Thursday, August 30, 2007

Accountable stakeholders in Education.

On another note, lectures has been great since the potluck. I invited one of my classmates over for a potluck at my home(Aussies call it "Bring a Plate" thingy).

I hope to have more socials in future. However today we had a lecture to do with Curriculum Planning. One of the things I noted was that we had to brainstorm for ideas on what "Outcomes Based" learning is after viewing this video that our lecturer put on in class.

What I was really annoyed was no one seemed to be contributing ideas to the discussion, and didn't want to put in anything on the list. Here we go again.....

In my opinion, all learning just happens to be outcomes based, because everyone wants to have proof that some kind of learning that takes place. It is impossible to have it in any other way, and even taking a photo of a child working at a play based activity is "some form of Outcomes Approach" learning.

The only difference is how the outcomes approach framework of planning is implemented, by using inquiry style of questioning and scaffolding to the teaching of the lesson. So I decided to risk it and put in my own thoughts where I said "it is providing accountability for student's learning for all stakeholders involved".

The lecturer was pleased with that account.... I say, just put whatever you seems feels right to you into the context.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Volunteer: public school (Day 2).

It's taken me a couple of days to debrief, as I have had a psychosomatic moment in the past couple of days....

Tuesday was my 2nd day at the volunteer school. It hasn't been raining for the past few days, so the weather had been really clear. It took me about 20 mins to walk from home to the school.
I would say that helping out as a volunteer is good, as there is not the stress that is there when one's role is as a student teacher, vs to that of the volunteer.

Debriefing here (anonymously that is), helps me to look at things from the perspective of both a volunteer, a student teacher, and to put things into perspective especially what I know about learning skills of Year 3 students.

In the morning when I came in, the teacher had changed the morning reading groups from after morning tea to before morning tea as she had extra help (which is me! he he). It was good to have experience working with students who displayed diverse skills in reading (from beginners, to intermediate, and to one entire group of advanced readers who could read, write and answer well).

Since this weekend is Fathers' Day (in Australia as far as I know), Mrs. M did guided writing with the children. They discussed about the fathers, and Mrs. M wrote some sentences in regard to fathers on the white board, and then copied that again on the blackboard.

Some of the children started their writing with "he is... he does"... Mrs. M addressed this problem by saying, "is this how you write an essay? How can anyone reading your essay know who you are writing about? It could be about the postman or the milkman that you are writing about if you don't address who it is you're writing about in your writing".

The children quickly changed it to "My father's name", "My father works as a"....

As usual after that, we went to the library thereafter.

During morning tea, Mrs. M. asked me if I wanted to join them for the staff meeting which took place during the morning tea. it was an enriching experience. There were a couple of student teachers and volunteers too from my varsity.

The principal addressed some issues of which were included planning of literacy topics for the 4th semester which included learning and working with spelling strategies, as well as behavioural issues for this child who had newly enrolled in Mrs. M's class the week before. The only thing I noted was that quite a number of the staff did not bring any planners, or something to write notes in..

(so I am still wondering how they were going to remember any of those things that were addressed during the staff meeting....)

Anyways one of the main things I noted about this school is that after a few hours (I'd say it takes at least a few hours to be able to get a feel of the environment), as a student teacher, I could feel a difference in the way the school is run.

There seems to be a degree of freedom that Mrs.M gives to the children in the way she manages her class. It's not as strictly controlled as the one where I went to during my pract, and I could perceive the way that she demonstrates the trust in the children. I would say that I could see that the children are a bit more relaxed and are not as "guarded" with what they say to the teacher.

I only perceived this after having attended the staff meeting, as there seems to be a general sense of "camaraderie" and friendliness. It would have been fair of me to have made any judgements when I was in class, without having seen the rest of the staff at work.

I was discussing this with an acquaintance later that day, where to compare an environment where the context is so tightly controlled and highly disciplined, and another where the children the teacher demonstrates and gives a degree of freedom to the children, and trusts them to not get into trouble...... I prefer the latter.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Volunteer: public school (Day 1).

