220: Con-cen-tra-tion

Anybody else have trouble concentrating on stuff you’d really rather not be doing in the first place? When it is something I want to do, there is no difficulty at all – I can “wake up” hours later, surprised at how much time has gone by. When it is not a favored project, I look up at the clock and am surprised that only thirty seconds has elapsed. Drat.

It obviously does not help that I am a diagnosed adult with ADD (attention deficit disorder). It is usually a great help as a school teacher, because it really, sincerely does not freak me out to be interrupted forty-eleventy-dozen times a day. I can get back on track pretty quickly when interrupted by a student question, an urgent e-mail, a new request from the school administration, ‘Johnny, stop poking Susan,’ and various other things.

The primary problem is my own work, lately. I am only all-too-willing to be interrupted. Usually, when I get ready to grade papers, I select a good table so I can spread out papers into organized piles; I get a drink so I don’t use being thirsty as an excuse to interrupt myself, and a snack for the same reason. Then I settle down and grade. My only interruption then is a kitty person who comes by and wants cuddles occasionally. Usually, that scenario is enough to make great progress in reducing my stack of grading – but not lately.

Lately, I spend time on WordPress. heeheehee


219: A Misunderstanding

Language is a difficult thing. Even when you are speaking the same one, misunderstandings occur. Imagine the difficulties when you are learning a second, third or fourth language, the problems that can happen when you are trying to communicate are multiplied.

For instance, American English and British English are NOT the same. And both are English! In American English, the rubber square that you use to rub out mistakes on your paper is called an eraser. In Britain, it is called a rubber. That is NOT what a rubber is in American English: a rubber in American English is a condom. Plus, a fag in American English is a homosexual person, usually male. A fag in British English is a cigarette. You can imagine the shock on an American’s face when a Brit asks, “so, got a fag on you?” meaning, of course, can I borrow a cigarette.

My step-sister brought her Brit boyfriend home over Christmas break from school. At the family dinner table, he leans over to ask her, “So, what time do you want me to knock you up in the morning?” INSTANT and TOTAL silence. Knock you up is an American expression for getting you pregnant, not for knocking on your bedroom door to wake you up. And both of us speak English!!

Speaking of waking up, the Arabic word for that sounds a lot like the English slang word for sex – the F-bomb that is the rudest word imaginable. Plus, Arabic speakers of English often get six and sex to sound way, far, too much alike. I explained gently to a learned gentleman that six is a number and sex is ‘hi-wee,’ which is the Arabic word for sex, and I embarrassed him thoroughly, but he did not pronounce six wrong again. I am sure that I will make similar errors when I get bold enough to try out the Arabic I am learning……

218: Burnout

There is one problem with trying to do your best all the time, and being willing to help others when they ask: burnout.

This week at school, a student I was tutoring every afternoon for months (for pay, at her mother’s request) was referred to me for after school tutoring (at the school’s request – no pay) three days a week. Plus, I got an additional 30 minute duty added today, too. That extra two hours right there increases my face-to-face contact time to twenty-four hours a week, and I am contracted for only twenty-five, even though I am required to be present at school each week for forty full-time hours, plus a forty-five minute after-school activity. AND, I will be at school today for extra hours after the school day for parent-teacher conferences. Tomorrow, many of my students will not be at school because of a field trip, and next week, another field trip will take most of my students for Thursday and Friday, again. We have a bake sale this afternoon for the parent conferences, and a clothes drive going on, too, PLUS a play that I (as the art teacher) have been asked to help paint sets for. Jeepers creepers, folks, I am NOT a spring chicken anymore.

That does not mean that having all this varied activity is bad, because it does make each work day different (which is actually a rather good thing). Plus, variety IS the spice of life, right??

217: Curiosity Kills…..

Caruso canNOT resist

Caruso canNOT resist

Everyone has probably heard the old axiom about curiosity killing the cat, meaning that your urge to discover gets you into trouble you can’t get out of. Cats are not the only ones who have trouble with that: I found a Web site that listed inventors who were killed by their own inventions. Google it – there are several Web sites that list them.

