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Amparo Bertram

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06:29 pm: The first of the final classes
This morning when I went to cut some cheese for breakfast, both of my usual knives were still in the sink from the baking I did yesterday, so I grabbed a wooden-handled one from the knife rack in the cupboard. I checked the blade to make sure it didn't have any dust on it from disuse, and it looked fine. Next I picked up the block of cheese...and wondered why I left a dark grey fingerprint on it.

I shrugged and washed my hands and went back to cutting...when I finally realized the entire handle of the knife was covered in mildew. Eeeewwww.

This is one of the problems of a country with such high humidity. Wooden utensils get mildewy really easily, just from exposure to the air. Incidentally, so do walls, floors, bookshelves...at my house in Niigata, I had a number of videotapes turn fuzzy with mildew.

Our exchange student from Hawaii is in a bit of a bind. She (and two others) came over with the agreement that they would only stay with their host families for half the year and switch to new families in February. Well, it's now more than halfway through January...and the Rotary club sponsoring them still hasn't been able to come up with new families for them to switch to. ^_^; They announced yesterday at the teacher's meeting to ask the students if any of them thought their families might want to host her.

I asked (or, rather complained) to the teacher at the desk next to me about the school's policy of docking a student 20% on the final exam for being absent due to illness. Her response was, "Here we believe that an exam is something you have to show up for. For example, if you are absent from a high school entrance exam due to illness, you fail. We believe we are being generous because we allow students to take makeup exams at all."

@_@

In other news, one of my classes yesterday was shown a number of American commercials as part of their class assignment. Among the commercials was the series of "Whassaaaaap" Budweiser ads that aired in 2000. (I had never seen them before, because I had been in Niigata at the time.) The students came to class today repeating "Whassaaaaaap" over and over. <giggle> How cute is that?

I was impressed by the speech one of the students gave in the last class, about her homestay in Australia, because she put a lot of expression and gestures into it. Today, however, the last student's speech was outstanding. She started out by talking about how she likes to go shopping and then went on to describe her favorite "shopping mall." In the middle of the speech, she even had written a song about the different "shops" in the mall, going around and singing to various classmates. At the end she reveals that the "mall" is a metaphor for the school and the "shops" are the classmates, from whom she "bought" many valuable experiences. It was great when I read the draft of the speech, but it really blew me away when she performed it. The only drawback was that she didn't have it completely memorized, so she had to keep returning to check her paper.

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[User Picture]
From:megory
Date:January 20th, 2005 03:35 am (UTC)

Outrageously wonderful!

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The students came to class today repeating "Whassaaaaaap" over and over.

Wow! It's a teacher's dream come true when the students actually use something they learn in class. That is so cute. It also gives me the idea that it might be fun to record the Superbowl commercials this year in case there is something fun on it, too. Superbowl Sunday is this Sunday. I'll have to ask Rob if that is a possibility. Then the students could get recent commercials, too. There have been some funny ones in the past.

I was impressed by the speech one of the students gave in the last class, about her homestay in Australia, because she put a lot of expression and gestures into it. Today, however, the last student's speech was outstanding.

How exciting that the students are so thoughtful, creative, and expressive. It shows they really value the class. What a wonderful way to assess their learnings and to give them an opportunity to use what they know. ...The part about looking at their notes, I even have to do that when I am speaking in English. I wouldn't mark any one down for that.

Mildew, huh? You know, one of the air purification units we use is supposed to kill mildew, also, through the use of the ozone generator, I think. I don't know that it does, though, for sure since we don't have much in our house to judge by. But it does all the other things it's supposed to do. What with the kerosene smells and such, we should think about the possibility of taking you one if you decide to stay another year. What do you think?

Love,
Mom
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:January 20th, 2005 01:26 pm (UTC)

Re: Outrageously wonderful!

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...The part about looking at their notes, I even have to do that when I am speaking in English. I wouldn't mark any one down for that.

I wouldn't, except that in actual speech contests, memorization is a requirement. We didn't require complete memorization, but we did put in "eye contact" as worth about 10%. Students are prone to spend the entire speech gazing down at their notes without ever looking up, and we wanted to try to get them out of that habit.

What do you think?

I haven't really had as much trouble with it here as I did back in Niigata. The only mildew I've encountered has been inside my kitchen cupboards and drawers. I had to throw away some cooking chopsticks because they mildewed. But I don't really have a lot of wooden utensils (mainly because I KNOW they get mildew on them, so I don't buy them, I only use the ones left by my predecessors). So I don't think I'd use a purifier much.
[User Picture]
From:nitasee
Date:January 20th, 2005 09:34 am (UTC)
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Here we believe that an exam is something you have to show up for. For example, if you are absent from a high school entrance exam due to illness, you fail. We believe we are being generous because we allow students to take makeup exams at all.

Wow. Okay, I agree that exams are something you should show up for, but there are times when it is better for everyone involved if the student doesn't show. It really becomes insult to injury if the student doesn't show because of, say, death in the family.

Makes me wonder, are Japanese schools as tight about everyday attendance? Do they take regular role and/or call the parents when a student is absent?
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:January 20th, 2005 01:01 pm (UTC)
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It really becomes insult to injury if the student doesn't show because of, say, death in the family.

Absence due to a funeral is the ONLY reason a student can take a makeup exam without being docked, and the absence has to be arranged in advance. Being sick *with a doctor's note* gets you docked 20%. Any other reason for an absence, including sickness without a doctor's note, is an automatic zero.

Do they take regular role and/or call the parents when a student is absent?

Yes, they do. And they take "number of absences" into account when making important decisions about the student. For example, when I sat in on the faculty meeting about deciding which students to accept as new freshmen at one of my schools in Niigata, the criteria they used were the students' performances on the entrance exam *and* their attendance records from their middle school. When I was on the panel deciding which students to consider for the study abroad program, the information we were given consisted of the students' overall grades, class ranking, grades in English, and attendance.
[User Picture]
From:nitasee
Date:January 20th, 2005 07:25 pm (UTC)
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Man, I would have been screwed if I had been a student in Japan. I was sick so much as a kid. I spent at least two weeks or more every school years home sick. But I did get good grades despite it.
[User Picture]
From:amilyn
Date:January 20th, 2005 09:43 am (UTC)
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VERY cute student stuff. Nifty!

EW on the mildew (and the humidity!).
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