The Future of Education = We are Raising Robots

Is anybody else really worried about this? Why are we striving to teach children like we are teaching robots? Did you hear the “voice” of that teacher? I’m sorry but I do not want to be taught by a virtual teacher with a voice that has no empathy or compassion. What about relationships? What about the social need, the basic need of being a human being? Care? Love? Kids don’t get enough of that home as it is, and we want to replace school with a virtual environment? I’m scared! May it not be like this!

 

 

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Could I go inside your head please?

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to go inside people’s heads – to see what they are thinking, how they are thinking, what makes them tick, what makes them alive. I guess you could say it’s some kind of twisted curiosity or maybe it’s to do with power? Knowledge is power, and the more I know, the better (I believe) life can be. If we all knew everything, we would make better decisions. We can also understand more. With more knowledge comes better understanding.

I’ve always wanted to understand actions and consequences. My first question is always: Why. I ask why when I am not supposed to. People think I pry and I have no respect for their privacy. I guess it could seem that way. But really, I just want to know so I can better myself for next time, and maybe, if I know why, I can then help others in the same situation. I thought of studying psychology, but I am a teacher – and it’s better this way.

Because I love looking at children and find out what motivates them and then find all kinds of strategies to get to them. If you show me a child who is impossible to teach, I get fired up and will obsess about how I could get them to learn. Because I believe, everyone can do anything, if we only find a way to get to them. How can we get to them? We analyze them, ask them, figure out their thought processes, their motivations, their coping mechanisms etc. I do realize though, that we can never know anybody 100%. It’s impossible, but somehow, I like pushing boundaries. This is why I love teaching so much, because I can experiment with various ways to deal with these students and various ways to help them understand.

Students aside, I also often obsess about why people do what they do and how did they come about to do it. There was a time, many years ago, when I would read biographies of teenage killers, you know, the ones that go around school shooting people. It amazed me that the papers never ask the question of “why.” They call it a tragedy and they articulate their surprise and shock. But why? I always wondered: what happened in their lives to lead them to make such a choice? Something must have happened. Some event. Some memory. People don’t just wake up one day and take a gun to shoot somebody. People don’t just wake up on one day and jump off a bridge. I want to know why and if we start knowing and understanding we can then help people through it. We can see the signs, we can predict patterns etc. We can get to the root of the problem before it’s too late.

In Germany, I checked out the museums to death. I tried going to concentration camps, and I read as many stories as I could. How did they survive? What were they thinking? What made them so strong? And Hitler? How did he become like this? What was going on in his head?

As a teenager I was fascinated by two books: Anne Frank’s Diary and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Anne Frank showed me what it was really like to be in the middle of that war. It allowed me to go into her head and I could truly understand why she did what she did and why she felt the way she felt. Crime and Punishment opened up for me a whole new world of “getting into people’s heads.” I loved Roskolnikov. I was amazed by his personality, his thoughts that I could somehow… rather… felt like there are reasons why people do what they do. No matter how evil, no matter how disgusting. It’s not so black and white. We condemn people so often without really asking why, without delving into the real reasons why they do what they do. Nobody is born bad. Not even Hitler. They grow up bad, they are moulded to become bad by their circumstances, choices and environment.

With that motto, that everyone is inherently good, I dive into my teaching. Every student can learn, we just have to try and understand how they learn. If one way doesn’t work, try another. If a child does not learn it is because the teacher has not done enough to try and understand them.

Chris Martin is a head I would love to get into. I want to know why he writes what he writes, what he is thinking when he writes them and his thought processes. I’m not so much interested in Chris Martin, the person, as I am in his artistry, his creativity, his brain. It’s almost like an obsession that’s quite sad really. Because I know I can’t ever get into his head… so I listen to Coldplay over and over again, and watch his interviews, read his biography and try to analyze him as much as I can. It’s fun.

And as a last note…

Dear reader, I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested.

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Student Writes Nasty Letter to Teacher and Teacher Corrects it!

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Technology in the Classroom: Friend or Foe?

The school I currently work in boasts top notch IT as learning tools. It is now expected by the board of education that teachers implement some kind of IT into their teaching as we are now moving into the “digital age.” I don’t know how many articles I have come across, urging educators to teach students to use technology and gain computer-type skills so they can be more ready for the workplace.

