Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Silly things

silly things

we laugh over silly things
until the tears roll
we cry over silly things
the tears through the smiles
we argue over silly things
tears washing over heartbreak

tears and silly things
go together
laughter comes so easily
tears too
declaring our passions
arm in arm

we have mused for hours
over the big things
no subject left untouched
but it's the silly things
that fill the gilded pages
of our memories

I never knew it was possible
to feel so deeply
about silly things

© Tint~

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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

I know something...

candle flower

I Know Something Good About You
Wouldn't this world be better
If the folks we meet would say,
"I know something good about you!"

And treat us just that way?
Wouldn't it be fine and dandy
If each handclasp, fond and true,
Carried with it this assurance,
"I know something good about you!"

Wouldn't life be lots more happy
If the good that's in us all
Was the only thing about us
That folks bothered to recall?

Wouldn't life be lots more happy
If we praised the good we see?
For there's such a lot of goodness
In the worst of you and me!

Wouldn't it be nice to practice
That fine way of thinking too?
You know something good about me,
I know something good about you!

Louis Shimon

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Friday cogitations

I've just had a half-glass of caipirinha on an empty stomach at the end of a week of sniffling, coughing, sneezing and coughing some more. The evening is looking interesting.

I wish I was fun to have around like some others in blog world, but I'm not sure I'd like myself very much then. Not that I don't like them. I just don't think I'd like myself as them.

Tat's trying to bite me. Again. She's been trying to bite me since she was a couple of months old. Think I don't feed her enough?

Tatiana 17 July 2009_2767 crop

One of my students has upped her time with me. Yay! Another is considering going private (one from the school). She doesn't like their materials, but doesn't want to lose her teacher. My student who can't string two words of English together got 81% on an upper intermediate level test. He redid the test with the principal. Huh??! I'm not even going to ask how he managed that.

I need to cook supper and I don' wanna. So there.

The word 'cogitation' always reminds me of my old friend Linda. Her two little boys and Tat used to play together when they were little. It was like opening a can of worms on the carpet. Linda and I studied together while watching the worms play. Those days, I could still multitask. Now, making a coherent sentence is multitasking for me.

I have tomorrow off. I can sleep late. Now there's a thought! I may just have to celebrate that with another half-glass of caipirinha : )


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Monday, 13 July 2009

Blegh : (


So Tat gets her revenge. Seriously, I think she planned this, strategically leaving germs behind in places I'd never expect to find them. I never ever get sick!! I was sooo proud of myself for once again avoiding the dreaded C... Dirty, Rotten, Miserable Cold!

You know why I'm sick? Because that is the eternal law of the Universe, since primary school. Give me a school holiday or a trip somewhere and guess who will get the chicken pox? Me. No getting sick during school time for me, but when I get time off!! My students are mostly all done for the school holidays. Tomorrow I get to sleep a little later. Guess who will be up early because it's too dang uncomfortable to sleep with a cold. Bah humbug.

And guess who's done absolutely nothing this weekend? I had grand plans to do the week's lesson plans on Saturday, so that I could relax today. I ended up sleeping 3 hours yesterday afternoon. That was one serious nap! Now it is close to 10pm and I'm stewing over lesson plans. One late night coming up. Now if I had achieved anything else this weekend, that would be fine, but I didn't. I spent most of my time staring at the computer screen waiting for IT to do something.

So, anyone else have a wonderful weekend? Ignore the grouch. My weekend was actually great : ) Seriously! I just had some ginger and cinnamon tea to warm me up. I was freezing. I just couldn't warm up. I'm cosy now and off to bed. Lessons are done. Tomorrow I'll be right as rain.

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Sunday, 12 July 2009

The pleasures of life are free

In the last two days, two different music-related articles have been put under my nose. I think I'll post them both here:

30 Pianos Installed on City's Streets Invite Passers-By to Melt Their British Reserve and Play

from: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/07/11/world/main5152348.shtml (Thanks Pat!)

(CBS)  This story was written by CBS News producer Amy Guttman.

In London, amidst the roar of red buses and black cabs, a new sound is stopping people in their tracks:


Thirty pianos are scattered across the city for the next three weeks - all part of a project to get people together, for impromptu sing-a-longs.

"What we want people to do is throw their inhibitions to the wind," said organizer Collette Hiller.

For Hiller, finding 30 pianos - donated or bought on Ebay - and moving them around London was surprisingly easy.

The hard part was cutting through all the red tape.

"There's a small tree's worth of planning applications for each piano," she said.

One of the biggest challenges will be keeping the keys dry.

London is famous for its downpours, so it's just a matter of time before this adventure turns into "Singing in the Rain." Fortunately, there's a plastic tarp for each one.

Sturdy locks and neighbourhood "friends" also keep them safe.

"I'm surprised it ain't been vandalized, to be quite honest, already!" said Kailey Whitman.

