Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Here I am again...

Posting my blog from Terminal 2's Free Internet Access kiosk...

Leaving for Taiwan and HK in less than an hour's time. Boy, this dec holiday has been packed with so many activities that in the blink of an eye, the month would have been gone.

Well, gonna wish my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Please try and remember the real significance of Christmas especially when we are constantly bombarded by the message found within our consumerist culture....

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Cold Turkey Finally

This picture on an ancient toilet with a constipated look describes how I feel about blogging about Turkey. Been postponing my blog on my Turkey trip as I always feel overwhelmed by the number of pictures I took. Worse, I worry that I might not get the sequencing right heh. Yeah yeah you know me, always needing to sort things chronologically and in a linear fashion. Well, can’t postpone the inevitable anymore so shall just blog…

This trip was embarked during the month of December 2005. Turkish airlines was well, hmm, how shall I put it…different. The service on the flight to Turkey was questionable. Though the bread was nicely heated and delicious, it was the way they served us that made me go hmmm….I think I was given relatively good service compared with others. Saw others having their bread being ‘thrown’ at them and what not. Additionally, the stewards and stewardesses, when asking people what they would like to drink, would say this instead “What you want to drink?!” I guess that’s the Turkish way? Hmmm not sure there and then. But by the end of the trip, real Turkish hospitality was way warmer than that and I came out from this trip having newfound understanding and deeper respect for the Turkish people.

After a 13 hours flight with a stopover in Bangkok (we were not able to get out of the plane as they prevented us from doing so unless we were going to smoke – beats me why they didn’t want us to leave the plane though the stopover was for an hour), we finally touched down at Ataturk International Airport. The airport was really modern and nice. But like all Massive Standardised and Rigidly Packed (MSRP) holidays, we were all swept into the bus and headed for our first destination, Sultan Ahmet's Mosque (aka Blue Mosque) and Hagya Sofia or was it Hagia Sofya?

Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque)

Hagia Sofya or Hagya Sofia Mosque

The Blue Mosque is named as such because the interior of the mosque is laden with priceless blue tiles. The dome itself glitters in blue when the sun hits it at the right angle. Took a pic of that too.

Interior pic of Sultan Ahmet's mosque hence the name Blue Mosque

After that, we went to the cisterns, where the fresh water in this underground ‘cavern’ will sustain the ancient city for 6 months in the event of a siege of the city.

We thought we could have an early lunch, especially important since we were all starving, but the guide thought that we were rather early, so we moved forward the cruise of the Bosphorous Straits from the last day to the first day. So now, not only were we hungry, we were being whacked all sides by the blistering cold. The wind chill seriously made it worse.

At long last, we finally made our way to lunch. Had our first Turkish lunch with kebabs in a restaurant at the top of Galata Tower which also offered us a panaromic view of Istanbul.

That’s me pretending to look cold (well it was cold actually)

Tummies filled, we checked into the hotel. It was funny how for the entire trip, whichever hotel that we checked in, there will be something wrong with the room. Either there will be a drastic lack of towels, or the tv is not working, or the door knob drops out of the door, or the toilet gets flooded since the shower screen is not there (that is, if it actually works in the first place as one of the hotel rooms we were in obviously weren’t well made). After a while, we just laughed it off and anticipate how our next hotel room might be. Luckily for us, the last night at Istanbul was spent in a perfect hotel room.

The next day, we took an early domestic flight to Ankara, which is Turkey’s capital city. Am not going to blog about everywhere we went but mainly the more pertinent ones. Stopped at some museum and took this shot of the flower.

I love macro shots of flowers

After that, we stopped at Ataturk’s Mausoleum. Ataturk is the hero of Turkey, fought in the war of independence and became their leader until his death. He has a lot of sey…plus he’s got movie star looks man…


The entire mausoleum complex sits on a hill and is visible from most parts of Ankara. It is really a remarkable place. Huge. To show our respect to Ataturk, we couldn’t talk loudly, run, sit and behave like crappy tourists whilst in there, which is good. Can’t stand the fact that we were only given 45 mins to tour the place and given 2.5 hrs in a shopping mall. Well, some people in the group were real Singaporeans that’s all I can say.

Stylo Milo Turkish Ceremonial Guard

All the ceremonial guards in places of national interests are damn stylo milo man. Think they were also chosen for their looks and build too. The right hand holds the rifle while the left hand placed at the back, is actually holding a bayonet, poised and ready to attack. Think the gals can swoon over them.

After this, it was lunch and off we went to Cappadocia to check in. Took this pic of a salt plain on the way there. It was really beautiful.

Cappadocia is known for their marvellous landscapes. I have loads of pictures and captured lots of memories and thoughts (some geographical) during my time here. My blog will never ever do justice to what I actually saw and experienced whilst in Cappadocia. Here are some of the pictures I took while there.

Prisoner shot heh

Castle in Cappadocia. Look at the plane and contrail at the top of the castle

We went to Ephesus and Pergamon the next day. Ephesus is a pilgrimage site especially for Catholics. The chapel of Mother Mary is here. Ephesus, if I remember correctly, was listed in the Bible as the final home for Mary after Jesus was crucified.

Took this shot at the Ephesus Open Air Museum’s Amphitheatre

Library at the open air museum

Hmm I can’t remember what the sequence was next but well, in the end, we went to quite a few other places. The following pics were taken at Pamukkale with its beautiful calcium carbonate formations.

Trying to pose as Japanese tourists…

Scaled shot of the calcium carbonate surface

Stayed at Kusadesi. Pic taken at the bay.

Hmmm I think my memory really has gaps but thankfully, I have all the pics with me in my comp so those who are interested, can take a look at it and I can provide a proper sequencing of events then.

Climbing the wall at the ancient city of Troy.

Visited Troy and was disappointed. Somehow, I envisioned marvellous ruins near the sea, no thanks to the movie Troy and the hunky Brad Pitt. In the end, the ruins were in the middle of some agricultural plain and the Trojan horse really was ugly. Luckily for us, the horse used in the movie can be found at Canakkale, also a major battle site during the War of Independence.

Group shot with my new friends made during the trip and the Trojan Horse from the movie

Took a ferry and moved from the Asia side to the Europe side of Turkey and back to Istanbul we went. Ate Turkish meatballs which looked like this…

The dish on the left is supposed to be meatballs. Beats me. They were delicious though

Can’t remember which palace…

Dropped by at dunno which palace, can’t remember sheesh. Didn’t bring my camera in as we had to pay a large amount just to bring it in. The interior reminded me of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. Everything inside is priceless. Really beautiful.

Went to Topkapi palace and saw an exquisite collection of antique Ming vases, Prophet Mohammed’s beard and sword and other artefacts.

Made another friend on this trip. Her name’s Cheryl. She travelled with her family. Nice bunch of people. Liked her dad, really learned and always still eager to learn more.

Hmmm, there are certainly gaps within my blog but luckily for me, I have all the pictures. So although the blog will never do justice to Turkey, well, see it as snippets for your own possible trip to Turkey?

That’s all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

How apt...

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you and move you
to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

(Ezekiel 36: 26-27)

Why is this apt you may ask? It links to my previous post on various levels of meaning actually. To have a heart again...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

To Be Alive Once Again...

To Be Alive Once Again...

It has been two long years since.
Two long years of pondering,
Two long years of reflection,
Two long years of looking at the mirror…

Maybe I have been an automaton,
Programmed to behave in a certain way,
Socialised since birth that emotions are signs of weaknesses,
Maybe being robotic makes things easier, predictable…

Deep down hiding behind masks,
I know these to be untrue.
But why then is expression so difficult?
Why do I seek security in being robotic?

Perhaps deviating from the norm is scary,
Perhaps the feeling of being ‘lost’ makes it unpalatable,
Perhaps I am still waiting for the right moment,
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

‘Perhaps’ to some, is an ugly word,
A word signalling indecisiveness,
A word highlighting the inability to act.
Seize the day instead? Perhaps…


Trudging through time and space,
Never expected for events to unfold as they have.
Certain facts have been proffered and established,
Does the situation change then? I hope yes and no.

Though it puts me in a conundrum,
You have comforted me.
The dichotomy settled,
And I feel like sleeping.

