Monday, November 07, 2005

Closure
I have just submited my last assignment today. What a relief! It has been 5 days since our geography package was handed in. I can imagine our tutor slogging away in his office, poring over 20 hetrerogeneous submissions... Good luck, Voyager!

Because of the hectic pace of assignments and some things happening on the family front, I fell sick. My last few assignments had the benefit of me working in a feverish condition. Therefore, fortunately or unfortunately, everything made crystal clear sense. I went to the doctor yesterday, and still delirous with the "elephant traquilizer" medication and the flu bug, I forgot to register for my elective module (yes, that module which all of us should have signed up for last week). So now, i've gotten the "Computer Supported Collaborative Learning" module, which is totally not suited for a tech idiot like me. Well- cross my heart and hope to pass.

This post isn't just about me. :) I would like to thank my geog class for their zany company and guidance. And many thanks to Voyager for his advice.

I have promised myself time to rest. Therefore, I will NOT be touching the PC for one week. A well deserved rest for trigger happy fingers. A good rest to all! :)

An apology is in order

The truth is out-- I apologize to my fellow "urban dwellers" for my underhanded means in procuring $ and survival. But I must insist that i will not do the following in real life, unless I have been offended greatly. :P

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Agricultural Game

I had to admit, I had a lot of fun. :) And I spied our tutor bent over with laughter-- i don't know who is having more fun-- us, or him. Our reactions during the game were priceless-- the only thing is that I don't ever want my students to find out about my wrong doings! Least the farmers think that everything is just hunky dory with the urban dwellers, they are wrong. We did a lot of despicable things, like "stun"ning cash from the President's teasury, evading taxes, and denying alliances. I found it difficult to lie without a pressing need to . As such, I found it hard to play this game with a straight face. I didn't know who to trust-- at first, I thought that the president and the Government Offical were so kind, taxing the peasants' harvest so that all urban dwellers need not worry about their food. Well, guess what? They decided to charge us an extorbitant price for rice as well as tax us. No point working for such people, I must say. :P

Also, I was supposed to work with spacematters to secure our survival. But I don't know which of his statements to trust. (So sorry!) I tried to barter with bananasaviour for rice and cash in exchange for water pump, but i was found out by Geognut. I think I died for 4 rounds. But i managed to secure cash and a warehouse during the last round, as a result of my fellow urban dwellers' carelessness ( I found them lying on the table or on the floor :P) . Hahahahaha! SO sorry. Perhaps scavenging is a better option than selling my soul in exchange for rice and cash.

I think I'll make a lousy businesswoman. I'll earn enough for my keep, but will never live to see my business expand and prosper. I'm better off as a farmer! if group dynaimcs meant anything, than I'm pretty sure this group of Geography teachers will stand firm on their ground-- everyone of us is so stubborn!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Magnum Opus

Jenny ended our microteaching sessions with a painsakingly planned fieldtrip around NIE campus. Despite the uncooperative weather, we managed to get our butts off our comfortable seats and journey down to Nanyang Playhouse for an observation on weathering in Singapore. I feel that Jenny provided a creative way for us to work in groups (each one of us is to get part of a photograph backed with a certain colour, and we are to work together with classmates with the same colour). We were also required to suss out for ourselves the site depicted in the photograph that we've pieced together, and to organise our presentations of weathering at the site to our classmates.

However, this is where we fell short. Because we were unaware of how to use our imagination to answer the hints on weathering given at the back of our photographs with reference to the site, my group members spent a lot of time wondering what we were supposed to do. We were looking for rocks so that we could observe weathered materials, but all we could find were snails and pebbles. Also, we were trying to relate the hints given at the back of the photograph to the worksheet, so we spent a lot of the time being unproductive. I think it was also difficult for Jenny to issue instructions to all of us at the same time, because we were dispersed over a wide area. Perhaps she could have nominated a group leader so that he or she can relate instructions to members in their group.

We are getting very good at "misbehaving"-- and I think for the "fieldtrip", although the misbehaviour was not extraordinarly "good", it was compounded by the fact that we were out of class.Students are bolder as a result. Maybe Jenny can let a trusted student know where she wants to go, and let him or her guide the class to the spotwhile she stations herself at the end of the queue so that we would have less chance of absconding. I'll be the first to admit-- I absconded from Geography fieldtrip with the pathetic excuse of food pooisoning. :p Sorry!

But I think Jenny has done well despite the problems. I hope she is not too traumatised.

Now it's time for me to plod on with my work. :(

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

PTM and BananaSaviour and Georocks

I have been reading this book, Teacher Well- Being by Elizabeth Holmes, and she mentions the following questions we can ask ourselves as teachers:

How active is listening in the school?
Who feels heard and unheard in the school?
What opportunities are there for discussion and debate?
Is emotional literacy given a high priority in planning?
What are the predominant teaching and learning styles?
What is actively done to empower the formation of good relationships?

