Thursday, August 18, 2005

Of Karsts, Horsts And Rift Valleys

I need to rant.

Today's GESL meeting was most pissifying. Given that no one has a specific community service program to implement, isn't it fairly obvious that the best course of action would be to narrow down couple of organisations and find out from them what THEIR needs are and how we may THEN interface those with our interests and cobble together a viable GESL project? But NO! Perhaps being teachers, some of us feel COMPELLED to design a flawless program before meeting an organisation which is enough of a pushover for us to shove our gem of a program down their throats. Either that, or some of us feel that being civil servants, our job is to talk a problem to death and thus we had to spend 2 hours sharing pet peeves about people who dun allow alighting passengers to exit first before entering the MRT cabin and other misc issues with LIL or NO direct relevance to the task at hand! Dun b mistaken, I have no problems with service learning, but can we like go easy on the talk and see some action already?!?

Anyways, two more of my colleagues underwent the Baptism of Fire today and I believe they'll turn out to be much more resilient teachers. I have no doubt that there are badly behaved students out there. But to pack all the posssible bad behaviours into a short 30 mins lesson is like compressing all the known aphrodisiacs in the world into a 10 mg capsule - your're prob gonna get a cardiac arrest before you reap any benefits. Kudos to them for soldiering on and keeping their cool tho!

A couple of things struck me today. First, LY's classrm mgmt techniques. I must admit I thought it was ingenious when I first realised LY's intention of having us display our EZ-Link Cards. But later on, several shortcomings of this strategy emerged. (1) Some cards started being passed around. This is not a problem with a group of adults. But with a class of 40 less matured Sec Sch students, stuff could go missing quite easily. (2) Upon confiscation, there wasn't any system to log/track whose cards were being confiscated. I guess since most students would hold Concession Passes with their photos on, it wouldn't be that much of an issue. But without documentary support, its quite easy for students to make wild accusations esp if one is not the most popular teacher in sch. (3) Maybe it'll be better to have a gradated system, where students get say 3 chances before their cards are confiscated. Overheard: "Since she's taken our card, what else have we got to lose?" I guess that sums it up pretty well.

Second, I was quite taken with the idea of signalling to students using flashcards, a hand-sign or even a whistle to pipe down and listen up. Today, I was subjected to the third option. And as a student, I didn't like it. Frankly, it felt demeaning and I wouldn't want a class full of 40 Pavlovian dogs. Surely, it's a fly idea to have 40 students respond to u with a snap of the fingers. But I think I'd rather appeal to them logically than to condition them to a single-source external stimulus. At this point, I'm reminded of what my Comms Tutor shared about his own experience. He suggested setting up a system where students would pass the message down from the front. So, if they were in the midst of group work and the teacher wanted them to stop, the teacher would move along the first row and get them to pass the msg on to the rest of the class to cease. Actually I'm still a lil skeptical despite his assurance that he's tried it rather effectively within the setting of a local classroom in a not so branded school, if I may add. But he brought up a really valid point. Students want to be treated wth respect as individuals, not canines in the Police Dog Unit [my addition]. So I guess I'll try the courtesy approach before I whip out my whistle next time.

Third, YZ was focused on particular students in class. Her attention seemed to gravitate towads students of from the extreme ends of the spectrum. As a result, the rest of the class received scant attention from her. Tho one can understand her actions (gd students can be called upon to answer qns; bad ones need to be put on surveillance), one should be mindful of paying equal attention to everyone. Otherwise, it could open one to accusations of favoritism or worse targetting.



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