Entries from March 2010 ↓

Flicks >> Milford Sounds, New Zealand

I’ll cut to the point.. some of my most favoritist of favorites flicks right here! As we drove from Te Anau to Milford Sounds, we hit the magnificently beautiful Mirror Lakes along the way…

I miss our campervan SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!  Chooo! Chooo!

But I can’t take credit for the driving, I was more like Miss Daisy… and my driver:

Milford Sound Cruise via Real Journey

It was super WINDY! Look at my lovely locks!

Awesomely low clouds…. and grand waterfalls….

Back to Te Anau to THE BEST MEAL had in our entire trip at Red Cliff Restaurant:

Deep fried beer battered oysters:

Entrees of Hare and Venison each respectively laying on beds of various vegetables and variants of potatoes…. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DIVINELY DELICIOUS!!!

Equally delicious strawberry and cream pavlov:

And the full reel can be viewed here… Enjoy!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Lasting Impressions

This right here warmed my heart and immediately brought on a wide ol’ smile on my face; an email from a former student (last year). Now, I’ve mentioned before of how former parents have been on my case about returning this school calendar year (most certainly flattering), but  here is a kid who I hadn’t heard from all year, nor from his parents at all…and BAM! in my inbox, an email entitled,

MISSYOU A LONG

TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

and the body of the email read:

Dear Ms. Mimi,

miss you a long time,can you go back to Ping he at 2012.September 1th?

Love,

Andrew

ahhhhh how I still heart and care for those lil’ babies sooooooooooooo much!! (but damn that commute and distance!)

But what a great lil’ surprise and a booster to know that I’ve left such a positive and lasting impression on my former babies!

. . don’t burn the day. .


Flicks >> Te Anau & Manipouri, New Zealand

Beautimous drives continue from Queenstown down towards Fiordland area…

Alas we arrived in Te Anau / Manipouri, where we were greeted by L’s friend from college, her fiance, her future in-laws, their amazing 1000 acre farm and beautiful farm animals…

Find the black sheep!

Meet our hospitable hosts:

Pete & Soan, Pete’s Mum and awesome sheepdogs, Jess (all black) & Katie (black/white)!

And here ya’ll go with the full reel.. Enjoy!

. . don’t burn the day. .

The New Deal: Progress

My patience, persistence, determination, confidence (and barking) with efforts to improve and implement systems and organization amidst the school’s deficiencies have officially paid off!

Alas, yesterday, March 22, 2010 marked a fresh start to a new deal @ la escuela.

Old Deal:

  • - I taught (3) classrooms of Grade 1 students; each classroom having HUGE disparity gaps in children’s English levels, ie. Native chit chatter students to students who straight up still learning how to say and learn what the difference between “ball” and “doll” is, causing major classroom interruptions btw. those who are bored with those who find the class content way over their heads.
  • - I taught (2) classrooms of Grade 3 students: each classroom having varying levels and lazy kids who’ve never had to do anything in English classrooms before because the school had hired in/out part-time teachers who came in and played games and allowed the students to run (literally) the classrooms.

Intervention:

  • - With much research in placement assessments used in the States to gauge student’s levels in fundamentals: Phonics, Reading, Writing, Comprehension. Speaking etc., along with the school’s current texts/resources in the school, I created a placement assessment that would ultimately shed tangible light to the much needed divide of students according to appropriate learning levels in Grade 1. (Hey, I would’ve loved to do it for all grades, but …exhale….one battle at a time.) I proposed to Admin, rallied up support from parents and other teachers, and eeeeevenutally, BAM! was done! With the scores all calculated with fancy formulas and discussions amongst teachers/parents, we narrowed and divided the students according to their real English level:  (1) classroom of advanced/native speakers/English as First Language students  and (2) classrooms of true English as Second Language students.
  • As a result of this, we needed more staff to cover, so the school went ahead and hired a part-time teacher, South African native, who had just finished teaching in Taiwan for (3) years.

New Deal:

  • - I now teach only (1) classroom of Grade 1 students; Class A for Accelerated. Already in Day 2 of this new deal… It is SOOOO MUCH different from before.  ALL kids can understand and speak English in the class, thereby giving them a good challenge and opportunity to learn from each other in addition to the gibberish they hear coming out of my mouth! And it is awesome to see the kids from the (3) different homerooms merged into one, to realized they might have been the smarty pants in their respective homeroom classrooms, but now they’ve got competition! Healthy learning environment competition! :-)
  • - I still teach (2) classrooms of Grade 3 students; Wow! I have seen some tremendous improvement in their comprehension and speaking levels in these students! They are still lazy, but they dare not to mess with their moi. :-) I’ve DEFINITELY challenged these kids to the utmost. But for real, other teachers and their parents have also remarked on how much their vocabulary have improved. Whoo!
  • - I picked up (2) classrooms of Grade 4 students;  First impressions = so nice to have older, a bit more mature students! aka less disciplining (esp vs. Grade 1).

