Friday, August 12, 2005

The Day I Said Fu*k In Class

Today's QCG520 class saw the first of a series of micro-teaching sessions. Indeed, this will be one class that will stay etched in my memory for quite some time. For *shudder* tis the day I first uttered an expletive in class DURING a 'presentation'. But I digress. This post is to consolidate some of my thoughts on the simulated teaching session, not to compound my shame.

It's never easy to take the lead and start off something. For one, there's no one before you to emulate or take reference from. So Chan Ying's bravery is highly commendable. But more than just bravery, Chan Ying obviously put in much thought and effort into her 'lesson' - her well-conceptualised activity and copious stationary bear testimony. But surely, her well-timed effort to shimmy the postcards from right under the nose of the Cold Storage cashier deserves some credit too. ;-) However, I think I would've chosen to execute the lesson in a different manner if I were put in her shoes.

I think a strong intro really sets the pace for the lesson, as well as captures the students' attention and prepare them for what's gonna hit em. In this respect, the class wasn't called to order and informed of the contents or objectives of the lesson. This probably accounted for the initial chattering and confusion. Furthermore, as Kean Fan pointed out and I concur, the first part of the lesson wasn't used very efficiently. Making students read aloud from the materials had more punitive than pedagogical value. In the meantime, the rest of the class who have already grasped the point are left to gawk. Not only does this not help to build the momentum, precious time is wasted.

The lack of response at the beginning probably also had as much to do with the inexplicit instructions as well as students' inattentiveness. As a matter of fact, I feel that the lesson in general was marked by nebulous instructions. No doubt, instructions were given, but the students' attention were not called to those instructions. Perhaps it would be beneficial to flag instructions with imperatives like "Listen up!" to draw students' attention to key points. It is noteworthy, however, that Chan Yin listed the instructions on the whiteboard for students to reference. But it would probably have been more useful if she had emphasized it verbally and used the whiteboard as reinforcement.

The issue of monitoring students' progress during group work was brought up in class. It was observed that Chan Yin paid more attention to 2 groups. In all fairness, Chan Yin did make her rounds. But seeing how assiduous some of us were, she then turned her attention to more 'deserving' members of the class. This reminded me of one of the difficulties I faced in class when I set group work. It was lovely if students actually asked me for assistance when I made my rounds. But sometimes, students sort of clam up when I approach them. While I'm eager for them to produce good work, I worry about over-intervention, so I usually try to leave em alone. That's probably not the best strategy. However, some of the more experienced teachers I've observed are very intrusive and I wonder what's the right 'dosage' of intervention?

The outburst in the middle of the lesson rattled me. I dread to see a situation as such in my own class. I wasn't exactly paying attention to how the situation was handled. But personally, I wouldn't have reprimanded the students in class. I'd probably remind them to put their differences aside and concentrate on the task at hand. At the same time, I would appeal to their conscience by telling them how much effort I put into planning this lesson and how I wouldn't appreciate them demolishing everything with their (petty) dispute. Of course, I wouldn't let the matter rest but insist that they saw me after class to sort things out.

Finally, while I fully appreciate Chan Yin's well-meaning efforts in planning a lesson like this. I wonder if the time invested was a tad extravagant. I'm not entirely sure how salubrious this activity is to the learning/teaching of this topic. I must qualify this by saying I'm very briefly acquainted with the syllabus. However, I do think that this activity is useful in stirring up interest. But I would probably do it differently by eliciting verbal responses, or perhaps getting the entire class to fill in one itinerary collectively. This would also free up time for other activities. In addition, perhaps financial prudence is not the best decision-making skill to incorporate into a lesson like this. Even if it was mandatory to introduce financial prudence, it would probably be more useful to set a budget for the students, as well as furnish them with a list of hypothetical expenses (e.g. admission charges) so that they can concentrate on the actual decision making.

As this post draws to a close, I can feel my cheeks and ears turning crimson from the memory of my recent faux pas.

Oh well, nothing a good weekend can't take care of! =)



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