Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Low Tides, Low Toilets: Yesterday for the first time, I flushed the toilet and for the first time in a long time, it didn’t make a large sucking noise. Toilets all over the island have been acting up for the last few weeks, and a colleague suggested a reason why: Low Tides! You see, we don’t have enough fresh water on this island to be able to afford to flush it down the toilet (no pun intended!) so we use salt water in out toilets. But on some days when the low tides are really low, I think that the pumps have a hard time supplying us with toilet water. So for the past couple weeks all the toilets would make a gurgling noise after being flushed (how’s that for a way to announce to everyone in the building that you’re coming out of the restroom?) At my apartment it was the same story, until this weekend it just refused to flush completely. Well, in the States, at that point I would probably call the landlord and ask for a plumber, but not here. Oh, no….non-flushing toilets are so common here that almost every bathroom is equipped with bucket of some sort for occasions like this, and you just scoop some water (wherever you can find water) and throw it into the toilet bowl until the level gets high enough for gravity to do the flushing for you. It’s something I learned during my first week here, and it works like a charm. So this week I’ve been filling buckets from my shower in order to flush the toilet, until this morning a miracle occurred! In my groggy state, I reached for the handle, forgetting that flushing was futile, and low-and-behold, it worked!! So now we’re back to normal, no gurgling, no buckets of shower water, just regular old flushing. I’ll have to check the tide table to see if our theory is correct.

Ok, enough of the bathroom humor…how about some Final Exam humor? I wrote my last blog entry with funny test answers just before grading my final exams. Wow, was that a mistake, because my students gave me more wonderful material. Let me share a few more for your amusement:

Question: The speeds (in miles per hour) of 20 randomly monitored drivers between the Airport and Ajeltake are recorded in the table below. Make a frequency table and a histogram of the data. What observations can you make from the histogram?

Answer: 40-50 miles per hour has the highest frequency. 60-70 mph has the lowest frequency, so in my observation I think too many students drop out of CMI so they have to get more advice from the counselors, attend the workshop, and see the tutor, better than dropping out. (WHAT?!?)

Question: Write an example of a Cardinal Number and give a brief explanation.

Student 1: “I kissed two girls last week” (Cardinal Number means the quantity of objects)

Student 2: “If she kissed you once, would she kiss you two times?” (How many objects in a group or set)

Student 3: “My girlfriend kissed me twice” (how many objects in group or set)

(Although we don’t really have seasons here, I’d say spring is in the air, eh?)

Question: A family has 3 children. Draw a tree-diagram that represents the gender of the genders (boy or girl) for each successive birth into the family. What is the probability that there will be exactly two girls in the family?

Student 1 Answer: Probability shows that when a family have children of 3, they want to have 2 girls because girls are important to fathers because they can listen and they are afraid so they follow what fathers tell them to do. (Very creative, but I was hoping for a fraction between 0 and 1)

Student 2: Mom + Dad = 3 Kids

(3 stick figure kids hanging here)

Moms have high average of chromosomes than Father. So the highest average of chromosomes from the Mom, and it comes out 2 girls and 1 boy. (Again, very creative (and entertaining…I loved the illustration of the kids with nooses), but we never discussed chromosomes in our class!)

The sad part is that the number of students who passed was abysmally low. It broke my heart. Part of the problem lies in the fact that we’re not adequately preparing our students for the rigor of credit level math. It’s asking a lot to catch them up to college level in 2 semesters when they are coming to us so under-prepared after 12 years of primary and secondary school. Still, we could do better. We must do better. Very few of my students have the discipline, capability to think independently, and the study skills that it takes to succeed in higher level courses. I have been beside myself to help them (all 110 of them) this semester because my classes were too big to allow me to meaningfully connect on a regular basis with many students. I really care about them, and it pains me that so many fell short of passing, but I can’t lower the standard. The best I can do is try to strengthen as many as are willing to work hard to meet the standard. I have spent the last week doing statistical analysis on our archives of pass-rate data to try to make a case for lowering our class enrollment limits. Currently Math classes are set at 25 students (more are allowed if there are not enough sections offered) while English are set at 15 (seems very inequitable to me). I presented the research I did to the Dean of Academics yesterday and I hope it will make a difference. We are also looking at adding an individualized computer-lab component to our developmental courses that would allow students to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses and work until they have mastered each skill they need. I am praying that it will make a difference.

Despite the fact that many of my students did not pass, the good news is that those whose graduation depended on passing passed, and graduation was wonderful. It was full of pomp and ceremony (a strange contrast to life on this island). The president and first lady of the country were present, as well as ambassadors from Taiwan, USA, and Japan. Can you imagine President Bush showing up at a community college graduation? Despite the fact that the highest degree programs we offer are Associate Degrees of Arts or Science, we gave "Honorary Doctorate of Public Service" awards to 2 individuals. They were well-deserved, but it was a little bizarre, coming from a community college. We had an “employee appreciation day” at Enamanit which was lots of fun until the deluge came down and soaked us. I’ve included some pictures from the trip. Our VP for research and planning and his wife have an adorable little girl named Annabelle, who I got to read books to and became good friends with at the picnic. She is so adorable and just so sweet. After bonding with her at the picnic I volunteered to babysit anytime Jim and his wife want to go out.

Today 3 of my favorite instructor-colleagues (Morton and Emson and Rosana) left for University of Guam to finish up their degrees. I will miss Rosana. She is keeps things lively and has really made me feel welcome here, in her country. She will probably be away for about a year, which means her husband (of 3 months) will care for their daughter and his son single-handedly. I really have a lot of respect for his willingness to sacrifice to help Rosana finish her education. Now that school is finished for a couple of weeks (before we start again) I’m making an effort not to spend too much time in the office. Susan and I went kayaking in the lagoon today. Yesterday was pouring down rain, but this morning there were blue skies, sun and cumulus clouds everywhere, so we went down to EZ Price (every store in Majuro has “Price” somewhere in it’s name, there’s EZ Price, Fair Price, Crazy Price, and Cost Price) because the owner, Neil (who is a wonderfully nice man) offered to let us borrow a couple kayaks that he has in his warehouse (along with about 10 windsurfing boards as well) and take them out. He really wanted us to go camping with them, and was disappointed when we told him we only had a couple hours to spend on the water, but he let us borrow them anyway. We had to drop them down about 7 feet into the water and climb down the pipes on the side of the dock. Then we navigated them through the creepy graveyard of government-owned rusting abandoned ships and out into the lagoon. Once we got past the rusty ships it was great. The wind was at our backs, and it was pretty easy…until we turned around to try to come back. Then we were paddling against a pretty strong wind and it took about twice as long to get home. It was nice to be out on the water, which was blue as always. Maybe we’ll take Neil up on the camping offer sometime when we have a few free days.

Well, it’s late and I’m ready to head home. It’s my vacation and I’m still in my office in front of this computer! I need to get away now. Until next time...

PS. Susan was exonerated! Many of you read in my last entry here about the personality profile test and how disappointed Susan was when it categorized her as a "Field Marshall" and potential cult leader. Well, she retook the test and was assigned to a completely different and much more accurate category (ENFP, or "Champion Idealist") which is a pretty good description of her personality. It's also only one letter different than mine (ENFJ) which is probably why we have a similar mindset on many issues. Whew, what a relief!


Mary Postert said...

Britt, you need to update this more. It's been a while since your last post.

Mary Postert said...

Oh, it's Mary LeSueur by the way.

Jane said...

I have been checking for any new posts, I love hearing about your time in the RMI. I hope you are doing well and that you are just too busy having fun.