Thursday, September 29, 2005

Expectations of our children.

I found this article by Zainul Arifin in the NST recently. It was yesterday's.

Well, I should not be surprised that Education Malaysia has commented on it as well. Well, they beat me to it. Nevermind.
In an age where six-year-olds are sent to mental arithmetic
classes, and Primary One pupils are expected to be able to read and write and
are given homework on the very first day of school, children are being forced to
carry a heavy burden of expectations. They live in a world where there is less
and less time for children to be children.
I can attest to that. Children as young as 5 in my school (FYI, it is ONLY integrated Montessori) already have mental arithmetic classes. Well, the classes are held twice a week. The youngest is 5. The basic requirements for entering a Mental Arithmetic class is that the child has to already know his numbers (1-10) and understand concepts of basic numbers, counting and subtraction. Well, at least!
But I am sure many of them have superior thumb-eye
co-ordination, owing to prolonged exposure to video games
Now, that is very funny. But that can't be avoided. Each generation has its own new set of gadgets to play with. Unless the parents themselves make it a point to do something about it.
I was ok at other subjects though!

When National Service was introduced, the volume of protest,
some of it very hysterical, from parents might have led one to think the
Government was sending the teenagers to the battlefield. In times of war,
18-year-old teens do get sent to the frontlines to die for the country. Here
some parents were crying buckets over what is essentially a holiday

If I had children, I may miss them? But I think they have to let go at some point of time. Just look at Singapore! The men went through National Service and turned out fine. Finer men, in my opinion! I can't very well say why the parents will object, being not a parent myself.

Well, it can't be helped that Asian parents want their children to do well academically. It is the way we live our lives. Chinese culture predominantly has placed much importance on education achievement. I am not too sure about the other ethnicity though, and it definitely is not so much the case in Western societies either.

But one thing I can say. There is definitely a need for more trained teachers to communicate across to the parents itself that academic achievements is not the only thing that we can judge a person by. Coz when a person starts working, people do not really care what happened to you in your childhood days, or how badly you fared.

What matters though is, your academics may affect your chances to get a good scholarship or places at the best university! That is reason enough that children should do at least, fairly well in their studies.
Well enough to proceed to the next level in life, equipped to face the real world, and not lacking in social skills. Most importantly, be happy and not lacking in manners. That is what I would aspire for my own kids anyway!

As they say, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

I don't want a dull Jack for any son of mine any time soon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Tadika/Kindergarten Concert Rehearsal.

Today the kindergarten had its pre-concert rehearsal. Children from all three 3 different schools gathered together at a golf club near Sri Petaling. The teachers voted against a full dress rehearsal as it would take up a very long time for the children to change from and back into their school uniform. They only had about less than 3 hours to practise, and get back to their own respective schools.

I have been saddled with the responsibility of the Masters of Ceremony. *heh*. Yup, I have to prepare a long long speech and prepare all the lead ins and lead outs for the script. Something that requires more than just first level of creativity, and from what I can see, I would not be too happy with first level of creativity either!

The rehearsal went well & in good time! The children managed all their numbers in the short time allocated, and it was not chaotic. The past 10 years of experience has given both the principal and director experience in managing events, since both of the former and latter hail from an advertising background as well! The helpers had brought adequate refreshments for the children during the course of the rehearsal.

After the rehearsal ended, the children went back to their respective schools. One branch had a bus booked, as it needed to ferry the entire school, and it was quite far away from the golf club. The other & my branch was much nearer, so we relied much on parent support to help ferry the children back.In other words, car pool.

Petrol these days is not cheap, you know?

PPS Review podcast up for downloading!

DZOF has finally put up the PPS Review (episode 8) from the bloggers meet up.

Go to the site to download the podcast! (21 MB)

*okay, I don't want to steal his bandwith and all, so just go straight there, ya!*

Take your time and leave the computer on!

Go read a book,


watch re-runs of Malaysian Idol and swoon at Daniel,

read Shakespeare or something.

Been promoted on another blog!

Anne.Teaches.Me listed me on her blog!!

Isn't she a sweetie?!

I found out about it through Technorati.....hehe..well, this is an edublog after all! :-)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Children showing love for one another.

I have this yellow sunny air freshener in my car. It is in the shape of a door hanger, and made for hanging. As such, there is absolutely no way I can catch it onto my air cond (like the ones in the ad which was inspired by the automatic gear!). I hang it onto my car wiper stick function.(whatever u call it) beside the steering wheel.

The other day, I found an empty air freshener (same brand from inside my closet) and decided to give it to one of the two boys, Nicky & Jasper who sit with me at the front. (it's illegal in other countries, but nevermind). This is Malaysia after all!

Anyway, I decided to give the empty container (since the both of them keep taking and playing with it each time they come into my car), to one of the boy. I decided to give it to Nicky, the elder boy.

I told Nicky he could have it (he's 4 +). and Jasper (3 years). Then I told Jasper that I will give him the other one when the one in my car is empty.

Well, guess what?

Nicky decided to give the empty one to Jasper, and then he told me that he can have the one in my car when it becomes empty!
Jasper didn't know that, so he asked me if he could have the one in the car when it became empty, and Nicky told him that he's giving him the empty one and has already put it in his bag!!

