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Thoughts From The Corner

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Once upon a time, many moons ago but still within living memory, a little boy sat in a classroom corner.

Not so long, pupils who were considered disruptive, or simply stupid because they couldn’t answer the teacher’s questions, were sent to ‘the corner’. Facing the corner, away from the class, the pupil would have a ‘Dunce’s Cap’ with a letter ‘D’ on it, put on his head.

Alone in the corner, mocked by teachers and peers alike, every minute seemed like an hour. The little boy had a lot of time to think because he spent many hours of his educational life there

That little boy grew up to become a lecturer and private English tutor.

The experience of being isolated and ridiculed as a little boy has never left him. Left alone in the corner for many hours, all he had were his ‘thoughts from the corner’.

Today, he uses that expression (‘thoughts from the corner’) to post some of the many thoughts, stories and events that have happened to him throughout his life, on this blog.

Each post is a small, self-contained anecdote leading to a conclusion of where his thoughts have led him during the writing of the piece. Some will be amusing, some will be sad. Hopefully, all will be thoughtful.

Taking Issue with Confucius by a wary Private Tutor

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Thoughts From The Corner

Picture the scene, if you will, gentle reader. This private tutor in his favourite armchair, feet up on a footstool, tumbler of single malt by his side and novel in hand – shall we say Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield? Ah, bliss.

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Have I prematurely transgressed the pearly gates? No. As the saying goes, ‘I’m not afraid of dying but I’m in no hurry to die yet.’ Then I looked upon my well-worn Chinese proverb book and found:

The scholar who cherishes the love of comfort, is not fit to be deemed a scholar.

Confucius

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Having always thought upon myself as something of a scholar (!) I ponder the wise words of a wise man. Does the picture I presented above deem me not to be a scholar?

Well, to be honest (you know I wouldn’t tell you porkie-pies, don’t you?) I do like my comforts. Nay more; I love my comforts. In the Comfort League I fear I must be near the top. Let me give you further examples.

Is not one of life’s great pleasures sitting in a large leather armchair in your favourite coffee shop, nibbling a blueberry muffin (one of the high fat ones!), sipping a latte? You see how naughty I am when it comes to cherishing a love of comfort? To eschew further looks of disdain from you good selves I have further comfort confessions:

I always have the best seats in the theatre, I drive a luxury German car, I always insist on on single malt rather than a blended whiskey and I live by the theory that ‘Buy cheap, buy twice’ is a maxim to adhere to.

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I INSIST on the best seat in the house

What would Confucius have made of me? I do indeed cherish a love of comfort but does that make me a bad scholar? I wouldn’t fancy sleeping a hard stone floor in a draughty building high on a mountainside, dedicating myself to scholarly pursuits 18 hours every day. Does that make me a bad scholar?

I don’t doubt confucius’ sincerity but would he have been able to resist a (high fat) blueberry muffin?

What about you? What luxuries are you not willing to forsake?

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‘Social Media – Aargh!’ says Private English Tutor

private english tutor stoke on trent

Thoughts From The Corner

Social Media – Do we need it?

Being a private English tutor since before social media took a hold on society, I am not convinced we do.

Here I am, using social media to tell you that I don’t think we need social media! What a strange world I live in. . .

Recently I posted about setting up a site on Etsy (www.etsy.com/shop/gossamerimages). I have gone one step further and now set up a site on Fiverr (www.fiverr.com/exptutors). Fiverr is a site offering services for $5. It’s amazing what people are willing to do for so little money! Basically, both are online shops where you sell you wares. I am offering to make a dvd/video from images and music. I am not certain they can be classed as ‘social media’ but the purposes of this post I will include them.

fiverr

It’s amazing what people will do for $5

The behemoths of today’s online social media circus are Facebook and Twitter. Of course, I have a accounts with both. . . Why? Well, it seems to be the thing to do! I have read, by those that know more about this than I do, that as someone intending to publish a novel I need an ‘online presence’ and those aforementioned demi-gods (the big F and T) are an absolute must for both budding and established authors. Dutifully I followed the advice of the gurus and jumped on the band wagon. Although I post these WordPress posts on Facebook, it isn’t a site that I ever use. Twitter I engage with more but I don’t find it overly exciting – am I missing out?

giants

Big F and T – Giants in the sea of social media

At the end of each WordPress post I have additional icons to click so that my scribblings can be shared to those caring to read: Tumblr, Linkedin, Stumble Upon and Reddit. None of those I have much to do with, although I do occasionally flirt with Linkedin.

