Thursday, March 31, 2005

"Secret Training"

This term I got from the AIESECer who introduced me to AIESEC, Yasuteru. He used it in reference to practising his roller-blading on Mission Bay. To practice without others around. I used the term today and my Japanese students laughed.. Maybe it is a bit of Japanese English now.

I had my "Secret Training" tonight, practising the Korean song "I believe" repetitively. It is the first song I have sung all of and can sing in time with the music. I can thank Master Winston Kim for his guidance and singing teaching.

I was pleasantly surprised that the karaoke place had some song such as Creep and even Fake Plastic Trees (which only people like me would sing) both by Radiohead.

Anyway, tomorrow is the day of song. And strangely it is the Japanese song that I'll have to sing which is making me nervous.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter (caution: contains thoughts of religious nature)

I have been musing a lot about finding the reality of things, such as what Waitangi day really signifies to me etc. It is easy to just take a holiday and enjoy it, but it has always felt strange to not know upon what the things we see are based. Easter has been like that too. A good time for a holiday or an AIESEC conference. But there is naturally a root that lies in the past.

Easter originates from the resurrection of Christ and pagan Spring festivals, and now is buffeted by social constructivistic forces. The resurrection of Christ is what I am reading most about lately (although I am interested in finding out about the pagan side one day too). I was quite glad to be reading the last few chapters of Matthew (from the New Testament) which detail Christ's crucifixion on Good Friday and Saturday. Of course, I knew the story previously but I have been gaining more knowledge and perspective of it with every day.

It is this day that really is the beating heart of Christianity. It is to understand how it works that reveals exactly its power. And as any Christian SHOULD tell you, it is not to intellectually accept creation or even the existence of God, the faith in the reality or not of the death and resurrection of Christ and its significance should be the acid test of one's own atheism.

Reading the Bible is mind-altering. On Good Friday, I read a section of Matthew 24 : 30, describing the Second Coming of Christ: "At that time, the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the people of the world will cry. They will see the Son of Man coming on clouds in the sky with great power and glory." The strange thing is that I had a dream of this kind several weeks previously. I remember I was in the middle of another dream when suddenly the sky went dark and then out of the sun came bright figures riding horses. My mother in the dream, cursed them in a strange way (she is not Christian and often speaks suspiciously of religion). That was spooky. Dreams are unnerving in this way. My religious co-worker at Intrax says his wife has visions in her dreams.

That being said, my understanding of my own mind is that which I am gaining through these experiences.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Office Politics

I have been caught amidst office politics in the last 24 hours as the result of a charitable, yet practical move on my part. It was deliberate, a little bit of an experiment, and has been showing some remarkable consequences.
I also may have incidentally interfered with management's attempts attempts to give a fellow worker the old-heave-hoe.

It all started when the formerly 'meek' co-worker of mine found herself without an afternoon class after rejecting what was available. She made some noise, and then got the opportunity to assist me in making the curriculum while the rest of us taught in the afternoon. This sounded good for me at first as she is a resource ferret, capable of finding books and chapters to suit any subject or purpose. But I found her to be difficult to work with. Eventually after being nagged for eight minutes of my ten minute break by her (she didn't have a class), with her speaking over everything I said, and then her complaining about me to the administrator saying I speak to her as if she were a primary school student, I started to wonder what would placate her grumbling disquiet.

Then she found that next week she would have no morning class. She made a noise standing in the doorway of the administrator, asking him what classs he could teach (the answer: no class) and saying that she'd have to look for another job. For me, this was a little awkward in that technically I thought I should stand aside as I am on a casual contract, whereas she was with the company through thick and thin (and boy was it thin in the past year) and is on a more permanent contract than I. But there was never this suggestion by management or to her.

Then I thought briefly about my own position. Since becoming full-time AND doing additional curriculum work, I have stopped applying for other jobs (since my last interview). I have been swamped. And if I don't do anything I will be here forever. So I thought I could propose a win-win situation. I would give up my morning class in the morning to her and restart my job-search. I'd also be freer to do the curriculum development (which still pays) and I would have time to work on my own projects.

BUT the biggest surprise was the administrators reaction. He said that he was under instructions to give work to those who are willing to work, and she, the meek one, was not one to accept what she was given. In other words, she had been rejecting the classes she had been offered and hence was in the situation where she has no classes (and consequently complained). He tried to persuade me to do otherwise, warning me that if I were to give her my classes, she might not give them back when I return. I thought that would be an interesting eventuality (would she feel any right to return the class?). He told me about the discontent of management with her. But I emphasised my reasons for doing so, i.e. to re-start my job search. He eventually conceded (as he had to). And later the meek one commented without much excitement that she was teaching my class next week.

