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Getting there


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Proudly reading over the great thoughts of my students about how their cells link them to the economy I realize the text of the original is profoundly sexist and condescending to housewives of whom I am one. I mirrored the original making it a female student, but oh heavens, we DO think!
We ARE thinking! Men and women, students and housewives, Yippee!

Now then, I was so exhausted yesterday I am blogging a day late....

Walked into class to see the greater part of my students on time, thanked them for coming early and dashed to the Q in the loo, came back and learned a couple of students' names. Not too many or I get confused, but I'd been reading over the names on the train to get familiar with them and the Japanese characters. Two centre students first and then i gravitated to the window and the ladies. I carried on learning the names as the students got on with vocab sheets, and moving round listening in, prompting how to use the intro phrases "What does ~ mean?" and "Could you clarify ~ a little please?". Finally checked one student down the front and collected homework and vocab sheets 9:30 on the dot. Brilliant, feeling happy to be learning names as they work, and seeing they all had great words and example phrases, good stuff, praising here and there and coaxing here and there.

Next I said we were going to get in groups and follow up on the homework by thinking about how products link us to the economy. I sketched the grid on the board, shading one third and explaining each group of three would have one third of the information, to take five minutes in threes to fill in the grid from the text at the bottom. Then I asked students to send one representative from their group of three to pick up the three sheets which I had folded together in advance.

Students were to look for (sample text below, different for each sector):

1) Sector Name
2) % of Japan’s GDP/workforce
3) Examples of Industry
4) Trends/Problems

Japan’s GDP share of primary sector industries -agriculture, forestry, and fishing-?steadily declined after World War II and dropped to a mere 1.3 % of GDP in 2000. The primary sector still employs 4.8% of the Japanese working population.
The total number of farm households was 3,120,000, as of February 2000, 119,000 less (down 3.8%) than the previous year. Moreover, the aging of the farming population, (52.9% is 65 years or older), has become a serious social problem. The country's food self-sufficiency rate is low: only 40% in fiscal 2000. The government in March 2000 established the Basic Plan on Food, Agriculture, and Rural Areas that set a target of 45% for the total food self-sufficiency ratio (supplied calorie basis) by 2010.
The number of people employed in forestry is down from 110,000 in 1994 to 67,000 in 2000. 24.7% of forestry workers were aged 65 years or over in 2000. Fishing employed 0.4% of the working population in 2000. The total fishing catch peaked at 12.8 million tons in 1984 and dipped to 6.4 million tons in 2000. This drop reflects the move by many countries to enforce 200-nautical-mile economic zones. By contrast, fish imports have risen steadily, reaching 3.4 million tons in 1999.

Source: Adapted from Japan for Sustainability http://www.japanfs.org/en/japan/industry.html

At this point my thumb started bleeding madly from a cut from cooking and I was asking around for a bandaid to no avail, so I was kind of sucking it and peeping in at how groups were getting on. Come to think of it I started over by the window, seem to have a preference for the light.

so after five minutes I was surprised to hear a student call me to say they didn't fit in a threesome...oh boy, I said, please call me earlier. Raised my voice a bit, saying it's in the rules to call the teacher, don't wait five minutes to call me....they said I had looked busy with other groups, okay I said, but that's really vital to starting out, so next time please call me earlier. It took me a moment to check what sector the nearest group were working on, and then realized the secondary sector was overrepresented and there were no more papers left, so he'd have to move to the tertiary sector. I identified a group at the window, walked over with him checked his name, and introduced him to the group, and they to him, fortunately remembered the names and he stayed with them for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile it was clear groups needed more time to scan for the info, and I began to work with teams at the back who had not got stuck in, modelling how to skim and scan and highlight. When I got the feel every team had some info filled in, I asked everyone to stop and explained how one member would stay to feed info to other teams, and the other two members would go out as a search party to get the unfilled two sectors of the grid. At this point I broke into Japanese because it was pretty clear they'd never done a jigsaw task before. Ok, get one person to research one sector, and another to research the other please, I said....go go go, and off they flew.

A couple of teams were trying to get info from the researchers, no way, I said, the person sitting here is the sender, you other two go off and research your own info. After a while where I was wandering around making sure they got the idea, I asked them to come back to their groups and share the info they had gathered with their home base. One of the groups called me, and I noticed the trends column was a bit wonky, as in not complete, ok, I said "that's not all, you need to add restructuring and relocating in cheaper asian countries (for the secondary sector)," and then said, "well, now you realize you have to double check information, not just take the first source you find."

I didn't include a reporting stage, pointed out that the internet source is on the worksheet for interested parties to read for more info. Then I handed out a quickie exercize to match industries to sectors, saying this was in the final test last year, and that we'd take a break after this, and while they worked I chalked up the answers plus the problems/trends sections of the grid.

