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A week left and counting..

We came back home to Jerusalem for a month over the semester break and it has been rather weird. Firstly of course it was great to see all our friends and family again,to eat our faviourite Israeli foods that are not available in China, and to sleep in our own (extremely soft) bed. It was great to go to Pilates classes again and tell people we are just here for a break and are living in China.But it was also odd that we very quickly found ourselves missing China, Xiamen and our life there. I miss the students, I miss getting up every day in Xiamen and not knowing who we are going to meet or what is going to happen.I miss the challenge of trying to make myself understood in Chinese.And I miss the surprises every time we order in a restaurant and have no clue what is going to appear on the table.

It was great to be met at the airport by our younger son,to hear what he has been up to,and to spend time with my Dad,and my brothers and see all the family together for my brother’s birthday.But now we feel that we are in the way.The boys have their own lives to lead,and really don’t need us around.My dad is doing fine and is okay with us going back.

Today is Chinese New Year, and although we planned not to be there during that festival I am a little disappointed now I see it all on the TV that we will be missing the festivities.So maybe we will stay put next year and see them for ourselves,wherever we are.

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We did have some fun here.We went to see a couple of movies and we are gong to a concert this week. But we kept checking the prices in the restaurants and shops and comparing to Chinese prices. We spent some time with friends of ours from Xiamen who came to visit, Steve and Viny, who are of the Bahai faith and came to Israel to go on a pilgimage to their temple in Haifa. We showed them around Jerusalem a bit,went with them to Yad Vashem,to Ein Karem,Abu Gosh and the Tayelet to see the views of the Old City.

We also had a coffee with Aliza and Shimon who will be joining us at XMUT next semester.So that was fun too.So roll on next Monday when we get on the plane and go back to Xiamen via Hong Kong,Macau and Shenzhen.

Steve and Viny visit Abu Gosh

Steve and Viny visit Abu Gosh

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Mr Teachbad

Just read this blog on teachers called  Mr.Teachbad and I did not know whether to laugh or cry. The fact is there are the same problems in education the world over, and nobody cares. This is my main reason for feeling that I have had it with this job and can’t do it much longer. The policy makers have no clue how to enter the classroom, and frankly don’t seem to care a whole lot .This results in a situation where those of us “on the chalkface” are struggling to hold our own and to keep the kids “entertained’ ,whilst most of the powers that be are only interested in having quiet in the corridors. It doesn’t much matter to them if the kids learn or not as long as they are not wandering around outside.I find that pretty sad.

On a different note, I just read today on Raoul’s China Saloon, a place I find myself hanging out more and more, that there are expats teaching in China who seem to enjoy whining about the country, the people,the job etc etc. Well that certainly rings a bell, and to be honest I don’t have time for such people,even though I am well acquainted with a few of those over here. It seems to me that if a person doesn’t like their situation they should DO something about it and quit whining on to everyone else. Life is too short for that. I think that if I were as miserable as some of these people claim to be I would get out.

Or maybe they just enjoy whining…..

Back at the chalkface

Well here I am back in the school year again… and the sabbatical year is rapidly whizzing off back into the dim and distant past.

I knew that after 2 days back at school it would seem like a whole lifetime away.All those wonderful ,lazy mornings getting up at 9am, having endless coffees out with my friends, idling away evenings at the movies .And now here I am back shouting my lungs out to a bunch of gormless adolescents who are totally oblivious of my presence, and certainly with no interest at all in paying me any attention whatsoever.

Well I have decided to keep my cool ,think of the paycheck and a prospective early retirement and,as my dad used to say “do my little best”.

Anyway, at least the Twelfth grade girls seem really sweet and very happy to do Romeo and Juliet,as long as they can watch the Di Caprio movie,and they really responded very well to the Sonnet we did yesterday, so thank goodness for that! And even the weak 10th are quite manageable,especially since there are only 20 or so of them.So I will make it through till the New year and then hopefully the two nasty classes will stop coming and it will be downhill from there on..

The Power of the Silver Screen

Just came back froma move called “Waltz with Bashir” by Ari Folman about his experiences during the First Lebanon war, and his attempts to come to terms with his inability to remember exactly what happened there, especially at Sabra and Shatilla.