One social networking site that I do enjoy is Pinterest. I am a sucker for a well-taken photograph and an apt quote. I even started to put my novel on it, in pictures. That came to stop when I had my manuscript edited and found I needed a new opening chapter! That new first chapter is close to completion so I will attempt to put it on Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/privatetuition/seeing-unseen-a-novel-by-dean-nixon/) in the near future.

So what is that makes social media so inviting? Sorry, no answers. I only ‘do’ a bit of English not Psychology. :-)

A little anecdote for you. Many moons ago, emails hit the staffroom of the educational establishment that I was a slave to at the time. The lonely newly-installed computer (Billy no Mates) sat next to the kettle, in the corner. The training on how to use Word and emails I couldn’t be bothered attending: ‘What’s the point, it’ll never catch on. If they want me, they know where my pigeon hole is.’

pigeon hole

Pigeon hole

How short sighted can one be?

Several months later the pigeon hole cabinet lay redundant, a relic of a bygone era, and I was forced to learn how to open my emails. I was far from amused when over 300 of the pesky things tumbled forth!

For one who was slow to grasp and inhabit the virtual world I seem to have my foot/feet in many doors.

feet in door

My foot is well and truly in the door of social media

Please join me/browse any of the following – if you’re not busy setting up your own networking sites  :-)

Educational Site: www.experiencedtutors.co.uk

Photography/DVD site: www.gossamerimages.com

Twitter: @exptutors – https://twitter.com/exptutors

Fiverr: www.fiverr.com/exptutors

Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/gossamerimages

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/privatetuition

‘How Was it Your First Time?’ Wonders Private English Tutor

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Thoughts From The Corner

I guess most of us have been there.

With a sense of extreme trepidation the day approaches – this Private English Tutor puts all safety precautions put in place.

‘I leave all my worldly goods to Howl and Growl’ – the local doggie sanctuary.

bulldog wearing eyeglasses sleeping over a good novel

‘Howl and Growl’ – Doggie Sanctuary

Surgery is a scarey affair. As a recent first time recipient, I should know. I received my appointment eight weeks before the day. Plenty of time get scared! Having managed to avoid the surgeon’s knife for the first few decades of my life, it was inevitable my time would eventually arrive.

‘Males to the right, females to the left. Sorry, no visitors.’ The packed waiting room gave way to a small 6 bed ward.

‘Experienced Tutors 2nd’ screamed the board above my bed.

7:31am. Surgery starts at 9:00am and I’m the second one in. At least I shouldn’t have to sit and wait until 5:00pm when surgery finishes. Many measured thoughts raced through my head as I took in the five boards about the other beds.

‘Good morning E.T. I’m Emily. I just need to fill in a few forms. Blood pressure and temperature first.’

nurse

‘Now then. Where do we put this?’

The file on the table at the foot of my bed stood out in comparison to beds 3, 4 and 5. Number 5 in particular was note worthy. Standing at least one foot (30 cms) high the papers contained therein shouted out at me ‘There’s always somebody worse off!’

One hour later, sitting there in regulation hospital jim-jams, I knew the medical history of all the other five recipients of today’s surgery. Curtains were pulled around beds as histories were discussed but. . . and here’s the weird thing, sound travels through curtains so none of our medical histories, recent problems and awaiting medical procedures were sacrosanct – so why the curtains?

‘Hernia and vasectomy. Buy one get one free’ guffawed the surgeon with his deep, resounding belly laugh.

laugh

‘Hernia and vasectomy. Buy one get one free’, laughed the surgeon.

‘Three kids is enough. Time for the snip,’ Mike told us when the belly-laughing surgeon had gone. ‘Thought I’d have to have two op’s. Glad he can do it all in one.’

‘Okay. They’re ready for you now.’

11.02am the clock beamed at me from above the ward door.

‘Right. Let’s get some anaesthetic in you.’

‘First time you came around you asked for a cup of tea.’

‘I don’t remember that.’

‘Steve will take him back to the ward now.’

1:28pm the clock grinned at me.

Well, that was a fun day out!

Will the dogs’ home inherit? Sorry guys, Private English Tutor says you’ll have to do with a small donation this time. :-)

dog sad

Sorry guys. Only a small donation this time.

 

‘When One Door Closes Another Opens’ smiles Private Tutor

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“Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.” – Chinese Proverb (Photo credit: Brian Metcalfe)

The image above strikes me as being applicable to not only my day job as a private tutor but as a metaphor for us all as we wander through life.

