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Getting there


Thursday, January 06, 2005

oooh the aching bones on the first day of work! although I was armed with my marked vocab tests, average 22, highest mark 32, lowest 6 out of forty(which I didn't give back in the end, since some students decided to sit the test after the last class), and with a luvverly end of term assessment questionnaire i will evaluate after i get the absentee opinion...

I began chatting about New Year with my first student, who seems to have visited a spa. I talked about having to write my essay and being kind of busy over New Year with knitting. Others gradually dribbled in and we chatted about grades and possible "A" grades, some of them being really close to an A...then someone said, quarter of an hour into class and only these few people, so I jumped to attention and rushed back to the front to start the class officially.
Happy New Year, I boomed cheerfully, and explained that today was a preparation for the last presentation, and wrote up the structure on the board, doing a mini-summary of the previous three types of presentation. This time we build on them all, with a definition of a problem, suggested solutions supported by research, and a worst case scenario if they are not implemented. Then a summary restating the suggestion! After indicating that a Japanese rerun was not necessary, students began to fix their topics in groups, after i had asked them to fill out the questionnaire/evaluation sheet, and explained that some people were really close to an A, and I was counting on this last presentation to nail it. I also read out the list of almost certain "A"s to date.

I went round the groups checking they had a topic, some didn't, others had thought out stuff in the winter break. Spent some time talking through issues, giving the ok for computer room research, or simply making sure everyone was ok with me being hands off. One of the groups wanted to suggest the Japanese prime minister raise taxes on alcoholic beverages, and I suggested they link their argument to the falling birth-rate: overindulgence in alcohol deforms the sperm causing miscarriages and also lowers sperm count....trust me to know something like that! (Our Bodies Ourselves??) not to mention road deaths and the cost of treatment....

Another group was for suggesting President Bush ban the NRA or rifles or something, so I suggested they link the issue to the cost of running jails and enforcing the law, not to mention the loss of productivity due to lives lost. I then got lost in the history of the right to bear arms, which I've just been reading about in Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States". I kind of garbled on for about five minutes, came back down to earth, and then said, oh, yeah, well maybe you can't really use the history in your presentation, where were we....Below the bits I failed to quote but tried to talk about:
"With the problem of Indian hostility, and the danger of slave revolts, the colonial elite had to consider the class anger of poor whites- servants, tenants, teh city poor, the propertyless, the taxpayer, the soldier and sailor. As the colonies passed their hundredth year and went into the middle of the 1700s, as the gap between rich and poor widened, as violence and the threat of violence increased, the problem of control became more serious. (NP) What if these different despised groups-the Indians, the slaves, the poor whites-should combine?...Better to make war on the Indian, gain the support of the white, divert possible class conflict by turning poor whites against Indians for the security of the elite...Negroes were forbidden to carry any arms, while whites finishing their servitude would get muskets, along with corn and cash. The distinction of status between white and black servants became more and more clear...Those upper classes, to rule, needed to make concessions to the middle class, without damage to their own wealth or power, at the expense of slaves, Indians and poor whites. This bought loyalty. And to bind that loyalty with something more powerful even than material advantage, the ruling group found, in the 1760s and 1770s, a wonderfully useful device. That device was the language of liberty and equality, which could unite just enough whites to fight a Revolution against England, without ending either slavery or inequality." p.53~58

Anyway, off the gun group went to the computer room and I moved on to another group, who were wondering about ODA to China and how to structure what they'd researched. We kind of talked around the issue a bit, taking one side, that of continuing ODA and the benefits it brings, and I off the top of my head verbalized some language patterns..."Some people advising you may be saying that you should stop sending ODA to China, we today would like to insist that you continue ODA to China and our presentation today will explain why. First...etc. talking about percentages of GDP, risk and return on investment, project viability and the importance of creating an Asian market." Meanwhile one of the guys began setting up a structure, and I gave the group my scribbled notes ( how on earth they hope to read that i don't know, I made them more for me to get an idea of what was going on...but they seemed to think they would help) and we were out of time. Funny how it takes everyone a while to warm up to their groups, but once they get going, everyone forgets the time and we are late out of the classroom...

Then I poddled off to the head of the Economics faculty, to explain a little bit about what I have been doing with the students this term and show him the results of the questionnaire, fortunately a lot of the comments were positive, saying that they felt they had learned things about presentation that would be valuable for them in the future ( one even said they'd already applied it profitably to their seminar presentation..YES!) He and I agreed on understanding the need for dressing smartly on occasion, and on the ability to keep within time limits, and learn people skills for real life, not just English inside the classroom...He also liked the student handouts and making their own vocabulary lists, the fact that we were aiming high with reading Economist articles, unfortunately i didn't have the pics in my cell or the rubrics to show him, but I feel reassured that the content of my course and how I manage it is appreciated and supported by the university.