290: Making the Cut

Our little international school today tested seven candidates for admission next year.They were tested in French, Arabic, English, science and math. I am the English teacher for the upper grades, so I made out tests in English proficiency (read: looked up English proficiency tests on Google).

The students took them today, and I’ve scored them. As you would expect from young English as a second-or-third-or fourth-language learners, the scores are not stellar. I would actually have been surprised if they had been very good.

I have been asked to interpret these scores into a recommendation for whether to offer admission to these students next year – or not, based on the strengths and weaknesses these diagnostic tests show. This is where the problem comes in. I am being asked, in effect, who makes the cut, and who does not, based on this one test. This is worse than the SAT, because I was not the deciding factor in that assessment. For this one, I am.

How to fairly do this? I know, as a twenty-plus years’ experienced educator, that a successful student is one who tries. Effort is seldom revealed on an assessment test. And based on the effort (read: lack thereof) displayed by many other students who were admitted to this school on a trail basis with poor scores in the assessment tests, I should err on the side of caution, not on the side of mercy or leniency. It is a lot of work becoming proficient in a new language in a few short months. But, again, should a new, untried student be damned by the poor results of others?

What it all comes down to is this: reading comprehension. Not grammar, not speaking, not vocabulary, not writing. READING. If a student cannot understand what they read in the target language, they won’t be successful in school. This is because reading is used in EVERY subject, not just English class. You read in history, in science, in math, in EVERY class. If you do not understand what you read, you will not pass the first semester in this new school at the very least, and probably not the first year. Then you will be retained, and will have lost a year in your progress to gradation. *sigh*

It is decision time.

289: Riding off into the sunset

I, like a great many other girls, am and was a horse freak. I adore them, even their warm horsey scent. I had horses and ponies in my young life since my great-grandfather had a farm, and he liked horses, too, so he kept a little Welsh stallion and a pony mare for the grand and great-grandkids. Their progeny over the years I broke to ride, learning most of what I know about horses from them.

Before I was old enough to associate with live horses, I still adored them. I got into trouble at nursery school when the teacher gave us all ONE crayon each to draw with, and mine was purple. No self-respecting horse is purple, and she was so mean she would not let me trade my purple one for a black one.  I was so pissed, I stuck out my tongue at her, and she caught me doing it. Rats.

Anyway, I still rode horses, even though I was too small for real ones. My dad was a Methodist preacher, and as part of his pastorly duties, he’d go and visit his parishoners. I got to tag along. If they did not have a propane tank, I’d find the bookcase, and read a book until dad’s visit was over – but if they had a propane tank, I’d ride horses instead. A propane tank, in that region of the US, was a big silver tank that contained the propane gas used to heat the home’s water, cook and perhaps even supply heat in the winter. They ranged in size from smallish ones, about 50 to 100 gallons, to big 500 gallon tanks. They were usually installed on their sides beside the house for easy fill-ups. They made GREAT pretend horses. I rode thousands of miles on those things. It was great practice for real horses, and it kept me out of dad’s hair – and he always knew where to find me when it was time to go.


288: Kindergarten Scare

I remember Kindergarten. I think this is commendable, given that I am over fifty. What I remember is having a discussion with my best friend (before BFF) about dirty words.  She had just told me the dirty word that she knew, and so, under the influence of intense peer pressure, I had to tell her the dirty word I knew.  I don’t remember if it was a lame one like crap, or a real one, like f(*%, but I leaned over, whispered my contribution into her ear, and flush with victory, leaned back: and my mom’s face was about six inches from mine. I nearly wet my pants.

She had arrived to pick me up, at precisely the WRONG instant. It was years before I used a dirty word again, and she didn’t even hear it. Just the possibility was enough.

287: Connected – rather not, thank you.

I despise Cell Phones. I lived many happy decades without one of these things. Now, if I forget it, it is cause to turn around, go home and find it. What happened?  My life did not really get more complicated, and there are, truthfully very few opportunities to used this thing that could not have been safely postponed. It is handy in emergencies, true. How many of those do you have in your life? If it’s more than one every few months, you need to get a grip.

I do not like being accessible. I prefer NOT being accessible, if the truth be known. Who wants work to be able to call anytime, any where? Not me, that’s for sure. Besides, it is not as if the darn things were reliable, either – there have been many times when a call did not go through, either incoming or outgoing, and caused problems.

