Tuesday, 30 October 2012

First Principles Clarice ... Read Marcus Aurelius

Well, after the anti-climactic events of Eid, today's visit is brought to you by Thomas Harris and Meditations.  Despite the warnings of screaming livestock being slaughtered in the street and a bloodbath that would exceed the expectations for UFC pay per view (something) ... I really didn't notice that anything was happening that was out of the ordinary.  The only time that I realized something had happened that involved livestock was when I noticed my doorman selling a nicely cleaned lamb pelt to a local travelling merchant.  Oh, I did hear more mooing from the streets than normal, but none of the high-pitched wails followed by horror film pools of blood that I had expected.  So for me, there will be no more thoughts of fava beans and quid pro quo.

Well, I should be planning lessons; but, after a late night working at school, I needed a bit of down time.  Voila.  Ok, a slightly anticlimactic segue but it'll do the trick for now.  Overall, the classes went well today.  I had hoped for a lot more lesson planning time during my 5 day vacation, but exhaustion got the better of me. Somewhere around 6:30 last night I realized it was same stuff, different day - starting to plan 3 classes once the sun had set.
Never let the future disturb you.  You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.

So, the month of November has almost arrived.  During the obligatory late-work-night stroll from the school to the local store and back, I noticed the moon had turned a lovely reddish orange colour.  Although the size wasn't as large as the typical harvest moon in Ontario, the sight brought back memories of fall at home.  Strangely enough, it also conjured up thoughts of the opening of the 6th seal ... but given the impossibility of the sun ever turning to darkness here, those Revelations were short lived.
The universe is change.  Life is your perception of it.

The weather has gotten much cooler here.  Yes, everything is relative, especially in light of the daytime high of 12º that is being enjoyed in the Thorold area, but overnight temperatures of 19º are significantly cooler than the sweltering daytime highs of 42º that stressed my pores when I got here.  My cooling method of choice has changed from air conditioner to open window and, as I walked to the bus this morning, I realized that the weather had finally turned comfortable.  (later review ... I must have been tired - 'turned comfortable' is an odd grammatical construction)
Begin each day telling yourself:  Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will and selfishness - all of them due to the offenders' ignorance of what is good or evil.

So yes, my students returned today.  Ok, most of my students returned today.  As with all holidays and extended weekends, many students undergo a painful change from Epicurean joy to Stoic attendance.  Some students helped their personal transitions by staying at home (likely due to the lingering ill effects of late nights and just-in-time meals).  Other students showed up sporting an aura of "anywhere but where I am now."  But, to their credit, most of them returned to school with a relatively positive outlook.  I made sure that my lessons today were relatively short to accommodate the frequent "what did we do over the holiday," and "what were we doing before the holiday" lines of questions.  
Humans have come into being for the sake of each other, so either teach them, or learn to bear them.

Yes, I've decided that as part of my stress avoidance regime, my occasional grumpy teacher self is going to stay in my back pocket far more often.  Somewhere along the way to my break, I definitely started to lose my sense of humour.  Were my high volume discussions warranted ... yeah, but I can't say they reflect who I am,  nor are they part of my "who I want to be as a teacher" paradigm.  So today, I opted for the route of acceptance.  I recognize that tossing them a larger share of their learning responsibility will likely impair their success in my class.  I also recognize that they won't be terribly excited when my prophecies of difficulties come true.  But, until they recognize that my student-centred performances will help their grades more than their personal conversations, I feel too often that I'm fighting an uphill battle.  Ask the Danes ... this approach didn't work out to well for them in 1066 and, if nothing else, I try to remain a student of history. Hopefully, the brief hiccup that they enjoy/suffer will be short-lived ... otherwise, there will be some extremely stressed out students come finals.
Do what you will.  Even if you tear yourself apart, most people will continue doing the same things.

Well, time to get back to lesson planning.  It's really not as bad as Marcus portrays it.  And it could be worse ... I could've used quotations from Augustine's confessions.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

OMG, Our science teacher has twitter.

Well, there are reasons why my blog has been silent lately.  Oh, it's not that I haven't had the desire to write, but I've been faced with the overwhelming desire to sleep.  I found a wall, hit it and haven't been able to get up for a while.