The most impressive thing I felt in this movie was the power of the visual imagery ,and especially the way he uses the animation meshed in with the bits of real documentary footage. It was absolutely amazing. And in addition,he uses all kinds of different music in the soundtrack, from classical to heavy rock.It all works perfectly. The problems of combat soldiers having to deal with trauma and repressed memories have been dealt with many times in the movies, but for me this was a really hard-hitting ,gut wrenching experience, and the unease we feel when we see beautiful scenery in the midst of carnage really conjures up the feelings which young soldiers had to cope with.The dialogue is so typically Israeli too,and the gallery of comrades he presents  us with really rings true too. And then suddenly we see Ron Ben Ishai the Army Radio war correspondent, and Arik Sharon and Begin himself.It was absolutely brilliantly done!

Highly recommended,but not easy to watch in parts…

Thoughts on education: summer course

Okay so here’s the thing. You walk into the classroom.It’s sweltering 35 degrees and the fan is pushing the hot air from one side of the room to the other.You look at the new kids, grades 9 and 10 who have shown up for the summer course, to make it into a better class next year, or because the school demands it of them.

Now you know they won’t learn enough in 10 days to make a difference, and you know that it’s a money- spinner for the school .But you can’t do anything about it….

Some of the kids are really trying hard. I mean they don’t know that New York is a city and not a country but they really are prepared to make an effort. However, once they finish the course and are put in the weak group ,their frustrations will begin to come through. And then,when faced with the Bagrut (matric) paper which is really more of an intelligence test than an English test, they will look to cut corners.I have seen it now so many times,but it still frustrates me. I can’t help them .I can’t change the system.

There are a lot of teachers out there trying to change it , but apparently there are too many “powers-that-be” who stand to make revenue from it and so the chances that we will ever be able to get the Bagrut cancelled are minimal.

On the other hand, it was nice to go back to the classroom after my sabbatical and see that I don’t hate it.I was scared I would not be able to make it through the day, especially as the mercury climbed even higher by 3.45 ,the last period.

Now I am back to earth,having delved into wikis, flat classrooms, cooperative classrooms and suchlike in my virtual life this year, I bumped down to the reality of no air condtioning, no laptops and no freedom to do what I would really like with these kids.

The Internet Maze

The main problem seems to be overload. The more sites you find ,the more you get carried further inward.

I constantly come across wonderful people doing incredibly creative things, saying really insightul things about the use of the Web in the classroom,or the trouble with the Web, or introducing me to fascinating new concepts in language learning. So I bookmark them and surf on. And on.

And it’s endless. There is always another page, another site, another brilliant person waiting to be read.

In fact today I found a splendid blog by a gentleman called Tom Hemingway, an American educator resident in Turkey .Now the thing is one needs time to read his blog and THEN to proceed to read all the wonderful references he gives to other people’s blogs. I mean it’s completely endless.And now I am on Sabbatical so I have time to pursue these things at leisure ,but what will I do when September rolls around?

I also joined the Flat  Classroom Project Ning and Wikispaces with the hope that I will incorporate these things into my teaching next year. But on the other hand, how do I know that I won’t sink back into the miasma of mundane book exercises and worksheets, taking the path of least resistance?

A great Day at the museum

Had a really good class today at the museum.The first part was about the use of the written word in Art,(I think it is called Conceptual Art ) and we saw works by people like Barbara Kruger, and we discussed the changes in women’s status since the beginning of the century (Virginia Woolf etc of course!)

Then came the really good bit. We had a talk from a young artist called Ariel Malca who has a new exhibit in the Shrine of the Book.It is a little hard to describe,but uses biblical texts moving over a landscape to convey the idea of the journey made by the Children of Israel on their way to the the land of Israel.That sounds crap but you really have to see what he did.Anyway we ended up talking about the lack of boundaries today between the different disciplines, since he doesn’t have any formal training ,either as an artist or as a techie. It was really cool.

Anyway when I got home I looked up some of the stuff including Barbara Kruger, and found a lot of really great stuff which I ‘d love to use in class. Maybe I will .

The ones that really caught my eye I have saved. Here’s one of them…
Barbara Kruger