Thursday, August 25, 2005

Can you teach people to serve?

Seriously, is it possible to force people to become more charitable?

Ok, here's the situation: The trainee teachers now all do a compulsory module called General Endeavours in Service Learning ( GESL ) called "je-sul" by all of us.

It is a non-graded module, and briefly what we are expected to do is to get into groups of 20-25, and work with an organization to provide some sort of service to the community at large. Eg, some group last year worked with a dyslexic organization to teach dyslexics mathematics. Another group went to the National Library for storytelling sessions with children.

You get the gist. It's somewhat like community service for trainee teachers. Here is the official description from the website:

"GESL is an experiential learning experience for trainees to acquire and develop skills in project management, self- and team-development, and community service. This will provide them the background and experience for trainees to eventually take on leadership roles in their school's community involvement and service-learning projects (CIP) and academic work."

So my question is more towards the 'community service' part. How successfully can you inculcate a sense of 'community service' in us in one year?

For me, I think community service should be something that's entirely voluntary. If you force people to do it, then they may do it, but they aren't necessarily doing it sincerely aren't they? And I thought this was why the compulsory CIP thing in schools was being scrapped. Because of all these piles of schoolkids going in and mucking around just so they could fulfil requirements, and in fact, not doing out of some sense to the community at all.

So now, instead of schoolkids doing it, you have all these trainee teachers doing it instead. :p Same problem, different groups of people.

And you know, so far as I can see, or hear, there really isn't a lot of community spirit being built up yet. Judging strictly by my cohort of people, most of us just find it a waste of time better spent doing assignments due very, very, very soon. And why aren't we getting the community spirit?

I think part of the problem lies with the amount of time we have. We are in this campus for one year. One year. Already the modules we are taking resemble something of a Crash Teaching 101, rather than those who are here for 2 or 3 years. Most people just feel that this thing has become something of an additional burden to bear, on top of all my modules. Not to mention, it's ungraded, so given the choice, would you spent more time on this, or on your graded modules which may affect your job security in the future? I think the answer's clear.

And I shudder to think of more insidious motives behind this. Could the purpose be to somewhat make future teachers feel more indebted to society, and more willing to serve, serve and serve society and never question or ask for anything in return? [Ok, no more 1984 after dinner.....]

Herein lies the flaw of the program then. You may force people to do a job, but you cannot force them to do it out of their heart. Sure enough, most groups will do the project, fulfil the requirements and write glowing reflections about the whole process. One or two may even come away genuinely touched.

The problem is that the number of people turned off by the whole process is that much more. And whether it is worth turning off that large number of people in order to reach those few hearts......

You think about just how much good this does the community.

Module Blues

By this time, I have already accumulated something like a week's worth of rants about school in general already. :( I can't wait till I go to School for the real fun to begin. :( :( :(

First comes...


So all trainee teachers have to take this module on teaching of English language here, unless you opt out of doing it, and so far, everyone's been running around in a misty blur regarding the requirements to fulfil for this module.

At the start of the year, we were told that we would have to have a portfolio of 5 children's books, aimed for lower primary students, to teach reading and writing in school. These 5 books have to be connected with a particular theme in the textbook.

My class had opted to use a Pri 1 textbook, and the theme we had chosen was "Places in my Neighbourhood". So we had to go out and look for books around this theme. Right?

Not only that, but a lot of us took advantage of a book fair in school to buy the books we needed for this portfolio. A lot of people spent between $50-$100, including myself. [although quite a number of books were ultimately for my own pleasure. :p]

THEN my tutor told me that our theme had changed! It had been broadened to "My Neighbourhood". So now quite a couple of my books are now INVALID because they were to do with "Places", and not "My Neighbourhood" per se. You still following me?

AFTER THAT we heard that the requirements for the module had changed, and now there was a whole bunch lot more work we had to do for the module, ON TOP OF the 5 books we had to BUY, and the 3 hour test we had to take in October.

Adding to the confusion is that apparently each tutor had been passing down different messages to their classes. So everyone in my cohort was walking around in a hazy blur regarding this module. :( :( :( No one was actually confident of exactly what they had to do for the module.

NOW that the confusion has finally been cleared up, and we knew EXACTLY the amount of work we all had to do and exactly WHAT we had to do......

