Monday, May 25, 2009


I went back to work today, reluctantly. My week off was lovely, even if I didn't get out. I was being a good sensei. The whole point of closing the schools and universities was to not spread the virus, and staying home is the best way to achieve that, so that's what I did. Many of my students did, too, or at least so they say. (And some of them didn't.)

They seemed happy to be back, which was kind of funny after their reactions when we heard we were having the week off last Monday. All my classes today were well-behaved and hard-working. Perhaps they got bored at home.

Classes were also enlivened by the continuation of the noise problem outside my classroom. This time it was a concrete mixer, a jack hammer, and a ... I don't know the name of it. What is that handheld machine that vibrates violently and packs down surfaces? It doesn't drill or cut, it tamps, and makes a terrific noise. What are those things called?

Anyway, we occasionally got one of those, and occasionally a jack hammer, and most of the day the concrete mixer. It wasn't as constantly, overwhelmingly loud as it was the last two times this happened, but it was still disruptive.

But what I found the most odd about this was that there had clearly been no work done on the area (I'm not sure what they're actually doing, still) during the week the university was closed because of swine flu. As far as I know, administrative staff still had to work, and construction companies did not close. Why, then, did they wait until classes started again to resume their work? Couldn't they have finished it last week?

Teachers have complained every time this happened. The second time, work actually paused for a few hours. I don't know why the complaints worked one time but not the other times.

Oh, well.

The good news today was that at least in one department we do not have to make up the classes. We have to ask the students to do extra homework instead. I suspect that is due to our gaijin boss in that department, who is a charming man and more sensible than most. I think he managed to persuade them that extra classes would be both an administrative nightmare and a waste of time, as students rarely bother to turn up. (Or can't, because of their part-time jobs.) One other department has insisted that teachers hold extra classes on Saturdays, but that is a department I do not work for. The two others I work for there have not made their demands known yet, but at least for four classes I do not have extra work, and that is a good thing. It means that if I have to work Saturdays, it will not be three Saturdays, only one and a half.

At my other university I have not yet had any news.

But I wonder about starting schools and universities back so soon. The spread of swine flu victims has slowed, and that is probably because schools and universities closed. Will starting them again after a week mean the spread speeds up again? Only time will tell, but I suspect it will. I cannot see any reason why it wouldn't. It is not as if we have become suddenly immune to swine flu. But the backlash in the media has started. It is being considered 'mild,' and treated as 'normal seasonal flu.'

But it isn't normal seasonal flu. Nobody has immunity. There is no vaccine, yet. Nobody knows what will happen next. It is early days.

I do not envy public health officials. If they make the right decision, and the severity of a potential pandemic is lessened, then they 'overreacted,' because look! Nothing happened! If they did not take measures, however, and the worst happened, then they would be blamed for that, too. How can they win? It is the ultimate thankless job.

I downloaded the CDC Pandemic Severity Index slides (the first of the results on that page), and printed them for other teachers to use in the classroom if they wished. I left it in the teachers' room. At lunchtime we talked about it, and everybody wanted to know where I'd found it. It is very informative, and useful for classroom discussion. I will probably use it next week.

I wanted to take it to my other university tomorrow, too, but after my last class when I went to get it to make another copy I found that someone had nicked it.

It's not only students who can be ratbags. I'll have to print out another copy.


Keera Ann Fox said...

The way the swine flu is currently, it's highly contagious, but far less deadly than the regular seasonal flus. The drugs for regular flu (like tamiflu) also work on swine flu.

I won't worry until and unless it mutates into something deadlier, like its namesake did twice in 1918.

PS: I hope somebody figures out what the noisy tamping thing is called!

Roy said...

Tamper or compactor!