The teachers I have spoken to, however, have been split right down the middle when it comes to technology. Some love it and some hate it. There are no in-betweeners. I, for one, coming from a very traditional type background and schooling, honestly believe that technology has a place in education, but it does not deserve any focus at all. And if a teacher ends up spending half a day trying to work out how an app is used or how to download a certain type of program that can “enhance” learning, I say “give up and move on”. Revert back to the old whiteboard/flipchart because there really is no point wasting precious teaching time trying to sort that out.

I love that my current school is so “with it” in terms of the latest IT programs and learning tools. But the problem is that technology changes like the wind. One thing can be introduced and re-introduced in a matter of weeks. The moment we teachers think we’re on top of using a certain program, another better one comes along and we have to unlearn everything we knew. The children too, can’t seem to keep up with the changes we’re pushing on to them. In addition, technological problems are very difficult to fix and often time consuming. We have never quite rolled out a piece of electrical learning tool with a 100% success rate. Some poor child will either forget a password or have some sort of glitch on their laptop and ipad which then slows everybody else down because none of us are efficient enough with the technology to work out why it isn’t working. And technology is not as easily replaceable as the old pen/paper/whiteboard/flipchart method. Imagine this: you have spent hours over the weekend creating a power point lesson with embedded video and interactive type learning for the kids. You turn up at school only to find that there’s something wrong with the projector or somehow the embedded video refuses to play. What happens then? There is no plan B or backup for technological failure, and most of the time, you don’t know what is wrong in the first place!

I always resort to flipcharts or my whiteboard to teach. Because something always goes wrong. If you lost a flipchart, you can easily write up another one in a matter of minutes. Not the same if you can’t quite figure out why your embedded youtube clip does not play…

And what about the laziness of children? Our kids have an Ipad each. They’re so used to taking pictures of everything that they just refuse to copy instructions or words down anymore. They take pictures and look at them. They are no longer trained to jot things down, take notes or even remember instructions because they have their Ipads. I usually insist that they take notes and I hardly ever allow them to use their Ipads unless it’s to open up work that I have uploaded specifically for the day. Even that can sometimes go wrong – as some children cannot log on to the program or when they open the document it comes out all fuzzy…

So what IS technology good for? I’ve got one for you. Research and finding information. Technology is ace for this. However, the kids first need to be taught how to research or find information they need. I have kids copying whole paragraphs off wikipedia and not understanding a single thing they’re writing down. So there you go… where do you start?

I myself battle with technology everyday. I still cannot use a Smartphone and I own a Nokia, you know, the one with the buttons. I need buttons! I have just recently learned how to use the Ipad but I cannot do half the things the kids can do on there. I’m wonderful with Microsoft Office, but apparently that is very outdated. And I’m only 27.

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I’ve bought the veil and found the dress… Now for the man.

I had a friend who bought and stocked up on baby clothes and dresses for her sister’s daughter way before her sister was married, or even dating. My friend loved the idea of having a niece so much so that she has a closet full of girly dresses, toys and hair accessories for her niece, ever ready for her arrival. She has been doing this since she was 16; and 12 years on, her sister has just only gotten married. My friend would have to wait a few more years before a baby would come, and when the baby does come, there is no guarantee that it will be a girl. I admire my friend’s faith and determination. Imagine that… Preparing for something that you never know will ever happen.

Compared to her, I guess I am not so extreme. I only bought a veil. I found the material in Burano, Venice and I just had to buy it. Hand made lace at such a reasonable price. You won’t find such intricate material anywhere else! At the time I was in a relationship which I wanted to see end in marriage, but he had other thoughts. At the time when I bought the veil, I wasn’t sure if I was as going to marry him, but I knew I would get married eventually.

That was a about 8 months ago. The relationship is now no more but I still have the veil. And I so a badly want to see myself in a wedding dress with the veil. But because no man is in my life now, and I probably won’t walk down the aisle anytime soon, I thought I take matters into my own hands and start preparing for a wedding anyway. I don’t know when it will happen but I know it will.