We're all just blardy depressed. :(``````````````````````````````````

Friday, August 19, 2005

Comment spam?

We're all familiar with spam in our letterboxes, spam in our inboxes, spam in a can, spam coming out of our ears......

Now lo and behold: Comment spam.

I received a new comment on the previous post, and it turned to be, not from a teacher, a student or anyone even remotely connected to local education.

It was from a US timber company of all things.

"='Brand New News Fr0m The Timber Industry!!'

Recognize this undiscovered gem which is poised to jump!! Please read the following Announcement in its Entierty and Consider the Possibilities�Watch this One to Trad,e!Because, EGTY has secured the global rights to market genetically enhanced fast growing, hard-wood trees!EGTY trading volume is beginning to surge with landslide Announcement. The value of this Stoc,k appears poised for growth! This one will not remain on the ground floor for long.KEEP READING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And so on for a couple for paragraphs.

Like HUH????? What da heck does this guy think he's doing? My blog here ain't even connected to wood, unless you count some of the people working in NIE................... :p

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Server Down and the whole campus crashes

From about 8th August, till today, the NIE portal has been down.

This afternoon, the portal has been brought back online, but Blackboard still remains stubbornly down.

All functions, like announcements from lecturers, student time tables, discussion forums have been inaccessible to the entire NIE.

All of which means one thing to the average student.

We now have a valid excuse for not having our tutorial notes in class. :D

Teacher Answers Questions

Tym mentioned in the comments of the previous post that she was shocked to see how the lecturers treated us like kids in NIE.

[If you don't remember the previous post, I meant a comment about how, for the National Day celebrations, the lecturers were supposed to 'escort' us to the NIE grounds to watch the performances. Probably as a real life demonstration on how we were supposed to escort our future primary school classes to events in the hall]

Anyway, seeing as how so many of them are ex-teachers one way or the other, I suppose it's become ingrained in them by now, the tendency to treat other future teachers as kids. Which is ironic considering they're supposed to train us into becoming like them, but in fact the way they treat us is making us turn into our students instead.

It's a Catch-22 situation that has no end in sight, unless some really big changes are made.

So most likely even after I graduate and teach for a while, I might stumble upon some blog about how NIE lecturers are still treating their trainees like kids? *shrugs*

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Holiday Book Syndrome

Coined by GTS, this syndrome hits tertiary students of all majors in most universities around the world.

This is when an unknowing student takes home piles of revision notes and textbooks from school over the weekend, thinking that he would take advantage of the weekend to read them all.

And at the end of Sunday, the notes and texts still remain unread.

Yup, I can think of at least one person to which this applies......................... :p

A National Conspiracy

If you had been walking around NIE yesterday, you might have noticed an air of conspiracy about the place.

People walking to their classes, trying to look innocent.

Furtive glances left and right.

That half-suspicious look at you, to decide whether you could be trusted.

And finally, when you had proven yourself,

They would glance around again,

And then whisper in your ear,

"Eh, today you going for National Day celebrations or not?"


So maybe this post deserves some explanation.....

Remember that for us trainee teachers, we are not supposed to skip classes or lectures, because we were trained professionals being paid to attend and blah blah blah.

However, no one made much comment about events such as the Director's Welcome, [during orientation] or National Day celebrations. [which were yesterday]

Classes were meant to end at 1430, and all tutors were supposed to 'escort' their classes to the square in the middle of campus, to watch the concert together. But some people didn't have classes during that period of the day. So there would be no one there to escort them to the concert. Or make sure that they attended it.

And given the choice, would you prefer to attend some dumb concert, or spend the whole afternoon out in town?

*Whistling innocently as they walk out of campus*

Anyway, word on the street was that not all the tutors decided attendance was compulsory either. I heard that one tutor, towards the end of the tutorial and the start of the concert, looked at her class and said,

"Gee, all of you look hungry! You should all go to the canteen for food!"

Of course, her class then eagerly gets ready to go. And then she says,

"Don't forget the concert is on later! There are so many people there, I might not see you! If I don't, I'll just take it that you're there!"

Superb tutor this one....... ;)

Another point hit me later. The upper echelons of NIE is always onto us about our conduct, our clothing, blah blah blah. [Remember my earlier rants about the dress code and the lecturer with the punctuality issue?] It suddenly hit me why such 'nagging' from NIE about how we should 'behave like professional teachers on campus' will never work.