Even more surprising are the pianos' effect on Londoners, who are not known for talking to strangers.

"People are quite reserved, aren't they? They just sort of go about their business," said Celia Lyons.

The pianos may be changing that.

Talent and skill level are irrelevant: All you need are fingers to pound out "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."

Watch CBS Videos Online


This article I got from Global Peace Map. It is one I have read in my inbox a few times before, but bears repeating.

Washington DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the till and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3 year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly, as the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced them to move on.

45 minutes:

The musician played. Only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.

He collected $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ....

How many other things are we missing?

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Thursday, 09 July 2009

Test chuckles and more

fa-cp - majestic

A student had to write a resume. He put his date of birth as '91, which is perfectly correct, but then added (quoted verbatim):

"I teaching English a 20 year and a native in England."

I must add that this is an advanced student *sigh* The part that made me chuckle was having taught English for 20 years, but was born in '91. The things we say under test pressure... ?!

Yesterday, I had a jaw dropping moment in the supermarket. Here, I often see folk helping themselves to supermarket food, usually produce, cookies, crisps and so on. I used to feel rather indignant, but then I got used to it. When I see old folk sampling the fruits and veg, I wish I could buy a whole pack for them. Pensions are terrible here and fruit and veg is expensive. This incident took the cake though. The woman had grabbed herself a loaf of whole wheat bread, a very costly bread here, half the size and almost double the price of normal bread. She also grabbed herself some ham and cheese and had actually made herself a sandwich! She was walking along, apparently stopping to check prices and taking a bite or two every time she stopped.

It seems we have a new student, an elderly chap who called while I was out teaching yesterday. I walked in and found Jurgis talking on the phone... and talking... and talking. I teased him, as I always do, that he kept the poor guy talking for hours. Today, Tat called him back and he talked... and he talked... and he talked. Her ear was beetroot red when she hung up! He is retired and loves travelling and he likes the sound of us and wants to know if we mind that he refers us to the rest of his travel buddies. He sounds sweet. He wants to meet the entire family, but especially Jurgis. Methinks my husband has himself a student ; ) We meet him on Monday.

Today (it's after midnight here) is a Civic holiday in the state of São Paulo.... only São Paulo. I have no clue what it is for. Fun. Oh wait, I keep forgetting. Google is my friend. According to Google, it is to commemorate the Constitutionalist Revolution (Revolução Constitucionalista) of 1932, also called the Paulista War. Anything remotely related to São Paulo is 'Paulista'. Hm... I learnt something tonight.

I noticed today that the world is full of unexpected kindnesses... a post office worker who let Tat pay instead of insisting, as usual, that Jurgis goes in; a pharmacist that goes out of his way to point out that there is a generic available; a daughter who does the dishes; a husband who shared the joke when the pot bungee jumped off the counter top


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Saturday, 04 July 2009



I started this blog a couple of days ago. I promise! Then Jorge came home and wanted to see a map. I was scooting around Google Maps and my pc froze. Ok, I'll admit, I had far too many things open. I lost what I had written. Sad, isn't it? It was only a few lines anyway. My apologies in advance. This is going to be a long and possibly very confusing blog.

             ~ '' ~ '' ~ '' ~

Written on Monday while watching kids write their exam:
Let me tell you about my boys, my 'Monday Monsters', as Jorge dubbed them. For once, they are quiet, each one bent over his test papers. Names have been changed to protect the teacher ; )

Robert isn't here today. He never misses a class. I wonder what kept him away (I later learned that he was home studying for another test). Very confident, the self-proclaimed leader of the class, he sits in his chair grinning, looking from one to the other, the eternal "I did good, right?" He firmly believes he is ready to be an English teacher himself. Sadly, his English is more confidence than knowledge. He barely speaks any at all.

His buddy and reinforcer, Randolf, is sitting gazing at the ceiling or wall or somewhere in between. Thanks to his hay fever, this class will at least come away knowing how to say, "Bless you!" A good looking boy who trades on his charm. He has a way of looking at me and saying, "Sorry teacher" after admonishing the rest to behave that defies me to be annoyed in any way. An onlooker would find it hard to believe that he is usually the cause of the insurrection, "... but he is so quiet!" I think I will probably remember him most for the fact that all the work in his book is a word for word copy of Robert's work. A strange thing, to be sure, as his English is far better than Robert's.

Luke. I sit in silence pondering how to describe my most verbose student. I fact, he is arguably the most verbose person I know. This boy lives his life in exclamation marks. Whatever he says or does, he does with unbridled passion. If asked,"How would you say...?" he will answer the question and launch into a rhetoric on the subject. If the example was about Johnny's trip to the Bahamas, he will spend the next 10 minutes telling us the pros and cons of travelling to the Bahamas, when he last went there and why he plans to go to Hawaii next time. How do you cut such enthusiasm short so that the rest can get a word in edgeways? Heck, I could never get a word in edgeways!