I found my wedding dress yesterday. Of course I had to make up a story about the wedding and told the assistant the date. Not all of it is made up though. I mean, if my ex did not freak out, we would be planning a wedding now, and August 2015 would actually be the date. So it’s not all untrue. The details remain the same, but the man is gone. It’s no big deal I guess. I will find the man later. At least I got the dress and the veil!

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Confessions of a Teacher

A few years ago I wrote about the worst mistake a teacher can make, and I said that it was teachers who have low expectations of their students. Fast forward to present day and I am glad to admit that I still think the same. The worst mistake a teacher can make is to have low expectations of their students.

Believe it or not, I am smack bang in the middle of this. I am surrounded by a team of teachers who have probably the most lowest expectation of our students. And I still haven’t quite figured out if they are just plain lazy or they are too tired of teaching – maybe they are reaching the burnout point!

But it is incredibly frustrating working with them. And I have to confess that somedays, when I don’t hold my guard up, I feel like I am getting sucked in. I start to speak like them, labelling certain students as “lazy” and “dumb”. I shake my head when some names are mentioned and shrug my shoulders with nonchalance at their performance. I’m slowly getting sucked in, and I really don’t want to be a part of that! But when three of the other teachers are loudly bagging away at who is dumb and who is useless… I find it very uncomfortable, as a new member of staff, not to join in. I don’t want to seem like I’m not part of the team, I”m already “left out” most of the time. I don’t join in their jokes: like when they have rude nicknames for certain members of staff, when they say they will do one thing but end up doing something else in the classroom because they just “can’t be bothered with that shit.”

I’m caught in the middle, and I feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions. My school is big on teamwork. I have to be a part of my team. And as a new member I don’t want to seem like I’m not a team player. But boy, does the team play dirty! Do I want play dirty? No way. At the same time, I don’t want to be the snitch, telling off on the team. Because guess what? My team members get along very well with leadership and management.

So here I am… and yes, back to the worst mistake. My colleagues really do not expect anything from the students. Everytime I try to suggest something new, creative and challenging, they look at me bewildered and say: “Our kids can’t do that! Seriously! You’re joking!” And I always thought to myself: “We haven’t even tried…” Part of me believes that it’s just laziness on their part. They cannot be bothered to try something new. They use old tricks, so old that the kids just don’t improve anymore.

Several weeks ago we looked at data of our school, which was a joke really. Data shows that Numeracy and Literacy have been dropping year after year after year. My colleagues answer to that was: “It’s coz we have dumb kids…” I reckon it’s because we have lazy teachers. Quality first teaching just doesn’t exist in my team.

I don’t want to get sucked in, but being the only teacher rowing a boat is impossible. Don’t you think?

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Swallow that Pill!

I was quite horrified when I found out the other day that a good friend of mine had never swallowed a pill in his life. Really? I find that very unbelievable. Throughout the night I kept inquiring after him, asking him what happened when he was ill, what if he needed a Panadol and what about painkillers? Tablets? Vitamins? He shrugged them all off and said that there was always the dissolving stuff. Really? For EVERYTHING? I found that very odd indeed… where I come from, swallowing a pill is almost like a life skill, you do it out of necessity. How can people function if they cannot swallow tablets? How do they get their daily intake of vitamins and supplements?

I was trained to swallow a tablet. My mum taught me when I was very young. In fact, I hardly remember how she taught me, I remember her teaching my younger brother! I took to swallowing pills very easily. It was like second nature. It was something I had to learn to do so I can take all my vitamins and supplements. And to be honest, every kid I went to school with swallowed pills too. It was part of everyday. Now, just in case you’re thinking that I grew up in some medication infested pill popping culture, I will ask you to stop and think again. What I mean by “pill” is really vitamins and supplements. When I was growing up, we all had to take our Vitamin D, garlic oil, fish oil, Vitamin C and sometimes the dreaded alfalfa tablets. And I was used to that. So much so that I find it surprising when I meet people who don’t ever need to learn to swallow a tablet because they don’t ever need to take vitamin supplements. Surely you must take Vitamin C at least??