After many weeks of pausing, waiting (and not doing anything but freaking out), last week I finally called up a school to do volunteer work. I managed to get a school on the first try. Actually, I didn't know which school to call up so my friend, J. asked me to write down the names on pieces of paper and pick lots. *lol*. Not exactly the best way, but it worked. So there!

I managed to get a school on the first try ......which was really great, because I wasn't really sure which school to call up as they all looked like really great options. On the same day, I went to the school to personally sign up as I wasn't free any other day.

So today I woke up really early feeling much excitement in my bones! I arrived at the school, D.H (which is a block south-west walk from my university). It was really not exactly the best day to go in as apparently on that very day, all the schools were having Testing for the Year 3, 5 and 7s. The deputy principal was really busy, and I sat waiting in the office for about half an hour before anyone could direct anywhere (yes, principals and staff are always busy, you know?). So I had to excuse them for that.

I was directed to a Year 3 class *yeah!* There really wasn't much more me to do on that day, so I took two children (who had only just arrived not too long ago) and did some writing & reading activities with them, as they were not doing the testing. There were about 20+ students in that classroom, with about 2 middle-east students, and 1 new student who just arrived (and had to do the test!). That's strange in my opinion anyways.

I did manage to have a look at the Year 3 Test papers. It's not exactly a test that students can study for, as it just assesses the student's literacy and mathematical skills, and there are no pre-set questions or ways to help students. It is done as an on-going assessment, whereby students who do not do as well will be allocated assistance (or funding) by the govt. for remedial work. The questions were actually quite tricky, and the students had to read the questions on their own. Today they were assessed on the numeracy part (hence, the teacher was allowed to read from the paper), but tomorrow the students will assessed on the literacy part of the paper (and hence, have to read everything on their own without the teacher's assistance).

When the students went off to the library (after doing an hour of testing), one of the girls in the classroom by the name of Caroline, spoke to me and took me around. She was one of the longest as she had to repeat a year in the same class and knew her way around. (She acted like one of the student leaders, although she technically wasn't an assigned one, lol). The class went to the library, where the librarian (who had her arm in a bandage due to a blood clot) read a book to the children with a stern looking expression on her face.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Education Is What You Make out of It.

To clarify my point, I would like to tell you what happened today at lecture. It was one of those early 8a.m morning lectures where you arrive in class groggy eyed, sometimes without having breakfast. For Asian students, that can be a really daunting task...but I did. Nevermind, but that's another story.

Anyways, my lecturer Deborah G. told us of the 4th Year students who bring back disheartening reports after their final primary school practicuum (the one where they have to teach a mostly multi-age classroom class).

The thing is that at university (at least at mine), student teachers are taught the different learning pedagogies set out by the government board and supposedly adopted at school. i.e, such as using play based pedagogies, having a more child, or learner-centred classroom context, etc.

But the reality of the situation is that many primary schools still adhere to the traditional context of teaching and learning, which is really teacher-centred, although it may not be as wholly teacher-centered, rote memory based or worksheets centred at traditional Asian schools, as they incorporate some form of classroom interaction in the classroom. Many students find it disheartening that what they learn at universities, is not the same as when they go out to the real place.

This morning I was seated with a group of female students. For me, it was disheartening for me as they were busily gossiping about how the entire education system was not working for them (this is in Queensland), and going on and on negatively about the whole entire education system.

There I was thinking, hmmm..... if they think their system is bad, wait till they come to where I come from!

It was a surprise for me because I had never expected to hear such comments especially within a tertiary education context, or within a white community. Perhaps I had thought that only Asians would think that way, but it was probably I expected that white people would be more optimistic or enthusiastic about what they expected or wanted. Nonetheless.

Of course, the next thing that came to mind was what a friend of mine, Tom did. The words that came to mind was "Education is what you make out of it". More so for a teacher.

I believe that a teacher needs to be of strong will, and have an idea of what they believe in order to be able to an effective teacher. ( In this context, it does not take into account teachers who have never had professional training). Rather, it is what the teacher knows her/himself to be right, and sticks to it without being overwhelmed by the entire education system. I believe that the will to be strong is what one needs to survive.I have done it before.

I believe that others can do it too.

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