Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crime Unit: a success?

They say that teachers should teach things relevant to their students' lives. This week, I taught about crime, murder and blackmail and treachery, and my 9th graders threatened to commit them.

We've been doing a unit on crime for the past few weeks, and to finish off the unit I planned one last vocab quiz. Instead of making it myself, I decided to let them write it, figuring they would write a much harder quiz than I would anyway. You should know that the class is divided into two halves, and I teach each half twice a week. For the purpose of this post, I'm going to call them Sneaky Class and Kind Class.

So on Tuesday, I had a lesson with Sneaky Class, and told them the plan: write down 20 vocab words on a sheet of paper, and it would be a quiz for the other half of the class (meaning, they would have to define or use each of the words). For some reason (foresight, maybe?), I also insisted they write their names on it. Sneaky Class wrote their quizzes. On Wednesday I repeated the procedure with Kind Class. And today, Thursday, everyone took a quiz. In the 6th lesson, Sneaky Class took their quiz with a minimum of sniveling (I suppose that should have been the tip-off that something was amiss). At the end of the lesson when I collected them, I glanced through them and saw that they had done pretty well.

Enter the 7th lesson, and I was accosted by the Kind Class begging not to take the test. "Don't worry," I tried to soothe them, "the other half of the class just took it, and it wasn't that bad. So I'm sure you'll do fine."

They did not do fine. They struggled, sighed gut-wrenching sighs, swore under their breath, and managed to complete about half the test. Many of them cursed the writers of the tests. Remember how I'd had Sneaky Class write their names on their tests? Now each student in Kind Class knew exactly who to blame for their troubles. In the middle of the lesson, one girl broke under the pressure and blurted out, "I'm going to kill her! Those stupid liars!"

"What?" My eyebrows went up a bit. "What do you mean?"

Unabashedly, she sputtered, "Those liars! They told us that they wrote easy tests for us, so we should write easy ones for them. But they wrote hard tests! Very hard!" The rest of the class grumbled in agreement. I sighed, shrugged, tried to help them as much as I could, promised to grade easily... but as I collected the tests, I could see that it's going to take a VERY easy grading scale to even out the grades between the classes.

As I took one girl's paper, she asked me, "Do you like (name of Sneaky Class girl who had written a particularly difficult test)?" "Well, sure," I replied. "That's too bad," girl continued, "Because you won't see her for a while." "Oh?" I asked, not catching on. "Why not?" "She's in the hospital. Or, she will be in the hospital. I will put her there."

So I may or may not have started a vendetta between the two halves of the class. I have to say, I'm a bit disgusted with Sneaky Class (although not totally shocked) for pulling a stunt like that. They were not my favorites to begin with, and if I made a list now they'd be damn near the bottom (although they've got a long way to go before they overtake TerrorClass). The only redeeming fact is that probably only two or three of them are bad apples... I hope.

Final note, the high point of my day - it made me laugh so hard that I stumbled into the teacher's room nearly in tears, and got many a funny look... just after the 7th lesson, I walked upstairs directly behind a member of the Kind Class. Right in front of the teacher's rooms, she ran into one of her friends from the other half of the class. KC girl nodded, said hi, and was about to continue walking past, when suddenly she remembered the injustice just done to her and veered course dramatically with an ominous, "Hey, I need to talk to you...!"

Saturday, February 07, 2009

"Resolutions 2009"

Well, "I won't procrastinate" will never be a resolution for me. Anyway, back in January I resolutely resolved not to wrangle with New Year's Resolutions this year. And I'm keeping that promise: I won't call them resolutions. They can be my "daily determinations". Or "erstwhile ill-fated intentions." Or "mad missions". Or... okay, I'll stop.

Have you noticed that so far, there's really an "absurd" number of quotation marks in this entry? I just started reading The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks, and maybe she's inspired me. De-spired me? Whatever, I feel like I can justify all my marks, including the ones in the title. since these are neither resolutions, nor will they be (I hope) just for 2009.

Are you picking up on the fact that this whole venture may have been cause by lack of coffee? It's a dangerous place for me to be in. Anyway, the goals:

1. I will exercise 5 minutes a day. Weekends optional. Five minutes is totally doable, right?

2. I will do something, anything, in Hungarian every day. One exercise. One translation. Ten new vocab words. Free-writing, journaling even... just something.

So, baby steps. These both seem very reasonable and (what the hell is a word that means doable but is an actual word?). Any bets on how long the goals will last? I'm guessing an optimistic 3 weeks on the Hungarian and a realistic 5 days on the exercise.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Due my school being small and poor and having too many students, several of our "classrooms" are not actually classrooms, but, say, a former closet. Or a closed-off corner of the gym. Or the old teacher's apartments (where Chad, Petra, and I myself all lived for a time), which is across the courtyard from the main school building. I have several classes here, and they can be easily measured up on a lazy <---> ambitious continuum: some will ask the key from the reception, let themselves in, and wait nicely in their seats. Some won't ask for the key, but will go out into the courtyard and stand huddled together for warmth by the door, waiting for me. And the laziest sit around the reception, waiting for me to come, fetch the key, and open the door, after which they will gradually get up and meander their way out.

My class today was one of the get-the-key-and-get-in-nicely classes. Which is why I was surprised, while crossing the courtyard, to see several of them busily amusing themselves all around the courtyard. One was playing basketball with a gym class*. One had found a broom and was chasing after the basketball players. One was leaning over the fence to make out with her boyfriend standing on the street.

And I bring this up because just this morning I was gloating about the awesome weather here, and this is the other shoe dropping. This behavior is all the weather's fault. Warm weather breeds teenage craziness. As a human being, I have to love spring time (ahem, see previous gloating entry), but as a teacher...

*another curse of the warmer weather - all winter the P.E. classes were safely inside the gym and I was able to cross the courtyard without worrying about being knocked on the head with a basketball/football/frisbee. But now they're back and I'm under fire every time I have a class outside.

"Winter" in Hungary

My dad sent me this picture a few weeks ago, because I'd expressed disbelief that snow could actually be higher than someone's head. Living in Hungary the past few winters, I've been so calmed by the winters here that I seemed to have blocked out an entire childhood of New Hampshire October-to-May whiteness, as well as a teenhood of Minnesota and Wisconsin blizzards.

During the same conversation when I accidently admitted to my dad that I'd forgotten what snow looked like, my mom mentioned that it was a "nice" 20 degrees, but was going to get to 20 below the next day. I nodded (yes, I nod on the phone) and "uh-huh"ed absently; the numbers didn't sink in until later. I'd forgotten that 20, in Fahrenheit, is actually BELOW freezing. And -20 is WAY below.

And I'm just saying all this because at the moment, I'm looking out my window, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and clear, and the forecast is predicting 15 C. That's almost 60 F! It's February 6th. February was the month when I fell in love with Szolnok... maybe you can see why.