Improbable Phrases

Who says that?


This post is largely visual. There are two fruits I have discovered in Indonesia that are wildly different on the outside, but the same on the inside.

Exhibit A, Rambutan inside and outside:


Exhibit B, Longan inside and outside:


As you can see, they’re very similar. We were discussing fruits in 5B and these two fruits totally divided the room. Some kids hated longan and loved rambutans, and vice versa. I had never noticed any real difference in taste, but apparently the kids thought they were very different.

After a few rounds of one side attempting to exert fruit dominance over the other, we decided to agree to disagree. But not until after one of my kids said that he agreed with me that the fruits were the same. “They’re like twins; but in different sweaters,” he announced.

As I was getting photos for this post, I noticed this picture, and so I guess maybe they’re triplets?

Source here.


How The Adult Became Disenchanted

Did everybody but me know that Rudyard Kipling is not appropriate for children? I had a little space in my teaching schedule this week and I thought I’d read the kids a couple of the Just So Stories, since we had just read a few fables in the unit I was covering. And then I spent an hour and a half trying to find one to read. Project Gutenburg has the vast majority of the tales free online, so finding the texts wasn’t hard. Finding one that I was comfortable reading in front of the kids was much harder. The Elephant’s Child is full of domestic violence. Several of them, including one about a Rhinoceros, are VERY RACIST against Asians. This is problematic for obvious reasons. There were a few that were super boring, including one about the creation of the alphabet (?!?). And so I ended up reading them How the Camel Got Its Hump, while taking out the words that were way above their vocabulary level. They liked it and asked for a second one, and I had to tell them that I didn’t have a second one for them to listen to. It was the only one that I could find.

I remember as a child listening to radio adaptations of the Just So Stories. They were full cast works with narrators and Bobby McFerrin, I think, providing music for it. Now I wonder how much they were adapted. Did I think that these were children’s stories because National Public Radio took out all the parts that I didn’t want to read to my 6th graders? Or did the various horrors just not register with me? I don’t know for sure, but now I want to try and find them to re-listen to them.

Questions about English

I have students who do the work, students who don’t do the work and students who stall by asking me questions. I have the least patience with the pointless question students. I have one child who will ask whether or not it needs to be in pencil. EVERY TIME. I have not yet said yes to this. I will admit that I don’t even understand the question. Who is forcing them to use pencil?

Occasionally the questions get really far off topic. I had a child last week, in the middle of writing time, raise his hand and ask me why my hair is brown. Genetics, I said. I don’t think he understood the answer, but it’s not like the question was bound by strong logic.

I have a child in Primary 6 who will listen, repeat the directions back to me, and then near the end of the time allotted will ask if it really needs to be 15 lines. As though I might cave, admit it’s all a lie, and let him write 5. Or if it needs to be about the assigned topic. Yes, please?

While mostly the questions are centered around figuring out how little they need to do to complete the task,  I sometimes get questions that seem to be centered around getting my permission to do more work. Do 15 lines, I’ll say. And one child will ask if it is okay to write 20. As though I would stop them. No! Do not practice your English! Stop that at once!

Or, you know, not.

Breaking the Children

Two syllable words either have first or second syllable stress when pronounced correctly.
First syllable stress, like in the word “teenage,” is referred to as trochaic stress.
Second syllable stress, like in the word “remark,” is referred to as iambic stress.

If we were doing single words, the kids would have it made in the shade. But poetic lines that have an iambic or trochaic rhythm are killing my 10th graders.

The difference between stress and rhythm is that you have to maintain the pattern. In trochaic rhythm every other syllable is stressed starting with the first one. With iambic rhythm the first syllable is unstressed, followed by a stressed syllable, and so on.

I explained to them that the rhythms allowed for minor cheating, like the off-pattern inclusion of small words (things like: a, an, the, is) but you couldn’t mispronounce words to “make it work.”

This explanation took about 15 minutes. It took another 45 before the kids, working together, could come up with even one line that fit the pattern and made sense.

Just like that, I’ve found the thing we will be spending this whole quarter on with my 10th graders.

They won’t like it, but clearly they need it. Half of this quarter on iambic rhythm, half on trochaic rhythm. Maybe by then they won’t have to bob their heads so much to figure out if the lines are right. But I kind of hope not. It’s my free entertainment.

Not Fun

So, on Saturday I went to Ancol with a group of primary students for a math competition. Ancol is a northern neighborhood in Jakarta, so it wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. Going there was fine, the event itself was fine since all I had to do was be present in the building (I played solitaire and read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell), but we hit an accident-related traffic jam on the way back and were on the bus for TWO AND A HALF HOURS. Sorry to yell, but it was awful.

Have you ever been on a bus, solely in charge of 8 children between the ages of 8 and 11, in a non-moving traffic jam? I insist that you must never, ever do it. It is the worst.

Being a national plus upper primary teacher, I knew none of the children, since they were a mixture of international students and lower primary students. This makes scolding more difficult when there is hitting, screaming, or most commonly, standing. I treated standing most harshly, as we had the potential to move at any moment and I did not want to deal with falling and crashing-related injuries.

On the plus side, I didn’t have to wait for any parents because we had told them that their children would be back at about 1 p.m., so when we rolled in at around 2:30, everybody was sitting in the parking lot.

Have I mentioned already that this happened on a Saturday? Because it did. It was on my Saturday.

To the Stars! …… and the Elephant Museum.

Yesterday I went with the 6th grade to the Planetarium and Observatory Jakarta and the Museum Nasional. All of the exhibits at the planetarium are closed for renovation, but there is an hourly show in the dome that we watched. I couldn’t understand most of what was being said, but the show itself was lovely. The kids seemed to enjoy it and ooh-ed and aah-ed at the appropriate points.

After we watched the show, we drove about 20 minutes away to the Museum Nasional. The Museum Nasional is known locally as “Museum Gajah” or “Elephant Museum” because of the relatively small bronze elephant that is in the front courtyard which was a gift from the King of Siam sometime in the late 1800’s. The two building museum houses a collection of artifacts that date back quite far. The oldest thing I saw was from the 4th century. The kids probably didn’t enjoy it as much as we did. Miss Rennita and I picked out rings from the gold collection that we would love to wear.

The crown jewel of the stone carving collection was a statue of a Sumatran king standing on a ring of skulls. It’s an enormous piece (I’d guess more than 10 feet tall) and remarkable because it is almost entirely intact. His nose is a little chipped, but otherwise he looks pretty good. Especially since he’s from the 1300’s and traveled by boat to the museum here in Jakarta.