My thoughts have been tickled by you,
My heart, sputtering back to life and filling with emotions,
My senses heightened, feeding off your words and actions..
Alas! To be alive once again!

But, although I am alive, I am not hoping.
Contradictory sentence? No.
Worried that Hope brings Despair? No.
Why then?

Ultimately, you come first.
You will always come first regardless...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A melting pot of places....Part Deux

Lake District? Lake Superior? Lake Zurich? Salzburg?

Sense of place can always be created and re-created. And sometimes, you can even re-interpret it and transpose it to our sunny island. Brings back memories...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A melting pot of places....

Where do you think this pic was taken? Bali? Phuket? Koh Samui? Krabi?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The end of lessons proper is a double-edged sword...

Yesterday's ICT class was the last class for me for this semester. Although lessons have ended, the assignments are still in progress and due next week.

There was a bittersweet taste in my mouth yesterday knowing that I do not have to attend any more lessons (except for one lecture in November). Sweet because, well, there are no lessons! Nothing to prepare nothing to read in advance, don't have to drive the ridiculous distance down to NIE for lessons that seem to be irrelevant (but I'm sure they are useful somehow, just that I have not realised it yet).

Bitter because well, won't be seeing my old and new friends as much as before. But on hindsight, not seeing my friends is also a bittersweet situation in itself! Bitter because I've come to know some of them at a deeper level and love to hang around with them. Sweet because some of them are just morons who are narrow-minded and some are utterly boring to be with!

Oh one thing, I'm a great believer in the adage "do unto others what you want others to do unto you", so all you proponents of "all's fair in love and war", don't bug me with your ideas and 'advice'.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Of rice and (wo)men....

Played a game focusing on agriculture today in class. Basically, the class was split into the urbanites [President, Govt Official (yours truly), Bankers, Traders and Industrialists] and the "lowly peasantry" (farmers planting padi).

The aim of the game is of course, to earn as much money and assets as fast as possible with scenarios such as famines and high birth-rate keeping things in check.

From the game, I learned that information is money. As the peasants' mobility is restricted, they have to rely on traders, the govt or the bankers for information as well as sourcing for infrastructure which will aid in the growth of padi. What the urbanites needed was rice so that we can survive.

Year 1: When the game started, all hell broke loose as the traders and the president+government official fought to get as many deals as possible with the peasants so that we can not only make a profit, but to purchase rice for sustenance. It was bad. After the first year ended, the urbanites realised that the peasants were making a mockery of us. With the urbanites venturing out into the rural hinterland, the peasants realised that they need not purchase or rent the bicycle (which is essential for travel to the city) from me. I lost a huge source of income due to that and actually had to slash the cost of renting my bicycle to them. Yet nobody wanted my bicycle! From then, I realised that the president and the govt official must work hand in hand so as to maximise our synergy for the next year. The traders (KF and CY) also felt that the peasants were taking advantage of all of us since they knew that we needed to purchase rice from them for survival. From then on, the urbanites realised that we needed to work with each other to ensure that the peasants sell their rice from us as well as purchase the necessary equipment to increase their yields. We also restricted the flow of information to the peasants and as the govt, designated a sole-monopolist trader. KF now had sole authority to conduct transactions with the peasants in exchange for some kickbacks to the govt.

Year 2: The best idea ever was for the govt to impose taxation on the people. Each person had to pay us $20 plus $10 per child which they had for "compulsory education". From here on, the president and myself started to have lots of cash at our disposal which we used to purchase rice at the cheapest level as well as getting the industrialists to supply us with warehouses at cost price (more like coercing them to do so with the threat to increase their taxes should they not sell to us at cost price). With warehouses, we were able to stock up on rice should a famine happen as well as selling them back to the urbanites. The traders were still trying to cut some deals with the farmers and I thought that KF did a great thing by lumping deals with incentives, getting the farmers to purchase more equipment in exchange for tax relief etc.

Year 3: The president and myself realised that we should tax the farmers not only in cash but also in rice so that we are able to store more rice for ourselves and our expanding warehouse inventory since we purchased more warehouses from the industrialists. After a while, we had so much rice, we need not buy any rice from farmers who were desperate to sell them. Just two years back, no farmer wanted to sell rice to us and now they wanted to be rid of their rice. It was nice also to see how the farmers realised that the restriction in the flow of information from the city to the rural hinterland had affected them badly as they felt hoodwinked by the traders (even though KF turned out in the end to have very little money). Farmers now wanted to rent my bicycle which of course I refused since I am making money through the restriction of information.

Year 4: With our coffers full and warehouse full of rice, we were able to play around more with the farmers as well as selling rice at a higher price to the bankers and industrialists since the famine has resulted in a drop in rice production. Again more $$ for the govt.

Year 5: The president and myself realised that the trader has been making deals with the farmers but in the process, did not really make much (if any) money for himself. In the end, the government benefitted again since we were able to capitalise on the fact that the trader was helping us! It was interesting to note how even though KF was relatively honest to the farmers, the farmers were still sceptical about him. It was more interesting to note how some farmers trust me more than him even though as the govt, we were taxing them a lot!

Aftermath: I find it puzzling how the farmers were so easily 'suckered' into selling their rice at $1 per kg when they could have been adamant and sell to us at a higher price. The pricing of commodities is a tricky aspect since it will affect the entire economy. The govt made the mistake of not keeping the bankers in check as we realised later that they did some undertable deals with the bananagrower and actually bought rice for their survival, thus they need not buy from us at an exorbitant rate. It wasn't fair that the industrialists probably made the most money in the end since their supply of warehouses, waterpumps, HYVs and fertilisers were never ending. They made a lot of money just selling warehouses to the govt and inclusive of the huge capital they had in the beginning, meant that they prob were the richest.

I likened the govt (president and official) to be in a role similar to Singapore. We basically did not have any natural resources and much cash in the beginning. What we had was human resource, information and the authority to tax people which we made full use of. Trade was our main mode of survival. Through careful (despicable) strategising, we managed to have $870 (not an easy feat considering in Year 1 I had $0 and the president did not have much either) and 5 warehouses chock full of rice (250 kg) and 160 kg of rice at hand by the time the game ended. The traders, well, they basically have only pittance left....which is weird as one usually considers them to have the most money heh.

I think the main lesson I got from this is somewhat observable in real life too. The rich gets richer while the poor gets poorer. Additionally, the govt is easily corruptible if they are really desperate to ensure their own survival. Information is POWER and MONEY.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fellow NIE Geog-ers, lend me your ears....

I've noticed from some of your blogs that some of you or well, maybe most of you are rather stressed in NIE, what with all the work such as lessons plans, fieldwork preparations, essays, interviews, projects, assessments, presentation and the list goes on....

Well, I too was killing myself over work and trying to make the best of my life during training. But I soon realised that it was taking a toll on my health as well as my social life. Mind you, having a social life is highly important as just concentrating on work might lead you to burn out when you least need to be exhaused i.e. during Practicum.

As I was driving to NIE one day with my friend, *Spilopterus (don't ask me what the heck that means), he was asking me why the heck do I always seem to be so busy, stressed, doing work etc... Right there and then, I didn't have an answer at hand. I began to ponder "Yah, why the heck am I killing myself over work? I need to pace myself..."

Spilopterus (2005) gave me this advice (did some changes to what he said):

"If whatever you do in NIE will make you a better teacher, then do it with all your heart! Go all out and do your best so that you will be more than just being well equipped for the profession! If what you do in NIE will not make you a better teacher, such as with some of the assignments we are tasked to do, then just pace yourself and remember to relax. No point getting burned out..."

So there you go guys and gals. Chill. Maybe we should all go out for drinks after our friday lesson ends. I mean, it IS a Friday night by the time we end....

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Who's the real parent?

Yesterday, our class did a simulation of a parent-teacher meeting. Sometimes I really wonder who the real parent of the student is, especially when the parent expects us to baby their child but yet when we actually do parent their child and discipline their precious little emperors and empresses, the parents will be up in arms.... Go figure.

Anyway I really think the PTM would be more effective if............we were not assigned according to our podcast group. Well, maybe at least for my group. We've known each other for quite a while that trying to get into role was quite difficult (except for the amazing actress, YZ). But well, we did out best and managed to get our 'act' together.

