Friday, August 5, 2011

Football Fanaticism: Part 2

  It's rainy season. You know the monsoon scene in Jumanji? Yeah, it's kind of like that - with plants that fire poisonous barb projectiles and all. 

  I just can't get enough football action here! A few Fridays ago the teacher footballers organized a match between Foreign and Thai teachers that was held in the gym. There were three bottles of whisky marked as the prize, so it got pretty competitive. Plenty of students and the other American teachers spectated from the stands to cheer us on. The foreigners were off to a rough start while the Thai teachers passed the ball around us with ease. I felt like I was in a pinball machine for a few minutes, just watching the ball zip by me between the teachers. We must have been behind by at least five goals by half time. Somehow we managed to redeem ourselves by catching up by the end of the match and only fell short by one goal! The final score was 11-12. Sure, we lost, but we all ended up sharing the whisky later that night at Karaoke. After the match the Thai teachers invited the foreign players to go out with them for a private Karaoke party. We had no idea where we were going, but it's always fun to party with them and good times are a guarantee. So, that night we split into groups to take cabs to the Karaoke place. As the driver took us away from the city and into some dimly lit rural neighborhoods infested with wild soi (street) dogs, we were a little nervous. To our pleasant surprise we arrived at a really nice resort area on the side of a canal. I can't remember if the place is entirely dedicated for Karaoke parties. The stone path walled with exotic plants led me past flowing waterfall fountains and peaceful ponds to our Karaoke room. I need to find some pictures of this place. The Thai teachers were waiting for us, so we gathered around the table and passed around the food and whisky. Side note: each glass contained a shot of whisky and was then filled with soda water. We weren't in any hurry. I think everyone sang at least one song and we all had a great time making fools of ourselves. Football fanatic sighting: one of the Thai teachers is obsessed with Manchester United; a lot of Thai people are. But I didn't realize the extent of his fanaticism until Karaoke night. He was sporting a red Manu U polo and watch, however, that's not all. I learned the pinnacle of his dedication is that he is naming his unborn daughter after one of the newest talents on team! Now that is a fan!

  The next day our entire group went to a Chelsea vs Thailand game at the stadium near ABAC. There were a surprising amount of Thai Chelsea fans. You would think that Thailand would support their own country, however I heard that the Thailand team was not the true national team, so maybe they felt more inclined to support the famous footballers on Chelsea. I guess it would be a similar situation in the U.S. if a popular Premier League team played a lower ranked American team. If you're not supporting the best players who represent your country, then you might as well cheer on the foreign super stars. Nevertheless, it was pretty cool to see the Chelsea team in action and they destroyed Thailand 5-0. After the game a few Thai fans asked my friends and I for photos with them. One of them said I looked like a famous player from Barcelona which made me laugh. 

  This week I spent my time helping with the IPSLE examinations for M1 (8th grade) students. IPSLE stands for International Primary School Language Examination. Each day the testing lasted from early morning until noon and forbade us from teaching in the afternoon in order to prevent unwanted dispersal of exam information. I certainly didn't mind having the afternoons off! My role during the exam was to work with another foreign teacher to grade the students on two parts of the test: reading and conversation. The student would read a short passage aloud to us while we graded them on a scale of 1-10 for pronunciation, errors, clarity and so on. The conversation part involved unrelated personal questions. The goal was to ask a question to encourage the student to expand upon it without further assistance from us. However, we rarely had a smooth conversation with the student. Most of the students read word-by-word with many errors and had difficulty understanding our questions and formulating intelligible answers. Here are the problems with the examination structure:

1. The reading prompt and conversation questions were written in British English rather than American English. This dilemma would catch anyone off guard due to the advanced vocabulary and varied sentence structure. My exam partner is from England and has taught at St. Gabriel's for at least five years. He is familiar with the test format and he agreed that the exam language is hard for the students to comprehend because they do not speak or write British English, only American English. One question asked, "Can you tell us about an unforgettable incident that happened to you on a journey?" (or something like that). Most of the students didn't understand the question because the word "incident". We must have rephrased the question every time. If they could answer, they thought the word was "accident" and described a time when they were injured. 
2. The required English skill level is too advanced for the students. St. Gabriel's sets a high bar for the students that is beyond their skill level. Many important diplomats and royal family members have graduated from this school, so St. Gabriel's wants to maintain it's prestigious reputation. However, it is quickly deteriorating because of the IPSLE results. They expect the students to be able to read and converse at a high level, but they barely learn anything in class. Most of the students copy each other just to finish their assignments on time. The only students who excelled on the exam throughout the entire week were those who have studied abroad in England or Canada. Although they study there for only three weeks, it makes a huge difference in their English skills. If a student does not study abroad or work with a tutor they will quickly fall behind. 
It was an easy, yet tiring task to listen to the same reading and ask the same questions so many times. I pitied the students who were overwhelmed by the difficulty of the exam, even though we tried to simplify things as best we could. I could see it in their faces that they felt defeated and stressed. We tried not to grill them with too many questions that they couldn't handle. The highest total grade we gave out of the whole week was a 17 and the lowest being a 2 (out of 20). Most of the students fell in between these two scores. Based on the low scores given this week, it is possible that the Singapore education board that oversees the operation could remove St. Gabriel's from its list of testing locations, which would obviously be embarrassing for the school. We'll see what happens. 

  Song of the Day:
I found this remix this week during a search through Youtube. I looked up additional remixes from an artist that I was vaguely familiar with and I was happy to find more great remixes by the same musician. At first I was unsure of how the singing would compliment the house feel of the song, but I have been jamming to this tune all week! I hope you do the same! It's something to lift your spirits after that dismal recap of the examinations. 
Dune - Heiress of Valentina (Alesso Exclusive Mix) <<< Download

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