Improbable Phrases

Who says that?


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.


Rain, Soon.

The rainy season is almost here, which means that there have been absolutely ridiculous high winds the last week or so. I’ve started taking a hair tie down to lunch, just in case.

The last two rainy seasons have included massive flooding that basically shut down the city for days at a time. I have no idea if that will happen again, but it seems likely. There hasn’t been any change to the infrastructure here.

I realized last evening that it has not rained a drop here since I came back at the beginning of August. So, obviously, we’re due.

Here’s to the imminent change of seasons.


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.

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