Saturday, October 21, 2017

You Gotta Have Friends - R2BC

Under the chupah (wedding canopy)
1
A Great Wedding
I went to a wedding on Wednesday night. It was out of town in a beautiful setting, high up in the Jerusalem hills and overlooking the lights of several towns and villages in the valley below. The friends making the wedding are old friends who also live in my neighbourhood. I've known the husband since I was 12 years old and we grew up in the same social circle. I've known the wife since she met the husband, and all the kids as and when they were born. So you can imagine that the wedding was full of people from my past and present. The food and drink was amazing and plentiful (not that you go for the food of course), the band were friendly and fun, the entertainment was delightful, and the atmosphere was excellent. All in all, one of the most lovely weddings I've ever been to. (Even the drive to and from the wedding was enjoyable as I got a ride with a neighbour and the company was engaging.) Thank you M and D for including me in your celebration.

2
Help From Friends
DD wasn't invited to the wedding so I had to make arrangements for her. She had a party to go to. One friend's mother offered to take her. She was taken home from the party with the classmate who lives in the building where DD was staying the night. About that - I have a wonderful arrangement with a good friend who has known DD since she was born, whereby her little boy can sleep over with us and DD can sleep over with them when either of us wants to go out. Cutting out babysitting costs sometimes makes the difference between going out at all or staying in and missing a social occasion. It's the sort of thing people who live near grandparents and other family take for granted. In our case, I already consider my friend to be family. The next morning DD was taken to school by the classmate in the building. Sometimes you can do it all yourself and sometimes you need help from friends. Thank you friends.

Short and sweet this week as I'm a bit late to the party. Btw, the Reasons 2B Cheerful party is at Becky's Lakes Single Mum again this week where I've joined the linky.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Was Caught In A Facebook Witch Hunt

To pass the time
(if you don't know your subject and can't teach it.)
It's no secret that I love facebook. For all the great reasons we know about. But sometimes there are the most enormous bust ups where someone picks on some ambiguous statement, takes it out of context, and blows it up into the most offensive thing they've ever heard. 

Before I explain in detail, I want to tell  you what I once learned in a linguistics class about interlocution. There are four basic factors that are needed to facilitate flowing and comprehendible conversation. Four factors which we all accept. They are: 

1. That the person you are talking to isn't lying or knowingly misleading you. 

2. That they understand your meaning even if you don't use the exact words. So if a child says, "I'm thirsty," we understand that he is asking for a drink and not just telling you for no reason. 

3. That the length of an answer will be appropriate. Not too long as to be irrelevant or too short as to miss out important information. If you ask what a word means you just want the meaning of the word and not its etymology from Indian Sanskrit through the Romance languages to English, with all the similar word families along the way. On the other hand, if you ask how and why WWII started, the answer needs more precise detail than, "Germany and Japan wanted to take over the world." 

4. Relevance and context. So if you say you don't want milk in your coffee, you don't expect a lecture about the rural economy and how you're undermining the dairy farmers and endangering the whole future of the countryside as we know it. And if you're arguing about right of way with another driver, it's not appropriate to say, "your car's rubbish anyway." 

If I were to be allowed a fifth factor I would add giving your interlocutor the benefit of the doubt. 

And yet on facebook sometimes all five of the above factors are thrown out the window and people will fight to the death over a misplaced word that becomes the difference between you being a decent person and a judgemental, arrogant bitch who insults and disrespects everyone. 

So here was the context. We were talking about EFL teachers and whether they had to be native English speakers or not. Someone said that it's impossible for native English speakers to know English grammar as well as non-native speakers who learned it in school. This was my reply: 

ME: Any Native English speaker who can't get her head around the finer points of English Grammar is just not intelligent enough to be a teacher. It's not hard, especially if you understand all the words. I learnt the tenses etc, at age 27. It took me one afternoon to know what they mean and what they are used for. It took a year of teaching experience to be able to explain it in Hebrew. People learn new things all the time - languages, computer coding, new professions, they take additional degrees..... It is insulting to English speakers to say we can't possibly know English Grammar as well as Hebrew speakers who learnt it in school. That's just ridiculous

BOOM! I'd ignited the flames of fury under Mr and Ms Angry from Israel. 

I got a load of abuse about how I was being judgemental by saying that if someone cannot learn something it does not make them unintelligent. And how I was insulting people with learning disabilities. 

Um yes I agree about not being unintelligent if you can't learn something specific. I find it extremely difficult to learn listening skills in another Language. Even in Hebrew I still need the speaker to speak slowly and clearly. But I was specifically talking about English Teachers learning English. Who in their right mind would want to teach a subject they couldn't learn themselves? That would seriously bring their intelligence into question. And I said as much. Of course I was being flippant but my entire point had been missed. 