Back to swallowing pills. I am so well trained at it that I can swallow about 6-8 tablets at one go. This morning, I had my Evening Primrose Oil, fish oil, and 2 bee pollen tablets together with my double Vitamin C all in the one go. I thought nothing of it. But then my mind reverted to my poor friend, who can’t take a tablet at all. How is he meant to take his supplements? And what happens when he has a headache or has to take his wisdoms out and need to swallow some morphene? Clearly, he and I live in different worlds.

Are there many people who have a fear of swallowing tablets?

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The World Turned Upside Down Pt. 8

NB: Here are extracts of stories and thoughts of when girl meets boy. It’s not your everyday cliche story. To read other parts of the story, just click on the category “Story of Boy Meets Girl”. There you can find all the other writings pertaining to when a certain girl met a newbie boy, from the other side of the world and started on an adventure. The snippets aren’t exactly chronological. Whether the story is real is for you to find out. But I’m sure everyone can relate to it one way or another.

* * * * *

“A thousand miles seem pretty far but there are planes and trains and cars. I’d walk to you if I had no other way.”

-         Plain White T’s

 

It was never meant to last this long… 2 years and something months. He was a backpacker on holiday, exploring the world. A girl was the last thing on his mind.

A relationship was the first thing on my mind. But I knew it was impossible. How can I be with someone I have just met and I know is going to leave my country forever? How do I know if he feels the same way I do? We have only spent 4 nights (less than 70 hours) together and half of the time with a group of other people. Why on earth will he want to be with me when he doesn’t really know me? I was never going to see him again. He was going to travel the country. And soon he will be more than 20,000 kilometres away. Every cell in my brain told me it was a dream. A fantasy. Not real.

But the DNA in my body, including the blood running through my veins wanted to try. So what if it was impossible? I should at least have the right to enjoy every second with him before he has to go!

And so I did.

And the 4 nights were miraculously extended. And I saw him again. Twice. Two months after he had finished travelling the country. He came back to me. To see me. To say goodbye. Properly.

On the night that I thought I would see him last, I revealed my soul.

“Your girlfriend will be luckiest girl in the world,” I told him.

Logic tells me that she will never be me.

Less than a month later, via MSN, against all odds, dropped like a bombshell, turning my life upside down and killing off every logical cell in my brain… he typed three simple words.

I became the luckiest girl in the world. She was me.

 

*          *          *

It was so unexpected and unbelievable that I had to remind myself for weeks on end, that I was his. Not “in an open relationship”, not “see how we go and then we will decide…” None of the bullcrap. I was his. No other girl. That was it.

Half the time I thought I was dreaming. I had nightmares waking up and realizing it was all a dream. But every morning, my eyes would flutter open and it would hit me: I am his.

So we embarked on a journey together. Two people from opposite ends of the world, rolling in the sea of love, trying to manage a relationship boat with no instruction manual whatsoever.

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The hardest part about teaching is… the parents!

If you think handling difficult children is tough… try handling difficult parents. There’s nothing like it! Honestly, parents are so much more difficult to cope with than children. And more often than not, meeting a difficult parent will give you all the answers to why the child you are teaching is also very difficult!

I had to deal with many difficult parents over my relatively short teaching career. I sort of divide them into two categories: the ones that couldn’t care less and the ones that care too much. They basically are one or the other.

In my current classroom, I deal with a lot of “care too much” parents, as opposed to my time in London, when the parents “couldn’t care less.” An example of a “care too much” parent is a parent that sticks their nose into all of your business, bringing up the most petty of issues through long e-mails and phone calls. These are the parents that worry so much about their children that they wouldn’t let you, the teacher, breath. I have parents like that. So many of them! They would make comments about everything: about where the displays are put, my handwriting, my choice of activities, their child scratching his/her thumb on a twig etc etc. They tend to be overprotective, coming to the aid of their child at every possible second and blaming the teacher for everything. They never try to see the “whole picture” and will always assume their child is telling the truth (when 9 times out of 10, the child is lying or using the parents against the teachers). Whenever I get e-mails from these parents I just look at my colleague with wide eyes, completely exasperated and she would remind me to breathe and that it really wasn’t my problem. I recently received a complaint from an obsessed mother who accused me of favouratism because I didn’t write her child’s name on my birthday board. Truth was, I completely forgot! And when reminded, did get the class to sing for the child. You might think this child is very young, hence the sensitivity… but no, this child is going to high school next year! How will he cope with disappointments and let down? You tell me!

