The Day the Earth Stood Still

English

af5e66a7e130da36a7985e35f184dbc3Sunday, January 25 –It is the day before our January exams start and I have a terrible headache. It’s so bad that I’m having trouble even turning my head without feeling a nasty pain. But there is a good reason for the headache: I have been studying all day long without a break.  And I’m not finished, there’s still an enormous amount of work ahead of me. I’ve been thinking of calling in sick but I’m not sure if it’s really a good idea. I don’t think you are allowed to retake the exams unless you have a very good reason (like a shark attack or being run over by a bus).

So what subject am I studying for? EVERY SUBJECT. Everything we’ve learned so far this school year will be part of the test. So much to do, and so little time!

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To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, here’s my exam schedule for next week:

DAY TIME SUBJECT
Monday 8:45 – 10:45

1:45 – 3:45

English

History

Tuesday 8:45 – 10:45

11:15 – 1:15

Maths

Biology

Wednesday 11:15 – 1:15 Economics
Thursday 11:15 – 1:15 French
Friday 8:45 – 10:45 Chemistry

I have already spent all of Saturday studying for the history exam. Basically I had to reread most of my school books and take notes. The main topics that will be tested are:

  • The US Economy 1945 – 1989flag-40724_640
  • The American Way of Life
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott 1956
  • B. Johnson and The Vietnam War 1963 – 1968
  • The Moon Landing
  • Martin Luther King

As you can see it’s mostly about US history because that’s what we’ve been learning about the past couple of months.

blog-time2With history covered, it’s now time to start reviewing the topics for the English test. You may have noticed the two week gap between my blog posts. I don’t really have a lot of time for anything but the test preparations.

In English we are going to be tested on the following authors and books:

William Shakespeare:

  • King Lear

Sylvia Plath:

  • Black Rook in Rainy Weather                            FlBHOW1422479224
  • The Times Are Tidy
  • Morning Song
  • Mirror
  • Poppies in July
  • Child

Elizabeth Bishop:

  • The FishljMt6z1422479184
  • The Bight
  • At the Fishhouses
  • The Prodigal
  • The Armadillo
  • Filling Station

In both History and English we will be expected to write essays about a random topic. I just hope there will be enough time to finish all the essays. It’s quite a challenge since we’re also expected to include famous quotes by the authors and each essay has to be at least five pages long.

wish me luck

There’s another long night of learning ahead of me. Hopefully it will all be worth the effort and I’ll pass the exams. Wish me luck and keep your fingers crossed!

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The Jingle Bells Race

English

9.1.-SLOW-MOTION-RUNNINGThe runners are facing the track. We are lined up at the starting line and we are waiting for the countdown. Who are we? We are the competitive runners of the Jingle Bells Race 2014. The countdown begins: 10,9,8…. For a moment, it feels as though time itself has stopped or as if everything is moving in slow-motion. Suddenly we hear the shout ‘GO’ and the spell is broken….

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flashbackIt was the last Thursday before the Christmas holiday and everyone was wearing the sports uniform. The event was called ‘Jinge Bells Fun Run’. Like most events here, any money earned will be donated to a charity. The event is mandatory for all students but you get to choose if you want to just walk, jog along at a leisurely pace or (as I did) run like hell and try to win the race.

I love running! I have already taken part in many competitive races both here in Ireland (Zombie Run) and back home in Switzerland. The rest of my class did not share my spirit of competition and they all picked walking or jogging.

checkered-flags-icon copyThe principal announced the race over the speaker system and we all had to assemble in an area near the start line. Another nice bonus: The planned chemistry test for the same day was cancelled. That’s what I call a ‘Win-Win’ situation. So I was already in a brilliant mood and ready for the race. Everyone had to wait in a very crowded area. Everyone except the competitive runners. Although I was the only one from my class to take part in the competitive race, there were quite a few from other classes. And they all looked well trained! We were allowed to wait directly behind the start line.