I think the main issues will be handling parents who are demanding and expect more from the teacher. For example, demanding that the teachers do something about their child's progress in school or monitoring his/her whereabouts. Many times, there are only that much we as teachers can do. Parents, you should be the one playing a larger role in your child's life! Whatever that we as teachers might have taught your child can be unlearned at home, especially if they model after your own bad behaviour.

Ok ok back to the PTM. I guess the most important things for teachers to do during such sessions would be to remain calm and collected. The teacher must also have all the necessary documents and 'evidence' with him/her so that he/she can justify whatever responses he/she might give to the parents. Being politically-correct as well as non-judgemental in addition to readily admitting certain shortcomings can defuse a tense situation. Being empathetic and understanding, being able to relate to the parents' worries will also aid the teacher to structure his/her conversation better.

Spewing sarcasm will surely fail, heh. Somebody in my group needs to seriously work on that.

Assure the parents. Encourage and praise the student. Be firm, direct yet understanding and PTMs will probably be less painful for yourself.

P.S. Never let the parent talk down to you in the meeting especially in the presence of your student, else you can forget about having any sense of authority in class from that day onwards.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Thought I could finally rest....

But alas, I was dead wrong. Finished with my microteaching today and thought to myself, finally I can rest over the weekend. But lo and behold, we were just assigned another presentation cum lesson plan submission during English class today.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised that work is never ending anyway.

Ok, will talk about my own micro-teaching today. I guess I need to pre-empt peoples' blog entries by highlighting that I DO NOT usually speak this fast, especially when teaching a class. It was solely because I had 30 minutes to go through what would have been a 70 minutes topic that I spoke rather fast, seems like x2 the normal speed I usually will teach.

Heh, also, I need to address the MSN Messenger thingy. I didn't realise that when I started my computer, it automatically connected to the wireless LAN at NIE and made my MSN Messenger sign on to the Internet, hence the pop-ups. I would like to apologise with regards to the pop-ups and I am sure that they were distracting to everyone. Thanks SJ for adding me into the contact list at that specific strategic heh. Anyway, what's done was done so I just had to minimise the powerpoint and sign out of the messenger. No biggie heh.

I'm now going to touch upon how I would have carried out my lesson proper if I was given the full 70 minutes. Firstly, I would have requested that all students clear their desks before I commence with my lesson. This is to try to keep students on task by removing any distracting items on the table. But since I noticed that the tables were rather 'clean', I didn't want to spend unnecessary time on it. Secondly, when going through the various factors influencing industrial location, I would actually have checked for understanding after every two factors. This will usually be done by asking a couple of students to answer some pertinent questions relating to the topic. Due to the shortage of time, I only managed to do that for a few of the factors.

Thirdly, with regards to the first worksheet which I disseminated, the graphic organiser was there as a means to inculcate students' ability to categorise/classify factors, which for Geography, is highly important. I didn't choose to provide students with an organiser where the two main categories of physical and human factors are already stated as I want them to learn how to categorise for themselves. In addition, the next page of the worksheet where I allowed space for them to put their thoughts in were meant to be open-ended. Because as Sec 3 Express students with rather respectable academic ability, I would prefer that they think about the question more, rather than wholesale copy the powerpoint slides which I showed in class. Personally, I link this with Social Studies as when I was observing SS at the school I was posted to, I realise that the teachers will trying to develop the students' analytical skills and to make them think of the question in their own way. As long as it forces the students to think, I feel that learning has been accomplished.

Fourthly, like how I explained in class, the least-cost location modelling activity would have been a very relevant exercise for students to complete as it tests the students' knowledge and application of the model to other examples of industries. All the instructions were found in both the powerpoint slide and the worksheet. Additionally, guiding questions were also indicated in the worksheet so that students can discuss this with their partners in addition to any other questions they might think of. I only provide the basic but pertinent guiding questions so that they can be addressed in class for the benefit of others, the rest of the questions, I would expect the students to brainstorm and discuss.

Lastly, the lesson would have ended with my own interpretation of the activity and a summing up of the lesson's objectives so that students are made aware of what we have done and accomplish today. The last slide, with a sneak preview of next week's class, was to prepare them as well as to link today's class with next week's. In my opinion. this sense of linkage must be highlighted to students as it allows for them to visualise the topic of industries as a whole and not in distinct parts.

Class management

With regards to class management, I felt that I really didn't have to do much today. Small transgressions such as talking amongst themselves are not things that I specifically focus on unless I feel that they are really distracting to myself and/or to the other students in the vicinity. How I would prefer to handle this would either be to look at them, or to ask them whether they have any questions or to assign questions for them to answer.

Actually personally, I don't really find eating in class to be an issue unless the school rules deem it to be so. Focusing on the trio's desire to eat their paus and puffs, I only took action after one of them neglected to follow my instructions after the third time. That was when I demanded that the pau be given to me. Urm, I think we all saw how YZ was such a good actress and I realised that she really didn't want to give me the pau when I noticed that I had already torn a small bit of the bag the pau was in while trying to get it off her. Never knew she would have cried over the pau thingy but alas, I'm a big softie to students who 'deh' in class. I think Jenny tried to 'deh' as well but well, I knew that they know that it was my greatest weakness hence I was especially harsh, I believe my heart would have melted into jelly if it was real, especially if the gals cry....over the pau.

LY and Georocks' attempt at accusing each other of stealing each other's handphone caught me a little off guard. While walking towards them, I was wondering what the heck was happening. It was only when LY explained to me that I realised what was going on. I swear the 4 seconds of silence after LY and Georocks complained to me was the longest 4 seconds I ever had in Geog class. It felt like ages. I was trying to think of what I should do to handle these students. Since they both didn't want to settle it as adults and demanded that each of them checked the other's bag, I thought that the only way to continue with my lesson would be to be fair to both of them and get both of them to clear their own bag of their belongings. That way, neither of them will be seen as the greater victim and both can explain the resultant consequence if the handphone was found.

When LY stormed out of the class, I realised that I had to balance between ensuring that she returns to class or to make sure that the class is not 'teacherless' as worse things might happen during my absence. Hence I chose to get Georocks to return to his seat and to deal with both of them later.

I liked the exchange about the space/time compression thingy because I swear I had the answer to the space compression thingy but somehow it didn't appear heh. I think what I was trying to stress that due to less time being needed to transport goods, it meant that we could overcome space in the sense of distance. Well heh, a teacher is not infallible!

Shall touch upon R's microteaching now:

I thought that her opening of getting us to identify where the pictures were taken from was an excellent idea as people's geographical imagination of Bangalore probably wasn't similar to those shown during her lesson. I feel that this also served as a form of 'build-up' to the actual lesson on the case study which in the process, made the students feel engaged as well.

She did justify the choice of pictures shown so as to highlight other places besides the electronics industry.

Nothing much happened in class today in terms of class management although R failed to see that Kn was reading her English Grammar book for the longest time as well as using her hp heh.

Basically, I felt that she answered students' questions well, even those that were un-related to the topic such as questions on her pay....

BTW, many thanks to LY for providing me with transparencies! Guys and gals, since I didn't manage to use the transparency pens today, if any of you need it during your teaching session, let me know. I also have whiteboard markers in a whole range of colours!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Preamble to my micro-teaching session...

Ok fellow geog-ers, I've got to talk about a couple of important things prior to my micro-teaching session in two days' time.

1. Do not take it personally if I scold you or will be stern with you. Please separate and distinguish between the caps I am wearing. Namely, teacher, student and now, friend cap.

2. If you want to be mischievous, please feel free to do so. This is a learning process and I would like to experience new ways of handling you.

That's basically it. Just wanna apologise beforehand if I might unintentionally 'hurt your feelings' if you failed to separate the caps.

Seeya this Thursday! Can't wait for this to be over so I can concentrate on other work.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Maybe I should teach in Finland...

Read an article in the September 2005 edition of the Reader's Digest. In the article titled "Top of the Class" by Fergus Bordewich, he mentioned a couple of reasons why Finnish schools are one of the best in the world.

