Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reevaluating Student/Teacher Relationships... via Facebook

Gretchen's status: Gretchen Marie is still trying to decide how to approach being a teacher on Facebook.

Social medias such as Facebook have completely revolutionized the way we deal with relationships across the board. You are now not "official" until your relationship is there for all the world to see on Facebook. You are not "friends" until that relationship is concrete and the person is added to your friend list. And of course no day would be complete without the obligatory mundane status updates.

Although I fought this invasion into my personal life for quite a few years, I finally succumbed to the madness about three years ago. And even though I'm on the old side of college life, I still consider Facebook for my generation. I'm still almost a student, right?

Except then I noticed that all MY students are on Facebook. And they all want to be my Friend.

Now don't get me wrong. My Facebook account isn't juicy by any stretch of the imagination. But there's still some line I'd like to draw between what my kids know about my personal life and what they'd see if they were my friends on Facebook. Some questionably written wall posts. Some pictures of me at parties. Even some pictures of me with, gasp, BOYS.

My unwritten rule when I was still a student was that I would not friend my teachers until I was out of their classroom AND if I had had a bit of a personal relationship with them. As I was a grad student, I had fairly good relationships with most of my teachers. And then there were my TAs in some classes, who happened to be some of my good friends in real life... Grad school gets complicated when it comes to teachers and friends.

So when 50 or so of my girls started sending me friend requests on Facebook, I had a decision to make. Should we be "Friends"? Should I take our student/teacher relationship to a whole new level and give my kids a new outlet for pestering me about grades?

I decided that no, I did not want to be a Friend to my girls while I was still their teacher. But... I won't be their teacher anymore in a grand total of four days.

So I've already created a group that will SEVERELY limit their access to anything personal on my site. They will be able to see my information and send me messages. And that's pretty much it. No pictures. No wall posts. Nothing remotely juicy.

And no student/teacher relationship to influence. Besides, it will be a good way for me to stay in touch with my girls.

Bring on the Friend requests.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Alternative Definitions

Heather just posted a similar post on her blog, but as these are my students, I wanted credit for their cuteness as well.

Recently, they took a vocabulary test in which they had to write the meaning and a sentence containing ten of 35 vocabulary words they chose and memorized. Even though the original definitions were from a dictionary, my girls still got a bit confused about what was what. Some of my girls had brilliant meanings and sentences. And then there were these.

Grumpy: something is nice.
Clumsy: something is not tidy. I hate someone is clumsy.
Vibrant: a thing that move. My mobile vibrat when I was at school.
Trudge: a deep hole. I love to go inside a deep hole.
Shiver: to move the water behind the boat.
Waddle: were we put the boat. I like to waddle the boat.
Toss: plural of toes.
Grumpy: is to made or because something wet. My brother made my room grumpy.
Portrayal: a tall plant that is grown in wet places.
Intimate: in bissness.
Caught: something you were in the winter. he is warring a nice red and blue caught.
Crept: like a potato that is grown in large quantities.
Vacant: a vacant is a person who workes for help. I saw a vacant in the park.
Sting: something so sticky. There is something stingy over there.
Odd: person that is helping people. This odd is not working anymore because it was fired.

Or Door Number Three?

I had my life frantically set in to some semblance of an order. Until Door 3 opened up.

Instead of running back to America with my tail between my legs in mid-July, I am going to be teaching English at a summer English program/camp with Bell Amman. I will teach about the same amount of hours I do now but for WAY more money. Plus, because it's a camp, I'll be doing way more fun activities instead of teaching straight from a curriculum like I was doing this year.

The other great thing about it is that each session is three weeks long, then some days off. So I'll also have plenty of time to get in all the traveling I still need to do before I get the heck out of here.

So far, my schedule looks like this:

June 4 - 7: Go to Albania for a friend's wedding.

June 12: Last day of school at Ahliyyah.