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MzIIuf1422397121When I heard the word ‘GO’ I started running immediately. My heart rate quickly increased as my body prepared itself for the long run. The longest run I have ever taken part in, was a 12 km run in Switzerland. So I do have a bit of experience with distance running. But this run would only cover a distance of 5km. So I tried to run at a fast pace, with the goal of overtaking most other runners at the beginning of the race. I made it to second place, with only one other runner before me. From experience I know that you should never overtake the front runner early in the race. Why? Because then you would waste a lot of energy trying to keep your pole position. The best strategy is to wait until shortly before the finish line and the run as fast as you can and overtake your opponent at the last second so that he doesn’t have time to react.

stick_figure_running_icon_800_clr_3621So I stayed behind him at the same pace for the entire run at a distance of about five meters. After 4km we saw some teachers and they were cheering us on and they were telling us that the finish line was very close. So I increased my speed and ran like crazy and tried to overtake the front runner. However, he started sprinting as well and as we turned the next corner I realized that there was still a bit of distance before the finish line. I should have waited a bit longer! So I finished the race in second place overall but I was the first place for runners of my grade. The winner was an older student (sixth grade) who has won this race for several years in a row.

After the two of us had made it past the finish line, we waited for the third place runner to arrive. And we had to wait for quite some time! The first three runners got announced over the speaker system and we all received a 10 Euro voucher for the canteen.

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By the way if any of you use twitter: This is my schools Twitter account.

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Click on me!

The schools twitter account doesn’t have as many followers as my blog but you can’t win everything, can you?

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Irish Christmas Reloaded

English

wolf-moon-artwork-1920x1200It was a typical freezing winter day in Ireland, the icy wind was blowing and everything was covered by heavy clouds of fog. It was still dark when I made my way to the bus station. The scenery reminded me of one of those classic B-movies where creatures of the night suddenly jump out of the fog and attack. A full moon was breaking through the clouds and the mood was strange and gloomy.

I could see the headlights of the bus approaching through the fog otherwise I might have missed it and would probably have been caught by a werewolf and dragged to some remote cave dwelling. They say that garlic can keep vampires away but a werewolf actually welcomes garlic because that way he can spice up his meal.

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Anyway, as soon as I passed the school doors I felt safe, because they lock up the school building during the day. They always tell us that those closed doors should prevent us from sneaking outside during class, but it’s probably also to keep strange creatures from entering the halls. Werewolves don’t carry school ID cards.

Download (1)Do you remember the King Lear essay I had to write at the end of the school term? Today as I was sitting in English class, I noticed a stack of these essays on my teacher’s desk.  Out teacher tells us that we still have to improve a lot and explains us our mistakes in details before she returns the graded essays. Whenever she talked about a mistake my first thought was: “Oh no, I think I did that too!” I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this. In the end, it turns out that I got a C1 which is a passing grade but not as good as I had hoped. The best grade was a B3, so I guess everyone had a a hard time with the difficult subject.

jackie-chan-wtf-meme-face-70958233396To make matters worse, the principal then announces the schedule for the January exams. They are going start two weeks from today and will cover everything we’ve learned so far in all subjects. The chemistry exam has been scheduled for next Friday. I guess I can say goodbye to another relaxing weekend. The holidays are well and truly over!

before_after_christmas_plaque-r3ec0fea7227e4a0eb599a0bbcf1249f4_ar56b_8byvr_324Speaking of holidays: As promised here is part two of story of Tim’s Irish Christmas. In this second part I’m going to tell you about the 25th of December and the actual Christmas day! What did you get for Christmas Tim? I got fat, that’s what I got, but also a few other gifts. I woke up at noon, walked downstairs where Margaret was already waiting for me with presents in her hand, presents for me! Unfortunately there was a condition I had to accept before she was willing to give me those presents. At first I thought that it couldn’t be that big of a deal and those presents were looking to nice to say no anyway.

The next thing I remember is sitting on the couch and being quite embarrassed. Why? The picture says it all. Do you notice the Christmas hat and the incredibly silly tie? I felt like Christmas clown. Of course, everyone else was also wearing a Christmas outfit so I was able to blend right in.

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Now that I was suitably dressed for the occasion, it was time to open the presents. I got a new cotton pyjama. Remember that my room is in the attic and that it can get a bit chilly especially during the winter season. So a warm pyjama is the perfect present. I also got a lot of chocolate and sweets.

WM7r3TiRemember my Blog post “Dreaming of an Irish Christmas” when I asked you for ideas for presents for my host family? Some of you have suggested baking or cooking for the family and actually that’s what I was planning to do. Unfortunately, we’ve had a small fire in the kitchen during the holiday. I swear, I had nothing to do with it this time! Remembering my own unfortunate accident with the mixer made me think twice about returning to the kitchen and the fire made me think that the kitchen might be cursed. So I decided on a different and more traditional present: Chocolate.