I cannot count the number of times my husband has called and then gotten freaking ideas because I did not get the call – or plain just did not answer. I am a teacher. I cannot answer the phone during class. Well, I CAN – but in a school where students are not allowed to have their phones, it is pretty low-class for me to answer mine just because I am an adult, so I don’t. If I remember, I phone back after class – IF I remember.

And texts are worse than the phone calls. WHAT language is that?? It darn sure is not English.

I think sometime in the near future I am going phoneless. As soon as I can get my courage up.

286: Rube Goldberg

This man was an inventor who delighted in the unusual, and his name is attached to any device that performs a simple function in the most complicated way imaginable, with the most steps. You have seen representations of some of his devices, because they are very popular in cartoons: especially the Road Runner and Tom and Jerry.  There is this incredibly complicated set of circumstances where everything must operate perfectly to achieve the goal. When it works, it is magic.

This one is by Honda, and uses parts from Honda automobiles:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWk9N92-wvg

This one creates music with bouncing balls: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm8D-j4gtJc, or watch this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu-A0jqMPd8

I used to assign my students Rube Goldberg device contraptions in class – sometimes they worked, and sometimes not, but the students always had a ball designing them, and trying them out to see if they could get them to perform properly. Some of the most fun we had in class, while learning and putting science and physics to work!

285: Blogging topics

I started this as an assignment for my students, who are all English-as-a-second-language learners. Blogging, or what we used to call (in the dark ages, the millennia I’m from) journaling or creative writing, helps them develop their vocabulary and writing skills. I require three postings a week, and WordPress was great, because it’s free for the students to use, and easy for me to check their work and comment about PROOFREADING before (or after) you post to correct errors.

I came up with a list of creative writing prompts they can use, not that they HAVE to use them, but sometimes the well runs dry, ya know? So here’s the list, complete with a spot to check off the ones you’ve already used:

_______1. Describe one time when you felt surprise (keep this topic appropriate for school!).

_______2. Graph/Chart the hair colors of the students in the classroom today.

_______3. Choose a famous (dead) person from history.  What one question would you ask him or her?

_______4. List three careers that you would be interested in having for your career when you begin work as an adult.

_______5. Imagine being blind from birth, but gaining sight for one day.  What things would you like to see and why?

_______6. You have just returned from a visit to the future.  What was the most amazing thing that you saw?

_______7. What are the qualities that you look for in a friend?

_______8. What qualities do you have that make you a good friend?

_______9. You are made principal of the school for a day.  What ONE THING would you change, and WHY?

_______10. What do you remember most about kindergarten or first grade?

_______11. Explain the rules of a game you can play on a car trip.

_______12. What one place in the world would you like to visit, and what would you like to see or do while you are there?

_______13. If you were to remain at one age forever, what age would you choose, and why?

_______14. List four twelve-letter words.

_______15. Who is your favorite author, and what is the title of one of his/her books?

_______16. Graph/Chart the color of the shirts/blouses that the students are wearing in today’s class.

_______17. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877.  What do you think is the greatest invention of all time, and WHY?

_______18. If you had to change your name, what new name would you choose?

_______19. What did you have for lunch yesterday? Was it a balanced meal – why or why not?

_______20. If you had an entire day to spend with your family, what would you choose to do?

_______21. Write a short thank you note for someone who did something nice for you.

_______22.What are three specific things you can do that will help you STUDY?

_______23. List six gifts you could give if you did not have any money to spend.

_______24. List five sports that do NOT use a ball.

_______25. List five inventions that you used today that had not been invented in George Washington’s time.

_______26. List three things that you have never done that you would like to do (KIC).

_______27. Why do we have leap years?

_______28. What is your favorite song, and how does it make you feel?

_______29. Write an opinion paragraph for or against chewing gum at school.

_______30. Which animals do you think will become extinct in your lifetime, and why?

_______31. List three reasons to wait until you are married to have children.

_______32. List three jobs that you can do that don’t use technology. (HA!) Now list three jobs that DO use technology.

_______33. List three reasons why your high school diploma is worth money.

_______34. List three reasons why education is important.

_______35. Why is it important to have good communication skills?

_______36. Write an opinion paragraph for or against uniforms at our school.

_______37. Write an opinion paragraph for or against students having personal cell phones or pagers at school.

_______38. List three reasons why people should not smoke.

_______39. How much money per year does a pack-a-day smoker spend on cigarettes?  What would you buy with this much money?