I think the above questions are relevant for the PTM-- becuase in the examples that Voyager has mentioned as well as in the rounds at my table, I feel that listening did not play a very important part. Basically, what I felt was that most of us (myself included) were on the defensive because we were not sure of what the other party would react, and because our conversations not only had to embody the prescribed character traits, we were also required to take and maintain a particular stand because of those traits. It is strange that in such an emotionally demanding job such as teaching,we are not formally taught on how to be emotionally literate. Basically, for the PTM, we were screaming to be heard, lah.

About bananasaviour and the slashing incident-- our PTM did influence my decision somewhat. I felt that bananasaviour handled it well-- if she was amused, she did not show it. :P She was firm-- she confiscated the instrument instead of telling the child to stop. She also allowed another student to accompany the child to the toilet so that she will not be up to more mischief, i hope. I think that she is a very sensitive teacher. Despite the small pockets of rebellion in the class, she was firm and understanding. She did not humiliate anyone because he or she misbehaved or could not understand the lesson.

If a sudent has been cutting himself or herself over a period of time, would a teacher wait until it was the PTM to inform the parent? A colleague told me that when there is a possibility of a child's safety to be compromised because of our inaction, then we must surely inform their parents. If it were my form class, I will pray hard that I will not wait until it is too late. But for newcomers like us, it is difficult for us to identify the action as well as acknowledge that it is taking place. We must also be aware of the class dynamics and the sutdents' relationship with his or her parents.

I was the observer for Georock's microteaching session. Again, like bananasaviour, I feel that he is sensitive to the needs of his students. I felt that he has done well-- if he was nervous, it did not show. Just look out for your students' mischief, and don't leave them unattended and unoccupied when you need to attend to something else. :)

Poor Chris!

I'm sorry to say this, but I feel so sympathetic for male teachers now. :P When I was doing my school experience, one of the (needless to say, male) teachers attached to the school I was with for practicum also experienced the same kind of unwanted attention. But the magnitude was greater-- other teachers who were there on school experice or practicum teased him alot-- we told him that he needs to wear ten rings-- one on each finger to ward off ALL unwanted attention and to signal that he is no longer available (all ten fingers taken mah). Female students tried to take his picture while he was marking books during his relief lessons, and some even told him to his face that he was cute. But I thought that he was above board in the way he behaved-- he met his students in very visible areas of the school, and he did not pay undue attention to female students.

I think Chris shouldn't have told off Vintagegem's open declaration of affection in front ofthe whole class-- both he and the student will be teased endlessly, not just in this class, but maybe in all other classes too-- rumours travel fast. Perhapd it might be better to see her in the staff room or lounge, where you know other teachers might be present. Serously, if this kind of melodrama (fainting and whatnot) happened in my class, I also wouldn't know what to do.

Besides the melodrama, Chris' lesson also brought to the fore the difficulties of 1) defining hunger and malnourishment and 2) addressing the other issues related to them. I feel that the reading materials which he gave our group addresses malnourishment as a secondary issue, and may not relate that relevantly to the topic which he fleshed out for us. but for his defence, he didn't have to opportunity to flesh out much because -- well we were an Express class with Normal Technical behaviour.

But good job, Chris-- it was very brave of you to define a new topic and to try it out. :)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hardware

It was Geognut and Raksha3's microteaching sessions yesterday, and both of them went through the same topic on Industries (by now, all of us know that it won't be included in the syllabus for 2007. *Sob*). Geognut started on a good note-- we can see that the lesson had been carefully prepared-- there was a lot of attention to details and careful delivery of additional information. There was also group work for us. However, despite this, Geognut's class sounded like a drill and practice session after a while, because I think too much content is being covered. To his defence, I would like to say that i have taught this topic before, and i found it hard to pace the lessons because it is sooo content heavy. perhaps it is too ambitious to fuse together two large components (least cost theory model and the factors for industrial location) despite the fact that we cannot teach one without the other. Students must be given time to absorb the information, and we also need to factor time in case we need to re-explain something, even if it is a very good class.

Also, there are gaps between knowledge-- there is no explicit information on globalisation in the textbook for this topic. As such, students may find it difficult to relate technological development with the extent this influences the decision making of firms. It is very tricky to define globalisation because it is both visible and invisible-- it is everywhere around us, but we take for granted because it functions day to day, most of the time. So to target a working definition for our students nay also be difficult because technically, they do not need to know anything about it, but they need the definition to help them understand the topic better. But good try overall, Geognut-- you handled the disruptive students with a firm hand.

