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Getting there


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

ok blog de blog, here goes, still on a high after today's class...
On my way to class i chatted to one of my students, puffing away at a cigarette. Told him I smoke too sometimes, chatted for a bit, asked how he found things. Difficult, but interesting, he said, which I was glad to hear.

as usual in class took time to learn some new names and reaffirm old ones, before students got into the vocab work. I checked over two students who seemed finished, and to their consternation it became apparent that they had not actually learned any of the vocab, so i had to dock the marks, to which they guiltily complied.

Since they all sit at the back of the class i then sat on the third desk from the front and waited for some silence, and then brought up the problem, that people were not being honest about their learning. I then asked them how they felt about the prime minister, Mr Koizumi, who lied about his pension contributions, and then got found out, or the Mitsubishi group managers who hid defects in their products. And went on to suggest that their behaviour, thinking it was ok to cheat if they didn't get caught out, was the same, and that this was not the kind of people we need to lead society, since my students are going to be the future leaders in Japan. Rapt attention, and i repeated the whole thing in Japanese for the ones who don't get it in English, you could feel it sinking in and being pondered, and then I jumped off my desk and made a wee joke, "off my soapbox (baba no sekkyou o shimai)and let's get down to work".

Whizzed through the review test answers, highlighting what's important and how to do it, since many students found it hard. And then it was break time. In the break one of the students I had asked to see me (written it on his test paper) came up. He had mistaken the question, and simply noted down the mistakes in the text, rather than also offering the correct alternative as I had wanted. Having reconfirmed that, yes, he had misunderstood the question, I then asked him which of the answers he would have written correctly, had he understood. He indicated four out of the five, YES, I thought, my wee talk about morals is working, when you trust people and they know it, things feel good, so i gave him the extra marks for four questions. I had also made sure my lady students, who were stressed about my distributing a testsheet late and their friend moving, were aware that i was aware it was a problem for them, and would give them extra credit for it.

Dashed off to the loo myself, and after the break explained they should work in groups, rehearsing the role play scripts they had prepared, and then there would be a group test with the class finishing ten minutes early to make up for last week. As the groups worked i made sure they were all sitting in a circle, facing each other, and focused mainly on the groups that hadn't prepared much personal script, offering a sample version of what they might say using the pre-printed role play print, how to change the text to "I", to give them an idea of how it should be done. Some had great graphs to back up their position. I think the extra time and my examples helped them to see what is to be done, and motivate them to think about it in more detail (prepare!!)for next week. I'm glad I took the student's advice from last week and slowed things down a bit, the time to ruminate in class and see what other people are doing is obviously important.
I also had the chance to praise one of the absent students who emailed me with the homework, and even did the test online, and say his attitude was very professional and businesslike, and he would get bonus points.

Then it was time for the group test: all students in a group one mark. (They're used to this idea from the discussion day). I like this, it gives weaker students a chance to benefit and relax and work. One student who is often insecure did some great note-taking for the group secretary, and I was able to praise him) The task was to translate criteria into japanese, and fill in the criteria relevant to their role in a grid (in note form, rather than sentences) and to put a sentence at the bottom saying what they thought was the most important criterion for investing in the particular project their role was promoting. Next week they can use this to complement their role play, and also fill in other people's arguments before taking a final vote on which country the bank will invest in.

Ten minutes before time I said the class was officially over, but they should hand in the group paper to me when they were ready. All the groups were so involved, they actually took the extra ten minutes to continue thinking and writing, while I circulated and helped.

I feel so relieved I only have five papers to mark, I just sat on the train home reading the Economist and relaxing. (From my point of view, admittedly) it was a great class, the things that are important to me, the ethical issue, the collaborative work, the space to think, were all more in evidence, the incentive to do more, to think about things, to get involved for real, through seeing other people's graphs and internet research on the countries, and how they argue!

I'm hoping it will lead to a really exciting company investment role-play next week.