Many moons ago I used to teach English to adult classes; it was wonderful. They had returned to the classroom having missed out when they were younger. Some went to work straight from school, some started families and some preferred night’s on the dance floor to noses stuck in books. Whatever the reason, now was their time. Some had been made redundant and some had seen their children fly the nest; they now had time to pursue something which had been fermenting deep within their souls – they desired Education.

Chomping at the bit they looked to me for guidance. I was the one with knowledge of the education system. They gave their all. My role was simply to guide them over the hurdles of the system and they did the rest. Classes were disciplined and stimulating, homework conscientiously attempted and handed in on time. To coin a phrase, from my point of view, It was a doddle. Never was the Chinese proverb above more applicable.

One day, I will tell you about the teenage classes I had. . . Oh dear! So many refused to enter the door that I held open and some even slammed it shut in my face. However, they are stories for other posts.

Looking at it another way, though, it can also be said that when one door closes another opens. As we amble down life’s path, either the major ones or the ones lesser taken, there are doors which we have all refused to enter at one time or another. Time cannot be reversed, there is no going back and the present is no time for regrets.

Several years ago I closed a door behind me and set off down the path of being a private tutor.

In the words of Edith Piaf, ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’.

What about you? Are there any doors you have slammed shut or indeed any you have refused to enter? Any regrets?

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Bust of Edith Piaf in Celebrity Alley in Kielce (Poland) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘Etsy? Who is Etsy?’ queries Private English Tutor

etsy-heart-logo

Not ‘who’ but ‘what’.

It’s an online shop selling hand crafted goods and I’ve just opened one. Yes, from private English tutor to shopkeeper at a cost of $3 per annum – at least that’s what I think the small print said!

Up until a few weeks ago Etsy was a strange four-letter word that I had occasionally come across but had no idea what it meant. However, one magazine article later and I was brimming with enthusiasm and knowledge about the strange word. It seems that people the whole world over have ventured into the Etsy world of individual hand-made goods. I’m talking everything from wedding dresses to flowers for button holes to bead necklaces to hand stitched leather goods and on and on and on. . .

‘What’s good for the goose has to be good for the gander’ thinks I! :-)

goose

What’s good for the goose. . .

A few hours pounding the keyboard and there it was: www.etsy.com/shop/gossamerimages my very own shop, offering the world personalised dvd slide shows. I’ve never owned a shop (or ever wanted to) before but now I have a virtual one.

The origins of this particular adventure began more than ten years ago when I traded in my film cameras for a digital one. That led to manipulation of digital images (Photoshop and all that) which then led to me putting images together with music, captions, effects, movement. . . and here we are offering personalised dvd slide shows. Have you ever wondered about the decisions you make and where they eventually lead to? I have. . .

For several years I have been putting bespoke dvd’s together for customers. These include weddings, family history, graduations, proms, celebrations of all kinds, the life of a pet – in fact, ‘If you can photograph it then I can dvd it!’

So what does it take to produce something that is unique to you? Something that can be shown on the TV in your living room to family and friends? Something for you to treasure for years?

tv

‘Come look at our wedding Freda.’

Here’s the process:

1.    Digital images required – this can also include video clips

1a.    Non-digital images – photographs, negatives, slides, illustrations, maps, etc. I can convert.

2.    Each image is optimized i.e. colour corrected, sharpened, cropped if required

3.    Images put into running order (that’s you task!)

4.    Put together those images where multiple images are used in effects

5.    Work on each individual image with respect to timing, movement, panning, zooming in/out, effects

6.    Captions where required e.g. names of people on wedding images (that’s your task again)

7.    Transitions – the ‘bits’ in between the images – timing and effects

8.    Add music of your choice – I’ll decide if you can’t

9.    Run show on monitor and make corrections

9a. Second run through to correct corrections!

10. Burn to dvd and check show runs smoothly on TV

10a Correct above version

11.  Up load to web site for customer to view and suggest corrections

11a Do above corrections – Check on monitor then burn dvd and check on TV

12. Burn off ‘master’ copy

13. Design images and text for burning on disc – NOT sticky labels

14. Design dvd case cover

15. Pop completed project into post

16. Take a well earned holiday!

See how quick and easy it all is. . .

In the past two weeks I have had three views of the site resulting in no orders.

Time to give up my day job as a private English tutor – probably not!

hamster wheel 2

Probably not time to give up the day job. . .

 

 

 

 

 

Time is More Valuable than Money – Sometimes!

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Thoughts From The Corner

The past month has witnessed a paucity of posts by this private English tutor.

Having the need to put bread on the table, I have spent June marking examination scripts. Four whole weeks gauging how well (or otherwise!) today’s youth are struggling with the English language. Oh. . . and how they are struggling!

shakespeare

Did he pass his English exam?

