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Getting there


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I went to a workshop at the weekend, and the teacher just dictated some transcripts and then left the room for us students to think about "what was happening " in the lessons....and it really bugged me that the eminent teacher comes all the way from NZ and has but two hours with us, and spends the time asking us to wootle in the same pair over and over again on dictated transcript after transcript, while they repeatedly leave the room (for coffee breaks??)

Why I am writing this is because it made me think that the teacher as a resource is very important and only available in those two hours....the thinking and talking in groups, while good, needs to be prepared at home beforehand for it to have any depth, and the groups/pairs need to keep getting mixed up.

And so I decided that on my last day I would not put together different levels of students to rework the test, but be more teacher-focused and give students the nuggets of my message to take home with them as a wrap up for the summer, and food for thought, along with handouts to review and get ideas for further thinking and research ( I sorely missed any kind of further reading or handouts in the seminar, oh yes indeed I did). So although I really liked last year's set up of my last day, this year I am doing it MY WAY!! as in to match my learning style, and pass on a wad of papers and info in a short time.

I got into class with some stuff to recycle, and was surprised at the low number of students there (but then no vocab to wrestle with and memorize last minute, so students came close to the deadline). Began asking about who would like my little Japanese summer bag, and one of the students tried on the shirt, but decided they didn't like it, too small, they said, and then one student had the brilliant idea of giving the stuff to the charity bazar they run every week up in the main campus square, which is what I did.

How are we doing for time?? a student shows me their watch, oHHHHH, k, then let's begin, realizing with all the recycling I hadn't unpacked my teaching things, it was all in a big pile. As I sorted, the last students came in, all bunched up at the back and ready to sleep through the last day.

I'll read the grades at the end of the class, first I'd like to talk about the why and wherefore of the final test as we review the course, this ambitious course which has been teaching you not only economics but interpersonal and career-building skills. Ok, so [couple of names] are you ready, please turn round and face me.

I went over each item of the test, pointing out that "my contact details" is popular in the US instead of business card (thanks for the tip, Karen) and how in order to sound professional you need precise information labelling, like not I am a student, but I am a Sophia University Economics Major, etc. then moving on to section two, which is a simple put the industry into the sector thing, so this means when you see an industry, you don't just stay in the microcosm of that industry, as an Economist you look at the bigger picture, you can zoom out into a larger frame of the market economic model, and fit it in with overall trends in terms of sectors, or global models, whatever.

Definitions are useful in discussion, to clarify what you mean, make sure you learn ones that are useful in that way, and what exactly is the difference between GNP and GDP? OK, so which would count a German firm operating in Japan? I asked an A student to answer, and they said not a clue...no way, I said, make a choice. They opted for one, and then I ask other people in turn if they agree, calling on students to respond by name. We had three to one, and then I gave the definitions, using domestos toilet cleaner (a Japanese toilet cleaner brand name) to illustrate the meaning of domestic, and Japanese national passport, and me being a British national, to reinforce the difference.

Then I waved the Economist around, showing students the pages on Economic Indicators, you should feel more confident to read now, all the examples in the next section of the exam were from these last pages, which gives you a nice global overview, which is what the Economist is good at, so if you're interested go and buy and have a look yourself.

Then I recapped group leader skills, talking about the power issues, not speaking too soon, inviting others to speak, summarizing, using names etc, same for Japanese group interviews, make a note of people's names during introductions and use them in the discussions, and agreeing and disagreeing, admitting that I tend to jump down people'S throats when I disagree cos I get so excited, and you can see them wince, and think I'm coming over too strong, so it's a skill I need to polish myself, but at any rate a very useful tactic in maintaining good communication.

Finally I asked students to pop into wikipedia, which is where I got the vocab exercise from, and chalked up a hyponymic et al grid on the board, saying you can use a matrix structure to learn new vocab on one topic, so here in the test we have remuneration and pay, which are on top, separating into salary and hourly wages, and then you go off into subdivisions of each section, that way you get a picture of the meanings, contrasts and linkages between different vocab.

Whew, well, great, that was the test. and before we take a break I would like to ask you to fill out the course assessment ( by now all students had arrived, including one who I pointed out was the best in the test, and another who silently handed me a train slip, very professional, I praised).

Students got on with it as i read out the areas, yes, I want comments, I said, in every area please, and then I spread out past papers on two desks at the front, please pick up your work in the break and be seated again at 10:05. ooooops should have collected the questionaires first, asked a group of students who mushroomed up to get papers to hand in questionaires first, and began accepting questionaires.