What a generous hearted boy! I am sure his mother will be so proud of him! Now, wouldn't you like to have that kind of brother? They are not brothers in any way though!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A lecturer & student's perspective of Toowoomba.

Dr. Irene was tellling us that when she visited one of the childcare centres in Toowoomba, the centres used cloth nappies. This was about 10 years ago. That said, she mentioned that this centre was very environmentally aware that instead of using plastic nappies (like Pampers!), which is not bio-degradable and expensive, the cloth nappies would be sent to a service centre to be washed and desterilized.

(That also provides a vocation to provide jobs and saving the environment at the same time!).

This was also the case in 1977, at the creches at her UK uni. Her first son was born, and the creche nurses did the same. Very environmentally aware. This is among the things that Asian societies have yet to catch up with.

Convenience Vs Care. What do you choose?
I was just discussing this with Soo Yee who had gone to USQ for a semester of studies, and refused to stay there after that cause life there was just too *dull* for her. Toowomba is too much in the outskirts for her!


Anyway, this discussion had taken place after our class with Dr.Irene. According to her, in Towoomba, the centre where she did her practicuum employed a fully play based approach in the kindergarten where she was based. (5 & 6 years). The disadvantage was (to Asians, that would be!), the 6 years could barely even count orally.

The primary school settings, Grade 1 and 2 also employed play based approach, however, with more structured activities. The reason they can do that in kindergarten, is because it leads up to a primary school curriculum which also adopts the same kind of approach.

However, she feels that Australians (the ones that she had met), were lacking when it came to dealing with math. They were good in the non-academics, the confidence, the creativity the less assessable areas. For example, she said that when she had gone up to the bus, she had paid the bus fare an Au5 dollars for a 1.20 fare and expected a AUD 3.80 change in return, however, instead, she got 7 dollars back!!

Another was, at the bar, where her classmate had interned for her Tourism degree. When the bar closed operations for the day, they had to do calculations. It seems the OZ staff had trouble with mental counting, and had to rely on concrete counting (touching the coins).

In terms of sexual knowledge & intellectual pace, children as young as the age of nine years of age are already conversing like mini-adults, and by the time they are 12/13, if the children go to the school toilets for a long time and never return, you can already guess what they are doing! (Apparently, some were caught having sex in the toilet!).

Hmmmm...btw, did you not read the case of the 13 year old boy who sodomised the other boys in The STAR recently? If there are others who would like to add to this perspective, please do so. It would be enlightening to see what others have to say about the children in context of growing up in Australia.

Post Blogger Meet-up Podcast entry.

I just came from my first blogger meet up... It was most excited as I was interviewed for a podcast. Hehe.

There's a lot more I can say in regard to Quality Child Care Settings, but I will take a hiatus for a while. I have 5 weeks more before handing up another assignment, so that takes main priority.

The first assignment is (again) on Cross Cultural Communication! Although one assignment itself , it is more than 6000 words, (book review & making other resources). I think I can just die already!

The other is a file of Reflective Journals and I have to go searching for artifacts and articles in regard to the education context of current Malaysia. That will take up a bit of time. DZOF , who does PPS podcast reviews (at the blogger meet up) mentioned Smart Schools in Malaysia. I shall have to read up on that!

Since I have visited the first childcare setting, I decided I should another two, both Montessori trained, a Dr. Irene's play-based centre, and Kim's, the latter a Montessori based approach.

Now, DZOF the person who interviewed me for the podcast, asked me a few questions:

"Is a fully Montessori approach preschool centre in Malaysia is possible?"

My answer to him was as most of the Montessori centres currently are operating, the only answer to that is that it is totally and fully impossible to do that in a country like Malaysia.

If the centres want to do that, it has to look at what the primary school curriculum is and will be like and provide continuity for it. To fully immerse a child in a preschool that fully employs a Montessori approach will only lead to the child experiencing a culture shock that they will not be able to fully overcome when they enter Primary One.
As even most kindergartens have to done, as the child approaches the age of 5, the curriculum becomes more Montessori integrated and moving towards an academic teacher-directed focus.

By the time they reach 6 years, the classes diversify off to either employ a Malay or Chinese medium, becoming more academic and structured in their written work and activities. Though, that does not mean the teachers cannot employ a Montessorian approach in doing the lessons.

Montessori is only among the many approaches that teachers use, and is not the last and final means of approach to teaching young children.

To digress from the main topic, Mr. Chang, my lecturer at college noted to the class that since very young children are at a "Mythic Age" according to the studies set out by researchers, that teachers could tell the children fairy tales at a young age. However according to Montessori, fairy tales are not right for children, especially if they are not grounded in reality yet.

I will take the case off from telling fairy tales to children, until I am sure that they are.

He related a story to us about him telling the children (6 year olds) a story of Rapunzel who kept her hair long. So the children came up with these questions/statements:

1. Teacher, teacher, if the prince climbed up Rapunzel's hair, would it not be painful?

2. Teacher, teacher, if Rapunzel kept her hair so long, would she not have kutu in it??? smelly...dont wash hair one. If the prince climb her hair, sure all the kutu go onto him one ah!!!