1. Finnish teachers are among the best trained in the world: Though the salary ain't that spectacular, the teacher selection process is even more stringent than those for lawyers and doctors.

2. Teachers enjoy a high degree of autonomy: Teachers are free to use whatever classroom methods they like and with curriculums that have been devised by teachers themselves. Once hired, teachers are not subject to regular inspection or evaluation. Teachers are trusted by the system hence less paper-work is needed to be done by teachers to document their progress.

3. Standardised teaching is shunned: Less focus on standardised testing as every student has their own strengths and weaknesses.

4. Students are taught to evaluate themselves: Students learn to take responsibility for their own work, thus they work more freely.

5. Students are encouraged to work independently.

6. School atmosphere is flexible and easygoing.

7. Slow learners receive intense support. Students do not regard remedial help as a sign of failure but as an opportunity for themselves to improve. Maybe we should start calling it improvement classes or something rather than remedial due to the social stigma.

If you are thinking that it is not possible to achieve this, well, read the article. And for some of you who are thinking that Finnish students' results are not that good, well, in the OECD PISA 2003 report highlighting the mean scores in reading and science, Finland came out top for reading and science, ahead of countries such as Korea and Japan respectively (where we know the education system is like a pressure-cooker).

Friday, September 16, 2005

THIS is our landfill....

Yes, the picture above was taken at Singapore's very own landfill. Hard to imagine that a landfill can look like this right?

My geog class went to Semakau Landfill last Wednesday for a field trip to get an understanding of waste management in Singapore. I came out of the trip having a greater understanding of the need to reduce, reuse and recycle, the 3Rs being taught to students. Additionally, waste management sure is expensive! The landfill site was created at a cost of SGD$610 million through the reclamation of two small southern islands, namely Pulau Semakau and Pulau Sakeng.

After the 'construction' of the island was complete, the other infrastructure was put into place. This self-sufficient facility takes in non-incinerable waste from Tuas and is then dumped into cells (as seen in the picture above) in the landfill site. It was refreshing that there was no smell at all on the island, everything was very clean and nice. In fact while we were on our way there by boat and reached the island, we could just close our eyes and imagine that we were going to a beach resort. The place is really very scenic.

The presence of replanted mangroves was also a pleasant sight. Not only were they replanted because the original mangroves had to be removed due to the development of the landfill, they were replanted as these mangroves will serve as biological indicators. What this means is that in the event that leakage might occur from the cells (even though the cells are lined with an impermeable membrane called geo-membrane and clay), the resultant 'pollution' will be shown in the mangroves so rapid action can be done to prevent further environmental damage.

Ok, fun of the field-trip aside, am going to reflect a bit about something. Firstly, the field-trip was a much needed break from the drudgery of written work and classroom teaching. I, like Bananasaviour, was rejuvenated from this field-trip. All field-trips rejuvenate me and my geographical soul. Secondly, I got to know some of my fellow classmates better. From the 'Japanese-tourist' to the 'Stare-queen' to the 'Gangster-loanshark' failure, I found out that they are actually quite a fun bunch to be with.

Thirdly, this deserves a new paragraph since it is un-related to the Semakau trip, I've been reflecting on the longest email I've received from my geog tutor so far. Basically, I'm not too sure what's the problem here. Is there really a problem here in the first place? Views and suggestions were proffered, comments were given, justifications were given, so...where is the beef? I dunno, I might be too dense or maybe too rational/logical to be able to see whether there is any problem in the first place.

I believe our tutor knows best and has already justified his rationale in the way that he has taught the class. That's fine. I believe all of us appreciate his efforts. So.... then what gives?

In my logical brain, I see two ways out. That is IF we actually want to analyse this further.

1. Tutor knows what's best for us. Seriously. Especially with his background and experience. So we leave our student caps on and learn in the manner that has been taught (but maybe throw in more field-trips).

2. Everybody pour out their woes, ideas, suggestions and what not in the next available class and everybody, I mean EVERYBODY must settle whatever grievances they might have.

I rather everything gets sorted out rather than leaving the situation tense and feeling as if a guillotine /giatine/ (that's how u pronounce it - don't have the IPA fonts in my comp so...) is over our heads.

Side-note: Next thursday is my micro-teaching on Industries and factors influencing industrial location. If anybody has any ideas on how to make this more interesting, please throw suggestions at me thanks. Wanna see whether I can experiment something different, but highly unlikely due to my severe lack of imagination.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Reflecting on my thoughts, looking at the transient nature of life, one should always reflect on what one has been doing with his/her life and how you should live your life better.

What are the more important things in life? I guess the key word is 'prioritise'. No point working your guts out and in the mean time, neglect the more important issues of life. When you are dead, people won't remember how successful you were in your job or how much money you made. People will remember the deeds you have done and how you were there for them. Move away from trying to acquire material wealth and focus on the intangibles, such as the emotional needs of the more important people in your life, contentment etc.

Remember, in the end, we are just dust.

"I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live... " John 11:25

It was weird today, attending a Christian funeral service and singing hymns. The last time I sang hymns was 2 years ago in a church with my ex. This made me think about how I've been avoiding the whole issue of religion all these while....well, it is an issue I've constantly been grappling with...Today, I did feel as if I was part of the flock again.

When I was looking at the people around me, looking at the environment, I couldn't stop looking at the space through a geographer's lens, seeing the place as a landscape of death. It also made me think how I would prefer my own funeral to be one where people rejoice, rejoice the fact that I am in a better place. I hope my own service will be one where relatives, friends and other acquaintances give eulogies about me, I sure would like to listen to what others have to say about me, like how I was glued to people giving eulogies about my uncle. It was interesting to learn about other facets of his life, no matter how short it was.

I am grateful that my geog tutor understood the need for me to have a 'time-out' to attend to more important issues. Thank you Kenneth for your kind understanding.

Friday, September 09, 2005

How the tide has turned...

It's amazing how a death in the family makes everything else that is happening all seem so frivolous. I always find it hard to swallow how you might be communicating with someone close to you for the very last time, and the next time you meet, he/she is not of this world anymore.

So, try to always prioritise your time properly and do what's more important. Life is short. Not worth living your life by working too much and too hard or to deal with two-faced people.

As such, my blog on yesterday's micro-teaching session will be soooooo short. I don't really give a damn anyway.

Here goes,

Vintagemz, you did well. You explained the topic well, scaffolding the way you taught us and emphasised the importance of using proper geographical lexicon when answering. You were decisive when allocating groups, that was good. All in all, you were firm, strict but yet still created a conducive environment.

Swallowapple, kudos to you for attempting to teach us map-reading. Your stern look sent daggers through many students I'm sure. Even Bananasaviour became extremely quiet as if somewhat traumatised by her past. Personally, I wanted to challenge your stern-ness in class. The fiercer the teacher, the more I want to challenge authority. But like I promised, I didn't play into my role and what I actually really wanted to do which was to really question you on not only the topics, but your authority. But kudos to you for being able to maintain discipline, however, I felt that the environment was one of fear and it might stifle students' willingness to participate. Balancing is tough. That I understand.

Anyway personally, I felt that there might be some form of favouritism practiced as how you reacted to Superlambanana and gang was way different from how you handled weswee, raksha, bananasaviour and myself. I might be over-reading but that's how I felt. Not surprised in some sense since you peeps are mathmos, tough to separate sometimes.

BTW, I concur with Karst in Stone. I don't really look forward to geog class as much as I used to.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Sapped of all energy....

So many things have been happening at one time, Murphy's Law holds true. When shit comes, it comes in waves (yeah I know, lousy visual and maybe olfactory imagery).

Piled up with work, dealing with people who saps your emotional energy, over-analysing inter-group dynamics and wondering why some people do one thing to you and other things to others (kinda like two-faced)... really have taken a toll on me.

But in anycase, shall talk a bit on the micro-teaching sessions...

I can't really comment on SuperLambanana's teaching session since I was the videographer. I was bored though, considering everyone was very well-behaved, thus I did not have the opportunity to do interesting video angles etc. Like what I told SuperLambanana, the main thing I noticed about him is the fact that his Field of Vision is rather limited to maybe, 35 degrees. This means that he might miss what the students at the sides are doing.

