Thursday, May 17, 2007

Suddenly the Trade winds stopped last week, and the temperature feels like it has risen 10 degrees! Out here in the tropics the only difference between summer and winter is that the Trade winds blow in the winter months and make it feel a bit cooler, but it’s really the same temperature anyway. Well, we’re heading for a long, hot summer. I’m so glad we have a blue lagoon readily accessible to jump into when we just cant stand the heat any longer!

It is finals week, and I’m so relieved to be in the “home stretch” of this semester. Looking back, it has been rugged, but I’ve had so many good experiences with my students and I’ll really miss them (all 110 of them). I regret that my classes have been so large that I’ve not been able to interact one-on-one with ALL my students like I did last semester, but I’ve been able to build good relationships of trust with students who have taken the initiative to come to my office or talk to me in class. These relationships of trust and care are one of the sweetest rewards of being a teacher.

Before Exam Week finishes, I’d like to share with you some comical answers that I’ve read on my students’ tests this semester. It just demonstrates to me the difference in perspective between island mentality and western mentality:

Question 1: How many ways can 32 children in an Uliga Elementary School class be arranged for a class picture? (Duh, I didn’t realize that they don’t take “class pictures” here, they only do that in suburban American schools!)

Answer I Anticipated: Permute 32 children in 32 spaces: that’s 32! (32 factorial) or 2.63 x10^35 ways to arrange the children.

Student’s Answer: “2 Ways: They can all sit or they can all standup.” (Why make it harder than it needs to be??)

Question 2: At Payless you find a quart of milk and a liter of milk sold for the same price. Which is a better value for your money?

Answer I Anticipated: Since 1 Liter of milk is equal to approximately 1.04 Quarts, the Liter box of milk is ever-so-slightly bigger, so you get a few extra drops of milk for your money.

Student’s Answer: “Well, 1 Quart is smaller than 1 Liter, so it’s lighter in the grocery bag and not so heavy to have to carry all the way to my house, so I think that’s the one I’ll choose.” (At least he recognized that a Quart is smaller than a Liter, which was the point of the lesson!)

The Politics at CMI are getting out of hand. There are several faculty members who enjoy bringing politics into our office space, and they distract us from effectively serving our students. (I personally feel that some faculty members are more committed to politics and power struggles than their students, but that’s just my opinion). Anyway, we’re in the process of making some big, big changes at CMI as we try to finally break free from the accreditation problems that have plagued us for several years. Many of the ideas that are being foisted on us (mostly by committees of faculty) and not well thought out and not well-communicated to everyone before they are implemented. Some decisions are just plain ridiculous. I believe partly this is a result of the fact that we have many faculty members who have never taught at a community college other than CMI, so they don’t have a good objective perspective and precedent to base decisions on. Others have personal agendas and they figure that this place is small enough that they can push their agenda through without the consent of everyone else. In any case, it has been really turbulent here and a lot of last minute things have popped up that need to be taken care of before the semester ends to insure our sanity at CMI in the future. My friend Susan and I run together a few times per week and it serves as good stress relief and also a chance to vent our frustrations and laugh about the ridiculous things that our colleagues do. These last few weeks we’ve been so stressed by the politics that we’ve run really aggressively. We share a similar perspective on teaching and serving students here, and when we get together, it’s like, “Oh my goodness, you’ll never guess what my department tried to do today!!” “What?!? Where do they come up with these half-baked ideas?” And then we return to our offices and crazily write emails to try to circumnavigate disastrous decisions before they’re implemented as new CMI policies. Next day, back in class, we smile at our students, teach them, and remember that they are the reason we’re really here after all.

On a lighter note: buying beauty products is a bit problematic on this island. I am a bit worried about the day (coming soon) when I run out of fair-colored makeup. There is not a pale shade to be found in any stores! I recently ran out of conditioner, and I was lucky enough to find a store that had a couple types. Most stores just sell shampoo because there’s not much of a Marshallese market for conditioner. Well the first one I bought made me nauseous, so I gave it to Mary who liked the smell. The only other option was a really, really pungent raspberry flavored type. I can stand the smell, and when combined with my Pineapple scented shampoo and Citrus scented soap, I leave the house every morning smelling like fresh fruit salad! Could be worse, I suppose.