You should have seen me climbing down those stairs and carrying all the chocolate I bought. There are so many different types and flavours of chocolate that I decided to just buy them all:

toblerone-pieces-webToblerone, chocolate bars, chocolate gift boxes and more. I was the spirit of Chocolate Christmas… My Host-Family loves chocolate, so this was a very good idea. But I still ask myself how we were able to eat all this chocolate so fast.  A few days after Christmas everything was gone already! And that’s on top of everything else we ate that evening including the delicious Christmas dinner.

We started dinner at about three o’clock which was earlier than usual but there was so much to eat and so little time! There was so food, and I already felt full after the starter. It was so much that even two weeks after Christmas, I still get lunch sandwiches for school filled with Christmas ham. But I’m not complaining, in fact everything was absolutely delicious including the giant stuffed Christmas turkey.

After the Christmas dinner I couldn’t move for at least an hour, as I felt so full. And just when I thought I could not eat a single bite more, it was time for dessert: Christmas pudding! Robert had to set it ablaze with whisky first, which was an interesting experience. I know that I have some younger readers, so pleased kids don’t try this at home!

After this wonderful dinner we then went into the living room and watched some Christmas movies together. Every now and then one of us would head for the kitchen to get another round of dessert…

Here are some pictures of this memorable Christmas dinner.

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Dreaming of an Irish Christmas

English

canstockphoto9751902_EducationToday, I had a look at some of the topics of my previous post. What strikes me is that a large number of the posts is about school. While I have done my best to describe the school building and the rooms, I realize that without actually seeing a picture it’s hard to imagine what it’s really like.

I want you to try a little experiment: Have a friend or colleague describe something to you and try to draw a picture at the same time. Then show the picture to the friend and see how reality and picture match.

So now you know why I took some many photos of the school and posted them on my blog. From now on, whenever I write about a certain room or area at school, you can look at the pictures and you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

1964052823787147144Christmas is approaching quickly and there is a lot of frantic activity, with people trying to buy the right gifts for friends and family. At home, I usually have a very good idea of what I want to buy, but here it’s a bit different. Obviously, I don’t know my host family as well as my family back home and I don’t really know what they might like or not like.

I’m sure you all know the feeling, when you absolutely have to buy a Christmas present for someone at the last minute. In Switzerland I usually buy at least one gift for everyone who participates in our yearly Christmas celebration (including my clumsy cat).

222323Since I will be spending Christmas here in Ireland together with my host family, I will need to get presents for them as well. Obviously I can’t share my ideas with you yet because there is a possibility that Conor is secretly reading my blog to discover what he might get for Christmas. Conor, if you’re reading: yes, it will be a Santa Christmas sweater! But seriously, I’m not going to reveal my secret “gift ideas” before Christmas. To my readers: If you have any ideas for host-family Christmas presents, write a comment please! Thanks!

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If you have followed my posts on the Irish weather then you should know that it’s very windy at this time of year. My school bag is quite heavy and that’s a good thing! One morning I accidentally left without it and the wind almost lifted me off my feet…

2000px-Zeichen_113.svgThere is no snow at the moment, but the ground is icy and it’s easy to slip and fall if you’re not careful. I saw at least twenty students limping around the school building today, holding their backs and displaying a painful facial expression. It’s a constant reminder that I must tread carefully!

More about Christmas in Ireland in my next posts….

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Good News, Bad News

English

virtual-enterprise-network_good-and-bad-news_id5456741_size300Do you know the feeling when your teacher says: “I have both good and a bad news for you, which news would you like to hear first?” Hearing this sentence is never a good thing and to me it’s a similar feeling to cold ice water running down my back.

Can you believe my surprise when I heard exactly these words over the speaker system, just as I was sitting comfortably and listening to my teacher explaining about a particularly interesting moment in history?

Typically, people want to hear the good news first. I guess our principal must have a sixth sense, since he anticipated this and didn’t even wait for an answer. So what are the good news, you ask?

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Here’s what the principal said: “Every teacher in this school will participate in a protest march on Tuesday, so all students will have a day off.” This sounded too good to be true, right? A day off? Just like that? There must be some really bad news coming…. So I braced myself and waited….

