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Getting there


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Hip hip hooray, last class, and I have a guest speaker coming at ten. 
I was all inspired by webheads to want to bring virtual guests into the classroom, and got onto about ten different people i know to ask. Nobody knew how!!! Or wanted to join messenger!! But the publisher for Thomson said he'd rather come in and speak for real, which fell through once in May, and then we managed to get it organized for today, what an end of term treat. In the end the web portal I had specially had opened for the classroom needed a cable to link up, which neither of us had, ...still don't feel quite comfy with all the technology hardware myself..

As I came into class I placed the marked exam papers and short essay papers( for the A grade students) at the door, and then sorted out my stuff on the main front desk. Chatting to some of the students, one of them said I was scarey, which made me smile, (I'm only half their size...) and a wee bit sad, cos i'm really such a softie, I guess i try to be too strict so they don't walk all over me, because I find the whole marking/ grading thing quite traumatic...I am quite in love with everyone in the class, and find the idea of grading things very hard emotionally. Of course there is the standards thing, and the rubrics, et al to scaffold my decision, ....I'm really seriously going to think about goal setting for the next term, so the onus is more on them.

I thought I'd better run the questionnaire first, in case i lost time when Rafael came at ten, unfortunately hardly anybody bothered to write comments,  which meant that on the train home reading the papers I didn't get much beefy feedback. I guess I'll have to rethink the questions more carefully, I mixed a business English course feedback questionnaire with an australian government education course one yesterday morning... I get infected by their lack of enthusiasm and don't know how to ask them to write me more, except to wander round lamely and ask each person, "No comments?" "Please write comments", "You can discuss what to say with a friend for this.." and "I can read Japanese, so at a pinch.."

Then I collected the questionnaires and went through the exam paper, handing out copies to the A students. i kind of whipped through, pressed for time, wrote up the answers on the board and explained the basic aims of the review again, but felt like nobody was really involved, as though i was in a fish tank swimming around in front of the blackboard. Ok, so we'll have a break, after I explain the summer homework task, and then Rafael will do his presentation....

I think students are in holiday mood, and I'm out of touch, after all, the grades are set. The summer homework is a 150-200 word piece of writing either on Rafael's Thomson presentation, or either of two Economist articles, one on the Chinese cotton market, and the other 'the OECD softens its line on labour-market reforms', which links back to our last topics about working conditions, pay, companies and introduces the government regulatory aspect. Guess which one I think is good...

At this point Rafael popped his head round the door, and we all clapped to welcome him, and he said he needed a little time to set up, so I asked everyone to take the break, and we got to pulling out the screen et al. One of my students was still nervous about his grade, and came to quibble over the order of the group discussion review test question...he wasn't happy, until I said he had a B...it wasn't about the question, it was about the grade, and his own need to pull up the marks...

Ok, everyone, let's welcome Rafael, and we all clapped, and I went to the back of the classroom to listen...Then as I listened, I realized I had to take notes, because it was interesting, and I would have to grade the summer homework...just like my students, in a totally passive, sit back, relax and enjoy mood...but as i took notes it made it interesting and gave me ideas for questions. I love Rafael's voice and manner, he's such a great speaker, and he had taken pains to answer some of the questions I had sent him in the preparatory email, even making a Powerpoint screen to go with it, impressive.

He talked about the importance of English, (upgrading your own marketability), how he chose his career, what was important for him,  and about trends in  publishing, his  company as a global conglomerate with hubs,  finishing off with the internal management structures and how his opinion was heard in the sales department hierarchy. Brilliant. A giant thank you! Kind of matched up with my whole first term course, I thought.  

At the end I danced out to the front to call for questions, and homed in on a student who had expressed an interest in the publishing field in previous chats. He asked again about how to make your opinions heard in such a big company, which is a particularly strong problem in Japanese companies, with the rigid hierarchy. (to be honest I didn't really get at what he was asking, but Rafael understood and answered and saved my day...I didn't want the student to feel his English wasn't intelligible, because he had the guts to speak up when all others were spectators, and even repeated his question, rephrasing when i queried..)

And the bell went, and one last thank you let's all clap to thank Rafael again, and have a good summer as they started filtering out and we began to pack up stuff, and I walked to the station with Rafael, grabbing an absent student on the way out of the building and dumping the summer homework reading assignments on him quite out of his blue (butting in rudely on his girlfriend(?) maybe, in retrospect, but at that point I felt like a crusader, tally ho, a lost sheep to be brought into the fold of summer homework!)  The big question is will he see it as a teacher who cares, or as a nosy stupid female on the rampage?

I must work out how to scan in the articles and set up files at the university TERRA homepage I have managed to wangle the university to assign me (normally not for part-time teachers, only I sounded so web-savvy in the interview :P thank you webheads..) OOOhhhhhh summer is here i feel exhausted, need to recharge my batteries for sure.