LATER, the meek one complained about a new development announced by management. The edict from above was that seniority doesn't apply to teachers. This was fascinatingly unnatural. Why would a company say that new teachers (even the part-timers) should keep their classes when a committed full-time teacher lacks a class (as the result of merging or graduation)? This became clearer in three following situations. The administrator came to me, and told me I should discuss with her what happens after two weeks. i.e. to make some agreement to share, or return the class back to me rather than wait till that time came. Then the general manager came to me and made sure of my reasons for doing having the break in the morning. He doesn't usually get involved with staffing issues but he came to me to ask whether I was really doing this for my own reasons or whether I was being gentlemanly and standing aside for her. After I told him I wasn't being gentlemanly, he said it was fine and reiterated that they wouldn't stand in my way to pursue other employment and left.

Just before the meek one left for the day, I asked her about what would happen when I came back, and she said quite plainly that management had told her that the two weeks of morning class I asked for were a 'holiday' (despite me working in the afternoons) and that due to seniority not mattering any more I would definitely go back to the Intermediate class I was teaching 2 weeks previously upon my return to full-time teaching. So interesting! My conclusion is that management wants to give her an indirect flick and make her jump. But then I ruined the culmination of this plan. They had disgruntled her, stripped her of work and then the Daniel fly landed squarely in the ointment. As a result, they had even changed the implicit rules of seniority to maintain the edge in evicting her from the job.

All in an 'Auckland' day...

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Best Laid Plans

I just have to say that this is one well-constructed plot-trick movie. I loved the conclusion. It is a great moral play and probably the best movie I have seen on TV.

Campbell Live debuted tonight, and I think it was well done. It provided depth and evidence to base opinions on, rather than the biased ranting of Paul Holmes or the arrogance/ignorance of Susan Wood. It was very cohesive, informative, truly investigative too. I await further developments especially when it comes to the actual live interviews. And also whether Helen Clark will ever be interviewed by the "little creep" again...

Sunday, March 20, 2005

40 hours

For the nth time, I have completed the forty hour famine. I like it as a traditional challenge. And my first food afterwards was a delicious, Award-winning hot-crossed bun with jam. Yummy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

No more leads...

Well, I have fired all my shots, and still have nothing to show for it. I just got back a letter to say I wasn't shortlisted for the NZ Army museum Education Officer position. I had had quite a bit of hope of at least getting an interview.

Now it really is back to the drawing board, as I am not really 'waiting' for anything now. Tomorrow afternoon, I will be 're-loading' and set off my best shots before the 'second term' jobs vanish and (*gasp*) 'third term' positions suddenly appear... (shudders...). My father has given me a good lead that I haven't yet done justice to, so that will be my first target.

My ESOL work has consumed me in the last few weeks and I have been getting results too. Another odd phenomenon was a spontaneous pay-rise. The administrator just came out yesterday afternoon and said, "Congratulations, you are getting a pay-rise!". I am still on less than the high rate I was on prior to leaving in 2003, but I was not expecting to just land back at that rate. The course I am doing curriculum planning for is a wonderful success. I am teaching in a way that accommodates both high and low beginners, simultaneously. I had the great pleasure today of seeing my students seize shop assistants at Downtown shopping centre, and ask those hard questions. And try on clothes (what a joy for the girls) and gasp at the ridiculous prices...
I have made generalised dialogues for all situations in the course, and usually test them out on unsuspecting people before I teach them to the class. I also use assessment techniques which are straight from Primary teaching... which are highly appropriate for the course. There are numerous 'successes' from the course so I am grinning ear-to-ear.

Anyway, employment confusion shall still reign, and in the meantime, I have finally got my first paycheck in 16 months.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Dreams revisited

Only in the last few hours have I felt a semblance of health, but I think it is just good spirits numbing the sickness rather than a genuine recovery. I will have a good sleep tonight. My dream last night was quite an interesting one. In the early morning, I struggled to know whether it really happened.

