December 31, 2010

Do the young Dutch miss war?

I'm sitting here on my couch, it's the 31st of December and both my cat and I feel quite terrorized by the extremely loud booms of the fireworks set off every few seconds from beneath my apartment. As it's now mid-morning (and very foggy), there is little of the 'light' effect to the fireworks, but the sound effect is jarring, frightening and just plain loud.
I understand the fascination of fireworks, seen at night, in a beautiful display. I too have loved the yearly shows I saw first as a child in the US on the fourth of July and later in Israel on Independence Day. But I also grew up understanding that they are dangerous, and should be set off by professionals - in an open space - at night, etc.
On the Dutch news yesterday they mentioned that parking in Amsterdam over the past few days will be free - not out of good will for the New Year - but due to the fact that they have sealed off all the parking meters (and mailboxes too for that matter), as kids tend to stick fireworks inside them, and blow them up.
Patriot Missiles protecting Tel Aviv
Well, don't the Dutch like to let their kids have fun!

These fireworks are too much for me. And the reason is one that sadly, many immigrants to these flatlands will identify with. I have lived through war.

During the Gulf War in 1991, I was living in Tel Aviv, working in an office building in Ramat Gan, and carrying a gas mask with me wherever I went.

December 25, 2010

Snowed in for the holidays

A good friend and colleague from another school, is unable to fly to her hometown tonight - and will miss spending Christmas with her family. Lots of other people are snowed in, and spending their time in airports or having a dinner tomorrow out of cans...

As for me, I've been cooking all day for the big holiday tomorrow, which is not my holiday, since I just celebrated Hanuka a couple of weeks ago, but still it's fun to cook a big meal and have people over.

And luckily, I've finished correcting my essays until the next resit period, because sadly, not too many people passed... Although, compared to how the writing was in the beginning, I can say that everyone seems to have learned a lot - that's a good sign, right? On the right track?

So, the holidays are here. I can officially rest from teaching and correcting for a few days while I concentrate on cooking (yes, just a little more), and relaxing with friends and family.

I wish all the people out there a very good, calm and happy holiday season, no matter what you are celebrating or not celebrating - in the winter we need a little joy to keep us going until the spring... If you are inside and warm, remember those less fortunate than ourselves and think about the gift of giving...

Happy Holidays :)

December 23, 2010

Too Tech or Not Too Tech!

I should stay more up-to-date with all the tech developments. On many things such as iPhone, iPad and twitterring I am way behind. So here you have an example of the last group of the product diffusion curve called laggards. Or should I label myself as a late majority? I refuse to buy a smart phone as for me the simple function of the phone is to call people, not browse websites, check your mail, watch videos or play games. And the blackberry-texting addiction? I cannot be bothered. Can you believe that only today, one week before 2010 is over I made a twitter account and I already get annoyed by spam links and strange follower requests.

When is it too much? Too much typing, too much texting, too much obsessing over mobile devices and computer screens. Where is the borderline? Information is good. Unfiltered information in bulk is exhausting, confusing and time-consuming. Do we become time-efficient or do we spend more time checking emails, twittering, screening numerous articles on the subject of our school report that is due tomorrow?

Do we release our stress online or does it bring even more frustration into our daily lives when we forget our password, our internet is down or the latest episode of Dexter would not stream?

Now blogging. Is it good? Is it useful? Is it insightful? I read a few blogs on management and other business topics and some of them I do find very interesting. Certainly, the purpose of them is to start a discussion, gather feedback or just to educate readers about little things or big things or what we thought were big things although they are really fads.

What am I going to make out of this blog? Basically, this will be the record of thoughts and experiences about what it is like to be part of the international department of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam/the University of Applied Sciences that might trigger the readers to share their experiences and opinions, agree or disagree with me. I teach at HvA. You, reader, might be searching for a university to go to, or you are part of this school or have been part of it in the past. And even if you are none of the three categories mentioned, you are more than welcome to stay. Co-creation and crowd-sourcing is what will keep this blog alive.

For now wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

December 17, 2010

Who says we give no feedback?