I may have marked a batch of poor candidates – on the other hand, their standard may fairly represent that of the modern generation. Judging by the few hundred papers I marked, I fear for this beautiful language of ours. The good news, however, is that I know my re-embarkation on the good ship WordPress will be greeted with quality writing on a whole myriad of interesting blog posts. For that I thank you.

marking scripts

Marking Scripts

As my head clears and I ponder the past four weeks, I wonder where time has gone. I am sure it has not really gone anywhere, it’s simply me that has existed in a parallel space – I think!

Delving into my ever-faithful-ever-dependable quotation book I wondered what words of wisdom it contained on the subject of ‘Time’. Here are a few pearls which I would like to share with you.

Hector Berlioz said:

Time is a great teacher. Unfortunately it kills all of its pupils.

I love that – just my kind of humour; going from bleak-dark.

Thinking about the past month and all those scripts the next quote strikes a chord:

Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money but you can’t get more time. (Jacob Bigelow)

How very true. I can’t get those four weeks back, I traded them for the legal tender. Sad but true.

money

Chasing the legal tender

Finally:

I went to a restaurant that ‘serves breakfast at any time’. So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance. :-)

As the scripts fade into the dim and distant past I start to contemplate my manuscript – Seeing Unseen. Having had it edited I am straining at the leash to re-write/do/hash (delete as applicable). I have been laying the first chapter out on Pinterest. It has been an enjoyable exercise but now I find that I need to rewrite that first chapter so the Pinterest board will have to be adjusted accordingly. The challenge of trying to put my novel into pictures has been interesting and I have received some great feedback from you out there – Thank You.

As one of ‘mature years’, Time is something that I dwell on from time to time – can I have three times in one sentence? Those of you that share this maturity may also, perhaps, have dwelt on this un-graspable subject. Why does it go faster the older I get and why do I understand it less than I did several decades ago?

old man

‘Where has time gone?’ ponders private English tutor

Is this private English tutor alone here?

Exam Marking Intrudes on Life of Private English Tutor

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Thoughts From The Corner

Here we are again, that time of the year when this Private English Tutor loses the month of June due to exam marking.

I am sure that most of you have, at some time or other, taken an English exam. Have you ever given a thought to the minion at the other end of your two hours of blood, sweat and tears? That minion may well have been me! You may not live in the United Kingdom (perhaps not so ‘united’ in September when Scotland have their vote to break away) but the long arm of the British exam system stretches to many places around the globe. I mark iGCSE English papers. The ‘i’ stands for ‘International’. That means that your paper has been set and marked here in Britain.

A few days ago, somewhere, thousands of miles from me and my computer, sheep-like candidates nervously entered the exam room and completed a paper which they had been dreading for several years. The day of reckoning had arrived. We’ve all been there,  it’s no fun – but neither is marking them!

sheep

Sheep-Like, candidates enter the examination room

So then what?

Someone has the unenviable task of scanning the examination booklet and making it ready to be marked online. Yes, online. No longer do I receive packets containing hundreds of scripts being brought up the garden path by a bow-legged courier looking like an extra from a John Wayne film – younger readers please check Wikipedia for ‘John Wayne’.

Marking is done online. I chain myself to the computer chair (it’s big and ugly but it does recline) and stare for countless hours every day at the screen. As I plough through them, counting them down until I am on my last dozen or so at the end of June, I occasionally receive a message from my ‘Team Leader’. A marked script that has been included in my batch (not one I am aware of) has a part of it that has not been marked as accurately as it should have done. It may be one point out of fifty that I missed – it may be more! So I check it, back-track over previously marked papers and check them and then apply the ‘correct’ marking to all future papers.

Social Media

Exam Marking is done online

Then what? Well, the third week in August (on a Thursday) those candidates will receive their grades. I don’t know who they are or which part of the world they are in but I am certain they will not have given much thought to the small cog in the exam machine that marked their paper. :-)

What about that small cog? I await the cheque for my hard labour and move on to the third draft of my novel.

Seeing Unseen has recently had a professional edit and is patiently sitting in its folder awaiting my attention. Looking at loneliness, delusion, cyber stalking and the resultant underage relationship, my first novel will be available in 2015. Before then it is possible to watch it being played out on Pinterest. Week by week I am playing out the narrative in images. Please see the latest installment at: Seeing Unssen.

It only remains for this private English tutor to tune in to the webinar later this week to be informed of the marking scheme for the English paper, then to immerse myself in virtual English papers for the next month. :-(

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