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?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Let's all not be too quick to judge and close our minds

I can't help but feel the urge to let loose the closet blogger so here it goes,

I felt that I really needed to post especially after reading Kenneth's email. Yes, the latest-technology can be daunting. But let's all persevere and keep an open mind and try to approach the entire idea of podcasting from a different and more positive perspective.

I believe that currently, some of us have been too used to the traditional way of teaching and might still be uncomfortable getting out of our comfort zone and trying something truly different. But let's all muck around in the pod-mud together and have fun. Think about it, it's probably more fun than coming up with skits, role-play, dance and rap to teach geography right? Heh. Maybe the grass is finally greener on our side?!

I'm sure that along the way, we will be helping each other out so no worries there. Who knows, we might relish podcasting and actually be using it during our practicum???

It's not that unimaginable....

Who says Mondays are bad...

Grumble grumble was the first full Thursday I had since my training at NIE started. What does this day entail? Classes from 0830 to 1730 hrs straight. Straight...that is, without even a lunch break. Hence I was busy munching on my tuna sandwiches during Geography class, hope the rest of the class did not mind the smell from the tuna or be distracted by the crunching sound of japanese cucumbers as I slowly chew into them....

Could only start on my blog now as I spent the last 3 hrs after dinner just staring at the wall and 'stone' (stoning is the act of staring blankly into space with a corresponding nothing-ness in your mind).

Today was really an activity-packed day but I shall mainly focus on two aspects for this post, both stemming from my thoughts that formed during geography class.

Firstly, as I listened to my fellow classmate's teaching experience in her school, I couldn't help but think about my own teaching experience. I am what you call, a 'blessed person' (not in love, luck and money apparently but more so for my teaching stints). My first attachment which was for 15 days was held during my Second Year when I was still in University. Then, I was attached to a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school which was 300m from my place. Needless to say, I did not encounter any disciplinary problem from my students who were all from the express stream. They were generally self-motivated, hence I did not have any problems with regards to classroom management. During my Enhanced School Experience when I was on attachment for 1 month, it was even better. I was attached to the top government school in Singapore (located in the East). The students there were either in the Special or Gifted stream or Integrated Programme. They were even more self-motivated and once again, I did not encounter any 'real' (as compared with my fellow trainees) disciplinary problems! Although admittedly, I did scold a couple of students though but they were quick to repent and not commit the same transgression again. Isn't it nice to teach in such a school, where discipline cases are minimal, students are self-motivated, curriculum is aggressive and whereby the students will readily greet you by bowing?!

The great thing about teaching in such a good school is the fact that now, I can really concentrate on the entire art and science of teaching, that is, not needing to rush the students to submit their assignments or to ensure that they are listening to what I am teaching. Additionally, I truly appreciated the fact that I need not 'dumb-down' Geography as much as I thought.

I really wish that I am able to go back to this school for my practicum and permanent-posting.

Secondly, I shall comment on the 'technology-packed' class today. I do feel that it was really heavy-going. For a person who loves technology and am not daunted by technical jargon, I was really overwhelmed after a few hours. I thought that my brain was going to shut down from the overload. Admittedly though, I am interested in the potential of podcasting and using it as a tool for effective and engaged learning. My concern about using podcasting, with its emphasis on the auditory aspect, is how to effectively use podcast to teach Geography. Geography, to me at least, is a very visual and hands-on subject. By focusing on the auditory aspect alone without the visual and tactile aspect may indeed be problematic if we want to teach topics such as plate tectonics, hydrological cycle, mapping etc.

Maybe podcasting may be more applicable for topics in Human Geography rather than Physical Geography? However, I do admit that I might be restrained by my own lack of imagination and artistic ability and I might be proven wrong in that podcasting may really be a viable alternative to the standard of using powerpoint and the overhead projector etc. But I am still unreserved in my stand that conducting field-trips will remain the gold-standard in the teaching of Geography.

Yes, today's class might be an overload. Yes, I probably have forgotten many of the things discussed today. Yes, I know for sure that once we start practicing the use of technology and use it often, we will eventually get the hang of it and it will come to us naturally, just like how Word, Excel and Powerpoint have come to us naturally.

And Yes, I am in AWE of the MAC.

(Steve Jobs, if you happen to read this, please sponsor this poor teacher and give him a Powerbook 17" with all the necessary goodies. It will be effective advertisement too. Oh, throw in an Ipod with both mic attachments so that he can really commence on his podcasting!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Explored two new 'spaces' which now have a sense of place...

Firstly, I would like to thank my fellow banana-lover "BananaSaviour" for introducing to me two new places which I never knew (well sort of knew one of them) existed.