_______40. List three reasons why you should not drink alcohol and drive.

_______41. What are three bad things that can happen to you if you use illegal drugs?

_______42.  If you were made the President of the United States, what law would you pass first?

_______43. What is your favorite movie, and why do you like it best?

_______44. If you could live in another country (besides Morocco) which country would you choose, and why?

_______45. Which technological invention do you think is the OLDEST one, and why?

_______46. If you could be any animal what would it be and why?

_______47. If you could be any dead famous person, who would it be and why?

_______48. If you could be any fish, what type of fish would you be, and why?

_______49. If you could invent anything for today’s world that hasn’t been invented yet, what would it be and how would it affect today’s society?( keep it clean)

_______50. If money were no object, what kind of pet would you own, and why?

_______51. If money were no object, what kind of car would you own, and why?

_______52. Write an opinion paragraph for or against cussing in songs that are played on the radio.

_______53. Make up a CLEAN limerick.

_______54. What would your life be like without electricity?

_______55.  Write an opinion paragraph for or against having to pass the graduation tests to get your high school diploma.

_______56. What advantages did horses as a means of transportation have over cars?

_______57. Write an opinion paragraph explaining why dogs/cats are better pets than cats/dogs.

_______58. In some countries, doctors can put old people to sleep, like we do old or sick dogs and cats.  Write an opinion paragraph for or against this idea.

_______59. Explain why (physical) fighting is not the way to solve disagreements.

_______60. Describe what foods would be in a “balanced” meal.

_______61. What accomplishments in the space program do you think you will see happen in your lifetime?

_______62. What is stem cell research? What are the scientists trying to do? Do you think they should be allowed to do it? Why or why not?

_______63. If money were no object, and you did not have to worry about terrorists, where in the world would you like to visit, and why?

_______64. What are the advantages of the bicycle as a means of transportation over cars/trucks?

_______65.Write an opinion paragraph for or against declaring English the official language used in the United States (except for studying a foreign language class).

_______66. If you had the chance to own your own business, what would it be and why?

_______67. What would be a good invention for the next generation?

_______68. If you were to travel back in time, when/where would you go and what/who would you see?

_______69. If you were given the chance to travel to another planet, which one would it be, and what would you expect to see?

_______70. If you had the chance to travel to the moon on the next space shuttle, would you go?  Why or why not?

_______71. Describe your idea of Paradise (KIC).

_______72. If you caught a genie and got three wishes, what would they be? (KIC)

_______73. Would you fly on a commercial aircraft? Why or why not?

_______74. If you inherited a million dollars, what would you buy, save, give away?  It should add up to a million!!!

_______75. If money was no object, where would you want to go to college?

_______76. If you had the chance to save someone else’s life, but it might cost you your own, would you do it? Why or why not?

_______77. If you were in a lifeboat with five other people, and one of you was going to have to get out to save the other four, would you volunteer? Why or why not?

_______78. If you could become any other person, living or dead, for a day, who would it be and why?

_______79. Which is your favorite subject, and why?

_______80. Who is your favorite superhero, and why?

_______81. What is your favorite television show, and why?

_______82. What is your favorite newspaper comic strip, and why?

_______83. Who is your favorite actor/actress, and why?

_______84. If you had the chance to compete on the T.V. show “Fear Factor” for $50,000 dollars, doing dangerous and disgusting things, would you? Why or why not?

_______85. Describe a time when you feel you did your best – win or lose.

_______86. Describe a time when you were really happy.

_______87. Describe a time when you felt great pride.

_______88. Describe a time when you know you could have done better – and wish that you had!

_______89. Would you want to move to an assisted living home when you need help with daily living, or would you rather live with a member of your family? Why?