The setting was the day before my final practicum (oddly I had a clear dream at that particular time too). I was at an early morning University class (or maybe it was an AIESEC activity) before I had to go to the practicum school. It was annoying, I thought, to have a class before I went on practicum. After that finally ended, I realised I didn't know where the school was and had to ask at a petrol station. The school's name was Parnel Normal Primary School (this name I can thank my father for, as it was a misremembered school name by him as a possible lead, the school doesn't exist). After struggling my way, just managing to get there on time, I saw all the teachers drinking coffee at the cafe style seating outside the school. I realised I didn't know who the principal was, so I just asked "Where is the principal?" She was nearby and I explained my situation, and she said she would take me to the classroom, reminding me I would be teaching from today onward, because that was what you had to do on your final practicum (this is patently wrong). I went into what was an ultra-crowded classroom with maybe 40 children. I talked with the teacher who showed me the daily plan, which was printed onto the wall, apparently it was the same everyday, so they could just leave it there printed. I watched the teacher teach for a while. But then a blonde-haired girl left the mat for some reason and I had to look after her. I held her, but there were disapproving looks from other people.

I was quite impressed by my recall of this dream. It is probably one of the more detailed sequences I have remembered. It was so vivid that for a moment I thought that I had to go to the school in the morning.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

A week at 0/2

Well a week of promise has finally found its tarnished lining. Two promising interviews have resulted in two rebuffs. Coupled with that, I have fallen ill again, with a raw throat and a constant fatigue. And to top that off my feet are causing me grief.

Now that I have removed all that negative news from my system, now for the positives. Besides my ailments, I am going pretty well. I took advantage of Borders' "student day" and also a Jason Books store sale and so I have a big pile of tempting books.

My language school Intrax was inundated with students this week with three Brazilians and four Japanese pouring in the door. The Brazilians would seem to be adding an enjoyable but tricky dynamic to the school. One is an absolute English beginner, but he is learning fast. Another is a sleazy 20 year old, with a penchant for pulling up his shirt and rubbing his belly. He has already missed a day of class due to the effect of a drinking night (on his third day in New Zealand). And then there is the mature, proficient one, whom I have not had more than a few words with. The Japanese are by comparison fairly typical.

This has all set up the course I am designing as crucial. On Monday morning, the first day of the 12-week course, I thought there would be three students in that afternoon class. But with the influx of students, suddenly I had six and one observer! (and the observer duly signed on meaning a $50 bonus for me). I was concerned about the level of the first week, as we were covering rather mundane introductions etc. but with a bit of teasing of the material it easily lasted, was good for all, from the proficient (and educationally voracious) Koreans to the beginner Brazilian whose desperate attempts to communicate have been rewarded with some phrases and words. As my sickness deepened, I haven't had a chance to develop the course more, hopefully a restful Saturday will provide a productive Sunday.

Also, the cricket has been great. A colleague and I recently cracked the secret to winning cricket. All we have to do is have me slander our players while he expresses his admiration and belief in their ability (which he admitted is hard). I spoke of the stupidity of selecting Cumming (who scored a great 74 on debut) while he spoke of the talent of Hamish Marshall (who scored an even great 140 odd). And a few comments about our hopeless bowlers by me and the logical platitudes from him have resulted in a fine bowling performance.

Any whoo, back to reclining and convalescence. Later.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Hard Day

After a late night at the pub quiz, and then a night of weird dreams of a dragon tracing my steps, everyone staying in a house overnight (a real jam), and two of my guy friends finding chemistry between them (I won't mention names), I woke up tired.

I worked through a lacklustre morning class, and then a great afternoon class. As I had an interview in howick at 5pm, I had to run for my bus to Howick which left outside Showgirls at 3:05pm (5 mins. from end of class to one the bus). I caught the wrong bus then seeing the right one, jumped on over to that one. At Hunters Corner, I had to change buses but the place they call Hunters Corner is a little more than just one stop... it is spread over several corners... so after clarifying with RideLine I thought I missed my connecting bus. So I waited there, then caught the bus (which was actually late) and arrived at 4:30pm, which should have been enough time to find the school. Regrettably, the directions I had were not good, and what's worse, I wrote one of the street names wrongly... But after some deduction, I eventually deduced the location (oh the blessings of brains) and arrived at 4:58.

The interview went well, and I will know by tomorrow whether I have got it. Pt Chevalier haven't made contact with me so I will assume the worst. If the Howick school also falls through I might need to get back up and apply for another lot of schools. Since I started working on the Curriculum in the afternoons, I have only sent in one application.

In other news, it has been a bad day for mountaineering. Not only did several climbers and a guide fall to their deaths on Mt Cook, but a body was also found on Mt Taranaki. It is creepy to hear that someone died on a summit I have visited... Cook and Taranaki are constant competitors in the killing stakes.

Now I feel thoroughly ragged, and my eyes feel horrible. I will sleep early and get ready for my class at school.

Monday, March 07, 2005

When the (not so) meek shall inherit the TOEIC class...

