Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Art of Communication Tested

Midterm exams have just ended at Ye Olde Academy, and the results for my 7th grade Oral Communication test were interesting. I was worried I'd made the test too hard, but the kids went and gave me the best average score ever for this time of year. Rarely does any student get 100% on one of my tests. This time eight did. No complaints from me. That's for sure.

On an exam like this interesting things can happen. I know I could just make it based on rote memorization; that's what most teachers in Japan tend to do. I don't. It's a "communication" class, so it's a "communication" test, i.e. the students are never sure just what's going to be on it, and there's always room for variation. I ask questions verbally, and the students write down appropriate responses. Once they realize that I often give credit for "non-standard" answers (as long as they still fit the question), they sometimes get inventive. The ones whose English level has progressed beyond that of their classmates are particularly notorious in that respect. I'm sure questions based on basic grammar are pretty boring for them, so they probably welcome a chance to spice it up. That also helps prevent my test-marking from getting too dull.

A tame example would be the student who responded to the question, "Do you eat sushi every day?" with, "No, I don't. I eat it only sometimes. I want more." Then there's the girl who replied to, "What does your best friend do after school?" with, "She talks. She always talks." The other end of that spectrum would be the boy who answered, "Are you and your classmates busy or free?" by writing simply, "Don't ask."

Even the more static test problems sometimes yield unexpected results. One of the gems this time was the vocabulary portion. One of the words was "wife". I gave the Japanese version (okusan), and the kids had to translate it. Most of them got it, but there were some interesting mistakes. The most common flub-up was kids who remembered the word and its pronunciation but tried to write it phonetically using Romanized Japanese spelling, producing "waif". (Yeah, I'm sure my okusan has been feeling like a bit of a "waif" these days with all the stress she has been going through.) A bit less explicable were the trio of kids that wrote "wolf". (Hey, now that's taking things a bit too far!) And then of course there was the plucky individual that wrote "Worf"! (Woah...hold on! Just WHAT are you trying to imply??? You are definitely without honor!)

Never a dull moment...even in the dullness of exam week.


Speaking of strangeness, I've been tagged by San. This time I'm supposed to list seven strange things about myself. Well, I posted a meme with more or less the same theme two years ago. I wonder if I could possibly come up with seven more strange facts about myself. (Hey, I heard that!) I suppose it couldn't hurt to try:

1. Variety is the spice of life. I think I take it to an extreme. I've already mentioned that my musical tastes are diverse. So are my tastes in just about everything else. In fact, whenever I buy food or drinks (or cat food), instead of sticking with one particular type that I like, I tend to get a lot of different things. I quite often arrive at the check-out counter with six or eight cans of beer and four 2-liter bottles of pop, each a different type. Every once in a while I'll lock into a certain habit for a time, such as when a certain fast food restaurant I used to frequent would immediately pop the same items on the grill when I walked in the door, but it rarely lasts long before I wind up doing something completely different.

2. The nose knows. I like things that smell good. I started smoking a pipe in college (and still do on occasion) mainly because I like the smell of pipe tobacco. I also got in the habit of burning an incense match while studying or writing, which led to all kinds of suspicions about what I was really doing. After coming to Japan and finding that both pipe tobacco and incense matches were extremely hard to find, I started smoking certain more aromatic brands of cigarettes for a while (never more than a single cigaratte per day) and then had a dubious flirtation with room deodorizers before I started collecting scented candles. Now I have a drawer full of the things plus growing stocks of aromatherapy oil, cone incense, and stick incense. And of course they are all of different kinds. I do burn them, too.

3. Once is enough. Once I get dressed in the morning I absolutely hate having to change my clothes except to go to bed. That's one of the reasons why I rarely go swimming...and have had a notorious habit of showing up at the beach in long pants, much to the consternation of friends.

4. We don't wear short shorts. Actually, another reason why I shun the swimming pool and come to the beach fully clothed is that I have long avoided wearing clothing that exposes my legs. The way I see it, I'm doing people a favor. My legs are ugly.

5. Am I Tagged or not...? I mentioned in the old meme that I was something of a precocious child, i.e. I was already reading books and playing the piano by ear when I was four. I also mentioned how my English proficiency was years ahead of my classmates in my grade school days, high enough to earn me some special honors. Junior high was a bit less triumphant. Perhaps the biggest problem was that I simply stopped giving a damn for a while, so fed up was I with being singled out by my teachers, pressured by my parents, and alienated to some extent by my peers. However, I wasn't prepared for the letter that suddenly arrived partway through my 8th grade year saying, "Were you not aware that you were selected for the TAG (Talented And Gifted) program?" My parents replied saying that they hadn't been, and I was promptly whisked off for a battery of tests. A few weeks later another letter arrived, this one saying, "We're sorry, but you haven't been selected for TAG after all." Yeah, whatever, dudes.

