNALIST?" and the man saying, "Er... yes, I am," in such tones that the class erupted in laughter. It WAS funny, and I was grateful. Usually, beginner language books are childish and plodding. This one is neither. It is an adult book, which is rare. A child would not understand why that was amusing.

One of the hardest things about learning a new language is that it is hard not to sound childish at the beginning. My beginner students are not sounding stupid. They are having a ball pretending to be arrogant famous people and apprehensive journalists. They are having FUN. And even the higher level (comparatively) Japanese students in the class are enjoying all the 'repeat after me' exercises I am doing. Their pronunciation is horrible, and they know it. So even though the language is easy for them, they are at least learning something.

I wish the class wasn't QUITE so large, though.

In one of my other classes at today's university there is a mature student who was in one of my classes a couple of years ago. At that time she behaved in a mentally unbalanced way, so much so that I was afraid she would turn up one day with a knife. I was seriously worried about this woman. She frightened the other students (and me) with a door-rattling and then fist-shaking incident which led me to consult someone in authority. It seemed to me that she hated my class and wanted us all dead. After he talked to her she dropped out of my class (and I had to fail her because she didn't withdraw officially), and when she saw me in the corridors after that she'd walk sideways like a crab, with her face turned to the wall, rather than acknowledge my existence. The whole thing was entirely bizarre and worrying.

The person in authority who talked to her told me at the time not to worry, it was not me, she was a 'difficult person,' but I never entirely believed it. She was in my colleague's class the same year, where she behaved perfectly normally. Naturally, this made me fairly sure that I was the problem, perhaps for reasons over which I had no control.

However, this year she has turned up in my class again and is behaving entirely like a normal person. This is puzzling, but an enormous relief. She is treating me like a friendly human being she can relate to, and in fact I probably made this easier for her by not realizing she was the same person at first. It just seemed too unlikely, although she looked familiar and I thought I knew her name. (She only came to about five classes last time.) But I checked, and it is definitely the same woman. This time she is asking questions and taking correction and help without getting upset, which was not the case before - previously when I corrected her or tried to help her she would rip her paper up violently and twist away from me, making frightening little panting noises. But now it is as if that previous madness never happened. She is a new woman.

So perhaps it was not me. It was just her madness, and now she is over it. She is now an easy student to have in the class, and the other students seem to like her. I am, of course, walking on eggshells, but they are invisible eggshells. I am not letting it show. I am treating it as a fresh start. (The only thing I can do, really.) Come to think of it, I didn't see her around at all last year, which makes me wonder if she took a year off and sorted out whatever was wrong. If so, good for her. It worked.

It was almost hot today. The temperature suddenly shot up. At lunchtime I ate with a colleague out in the little park beside the university, under the wisteria trellis. A couple of weeks ago the wisteria was just bare bones. Then the leaves started sprouting, and it is hard to believe that within the next couple of weeks there will be cascades of flowers. But today as we were sitting under the trellis, and not getting quite enough shade (because there aren't enough leaves yet), I noticed the pattern the trellis made, and pulled out my camera. I thought it looked rather wonderful from my angle. I couldn't see the leaves at all, because they were above the trellis, but I could see the shadows of the leaves. (As usual, click to enlarge.)

From a slightly different angle I got a slightly different effect. In this one you can see the trunk of the wisteria vine, twisting up through the trellis. The colours came out different, too, probably because of the different amount of light coming through from different angles.

Next week or the week after, if it isn't raining, I will photograph the flowers.

After I got home I photographed our peony. A friend gave this to me last year, and it didn't bloom. This year it bloomed and surprised me. I had forgotten about it, and wondered what it was at first. It is lovely.

You can see the starflowers (thank you Cheryl for naming them!) underneath it, and get an idea of how small they are.

I have an early start tomorrow, but after that five days off. There are three public holidays in a row. and then the weekend. This is known here as Golden Week, and many employers give their employees the entire week off. None of mine do, worse luck. Today and tomorrow are normal working days for me.

After Golden Week we have ten straight weeks with no public holidays at all. There is something skewed about this way of doing things, but at the moment I am not complaining. I have too much paperwork to catch up with, and five days off right now feels just right. But be prepared for a bout of grumbling in a few weeks, when the rainy season starts, the air conditioning hasn't been turned on yet, and everyone is tired and pissed off. I will make up for it then by moaning about absolutely everything.

For now, however, I have chosen at least one good textbook, a mad student has become sane, the weather is beautiful, and everything is fine and funny.


The Village Idiot said...

You have lunch and come back with beautiful pictures. I have lunch and come back with gas.

the idiot

Wiccachicky said...

Isn't it funny how our perceptions of students are so contained? Part of why I came to a smaller school is that I like seeing the students grow and change over the course of their college careers. If they just take you for one class and happen to have a bad semester, you can come away thinking they are crazy. Well, perhaps this woman WAS crazy, but I know I have students that I think are bright or screw ups in one semester who then totally flip on me the next semester.