The weather here makes me want to sing. Specifically, it makes me want to sing "Mariah" from /Paint Your Wagon/. Today, I heard a sound similar to a siren, and the wind was making noise, so I thought the siren was the wind whistling through the trees and houses. It turned out to be a siren, but I think that instance indicates how fierce the wind is. I woke this morning and said to myself: It sounds like a hurricane outside. It is now 3°C/36°F outside.
On the whole, though, the weather is pretty good. It rains a lot, but it is also very pretty in the times between. The weather is supposed to improve soon.
The prices here are very low, by the standards of American money and prices, but the wages are also very low. The exchange rate right now is about 407zł per $100. I understand than a person in Warsaw makes about 700zł each month, but that it costs about 700zł per month to live in Warsaw. Out in this region, the students tell me the unemployment rate is around 25%. A nurse might work 12 hours in a night to make 25zł. The economy will improve slowly.
The economy of Iława is largely based on tourism. This town wants to become a major ecotourist vacation spot. Now, by ecotourism, I probably don't mean the same thing the environmentalist groups do. I mean a place where people come to enjoy nature. I think there are campsites around here, but there are also hotels. Some of the attractions in the area include horseback riding, sailing, swimming (in the summer), bike trails, hiking trails, and several lake-front benches where you can just sit and enjoy the view.
I am anxious to have people visit Poland if they are coming to Europe for a vacation. The prices here are very friendly for tourists (I could eat very cheaply if I didn't eat so much), and it will help the local economy for people to spend money here. I also want to buy things I need here rather than to get them from the States, because that will help the economy.
The temperature outside is 6°C/43°F.
Pastor Kris very kindly nailed a thermometer outside my window, so now I can tell the temperature outside without opening the window. Inside, it is around 21°C, which is rather comfortable.
Yesterday was an interesting day for teaching. In one of my classes, only two people showed up for class. Looking at the roll later, I found that this was half my class, but it still made the exercises go so fast that we did the homework assignment in class out of boredom.
Today was the very first test. The teaching materials arrived from Gdansk, and we copied the tests right out of the reproducible book. My class was somewhat less than thrilled. Oh, well. We took the test, and everyone finished in plenty of time.
I am very disappointed with the homework from that class. Homework counts for almost 1/6 of the final grade, and I should have given them all zeroes for not completing all of the homework. I decided, however, to show them mercy and give them half credit for doing most of it. Next time, the axe will not fall so lightly. Doing the homework is the only way they will learn the language, especially with the semester being as short as it is. I think I will have them copy the definition of MERCY after I tell them they have received it. Now, I have seven tests and six essays to grade. Guess what I will be doing with my "free" weekend.
Mind you, I am not complaining. This is part of being a teacher, and I knew that coming into this. I only mention it to let all of you know what is happening over here. Actually, I'm enjoying myself, and my strictness with the students is only because I want them to get all they can out of the course. What did I do during the 75 minute test? I read. *grin*
I was hoping to make a trip next weekend and visit the American couple in Ełk. Unfortunately, I found out today that they won't be there next weekend. Perhaps another time.
We got a washing machine, and it works very well (I also now have a microwave, so I can do a little cooking (and I've given up my "Jewish" habits (mostly))).
The students here are much like the students back home. They listen to pop, rock, techno, and metal (though some of them like Classical); they like anime and manga, Magic: The Gathering and other card games; they tend to wear more subdued colors, though some of them wear bright reds and greens; they complain about the amount of homework they have.
The theater in town is now showing /Minority Report/. I hope to go see it soon. Yes, I'll be able to understand it. Western movies in Poland are in their original languages. They just have Polish subtitles. Maybe Adam will go with me to see it.
Adam is a great guy, but he's very busy, as I am. I only see him for about an hour every other day. I need to ask him about the gatherings in Ostro'da. I should have enough ducks in a row this next week that I can start an English club.
Yesterday, I realized something when I was walking with Pastor Kris. I haven't seen any women here in Poland immodestly dressed, and that pleases me. I wonder if that will still be true when the summer comes. I can always hope.
I have gained two new pupils. They will be taking private lessons from me on Saturdays.
I spent this morning grading tests. I spent most of the afternoon doing the same. These tests started giving me a headache. This was not because they were difficult to grade, though in some cases, the handwriting made it quite difficult. I tried to decypher the scrawls of some of my students as best I could, but there is a limit. When I reach that limit, I say, in the words of my mother, "If I can't read it, it's wrong."
My students are going to receive a lecture this next week... before the lessons begin. I can tell that they haven't been getting enough practice at home, so I've decided to increase their homework. I'll assign all the problems instead of evens and odds, but I'll probably do evens and odds during class for checking.
I remember looking over the homework during the tests, and I told one young lady that I could tell she was going to get a good grade. She had done all her homework. Do you know what? I was right. She is the only student, so far, who has gotten an A on the test. I had one student who only got 23% of the possible points. I don't think the test is too hard. I believe the problem is effort. Many of the tests have whole sections that have been left completely blank, and I didn't see a single student who was flustered when I announced the time was up. Most, as I believe I have already mentioned, were rolling their eyes and making other signals of boredom.
Adam, Kris, and I had our first staff meeting last night. We discussed the tests, homework, the students, the schedule of units, and the possibility of a third teacher joining us.
Adam and I don't think the tests are too hard. Adam says the first test in any class is like a face-full of cold water. It's a shock. I told Adam I think the students would benefit from spending three classes intead of two on each unit. He agreed.
I will start working on vocabulary this week, because I haven't done much with it. I think that will largely become part of the homework.
Kris added some insulation to my window today. I'm glad of that, and I hope it help to keep the heat in my room.
The temperature outside (at 12:30) is 2°C/35.6°F. P.S., I finally beat Adam at chess last night.
Yours truly and Kris's family (I'm the one on your left).