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09

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Quick Write 092911 "Trouble is the beginning of Health"

“There are a few good things in the world. Love is one of them. Love is a gem. Love is one of those rare things in the world that is pretty much good all around. It arises free of cost and does no harm in the feeling of it; it only elevates and brings joy. I know it also threatens. But for a moment let us please look not at how it threatens but at how it brings spontaneous pleasure.”

This is how Cary Tennis at Salon.com responds to a lady who’s been suffering from the shadow of her fiancé’s ex-girlfriend. She is very much willing to spend her whole life with the guy, but has been afflicted by a gnawing sense whether he’d still be seeing his ex. Cary’s responses of “Since You Asked” always impress me with their pureness, simplicity, thoughtfulness, and affection towards his readers. Simple but powerful. Astute yet warm. I wish I could write like him someday, knowing it’s pretty much close to impossible. Throughout the piece, Cary keeps suggesting that she ask her fiancé to tell her his true feelings and face the reality. I’ve found another wonderful line that encourages the lady to take the situation positively for better relationship with her future husband.

“What if ‘trouble’ is the beginning of ‘health’?”

Very true. So true. But it’s often the case with me that even though my “logical” brain understands how well trouble could work for much healthier situations, my “emotional” soul refuses to do so, and lets the fear of having a close look at the trouble overwhelm me. Such cowardice often surfaces and tortures me even though I’m full aware that the revealed truth hurts me a little for a while, but the pain will eventually nourishes my soul.

( 25minutes / 298 words)

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Cary Tennis
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Quick Write 092811  “The Mission Honorable”

I was assigned a very honorable role by a school administrator recently. “The Mission Honorable” is to call the names of the students who are to be recognized for having achieved certain English proficiency, such as TOEIC 800, 900, 950, 990 or Step Eiken pre-1st grade or 1st grade in the graduation ceremony along with two other teachers. This year we’re expecting around 100 achievers so far. As a part of the ceremony, every achiever will be invited to the stage, and awarded a certificate and prize money. I’m not really sure if this kind of financial reward is appropriate for this occasion, and may sound controversial to some, but most of the students get motivated to study even harder by the prize money, which itself is not bad at all, I think.

I’m currently teaching general English classes for the students who’d like to transfer to university, and trying to teach them TOEIC and something beyond TOEIC. If some of them achieve the above criteria, I’ll call their names as a teacher in charge on their graduation day. I told them about “The Mission Honorable” in today’s class. “So, please achieve the criteria in order that I can call everyone’s name in the graduation ceremony, okay?” I was not 100 % sure if they’d react to the message positively, but I surely saw big smiles on their faces when I mentioned it. Their smiles and rekindled passion made me very happy.

(20 minutes / 242 words)

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Quick Write 092711 “Student Autonomy”

It’s already been two weeks since the fall semester started and I taught three sessions for one of the TOEFL classes. The designated textbook is a bunch of handouts that I’ve collected from four or five TOEFL prep books along with the audio files uploaded on the university’s Moodle-website. I’ve been constantly modifying and revising those materials, teaching methods, classroom management and the like. One of the goals that I’ll seek regarding this TOEFL class is to facilitate students’ autonomy as much as possible. It’s absolutely nothing new that teachers should help students develop their autonomy to be responsible for their own learning, but I think I’ll need to go back to the basics once again.

On Day 3, I tried something new and found out it worked well so far. For TOEFL ITP Section 2 (Structure and Written Expression), I usually introduce “Powerful Codes” from the book written by Isao Hayashi, briefly explaining his 27 rules to deal with the grammar section, and having the student solve example questions related to each rule. But this time, I filled correct answers in the blanks of the example questions to make 81 complete sentences (27 tips x 3 example questions = 81 sentences), distributed the handout with those 81 sentences, and had the students identify the main verb and the subject for each sentence individually. (I call it “SV analysis”.) Then I divided the students by cards into a group of three. They discussed 20 or 21 assigned sentences, and gave a presentation on their conclusions. In the group work, they created hypotheses, discussed them, adjusted them, find the alternatives, discuss them, and drew conclusions. I suppose they can learn a great deal from talking about the problems with the people with the similar proficiency, making the same mistakes, learning how to adjust their hypotheses by the feedback from the teacher, and feeling the sense of achievement as a group when they finally get the things right.