Current Thoughts:

  • - I gotta give it to the school for entrusting and valuing my critique on how things should be run, albeit they still heavily (tooo much) relied on parents’s opinions (but I got wiser on them and went straight to the parents that I knew would be the most outspoken, and preached my gospel to them for their choir skills to Admin). The school took action and made things happen all within one school calendar year!
  • - The split for Grade 1 is oh so necessary for countless reasons, and this will set them up right for their remainder years of study at the school. I just saved soooooo much headache for teachers, kids, parents alike!
  • - Before, I only had (2) grades to plan for, now I have (3). So, obviously more work for me. But not only because of the increase in grade levels, but because the textbook in Grade 4 is absolutely retarded. Sooooooooooooo, I gotta create all content and curriculum for Grade 4 ANDDDD this newly accelerated Grade 1 class. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I just sorta gave more work for myself… in exchange for possibly, less childish disciplinary stuff. I gotta breaaaaaathe…..

Attention: Handy (Teacher) Helpers Out There!

  • - I know a good bunch of ya’ll reading this are in the Education field, so feel free to share with me some of your favorite go-to sites for all things Phonics, Grammar, Reading, Reading Comprehension, Writing, Speaking etc.!  I’d be much appreciative!  Meanwhile, I’ll be spending some time at the Foreign bookstore picking up some more suitable workbooks and such for the kiddos…

. . don’t burn the day. .

Google CN –> Google HK

UH OH SPAGHETTI-O!!!! The showdown (btw. Google and the PRC) has begun!!

As I routinely stepped into the office this morning, booted up the good ol’ Dell, and went to check my email as per usual with homepage set to the G-Double O-G-L-E, I found it rather peculiar that HK (Hong Kong) was in my face….. Google HK, that is!

Turns out, Google.com/cn is no longer accessible, and rather is re-directed to Google.com/hk …… a lil’ sumn sumn like this:

SIGHHHHHH!!! (Just when I’ve found myself re-settling back in this town… argghhhh!.. But thankfully,  I was still able to access my email thereafter… I just dunno for how long till….. :-/ )

Basically as our friends at CNN has put it:

What happens when users in China now search on Google?

They are redirected from Google.cn to Google.com.hk, a region of China that is not under censorship. Before Monday, Google self-censored searches for issues of a sexual nature or that were politically sensitive under Chinese law.

Has Google left China?

No — it is still operating research and development departments and has sales staff. However, Google said if the government blocks access from mainland China to its Hong Kong search site, it may further reduce its presence there.

As of Tuesday afternoon Beijing time these services were still available in China: Images, News, Ads and Gmail. Picasa, Groups and Docs were partially blocked. YouTube, Sites and Blogger were blocked.

Why isn’t Hong Kong censored?

Although now part of China, the handover agreement from British rule allows the city to operate as a semi-autonomous region until 2047 — the “one country, two systems” approach. The city has a free press and tolerates political dissent.

What do Chinese think of this?

For many of China’s massive online audience — nearly 400 million strong — the move won’t matter, especially since users there mostly surf for games and music. Google, which entered China’s market in 2006, has about one-third of the search market — far behind Baidu, which has about two-thirds of it. Academics, researchers and business people, however, are more concerned because local Chinese search engines are less successful at international searches in English.

Ya’ll can view a news clip on this here, courtesy of our friends at Reuters:

. . don’t burn the day. .

Poison!

…and no, I don’t mean by Bell Biv Devoe!

I mean FOOD POISONING!  Yup, I’ve been suffering a rather mild case of it for the last 5 days now, getting a tad better by the day.   Here’s the rollback:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I put in an extra 1/2 hour after school to jibber jabber with the Director over the scores/percentages/ranks/nerdy excel stuff for the upcoming split of A/B levels for the students in Grade 1. While I was packing my belongings, a local co-worker (who also happens to be the wife of the director) asked if I’d like to join her for a meal. We’ve gone out a couple times as staff functions before and her taste buds particularly make good selects, so I agreed to have her pick the place and we’d go. She picked a spot close by the school, in a rather “local” neighborhood to a relatively new spot that lines of people, waiting to pick up their famously delicious fried dumplings. And we did the same for some dumplings and soup. Of course, I left the ordering up to my co-worker and she did a wonderful job, ordering 2 bowls of soup (wonton for her, curry for me) and 12 fried dumplings to share…. all came to a total of 23rmb ($3.40usd).  Tasty to me!

