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.