I liked the way he handled the 'loan shark' incident, although I really do wonder what he will do if his polite 'threats' were not taken seriously.

Karen's Teaching Session

I think there was a double-whammy here.

One: Topic on Tropical Rainforests alone is rather 'boring' unless accompanied with many pictures or video clips. In my own personal opinion without malice, I wasn't able to fully appreciate the powerpoint slides solely because there were too many words per slide. It would have been better if she had included main sentences and elaborate on them by teaching us. When there are too many words per slide, students may get distracted trying to read everything and thus, might be mentally 'off-task' instead of listening to the teacher. I didn't really feel that the worksheet make me think but instead, I was too busy trying to pick out the keywords from the slide and writing them down.

Two: Karen's lack of projection in her voice means that most of the time, I couldn't hear what she was saying with or without the disruptions in class. I felt that in this aspect, she can learn to be more confident and throw her voice forward by using her diaphragm more. Lack of projection means can't be heard means more off-task behaviour as students become more interested in conversing with each other as they probably do not know what is going on in class anyway. Of course, Karen might have been nervous then that's understandable.

B-I-N-G-O and BINGO was his name oh.... Personally, I really didn't see the point of the game although I applaud her in the sense that it made us 'get-on-task' though not really connected to the topic. To illustrate my point, I didn't pay attention for the entire class, as such, I didn't know the answers to her questions and instead, relied on my other group mates to provide me with the answer. All I did was to cross out the words which they said and voila! BINGO! I won the game without in the end, understanding what Lianas and Epiphytes were. Kenneth has already commented on this aspect so I shan't say more except that games must not be played without a clear objective (and of course, instructions) in mind.

Class Management: Highly related to the lack of control through the lack of projection of voice, which means that her gentleness has become a weak point and it was evident since students were talking amongst themselves and there was somewhat, I consider, a minor chaos in class.
People were throwing paper at each other, smart alecky student questioning teacher, students basically not paying attention. I felt that generally, we weren't managed well although I would like to praise Karen for being so quick to point out that I wasn't paying attention when I 'felt sick'. That was rather fast so kudos to her for that. I think that when you ask too many students to meet you after class, after a while, the students do not take it seriously. Try to utilise the appropriate desist technique with the appropriate transgression.

All in all, Karen mainly has to work with her voice projection first. And although she might have chosen not to respond to every misdemeanour in class, after a while, I guess the students just walked all over her head.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Evil looks....Beautiful Gem

Did a recce for my geography fieldwork lesson plan today. First stop, Jurong Hill.

As seen in the picture, we can see on the left the road linking the main island to Jurong Island. In the foreground are some warehouses/factories while in the middle, is the presence of a shipyard servicing three ships. In the background will be Jurong Island proper.

While I was shooting the video and taking pictures of Jurong Island as well as Jurong Industrial Estate, I noticed that people were either giving me a perplexed look as to why the heck would one want to video an Industrial Estate (plus I was alone and wearing shades) under the hot sun to downright suspicious looks as to the real motive behind my picture and video-taking.

Maybe I should try to look more 'teacher-ish' so that people will assume that I am conducting a recce/fieldwork for some lesson or something. Either that or bring along some company, preferably a gal, just so to look more 'normal' instead of just one solo guy lurking around.

Fall-back plan, next stop, Bt Chandu/Pepys Road's Canopy Walk.

Think I've discovered a small gem today while doing this recce (was thinking just in case my Industries Fieldwork doesn't really hold water). I didn't know that the canopy walk links Pepys Road, which is where Reflections at Bt Chandu (historical museum/site showcasing the exploits and courage of the Malay Regiment which fought the Japanese on Pasir Panjang Hill) is situated, with the Kent Ridge Park off Vigilante Drive. Nice to know that you can walk from one point of the ridge to the other.

It was a very scenic and peaceful place, one only hears the music of the jungle, such as the sounds of rustling leaves and cicadas/grasshoppers...

As seen in the picture below, the view is just magnificent!

The park that sits between the canopy walk and Kent Ridge Park is one place I'll go often. Not only because one can see the three stages of a rainforest, it is really a peaceful, quiet and beautiful place. Let's hope it stays this way and people do not abuse the park.

Had a great time finding this gem today. Now to think about my fieldwork lesson plan proper...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Google Earth...

Wow wow wow, been playing around with the Google Earth program which you can download for free from here (your computer has to be powerful enough with a broadband connection to the Internet to use the program).

Seriously, this program is sooooo fun to play around with, you get to view satellite images of earth. Although not every country is mapped or is mapped to great detail, I can imagine how useful this program can be to students, especially to those who have never travelled. We can view the various urban settlement patterns, infrastructure planning, rivers, lakes, mountains, volcanoes...even your own home.

The main drawback I can see with this program so far is the fact that the images taken might not be updated. Additionally, since a satellite picture is taken almost directly overhead, there are the issues of angles and perspective which might make visualisation of certain features difficult. Plus, since the images are not labelled in great detail, I guess Geographical Imagination and having some background knowledge of the countries you want to explore through Google Earth will come in handy.

But overall, I believe it will come in handy...

Work work work work work.....Rest?

On one hand, I feel that I really need to rest and recharge over the weekend. On the other hand, I feel as if I must continue working as if I stop for even one day, work will pile up! Decisions decisions.... Even when I am watching TV, eating, even bathing, I am constantly thinking of all the work that needs to be done and how I should go about doing it.

During last night's dinner, we were discussing about the fieldwork planning aspect of the course. As we confirmed that the fieldwork aspect must tie in with the 3 lessons plan that we need to do, I was wondering what the heck kind of fieldwork I can do to connect with my topic of Industries.

So far, am thinking of a fieldtrip to Jurong Hill so that we are able to get a good view of the Jurong Industrial Estate as well as Jurong Island and observing the types of industries present, the characteristics of the buildings and the connectivity of the industrial estates to the major network of roads which link to transport terminals such as the port and airport. Additionally, maybe a drive-by around Tuas can allow students to further visualise the types of industries and maybe ending up after a drive along the expressways to the ports to highlight the importance of connectivity...hmmm....

Just found out that there are visitor centres for both Jurong Island and JTC!!! Yay!

Sense of place.....

Went back to NUS today for a Geography seminar...didn't realise that I actually miss the place, well, maybe I miss the people more but it was nice to catch up with the lecturers, my jc teacher and a couple of my ex-classmates... I did feel like a family member in a large geography family...

Well, geography lesson today was really short considering we started late due to the seminar, shan't talk about the class proper but instead, shall talk about the post-class activity, i.e., dinner at Holland V. It was quite a challenge thinking of where to eat considering there were 15 of us. Not only was the place crowded, but we had to keep in mind of certain needs of our fellow classmates. Though the food ain't that great (the chicken breast was so tough and on hindsight, luckily the portion was small), the company was great and that includes Jenny (regardless of the fact that she was such a 'meanie'). Got to know some of my fellow classmates in greater detail today, something which I truly appreciated since some of them were doing different subject combinations from me and I've not really had the opportunity to get to know them. Had a great time, had great laughs, we should do this more often....

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Running on empty....

All you taxpayers, rest assured that your money is well spent on trainee teachers, we are really worked to the max in our teacher training....

Thursday again, an extremely long day where classes run for 9 hours straight. Ed psy class is killing me, especially when I have totally zilch interest in all the theories that I am forced to digest and regurgitate. Geog class is always something that I look forward to, but alas, not my usual self today as I had no energy, coming from the fact that I had a lousy lousy sleep.

Enough rambling, let's dive on into what happened during Geog class today:

1. Be prepared to handle issues related to students' death. When Kenneth talked about this, it quickly brought back sad memories of my time at ACS when one of my fellow school-mates from the same batch of mine, fell into a coma after suffering from some infection. He subsequently died. What made it all the more scary for us was the fact that he was in the school's swim team, meaning he was fit as a fiddle, and the thought of him dying scared the bajeezers out of us as if a fit person could suddenly die, what about the rest of us? Furthermore, he was a dear friend to many of us, even if we did not know him personally, we will definitely know at least one person who knows him.... Fortunately for us, some of the teachers did talk about it and addressed the issue. The various prayer sessions for my school-mate also somewhat comforted us. This brings on the importance of the need for teachers to be ready if such an unfortunate incident was to happen. How should teachers react? For how long a time do we allow students to mourn? How much discussion and counselling should be done? What will be the right things to say, the comfort words that students want to hear? Being sensitive, tactful and constantly aware of the situation will aid teachers to do the right thing and say the right words. But the real litmus test will be when such a scenario happens to yourself when you are teaching....I hope I do not have to encounter this...or at least, as minimal as possible.

