Sunday, April 02, 2006

A rough week

I hope this week will include me blogging a lot, thinking a little, and strictly desisting from complaining. This entry is a distinct exception to the latter, as this last week I was tired, over-worked, over-stressed, sick, homesick, and disappointed.
NYU did not offer me any scholarship money. Given my financial situation and the grants they gave out last year for similar students, I had been optimistic. But based on those who did receive grants, this looks like a tough year to get money. My hope was that a scholarship would make my law school decision easier. That said, I currently have no decisions except: NYU or bust. At the end of this month I should find out if I have real choices. My current order goes Harvard, NYU, and then Columbia. So most likely, NYU is my direction.
I quickly became sick on Friday and Saturday, but I feel mostly better today. My throat is still not in working order, but Excedrin and the aid of a valuable friend made my sickness remarkably brief.
My stress came from a constant stream of tests laid upon my kids by my hands. My spelling tests are already especially hard - that is my choice; but I also had to give my advanced class the school's terrible level test and give my little kids' class Cambridge University's practice proficiency test.
The problem with the advanced kid's class is that my top kid is so much more fluent than my bottom kid that they really should not be judged by the same rubric. Because I live by strict grading guidelines, I had to fashion my grading in such a way as to collapse them much closer together.
Anything less than a 96 is considered failing here - a massive flaw in the Taiwanese education system. The end result was a breakdown of 100 (though genuinely she should have had something along the lines of 119 but I refuse to write that), 100, 96, 96, 82. That 82 is about as low as you can legitimately go as a "cram school" teacher.
I was proud of one of those 96's. She is a student that did not do as well as the other kids in previous classes. In my class she has really stepped up. I have come to really like her. Because she works slowly and meticulously, constantly checking and rechecking, she tends to have tons of Chinese homework to do. Something I enjoy is that she has started showing me her homework. In this education system, students are constantly working for a few strokes of a pen and a number that functions as basically a pass/fail system (because the only acceptable grades are above 96). Thus, careful work often goes under-appreciated. I think she likes that she has someone with whom to discuss her work.
To go back to complaining, the Cambridge Test was annoying because it was too simple for my kids. They are cocky and can generally express complex ideas in English; thus, when they are asked "What are these?" and shown a bunch of flowers, they just write "flower," and keep going. Of course, they should have written "flowers." The Cambridge Test does not test any kind of English expression capability; rather, it tests the ability to adhere to grammar rules.
Although my kids should have known better, they were arrogant and just haphazardly zipped through the test. I have been trying to wean them out of this by giving them difficult test questions where I enforce no Chinese English (I even make them use non-Chinese structures when their sentences are grammatically fine).
Sorry for the lack of coherence, but back to general complaining. This last week led to a huge crisis of motivation, ranging from questioning my reasons for being here to questioning my desire for law school. The latter was short lived - it was a knee jerk reaction. But it's hard to look down the barrel end of $180,000 in debt and not wonder if the chamber is loaded.
Now I am mostly recovered from the week, but I still wonder a little why I am here. My Chinese is far from fluent, but it's not so bad normally. I would need another year to obtain any kind of real fluency. My classes are good, but I am a lame duck teacher and on the experience end of things, my classes have become fairly consistant. I really feel like I am just finishing things up here waiting for the next stage and I don't really like that feeling.
I wonder if I made the most of my last nine months, but at the same time I am not really sure how to make the most out of these last three. I got a lot of experience, but I am not sure if I maximized my time here. Traveling Taiwan more would cause money issues and time issues. I can't start any long term projects. Perhaps I should befriend more locals, but I don't have a lot of time. If I studied more, I think I would explode; I am already yelling a Chinese Spanish English mix in my sleep. I am thinking about lowering my class time and trying to get a lot of language exchanges which would be basically culture exchanges. Although I feel like I understand Taiwanese culture, it would be nice to get to know more people a bit deeper than 線上聊天 (chatting online).
The last thing, I am going to start writing properly in this blog. I can't guarantee more entries, but I guarantee more quality in entries. I realized that I spend an inordinate amount of time correcting my Chinese and I don't with my English. My favorite Chinese blog uses very carefully written Chinese that makes reading much clearer (a clear example is carefully using 他 for men and 她 for women, something that lazier typists breeze over). I should show more respect to my native language.
So, if you catch English errors, feel free to publicly embarrass me in the comments section - that goes for you Allison and Mom. Also, if you have any good ideas on something I should do in these three months, send them over. Do you want more photos? Should I dive head first into writing a book and forget Chinese? Although I think my biggest asset is to independently plan (for instance me coming here), I would love some outside ideas. Keep in mind that my average day has four hours of studying Chinese, five hours of class, and another hour of class preparation.


~allie said...

Ohh dear. Matt, you should know better. I'm still waiting for your 'subtitle' to be corrected. However, don't worry; this blog entry has errors too. I have to question whether you actually want them corrected or you just want someone to comment on your blog. :P
Thanks for the mention in your blog though.:D
Your errors shall be sent to you in email form, and hopefully corrected.

Chris said...

Surely the news that Tom DeLay is leaving Congress should cheer you up some.

joe said...

I presume the split infinitive was deliberate.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should at least note that this blog entry contains fewer errors per sentence than the usual rate! To deliberately, if not compulsively or obnoxiously, even, split an infinitive would be rank, indeed. --Mom

Gloria said...

Hey Matt!

Wow...I'm so honored to be your "favorite Chinese blog"!!!! Just wanted to say THANK YOU for the support...and I won't even TRY to point out your grammatical errors. Maybe I'll do that to your Chinese entries instead. haha. :)