There's a point in every new teachers' life when he or she takes stock of his or her situation and realizes that they're living in a utopia.  No, not the Thomas More version with gem filled rivers that's more akin to John Lenon's Imagine than reality, but the true meaning of the word... no place.  Once I started doing my marking on the bus ride, the pyramids vanished from my consciousness and I entered a world of sleep, teach, eat prep, sleep ... (repeat daily).  It's so easy to lose yourself through the process of ensuring that you have the best possible lessons for your students that you end up spending all your waking hours focused on teaching.

And I have to admit that the new teacher chasm is incredibly enticing.  Oh, there are occasional grumbles, but overall, my students are awesome.  At least once a week, there'll be a class that goes exactly according to plan.  I see the growth in my students' knowledge and skills, and end up with a covert ear-to-ear smile.  Oh, that's not something that I could communicate to them ... I'm not sure that anyone but parents and teachers could ever experience that vicarious joy.  But, there does come a time when you have to realize that only by finding some measure of balance in your life can you continue to experience those moments.  Well, it's a 5 day holiday, and tonight is my designated sleep and relax night.

I haven't taken any real time off in a while, so I decided at school to take a peek at my g-mail.  Lo and behold, Twitter sent me one of those "here are some people you might know" e-mails, and one of my students was listed there.  Either inspired by fatigue or a very mischievous pre-holiday mood, I couldn't resist taking a peek.  Before I continue, as a 21st century teacher, I do recognize the caveats and protocols involved in social media, so I know how to deal appropriately and openly with my students through this medium.  So I was creeping through some of their profiles (modern day term for covert viewing - sounds far more malevolent than it really is) and noticed a reference to me.  Well, I couldn't help myself, I had to reply.  I knew it had to happen, and as word spread through the Twitterverse that I actually had a twitter account, eventually, someone tweeted the title above.  To safeguard my students' privacy (and due to my lack of time), I don't intend to view their profiles very often ... but a little reminder to them of the internet's "you never know who's viewing your messages" reality can't hurt.

Well, I've probably missed a number of pass-on-able things but in the interest of sharing some of the joys of living in Egypt ...

The second feast (Eid) is the major one and lasts for 5 days.  I've been warned that Friday morning will be filled with the bleating of sheep and that travel by foot thereafter will make me feel like I've stumbled upon one of Dexter's crime scenes.

I saw traffic signals for the first time but I still don't understand how traffic flows so smoothly.

There was something strange on the bus' windshield today.  It might have been vanishing stone chips ... or some kind of water.  I believe it is called something like ... rain.  I blinked and it was done.

Breakfast on the road is $0.15.  In areas of bumper-to-bumper traffic, people wander along the highway selling bread, date buns and other breakfast options.  They're yummy.

Prices vary depending on location and mother tongue.  I stopped visiting my local convenience store as they charge 1 LE more per item than the kiosk that is a 3 minute walk away.  The kiosk doesn't adjust prices based on nationality but my local store does.  My $5 purchase at the local convenience store ends up costing $4 at the local supermarket.  Of course, they never did deliver it, but I'm sure it'll happen sometime and once they know where I live ... can the ultimate in laziness (calling in my grocery order for delivery) be far away?

Miscellaneous prices:

  • Gasoline:  $0.30 / litre
  • Fantastic Mexican meal that is too large for 1 sitting:  $9 with tip
  • Mars bars:  $0.60 
  • 1.5 Litre bottle of water:  $0.50
  • Yoghurt cups:  $0.30 each
  • Pepsi:  $0.75 / litre or $1.20 for 2 litres
Finally, the best part of today was my chance to make some of the Heritage employees smile.  The janitor who cleans my room and never stops working.  The security guard on our floor always says hi to me from halfway down the hall whenever he spots me.  I recognize that I couldn't do my job without them and they've done everything they can to make me feel welcome at Heritage.  So, to celebrate Eid, I passed them along a small gift.  Two dinners for me is the same as 5 days' salary for them - a small price to pay for the kindness they've showed me so far.

Well, time to leave the keyboard for a while and relax.  Sleep is not far away (I barely avoided it on the bus ride home).  Oh, it's a working holiday, which may not seem too exciting until you consider that the 40 to 50 hours I spend planning now will result in a month's worth of night's off in November.  Or ... I might even head out and enjoy myself ... naw, that still seems way too far fetched.