Another interesting trend at work is the increase in what I can only call formalism. Major position and role changes have occurred in the organisation too since I left. Those with responsibility are often still grasping what their role is, and what it entails.

It is strange to be, objectively speaking, an administration outsider. Formally, I was part of the open-committee style discussions by the former class administrator and the other teachers. Now, because I am technically only a casual staff, I really have no right to be a part of the tricky administrative issues that have arisen recently.

Really, I am chomping at the bit to have my say, but have refrained from doing so because no-one has seen it right to ask me. The person who is now entrusted with class-administration is an introvert with certain communication issues. That is not to say anything bad, but just that he still has a lot to learn.

The issue today which I secretly observed every part of was the claiming of the TOEIC class (a crappy English second "English proficiency test" cousin to IELTS, that some employers like). Due to the sudden influx a new person was taken onto the staff to allow more flexibility and simultaneously running classes. He has taught TOEIC before (as he did today). This afternoon, a long term employee suddenly found that with several new courses starting and none of the new students being attracted into her class, she became unemployed in the afternoon. Usually quiet, usually meek, she extended her foot and put it down. She would teach TOEIC and bent the arm of the class-administrator with calm logic to allow her to do so, stripping the new teacher of his afternoon class over the phone (as he had already left with all the TOEIC texts). But she doesn't know anything about TOEIC yet...

These are very understandable issues from both sides. The meek one's frustrations boiled over onto other issues too, which were also easy to see. She puts in lots of hard work and is not remunerated the same as those who formally put hard work into curriculum development. This is even starker when another worker does little preparation and takes advantage of those who make the curriculum, coasting in and out of work within a short time of the beginning and ends of class, and technically is rewarded the same as the meek one...

So, now it is all in the court of those who administrate to resolve the insoluble. To be diplomatic and pragmatic, as the importance of clear communication mounts higher.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


It has been a whirlwind world of late. Things happening. Me doing things.

I am headlong into work at my old language school (or rather the new incarnation of my old language school) and am enjoying it immensely. I have constructed a curriculum for a course I will be teaching from now on in the afternoons. And my morning classes have allowed me to reclaim my ESOL instincts, and also apply some of my primary school pedagogy, in a constructive way. The new structure of my old school and the administrative systems are interesting. The remnant of teachers of the previous era (when I left in 2003) often moan, but it is much better than that which we had previously. It is fairer too, and loaded with more accountability. The previous regime tended to be a clumsy managed rort. Once I learnt the new system I had much more appreciation for it.

Interesting trends for the last few weeks have been the vivid dreams. Just last night some other people were talking about dreams, and it got me thinking about my own. Almost every morning I have recalled my dreams. The carnivorous megafauna are still there, so are the trips into the Elsewhere.

Another interesting thing I discovered last night was that I seem to think I have met people before. And after I mused about my possible links with certain people, suddenly a Buddhist nun suddenly asked me if she had met me before. Maybe there is some deja vu in the air.

Physically, I am still plagued by foot-problems. And now I have a weird occasional nausea. It struck in particular at Whiter's party, but that was not the end of it, although nothing has come close to that which I felt that night. Initially I thought it was food poisoning, later I attributed it to expired Apple Cider Vinegar (don't ask) but since I still have it now and irregularly, I don't think so. An interesting mystery. The last time I had persistent weird symptoms, it was anaemia... But I don't think it is that now.

I am off the unemployment benefit, which was an interesting process. They want some of their money back now, which is fair enough but an annoyance to return. It is an interesting question whether I should have been on the benefit in the first place seeing I am hardly destitute. But then that is not necessarily how I think we should view the role of the Unemployment Benefit. Being formerly employed, I paid a reasonable tax for many years. This tax goes towards many things for our common good. I have decided that part of the tax I pay is simply Unemployment Insurance, and it is on that basis that I took it. I am employed again and will be contributing tax till the end of the year at least.

Yes, I am certain of my employment, and a rash of interviews have brightened me up on the primary school front. I had one at Pt Chevalier Primary just yesterday and will head to deepest, darkest Howick (Willowbank Primary School) on Wednesday to be interviewed. The Army Museum mentioned they are also shortlisting now, so fingers crossed there. My employment at my language school will be pretty secure in the mean time.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Awash with Activity

I am probably the most active, busy I have been in the last 10 months, working lots, creating curriculums, ushering, applying, going to interviews (WINZ and Willowbank School), seeing movies, pub-quizzes, babysitting, cricket, open-air performances and also a little sleep.

Coming up I have a pile of get-togethers and a lot of work to do.

Strangely, I have deprived myself of sleep but I am not tired. Must mean I have reclaimed my mojo.