6. Anything you can do... Senior high school, on the other hand, brought GATB (General Aptitude Test Battery), the series of tests designed to help kids determine their path in life. I thought it was fun. In fact, I was the only student in the school that got a result of "High Aptitude" in every single occupational category. In other words, theoretically at least, I was cut out to do pretty much anything. So what happened? My guidance counselor talked me into a college major for which I was totally unsuited. My actual career path (if you can call it that) turned out to be almost one hundred and eighty degrees in the other direction. C'est la Vie.

7. Guardian spirits. I tend to have a "guardian" placed wherever I often spend time. My "pendragon" (a Tunturi sculpture of a dragon that is a penholder) sits atop this computer. There are also a couple of laser-etched crystals with images of orcas as well as a "Santa M&M" on my computer stand. The bookcase next to me is guarded by a pair of trolls sent by an old chat pal from Norway. My studio upstairs is guarded by Amidala. The "altar" in the northeast corner next to it is watched by a troll doll, a stuffed Muttley, and a chest full of all kinds of things. Even my desk at work is guarded by a pair of koalas brought back from Australia.

Alright, that's seven. I tag anyone who reads this...if you've got the guts.

Also, here's another new tune I just finished. It's another kind of experimental and totally impulsive instrumental called "Erweina". The title is a fantasy place name known to several regular visitors here (who will probably roll their eyes). More details can be found on my Minstrel's Muse site. Enjoy!


  • And you are sure that it is Muttley and not Ken-Ken? (wink)

    Your #5 answer was interesting because I was similarly advanced at a young age and it similarly faded by the time I was in junior high school. I also had a similar TAG experience without the tests and not all the kids who wound up participating seemed very bright.

    I remember the GATB, but not the results.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 5:53 AM  

  • The way things smell is so very important to me. You should see how long I spend at the store when it's time to buy a new shampoo/conditioner or soap or lotion. Even face wash has to pass a sniff test. And, sort of like you, whenever I think I've found the face lotion I will use for the rest of my life, another comes along to tempt me astray.

    And, although I disagree with smoking, and don't burn incense anymore because my room is so small, I do like the smell of pipe tobacco. My dad used to use a pipe and the box he used was infused for years with the sweet rich scent. After he quit I used to play with the pipe cleaners in there, and the aroma is burnt into my memory. So one day in London, St James's near to the Ritz of course, I actually trailed behind an old gentleman for a couple of blocks while he lit his pipe and puffed away.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 6:18 AM  

  • Interesting to know you more from the MEME :)

    Here in Indonesia, the weather can be really hot and humid, sometimes people take shower more than 2 times a day... thus we have to change more than 2 times... guess it wont suit you, hehehe...

    By Blogger Selba, at 4:09 PM  

  • Snabudon
    Hard to say. They look awfully similar...

    I remember you talking about your youthful TAG experience. I always thought it was an interesting coincidence. I guess you and I are both former precocious children that fell victim to apathy.

    I remember they made a huge deal about my GATB result since I was the only one they'd ever heard of getting top marks in all categories (of which there were something like fifty). That was the excuse my counselor used when she insisted I major in engineering. "You can do anything, so why not go where the money is?" Listening to that was one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made.

    Then again, looking back at my path in life thus far, everything happened because of what happened before it, so I guess it's probably for the best.

    You've oft mentioned your fondness for proper olfactory ambience on your blog, m'lady, and I've always thought that to be an interesting connection. But yet I'd say it fits. You've always struck me as kind of an all-around atmosphere person, i.e. the style, color, lighting, mood, and fragrance all need to be in their proper places. That probably just goes hand in hand with your appreciation for art.

    Which makes me ask again: Why don't you carry a sketchbook/journal with you and jot down what strikes your fancy? I'm sure you could be very good at it if you tried.

    Having smelly, clammy clothes would definitely be motivation for me to change my ways.

    Interesting that you mention it's common for people to bathe twice a day in your part of the world, because it's...ah, never mind. I won't even go there.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 5:48 PM  

  • I love the answer "don't ask". An excellent all purpose phrase. Test? Don't ask!

    I like the thought of the smell of a pipe of tobacco. Don't think I could handle it today (I've become chemical sensitive for some reason), but my dad smoked a pipe and I did too for short while in college and I have good memories of it general.

    Memories associated with sensory stimulation (I know what you're thinking - stop it) like taste, smell, or sound, can link up in the brain to be quite strong. I have very clear memories that are triggered by certain smells, etc. For example, 30 years ago I often read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy while listening to a certain Hawaiian music album. Now when I hear songs from that album I think of passages from the book.

    word verification: Swisis

    "Swisis" hot chocolate with marshmallows on a snowy day.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 6:23 PM  

  • Minstrel - you've encapsulated me very well there, you know.

    I do carry a notebook. I never slow down long enough to sketch, and I don't tend that way much anymore, but I am likely to sit in the subway and jot something down once every few weeks.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 10:51 AM  

  • Not a dull moment, indeed. Thanks for sharing.

    I used to love the smell of tobacco from a pipe. I remember an old boss (an Austrian) used to smoke in the office - back when smoking was allowed indoors - and I loved the fragrance.

    Strange and smart you are, MM. ;)

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 2:02 PM  

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