Friday, April 22, 2011


I think I have my own wind tunnel that follows me around. It's been very disconcerting, and it occurs at unexpected times when there should be no wind at all. On my way to school, my arms are full of books and suddenly I can't see anything, I wonder what's going on (the novel blindness?) until I realize that it's just my skirt. 'oh just my skirt.'&*@#$* 'oh hello queen's road west' :frantic scramble:

One of the reasons I even began wearing skirts was to be more modest, like the long flowy kind that goes past the knee. Sometimes it makes me feel like Julie Andrews in that scene in sound of music when she's skipping around with her guitar and is all "i have confidence in sunshine!.. I have confidence in ME!"
Although I suppose that shouldn't be a positive thing because when she gets to the von trapp house one kid tells her that it's the "ugliest skirt I ever saw".
And then maria admits "even the poor wouldn't have this one."


It's easter holiday in hong kong, it's a national holiday with 4 days off. It's interesting because the majority of people don't celebrate Easter, it would be similar to the U.S. having a day off for buddha's birthday. I think the main reason is just that hong kong just likes national holidays, or maybe it's a sign of broad cultural appreciation.

What I would really like are peeps.
My parents used to buy a box, let us eat one bunny each and then leave it outside in the garage because it was too sweet. My brother and I would sneak outside and eat them once in awhile. The open package would keep all year until the next easter. Frightening but delicious.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

steering lessons.

I don't know how it happened, but somehow I've become represented as an ADHD student specialist. About half my students are special needs, and without sounding fake, it actually has taught me a lot. I never really knew what to think about ADHD or 'behavioral learning challenges'. But if I ever questioned its existence, that has disappeared from trying to teach a literature class to one of my adhd students. Maybe it was the Asian upbringing, but try explaining the need for medically treating ADHD to a traditional Korean mother and she would find it ridiculous. Can't concentrate you say? Yes I have a prescription for that: Tie child to chair. Administer smacks often. Limit food consumption until the lesson is learned. Repeat as necessary.

Unfortunately I was witness to this a few days ago, one of my Korean students has a younger sister, a 5 year old who wears purple tiaras and likes to run around and color. She usually greets me at the door by slapping a sticker on my thigh and screeching "teacher teacher guess what I AM!"

Anyway that day when I came in, she was sitting in a dining room chair, crying while stuttering through "where is the dog?" Apparently her school report card had come back with a complaint that she couldn't sit still in class and that she was still behind the class requirement for reading. I spent the next two hours trying to ignore the sounds of crying and repeated smacking.

It was disturbing and not at all funny, but I wonder if later the mother will realize how ridiculous the situation was, and the amount of perspective she is missing as a parent.
screeching mother: "Where is the DOG?!"
lisping girl: "the dog ith in the"
"The where?!" smack smack.
"ith in the house?"
"No! why is my daughter so stupid? read it!"

awful. it was traumatizing.. i called my own mother afterward, which was a mistake because she got overly agitated and made me promise that next time I would interrupt the lesson and smack the mom instead.

yes totally.


When I first started, I was given instructions and notes about the students - various diagnoses that I would have to look up. For example, inability to convert spoken directions to paper, only learns "kinetically", must incorporate sound and rhythm in lesson, best if items rhyme..

I still don't know if I have incorporated kinetic things or rhythm in the lesson - the most I could do with that was tapping a beat on the desk when the student seems to be drifting off. The hours usually pass with my gesturing as enthusiastically as possible, writing quotes in different colors, acting out scenes. Most days this is successful and then there are the occasional days when a student starts to color inside the books, then repeatedly stabs the pages with a pen and then in the last half hour, silently shred the pages. One of my students has shredded through 5 copies of "Of Mice and Men" already. (In his defense, the book is thin)

But I've realized that the most basic thing is to be able to steer a conversation.
It makes me wonder if this is how driving school instructors feel like.. we're going off the road! off the road!

failed steering:
Discussing Streetcar named desire - student: "I have a friend who wants to name her kid stella. Actually she just got her tongue pierced last week, I couldn't tell if it hurt but omg it totally looked like it did i took a video do you want to watch it see she's not even flinching but i think she's just one of those girls who has a high pain tolerance. is that possible? see like it's so cute and it's clear so her parents have no idea she has it..." By this time the phone is out and the video is playing and yea teacher fail.

Discussing A Doll's House: "I don't get it... why is the loan such a big deal nora did it cause she loved whatshisname and it's not like she cheated on him actually i think cheating is awful like one of my friends.."
"cheating! it could cause venereal diseases like the doctor character, you see how ibsen uses the doctor as a physical embodiment of the..."
"Ew what did he have again syphilis? Like isn't that when... oh I saw the grey's anatomy episode where they all get it right, like have you seen the musical episode where they sing, you know one of them was on broadway I saw spamalot like in new york once it was hilarious my father used to make me watch like all of the old monty actually here let me show you the song - i love this song if i ever got married it would be my song... "
"Marriage! Yes what is Ibsen's view on marriage in the play... Ibsen! Ibsen!"
phone is out, song is playing. we are off the road stuck in a ditch..

successful steering:
Discussion Of Mice and Men, the puppy death scene - student: Omg so you know the dogs I have now well once they killed my pet rabbit there was bloodeverywhere and I was so...
"Rabbits, well you know that was Lenny's dream, to tend rabbits. Let's turn to that first scene about the rabbits. How is that referencing the american dream?"

