Monday, March 04, 2013

What is the answer!

The days starts, as it often does, with an extended moan about the educational system in which we find ourselves trapped – more particularly the examinations which we impose on our kids. 

We find it increasingly difficult to understand why we are forcing the kids to sit pointless exercises in short term memory gain when we are not teaching them the skills that make the individual facts that they are learning meaningful. 

This is the sort of grizzling that goes on and on and, as we lack the political clout to do anything about the system, there is no satisfactory end in sight – except of course for the exhaustion of red pen after red pen!

The weather is a little more sombre today after the unexpected gift of a sunny Sunday yesterday.  At our lofty elevation we are in the clouds and Barcelona is lost in the off-white blanket of pollution rolling down the mountains.

As the examination season has come to a climax there will be spasm after spasm of pen pushing during the day which will unsettle our teaching and turn us into disgruntled invigilators and make the day so much longer.  For me this is a “long” day anyway so I will be whimpering with frustration by the end of the day – and god help any of the selfish parents who have triple parked blocking my car today!

The one positive point is that Amazon should call today with yet more discs and, more importantly, my real version of Hard Times.  I have tried to use the electronic version and it simply does not work when you are using it for academic purposes and are trying to find the right section of the book.  In some way the electronic version is idea when you have half remembered a quotation you can type in the words and hey presto! there it is!  But for quoting when writing an essay on the computer it is a disaster – or perhaps I am merely saying that I am more comfortable with a book!

I have just gone up to the two sixth form classes that are about to have a Spanish exam and, much like the creatures in Monsters Inc., I fed on their fear and feel much refreshed!  I am going to take over from colleagues who are at present starting the exam so I will have the opportunity to see how they have fared during the hour of examination delight before I continue their watching.  And watch them you have to do because they take every opportunity to cheat.  Examinations are not a time for relaxed working on your own affairs, you have to maintain a vigilance which would do the SAS proud if you want anything like a realistic result from the pen pushing!

I am now stuck in front of a class “doing” their exam and, I simply cannot face staring at them without doing something, so I can at least touch type so I can watch them and let me fingers pretend that they are doing something useful as well.  Their paper is a mixture of multiple choice and discursive questions but it does look as though the general level of work is only for memory yet again.  The kids are thoroughly bored and have does as much as they can, they are now in that dangerous time when they have to make up what they don’t know and hope for the best.  The ideal time to start cheating.  They are fascinated by the fact that I am typing without looking at the keyboard and I suppose, if nothing else, it gives them something to think about or watch rather than cheat!

I am conscious that there is a limit to the amount of vacuous typing that I can do, and there is another piece of written work that should be occupying my time – but I have given up writing the essay until I can hold the text in my hands.

The Text (the capital letters are well deserved) has arrived and it is the wrong one!  Although the description states that it is Dickens’ novel with the introduction by Kate Flint this is not the case and I have been sent a cheap version of the Penguin Classic.  Ah well, at least it is the text in book form and I can work with that.

My notes continue to expand and my inclination to put coherent sentences on paper continues to shrink.  I still haven’t found a significantly original slant on what I have to do to prompt me to put my thoughts forward for critique.  I think I am trying too much and I should settle down and do as I am told in the Assignment Booklet notes and not strive for more – but we shall see after I have completed my umpteenth reading of the novel, but now with added sensual addition of feeling fingers on actual pages.  It makes all the difference.

To sweeten the blow of the wrong text being sent, I had another package from Amazon with my next slew of discs.  Toni is now frankly worried at my escalating rate of purchase, but I can’t stop myself because if the bargains are there, who am I to resist them.

The most interesting of my purchases in a five disc set of “Music from the Middle Ages” with disc five being entitled “L’agonie du Languedoc” and who can resist such an offering!  Well, realistically I suppose that the answer to that would be “most people” but as I already have music about the disgraceful slaughter of the Cathars (including a wonderful extract from an episcopal letter urging right thinking Christians to slaughter the heretical inhabitants of the Languedoc in the name of the God of Love!) I am one of the other group who looks forward to listening to such music with absolute relish!

The only oddity among the other box sets which include The Hilliard Ensemble with music by Ockenghem, Desprez, De la Rue and Lassus and another Baroque Collection with music by Albinoni, Bach, Handel, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Purcell, Telemann and Vivaldi is a box set of the ballets, orchestral works and film music of Prokofiev.

I think that “Lieutenant Kije” is a wonderful work and the “Troika” is one of my favourite pieces of music which, under the right circumstances, can reduce me to tears – once embarrassingly during a long drive on English motorways with me yelling the tune lustily and beating the steering wheel in time to the music.  God alone knows what startled drivers must have thought of me!

I am finding my present set of “car” discs irritatingly tame and some of the tracks quaintly antique in their recording quality, so I think I may substitute the newest arrivals – though it does mean that some time in the future I will be driving along a dismal motorway with suicidal motorists while listening to two discs of Orlando de Lassus’ Penitential Psalms.  Well, if nothing else I suspect that I will be having a unique listening experience on the orbital hell with encircles the city of Barcelona!

After a day of glorious sunshine yesterday, I suppose there had to be a reaction today and it has been dull, cold and this evening, wet.  This is the sort of uneven weather experience that I was used to in Britain but I have become less tolerant of it when it occurs in Catalonia.  Even though today was miserable, it was 14C, so one shouldn’t complain!

Now back to Dickens and trying to find that slant which has so far eluded me!
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