Well, just be careful the next time you tell your kids fairy tales. You may have to answer off the weirdest questions!!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Observations in a Taska/Tadika

Now even though there has been regulations set out for nursery programmes, or taska, as they are known in Malaysia, how it thrives also depends on the cultural and social context of Malaysia. Now so far, the demand for nursery programmes in KL is still not there. Children here are still sent to be taken care of by extended families- whereby which, includes aunties, grandmothers, mothers-in-law. Families have yet to come to the stage and practice of sending their new born babies or toddlers to a nursery. It is just not done.

Childcare Centres in Malaysia are registered under the Welfare Department, whereas Kindergartens are registered under the Education Department. Child Care centres in Malaysia are categorised under two, which are home based child care centres (less than 10 children) or institution based centres (more than 10 children).

However, home based child care centres may not be very popular in the city area as far I know. As I have never been to a home based childcare centre, I do not know what kind of services they provide. However, in my knowledge, most parents prefer to send their children to a proper kindergarten, where learning activities are provided. It's more of a "value for money" thing. If the kindergarten does not provide after-school care (or taska services), the parents will send their children to someone who provides nannying services. There is politics that exists between the nannies & taska services, but that's a different subject altogether.

Demand begates supply. As such, daycare programmes (most of it that is), is incorporated to as part of the services that kindergartens offer, and not so much as an independent service by itself. To do so, would be akin to committing economical suicide on oneself, unless it was specifically for that purpose. I am sure there are some, but the ratio of kindergartens to daycares is probably about 100:10, or probably less?

Now, this afternoon, I went to visit a kindergarten that is operated by a classmate of mine. She's in her mid 40s, (if you are wondering). Now, this lady runs about 4 kindergartens, and is on the verge of starting another one.
For her kindergarten, she applied for licences under the Education Act 1996 and also under the Child Care Centres Act 1984. Yup, technically, both licenses have to be applied for.

However, knowing the political situation in Malaysia, the situation is always is always "one eye shut". Many so called kindergartens in Malaysia are unlicensed and not registered. But that is for another story.....

Now I needed to go and observe children in a daycare setting, but to be able to just observe her children who were in the range of 2-4years was more than sufficient. I was actually hoping to see babies in diapers, like how they have in creches, however, that is most likely not something possible yet in this part of the world for a long long time lar!

It took me a while to go and find her kindergarten as it was right smack in the middle of Petaling Jaya, and I got lost and had to drive a few rounds before I could finally reach the place. Heh.

It was a surprise for me, as when I went in, one of the teachers who was teaching one out of the 3 toddler classes happened to also be another classmate of mine (who is doing the same unit as well!). That was such a God-sent miracle! That would just mean we were both on the same line of thought for our assignments, that is!

Surprise, surprise!!

So after the principal had brought me around the school, I told the principal that I would like to sit in and watch the class.

Now, I shall analyse the toddler area settings based upon some of the criterias mentioned.

Conducive Learning Environment:
I liked the way the settings were done up. Now, the principal is Montessori trained, so you can be sure there is no running away from using that approach in that kindergarten. The Practical Life and Sensorial materials were placed against the wall, and there was a lovely wall display with all the children's work on display.
What I liked about the art display was, for every type of artwork displayed, a note was written there stating the kind of skills that the artwork required/entailed.

The furniture was child sized, and the tables were small enough to accomodate the children moving around.

There was this circle on the ground, where the children and the teacher (or aunties as they are called in Montessori schools) would sit in.

Supportive interactions:
Now, this one of the things I love watching about the class that my classmate taught.
The children and the teacher have such lovely and warm interaction, I could almost melt!
It's not what you would see in a lot of asian schools, "children are seen and not heard", and everything is study, study, study!

The interaction between the teacher and the children was warm and friendly. Even when the child tried to misbehave, the teacher did not raise her voice, but was very firm.
And no, she didn't beat the children (which is exactly my point that most "so-called" teachers in Malaysia tend to do when the children misbehave!). The children were not afraid of her, but enjoyed talking and interacting with each other.

The children were having so much fun just being there. I am sure you would have enjoyed being a toddler in that class as well. I wouldn't want to go to a school where the teacher expected all the children to keep quiet while she herself only talked!! Such a boring class. If I were the child, I would have run outside to play. Nevermind that the teacher started scolding me instead!!

The other thing my classmate mentioned aside to me was the, Show and Tell activity that the students in the west do (meaning the western based activities).Show and Tell is where the child brings something from home or from a visit somewhere, and tells the class where they went or what happened.

Now we don't really have these kind of activities here, but such activities do help the child to feel as part of the classroom. Now only that, it helps them to develop their language skills and self esteem.
My classmate says that she will incorporate such activities into her circle time in future.

Planning- Supporting learning and development
Now I am not sure how many kindergarten teachers keep a reflective journals, but I do. (I have no option in my case). :-P

If one wants to improve in their vocation and profession as a teacher, the skill to be able to evaluate and analyse one's use of teaching strategies, skills and ability to translate/innovate one's knowledge of theories into practical usage is pivotal to improving one's self.

