Saturday, November 24, 2007

Abscessed Tooth!

Holy cow, have I been in pain that last few days. I wonder if anyone noticed at the Glenbow Museum how much pain I was in. It was totally killing me, both physically and mentally because I had been looking so forward to going to the museum, but then I couldn't enjoy it as much I would have liked to because I was concentrating so much on not showing any pain. You see, I have an abscessed tooth. Oh the agony. About 3 years ago, one of my teeth cracked, but I never got anything done about it because I didn't have any dental insurance. When I finally got dental insurance at the University of Calgary, I went to the dentist and they cleaned out all the rotten stuff and capped my broken tooth. However, I guess they didn't notice that the damage was much deeper than it seemed because I guess for the last year, my tooth has been slowing rotting from the inside out. Finally, last week my lower left jaw was killing me, and my face was getting swollen. I was worried that I had the mumps, so I decided to wait a few days and see what happened. By Wednesday, I was in agony, and it seemed like a toothache gone crazy, so I decided to see a dentist. The dentist took an x-ray of my tooth, and told me I had an abscessed tooth. Now, I'm on antibiotics because my entire lower left jaw was infected, and I have to go for a root canal operation on Wednesday afternoon. So, I'm taking huge amounts of ibuprofen, and tylenol with codeine trying to kill the pain while I wait for the infection to go away. Actually, the pain seems worse now than it did on Friday, and all the pills are making me nauseous. Anyway, if you are wondering why I'm kind of weird in class . . . blame it on the abscessed tooth!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It’s official . . . there are basically three weeks left until final exams. I can’t believe it. It seems like this semester has just flown by. I think it has been getting more and more interesting as well. I was really excited to be able to do the story “The Man who Planted Trees” with the students. One of the benefits of this semester, is the students are able to handle challenging materials that push them to their limits – like the story about the man who planted trees. With all of the challenging things we have been doing, I actually think the students are gaining new vocabulary and fluency this semester, which are two of my main goals. I think we still have a ways to go with grammatical accuracy, but I figure that as long as they are able to understand the world around them, and as long as they are able to make themselves comprehensible to the people around them, they are on the right track to success at university. I guess that is the two fold mission of the EAP program – facilitate the students understanding of the world and their ability to make the world understand them. In any case, I feel this is one of the most successful semesters so far.

Another exciting thing we have been able to do this semester is see the movie “An Inconvenient Truth”. The best part about this is that no one fell asleep during the movie! Teachers are often hesitant to show videos during class time . . . especially longer movies. Usually I follow the “20 Minute Rule” which is that teachers should never do more than 20 minutes of anything because they students will start to drift off and become bored . . . or worse . . . unruly! However, I only had two days to show “An Inconvenient Truth”, so I had to divide the movie up into two one hour segments. That’s almost triple my 20 minute rule for each day. The great thing was though that Al Gore was such a compelling speaker, and the students were so interested in the topic, that no one drifted off. Now the fun part begins on Monday when we decide if we believe Al Gore or not . . .

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Assignment Schedule has Changed!

I hope everyone got the memo today about changing the due dates for all the assignments. I'm going to paste it in here so that everyone can see it again.

Changes in due dates:

Essay #4: Thursday November 8, 2007
Essay #5: Friday November 23, 2007
Essay #6: Cancelled
Annotated Bibliography #2: Friday November 9, 2007
Annotated Bibliography #3: Cancelled
Book Report #3: Monday November 26, 2007

Remember – no classes Monday or Tuesday November 12 – 13, 2007

Combined Listening & Speaking Classes

All classes will meet together for the first hour after the grammar and writing class

2:30 – 3:30 Thursday November 15, 2007
2:00 – 3:00 Friday November 16, 2007
2:00 – 3:00 Friday November 23, 2007

I hope that all makes sense. It was hard for me to decide on doing this, but I think it is for the best. It seems like a lot of my students are suffering from "homework" shock, and may be it's time to ease back a bit on the official homework. My only worry is that the students will stop studying all together or that all studying will sink down to the lowest common denominator. One of the reasons we instituted the assignments as we did was so that the students would be using as much academic English as possible outside of the class. The goal was to push their learning to the next level. In the past, I used to give lots of suggestions for studying, but I found that if there wasn't a mark attached to an assignment, often the assignment wasn't done. However, the minute a mark was attached to an assignment, most of the class would at least make an effort at doing it. Thus, it becomes a fine balance between grading homework and encouraging students to do things on their own. Ideally, I would have a system where no grades were given, rather I would tell people if their work was poor, developing, satisfactory or outstanding. One of the drawbacks of grading things such as the essays is that if one person gets 85% on an essay, and another person gets 88% on an essay - does that mean that the person with the higher score is 2% better at English than the person with the lower score? I don't think so. I think we are trying to cut things too finely when we are using percentages. Rather, we should have broad bands.

Anyway, this is what is going through my mind at the moment. One thing that has driven all of these thoughts is the fact that I have such a large class this semester. Now I know why my French Professors in my undergraduate studies only assigned one essay per semester!