_______90. What are the qualities of a good teacher?

_______91. What are the qualities of a good coach?

_______92. What are the qualities of a good principal?

_______93. What are the qualities of a good student?

_______94. How old would you want to be when you have your first child? Why?

_______95. Do you plan to have children? Why or why not?

_______96. China has a very strict “one child per family” policy. Is this fair, or not? Why?

_______97. What would life be like if there were no insects?

_______98. What would life be like if there were no plants?

_______99. Would you like to visit the Space Station? Why or why not?

_______100. What would you like to give your family for Christmas?

_______101. What do you think about essay questions on tests? Do you do well on them, or not?

_______102. What grade do you think you deserve in this class? What grade do you think you’ll get?

_______103. Would you buy an electric vehicle?  Why or why not?

_______104. Describe three high paying jobs.

_______105. Describe the ideal job for you.

_______106. Describe the ideal pet.

_______107. Describe a time when you did very well in class.

_______108. How are people who live in the northern U.S. (or Morocco) different from southerners?

_______109. Why is Ifrane a good place to live?

_______110. Why is Morocco a good place to live?

_______111. Which city (other than Rabat) would make a good capitol?  Why?

_______112. Which city (other than Washington, D.C.) would make a good capitol of the United States?  Why?

_______113. Do you expect to pass this year and be promoted? Why?

_______114. List three good ideas for studying that work for you..

_______115. Describe how you study.

_______116. If you could be any animal that flies, which one would you be, and why?

_______117. If you could change your name, what new name would you choose, and why?

_______118.What names would you like to name your children?

_______119.What is your favorite color?  How does it make you feel?

_______120.Describe a time when you were scared.

_______121. Which is better, being a girl or being a boy, and why?

_______122. If we did not have schools, how else could we educate our young people?

_______123. If the government did not have our tax money to pay for things, what things would we probably not have anymore, and what problems would this cause?

_______124. Is a horse better transportation than a car?  Why or why not?

_______125.Which day of the week is the best?  Why?

_______126. Which is better, being an adult, or being a child, and why?

_______127.What one thing do you do very well – and why do you think that you are so good at this one thing?

_______128.After you die, what words would you like to have engraved on your tombstone for everyone to read?

_______129.Which is a better vehicle, a car or a truck, and why?

_______130.What do you think was the first technological invention?

_______131.What do you think was the most important technological invention?

_______132.What are some of the benefits of eating a balanced diet?

_______133.Which is worse, smoking or being overweight, and why?

_______134.What do you think people in other countries think about Americans?

_______135.What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of having your own business?

_______136.Why do you think insurance rates are so high for teenaged drivers?

_______137. List four legal ways that you could earn $100.00.

_______138. Is it better to pay cash, or buy on credit?  Why?

_______139. What is special about your favorite teacher or coach?

_______140.Who do you know that has a job you’d like to do?  What is their job?

_______141.Would you like to be a teacher?  Why or why not?

_______142.What could you do today that would make things better for you or for someone else?

_______143. What job experience (paid or volunteer) do you have?

_______144.Who would be the person you would list as a personal reference on your job resume, and why?

_______145.If someone gave you a letter to give to a friend, would you read it before you delivered it? Why or why not?

_______146.If you found a ring in the parking lot, would you turn it in to lost and found?  Why or why not?

_______147.If you LOST a ring in the parking lot, would you go to lost and found to see if some honest person turned it in?  Why or why not?

_______148.What does it mean when someone says you are an honest person?  What do they mean by that?

_______149. Think of a person you respect.  What is it about them that gives you that feeling?

_______150. Is it a good thing or a bad thing for a high school student to have a car?  Why?

_______151.Write a short poem to put in a Get-Well card.

_______152.Write a short poem to put in a Happy Birthday card.

_______153.Write a short poem to put in a Thank You card.

_______154.What do you think about people you see who are handicapped?

_______155.How do you think you would feel if your son or daughter were handicapped?

_______156.What are some of the things the president of a company is responsible for?

_______157.What is discrimination? Has it ever happened to you?  How?

_______158.What does the boss expect from the employees?

_______159.What things make someone a good leader?

_______160.Why are there so many different kinds of cars?

_______161.Which is the best car manufacturer?  Why do you think so?

_______162.What kinds of things are “hazardous waste?”

_______163. Describe, in list form, how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so that someone who does not know how could do it with your directions.