Friday, March 12, 2010

I woke with a headache and “my stomach not feeling so well” and what appeared to be nausea. I trucked along to school anyway, checked into the breakfast line and declined soup dumplings, headed up to my office where I announced to my fellow American colleague, Phil, “My head hurts and I keep having the feeling to vomit.” Great start to the day, right??!! Anyhoots, I powered my way through, especially since some Kindergarten parents (and a WHOLEEEE BUNCH OF THEM) were coming in for an Open House session to watch me teach. (These demos are abundant in order for next year’s enrollment.)  I think I did pretty well, considering my condition with one prospective parent coming up to me after my lesson asking me to confirm that these were Grade 1 students. I confirmed and asked if he might have had the wrong room; to which he replied, “No, I’m here for Grade 1. I am just impressed because these students all seem to be pretty fluent. Were they all like this when they first started?”  I smiled a big smile internally, and replied something along the lines of, “Oh no. Some students didn’t know much when they first started. In a class size this big, they each come in with varying levels. Some have a decent base and others came in with nothing. This is the beginning of the 2nd semester, so we’ve had this time to build upon vocabulary etc. etc. and they’ve improved along the way.”  So yeah….. that was good news for the day.

But thereafter, a few more classes, then meetings… my body was feeling it. No fever, but def a bit of the chills and nausea was kicking in..and all I had for lunch was an orange and an apple!

As I headed for home, I decided to pick up some “cantonese style comfort food” aka roast duck + rice and a coke; I figured to at least to have something sturdy in my tummy to hold me down. I had a few scoops and left it. Later that evening, real symptoms of food poisoning starting to kick my ass!  (Apologies for such a yucky post, but hey! I gotta report the good, bad, ugly and gross!)  Let’s just say the few scoops of rice+duck, made their exit out of my system via my throat and into the toilet bowl. I was feeling like straight up crap!  Good thing it was already the weekend!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I woke with a sore throat from yakking. I checked in with a friend who had had food poisoning before for some advice and was told to suspend all food intake with the exception of the BRAT diet: bananas/bread, rice, applesauce, toast…and drink plenty of water/gatorade to avoid dehydration. So, of course, shortly thereafter, I hopped outside of my apartment and picked up some BRAT items for my meals for the next few days.

Overall: AYE!!!!! It’s so sad. I can’t eat anything!!  But thankfully, comparatively speaking with some friends who have had it before, mine is not anywhere near extreme. As for my coworker whom I shared the meal with, apparently she felt sick that Thursday night, but was fine the next day. Anddddddd the conspiracy theorist in me is wondering what’s going on here because one of my friends re-caught FP this past weekend from a salad at a very good expat restaurant, and another friend caught FP from another spot (all unrelated). HMMMMMM…..

But don’t worry ya’ll. I’m doing alright… progressing by the day…slowly, but surely (and hopefully soon), I’ll be back to feasting!  This experience is a first for me! And actually, I’m quite surprised, considering all the places I’ve found myself in… So I consider this experience as a form of detox….errr….

. . don’t burn the day. .

Flicks >> Queenstown & Coronet Peak, New Zealand

Meet Queenstown, the “Adventure Capital of the World!”  Need I say more? This is where I had chosen to spend another bornday; the charming resort-town of QUEENstown. With a name marked with royalty, I thought it’d only be fitting. :-)

After checking into our room in the fabulous Rees Hotel, we were immediately greeted by our awesome lake-view balcony…we were surrounded by majestic mountains, as our room/balcony was nestled along the shores of the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu. Ahhhhhhh, simply breathtaking!

A couple of balcony views…

Off to the Skyline Gondola ride for a dandy view of Queenstown – mountains n’ lakes n’ streams, oh my!! …

Atop….

A bit ways from home!….

NZ’s National Bird (not fruit), the KIWI!!!

Phenomenal 8 course dinner, courtesy of The Rees Restaurant…

Delicious lake-view breakfast buffet of limitless yummies!!

Hopping on the infamous Shotover Jet! Zoom! Zoom! ZOOOOOM!!

Next, 15 minutes – hang gliding atop Coronet Peak with Tandems Ltd

Back down on the ground…. here’s a few shots of the charming (tourist attractions driven) lil’ town…

Our first taste of an NZ staple: Fish n’ Chips!

QT Waterfront….

HANG GLIDING SLIDESHOW:

QUEENSTOWN SLIDESHOW:

. . don’t burn the day. .