"Is there really lots of killing in America? It seems so dangerous with the guns and stuff, like on CSI .. well it's funny there was this video parody..."
"CSI NY, well gary sinise played george in the movie version, how do you think he dealt with the ending? Is it sympathetic?"
"So my friend..."
"Friendship! That's a key theme in this book. Let's talk about the friendship between George and Lenny."
still on the road.

learning to walk

I think my dog is going through a drama queen phase. She is super sweet and very loyal, but there are some things that she finds unforgivable. It's like living with a volatile adolescent, except her form of retribution is to urinate on the floor. We decide to not let her play in the room, she pees on the floor. I don't give her a piece of the bread I'm eating... she looks at me like I'm slowly starving her and pees on the floor. I lecture her for jumping too much... she marches over to me and pees on the floor. She acts like she's sorry but I think she gets some satisfaction watching me scrub floors.

The most embarrassing thing was when I tried to get her to walk around outside on a leash. I thought this was natural for dogs, I always see happy looking dogs following their people around, there's even dogs without leashes and dogs that hold their leash in their own mouth. I envisioned her being happy to be outside, trotting alongside me. Instead, every time she came outside, she acted like the sidewalk was burning her. She dragged her feet so that her stomach was touching the ground, and if I tried to lift her with the leash she dug her claws into the concrete so hard it left marks. She whined and cried, and people looked at me like I was trying to murder this poor animal. Eventually out of embarrassment I would lift her up and carry her home.

Last week I had to take her to the vet, she refused to walk so I carried her there. The vet's office is mid way up a hill (Hong Kong sometimes seems like a perpendicular city). Being out of shape, I was breathless by the time I got there.

I decided that I was putting my foot down. We would walk back down.
It's been three weeks! In Alaska you would be dragging me on a sled! In the cold! In wind and snow! And if I needed to win my race I would leave you behind and you would wait for me when I come back days later.
(Yes I've become one of those people who talk to their pets. -.-)
I had to drag her for a block - the one block took about 10 minutes to walk. I had angry women elbow me and a few men who grumbled as they glared. All looked sympathetically at the dog who seemed to be physically melting on the sidewalk.

I guess my lecturing and dragging inspired her. She eventually started to walk, she even seemed happy about it. Next I just have to find a sled.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

conjugate that.

Teaching high school students sometimes means being the target of insults. I think it's the moodiness that comes with being a teenager. It's not very healthy for me because it just makes me feel like responding with some not very kind thoughts. I've realized the best way is to respond with a discussion about grammar.

Student: "Wow if I was you I would never have studied English. It's so dumb."
yea so dumb That's why you can't understand it.
smiling "Well now, that's a great example of when you should use the subjunctive. This is wishful thinking, so you should have said if I were you... Let's discuss that."

Meeting my student after a sleepless night of cramming for exams and wearing my woody allen glasses...
Student:"What have you been doing? You look awful." :smirk:
nice to see you too. sigh.
sitting slowly "That's interesting, you chose to use the present progressive verb tense... Let's talk about how you would conjugate that. What about the past does the present progressive suggest? Why shouldn't you have used the present perfect tense? Let's discuss that."

Student:"Why aren't you wearing makeup today? Your face looks better when you do."
well too bad nothing can be done about your face...
"Well that's a good example of using parallel construction when comparing things... map out this sentence. Let's discuss that."

It's like conditioning. Insult me and we will learn grammar until it's painful.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


I've been trying to become better at cooking.

I was never a natural cook. I don't know if it's because I lack the imagination or a sense of timing. Maybe it's that I'm too absentminded, but cooking for me is an exercise in chaos... dodging flames, falling knives and spills.

Anyway this year I've decided to be better. I had an image of myself as capable, sophisticated, maybe even elegant. The result has not been any of those things.

What have I made these past couple weeks?
Skillet fried pork chops. Breaded fried chicken. Chicken fried pork. (who knew that was possible?) fried potato skins. Corned beef hash with home potatoes. I did make pasta one night, but it was in a 3 cheese alfredo sauce, recipe reviewers said it was modeled after Olive Garden's. oh sophistication. -.-

Fortunately the recipient of my cooking is appreciative, probably because he's amused by the novelty of american cuisine. Unfortunately for me (and him I suppose), he's a natural cook. His cooking involves things like dry rubs, effortless wine sauces, subtle spices.
How about seared lamb in a wine reduction?

If someone gave me lamb i'd probably just bread it and fry it.