Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Mirror: Risen

"Because you have seen me, you believe: blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

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In the immediate aftermath of the disappearance of Jesus Christ's corpse which had been placed in a sealed tomb following his death by crucifixion, a rumour began to circulate that the disciples of Jesus had stolen his body in order to perpetuate the myth of his resurrection.

Fear of this malevolent gossip about a risen saviour prompted the Jewish leaders to request the tomb be sealed and guarded by centurions. Three days later, the seal had been broken, the stone had been rolled away from the entrance and the tomb was empty.

So far we are in accord with the Biblical narrative. However in the film Risen, Joseph Fiennes stars as a tribune named Clavius who is assigned to find the body of the so called Messiah. Clavius witnessed the death of Jesus, and was certain the rumour of theft was true...until he began to investigate the alleged crime.

He meets and interviews a number of Jesus' followers and is troubled by how they present themselves and defend Jesus. One day, following a lead from a spy, Clavius locates the home of one of the apostles. He bursts in and finds Jesus' inner circle there. He also sees Jesus. This moment in the film is pure gold, The man Clavius saw die and be interred, who set his own Roman seal across the entrance to the tomb, sees Jesus alive and well. To say he is surprised would be the biggest understatement in history.

Flavius then travels to Galilee with the disciples where Jesus appears to them again. Aside from the presence of tribune Clavius which is mere speculation, the film goes back to the story as presented in the Bible. One evening, Clavius has some time alone with Jesus who asks him what he is searching for. Jesus offers some suggestions: certainty? peace? And then he drops another bombshell by repeating Clavius very own words about what his hopes for the future were. A day without death. Hearing his own words from Jesus' mouth almost brings the battle hardened tribune to tears.

At times I felt the film was a little pedestrian, (the odd collection of accents was off putting, and there were some very ordinary acting performances) but in the two aformentioned moments I was really moved, emotionally. These were very powerful scenes, and I thought Fiennes did a great job of portraying a man who didn't know what he was looking for until he found it.

Everyone is looking for something. Countless people throughout the centuries have found their search ended when they met Jesus. The day I met Jesus, for example, my search for meaning in life was terminated. I know exactly who I am, why I am here and where I am going. I know this because Christ is Risen.

Risen is now available on Netflix.

Friday, September 7, 2018

A Dog's Eye: the rort and the blind eye

Image result for teaching englishShout out to the evening class ELICOS* students at another college, whom I had the pleasure of teaching this week while filling in for their regular teacher. I don't know how long I could have sustained teaching a morning class and an evening class, but I have to say it was fun. So stimulated was I by working with a new group of students (and a much higher level than my class), that each night I struggled to unwind and go to sleep.

Although it wasn't an easy gig, I am grateful for the opportunity for two reasons. Firstly, it reinvigorated me as a teacher. For some time, I have been feeling a little stale at my usual place of employment, and have become increasingly frustrated with my students. The challenge this week presented reminded me why I love teaching. Secondly, of course, is the money. Every little bit helps.

I expected a different kind of student this week in the evening class. I had anticipated much higher proficiency, but I also expected better attendance. I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that the evening class students also rock up to class whenever they can, or whenever they feel like it. They also extend the break to suit themselves, and they leave when they are tired or have something better to do.

The attendance policy at this college is clear and matches the national guidelines for the ELICOS program. At my regular place of employment, we also have such an attendance policy. However, we report on progress, not attendance which means that poor attendance only becomes an issue when it results in poor assessment results. Naturally the two are inextricably linked, but if a student only attends half the classes, yet still achieves the minimum pass mark, then there is no problem.

All our students are in Australia on working holiday visas (visa subclass 500). The conditions of this visa state the student is allowed to work for 20 hours each week, but they must attend 20 hours of English classes a week. Would it shock you to learn that none of them do. That's right. Zero percent full attendance.

At the other college where I taught this week, I discovered, despite my hopes and expectation, that they also do nothing about poor attendance. I asked about the roll and if partial attendances were recorded. The answer was no.

Image result for turning a blind eyeSo here we have two colleges who turn a blind eye to students rorting visa subclass 500. Why? Isn't it obvious? They don't want to lose students. I'm told that ELICOS colleges in Sydney and Melbourne are very strict on attendance. Elsewhere it is not the same. Many students change cities, not just for a different experience, but to find more lenient attendance policies. 

Let me be clear: students who consistently fail to attend the required number of hours in class are breaching their visa conditions. Not clear enough? They are breaking the law. What do the colleges who extract exorbitant tuition fees from the students do about this situation? Nothing. Why would they?

If one college were to crackdown on this problem, the students would simply contact their agents and transfer to another college. If all colleges enforced their attendance policy, instead of just writing them and "informing" the students about them in order to satisfy regulators...the entire industry would shrink significantly.

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Self interest? Can I hear an "amen"?

*ELICOS = English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students