I had the priviledge of being privy to the planning records, (which actually is private & confidential), so most professional staff will not allow anyone access to such records in respect of both the school and the child's privacy.

Now one of the first things I observed was that there was a Nature Table in the classroom. The theme for the lessons was on Ocean Life, and there all these beautiful collections of sea shells, sea creatures, artwork, and all brought by the children themselves. None of it belonged to any of the teachers at all! It was lovely, as it would provide children with a sense of belonging to know that THEY had contributed to the learning/activity of the classroom.

Of course, for the children to be able to contribute materials the class, it is the teacher's role to inform both the child and parents, so that they can participate in their child's learning. I am sure the parents must have enjoyed searching for things with their children (if the parents had done all the work, it doesn't really matter!).

I was observing one toddler class at work. The teacher had had filled an ice-cream container with sand. The children were seated around the circle and one child was searching through the container for what the teacher called "Buried Treasure". It was just so exciting to watch!

My classmate was doing an artwork with her class on Octopus tentacles. Isn't is lovely to see such a thematic curriculum in place?

Another class had their Free Choice activities. Now, for this, the children would take one activity that they have already been taught from the shelf, and the teacher recorded down each activity that the child had done.
Now, if you want to talk about Montessori schools, Free Choice does not mean the teacher simply allows the child to take any activity to do, and the teacher goes and do her own thing. The teacher has to record down whatever activities the child had chosen to do, and

The settings are child-friendly. The approach is child-led and not entirely teacher directed.

Quality Child Care Settings.

Among my assignments includes the researching and preparations of a presentation on quality child care settings.

A child care programme or otherwise known as nurseries, is set for babies/toddlers aged 0-3 years of age.
Among the criterias set out for reflection is understanding of the Regulations and Accreditation set out by the Education Board in our respective countries, in researching & creating what a quality child care setting is.

Think about how these criterias are met by your local childcare settings?

1) health & safety:
-How do the centre provide for the safety of your child?
-What kind of measures are taken that your child will not inadvertently hurt themselves?
-If the centre provides nappy changes, what measures are taken to ensure the health of both the childcare worker and the child?
-How & where are the meds & poisons (chemicals) kept?
- How does the centre provide/individualize meals for children with special medical conditions?
- Does the centre put up displays/ instructions to inform others on procedures that are to be takens during emergency situations?

2) conducive learning environments.
Does the learning coordinator/group leader provide a warm, quiet & trusting environment where the children come in with the knowledge that they trust the adult?

3) supportive interactions (child, staff, community).
How does the staff communicate interactions with?
Type of medium used: Message books, Classroom books, photographs, newsletters, e-mailing, parent-teacher conferences.

4) flexibility in routines and planning.
Does the teacher's planning flexible enough to include teaching based on their observations of the children to support & make the teaching/learning fun, interesting, exciting?

5) partnerships with families.

6) cultural respect & support.
How does the centre respect the diversity & provide support for parents who do not speak the main language used at the centre?

7) planning- supporting learning & development.
-How knowledgeable is the teacher in putting into practice child development theories and teaching methodologies? (i.e Montessori planes of development, providing age-appropriate experiences, providing Sensorial, Practical Life activities that attract the children's attention)

-How does the teacher includes their observations to plan for the children's learning?
-What kind of language does the teacher uses to support learning? (STOP, We do not...., I do not like...)

-What kind of supportive behavour management language & strategies does the teacher uses to manage the children's behaviour? How do the children respond to this teacher?
(i.e. Eye contact, voice tone & volume, etc...)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Montessori Maths: Children learning to read " a thousand"

Yesterday, I finally started working on using the Mathematics materials with the children. I would dearly like to work on more Practical and Sensorial activities with the children, however, due to the lack of time in lieu of the upcoming concert that the kindergarten has, this has totally rendered it impossible.

Anyway, I wanted to try out the maths materials with the children.

So I started with the 6 years beginners yesterday using the Large Number Cards. For that, I did the 3PL with the 6 year olds, and they had no trouble naming from units up to thousands. But the activity I had in mind for them was to actually arrange the tens. The 6 year olds had no trouble arranging those.

Then I worked with the 5 years Advanced. Now, the 5 years Advanced has only probably worked up until numbers 30s, but hardly anything beyond that. But the point of the activity was actually not to name the quantity, nor do they need to know the name proper from quantities "twenty, thirty, forty to ninety" but to arrange the quantities (10-90) from the biggest to the smallest.
So I worked with them on their knowledge of 1 to 9 to arrange the quantities. The only difference is that there is a perpetual "zero" after each number.
As a colleague, LY, observed, "a play with numbers but perpetually with the zero after that."

Today, with the other class, a 5 years Beginners, I decided to use the Golden Beads instead. Reason being that, the children were all in their first year of school, and working hands on with objects would be better (not to say that the other classes would not benefit either) and they only started working with learning numbers this year compared to the other classes (which would mean to say, technically, they are at the same level when it came to academic work with the toddler class!).
Anyway, I used the 3PL with this class to teach the names of the quantity. I did have some problems with the first half of the group, so I decided to try another way to teach the 2nd half of the group.
I worked on naming quantities (units, ten bead bar, hundred bead square and thousand bead cube)

One of the boys, CW had asked me why didn’t we say "twenty or thirty" then to which, I did remember that the children have not actually learnt the proper name to it nor worked with those names. So it was not possible to do that all within one short lesson.