According to the highly debated and recently published Elsevier report, HvA was rated rather low on a number of issues. One of those was on the apparent lack of feedback from teachers to students. I would like to comment on that, and would LOVE to hear from the students themselves what they think about this - please, please, please comment on this blog and let me know...!
Well, here goes - Last year I was teaching at the HES and correcting endless numbers of portfolios - yes, true this was in the Dutch stream, so perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree here, but in any case, my many students had to hand in a portfolio composed of many different writing assignments. And I spent hours going over each one, making comments in the sidelines - telling the students what they could improve and why this or that assignment was graded as it was. And do you know what happened? Almost no one showed up to collect their portfolios! I worked like crazy, provided very specific detailed feedback - and once the students received their grades, they had 'heard enough' - and didn't want any feedback at all.
So, my feeling is that the only 'feedback' that students want - on the whole - is to know why they failed, often putting us teachers into a defensive and uncomfortable position...
That's my feedback - Any comments?

December 15, 2010

Word of the Year: Tentsletje

Well, it turns out that "Tentsletje" is Flemish, not Dutch, so officially I shouldn't have to know this word. Nor any word in Dutch for that matter, since I teach in the International Dept. And all our meetings and internal emails are in English. But it turns out that the best way for me to wake up in the dark mornings of December is with my Wake Up light AND radio. These days it's tuned to Q-music - a popular, if rather obnoxious radio station. They claim to be more sophisticated than their main competitor, Sky Radio, and so forego the Christmas songs. But that's not the reason I like them. In the morning, they have a funny chat show - and although they speak fast, I get most of what they say - in Dutch. Yes, it improves my language skills. And if I can occasionally surprise my Dutch speaking students with what I heard on the radio in Dutch, perhaps it might motivate them to listen to English language radio - (BBC?) and surprise me back...?  So, back to the Belgian 'Word of the Year'... (imagine a drumroll)... Now for you non-Europeans, you may find this rather shocking, but the meaning of this word which I suppose could be translated to "Tent Slut" is: "A girl who might, for example, frequent music festivals and there, in her tent, have sex with multiple partners." So, what's not to like about this part of the world? (Said with a raised eyebrow...)
And if you don't believe me, check out the Telegraph (UK)...

December 13, 2010

Swimming or sinking in English...(EC1)

In the last lessons of the semester I take a plunge into the icy waters of self reflection, and to help me on this journey I asked some of my students for anonymous feedback.  Well, perhaps it's not so representative, (since I didn't ask all my classes to do this), and perhaps as some might say, "The message says more about the sender than the receiver, as a rule," but still, I take these comments fairly seriously...
So what did they say? Lots of good things, I'm happy to report - Fun class, I'm straight to the point, I explain things well, I am a good listener (wow!), lots of variety, podcasts are interesting... and...
On the downside, some things to consider - hm... my timekeeping could be improved - ouch, but too true, need to not only get my watch repaired but work on getting there a few minutes early!
And there are also some interesting comments on the contents of the course, such as:

December 4, 2010

Bieber Fever, Chanukah Pants and the Sint

Well, it's that time of year again, of good cheer, plenty of snow (I believe I've mentioned that earlier), and the holiday season. Moreover, the end of the semester is in clear view - next week is the last study week before the test period. For me, as a lecturer, that means I can prepare one last lesson for each course, and almost breathe a sigh of relief - but then a week later I will have about a zillion tests to correct. And meetings, oh yes, many meetings.

But all that is jumping ahead, because I'd love to share what I've been up to today - may I mention Saturday - a day of rest? I was up at 8:40 a.m. Why? Well, because at exactly 9:00 a.m. the early bird sale of Justin Bieber concert tickets for Ahoy Rotterdam were going on sale. And sorry, but without these tickets my daughter (yes, of course, she's a big fan) and I might never again have a chance to attend a concert together - soon she'll be too old and won't want me there.... so, yes, I was willing to sacrifice my morning rest to get online and grab those tickets. Believe me, it was no easy feat. There was a long wait, with much suspense, many error messages, and 2 laptops working at the same time... but finally - the golden tickets were purchased!

Next, I jumped into my trusty little car and raced off to Amsterdam for some Intervision - which I attend every 2 months in order to share experiences with other counsellors/ coaches.

After a scary slippery drive back in what seemed to me a terrible blizzard, it was time to prepare the Sinterklaas surprises.