Over the break I chatted with the students closest to me on the right..(window side) and found out I was talking to the captain of the tennis team (courts half an hour away by train), someone who lives close to a great natural food restaurant I love, another who spends lunch at the English speaking society, and one who is already working for an IT company. KEWL. They asked for the file for the vocab sheet, so after the break I put up my email.

After the break I handed out the homework discussion question sheet.

1. In the UK movie “Little Dancer”, dancing is a metaphor for the tertiary sector. The economic shift from the primary sector(mining) to the tertiary sector(dancing) affects the people in the movie greatly. What is happening in Japan? How does it affect people in Japan? Is it a good or bad trend?

2. Do you know anyone working in the primary sector in Japan?
Do you think it should be moved overseas?

3. Japanese manufacturing is being moved overseas. What kinds? Do you think a society made up entirely of the tertiary sector is possible? Is it probable? Is it desirable? Give reasons.

4. How does using your cell phone show you are linked to the economy? Are you always aware of how you fit in to society? How about your career and life plans? What do you think of measuring the economy in Gross National Happiness? http://www.grossinternationalhappiness.org/

5. How about recycling? If manufacturing is the secondary sector, is recycling the fourth sector of society? Do we need to change the model?

6. If you look at p.9 in your textbook from the point of view of an entrepreneur, you see factories, industrial units, warehouses, office buildings, roads, railways, a river and some agricultural land. What do you see if you are a parent with a small baby? Or a mountain bear? Whose view is more important? Why?

I explained that we'd have group discussions next week for about fifty minutes, using these questions and other issues they thought of in relation, and in order to be able to discuss they should prepare, making notes and looking for ideas. Asked them to either watch Little Dancer or The Last Samurai if they had time and to think about how the changes in the economy affect people. Also said it would be a group mark, rather than a personal mark, and that I would be putting down a tape recorder here and there to tape things.

Finally said, ok, great, and last of all let's think bout career building. Handed out sheets, told a wee story about an acquaintance who got his elite job in Japan on the strength of being a "gasoline transfer engineer" rather than a "pump jockey" or rather "petrol station attendant", I think I would call it, being British. Ok, so it's all in the language.

At this point I think I forgot to say that you are products too just like your cell phone, on the job market. Hmmmm. At any rate, students began working on the handout, circling the better-sounding version, either alone or in groups.

gasoline transfer engineer/ gas station attendant/ pump jockey
lift / elevator
housewife/ homemaker/ caregiver

I’m a student / I’m an Economics Major at Sophia University;

Why did you choose to study at Sophia University?
A) It was close by my home
B) It's located in the heart of Tokyo, in touch with the pulse of the nation.

A) It's a good university.
B) It's one of the best universities in Japan, and the teaching is excellent.

A) Because I got in.
B) The educational standards are extremely high.

Do you like Sophia?
A) It’s great.
B) It’s really international and has first-rate tuition.

A) I don’t like Sophia.
B) It has the most beautiful cherry blossoms in spring.

Why did you choose to study Economics?
A) I like Economics.
B) I chose Economics because it trains disciplined and innovative thinking.

A) I like Finance.
B) I’m particularly interested in Finance, especially the field of Futures and Derivatives.

Now write your own self-introduction and practice it.

Towards the end of the class i was discussing things in Japanese (running out of time)(also surprised they didn't really get it, about the kind of logic behind it, about not just being your own private self with private reasons, but projecting a positive image, also told them some of the examples were provided by peers from last year, and then as students continued to write their own versions, I began modelling using the questions with individual students, and helping them make their responses more polished: "I wanted a top-quality Economics course." "I wanted to study a course providing first-rate English instruction. "

Came to my last student who, rather than applying the pattern, replied, when asked "Why did you choose Sophia?" : "I failed to get in at other universities".....omg, please don't say that, I said, you get the point of what I'm trying to teach, don't you? Yes, I get it, they said, but....At this point I just restated my position, or rather suggestion. Time was up.

But I want to come back to them, I was thinking about it, like that was two odd years ago now, so that if you look at it that way you are always looking back to that one moment of failure, rather than building on what you have now, so that time has almost stopped for you. Apart from a company looking for positive thinking people, it's also important from a personal point of view, I have noticed this student has not been doing things, vocab sheets, homework, groupwork, while demonstrating at the same time having every capability to, and maybe that's also linked to that moment of frozen time. Sort of whatever the uni, whether it's officially the best or not, it's what you make of it sort of attitude, it's the work you put in that comes out, if I could help make that switch...I need to take some time for personal follow-up. Perhaps that was kind of an appeal for that, by not complying with what's going on, signalling the need for more space, the need to deal with personal before building the mask.

And so it was time to go home, and I said goodbye, explained the discussion homework once more to a student who came to enquire, and then gathered up my materials to leave the room, late as usual.