But naming it using by calling it "1 ten bead bar, or 2 bead bar, or 1 one thousand or 2 one thousand" is much easier as the children only need to rely on their knowledge of 1 to 10 to work with the bead bars. Which is reasonably rational and true, right? The point of Montessori having designed the materials in such a manner is for that very reason, to which, it applies to both the written as well as well as her concrete decimal system materials.

It is a loss if children are not given the opportunity to work with big quantities. Not knowing "the right name" is not reason enough that they are deprived of such a priviledge to work hands on with it. It is only as much the prejudice and biasness that stops us educators from being ready to allow children to move forward in their hunger for knowledge.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Learning through music.

As I was sending the children back today, I played a different song than from the usual.

But Jasper (the 3 year old) kept insisting that he wanted to hear the usual one played, and took out the tape from the glove compartment! And kept whining and whining and whining...lar.. *guess what I did lar??*

ChingWen (the 6 year old), was among the last 3 children I sent home, as they a class to attend.

Anyway, I played Mozart’s Eine Klein Nachtmusik. This was his response....

CW: How come there was no one singing but only music playing?
Me: Oh, those are just people playing music with the instruments. You know, the piano, violin and all that?
CW: Oh.... *Then later...* How come the music is so loud and then so soft?
Me: Oh, that is how the music is like...the music sounds nice like that *right*.
The person who played the music, his name is Mozart. He died many years ago, but people still like his music now, so they still play it.Maybe you could ask your dad who Mozart is. *emphasizing the word Mozart*.

Maybe he knows who he is..?

Eine Klein Nachtmusik was pretty repetitive, after a while, he managed to hear the main "part" of it and started to hum to it.

I observed this as I feel that a lot of children these days had never had any exposure to classical music. It is interesting to note their response. I remembered that the first time I heard classical music, Blue Danube. I totally fell in love with it!

Today is Photography Day.

The children were so not dressed for it! The children looked pretty messy so I had to call some (or most of them) to come to the washroom so I could neaten up their hair. There was no hair gel, but I used water, as it was only for a short while.Well, guess what?

After the photography session was our break time. The children seemed to have realised a new use for water!! Instead of just washing their hands, they had splashed their hair all over with water!!! What a neat way to use water, but so much trouble and messier it gets!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Montessori: Finally all my assignments in!

Whee... I finally handed in my MCI file today for Melanie to see.

After the hoo haa of the car problem, I was so totally incensed as it took up so much of my time. Anyway, I am quite relieved as Melanie would then be able to get back to me with feedback about my file work. I have about 230 hours of work to finish off & about 12 observations to complete before I am finally be rid of my Montessori International Diploma programme, and then just fully concentrate on my tertiary undergraduate studies!*Alright**!!!

Ya, if you want to know, I am currently doing my distance Australian tertiary undergraduate studies at a local Summit college in PJ, and concurrently completing the MCI internship as well. Have to multi-task..

What to do? All in a day's work and things we have to do to move up in life...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Vygotsky: Theory in practice.

As most trained educators should know, and be trained in the knowledge of educationist theories, one among which is Vygotsky , who is a prominent figure in the intellectual/cognitive development of the child.

The assistance of someone more skilled/ trained/ knowledgable can help a person to perform better (or otherwise scaffold his learning to a higher ground) is the basis of the Zone of Proximal Development theory that he puts forth.

Yet, sometimes even as educators, we don't realise, or are not observant enough of the environment to even find opportunities to put this into practice. Today, the principal noticed that during the dance practice for the youngest class, the good dancers were paired with the other good ones, whereas the not so good dancers (meaning the children who were either in their own world or totally had no idea what was happening) were paired equally with such and like partners. She decided to switch the good dancers with the not so good dancers.

Well, if you want to say put Vygotsky's theory into practice, that is the way to do it lar! The good ones are fine by themselves, but how about those who absolutely have no idea what is happening around them? They would definitely need the assistance of someone who is more grounded in the steps.

Speaking of which, one can put such learning into practice in your own life. My parents have this thing about me to socialise with someone much more wiser, and well versed in life.

As the proverbs goes,
One who walks with wise men grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13:20.

You mix with fools, you become like them, just as iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27: 17 (KJV).

A good piece of advice for those who are looking for spouses. Find one that can uphold and account for each other's behaviour. As the price of wisdom is far more worth than rubies, (Proverbs 8:11), it is useless to find a rich man/ woman who has not wisdom, for in the long run, their foolishness will run them afoul!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cross Cultural Knowledge: Essential for the Effective Teacher.

