Archive for January, 2012

Creative Writing

Other than planning and grading, a big part of being a teacher is writing or finding writing models to show students exactly what you want from them.  This is especially important in the EFL context.  For the past seven years, all of my models were of the academic nature so they were quite serious and formal and well, dry.  This year the program I teach is theme based, which means the students do all sorts of writing on all sorts of topics.

For one of my classes the theme has been health. Recently their task was to write a public health announcement  for a made up disease.  Not finding an example that tickled my fancy, I decided to write one.  A little context first: a common issue in this school is exam/grade anxiety, which renders the students crazed during exam times which means they hassle their teachers for exams grades. So I found it highly appropriate to write about this reoccurring issue.  After explaining a few of the vocabulary words, the kids enjoyed it.  I enjoyed writing it and I hope you enjoy it too.

Seagull Psychosis

Seagull Psychosis is a highly communicable disease caused by excessive flocking around LP English teachers in order to extrapolate HEP and exam grades.  Tension and shared air between LP English teachers and LP students spreads the disease, rendering the victims unable to cope with daily life. Extreme cases show students not able to form grammatically correct sentences, babbling and drooling.  In dire cases, sufferers will wander the halls aimlessly, knocking their heads into lockers.  Suffers of this disease can also be recognized by a dazed, glossy look in the eye as well as a disinterest in social media and vegetables as well as an increased and excessive consumption of sugary and fatty foods.

Treatment options are available.  If symptoms start, the affected should immediately stop all harassment of and contact with their LP English teacher. Additionally, students should stop thinking about their grades and self-reflect. For those who work hard, thinking about the amount of hard work and effort they have put into their studies will almost instantaneously cure those affected.  For those who have not put in 110% effort, working hard and doing their best will also reverse the disease.

Not only are students affected by the psychosis, teachers also show elevated signs of stress. Ms. F, a new LP teacher was quoted as saying, “I couldn’t believe the way the students would gather around me and bother me for their grades.  After this happened about three times, I noticed that the most aggressive students started to become dazed and confused.  I didn’t understand what was going on. I had never seen such a thing in all my life.”  After the first exams, other LP teachers also noticed this strange and disturbing behavior amongst the students. The teachers quickly reported it to the LP Dean, a Ms. DS. The school doctor was then involved in the case.  “What we have here is a case of high stress and nervousness that has morphed into a highly communicable and dangerous disease.   We are working closely with the school doctor to educate LP students about prevention” stated the concerned high school principle, Mr. KO .

In an interview, the school doctor Dr. Mehmet Sahin advised that “the best thing students can do is to work hard, always do their best and stay far away from their LP English teachers during exam times.  For some reason, the combination of shared air between students and teachers and high stress from grade anxiety causes this dangerous disease. At the moment there are no known cures, but we do know ways to prevent the disease from spreading and those steps should be closely followed.”

If you are feeling any of these symptoms, or if you know a friend who is, please report it to your LP dean or to the school doctor.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” –Benjamin Franklin


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Scarred for life

I started this post back in December, and never got around to posting it. It has snowed here in Istanbul, which means I have had some uninterrupted alone time whilst the turkeys roll around and wrestle outdoors.  Since I started this blog  to document our lives with Ali and Omer, I will post it now even though it is past the season. Enjoy!

Ah, Christmas.  What a great time of year.  And so much more fun  if  you have little ones who believe in Santa.

Christmas in Turkey is satisfyingly  not without the festive spirit.  Santa, aka St. Nicholas, was from a town called Myra located just outside modern day Demre  in the south of Turkey.  So, it is appropriate to see Christmas trees, twinkly lights, and Santa’s mug splashed here and there in commercial areas.  St. Nick’s original locale is far from the winter wonderland we have come to know and love.  His digs are located in a hot, southern Californian-esque terrain that never gets snow and is  a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean. The story is that the jolly, rotund, fur and wool clad Santa is a 1930’s Coca-Cola creation. How the leap was made from warm, sunny orange country to  the chilly north pole remains a mystery to me.