But first here’s a short explanation of why the teachers are protesting. Apparently, the government wants to make a change to the Irish education system with regards to the Junior Certificate.

teacher-toon1In future, assessments should have more weight and should influence the final result much more than they do today. The assessments should be reviewed and corrected by your subject matter teachers. Teachers are humans too (yes, really!) and the way they assess a paper or test is always influenced by personal views and values. Every teacher has a favourite and a least favourite student, even if they would never admit this openly. So I have to agree with the teachers that would be a change for the worse. I was looking forward to my free Tuesday and “Kudos” to the teachers for standing up for what’s right even if that means standing outside in the cold Irish weather for many hours….

pop040But I still haven’t told you the bad news, which was soon revealed over the speaker system: The upcoming parent teacher meetings! As soon as the principal announced this, it got very quiet in the classroom. Every student was thinking about each time they forgot to do their homework or when they were late for school…. There was only one person in the room, who was still smiling and that was our history teacher. Clearly he was looking forward to telling the parents about our mistakes and shortcomings!

Grades_CartoonThe parent-teacher meeting was supposed to start about 30 minutes after school hours (so at about 3:45 pm). As soon as the bell rang, all students went to the canteen to wait for their parents. In my case, because my parents can’t fly over to Dublin just for an afternoon, my host parents are coming to the parent-teacher meeting on their behalf. Many students took out their phones, probably to talk to their parents. Normally, this is not allowed but on this special occasion, the school has made an exception. Actually, there’s no worse place to take out your phone and the reason is the fact that it’s the one area in school that can be seen from almost all other rooms and offices. Since phones have bright and clearly visible displays, they can easily be spotted…. The principal has a clear and direct view of the canteen from his office window. His office is very close to the canteen and he often walks around the building looking for students that are disobeying the school rules. Because of this, I have dubbed the canteen as “the Lion’s Cave”.

We don’t normally have pictures of the inside of our school (Adamstown Community College) on the public website so I took it upon myself to educate my readers by taking many pictures. Here are some recent pictures that I took while I was waiting for Margaret.

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CLICK ON ME!

In fact, while I was taking these pictures, I saw a lot of other parents arrive. So I started to get worried and called Margaret. I did not want to be late for the parent-teacher meetings! But she had not forgotten and told me that she would be there in a couple of minutes.

I needn’t have worried too much about the parent-teacher meetings. It’s quite different from the way these meetings are held in Switzerland. In Switzerland these meetings tend to occur more often and usually only between the head teacher and your parents. Here the meetings only happen once a year and instead of one teacher, you have to talk to all your teachers on the same day! So you get a lot more feedback and suggestions (both good and bad).

eCommerce-checklistEvery student receives a checklist. This is a list of every teacher you have to talk to during the event. The reason for the checklist is so that you don’t just talk to the ones were you know that they will provide a positive comment but also to the ones were you expect some criticism.

First you had to find your teachers. Some of them were sitting in the canteen area while others preferred to wait in the classroom. Because all of the students had to talk to all of the students, this meant that sometimes you had to wait a while because your teacher was already busy talking to someone else.

So what can I improve? All the teachers told me something I already know. I have to improve my handwriting! If I had lived during the time of World War II, my handwriting could have been used to code secret messages… But we live in peaceful times, so I should try to change my handwriting so that other people can read it too.

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I hope that you will be back for more blog posts, which I promise will not be written by hand but on my trusty computer keyboard.

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The Green Ogre

English

69050n7prr6eu3vToday, I would like to reflect on my last blog post. I got a lot of feedback and comments from my readers. Most of the feedback was regarding one of the things that the psychologist talked about in his speech. It is one of the many things that we take for granted in our society but which when looked at more closely is not really true:

“Work hard and study all the time! Then you can get a good job and earn a lot of money! That’s the only way for you to be truly happy!”

(Quote from: “Refresh your Life” speech)

People who posted comments on my blog post had two different opinions. Some agreed with this statement while others shared the opinion of the psychologist that this is not really true.

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voicesAs with all things in life, there are two sides to every story and it’s important to listen to all sides. Things are never just black and white, true or false. Usually there’s a middle ground. That’s why I want to raise this discussion point again today. But don’t worry, my blog will not turn into a “meaning of life” seminar. But sometimes it can be interesting to challenge your own view of life and to listen to other voices.