The assignments I had to do were 2 case studies on a japanese boy, Hiro and his family in Australia, and the other, a Taiwanese boy, Mike, in Australia. I had to analyse how Hiro's background and culture as a Japanese could affect his family, in terms of how the family view their roles, responsibilities, needs, wants and learning styles. So, if you wanted to know why I have been watching the Japanese 9 hours series, Generation Love, and reading up books and journals on japanese culture, not to mention discussing topics on Japanese culture, it is not so much that I like their culture, but because I had to do it for my assignments! I have other more interesting things to read by far, you know??

I had always thought that culture had nothing to do with how I think, but now, I can see that it isn't really so. Like for example, most Asian parents think that their children are rude if the children answer back. That is the case with my family as well. But in a Western family, that is not considered rude. In fact that is normal for a child to question both the teacher as well as the parents. In practice, students are taught to question how things work and analyse the situation and find out answers for themselves. In short, teachers there do not give out answers like how they are here.

I had a case of my cousin and his colleague who were sharing a lecture presentation (they were lecturers for a1st years class in U.Queensland, and he told me that the student asked his colleague, a female Malaysian, and she couldn't give an answer. Then the student proceeded to ask him. After which, the student proceeded to declare to the rest of the class that the female lecturer didn't know her work. Well, I think that by any chance IS rude, but according to my cousin, that was a pretty normal practice over there. His female colleague was obviously very very upset. *lolz*

The other was on a Taiwanese boy, Mike, and I had to think and prepare a Child Profile for him, and then think of what kind of an ESL (English as a Second Language) program and strategies to accomodate and help him to learn English being in a new environment and all... The program that I wrote out had to be workable, but also needed a theory based background to substantiate it. I definitely think that the Hiro case is harder, but it seems that the examiners are awarding more points to Mike's case that is.

In terms of talking about a minority language, I would like to share a case about my Kiwi nieces.

My nieces were about 12 and 9 the last I saw them about CNY a year last. They were both complaining that their grandfather did not like it that they couldn't speak Cantonese. Now, it would be obvious that being a minority ethnic group in NZ, there is absolutely no way anyone will be able to practise a language unless the family makes an effort to, right?

I was doing a reading on japenese bilingual speaking families, where the parents tried to encourage the children to speak English at home, whilst everyone else in the community was speaking the dominant language which was Japanese. Now, my nieces come under that category, except that their minority language would be Cantonese instead of English.

The author stated that children of bilingual families have no motivation nor interest to speak a minority language as it did not serve any purpose in communicating with other members of society. Not to mention that there were no sign boards nor journals, magazines or media in the society that encourage any kind of interaction in that language.

So in the case of my nieces' family, my cousin would speak to them in Cantonese, whereas they would reply her in English. Imagine, after speaking in English the entire day, you come home, and all of a sudden you had to speak Cantonese. This is also the case for my nephews in The States as well. I think, they may end up doing the same, unless my cousins really insist that their mother tongue is spoken at home.

However, I would also like to bring up an exception here. One would be my grandmother. My brother's fluency in Cantonese sucks. However, in order that he could converse with my grandmother, he had to brush up his Cantonese so he could talk to my grandmother. However, if it was the case that my grandmother could understand English but could not speak it, I think my brother would have been less motivated to do so.
Well, if that is the case, I have to pretend that I cannot speak English so that my children would only speak Cantonese? I don't think that is happening any time soon. Thanks, but I wouldn't even pretend not to know just so that I could get the desired results.

Talking about culture, my nieces were also complaining that they didn't want to marry a chinese when they are adults. From my perspective, it is not so much the issue of marrying someone from your own etnic race, but it is more of an issue of lack of having chinese people around, and I think that if there was a plentiful supply of chinese around in NZ, my nieces wouldn't complain so much. Also, they were echoing the sentiments of having watched the blockbuster movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where this greek girl was forced to marry a greek boy, but ended up marrying a white in The States, and the family had to persuade the farther to give in. *laughs*

Basically, as a minority ethnic group in a foreign country, one has to follow the customs. In the case of the japanese boy Hiro the family has to conform to the culture of the country. In Japan, most fathers leave work way after 6pm in the evening, whereas in Australia, work ends at 5pm sharp. There is absolutely no way Hiro's father could stay at work after 5, as everyone else and all the other staff would have left work and he would be the only one left in the office. As a result of these working hours in Japan, it has affected the amount of time that fathers could spend bonding with the family, but this should not be the case in Australia, where the government has strict policies on such things. It is not so much that the Australians are not as hardworking, but they have other priorities, and also taxes are high in Australia. The longer hours you work and the higher your pay, the more taxes one has to pay.

Culture also influences the way people do things. I should say that as teachers in a cross cultural society with people coming from diverse backgrounds and different etnicity, teachers have also to be trained and aware of the students background, and know how culture affects the way students do things the way they do. Asians tend to do learn by rote memory and analysing and thinking skills are not emphasized, whereas this is not the case in the Western society. I should say this is the case for my niece in Kiwi, where according to my mother who visited their family, her written reports had so many spelling mistakes, but it apparently was not really so much of an issue there. However if she were here, the teacher would probably have given her a nice lecturing on the importance of good spelling *blah blah blah*.

It is no wonder Asians tend not to speak up in class when they have a problem understanding the subjects, or have trouble making decisions and choices. Not so much that the child doesn't want to but, but in part, some parents do not even give the child the opportunity to think and make decisions for themselves. and as for the other is a result of society's expectations and practice.

