Friday, March 24, 2006

It's worse than an "F"'s a "G"

I’ve been enjoying my role as an undercover agent seeking to expose plagiarizers to the world. Ok maybe not the world and only my co-workers at the Centre, but I’ve felt like a spy googling to see where a few of my students got their lesson plans from. I told them it was okay to get ideas and inspiration from outside materials, including the net, but that their lesson plans must be in their own words. In order to ensure this I gave them a specific format and then asked them to evaluate their lesson in light of the theory they had learned in the class. Despite this, a few of the papers were still marked “G” for “must go home and google.” Sure enough, within seconds (ok minutes the internet here is slow) I was able to find the internet sources of what was handed in as original work.

One student handed in a “lesson plan” which looked like a powerpoint presentation. No more than six lines on a page in font size 50 or 60. Turns out the only original words in this fat packet were on the overly elaborate title page. The rest came directly from ESL, the British Council, and a teacher named Susan Cavahlo from Portugal. Funny thing is I was wondering why the lesson plan was so incoherent. That’s what happens when you cut a third of it from a pronunciation lesson, a third from a speaking lesson, and another third from a talk on student motivation. Hmm and wasn’t the assignment a listening lesson?

Another one was obviously not prepared and tried to design a listening lesson the spot. Problem is she just asked people up to the front of the room and asked them to tell their favorite colors, favorite foods, and a few other favorites. She even tried calling me up but I was so shocked that she hadn’t even prepared a lesson I was busy writing notes on her observation form like, “What is going on in this lesson? Did you spend any time preparing this at home?” To no surprise, she had “forgotten” her lesson plan and asked to turn it in on the following class day. The lesson plan which was handed in is word for word from a lesson on reading Shakespearean literature and discussing the Globe Theatre. What that has to do with our favorite foods I have no idea. Do they think I don’t know how to use Google?

A third case of plagiarism was not quite as blatant, and this one was in their essay assignment not for the presentation. I may not have noticed it had the student not quoted the researcher whose paper had been presented in class, forgot to change the font so it didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, and left in phrases such as “prosodic structure” which this student obviously would not know the meaning of. Almost got away with it…well okay not really.

My favorite blunder was on an “acknowledgements” page of a lesson plan. Not acknowledgements like giving credit to the person who originally created the lesson, but like thanks to my mom and dad etc. Find the mistakes in the following:

“I would like to thank Miss.H.Michelle Walts for his commitment to convey knowledge to our class, his efforts in this regard cannot be described in words. And finally, we are forever indebted to our parents for their understanding, endless patience, encouragement and support whenever it’s required.”

If this student was trying to impress me with flowery thank you’s, having the right gender pronouns might be helpful. Does she think I’m a drag queen or something?

Several of them decided to record their own voices on audio tape, and the listening passages were completely incomprehensible to me. Others read passages laced with grammatical mistakes. The fishes story is just too good:

“Ahmed reads in class 8th. He was very fond of fishing. Once morning, he walked to the river to catch fish. By ten o’clock, he caught six fishes. He was very happy. The biggest fish weighted more than 3 kilos. On going back home, he said to his mother, ‘Mother, I have caught a very big fish.”

Anyway, despite about 7 students who plagiarized, cheated, or just don’t have sufficient English skills to take courses in English, the rest of my students are brilliant and will make excellent teachers. I’m excited for them to enter into the education scene here in Pakistan and make a big difference in employing their creativity and modern teaching methodology. I look forward to teaching these girls again, and I’m hoping to get out of the next term so I can just have the top students in next year’s program. Although, then that means my Google sleuthing days are over….and what will I do to amuse myself?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Last night I awoke to what seemed like the house shaking violently. I was in that half sleep state, and was wondering what kind of vehicle would be going down our street that could make such a racket. There was about 10 seconds of shaking followed by a pause and some more shaking. During the second jolt I wearily pulled open the curtains to see if there were any tanks rolling down the street. Seeing nothing, I just went back to sleep thinking that I’d imagined the whole thing.

I forgot about it until I read the paper this morning. On the front page over a small two paragraph blurb was the heading “Aftershock.” Upon reading the headline the midnight shaking came back to my memory. Apparently there was a 5.4 magnitude aftershock last night centered in Kashmir which is NE of Lahore. One of my co-workers also felt it and had a similar reaction. We’ve been working so much on launching this new program that we both attributed the shaking to the malfunctioning of our burned out minds. For once, we were wrong. For a split second during the night I did think it might be an earthquake, and wondered what I should do if it was. Since the shaking wasn’t that bad I had just passed it off and gone by to sleep!