June 13 - 16: Go to Dahab, Egypt, by myself, if I can work up the nerve. Apparently it has some spectacular snorkeling. I just have to talk myself into being braver about being a single woman in the Middle East. And, frankly, Dahab is NOT scary. Zip up your man suit and go snorkeling, Gretchen.

June 20: Start work at Bell Amman

June 25 - 26: Wadi Rum with Lena and her family

July 7 - 17: First vacation! Israel and Palestine with Lena.

July 18: Start second session at Bell Amman

August 4 - 8: Second vacation! Go to Tel Aviv.

August 19: Last day of working for Bell Amman

August 20: My birthday!

August 21 - 31: Syria and Lebanon with Heather

September 1 - 9thish: hang out in Amman with Lena

September 9thish - End of Eid: Travel with Lena

End of Eid: Go back to America for a month

Mid-October: Move to Toronto with my Jimmy and my children!

Note to self: Find job in Toronto before moving.

I'm tired just thinking about it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Door Number One or Door Number Two

As it turns out, I'm going with Door Number Two.

Yes, that's right. For all of you anxiously awaiting news of my pending future, I am in fact leaving Jordan and coming back to the U.S. (or Canada) next year.

I will finish out the semester at my school, travel frantically with whoever lets me tag along on trips and then sail back to the U.S., loaded down with all my Middle Eastern booty, hopefully in mid-July.

I will then travel a bit around the U.S., seeing old friends and staying in the house just long enough to enjoy being with my parents but not long enough for me and my father to start bickering. Then my hope is to move to Toronto with Jimmy in mid-August.

Before I leave, however, I will attempt to cross out quite a few more must-see places on my Middle Eastern itinerary. I'll go to Syria, Lebanon and Dahab in June and I'm aiming for Israel and Palestine in July. Anyone in the Middle East want to join?

The one flaw in my oh-so-perfect plan is, of course, that I don't actually have a job in Toronto... And it turns out that, despite all of the If-Bush/Obama-gets-elected-I'll-move-to-Canada threats, Canada does not seem to appreciate Americans waltzing in and demanding work. It appears I have to find a job before I get a work permit. Who knew.

SOOOOoooo, if anyone has any contacts in the writing/editing/communications/publishing/public relations/teaching/event planning/administration/anything else willing to give me money fields over there, I would LOVE to hear from them.

Until then, I have two months left to enjoy my Middle Eastern home and all that it has to offer (i.e. cheap spa treatments, argeeleh, hills that keep my butt in shape, cheap dvds, shwarma, and of course my very wonderful best friends who I will miss very much.).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Gretchen sacrifices a few fingers for a kitten

If you'll recall, a while ago I blogged about the relentless mating cats all over Jordan were doing and the inevitable offspring that would start appearing after these unions. Up until today, I hadn't seen many of the fruits of said couplings.

Until today.

Lena and I were taking our customary Sunday walk (for the first time in about a month) up some stairs. We spotted an offshoot to the right of said stairs, and right in the middle of the path was an adorable little kitten. We stealthily followed cute kitten down the path and met not only him but his sibling and mother. Just at that moment, an obnoxious little boy came out of the apartment next to us and proceeded to chase cute kitten down the stairs and almost out onto the busy road.

I overtook obnoxious boy with the intention of beaning him on the head if I got close enough, but he ran away. I was then stuck with the task of reuniting cute kitten with mommy and sibling.

I attempted to gently chase cute kitten back up to mommy and sibling, but the stairs were twice his height, and he was exhausted. Feisty, too. He was hissing at me like nobody's business.

I couldn't just leave him so close to the road, however, so, telling him that it was for his own good and that I was very sorry, I scooped up cute kitten.

He did not appreciate this high-handed rescue attempt and proceeded to reduce my fingers to shreds with his teeny kitten claws. Fortunately, I've had a lifetime's experience withstanding cat attacks, so I calmly kept my grip on him and deposited him back down the alley where we first saw mommy and sibling. His high-pitched screaming should have been enough to call mommy back over to where she could find him easily.