I used the words 'not intellligent' to signify how easy it is for a native English speaker to understand the rules of English grammar that we need to teach foreign students. For example, we all use the present simple tense and the present continuous even if we don't know why because, as native speakers, we have never had to consider why. However, if I were to ask you to consider when you say, "I drink coffee," and when  you would say, "I am drinking coffee," it's not hard to see the difference. 

In my opinion, if you are a native English speaker and have all the other attributes necessary to be a teacher, it's not hard to understand what you are saying and how you use English (which are the rules of grammar) if you sat down to learn it. Even if you have dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADD, HFA, hypersensitivity, over anxiety, or any other condition that would make it harder for you to become a teacher if you really wanted to, you could still learn that in English we say the adjective before the noun.

Never mind what I had meant. The witch hunt was on. I was accused of being the most vile and judgemental person. I was asked who I think I am to decide who is intelligent and who isn't? (Oh perleeeaze, *eyeroll and *headpalm) Someone couldn't believe I was qualified to work with children (he explained to me that children are human beings - thanks for that) because I didn't know how to treat human beings with any respect. 

Someone told me that my students must love it when I explain to them how smart I am and how unintelligent they are. How we went from talking about what teachers need to know to how I treat my students I don't know. The funny thing is, this man has never been inside one of my classrooms. How does he know all this? Does he also know that I make my students clean the toilets with their toothbrushes if they can't say the difference between their and there? (Btw, my school has a policy of 'integration' throughout the school so I wouldn't last long if I wasn't sensitive to learning difficulties).

I wrote: "I did not mention learning disabilities at all because I thought it obvious that you cannot be a teacher if you cannot learn the material you have to teach."

That was the wrong thing to say because it apparently meant that anyone with a learning disability cannot be a teacher. Which is not what I meant at all but you need to be so precise in your wording on facebook sometimes because once enraged, people won't come an inch towards giving you the benefit of the doubt and try to understand what you really mean

Several people announced they were leaving the conversation because I am so evil. And they stormed off. But they came back later because facebook sort of draws you back. You can't help it.  

I asked, because this was really the only point I was trying to make, "is it really judgemental to say if you can't learn a subject to the level necessary to teach it you should either teach something else or not be a teacher?"

The reply was that, no that's just sensible. Followed by another lecture about all the things they thought I said but, despite me trying to explain that I didn't mean any of that, they would not budge from their initial reaction.

This went on for the best part of two hours. I didn't mind as I was stuck supervising an exam. In between each comment I got up and walked around the room to check all was ok. Apart from that I just had to be there and not disturb the students. If I'd had anything else to do I'd have let it go, but after a while it actually became an interesting study in human-rottweiler behaviour. (As in the rottweiler doesn't let go.)

I still say that for a native English speaker wanting to be an EFL teacher, learning the grammar is not hard. That's my opinion and no one has to agree but otoh, not one native English speaking teacher said they'd found it hard to learn once they knew what material was involved. I take that as a confirmation even though I was told I had insulted everyone on the thread who may not have found it easy to learn it. (That's no one by the way.)

But then I was going by the rules of interlocution above. They usually really do apply, except not on facebook apparently. Even when the conversation is between English teachers, the rules of interlocution seem to be trumped by facebook's own culture. 

N.B. This is an edited version of my original post as it was pointed out to me that the group is a closed group so I shouldn't paste quotes outside the group, even anonymously. I am grateful for the chance to edit because a night's sleep and answering some of the comments below, gave me more clarity about the issues mentioned. 


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The 500 Clutters Challenge

DD loves this authentic samovar from Bukhara, Uzbekistan
As you know if you were reading this blog over the summer, and if you have been following me for a couple of years, I am always decluttering. I declutter great mounds of stuff, I take photos of piles of books and filled bags ready to go, and I reorganise all the cupboards and drawers (so that I never know where anything lives anymore). 

I declutter and declutter and I still don't reach anywhere near that state of minimalism which is supposed to free up your life for wonderful things like free time, creativity, money, and travel. 

The last big declutter was in August during the summer holidays. I managed to get rid of a whole chest of drawers, an old armchair and an oversized footstool. (The footstool has mysteriously ended up in my daughter's bedroom but as far as I'm concerned, I no longer own it.)

I posted photos of all the books on my local To Sell group. About 30 academic books on language learning, bilingualism, and literacy. Only 20 years old but in perfect condition - I only needed to read them once after all. No one wanted them of course. If you are an academic you can't use them for up to date research, and if you're not an academic you don't need them. So they all got shifted around and though the bookcase is still emptier, they are in a drawer. Out of sight etc...

Soooooo. Over the Sukkot holiday, last week, DD and I set ourselves a task to get rid of 500 items (500 clutters). And I mean actually get rid of them - out of the house - not just away but "away away" as Meryl Streep famously said in Mama Mia.