Flip it around, and you get the “couldn’t care less” parents. I’m not sure which one I much rather prefer. Parents who you see all the time, butting into every decision you make, or parents you never see and try to get a hold of because their child is losing the plot. Either way, both are difficult… I remember a particular mother that I had to deal with, who spent half her time being high and was associated with gangs. Her husband was in jail (not sure for what) and her son was very close to being expelled. He had called me a b*tch in the classroom and made a gun with his fingers, threatening that he would “put a bullet in my head.” When we had a meeting with his “couldn’t care less” mum, she shrugged and told me that she did not see anything wrong with her son “expressing an opinion.” There you go! Then there was the other mum, who, when witnessing her son in a fight on the playground, called out that it wasn’t fair because it was “2 against 1,” and proceeded to drag another boy into the fight so that it was “fair.” Or the parent who puts his/her hand up in surrender and admit to you that they “ain’t doing nothing no more” because their kid just “won’t listen.”

Which one would you rather prefer? Obsessive, overprotective parents or the ones who don’t give a damn?

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Am I the only teacher that fusses over presentation?

Help me here, because I seem to be the only teacher in Melbourne who gets really frustrated with poor student presentation. And by that, I mean their books! I don’t know if it’s because of the training of teaching in England (yes, I always mention it!) or because I am a naturally neat person. But I am a firm believer in high quality presentation, whether it be taking notes or writing in books.

My students are appalling at this. Granted there are a handful of very neat girls who are careful and will never make a mess. But most of my students couldn’t care less about how their work is presented. Here are a few examples of their bad habits:

1) Drawing lines without a ruler

2) Skipping pages for the sake of it

3) Not writing the learning intention or date, no header

4) Using multi-coloured pens (including gel pens, flavour-smelling pens)

5) Scribbling out when making a mistake

6) Illegible handwriting that does not even sit on the lines

7) Numbers not taking up one square per digit in their Maths books

8) Working out and answers not differentiated for Mathematics

9) Pictures, drawings, smiley faces, grafitti etc in their books that are not part of their work

I could go on further but I thought I’d list the worst 9. Do you have kids that do the same? And are you bothered by it? I had to sit my class down one day and spoke to them about having pride in their work. I know, it sounds mighty posh of me, but if you think about it, children that have pride in their work and pride in the effort they took to finish whatever task they have in their books, will think twice before scribbling something out, drawing a messy line without a ruler and leaving out pages. Children who work hard, are engaged and attentive and have self-confidence will not grafitti their front cover or doodle all over their pages. Am I expecting too much?

I’m grateful that my children took it well and they all proceeded to work much neater. Though some of them needed more reminding than others. But I am a huge believer in neat presentation. It makes you feel good about your work and you are more likely to be open to sharing your work with friends, teachers and parents if it looked nice. After all, your books represent you as a learner. If it was half torn, full of cancellations and graffiti, it portrays a sort of “lack of self-respect.” I do though, have children that cancel a lot when writing because of the self-editing but I taught them a way to cancel neatly, not scribbling it out with multiple circles or zig zag lines… I want to instill pride in my students, I want them to be proud of the work that they do. So I make sure that their books represent that. And if it means some students having to learn it the hard way, it would just have to be! I made one boy cut out pages of his writing and sticking them into a new book when I found filthy images all over his front cover!

I know of the saying “learning is messy” but I don’t believe it is LITERALLY. I showed some of these “books” to my colleagues and they didn’t seem to be as appalled as I was. Their comments were: “Wait until the end of the year. They’re books will be disgusting.” And it’s okay? Are we supposed to allow that? Can we allow that? Well, I’m not! And I’m sticking my foot down. The kids grumble and don’t understand why presentation is so important. But when report day comes, and their parents are there… I want them to be able to show their work with pride and have some kind of self-respect for the effort that they have put in. After all, they’re great writers and Mathematicians, so their work, their books, MUST show it!

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