On Day 4 this Friday, the students will get together again, share their individual work, discuss it, and share what they reach in class. I’ll implement more of this kind of group work in the other TOEFL classes this semester. It may be partly because what Dr. Beglar said in the previous class, quote, “Research shows that students pay more attention to what their peers say than to what teachers say.” Yeah, it’s a sad truth, and I have no objection to that. So, why not take advantage of “the” truth?

(25 minutes / 417 words)

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Quick Write 092611 “Hey Burgess, snip, snip”

The other day I saw an Irish film probably for the first time. I’m talking about a 1993 Irish television film “The Snapper”. The movie is set in a working- class family in Dublin. The 20 year old daughter Sharon got herself pregnant, but refused name the father. She decides to keep the baby (“snapper”), and the whole family starts supporting her. It turned out that it was Sharon’s friend’s father who took advantage of her while she was drunk (I’d say Sharon was responsible for what happened that night to some extent, though.), which surprises and saddens her father. At the end Sharon gave birth to her baby, and laughs out loud at the baby’s name “Georgina”.

What the movie impresses me most is the father and his paternal love. He was quite shocked by his daughter’s pregnancy, but tried to give her all the support he could offer. The funny part is that he studies about child birth and female anatomy to better understand Sharon’s situation and prepare for her future labor, but it gave him and his wife “an unexpected bonus” in their bed. The reaction of his wife to what he’s done for the first time is so real and funny, by the way.

The title of today’s QW piece “Hey Burgess, snip, snip” is uttered by the father to the guy who made Sharon pregnant. You’d know what the father wants to cut it off, right? The guy, George Burgess (his name reminds us of somebody famous.) glances at the father and soon got into his house with no words. The scene could’ve made much more serious or violent, but the father’s anger and hatred to Burgess is turned into humor, which doesn’t seem out of place at all.

While seeing the movie, I was thinking of my father. I tried imagining what he would’ve done if I had been in Sharon’s situation. My father is a so-called Japanese classic strict father, and I had absolutely no idea how he would’ve reacted, but I just know he would’ve eventually supported me just like the father has done to Sharon in the movie. My father would’ve never said “Snip, snip” with scissors in his hands, though.

(25 minutes / 370 words)

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Quick Write 092511 “A Gypsy sense of adventure”

“A Gypsy sense of adventure” – What a fascinating phrase. I came across the article on Helen Mirren, the Oscar-winning British actress with Russian roots. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/sep/25/helen-mirren-the-debt-interview) Honestly, I didn’t know much of her. I kind of remember seeing her in several movies, but the photo on the article quickly had me recognize this lady. Yes, she is Helen Mirren. The article covers her career and personal life, every detail of which was very intriguing to me. The writer occasionally quotes her words during the interview, and those comments are honest, candid and real.

The article has a link of You Tube videos of her interview in 1975, (quote, “the compulsive You Tube clip”), and I watched them. She was so gorgeous and graceful. At the beginning of the interview, Parkinson, the male host introduces her as “sluttishly erotic", and poses rude questions, but she wisely and elegantly fends all the nonsense. When Parkinson asks “You are, in quotes, a 'serious actress'; do you find what might best be described as your equipment hinders you in that pursuit?”, she murmurs “How dare you?”, but soon responds “Describe in detail what you mean by my equipment.”without any hesitation or resentment. Those interactions were, of course, not scripted and she was 30 at that time. I couldn’t help praising the way she deals with the situation. Now she’s in her 60’s, and is as beautiful and gorgeous as she’s ever been. And her career is as thriving as ever. It sounds so nice for her to say “'I still have a Gypsy sense of adventure.” This line was enough to make me fall in love with her- a lady with full of charms.

(20 minutes / 279 words)

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