My old holdall from 1981.
I don't pack into anything without wheels these days.
We managed 250. Well not actually out of the house for all of them but also not still in piles and bags around the house. Everything has a planned route out, even if some plans are necessarily delayed. For example, I have a cupboard over a wardrobe that is full of items for the Yedidya Bazaar next March. I have a few (realistic) items to list for sale and some books to take to the book swap in the Railway Track Park.

We counted the 60  children's books I donated to my school's English library and we counted the chest of drawers and armchair that has already gone. We didn't count real rubbish like broken bits of things, empty containers, or old papers. But we did count old things that were thrown out like a wooden mug tree with a warped base.

This time we really went to the back of the corner cupboards and the cupboards over the wardrobes. I found a holdall that I brought to Israel on my gap year 36 years ago. A suitcase that belonged to my parents when they got married in 1958. (I'm keeping that one even though it's useless to me.) An authentic samovar and teapot set given to me by a lady who went to Bukhara and brought it home unnecessarily. (DD thinks it's the most beautiful thing she's ever seen so we have to keep it for a while.) We found the fridge magnet words. DD agreed to swap them for the plastic ABCs. My fridge is now besentenced with inanities.


We found the fridge magnet words.
DD was great about keeping score. She kept all the numbers up to date in her notebook. She was less great about letting some things go. She 'rescued' a few items but some of them came back later when she realized that actually she doesn't need them. My compromise was to start my own tally in which I consider DD's bedroom to be another realm and whatever disappears into it is gone (until such time that I can make it really gone, in secret when she's not home).

So we're done except for the final frontier, my wardrobe. In fact I only wear about 10 items like the most minimal of minimalists. However, I can't get rid of clothes that I love but don't yet fit into. I just can't. Yet. But when I do, and free up whole shelves that will allow other stuff in other places to be moved in (not sure what from where yet), that'll be a whole other (I so wanted to write 'a whole nother') piece of furniture, somewhere, for moving out. It will easily be the missing 250 clutters.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I am minimalistic yet. Minimalistish maybe.



Friday, October 13, 2017

Friends Trump Work

You can tune through the channels and pick up different programmes
Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem 
It is the end of the Jewish festivals. We go back to school on Sunday and surprisingly, because it was all supposed to have been done by now, I have loads of planning and test writing to do.

I was just about to post a very low key R2BC in which I was struggling to find something interesting to write. Sitting here lesson planning and exam writing does not make me cheerful. Added to that we were embarking on one of those days of, "what are we doing today Mummy? I'm bored."

The ancient  very old with the very modern

Then we got a phone call from a friend from England who's here for the holiday and because her daughter is going into the army. They are in town and would we like to go and meet them for lunch? We did. DD had to get dressed, I had to put myself together, but we were out, on the bus, and in town within 30 minutes.

We did the usual stroll down Ben Yehuda Street. Then we strolled back up again. Then we walked to the Machane Yehuda market. It was packed. We were going to stop for a falafel lunch in the market but the queue was too long. So we walked back to town and ate at a falafel place on King George Street.

Still a low key R2BC but it was lovely to catch up with old friends. It was good to go out and do some walking. I still have my work waiting for me to do, but friends trump work.

I'm linking up with Reasons 2B Cheerful at Becky's Lakes Single Mum.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The First Rain

You can't see the rain but dig the wellies.
The big news this week is that it rained yesterday.

I was still in bed when DD came running in to tell me, "I just realized it's raining!" I jumped up and ran into the living room. And there it was. Real rain. DD said, "I can't believe it. I haven't seen rain for so long." (Think how you would react to waking up to the first magical snow - that's how we felt and reacted.)

DD put on her wellington boots and went out onto the balcony. She stood watching, transfixed, and smiling from ear to ear.

It wasn't only us. There were tens (or even hundreds) of comments on facebook just announcing the rain. We were collectively thrilled. We even have a name for the first rain after the long hot summer. It's called the Yoreh.

It was cold outside too. I wore my fleece and real shoes instead of sandals.

The best thing about the rain is the clear fresh air it leaves afterwards. Looking down, the street looks clean and the cars are all shiny again. A thick layer of dust and dried mud has been washed away. I feel like cleaning my house.

So forget September 1st as the real start to the new year. Or my birthday on September 4th. Or Rosh Hashana. Or Yom Kippur. Or, as usually happens, "after the all the festivals are over we'll get going with real life, goals, work, diet, etc..." (That would be next Sunday). We're up early, refreshed and raring to embrace the new year, today, after the Yoreh.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Why I Hate The Derech Bet Lechem Street Fair

Last night we went to the annual street fair that happens two blocks from our house. They close the road and rent out tables to merchandisers - mostly food and cottage industry crafts. Then everyone comes because there's nothing else to do and it's "free". However the idea of it, from the organiser's point of view, is to get you to spend as much money as possible. The idea of it from my point of view is not to spend any money at all.