Thankfully I am no longer like that.

Children's curiosity about new cars.

My new car arrived on Friday. But my parents didn't allow me to drive it out and park it at the parking lot as they were paranoid that someone else would steal it and if they did, there was no one to see it..
Anyway, during the weekend, I didn't drive it out either, so the battery of the car died as a result. I am sure that is the reason, but I can hardly believe that a new car battery could die just because of that? I don't know??

Well, over the past one week, I was busy doing my assignments. I had two assignments to hand up on the same day, which was yesterday, Monday!! So busy that I couldn't be bothered with anything else and missed out on attending a wedding tea ceremony. Oh nevermind about that. If I failed the subject, I doubt they would pay me AU500 dollars and 3 months worth of time just to redo the entire subject. Thanks but no thanks!

After handing in the assignments yesterday evening, I had a caramel macchiato, but that didn't help! After dinner, I went to bed at 8.30pm and immediately konked out until I woke up this morning! Anyways, today as I was assembling the children to go and queue up and come home into the car, I accidentally called for Alyssa C. Now, Alyssa C is the name of Nicholas's sister

Nicholas: Are you looking for my sister? My sister is not here lar!!

Me: I am looking for Alyssa T, not Alyssa C.W.S lar......ah there she is....

To which Nicholas proceeded to laugh.. *kids!* *shakes head*

Everything also laugh. Everything also so funny!

The children got their first taste of the new car...My , weren't they excited about it?? You can just imagine it.
Jasper and Nicholas who were sitting in front beside me were so excited about it. Nicholas opened the glove compartment and looked through practically everything in it. Jasper was looking at all the dials and touching everything in sight.....

Well the thing is, children are very much like adults and are curious about new gadgets & toys. Especially new ones!The only difference is that adults are well mannered enough to not touch anything but merely just look,

But inside are dying of curiousity to touch everything, am I not right?? *Say yes, say yes!*

Well, I didn't say much as I know that once they are done, they won't be bothered to touch anything after that. But I did tell them not to make too much noise as if they do, I would not be able to concentrate on the road and all of us would be knocked over and we'd all die and can no longer see all our mummies and daddies. Wahahaha.

Ching Wen on the other hand was explaining to some other child behind that this was the car that the battery had died, so I couldn't drive it yesterday. Then later he told me that he had to walk out by himself as his grandmother would not be able to recognise the car. Haha..what an interesting observation.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Theory in Practice: Scaffolding using "buddy system"

As I am currently doing a unit on cross cultural communications, I recently came across the term, buddy system in my readings.

Now, the buddy system is whereby a child who has higher competence in an area, is paired up with a child with with lower competence so that the former can scaffold the latter's areas in that area of learning. This could be in any area of learning, be it language, cognitive, emotional, or social.

The question I was pondering over yesterday was, is it possible that such a system be implemented in our schools? Or, at preschool level, that is. Should the buddy system be used, whereby the weak students are paired up with the better students in terms of placing them in according to academic work?

Or should the good ones be placed only with the good ones and the weak ones together with the weak ones?

Let me depict a case from what I had observed today.

Today the teachers had a staff meeting in class after school ended to discuss about the arrangements and preparations in lieu of the upcoming school concert. During the meeting however, I had observed a child from my class, QZ coming down to the hall. He is 4 years old.

He was looking for his friend, IL (who is 6 years old) I was very surprised to hear him speaking entirely in English as he was normally very quiet in class. He is also very active and also liked to annoy and disturb the other children, but he spoke mostly in Mandarin and he was not exactly the talkative type.

I heard him speaking in quite good conversant English. He had put a sticker on his forehead and went around declaring to IL that he was "Indian" and was talking all the way in English to IL. I guess this is so as IL mostly speaks English, QZ had no choice but to speak English to him. (actually IL speaks Mandarin just as well, but I think that QZ didn’t realise that).

Well, apparently the buddy system works when it comes to interacting in a setting where much oral conversation is able to take place. It would take place for example, in a home corner or during play time, children have each other to talk to. Or having small groups where children can practise their speaking skills. Children watch for ques from watching the other children talk and then take it as it is. This in turns help scaffold the child's learning and speaking skills.

Another way to explain for observing for ques would be watching a movie, such as the Japanese movie, Generation Love I had watch recently. I am not too sure how modern the movie is, but from what I know now, Japanese culture is still very steeped in their traditional gender roles and the way they do things, eventhough it is considered a developed and modern country. I watched the speakers for how they do things, and kind of pick up what is considered the right things to say (in the context of that movie, that is).

However, I can't really tell whether the context of the movie is relevant to the current Japan until I watch other japanese series. That would give me a yardstick to compare it with each other and make a deduction and summary after viewing all of it.

Managing the children's behaviour: Part 2

I would say that I was right.

It is not right to reprimand a child without explaining to the child the reasons for it. Let me explain the reasons why I state so.