I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for the people who live up north, where one of the most severe earthquakes in history hit last fall. The terror they must feel each time the shaking starts in the night. Many are still homeless and some villages still have not been reached by aid workers. The lone pot that your family owns starts to rattle in that telltale way. Grab the baby as she cries. Wake the grandparents and urge them to move quickly. Make sure to cover your hair as you run out of the house; it’s just a reflex for you by now. Wonder if your sister and brother in law are alright in the next village, knowing that if this earthquake is as big as the last one you might never see them again.

I'm sure this is not exactly what women in the northern areas were thinking yesterday, but who knows, maybe I'm not too far off.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

This photo needs no title

Side street in Defence, Lahore - little girl oustide Brain's academy

See more photos from the last month:

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sneak Preview of my new place

Gold beaded kusas - 200 rupees (~$3.50) - Anarkali Bazaar
Red geometric print rug - claimed to be imported from Korea - 1800 rupees (~$30) - Defence Sunday Market

Monday, March 13, 2006

You put your right foot in....

Last sunday a few friends and I headed east to Wagah, and the Indian border. We don't have Indian visas so we weren't expected to cross over, but we had wanted to see the border closing ceremony. Unfortunately we arrived about 20 minutes after it had ended, so instead we just sweet talked some guards into letting us "cross the line." All the guards are over 6 feet tall and wear these HUGE hats with peacock style plumes. They are incredibly serious. Not long ago the Pakis and Indians were shooting each other over this line. Now the border is open and some official talk has opened up as well. One of the army commanders escorted us to the border area where we could just go under a railing and be in India. He said, "I can let you go to India without even having a visa!" He meant that we could stick out feet under the railing and touch the country south of the partition. So both my feet have been in India, although not both at the same time cause I would have fallen right under the railing. The guards would have had a fit if that happened! I felt like I was doing the hokey pokey. You put your right foot in, you take your right foot out...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Gas Attack - Get in the car!

So George W should have completed his 24 hours in Pakistan by now, a first for any US president. It's been a crazy week as we've moved me into a new house and the Centre office to a different section of Defence. Not to mention the bombing of the Marriot Hotel (near the American Embassy) in Karachi, which resulted in one American diplomat among the dead, two days before George W's visit. Oh and another strike on Friday, but those are becoming so common they aren't exciting anymore. It's just more of an annoyance to have to stay at home because all the shops are closed and the roads are barred. The government has cracked down and successfully discouraged violent protests in the city centre. Yay - go military government. Way to take control. There have been riot squads outside all the major Western restaurant chains. KFC, McDonald's. Any business with links to the West has covered its signs with black as to discourage people from having the urge to burn them down. We moved to a new place and have decided not to put up our signs until after this settles down a bit. I think the people are getting sick of striking. They were set on doing it again today to welcome the US Pres, but they decided to have "black day" instead. Apparently in India everyone wore black and they even had black balloons to show how happy they were with US foreign policies. The newspaper said that the Pakistanis were going to do the same thing, but here in Defencwasn'tere wasn't any sort of black day. I went out to the nearest commercial area in the morning, and I saw many people wearing their Reeboks and Adidas jogging suits while power walking in McDonald's park. I haven’t seen many people running here, you'd have to sweat to do that!

The other day I was coming outside to get in the car, when a truck went flying past emitting a strange smelling gas. My friend thought that it was a chemical gas attack and was yelling at the driver to go! I jumped in the car, and we sped off while smoke filled the streets. Every street we tried to turn down was filled with the gas and all the people were ducking into their houses to escape it. The other teacher thought the rich neighborhood was being attacked due to anti-western aggression, but as I smelled the gas I noticed was strangely familiar. The driver didn't seem worried and was trying to explain what the gas was for. Finally, he said the key word macchar, and I figured it out! They were spraying to kill mosquitoes. Humdullah because the mosquitoes are so bad here. I'd been awake the previous two nights due to the constant buzzing and biting of those little macchar, so if the Pakistani government wants to exterminate them with chemical gas go right ahead. I've never gotten so many mosquito bites all over my face like I have them here - like on the right side of my nose, my ear lobe, and my cheeks too. I can't itch my face or my ear all day long! The smelly gas truck has my full support, those macchar better be goin' down, and next we won't be running into the car thinking that our neighborhood has turned into a Nazi gas chamber.