A colleague at work who likes to spam the entire faculty with random emails (asking for such things as play-dough recipes and day care for his kid) actually sent something interesting last week. He wants to give his students a personality test to help them determine some possible careers that might suit them. He found an online version of the Meyers-Briggs test and asked us (instructors) to take it and tell him if we think it’s useful. Well, I needed a diversion from the stacks of grading on my desk, so I did it, and was very interested by the results. Here is a link to the test: It categorized me as ENFJ (Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). In plain English, this personality type is characterized as a “Teacher Idealist”. As I read the sketch explaining my personality type I was quite amused. (the sketch can be found at: Here are a few highlights: Teacher-Idealists believe firmly in the potential for greatness in others and are self-sacrificing in order to try to help everyone try to achieve it. They have an almost-limitless supply of enthusiastic encouragement to share. They are good hosts at parties, making sure each guest’s needs are met, and they are good at remembering special dates. They have a hard time saying no (or turning people away) and they occasionally become annoying to others because they are constantly trying to teach and help other people “reach their potential”, even when the others are not willing candidates. It also says that because of their very direct and expressive interpersonal communication style, sometimes they overwhelm people with the volume and complexity of their communication.

Wow, pretty accurate and true for me on all accounts, I’d say. (Several years ago my mother located an audiotape that we listened to. It was me, at age 4, teaching my younger brother, Clay (age 2) how to count. It was funny because I kept messing up the lesson and occasionally he would point that out, and then we would start all over again. He was a patient little soul! And I was a persistent little soul, too! Ha ha ha!) You can probably tell just by the length of my blog that I have a difficult time knowing when to stop communicating and just chill out. I gained a bit of insight into why the people closest to me often tell me that they never feel like they can live up my standard. I hold myself to a very high standard, but I’ve never consciously imposed my standard on others. But I’ve realized that even if I don’t consciously impose a standard, my idealistic zeal is implicitly and indirectly communicated to others, and often makes them feel intimidated and incapable of living up to the ideal, even though that’s not how I feel about them. I spoke with Susan at 2+2 later that day, and found that she really hated the personality test because it categorized her as a “Field Marshall” (aka: power-hungry and commanding) which is completely inaccurate. (Believe me, I know, I had a very high score in the “Judging” category! ha ha ha!). So I guess this test is not fool-proof, but I’m really interested if anyone else learns something from it. Please feel free to leave ideas or comments on my blog if you find anything interesting. And please, if it completely mis-characterizes you, don’t take it too seriously! Ok, I can’t avoid it any longer.

I have the bite the bullet and start grading the finals my students took yesterday. Sitting still for 6 straight hours of final exams (3 classes) with no breaks in between nearly killed me! But I only have one more left tomorrow morning, so the end is very, very near. Ok, is anyone still reading? I’m so sorry to running off at the mouth (there goes my over-active communication again, darn it! J) I’ll write more later. There’s SO much more that I haven’t even gotten to get. Next time I’ll tell you about “Low Tides, Low Toilets”, so stay tuned!

PS. The picture at the top is our farewell dinner for Amber, who is heading back to Taiwan this weekend. From left is Amber, me, Anita, and Susan.


Davo Huang said...

I'm ISFJ. I read your entire post. :-) I'm going to send you an email update...

Grant's Mama said...

I'm an ESFP (Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving) along with Elvis, B. Clinton & Marilyn Monroe. JOY! I hope this doesn't lump me in the same MORAL category, although Ronald Regan was on that list too. I think I fit most of my profile, with the exception of the part about being "up on the latest fads... food, drink, entertainment... the 'in' nightclub and the 'hot' new musical group." Could I care any less?
It says I am a "Performer Artisan" and should look into the arts (including acting, dressmaking/design and advertising), customer service (PR, marketing & fitness/nutrition - but don't look in my fridge), or Social Service (childhood education). Doesn't that sound like the technical description for a mother?
The full details are here:

LibrarySarah said...

I'm ISTJ aka "superdependable" ... Fabulous.