Michael, who reminds me of a mischievous cherub with his round, rosy cheeks, is one of those kids who drives teachers insane. His teacher from school also teaches here. She was the one who told me how unteachable he is because he has a problem, you know. He has dyslexia (whispered in a dramatic tone as though to imply that he has some scandalous disease that only she knows of). The child is incredibly bright and creative. I always look forward to his thoughtful answers. He has the attention span of a flea though and is way ahead of his peers in this class, so I often find him drawing the most fascinating designs in his exercise book. When he wants something, he adopts a cute puppy dog look that most would find hard to resist. I tell him it doesn't work for my dog, so it is unlikely to work for him. This expressive and very misunderstood child will be the one I miss the most.

Ah, my Monday Monsters. This class has been handed from teacher to teacher, each teacher in turn giving up on them. I refused to do that. They were a huge challenge in the beginning, virtually impossible to control in any way, but we made it. I have even suggested that I take them for the next semester too, even though the students usually change teachers.

             ~ '' ~ '' ~ '' ~

Back to the present....
Marking test papers has been a nightmare. To quote my note from earlier in the week:

"The kids did an oral test, which I was under the impression was the first part of the final test. The total points come to 10. Each part of the test is a mark out of something like 0.25. In other words, the child will get something like 0.1 for a question. Add them all up and they come to 8 points. The oral part is a total of 2 points. I was told to list all the points separately and give the children an average out of 10. How on earth can (for example) 1.75 / 2.0 be part of an average with 6.95 / 10? I have to take their half-semester marks, their oral marks, their written test marks, and add them together and divide by 3. When one lot of marks is out of 2.0 and the other two out of 10... it can't be done. The marks out of 2.0 will drag their average down to way below failure. Maths was never my strong point."
I spent hours trying to find a way around the points system. The test papers came with the oral test included and I marked it as such. I was told afterward that the oral test is separate. How to fix that without making a mess of the papers? I eventually set up a meeting with the principal of the school. The score system I used initially was correct according to the school itself. As owner of this particular franchise, she didn't understand their points system, so she created her own system; thus the total confusion. She was trying to merge the two systems. Their system was 2 points for the oral, 8 for the written, totalling to 10. Logical enough. The principal decided that the oral had to be separate, so I had to get an average when one lot of points was 1.7 out of 2 and then 7.2 out of 8. The final score still had to be out of 10. Boggles the mind! Luckily my Maths abilities are unsurpassed. Yeah right!

A side note...  I am sitting in yet another exam room. The question is about pronunciation, in particular the 'i' sound of 'bicycle'. From the student, "Teacher! Speaking 'bicicleta' please?" I said no... I would be giving him the answer then. This, by the way, is an 'advanced' class!! Note the quality of the English. They only have one more short book to do before being released on the world as being 'fluent'.

The other problem I needed to have out with the principal was with my little cherub. The four of them all failed the last tests dismally, which count towards the finals. Michael got 0.35 less than the pass mark. Because he was so close, she told me to push him through if I thought he was good enough. I didn't know those marks were to be taken into account for the finals, or I would have insisted that he rewrite. I let it ride. Big mistake. She has a no-fail policy of her own (the schools here do fail students), her motive being to keep the parents happy. So the other three got to rewrite - with help. I know she helps because the one student who has absolutely no English and usually gives all his answers, both verbally and in tests, in Portuguese got a word perfect high score. If you're going to do something like that, at least keep it realistic! No wonder these kids are in a fairly advanced class with no basic grammar.  Anyhow, in this test, Michael did well. I was very proud of him, knowing that the test with its reams of writing wasn't easy for him. That last test mark was threatening to drag his average close to a fail though.

In our meeting with the principal (Tat was with me), she had an issue with Tat marking one student as 'Regular', the lowest grade, a fail. Tat explained that the student virtually slept through classes and had a no-care attitude... "but we can't put 'Regular'. The parents will be upset!" and she had Tat change it to at least a 'Good'. Tat was seething. With Tat's student, justice and truth were tossed out the window. With mine, fairness went. Michael never had the chance to redo his test the last time, giving him the lowest score in the class in spite of being the best English speaker and the most hard working student. The principal was not interested in him. She can't stand his mother and often spoke of what a problem the family was, so her 'rule' of keeping the parents happy didn't apply here. But... because she just pushed Tat's student through, I pushed the case for Michael and got to mark him on his overall abilities and progress.

In short, I came away disillusioned and feeling a little like a fraud. Honesty is important to me, but honesty is a word used very lightly at this school.

On hindsight, perhaps I should have done this blog in chapters. It's Long!

The photo? The 'kaput'? Kaput is a word I grew up with, usually used for appliances, cars, and such that finally give up the ghost. We also used it when totally exhausted, as in finished. That is how I was feeling this week when I started this blog.


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