As we approached I could see that the road was packed. I told DD that we'd mosey all the way up to the end, then we'd mosey all the way back, and then we'd go home. "What's mosey?"
"It's walking very slowly and seeing everything along the way. Let's see if we can meet more than 10 people we know," I suggested to make it a bit more fun. We met about 20 people we knew before we even got to the entrance barrier.

Two seconds in I got a phone call from a friend from out of town. "I'm at the street fair. Are you here?"
"Yes we're here."
"I'm by the Waffle Bar."
"We'll be there in two secs."

I dragged DD along to the waffle bar. "Hey! This isn't moseying. I wanted to see something over there. Why are we running?"
"Were going to meet my friend."
"Oh no! And then you're probably going to want to stop for a conversation. Correct?"
"We'll talk and mosey at the same time."

It was lovely to see my friend and her husband. We moseyed a bit together and chatted. DD saw a 2 nis key chain with a tin koala and wanted to buy it for 15 nis. I told her we should see everything and if she still wants it we can get it on the way back. She was disappointed and there may have been some whining involved and the tiniest hint of an argument.

Suddenly we saw DD's best friend standing at the side of the road sobbing. We stopped to learn that they'd lost her three year old brother and her father was running around frantically trying to find him. I spotted him and he was indeed frantic. DD's friend was distraught. I apologised to my friends but we had to help look for the boy.

We were just before a dense crowd watching a band playing. It was almost impossible to get past but we pushed our way through and hurried right up to the end of the road and the exit barrier. The music stopped and they made an announcement about the missing child. I gave his photo to a policewoman who shared it on the police whatsapp (or whatever they use). Meanwhile the father had found him holding hands with another policewoman at another barrier.

DD wanted to go back and see that her friend was ok. So we ran back to the concert crowd and DD pushed through, dragging me behind her. A lady tapped me on the shoulder and said, "we're following in your footsteps."
"You'd better hold hands then." I gave her my free hand and we pushed on. I noticed that she had another four people behind her all holding hands. We were a train of seven with DD in the lead. Eventually we made it out the other end and were all able to uncouple.

DD's friend had gone home. I think her father probably needed a stiff drink. I offered DD something to eat. There were 9 mini doughnuts for 20 nis (4 pounds something) - we only wanted one. Or there were thin crepes with a shmeer of Nutella also for 20 nis. I said we'd eat at home. The koala key ring had been sold.

DD lost it and I don't blame her. We'd been out less than an hour. We'd run up and down the road hardly stopping to look at anything. She didn't get anything. Her legs hurt. She was fed up and so was I. I said we could stop at the 24/7 grocery on the way home and she could buy whatever she wanted. "Can I buy Fanta?" I bit my tongue and said, "just this once." And then obviously I had to buy some food for myself that I didn't need to eat.

We spent 60 nis at the 24/7. Grrrr. I should have just bought the doughnuts. Then we came home armed with a load of junk food and I had to spend the rest of the evening playing Rat-a-tat Cat to make up for everything.

(I just want to add that in previous years the fair has been much much better with loads more street entertainment, lots more participatory art, and many more stands with real artists selling real art.)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Eating in the Tabernacle - R2BC

Once again there are Reasons 2B Cheerful. Becky at Lakes Single Mum has taken back the baton for October and I've joined the linky as usual.


1
Blogging
I took up the challenge from Jax at Making It Up to blog for all 30 days of September. In the end I only managed 18/30 but that was good enough. My life just isn't that fast to have something of general interest to write every day. Still, the 18 posts were enough to boost my stats and increase my TOTS100 ranking for the second month running. I'm now only 39 tantalizing ranks away from being back in the top 500. So I'm going for another month of lots of blogging to see if I can break the 500 barrier for the first time in almost two years.


2
Another holiday
We went back to school on September 1st, we had a few days off for Rosh Hashana, nothing for Yom Kippur this year as it fell on a weekend, and now we have a whole 12 days for Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). Sukkot is only an eight day holiday but the day before and the weekend after made a great block of days off. Of course this is only for teachers. Everyone else with young children has to juggle childcare for a week while they are at work and the kids are off.


3
Lunch in the sukkah
We had a lovely day with friends today when we were invited to lunch in their sukkah. A sukkah is a temporary dwelling outside (a tabernacle) with a natural covering through which you can see the stars. It symbolizes the dwellings in the desert inhabited by the children of Israel as they journeyed from Egypt for 40 years after the exodus, until they reached the Land of Israel. (Funny how it didn't take Joseph and later Jacob and his other sons, nearly as long to make the original journey from Israel to Egypt.)