With regards to Raksha3's lesson-- I thought that it was well paced, and that it was useful to assign a project to students whereby they need to research on other industries. This will allow them to have other resources to quote during exams, as well as allow them to apply the facotrs for industrial location onto other indutrial estates. I felt that it was useful for her to include a map of Bangalore in her powerpoint slides as well as show pictures of other areas of Bangalore so that students will get a contextual understanding of the industrial estate. Again, it was a monster of a case study, so pacing of content is again, important. The class was probably tired after the whole hooha during Geognut's session, so we were relatively subdued. I think perhaps Raksha3 could have elicited more student response so that she wouldn't feel like she is driving the lesson on her own energy. Responsive students make our day. :)

This entry is waaay too long.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What do we do with colour blind students taking Geography?

So far, we have been emphasizing visuals in our microlessons. But what do we do when there are students in our classes who are colour blind? I had a classmate who was colour blind when I was in Secondary school. He had problems telling the colour of the precipitate during chemical experiments. As a result, our chemistry teacher asked another classmate to partner him during lab sessions. But we teased him a lot when we found out. However, he doesn't seem to have this problem during Geography. I don't know whether if he didn't admit that he was having problems because he's afraid of the class teasing him again, or if it was geniune that Geography was less a problem to him.

I wonder if we can have any suggestions?

Regarding AWOL students

There were students who left class without permission on Friday. I think these are the ones who are likely to be entering other teachers' classes without permission to "sit in" with their friends (see my comment "illegal squatters"), or loiter around. In the school I was with for contract teaching, ther was a class diary in each class so that the subject teacher can feed back to the form teacher. Alternatively, you can speak to the form teacher of the class or your HOD regarding this student. IF you are the assistant or form teacher, then you'll have to call these students' parents about this issue.

Also, it was common for teachers NOT to give the sutdents toilet break when their lessons occur just after recess. because they are supposed to settle whatever business they have DURING recess, not class time.

"We are playing rock music"...

It was icydolphin's turn to microteach yesterday, and perhaps because Geognut was absent, the class went into riot mode to compensate(Geognut, are you listening?) . Even the usually quite students acted up. What i like about icydolphin's lesson was that we were given huge rock samples to touch and anaylse. In school, I doubt if all Geog depts are as well equiped. I egged ELzap to play "rock music" as well as to take back his confiscated ipod (sorry, sorry, icydolphin! :P). To Elzap's credit, he didn't want to do the things listed above at first (now I know that my classmates were such "gwai" students). I want to say that icydolphin's reaction time was very fast-- the moment she could hear music, she zoomed in on the correct table. And she was firm-- she made it clear to Elzap that he can't play the ipod because "the rest of the class cannot hear" her lesson; not because "I said so". So the individual's ownership of the lesson is made clear. Hmm, regarding Elzap taking back his ipod-- when Li Yan was giving us a lift to Boon Lay MRT, icydolphin said that she knew that the moment the ipod was gone, Elzap had taken it. She said that usually, when she confiscates expensive items she will keep them by her side, but because today, she not familiar with the layout of the class (we only do microteaching once), and she was nervous, so she forgot.

I feel that the some of the charateristics of rocks listed inside the worksheet icydolphin gave us were very subjective. For example, the worksheet asked us if the rock was "hard or soft" and whether it was "heavy or light". These are relative terms, and I feel that without standardised measuring instruments, the students will not have a clear understanding of what these terms require them to examine. For example, the students can be provided with a weighing scale to compare whether rock A is heavier than rock B, etc. Or icydolphin can tell students to scratch the surface of the rock with a 20 cent coin to test its hardness. If the rock is easily scratch, it is soft. Etc. But overall, i feel that the microteaching session on Friday was very well done. Thanks, icydolphin!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"Call out his name, his class, and tell him to get out of your class!"

I actually said the above words on Friday during the debrief session when Kenneth asked what we'll do when a student becomes an "illegal squatter" in your class and refuses to get out. I'm sorry to say this, but I've experienced this quite often during my contract teaching and my school experience. The students will come over to another class if they know that 1) you are new to the school and do not know the students that you teach, 2) the principal/ Vice principal/ OM is not in school, or 3) it is a relief session in their class/ your class.

I'm also sorry to say this, but these students who squat illegally also have a history of discipline problems. They have a reputation in the staff room, and during my contract teaching, there is a discipline file you can acess on the school's LAN, euphemistically entitled, "Students Who Need Our Care and Concern". The good news is that these students with discipline problems are ok once you get to know them, and once they have settled whatever matters that are preoccupying their time and attention, their focus on school life and school work will return.