The ice-cream parlour at Sin Ming Avenue called Iceskimo is really a great place to hang out with friends, the flavours are not your usual run-of-the-mill kinds but were kinda "exotic", top your waffles off with ice-cream and what you get is a truly delectable treat!

Another place which I was introduced to was the Settler's Cafe along North Canal Road. This cafe serves your usual finger-foods and drinks but the interesting thing about it was the availability of highly-interesting board games for patrons to play. I do admit that it was really fun to play such games, especially when you have great company.

Just a short post considering my brain is shutting off... shoots, I might just be a closet blogger as my initial resistance to the entire act of blogging might be slowly dissipating...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Singapore...A country with influence larger than its geographical size.

Happy National Day!

Today is National Day, for all you others not familiar with this day, it is also known as Independence Day in many other countries. This is a day that all Singaporeans should take a step back and reflect on the achievements of our tiny island-nation. Granted it is a public holiday and we are accorded time off to pursue our leisure needs, but one must be mindful of the significance of this day.

Happy Birthday Singapore! Although I, like most of my friends do not outwardly show our patriotism on our sleeves, deep in our hearts, we know that there is only one home, one Singapore.

Let's not only show our love for Singapore in the month of August, do it everyday. One does not need to do big and significant things, just little everyday acts of kindness such as being considerate to each other is more than enough....

Ok before some of you start saying that I sound like a propaganda machine thoroughly programmed by the government, remember this, you can separate the Nation from the State.

Singapore, The Best Is Yet To Be!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ramblings on a Monday...

Mondays... Back at work on Monday is great ONLY when Tuesday is a public holiday. After a weekend of fun (read: work), it is comforting to know that lessons on Mondays are short and sweet, which is just as good since most of the time, I'm not even in that 'space' but rather, somewhere else...

Something has been bugging me over the weekend, especially after Friday's morning lesson whose module title shall remain anonymous for now... What good is a class that drills into you the wonders of technology and how beneficial it can be during the teaching process when the class does not, I repeat, DOES NOT teach you the workings of the various software? Hmm... on one hand you are supposed to use technology to the fullest in the teaching process but on the other hand, "hey, you gotta learn it yourself!" How then does one know the maximum potential of the respective software.? You might think to yourself, "well that's part of the learning process, so go forth and learn the software by yourself." Ok fine, true, I do admit that it does make sense when you think that way, but then why do we need to attend a class just so they tell you that technololgy is helpful? I mean... "Duh!" What a load of bollocks!

Attending a class is fine. I'm just against people wasting my time, especially considering the fact that NIE is located on one end of our "sunny island" and huge transport costs are incurred!

Enough of the ranting...

I've been telling my friends attending the other Geog Class how our class has to write Blogs, create Podcasts (which does sound interesting) and commence on our micro-simulated teaching with simultaneous video-ing (filming) of how we actually teach. Their immediate response was, "Wow! So interesting! Sounds fun!" I knew that they were not being sarcastic but were truly envious of the things that we were tasked to do. But well, "The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side..."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Well well well.....


Voila! Finally got this monstrosity up and running. It's 'funny' how things come full circle and hit you in the posterior when you least expect it. My gluteus has been kicked one so many times, I am beginning to feel numb from any further shocks I might have.

Allow me to explain with a few examples:

1. Being an Educator... Back when I was still studying, I was what some teachers might deem as being 'too vocal'. I do admit that I did give my share of troubles for the teachers, always questioning them and disagreeing them. Lo and behold, here I am, training to be a teacher and hoping that I do not encounter any students that holds the same 'values' and 'behaviour' as me. Retribution?

2. National Education.... Well not exactly my cuppa as I do tend to question many topics, issues and values that encompass NE. I always dread reading anything about this and constantly curse at those 'idiotic souls' who were interviewed on National TV and couldn't even answer when our Little Red Dot's Independence Day was! Curse you imbeciles and ignoramuses who don't know much about our own country and in my opinion, leading to the teaching of NE and blah blah. So while I really do dread doing anything related to NE, poof, I was in charge of doing a report on NE for the Principal of one un-named school in the East. What the heck?

3. Blogs.... I shall now elaborate on this aspect. I've never liked the idea of creating Blogs, I fail to see why I would want to publish my thoughts for the entire world to see nor am I even interested to view other people's blogs (except one: you know who you are Miss Low Maintenance). So while I dread creating my own Blog, mainly because I don't even know how to start and what to write, lo and behold, I was forced to create this monstrosity by my 'eccentric' BUT INTELLIGENT tutor at the National Institute of Education.

So there you go, things do come full circle and the keyword that everybody and I mean EVERYBODY should learn is RETRIBUTION. Retribution is real, so people, try not to bitch (too much) about other people behind their backs...

As I try and embrace the entire art of blogging, bear with my sarcasms and my inept artistic skills...