During Educational Psychology, [edpsych] we learned about the Parent, Child, and Adult states of mind of a human. The Parent state of mind is a controlling one, which always tells us what to do. The Child state of mind wants to have fun, but is more willing to listen. The Adult state balances the two.

[I realise this is not an exact description of the theory, but bear with me. I only read 1 chapter of my edpsych text so far]

So what's the connection?

Here, NIE is in the Parent mode, telling the errant Child, namely us, what to do. Now, if they are in the Parent mode, then we as trainee teachers have no choice but to respond in the Child mode. Why? Because if we respond with either the Parent or Adult mode, conflict will arise, since both will want the other to listen to them.

So, no choice! if NIE continues to be in the Parent mode, we have no choice but to respond with the Child! Parent must be counteracted by Child!

So forget with all the 'trained professional' crap eh? If you continue treating us in this manner, then we have no choice but to respond like this lor........

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Educational Cliches

There are some lines, which are heard all over NIE during the first week or so of tutorials, that one can get heartily sick of by the time it gets to Wednesday.

1. "You are to buy the following texts......" [Deep groan throughout lecture theatre, followed by] "Hey, you should be able to afford this, since you're getting paid by MOE/you're paid employees."

This line [and other variations is irritating in two ways: Firstly, just because we get a salary doesn't mean that we like to see one quarter of it burn down the drain because of costly textbooks, photostating, laptops, and all those various other purchases necessary to campus life. Not to mention that the NIE canteen food is relatively higher than those of the other canteens. [though cheaper than outside food]

Secondly, it particularly urks me when a lecturer tells me that the text is compulsory reading for his module, and you notice that the text has his name somewhere on the cover. Gee, since I'm getting truckloads of money from MOE, why not be generous and contribute to my lecturer's retirement fund at the same time? After all, he probably only earns peanuts......

2. "You are NOT to be late for lectures, as you are paid employees. And if you are to be absent, you are to submit an MC to the office."

This one was mainly irritating because it was repeated by just about every tutor and lecturer we had. By Tuesday, whole classes were probably nodding wearily, and repeating the line word for word at the start of the class.

However, there was a lecturer who happened to be either particularly picky about time, or happened to wind his watch 15 mins ahead of time.

In the LT, just about 3 mins after the lecturer was able to start, stragglers were pouring into the LT as usual. Usually, this is a common thing, as people either can't find the venues, misjudged time, or simply bottlenecked at the 2 doors of the LT. [which means that even if you arrived early, you might not be able to get in because the people in front of you hadn't gotten in and found a seat yet]

Most lecturers are either sympathetic, or they would just start the lecture anyway, not caring whether the latecomers were ready or not. Not this lecturer.

He gave us a 'lecture' about punctuality, how we were supposed to know the lecture venues and timings by now, how we were supposed to be trainee teachers, no longer uni slackers, how unprofessional it was to be late, what a bad example we would set to our future students blah blah blah......

The funny thing was I looked at my watch, and saw that the lecture was only about 4-5 mins late, and already he was making more fuss than my mother on menopause. Not to mention the final irony was that by the time he'd finished making his little speech, the lecture started about 20 mins late. Huh.

[Sidenote: One thing taught in TPP is that teachers should NOT let anything interfere with the smooth flow of the lesson, and one thing recommended was to start on time, regardless of whether all the students were present, to not waste time, and also to teach the latecomers the idea of punctuality. This lecturer didn't seem to read the same course book that we did]

3. "These are the deadlines for your assignments............"

Need I elaborate more on why this is groan-inducing? I don't think so......

Monday, August 01, 2005

More about the NIE dress code....

[This post courtesy of NIE com lab...]

I just realised something about the dress code on the way up to the library....

Read and compare the code for males and females.

For females:
Click on photo for a larger size...

And for males:
Again, click for larger size...

Notice the difference in the two? Only to be expected, right, because of dressing differences between the two sexes.

However, here's an interesting thought:

Does that mean that it is acceptable attire, if men wear skirts that are 4 finger lengths above the knee, expose their midriffs, their bare backs, or if they decide to wear spaghetti straps, tubes and tank tops? [As a sidenote, are there any men in NIE right now who want to test out this loophole? :p]

Hmmm..... NIE might think about how they want to phrase their signage in the future.........