I have thought about this quote a bit more over the past couple of days and I think that the following is a better version of the same message:

choice“The better your education, the more doors are open to you, so you have more options. Having more choices means that you are more likely to find “true happiness”. If there’s only one door, then your chances are 50:50 at best. One thing is clear, money and wealth can never make you happy, especially if you all you are worried is how to make even more money from what you already have. Always try to enjoy life, you only have one life.” Unless reincarnation does exist. What if I come back as a green ogre?

By now you’re asking yourself, what has he smoked? But seriously, the way you can reach happiness depends entirely on you. Everyone has different interests, hobbies etc.

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Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying you should quit your job, runaway from school and just drift through life looking for happiness. But just try enjoy what you’re doing rather than getting stuck in a circle of unhappiness where every day is the same as the last one.

I personally need a reason to get out of bed every morning. I enjoy school, well not particularly school, but the friendship and the atmosphere of learning. I do a lot of homework but I always have to remind myself that there are also other things that count in life.

I promise to be less philosophical in my next post but at the same time, I’m hoping to get a lot of comments and feedback to this post! Join the discussion, let me know your thoughts.

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Refresh your Life

English

In my last blog post I already announced today’s main topic: The speech.

speechBut, before I talk about the actual speech I have to say that this little event wasn’t free and I had to pay for it. It wasn’t expensive, but our year head (a year head has similar responsibilities to a vice principal but is below him in rank) told us something quite logic: Multiply a small amount of money with a huge amount of students and you get the required amount of money needed to pay the speaker’s salary. The speaker was a famous psychologist but don’t let that put you off. I know that some people have a negative opinion of psychology and they think it’s not a real “science” but I am of a different opinion. Also I think that some our students could benefit a lot from a session with a psychologist. Here are some points that annoy me and that should be discussed:

  • “Building chatty circles” in the middle of the corridors causing huge traffic jams or even traffic collapses…
  • Running and at the same time pushing your way through the crowd (particularly first year students do this a lot and it’s terribly annoying!)
  • Disrespectful behaviour against senior cycle students (Remember this: “Respect us or you won’t expect us…”)
  • Taking the main stairs to get downstairs, while everyone else wants to go upstairs.
  • Leaving all of your rubbish on the table after lunch… (We can’t afford a sports hall, but we do have bins!)

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16401-Be-Thankful-And-Stop-ComplainingAm I complaining again? Sometimes I just make mountains out of molehills, but the first bullet point actually annoys me a lot! And as I know that some students of my school sometimes read my blog: Please stop the chatty circles!

Now before this post becomes to negative, let’s return to the main topic: “The speech” and the “pursuit of happiness” (this was the main topic of the speech).

I already knew that the speech was going to be great before I even entered the room as I saw how excited the class before us left. They didn’t even notice that we were there as they were too deep in thought about the meaning of life.

i-m-on-the-pursuit-of-happinessThe whole event took place in the so called “demo-room”. The seats were comfortable and the atmosphere was very curious and after a few minutes it became quiet. Shane Martin (the psychologist I was talking about) started to speak. His presentation was brilliant and it’s difficult to describe the whole speech, but he basically exposed lies of society. Our society lies to us in many different ways. From the first day on everyone tells you: “Work hard and study all the time! Then you can get a good job and earn a lot of money! That’s the only way for you to be truly happy!” He told us that he has many patients who have worked their whole lives and now they are deeply depressed. They ask themselves where all the time went. This was just an example and there are plenty other lies he showed us. He also gave us tips on how to be truly happy: It’s better to have a little success and accomplishment each day then to try and find happiness by following unobtainable goals which are beyond your own control.

The speech was really inspiring and brilliant and I don’t regret the fact that I had to pay for it. I mean that’s his job and he has to pay his bills too. It was worth it and I would gladly listen to the whole speech again.  I even heard a teacher say: “School isn’t everything”, which is something I’ve never heard a teacher say before.

If you want to know more about Shane Martin, here’s a link to his website:

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CLICK ON ME!

The first page mentions the “Refresh your life” seminar, and that’s exactly what the whole speech was about.

I know, I haven’t written a lot of blog post lately, but it’s been extremely busy!

I promise to follow up with more stories of life in Ireland on the weekend. Stay tuned!

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