It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get on my own computer for the length of time required to write a blog post. There’s Ilsa, who’s taking AP US History (known as APUSH) this year, and whose teacher requires that each chapter in the textbook be outlined in great detail. A typical outline is 7-1o single-spaced pages. They do one of these a week, so evenings round here are now marked by the sound of whining. “I have SOOO much homework! I have to do two red sections a night every night and I only did one last night so can you do dishes for me?” On top of this there’s Elliot. Elliot is doing the full IB diploma which means all his classes are considered college level. (I’ll leave you to work out what this says about our colleges) Additionally, he needs to write an “extended essay” of 4000 words by December, and the outline for that is due on Monday, which means he has to get going on his research. Not surprisingly, this means he needs the computer every night for homework, of which he has a lot. On top of that, there is the whole college application process, which is pretty much kicking our butts. I intend to give that topic its own post. We’ll see.
So I haven’t been on my computer much lately. But there has been ever so much going on.
1. Classic. Classy. Classical. Class.
I am once again offering a free ESL class to Iraqi refugees, mostly female ones. I wasn’t going to do it this year, because all my students from last year have either moved or moved on. But suddenly, towards the end of August, throngs of people asked me about it. I totted it all up on my fingers and realized if everyone came, I’d have 12 in the beginner’s class and 4 or 5 in the pre-intermediate class.
(that was a bit of foreshadowing there, the whole “if everyone came.” Wanted to point that out to you. This blog is both the classic AND the cliff’s notes, all in one. You’re welcome)
Studies have shown that the 2 things most likely to keep immigrants from learning their host country’s language are lack of transportation and lack of childcare. I provide both. This means whining at people I barely know, friends of friends, persuading them to help me drive, to hang out with other people’s children, to do all this on their own dime, as I don’t exactly have a budget for this. Last year I had both levels at the same time, which meant that the beginner’s class was taught by two different people. This was less than ideal. I realized that for this to work at all, I needed to do both classes myself. I decided to do them back-to-back, which meant I’d need 4 volunteer drivers for each day.
Day One. I had 2 drivers (neither of whom I’d met in person) and a 3rd woman to do childcare (again I hadn’t met her, only spoken to her on the phone). The books hadn’t come yet, because I had stupidly clicked “free super saver shipping” which of course means you don’t get your stuff for a month. I had confirmed with all the potential students OR an English-speaking family member or neighbour. We were set!
That first class, the one where I had 12 potential students? By 9:00 a.m., only one person was there. My two drivers were also there. One hadn’t been able to find the place. (She’s proven to be delightful, but the first impression was a bit iffy) The other had knocked on the right door and there had been no answer so she had foolishly assumed it was the wrong door. Sigh. I went myself, to pick up 6 people (4 adults and 2 kids), only to return with one of the adults. He explained his wife and kids were sleeping. The other couple said they weren’t ready and promised to come the next day.
Two students. And for the next class, only one. We were off to a terrific start!
And so I wondered. Why bother? It’s true I enjoy teaching, but I could just do that at a school downtown and get paid and not have to fuss with volunteers and choosing and ordering books, etc. I went home very discouraged.
And now? 3 weeks on? The first class has never realized its 12-student potential but we have settled down to a comfortable 5 or so regular students, with the occasional one or two more. The second class had only one student all last week (I took her for coffee a couple of times!) but one other student had a nasty bout of flu, and another will start on Monday. Additionally, another student had all her life plans fall apart. She only arrived this summer, and her family was supposed to join her but instead ended up in another town, where she will now move. In offering services to refugees and immigrants, it’s important to remember how much their own lives are in flux right now. Ones that have been here a year or two are much more likely to show up regularly because things have usually calmed down.
For years and years now, I have wanted a smart phone. And now I have one! Yes, if you’re willing to be a few steps behind the cool people, you too can afford technology. I got an iPhone 4 for free, and the data plan isn’t bad if you’re willing to share 1 gb between 2 people. That sounds small but seriously, people, I can go on the internet in my car now. We are so spoiled!
You may remember that my camera and iTouch got stolen last summer. This sort of replaces both. And while it’s fun playing with Hipstamatic (I’m hip! at last!) and all, and it’s fun feeling all cool holding up your phone in the general direction of photogenic things, I do have to say that overall the camera reminds me of my very first camera–a Kodak Instamatic when I was 11. Remember those? (Don’t bother to say if you don’t. Yes I did just have another birthday, although I no longer bother to add every single year.) This is because there isn’t really a lens, just a flat surface. I’m learning to work with it. Now I just need to figure out how to get photos from my camera to my computer. What a nice problem to have!
Also I put my phone in French, thinking it would be good practice. What I didn’t realize is that means Autocorrect is in French too. So if you ever get a completely illogical text from me, that’s why. It’s like my version of drunk texting!
3. College Essays
Nope! This one gets it own post. I’m going to go on the internet on my phone and add photos like that. See if it works!
Also here is a picture of a knobbly pumpkin for you. I ended up having to email it to myself and then resize it in the free pseudo-photoshop I have. I don’t see this working. Also, my Hipstamatic is having issues.
PS Gosh this is long. Did you read the whole thing? Wasn’t it a bit boring? Did I mention I’m really tired?