February!

It is February and with the realization of that (I guess I might have had things on my mind) comes the reminder as I sit sipping my coffee that the snow mounds outside are still shoulder height with me (I am 5’ 10”) and the ice floes on the roof are thick.  The only thing that gives me hope is that the daylight situation is very clearly changing.  Okay, as I reread this paragraph I am only sorry it sounds so negative, because I am not at a negative point at all!

Yesterday was a tough one technology wise, it seems that I have had a few of those lately.  I am currently blogging on two sites until I can get the new one under control.  As I have stated in the past, control seems to be the almighty word of reality in most of our lives whether we admit it or not.  In my world, most of my true frustration has been in regards to people and control.  This situation is more like man fighting machine.  It remains to be seen who shall win this one but I have not given up the battle.  Instead of doing what I might have done in the past, I am biding my time more and I am doing only enough fighting to keep me from total frustration.  On the new site, I click on a button and nothing happens or I click on it and I get an ERROR message.  Christian told me that with the upload of pictures that I need to diminish their size first, which makes sense, the old site did that automatically for me.  This makes me wonder whether or not I have made a mistake in choosing to move to the new site.   Supposedly, in the long run, I shall have more freedom to make the site my own.  Yesterday, another main struggle on www.richardjkoerner.com was the one where I was trying to change the background picture on the top to one of my own taken in France about ten years ago.  I have the choice of a wheat field northwest of Paris or of a surprising attractive weedy poppy field.  They are both cool, but although I seemed to have properly chosen my avenue of change, nothing happened.  Christian is coming over, and a part of his new consulting business, check this out: www.cnkconsultinggroup.com, is to work with issues like this so we shall see if he knows his stuff.  I know he does and I know we shall regulate my website issues.  It is just that you have to weigh whether or not the whole thing is worth it.  My natural tendency is to hang on to the old since I know it works.  Okay, let me restate this, in a way I dislike change, but I am smart enough to know that it needs to be done.  It is just that, emotionally I have not always had the ability to handle that well.  The aging process, as maligned as it is, can be of help and it is most certainly helpful here.  So I am hanging in there for the ride.

I am really happy that yesterday I managed to set up some really nice electronic flashcards that are associated with the Bien Dit textbooks by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston that New Trier is using.  I “spreadsheeted” the vocabulary and uploaded it to a website associated to the app.  This shall allow the students I am tutoring to have another avenue of ways to learn vocabulary.  I find that as the time has gone by since I first started teaching, that memorizing has gotten harder and harder for students.  I am sure that it is totally associated with the evolution of pedagogy and the relegation of memorization to a position in learning where it is not totally appreciated.  I do understand that memorization for so long was overused and over touted.  I also am cognizant of the fact that language learning employs a large amount of memorization whether or not we like the concept.  What I am seeing is that the students who are having the most issues, and here we are not talking about students who are failing, but who are trying to maintain more of an above average profile in their classes, are often in their predicament because their continued inability to maintain the vocabulary load and acquire more is hampering their reading ability and causing unnecessary errors.  The subsequent issue is that their confidence level declines and they become sometimes totally or close to totally paralyzed in the learning process.  They then think that they are not language students.  I maintain that anyone can learn a language.  Yes, the ability we all have may be different, but just take a look at the influx of immigrants to the U.S.  Not all of them learned English perfectly, but if they were surrounded by the need to know English, somehow they all managed.  As I may have stated in the past, I misjudged my own grandparents’ abilities with English.  Their speech may have been halting but they frankly communicated quite well, for the most part.  My goal with all of this is to squelch some of the “elitist” attitudes that have been passed on about language learning.  World language teachers are sometimes at fault for having this elitist attitude with their students and cause the lack of confidence that turns them away.  So, I hope that this fun “tool” of a simple app on a phone or iPod will help in some way.  It is most interesting as I tutor and find that my best work is done when I can make it a bit more fun on a personal level and I play psychologist and inject their personalities with the confidence they deserve and need.

Michael went out of the house quite early, off to take a basic skills test in order to matriculate in a graduate program at the university.  I remember taking this test myself in the not so distant past as I completed the program for administrative certification, a certificate which, in fact, I never used.  I recall that despite my knowledge that it was a no brainer, that I would have no problem passing it, that it was an annoying, silly hurdle that I had to get past.  It is unfortunate that we have to have such a test to take, but the reality is that there are people who just are not prepared to move on educationally.  This all reminds me of the reasons why Mary Kay and I moved where we did.  We realized that education is just like real estate as they always say, “Location, location, location.”  As much as my children complained of the snobbishness, the crazy attitudes of the newly rich, and the entitlement of their peers, they received a good education here in the northern suburbs of Chicago.  And, as we all know, they can take everything away from you but they cannot possibly take your educational instruction back!

I didn’t mention that last night we had dinner with one of the sons and his fiancée, a delightful dinner that if seen by outsiders would have been questioned as perhaps the activity of a loony bin.  There was, of course, the delicious repast prepared by Michael served with the last of the Beaujolais Nouveau which was accompanied by almost “wet your pants” laughter that I cannot today pinpoint as to subject.  I just asked Mary Kay about it, she called it a “pinky up” sort of discussion which somehow refers to the fakey British accents put on by just about everyone as movie quotes were flung about and the humor went from normal to bawdy.  Somehow, the only thing I remember was the mention of “Spotted Dick” which is a supposed dessert in Britain.  That says a lot about British cuisine, doesn’t it, and perhaps this last comment lends credence to my supposed discrimination against the Brits that I put in a previous blog entry.  In any case, we were literally rolling on the floor.  That was a pleasure to see as the evolution of events from Michael’s arrival at home in December that went from total and all out dysfunction to where we are now.  It seems that the healing process is well on the road, we just need to hang on to it and continue to go with it.  Last night was wonderful and I am so glad that dinners are going back to where they should be.  The culmination of all our healing will be evident as we come together this coming Thursday to fête Mary Kay’s birthday, the number of which shall remain nameless. 

On the agenda today is perhaps a visit to the gym if we can fit it in, a movie and relaxing dinner with some very good friends, and perhaps some insight into my technology war.  I am looking forward to it, bring on the day!

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