The Start of a New Term

Today is the first official day of term, although things got going yesterday really, and I’m doing… nothing.

No lectures (they start on Thursday), no academic meetings by chance, no choir, nothing at all planned except general chores and tidying up. The irony of being totally, completely free on the first day of term amuses me.

Yesterday was quite busy. I had a start of term meeting with my DoS, then we went to a meeting with our Land supervisor (same person as last year and just as lovely as I remembered). I did a bit of shopping – John Lewis appears to be the only place in Cambridge that is not out of stock on coathangers, so I gritted my teeth and paid £17 for 12 coathangers, eek – and then three hours of reading for my first Land supervision. Aren’t I dedicated?!

The afternoon brought with it the world’s shortest meeting ever, for Contract. We went into the room, fussed about the fact that there were 9 people and only four seats, said hello, got given two sheets of paper, swiftly assigned supervision times, and left again. Five minutes, max.

This year I’ll be having one-to-one Contract supervisions with my DoS, which is a slightly intimidating prospect since I don’t remember being particularly good at contract and now I have no one to hide behind! On the other hand, it will a) make me more accountable and b) mean that if I do understand something, we can move straight on to things I don’t understand. In a group situation the pace is never perfect for everyone. We’ll see how that goes. Luckily the time is limited to an hour by lectures either side, so it won’t turn into a four-hour disaster if I get stuck on something!

I also started tutoring yesterday. My tutee is a 9 year old boy from South Korea, and he lives about fifteen minutes away by bike. I set off with half an hour to get there, and immediately got a puncture. Foolishly I didn’t turn round, go back and get my other bike (soon to be given to charity, but currently still in the college bike shed) but soldiered on. The puncture got worse, until I could feel every bump in the road and some that weren’t actually there. Unsurprisingly I was late arriving. I was so angry with myself, it’s so unprofessional to arrive late, especially to the first session! But they were very lovely and understanding about it, and I was only just over five minutes late. Next time I’ll leave even earlier, just in case (and I’m taking the bike to get fixed properly today – my brother did try to fix it over the summer but I have a feeling I need a new tyre).

The tutoring itself went well, after an initial few minutes of awkwardness. I’d made a questionnaire for the boy to fill in, so that I could know some things about him – what he enjoys doing, what his hobbies are, and also what his written english and reading comprehension are like. I was pleasantly surprised, as he reads at a level I’d expect from most nine year olds, without any allowance for the fact that english is his second language. He tried to explain a Korean joke to me, but it didn’t make much sense. I reciprocated with my favourite joke (what’s blue and square? An orange with disguise) and got there in the end.

Next week I’ll have a better idea what sort of things to take with me, but I’d made some lucky guesses. He loved the madlib we wrote together, struggled but seemed to enjoy the simplified version of Just a Minute (very simplified indeed – just trying to get him to speak at all was a bit tricky!) and reading aloud from a story and highlighting the words he doesn’t know went fantastically. By chance I’d picked a story with lots of English idioms, like “spick and span” and “a haze of slumber”, so we discussed what they meant. When he understands something, his whole face lights up in comprehension, which is very useful!

Then I raced back on my poor bike, cooked the world’s fastest curry with more success than I expected, and went to a two-hour choir rehearsal. It wasn’t quite as good as the previous ones. A bit more stressful, and more unrelenting. There were a few new people and frankly if it’d been my first rehearsal I doubt I’d have come back. One girl looked terrified throughout, and another girl who has never sung in a choir before and speaks english as a second language was in tears at the end. I hope they do come back, but I’d understand if they didn’t. It’s the most demanding choir I’ve ever sung in.

Today I’m going to try and blitz the various left-over jobs from moving in: hanging pictures, pinning up posters, the first load of laundry etc. I’m pretty happy with how my room is looking. It feels like home.


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