_______164.Describe, in list form, how to tie your shoes.

_______165.What is a patent, and what rights do you think a patent gives the inventor?

_______166.What do you think is the difference between a patent and a copyright?

_______167.How could cars be made safer?

_______168.How could bicycles be made safer?

_______169. Why do you think “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me” are called MAGIC WORDS?

_______170. Describe a good thing that happened today.

_______171. Describe your most embarrassing moment.

_______172. Who would you most like to kill, and why?

_______173. Would you rather be buried or cremated, and why?

_______174. If you were going to write your will, who would you remember and who would you disinherit?

_______175. When do you think someone is “grown up?”

_______176. Who is the worst human being in history? Why do you think so?

_______177. Write a poem about happiness.

_______178. Write a poem about sadness.

_______179. Who should be the leader of the whole world, and why?

_______180. Why is it OK for guys to get dirty, and not OK for girls?

_______181. If you were to have a child, would you rather have a boy or a girl, and why?

_______182. If you got to choose how long you get to live, how long would you choose and why?

_______183. Which makes for a better traveling experience, a car, a bus, a train, a boat or an airplane?

_______184. Would you like to take an adventure travel trip to an exotic location where you engage in moderately dangerous, exciting activities like zip lining, or swimming with wildlife, or white water rafting, etc.? Why or why not?

_______185. What does it mean when someone is a “grown up?”

_______186. Why is it OK to have multiple wives in some cultures, but not multiple husbands?

_______187. Would you want to be a “second” wife or husband? What would be the advantages or disadvantages? (Keep it clean!)

_______188. If you were going to be a livestock farmer, what livestock would you choose to raise and why? (cattle, rabbits, mink, foxes, alligators, goats, sheep, ostriches, chickens, etc.)

_______189. What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?

_______190. What food would you NOT eat, and why?

_______191. Would you choose to donate your body parts to help someone else after your death? (heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, corneas, skin, bones, etc.) Why or why not?

_______192. If your family pet needed an expensive operation or it would die, would you pay for the operation or have the pet put to sleep so it would not suffer? Why?

_______193. If you fell in love with someone who had an embarrassing last name, or a handicap, would you marry them anyway? Why or why not?

_______194. If your husband or wife got addicted to a prescription drug, what would you do?

_______195. If your husband or wife confessed to you that they had a one-night stand (an affair, or been unfaithful) what would you do? Would your decision change if the two of you had children?

_______196. What would you do if you came home today to find your house had burned down while you were at work or at school?

_______197. What would you do if you found a large sum of money in a pocketbook lying in the street?

_______198. How would your life be different if you had wings and could fly?

_______199. How would your life be different if you had gills and could also breathe underwater?

_______200. How would your life be different if you were green (had green skin, but were otherwise perfectly healthy)?

_______201. If I could teach the class, I would do these things instead, and I would NOT do these things….

_______202. If you were a superhero, what would be your special, superhuman skill, and what would be your “Kryptonite”?

_______203. What is the very best thing your parents have ever done for you?

_______204.  What do you do when you have writer’s block and cannot write? How do you get writing anyway?

_______205. Should illegal drugs be legalized, and WHY do you think so?

_______206. Should executions of convicted criminals be made public? Why or why not?

_______207. Should things be free on the Internet, or should users who want access to someone else’s work have to pay a small charge to the creator for their work?

_______208. Which is worse, tobacco or alcohol, and why?

_______209. What is your earliest, oldest memory from when you were a small child?

_______210. Which habit is more disgusting, picking your nose or biting your fingernails?

_______211. Should women wear makeup? Why or why not?

_______212. Should someone have plastic surgery to fix what they think is a defect – but nobody else thinks is a defect?

_______213. Who was the most horrible person in all of history, and why do you think so?

_______214. If you were to found a new religion, what would be your “rules”?

_______215. Would you rather be without an arm, or without a leg, and why?

_______216. If you were trapped, and the only way you could survive was to cut off part of your body to free yourself, would you do it?

_______217. Do you give money to beggars, or not? Why?

_______218. Do you donate time and/or money to charities? Why?

_______ 219. Is it better to have weather that is too hot, or too cold, and why?

284: CARUSO!!!!

Photobucket chick

Photobucket chick

Caruso was a bad boy. A VERY bad boy.

I bought two chicks from a street vendor, intending to raise them up large enough to be on their own, to give to a friend who can use the livestock and the eventual eggs (assuming I chose correctly and they are both hens). Well. Our three cats were mildly interested in the chicks, but we kept them apart in separate rooms. Well, I thought we did, anyway.

Caruso got in. Smaller chick became cat food. BAD Caruso!!

Sort’ve hard to blame him a lot for acting like a cat, since that is what he is.