2. Resources from Edumall. View these resources through critical lenses and assess them by how relevant they are in your lesson. Do not take them for granted and assume that they are 100% useful or 100% relevant for your needs. Never thought of that. Actually, I did assume that since they are from MOE, they probably would have gone through some stringent approval process before it was uploaded to the site. At least my eyes are opened now.

3. Checking for students' understanding of the lesson. Have back-up questions to gauge the students' understanding of your lesson. Hmmm...yeah, I fully agree with that, but I find that I probably will need to work on this aspect as when the lesson is ongoing, things might be unpredictable and situations might crop up that throws one off guard, meaning that whatever back-up questions that you might have might go *poof* in an instant. I guess this comes with practice and experience.

4. The use of questionable analogies by students. Questionable here, implies the use of disgusting or horrid or out of this world analogies which students might say or use in the context of a lesson. For example last week, somebody was using the analogy of flatulence and defecation when the topic of vulcanicity was being discussed. Although the analogy was somewhat disgusting, it did make some sense (don't ask me how and why). So when teachers come across such analogies, we should not reject the student's answer immediately (as at least it goes to show that the students are thinking). What the teacher could do would be to bounce the analogy off other students' viewpoints and see how they react to it. Additionally, the teacher can actually make full use of the analogy but asap try to re-focus the class to the actual lesson and with the use of appropriate analogies. That way, the students will not feel that their ideas are not immediately rejected outright. If they perceive their ideas to be rejected and not appreciated, they might actually stop contributing all together.

5. Don’t feel that you are bound to pursue every disciplinary action that crops up. This is an important point. You, being the teacher, are the professional. Thus the onus is on you to choose the appropriate action when dealing with acts of transgression. If you are ‘ignoring’ the action, at least let the offender know that you are not ignoring it. Alternatively, you can let the entire class know that you are not ignoring it. Or if the transgression is more severe, approach the action more thoroughly and follow up with the appropriate measure of desist teachniques.

L's Micro-teaching session:

The context of L's micro-teaching session was that of a class of Sec 1 Normal Academic students. The topic of the lesson was on Earthquakes.

On hindsight, nothing "colourful" and "interesting" really happened today during both micro-teaching sessions so I shall just comment on the more visible issues.

I believe that L was the first to actually make us stand up and exercise since we were rather restless during class. L's use of playing on students' conscience to desist their disruptive behaviour did work somewhat. I felt that it was generally effective in controlling disruptive students when you mention to them that they being noisy will affect their fellow classmates who genuinely want to study.

When viewing the video, I noticed that L was always observing our behaviour from the corner of her eye and was able to intercept the note that was being passed around. This overlapping technique of keeping one eye on the screen while the other eye on us is good as a teacher must be constantly aware of what is going on in class.

L's voice was also very clear and well-projected. Her tone when dealing with disciplinary problems was very firm and she made sure that she did not go down to the student's level when she was dealing with the issue of SJ complaining that she was being maligned by Wes and well, everybody else in class hah hah. Additionally, she showed concern for her students when she went up to M and R to ask them howwhat was wrong when they both looked as if they were not feeling well.

All in all, I find that although L settles transgressions fast, she doesn't seem to be able to pinpoint the source of the problem and nip it in the bud, but this of course, can be learned.

WH's Micro-teaching session:

The context of WH's micro-teaching was that of a Sec 3 Express class. The topic of the lesson was on folds.

Personally, I fel that WH’s communication and instructions to us were not very clear. I'm not sure whether if there's something wrong with my hearing but I thought that her tone was shaky, which in my opinion, meant a lack of confidence? Students might take advantage of such a situation.... Additionally, I felt that her use of sarcasm when dealing with students’ transgression might cause a rift between herself and her students. I can't remember specific examples when she did that but it was done quite often. I do remember how SuperLambanana and myself reacted rather negatively to her sarcasms even when they were not directed to either of us.

But there was a point when I felt that WH was rather scary, I believe that was when she just about had it with us being disruptive and she gave those scary eyes. Don't think I'll forget those eyes for a while...heh.

Lastly, granted that her topic on folds might be difficult, I felt that she had difficulty bridging her expert knowledge to the students' novice knowledge. A good example was when M, R and myself were rather confused while looking at the photograph (nice photographs by the way) as we just couldn't see how we could draw the folds accurately and were wondering where the axis was. WH really had difficulty explaining to us what we really needed to know.

However, I believe that all these issues will be sorted out over time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What the heck does it show when....

you can't stop thinking about all the work at NIE and when you sleep, you even dream about the micro-teaching sessions and all the various scenarios that I might encounter, lumped into one period?! Thank goodness it was just a dream (nightmare).

Anyone who said or says that NIE is the honeymoon period should be shot!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Exhausted and trying to remove the label...

I realised that being dysfuncitonal, naughty etc. really indeed is exhausting. Coupled with the fact that my day started at 0930. By the time geog class started at 1630, I was too tired to be a nuisance in class during the micro-simulated teaching by SW. Tried as I might to be a 'model' student and being attentive in class, I was constantly being egged on and pestered by both BananaSaviour and WesWee to adopt the role of a 'problematic' student, I guess it's tough even if I want to remove the label of being the de facto problematic student in class.

I shall first highlight the recap done by Kenneth as he made many good points for us to reflect upon.

1. Be 'politically-correct' and ensure that the main ethnic groups are represented whenever a presentation that involves them occurs. Do not just present one or two of the main ethnic groups and neglect the other, it might lead to dissatisfaction amongst students in certain schools and lead to a potentially problematic situation.

2. Establish facts before you take remedial actions. An example we talked about was if we encounter students sleeping during class. Establish the facts first by asking the student their reason for sleeping in class. There could be many valid reasons as to why they were unable to stay awake during lunch such as taking medications that led to them being drowsy or maybe the students were helping their parents with work etc. Do not punish them outright but first try to talk to them and ask them whether if they are alright. Show your concern first rather than take punitive actions.

3. Confiscation of student's belongings. Any punitive policy needs to be consistently applied. No favouritism must be practiced. Additionally, confiscated goods might be lost due to student or teacher's negligence. More importantly, things can be lost due to student sabotage if the class is out to get you. In essence, be wary of such a tactic.

4. Behaviouralism, Cognitivism and Constructivism. I hate these three words though I know that they probably are important. I don't know why but I have a strong aversion to theories, probably stemming from my Development of Geographic Thought days back at NUS Geog Hons.... I am sure somehow, I'll comprehend it fully someday. As of now, I need to learn more about it myself though I learnt some aspects about it today.

5. Debate on keywords in Geography. Don't want to flog a dead horse since it has been discussed already but essentially, if you want the specific word to be learnt by the student, then make sure you structure the phrases/questions properly so that the student has to use that term which you want them to learn.

Precision (being razor sharp) and Conciseness (economy with words). These are the two words of the day. Additionally, always remember that the best laid plans can still go awry and you must know how to react once your train derails. Good point.

On to the micro-simulated teaching which was conducted by SW today, SW did an excellent job teaching us (Sec 1 Normal Academic) the topic on Vulcanicity.

Firstly, SW did something which I have practiced myself during my School Experience, and that is, insisting that all students clear their desks of everything that were unrelated to Geography prior to the commencement of the lesson. This is a highly important and beneficial measure that should be done as it removes the various distractions on the students' tables and helps to keep the students on task and pay attention.

SW also gave out instructions prior to distributing the worksheets, that ensured that students are not unduly distracted by the worksheets on the table. What I thought made really good sense when she assigned one of the students SJ, to distribute the worksheet. I thought that was really smart since SW could get back to the teaching proper asap rather than walking around distributing the worksheets herself. The colour-coded worksheets, one pink one white was also a good idea, it allowed students to differentiate between the two worksheets and thus we are able to switch between either worksheets just by SW's simple instruction of referring to the appropriately-coloured worksheet rather than having the students read the different worksheets and choose the appropriate one. That saves time and is more direct.