Good cat deed of the day, accomplished. Now to put anti-bacterial on my bleeding hands...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Me talks English reel good

I have spent a considerable amount of both time and money throughout the years perfecting my knowledge and usage of the English language.

I've read like a maniac since the day I could first hack out sentences in my Easy-Reader. I actually loved English class for teaching me grammar and how to diagram sentences, a sentiment the majority of my classmates did NOT share. I had a college-level vocabulary in the eighth grade and pretentiously use big words in everyday conversations. I've done two degrees in English-related fields, and the last one contained a grammar-INTENSIVE course that pretty much knocked out any English mistakes that creep into my writing with a mallet the size of the Washington monument.

Before I got to Jordan, I could write 3,000-word articles for magazines with not a single mistake in grammar, spelling or typing. I could edit articles all day for the same. I was an almost foolproof proofreader who took the time to look up grammar rules at work if I was the least bit unsure. They called me the comma queen at my last job because I knew a rule for placing or taking out a comma anywhere in the sentence almost every time.

I was GOOD at English. Not just James Brown "I Feel Good" good but Mohammad Ali "I AM the Greatest" good.

Then I got to Jordan. Now I spend all day every day listening to broken English. I read children books more than I read adult books. I constantly correct 5th grade English essays that, while good for their age and ability level, can contain every type of grammar, punctuation or spelling mistake out there.

And tragically I'm absorbing English mistakes into my own writing at an alarming and disheartening rate, and my English level has plummeted down to a barely passing 5th grader's. Yep. I just might fail my own class.

When I speak on the phone to someone I know doesn't understand English very well, I find myself saying things like, "No, that's bad time. You come later? I wait you." or copying phrases such as "near to" from my foreign friends.

When writing, I have homophone trouble the likes of which would make my Magazine Editing teacher burst into tears of frustration, and today I managed to spell "their" on the board as "thier." Twice. And my kids had to correct it for me. SO embarrassing.

I'm starting have the urge to read incredibly long, intellectual novels in flawless English... just to prove I still can. WHILE I still can.

Because tomorow mine english mite not is so good.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A normal day in Jordan

So yesterday, after an uneventful yet taxing day at work, I come home and Heather tells me the news of the day. (disclaimer: I have read none of the news reports on this myself as most of them were in Arabic. Therefore all of this info is exponentially second hand.)

Up in part of the city where we used to live, there was apparently a trio of Bedouins who were dealing drugs of unknown specifications. The police attempted a drug bust and the dealers retaliated by attacking the fully armed officers with long freaking swords. Now the sword is a mighty weapon indeed, especially when wielded by a master, but they didn't reach quite as far as the police guns. And the police were a bit peeved that drug crazed sword bearers were slashing at them.

End result - one of the dealers got killed. As is the norm here in the Middle East, his extensive family was a bit ticked off as well. They showed their displeasure at the death of their relative by subtly rioting in the streets, shooting off guns and setting fire to things.

Many people couldn't run errands or go to work because of the ruckus. Apparently it's a totally legit excuse if you say you couldn't make it to work because there was a shooting going on outside.

Comparatively, doing grading analyses all day is sounding positively cheery.

Cake Cake Cake

Just a side note. It took us a very long time to find decent cakes here in Amman. All the cakes were too... fluffy... and fake tasting... for lack of a better way to describe them.

But we have now found the mecca of cakes. Mirabelle Cakes, in Abdoun just behind the Abdoun Mall, has phenomenal cakes and excellent baklava just in case you need to indulge that sweet tooth just a little bit more.

I can highly recommend Mirabelle Cakes from plenty of experience; last month I ordered three different cakes for three different birthdays, and each cake was rapture in chocolate form.

Try the snickers. Just the right amount of crunchy goodness.