Flicks >> Mt. Cook / MacKenzie Country, New Zealand

I mean, I was blown away with Lake Tekapo…. but my awe was upped with our drive through Aoraki Mt. Cook / MacKenzie District. I gotta give thanks to Andrew of Cruzy Campers (our wonderful campervan rental company) for steering me/us for the inland drive as opposed to my initial east coast way to Queenstown. Andrew was absolutely right! Words can NOT express how TRULY MAGNIFICENT the snowcapped mountains and SUPER DEE DUPER SHIMMERING LAKES! I LOVE BLUE!!

Check ‘em, check ‘em, check ‘em out!!..

We drive by the incredible Lake Pukak en route towards the snow-capped mountain range of Mt. Cook Villagei…

One of my personal faves from my entire trip right here!!…..

Inching closer….

Alas, Mt. Cook Village… (and the park benches in which I opened my 1st bday gift..thanks C&E!!)

About Aoraki Mt. Cook: At 3754 metres, New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook is dazzling, yet there are 27 other mountains in this alpine backbone which peak at over 3050 metres, and hundreds of others not far short of that – all making up the famous Southern Alps.

Many courageous souls have attempted the climb, however were unsuccessful. The Vistor Center has dedicated leatherbound memoriams, filled with tales and mini-bios of attempted climbers…..muy triste!

And then for shizz n’ giggles…. but, NO, we did not enter!….

And now back out we go, back alongside Lake Pukaki to Twizel…to our next big stop: Queenstown. MARVEL AT THESE!! This lake doesn’t even look real!!….BUT IT SOOOOO IS!! (Some of my TOP TOP flicks from my entire trip!)….

We eventually stopped along the way for a lil picnic in betwixt ginormous mountains… I felt like a little hobbit in the Shire! Tee hee hee!

Oh! and we used this handy dandy solar power charger to keep my itouch charged up for the road, while we grabbed some grub. SUCH a great investment! (Thanks CC for being such a gadget gift giver to L.)

And another lil’ pit stop…

And another lil stop further down the road…. perrrrrdy streaml!!

With the sun shining overhead, upon my back, errrthang was groovy!

And the full slideshow here… As always, Enjoy! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

I Asked For It

Yeah, I’ve been ranting quite a bit about this new school that I’m in. (and I still have fondness towards my former kiddos…. and their parents are still in touch with me.) But most of my rants have stemmed from the ridiculous large range of students’ levels in one classroom….to the point where the divide amongst kids are totally noticeable because the Native Speaker Students have become irritated by the Nons. Aye! It’s been a battle, but I am coming out on top… slowly, but surely. :-)

Alas, the Director has agreed to allow me to create and lead an assessment procedure in which students in my first grade will undertake. So, not only was I gearing up for my NZ trip towards the end of Semester 1, I was busy developing an Assessment Placement Exam, that my lil’ rugrats will take at the start of Semester 2 (current day).

I asked for it, and now I’ve got it. After much research and comparison with various ESL/EFL placements exams conducted in the States for reference, along with tweaking the exam so that it also is in accordance to the school’s curriculum, resources and tools, and discussing matters with the Director and staff, the exam has been finalized, and has already been administered. :-)

Today marked the 1st of 3 days of testing. Class 1 results are in….. awaiting for Class 2 (tomorrow) and Class 3 (the following day). And so far, I am very pleased and not tooooo surprised with the results of my students in Class 1. Let’s say 20% of the students in Class 1, look to be advancing into the soon-to-be EFL class, while the rest will be split between (2) ESL classes…. which is sooooo necessary as since EFL and ESL teachings have different objectives, thus need to be taught using different methodologies. I’ve been preaching and preaching and preaching….and they have listened, and now we’re taking action!

I find this all so exciting!! Stay tuned for more…

. . don’t burn the day. .

Flicks >> Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

OMFG LAKE TEKAPO IS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO FRIGGIN’ PERRRRTY and SERENE!!!…. was certainly NOT a bad way to start up a birthday morning! :-)

We woke in a parking lot adjacent to the Lake…. WOWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!! I recall sliding open our campervan curtains and was totally STUNNED by the “shining, shimmering, splendid’ness” of the lake! and YES! I  just quoted famed, “A Whole New World” from Aladdin; very appropriate! See for yourself!…

And a lil’ breakfast picnic by the lake….

And some exciting rounds of bird/duck feeding, inclusive of tossing the bread high in the air for the birdies to fetch!….

And the full slideshow below….Enjoy!

“A Whole New World” by Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle from Aladdin Soundtrack (09.28.04)
. . don’t burn the day. .