Monday, 8th of November – Essay writing class and hairy faces

Today was the start of the third week of the seven week essay writing course. It is a pity that these courses take so long to settle down in terms of knowing the actual number and levels of students. Students do have a week’s grace period where they may come to class, and, though they are not supposed to withdraw from the class once signed up, potentially they can withdraw. As I understand it, they get their money back or can swap to another course. Other students come to class after the initial starting date because of other short-term obligations.

It is important to me that all students are familiar and comfortable with each other, especially in this kind of classroom environment, as they will be sharing their essays with each other. To share one’s own work with another takes a great degree of trust in the other person, and so, in a culture where so much is so heavily dependent on one’s ‘first impressions,’ the first week or so of classes and meetings with other students take on extra layers of import.

Anyway, it is now fairly apparent who are regular and committed students, and who is semi-regular and perhaps a bit too busy with other issues beyond the class. The class has expanded since the last course and there is a great mixture of ages, abilities, and interests amongst the students. In other words, things are settling down nicely, and it is good to see students producing some great material, both in their essays and blog entries.

Despite the dangerously stuffy-sounding title, one of the reasons I really like the text book we are following is because it has both descriptive and narrative essays at the start. This allows students to talk – or rather write – about themselves, and thereby share with each other a bit about themselves. This, therefore, helps again later when writing on possibly more serious topics and issues, when it will be helpful for students to know and trust each other to a higher degree. It is great if students understand each other, in order to share ideas and information more easily on more detailed and technical feedback on those essays and the issues with which they deal. Oh, and: it’s fun to learn about each other, too!

In a completely unrelated topic, this month is Movember! No, that was NOT a spelling mistake. It was one of those strange words that blend two other words together to make a new one. (The new word produced from the other two is called a ‘portmanteau.’) November with an ‘N’ has been adopted by some people, usually of the male variety, who aim to grow the best ‘moustache’ within that month. The ‘m’ from ‘moustache’ therefore gets stuck on the front of the name for the month, hence the nickname ‘Movember.’

“Why on Earth would people do such a strange thing?!” you may well be asking. According to the apparently somehow official website, the charity event is for the sake of raising “funds and awareness for men’s health.” Prostate cancer is a certainly a serious issue that most people, particularly including male-type people,  never talked about openly until only very recently. By ‘recently’ I mean that perhaps only during the last decade or so has this form of cancer started to be given the greater degree of attention that it deserves.

Interestingly, and according to the wikipedia.org site, it was just over ten years ago, in 1999 that the first group in Adelaide “invented Movember”. I am happy to see that another group marked the month officially in both Australia and New Zealand in 2004. I am even more proud to see that some students from my old secondary school (or high school) managed to buck the system enough to make ‘the papers’ and get themselves a media report and an entry in wikipedia for the sake of facial hair and Movember. Well done, lads!

Another interesting aside also related to facial hair is that that great new rock band called ‘The Beards‘ also hails from Adelaide. … Perhaps there’s something in the water.. or more likely in the beer there in ‘Radelaide’ that stimulates facial hair growth and a matching enthusiasm and interest in it, too. I have no idea, but, having met the drummer and the band’s manager, I can assure you that they are very nice people, and the drummer’s beard appears to be real and quite impressive. … Oh, and, they write and play great songs, too.

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