I am not sure that anecdotal evidence means that we should not be curious and/or inventive, however….think of all the advances we would not have had somebody not been driven by the urge to know, discover and create. It’s only problematic when it causes consequences that were both unintended and unexpected. I read somebody’s research paper once that said there are four outcomes to every situation: expected and unexpected, and intended and unintended. Most of the things that we humans do have the usually desired outcome: expected and intended. When I turn on the light switch, I expect the light to come on, and that is the outcome I intended to occur when I flipped the switch. Unexpected things include such effects as getting shocked by the electricity, or setting the house on fire because there is an electrical short that sparks inside the wall. Those outcomes are unexpected and unintended.

The same thing happens when people enact laws. Their expected and intended outcome may not occur because of various interpretations others put on their words. It did not occur to the original lawmakers that anyone in their right mind would interpret their words in any way other than what they had expected and intended, so they did not include language that prohibits outcomes that they did not expect, and did not intend. For example, the original founders of federal aid to poor people did not intend that aid to become generational, and prompt those poor to procreate proliferously in order to earn a few more free dollars per month, because at the time the program was adopted, people were actually ASHAMED to get charity, and worked diligently to support themselves instead. That is no longer the case, and there are a lot of modern people who literally work the system to bilk as much free money as they can.

I teach school, and I know for a fact that this is human nature. For over twenty years, I have watched SOME students (not all) work like dogs trying to avoid doing the right thing. Instead of exercising their curiosity and inventiveness in positive ways, they look for any possible way to cheat and take shortcuts. They will work slavishly cheating, when to do it properly in the first place would have required considerably less effort, trouble and expense (time and money). I am sure you have seen that, too. There will always be people like that – they are satisfied with being less than they could be. Giving them help is a waste of resources, until they discover for themselves some motivation to do and be better. As long as there is a minimal free ride, they are content. They might be VERY vocal in their complaints, but they make no move to be better in spite of running their mouths. This is a very sad fact, compounded by very poor choices in life – whatever the reasons behind those poor choices.

Frankly, I am not interested in their problems – I have enough of my own. I live with seven cats, whose curiosity keeps me pretty busy rescuing THEM.

216: Going to Spain

We have just gotten paid. This is cause for celebration, seeing as we finished out the last two weeks of the last month (January has THIRTY ONE DAYS) with less than five hundred Moroccan dirham (63 bucks US). The last two days, I was searching for coins under the seats of the car to pay for gas. Anybody else done that?

Celebration involves going and doing something different. That means (since we need to restock on cat food and litter anyway) that we are making a weekend run to Spain. Spain is a five-hour drive away. We are packed and ready, sandwiches made so we don’t HAVE to stop if we don’t want to, and extra bottles of water in the car. An emergency roll of toilet paper, too, since most Moroccan toilets you run across in rest stops and gas stations don’t have any. We are due to pick up the Euros on the way out of town from the bank. We are READY. One more class to go!

Why drive five hours to go shopping? Number one, because it is in another country, which is pretty cool in itself. Going through the border checkpoints is always a little exciting, and you get a new stamp in your passport. Secondly, Spain has goods that are really hard to find in Morocco, like cheap alcohol and pork. You don’t realize how good bacon is until you can’t get any. Third, it’s a mini-vacation, getting to eat out at a tapas bar, sampling all the tapas delicacies that you get free with your beer. AND, Mellia is on the coast – OCEAN!! My husband adores seafood, and it is fresh and plentiful there.

My favorite thing is the Euro shops usually run by Chinese and other Asians, stocked full of all sorts of inexpensive goodies I can’t find easily at home: duct tape, masking tape, jewelry findings, beads, hand tools like small pliers, canvas and paints for painting, crochet hooks, sewing notions and tons of other useful things, all for an Euro or less. I can do serious damage in there!

One more hour!!