This morning, the teacher in question had reprimanded the child again. Now, there are certain things a child can be reprimanded for. But in this case, I generally believe that what I had stated before this to be true indeed.
I indeed found it unfair for the child to be unfairly reprimanded without a just cause.

So later this morning, I brought in the child to the office be inspected and it was just as the administrator of the school suspected. The child's private areas were swelling. After discussing with the administrator, I called the mother of the child up. Lo & behold, the mother did not even realise this, as she had not seen the child doing this.
The mother then said that she would look into this when she got home later, and probably bring the child to see a doctor if it was a serious case.

In summary, I would say it is wise not to assume things just because you think you may be right. Always double check so that it is right or people will in the long run lose respect for you in your profession.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Patience: Effective strategy for handling the child.

My internship tutor, Melanie came in today. She was supposed to come in the day before, but called in sick early in the morning, so it had to pushed to the next day instead. This is the first time I was observed during teaching, so I was not used to it. Ok, I was pretty nervous. It is different if one is observed without knowing, rather than being observed consciously. I shall not comment on how I fared, as that might even worry me further!
Anyway, today I observed a scene where a child was reprimanded for doing something which is deemed inappropriate by social standards. He was scratching his private areas.The thing is, I did not manage to catch him at doing that.

What the teacher did was, as a reaction to the child’s action, she immediately scolded the child for doing that. I shall not even try to describe it because I feel that the teacher was too harsh in the way she handled the child. The worst part is that, she did not even ask the child why he did that. She just scolded the child for doing it without even asking the child why he did it. It was so sudden that I could not even respond to the situation!

I understand where the teacher is coming from. Where her good intentions are, but she did not use a good strategy in which to approach the child. The thing is, I think that the teacher has probably let her assumptions and prejudices about the child overide what is a rational move, which is to never reprimand a child without asking the reasons why. Children are and will act like children. They do things for a reason, firstly among which is curiosity. But educators should learn to question things before assuming. All in all, I think she could have frightened the child, and the child probably still did not understand what she meant.

The other part is which, I know that I have been guilty of doing it myself in the past. I know as I have got myself into such a situation, that is almost losing my head over a child’s actions. Sometimes it is because adults forget that children do not understand things which may seem apparent to the adult but not to small children. I know this is re-inforced in my learning, as I have seen the way that the principal handled the situation, and she only gave me those reasons. I guess you can call this learning by example or learning from other people’s situations so you won’t have to make the same mistake again!

As I am the one to send this child home, I decided to explain to the boy why the teacher’s response was as such. So I told the child a story to which the child gave me a response, that seemed to show that he understood what I was trying to say to him. Whether he repeats the same actions, that remains to be seen in future however.
Anyway, to end the entire episode, I brought this up to the principal, as I felt that the way the teacher approached the child was not right, and I think it is right that the principal knew what happened.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Crayons: Shapes of Creativity

On Tuesday morning, after the children had their tea break, I happened to observe the children gathering around the table playing with some crayons. Now, to an unobservant and unaware adult, the children may seem like they were only playing with the crayons. What the children had done was that they had taken the box of crayons from the shelf and had found another way to work with it by forming shapes with it.

Now for me, I would view that a jumping point of how to extend the children’s creativity from there. It may not be necessarily just using crayons, but other materials as well, such as matchsticks or pencils. We could also extend and do that as an activity for an art lesson.

The children were forming shapes and houses with it. A trained and experienced educator would take the opportunity to ask the children what they were doing and at the same time ask if they could identify the shapes, make other shapes, or teach other names of shapes, thereby extending their vocabulary as well as their creativity.
Indeed I found it most entertaining as well as interesting, as I observed the interaction between the children as they had found the activity most exciting and would have continued with it had I not asked them to keep the crayons away to start with the dance practice.

Archive (2005)

Past entries from my previous blog.

Preschool issues:

Status of preschool teachers (in Malaysia).

A successful preschool program.

Kindy classroom politics.

More politics, and politically correct roles.

The ADHD suspect.

Muscle Memory

Another Jonah Day!

There's more to music than meets the ears.

Beating children.

Creatures of habits.

Montessori entries:

Sound boxes Long Rods

Short bead cards- 11, 12, 13

Transferring buttons (using tongs)

Children in general:

The things children say!

April 27th

Children's *inane* memories!

And when they are up, they are up!

Kids doing adultlike work.

Issues in relation to education

A discourse on XiaXue's Cross-Cultural Observations

ESL across the Singaporean borders.

A blog just for my teaching reflections...

Yup....this is definitely a great way to diversify my entries according to my personality. I just looked at IreneQ's blogs. She kept almost 5 blogs up to date, with 2 remaining that she only continually updates.

Casa Del Bambino. A friend asked me why not Casa Del "Bimbo"no???

I am sure he had other thoughts in mind when he said that. Eh? *raises one eyebrow up.*

Here's why:
Casa Del Bambino: Italian for "Children's House".
Schools that were distinctively named by Dr. Maria Montessori for the pre-schools that used her approach.
She also hails as the first female Italian doctor.

Kinder Garten: German for a garden where children play in.

Guru: Malay for teacher.

Isn't it marvellous how we have adopted vocabulary from other cultures and adopted it into our English repertoire?

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