Her classroom management was also very good, although I was wondering whether a Normal Academic class will be this quiet most of the time (I don't know because I've never been exposed to one). SW was consistent with her warnings and subsequent follow-up action when the warnings were unheeded. However, I noticed that SW, although aware that students were throwing paper at each other initially, did not do anything or mention anything to the class. Either she genuinely did not see it or she might have internally given her students a chance first before reprimanding.

When Superlambanana taunted YZ and resulted in YZ 'crying' (was really a good act), SW acted swiftly by reprimanding Superlambanana immediately and going up to console YZ. Additionally, SW managed to nip the problem in the bud by restricting BananaSaviour's movement around the room, stopping her in her tracks and directing her back to the seat. I thought that was done rather swiftly!

A couple of things SW can improve upon though:

I felt that when BananaSaviour attacked me and threw a piece of paper at me, SW could have handled the situation better by not focusing on me as much as she should on BananaSaviour since she was the instigator and I, the innocent party.

Additionally, SW might have been too focused on the 'problematic' students and neglected the fact that K*ren had changed her seat and moved to another group while KF yawned rather loudly. Also, the students right at the front such as R and M were sleeping and clearly disinterested but SW did not see that. SW should try to distribute her 'gaze' in an equitable manner and notice that those students at the front were 'problematic' though in a different way.

Kenneth had already commented on the excellent job of scaffolding so I shall not comment on that. All in all it was really an impressive teaching. Did you have any prior experience in teaching? How long?

The bar has now been raised.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What goes around comes around what goes up must come down...

This song was being played on Class 95 as I was driving home from NIE after a damn long Thursday packed full of lessons. I quickly thought to myself...oops, yeah, I'll probably be paying countless times over once it is my turn to teach the class during the micro-simulated teaching sessions.

In my defence, albeit a poor one, acting as a dysfunctional, attention-seeking, naughty, vocal, disrespectful etc student ain't as easy as one thinks. It is actually very exhausting to be naughty as after geography class, I am almost always dead-tired.

Firstly, kudos to LY and YZ today for their micro-teaching efforts. I always wonder what the heck will happen and how I will handle the various situations thrown at them.

Ok let me start with LY's lesson on Karst landscape today. First of all, in defence of LY from fellow bloggers who might post and comment on how 'chim' or difficult LY's lesson on Karst was, remember that Karst landscape is a topic that is found within the A Levels syllabus and not the O Levels syllabus. That said, I felt that though it is evident to everyone that the topic is indeed difficult and thus problematic to teach to a bunch of Secondary 3 Express student from a neighbourhood school, LY could still have taught us better when explaining the various terminology and features of a Karst Landscape. Granted that we probably do not have the mental faculties as yet to understand Karst Landscape, I felt that LY could have worked on her presentation further and utilise her pictures to facilitate our understanding of the subject. Kudos to her for the excellent visual presentation as that made understanding easier but it should really be reinforced with less "chimonology" terms so that we might be able to absorb the topic better.

The real-life samples of rocks which she gave the class to look at also really helped. But I wonder about her technique of confiscating our EZ-Link cards or whatever cards that we might have if we happen to perform acts of transgressions, such as losing or destroying the sample, being naughty in class etc. On one hand it might be a small deterrent as students might not want anything of theirs confiscated, but on the other hand, those students like SuperLambanana and myself, who had our cards confiscated earlier on in the class felt that since our cards were already confiscated, we were now given free rein to be as naughty as possible since nothing worse can happen as our cards were already gone.

Additionally, in the event that LY loses or misplaces any of the cards that she had earlier confiscated from the students, things might turn really ugly especially if the cards are important.

Another point to note will be LY's use of a worksheet for us to fill in. Activity A is fine. But I question the usefulness of Activity B since the main task that the students needed to do was to actively fill in the blanks. Filling in of the blanks is fine, don't get me wrong. But I felt that LY was being too rigid when she only allowed one answer for each blank, this might prevent students from wanting to think further on the questions given. For example, in my (yes, me again) question to her on whether impermeable could be used instead of pervious (since different perspective on the question will lead to different answers), LY had insisted that no, only pervious was to be used, which in my mind prevents students from thinking laterally and thus constraining his/her thought process. After that scenario, I felt discouraged and did not actively think about the topic anymore. Flexibility in my opinion, is key to such a situation. Students should be encouraged to think as much as possible.

One last point to note on LY's teaching would be the classroom management aspect. I felt that LY could further improve on her delivery when reprimanding students. For example, her tone should reflect the seriousness of her situation and the words used must not be minced to show confidence. Additionally, she could have worked on her eye contact more to really show that she means business.

All in all, it was a rather well-planned class and she did manage to handle the rambunctious students fairly well.

Now let me go on to YZ's class. In her class, I played a complete opposite of what I did in LY's class, and that is now, to be a 'smart-alecky' student competing with Lily to be the teacher's pet. Granted I was also naughty and threw paper planes but I was comparing with Bananagal how aerodynamics and the design of the plane will affect the way the plane flies heh.

Clap clap to YZ for noticing how Bananagal and myself did not accord her the proper respect and refused to stand up when greeting her. She handled us well in that aspect by ensuring that everyone was ready and stood up to greet her.

But as soon as that happened, I noticed the first mistake that YZ made. She distributed the worksheets immediately after lessons commenced and that was a big boo boo since instructions were not given first as to what we should do with them. By the time she had started her presentation slides, I could see that many were more engrossed with looking at the worksheet than paying attention to her.

Additionally, YZ should really make the effort in addressing the students by their names rather than saying "eh eh eh" whenever we were getting noisy. Calling students by their first name will be beneficial as not only does it show that the teacher cares enough to know the students by their first name, it also means that the teacher can specifically pin-point who she is talking to. A general 'eh' makes students wonder who she is reprimanding or instructing to stop making noise and what this ultimately mean is that the students will continue to make noise since they did not feel that the 'eh' meant them.

Ok, let me insert something positive before people think that my entire post is all negative. I really respect her and think that she did a marvellous job in using props to make us understand the complex topic of plate tectonics, which coincidentally is my pet subject. Her use of props allowed students to visualise the topic better and complemented with her visual aids and diagrams presented in the powerpoint, I felt that YZ did a remarkable job in explaining such a complex topic. It also shows that she had put in a lot of effort in lesson preparation.

Ok, back to areas on which she can improve on. Being a smart-alecky student who is actually really passionate about plate tectonics (in real-life), I asked YZ questions that were more complex than what she had presented, hoping that she might be able to explain them. But alas, came the next boo boo. YZ should have handled me better when I asked such more complicated questions as it shows that I was actually thinking about her lessons and were perplexed over certain issues. YZ should have answered my question directly rather than asking me to go home to research for myself as other students might have the same question and thus it might have been beneficial to answer the question. Additionally, it might make the teacher seem that she does not know what she is teaching and so, lose some credibility with students. Granted that teachers do not know it all but when a teacher does not know, he/she can admit that he/she does not know and will check it up and promise to get back to the student. I don't think that a student should be dismissed or neglected just because he asked a complex yet valid question as it might discourage the student from asking such questions in the future, thus cramping on his learning method.

With respect to the above, I interpreted YZ's action as herself not wanting to deviate from the lesson plan which she had set herself so as to not lose the flow of the lesson. Although valid, I feel strongly that for this aspect, some leeway could have been made to facilitate students' thinking and to encourage them to do so. Again the keyword of flexibility is in order.

Ok, back to another thing positive. YZ did really well to validate a student when she asked a question and the student answered correctly. That served as a form of encouragement as well. With regards to W's asthma attack, in all fairness to YZ, I have absolute confidence that such a scenario will eventually be handled appropriately by YZ since every teacher would have known their own school's policy on a sudden medical situation happening in class. YZ handled that fairly in allowing LY to accompany W to the sick bay.