Without a care in the world as to where he came from, Ali and Omer are full on into Santa this year .  There have been copious amounts of questions about how he  gets into our house without the aid of a chimney and how can he really know at all times if they have been naughty or nice.  To ensure that Santa would bring them exactly what they wanted for all of their good behavior, they wrote their own letter to Santa good and early into the Christmas season. Telling the boys I would take the letters to work and send them,  I quickly and carelessly tucked them away for later storage. Weeks of questions  ensued about how the letters get to the north pole (I send them with the regular mail); how long it will take (about a week); how will Santa know what I want for sure (because he will read your letter); etc., and me reassuring them that Santa got the letter without a doubt, don’t worry.  Fast forward to the Friday afternoon before Christmas to me sprawled, slug-like in a post-school, pre-workout  lie down when Ali bursts into my room anxiously yelling, “Mommy, bad news, we forgot to send the letters!” My brain frantically searched for an explanation as I kicked myself for not hiding the letters better.  “Well, I scanned them and then sent the letter in an e-mail.  Santa got them, don’t worry,” I nervously bluffed.  Skeptical, but temporarily satisfied, Ali meandered back downstairs to continue playing with his Legos.    Luckily, I had  a back-up plan.

I figured I needed to bring in the big guns to convince Ali that Santa had received his letter so who better then Santa himself to deliver the message? There is this cool online site where all you do is answer a questionnaire and upload a picture and within minutes you have a personalized video message from the man of the hour. One of the questions they ask is if the video is for a nice or naughty child. Naturally, I ticked “naughty”; I don’t call them the turkeys for just any old reason.  What I didn’t realize was that ticking naughty instead of nice would mean that the child in question would be left off the nice list.  Oops.  I didn’t think there would be a distinction (what was I thinking?). Proud of myself and relieved that I had found a solution to the letter crisis, I called Ali upstairs to watch his video. Full of eager anticipation, Ali watched the video with wonder and excitement gleaming in his eyes. Both to my and Ali’s shock and surprise,  towards the end of the message Santa told him he wasn’t on the nice list just yet. It was like watching the scene from A Christmas Story when Ralphie eagerly anticipates getting back his Christmas essay about the Red Rider bee bee gun he requested and at the bottom the teacher writes, “you’ll shoot your eye out.”  Looking deflated and worried, I realized that this  may have scarred him, and me, for life. Watch it here to see what I mean. Omer was also left off of the nice list, but for some reason, he wasn’t as bothered.

Anyway,when Santa told Ali that he still had time to make the list I saw the blood run back into his face and the light flicker back  into his eyes, so the crisis was averted.  Even though after a Christmas Eve gathering at our home they were amped up and running around before bed like banshees, Santa still pulled through and delivered the goods and it was a joyful and memorable Christmas all around.

Happy Holidays!

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I turned 37 yesterday.  I am one of those people who does not fear getting older. Really, I am not.  Each year I am on this earth, I learn so much more about how to live comfortably in my skin that I wouldn’t trade the experience for the chutzpah and ignorance of my youth.  However, I do have a weird hang-up about odd numbered birthdays.  28, 32, 34, 36…all good.  29, 33, 35 and 37, not so much.  To say I am thirty seven makes me feel all cold inside, like a back room in the winter, with no heat, bad lighting and reeking of stale cigarette smoke. I know, weird.  But it is what it is.

Even though I cringe at the odd number of 37, this year was a pretty good birthday.  The boys made me precious little cards; I received calls and messages from most of the people I know and love, and I got two birthday cakes.  Oh, and this computer I am currently typing on.  After lunch today I was serenaded  by some of my students. This was accompanied by a chocolate muffin perched upon a sweetly hilarious paper plate/card that thanked god that I was their teacher (love the dramatics) topped off with a straw and paper candle (love the creativity). This was followed by chocolate cake number two which I scarfed down alongside my fab colleagues in the LP department.

Can’t complain about that, no indeedy I cannot.

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