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Getting there


Thursday, November 11, 2004

spacy on the way home, almost in awe of what i was doing...and wondering how I managed, coaching the groups on their survey questions once they were all set up...I was reading up about futures on the train, trying to get my brain round the intricacies and logic of call options and put options, and had some help from my friendly colleague who is a management expert. Three of us ended talking about my being amazed at how unproductive it sounded, "like gambling" was bandied about, and just about me, myself, I, I said, well there you go, that's economists for you....oh boy just how much can a teacher do?

In the classroom I was showing my would-be banker the Reuters Financial Glossary, Pearson Education, the Japanese version gives explanations of all the English terms, which is invaluable when you have to explain banking things to customers, I explained. I had brought the book as a reference for the groups, but it ended up in the clutches of the Futures group, after I had attempted to bump-start them into an understanding of the terms with some Japanese (two of the team of three had been absent last week and were clueless, two went of to research rice futures, and the other stayed in class to work on the basic understanding of the term...bingo, I got a chance to explain the difference between futures and options, studying pays off!)

Otherwise I was looking over questionnaires and helping polish and shape, somewhat overawed at being able to wing analysing and strengthening eight different takes on five different topics with ne'er a clue in advance. My classes seem to be throwing students in the deep end, their ability to come up with survey Qs and what those Q are trying to uncover seems limited. For instance, can you explain what a third world country is? I suggested might be, Name a third world country, and then see what percentage of answers concentrated on a particular country or other, and what that says about the perceptions of the third world. Oh I see,,,,,and then for insider trading, would you do it given the chance, and would you feel a sense of guilt, to see if people might be led astray even though they were doing wrong. So kind of helping shape the questionnaire to get more interesting results, I guess.

That was the summmmm total of what I was doing, moving between groups, often actually coaching in Japanese, so that the tensions i felt last time between

  • not enough time to really coach eight groups,
  • not enough conceptual knowledge for me to build on, even in Japanese... the students don't know about takeovers or insider trading or futures to start with
  • not enough critical thinking skills and survey-making experience to build on, even in Japanese
  • a profound lack of the relevant terminology on the part of the students to make an English explanation more comprehensible

were evident again really strongly today. It is clear students will walk away with great new skills, and ideas, and since they have to prepare vocabulary for the handout and present the materials, also more knowledge and English fluency on the topics, but for them it sure is the deep end!

On top of that I had to insist on a team integrating a member who was absent last week, insisting that he be treated in a civil manner, and also asking for him to apologize for his absence, an awareness of how to build teamwork being one more of my aims with this group mix. It is indeed painful for some groups, with more competent members tending to shoulder too much with a heavy heart and inward grumbles about the workload. Notice it, I said, this happens in society too, how are you going to integrate people and not let it get to you?

I suggested to one reclining group member to go off outside to survey people in front of the station, rather than loungeing around... his group had prepared a beautifully printed survey handout already. The survey can be done in Japanese, since this is Japan, but needs to be translated and presented in English. Anyway, to get back to the group thing, I can feel tensions, need to think of some more savvy suggestions on how to defuse stress, create confidence and integrate all team members, although I confess having created the situation I am now somewhat at a loss as to how to proceed...my group building exercise last week was only the start...I think I need to reaffirm group leadership strategies from last term. On the other hand I mainly see a good sense of cooperation or willingness to let be happening around me...

So the time flew by, and I am looking forward to next week, although most teams had not managed to finish preparing and I heard some groups plan to meet one more time during the week. Inner delight as numbers and email addies were exchanged by some in class..new friendships, new openings, networking!!..mixing them all up like this has its good sides too.

Meanwhile for two weeks ahead I plan to talk about how the main meanings of a text can be found in the main clause...see Tomlin, R Functional grammars, pedagogical grammars and communicative language teaching in Odlin, T. (ed.)"Perspectives on Pedagogical Grammar", Cambridge Uni Press 1994....and to find five great articles in the Economist on which this can be applied easily, for students to use as the foundation for the third presentation....