Couple of things more before I sign off from this long post: YZ should have more proper eye-contact with the students as she did not manage to read some of the visual cues that were being given out by the students. To use me as an example, I was showing through my facial expression how I was confused over certain slides which she presented but instead of addressing my 'potential' question, she had skipped to another slide. Reading visual cues in my opinion, is also a highly important skill that teachers must have. One last thing, YZ also mainly focused on the "problem" kids and failed to observe her other students. Even when us "problem" kids were quiet and paying attention, her focus was mainly on us and she failed to see how SJ has been sleeping under her nose all these while. That ain't fair...isn't it? Heh.

Phew, sorry for the rambling, took me an hour to write all these. YZ, don't get me wrong if you perceive that I have mainly negative things to say about your teaching k? Coz I don't. I still think your idea of using props and the photos you wanted us to work on were really great ideas and generally, you did well considering you just came back from Scotland too! Clap Clap!

Just don't get the point...

Just had another meeting with my GESL group. GESL, or Group Endeavours in Service Learning is a service-learning community outreach programme that all trainee teachers at NIE have to undergo. One of the main purposes of GESL is to create awareness of the need to be socially responsible and giving back to the community, yet what happened during our group meeting really made me wonder whether some of my fellow group-mates actually get the point that the crux of this compulsory module is for us to be socially responsible and to give back to the community, to contribute.

I was really livid when I saw that many of my group-mates were more engrossed at looking at the clock and wanting to get everything done with as quickest a time as possible without realising that the decision to choose the right project is a very important one. People were voting out of convenience on the organisation that we should approach and help rather than thinking carefully which organisations were more in need of our help. If we are to embark on such an outreach programme, we have to do something that we are passionate in, don't just choose the choice that is deemed as easiest or just so the majority thinks so. Think for yourself, be more discerning, do things with passion, that way, passion can sustain us when the chips are down and when things are successful, it will be more meaningful as well.

I was one of two who was very vocal and objecting at the decisions made, but I didn't care. I was more concerned with the fact that people were taking GESL too lightly, complaining that they have a lot of other work to do. Who doesn't? Everybody is occupied and busy! But if you don't put your heart in a module where heart is key, then what the heck is the point?

I'm glad ACS has taught me to stand my ground and speak up, be vocal when needs be. Glad to see how people eventually reacted positively to my stance that we should not rush and make any decisions which we might regret later on and started to really think carefully of the type of project which we should embark on.

To God be the Glory! The Best Is Yet To Be!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Hoping that it does not come full circle....

Today's geog class was highly 'interesting' and the most fun yet since the courses at NIE started. But before I elaborate on that aspect and explaining the title to my post, I shall put my concluding thoughts on the entire act of podcasting.

My previous post commented on the difficulties I expect to encounter when I use podcasting as a teaching tool, especially since I consider Geography as a visual subject and that hands-on experience will be hard to beat. True enough, I was hampered by my lack of creativity and failed to see the whole idea of podcasting from an entirely different perspective. Thank you Jenny for showing me the other perspective of using podcasts as a complementary tool rather than a direct teaching tool itself. Additionally, I do like the entire idea of sowing the seed of interest in students who are not really keen on Geography in the first place. While listening to your explanation and how you came to that idea (Thanks to Superlambanana), I was wondering whether I myself can listen to Geography podcasts while on the road! Oddly, this idea does excite me in some kind of weird way. Heh.

On to another issue, I am glad that I got such a sucky timetable at NIE. Initially, I was really quite pissed (pissed here meaning angry, and not another meaning which I found out in class today). This was because I thought that having Geography class on a Friday from 1630 hrs to 1930 hrs was really rather ridiculous considering the fact that it took up a chunk of my weekend (yeah my weekend starts from Friday 1700 hrs). Additionally, most of my fellow English CS2 classmates were allocated to Geog Gp 1. But on hindsight, this has really been a blessing in disguise as I got a quirky and caring tutor. His advice, especially on career matters, is something that I truly appreciate. I don't think we are able to get such advice during any of the other classes at NIE. Moreover, Geog class rocks (pardon the pun) since things are done differently! Time does fly when one is having fun!

An interesting thought that our tutor placed in our head today was the quote "They (students) don't care how much you (teacher) know. But they want to know how much you care." I can't agree more. I believe that students can discern for themselves the teachers who really care for their well-being and those who do not. This reminded me of my school attachment. When the students knew that I was genuinely interested in their well-being and speaking to them as an adult rather than talking down to them, I found that they were ready to open up and in that sense, it helped me as well as now, they do respect whatever I say in class and did not give any problems while I was teaching them. Moreover, I found that our discussions in and outside of class were more fulfilling and colourful as they did not see me as one of those 'old-fashioned' teachers. It was truly amazing how things changed for the better once the students felt that they can relate to you.

Before the micro-simulated teaching commenced, our tutor played an audio clip of Steve Jobs' Commencement address to graduates of Stanford University. A copy of the text can be found here.

While listening to the clip, I realised that I was not an auditory person (podcast?) as I was constantly looking around the class and trying to focus my vision at a certain object just so that I can concentrate on the audio but I digress.

His Commencement speech was really outstanding and motivating (unlike the Commencement speech given by a secondary school Principal at my Commencement in July 2005). The gist of his speech was the fact that it is important to do something that interests you. Passion sustains what you do. Additionally, it is important that one has faith. He used the analogy of how one can connect the dots looking backwards but cannot do it looking forward. Just believe that somewhere down the road, the dots will connect eventually.

"Live each day as if it is the last day of your life as someday, you might be right." This is so true. "Remembering that you'll be dead soon will allow you to make the right decision in life." Hmm.... "Don't think that there's something to lose. Your time is limited, so don't live other people's life. Don't let others drown you out." All words of wisdom that I will definitely pass on to my students next time. I probably did not do justice to Mr Jobs' address so please take a look at the original text.

"Don't settle." "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." Great words to live by.

(I dunno why but after listening to him speak, I really wanted to get a Mac.)

Ok now we shall get to the fun part, that is the micro-simulated teaching that was conducted today by one of my fellow classmates whom I shall name CY. As the title of this post suggests, I worry that things will go full circle and hit me in the posterior ala first post of my Blog. BananaSaviour and myself did some wacky things today. We were all supposed to act as students of a Secondary Three Express class and boy did we stir up some sh*t in class! BananaSaviour and myself really did have loads of fun playing as dysfunctional students who argued in class and tore up the project work which we did on the paper provided by CY (but of course we were egged on by our tutor to do so although the initial suggestion was by yours truly). I really wondered as to how the heck does a teacher handle such a situation! After all the fun and all, I realised something, that it will be my turn to role-play as a teacher and boy boy boy, let's just hope RETRIBUTION does not kick me in the arse! Urm, it was all BananaSaviour's idea! Hiak hiak hiak.

Kudos to CY though. I thought she handled the class rather well. However, I felt that CY can improve further on two main aspects (which I can think of for now):

1. Setting instructions. I felt that the instructions were rather unclear and in some cases, thoroughly vague when she wanted the class to do a group discussion. However, her writing down of the instructions on the white-board was indeed helpful, although that should have played a complementary role. Telling us the instructions in a clear, direct and concise voice might have been more useful.

2. Classroom management, more specifically on the fight which broke out between BananaSaviour and myself. I feel that CY could have managed this better by pulling us aside and reprimanding us separately from the rest of the class. Granted that doing so might cause the other students to be distracted and thus make more noise, but I thought that it would be more effective when dealing with such a situation. Additionally, reprimanding must be done in a fair manner and not targetted at one party just because he is a guy, or he is big-sized (heh) etc. I wondered why I was made to leave the class and "go to the toilet to wash face" while BananaSaviour was allowed to remain in class. Again I felt unduly reprimanded and made to bear the greater proportion of fault. Reprimanding must be fair to both parties.

CY could also have worked on our conscience by asking us how it will feel to disrupt our other group-mates and that destroying a group-project will hurt their feelings too. I applaud her insistence that the group was not to split up just because two members could not work with each other.

I shall work on the other aspects I learned in the exciting class today once I get enough sleep, it is now 0207 hrs.

Just praying that CY remembers that all that was done was part of role-play and puhleeze guys and gals, let's try not to let things come full circle....

Where's my Mac?