In my break I was talking to a student who has been absent four times. Although they were there for the exam, by being absent the week before they had gone over the three day limit, only I didn't notice until this week. I think they're a strong candidate, told them so, good capabilities there, make sure you enrol next year and actively come to the coruse, I'm so sorry, but I can't make special rules for you, there are a couple of other students in a similar position, and I did make it quite clear at the beginning of term...They were a bit dazed and shocked, a friend had relayed their grade average and they had thought they were safe. Announcing average scores of absent people was a mistake indeed. I didn't do that on Thursday. But then that's only from the point of view of student is wasting thier time if I don't get a score or a grade. At any rate I hope the student has learned something from their efforts when they were participating, if not the fact that they need to be aware of meeting course attendance rules.

I spent a bit of time explaining to everyone that I was surprised about absence, that there was far less absence last year ( i checked my files last night) so it must be my saying up to three absences is permissible. Permissible, yes, but not desirable, I'm sorry I didn't make that clearer, and then I couldn't think of the word desirable, so I was open mouthed and stuttering for a moment as i fished for words, hmm, not to be encouraged, i said, Respect yourself, respect the teacher, classroom rules, that means coming to study, not skiving off as much as possible. I'm going to think about detracting 5% for every absence from average scores. I'll let you know next term. Meanwhile there is one student who has never been absent, including test day, and let me find the wee gift i have (rummaging in my bag) ahh yes, great stuff [name], thank you, handing over a brand new Ralph Lauren handkerchief, great attitude, thank you...everyone began clapping enthusiastically.

Okay, this last bit was before the break in there somewhere, after the break I said, when I talk to you, I talk differently from to my husband, my voice is louder, I use gesture, I stand up, with my husband I sit down and drink tea. The same goes for writing job applications, you're not writing to a friend or a teacher, you're writing to a person in a suit, and possibly robot software to get through to that second level. Then I handed out the rubrics, and whipped through what that person in a suit was looking for, and handed out the peer examples, for students to look for rubrics items that were covered by the examples.

While some students understood and got on with it, others needed support, one called me, if you need support, and you often do, please make sure you sit where I can access you to talk, I chided, as I sandwiched into a tight-knit group of nine ( half the class is empty....). Reexplained the task in Japanese, and off they went, or not, since this particular student has decided they are only after the grade, and they will never need another word of English in their accounting lives. What is important is that the other nine had ears perked and made sure they understood the task after all, and then another couple of people called me for help, so that this particular student signals to me clearly when many students have great difficulty comprehending task instructions only delivered in English. Finally they were all at it, (and of course these weaker students are handicapped by the time lag of not understanding the first time) ...I had a wee word with one student who is an ace at researching English websites, showed them how to rephrase stuff so it's not just copied and pasted, but manipulated into a particular order or hierarchical pattern of importance/ salience. Need to be careful with copying and pasting, there's software to look for it, and if you don't quote sources you can be really taken to toll for it, I pointed out. I wandered round some more, affirming and praising, ok, I said, should we leave it at that or do you want me to go over what I saw?

So I spent five minutes pointing out the good bits and techniques to use to impress in job applications, and asked people who had weaker web research skills to speak to my ace researcher for tips on googling, and maybe we could ask them to do a mini-presentation next term.

Ok, and here's the summer homework, follow the rubrics, grab an article, doesn't have to be this one but I need a copy in order to mark your report, and it has to be relevant to Economics, and from a decent publication, none of your ... magazine (hah hah, if ... are reading this blog they will protest...watch this corner to see if I edit!) I'm talking Nikkei Weekly, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, possibly Japan Times Business Section at a pinch...and of course creditable Net-based articles are fine too. I want an intro, a summary of the article and your opinion, reaction, refutation etc. justified with hard evidence please, and a conclusion, at least 250 words if you're going for a top score. Great, let me read out your projected grades, and then say goodbye....I read out the provisional grades, if anyone has any problems with those grade projections or queries please see me....one student came to talk about the summer assignment and reconfirm. Hhave a great summer, another student reminded me, as they left the room,,,,,ooooh yes, I forgot, have a great summer I called out to everyone who was left, ok, some students wanted to reconfirm the summer assignment, let's do it outside, I said, and gathered up my papers,

in the corridor outside we reconfirmed with the rubrics, mix of English and Japanese, and one student recapped in Japanese as we walked out through the canteen, you weren't marking our vocab sheets so severely at the end of term, were you tired? No little hearts and all,,,, ahhh, I said, I trusted you to be doing it well...we laughed, then I admitted Japanese grannies and granpas, and then we talked about me and who I am, I'm a student, like you, one of their friends was at Birmingham, it turned out, yes, I said, it's the leader in vocabulary and dictionary work..I'm researching your vocab work and will look over it in the summer, and I'm blogging the course too, ....Explained about my uni major being French and German, and the environmental work and writing articles for JEM when the kids were small.

Why on earth are you teaching us, they said, you're way too amazing...OH i love it, I said you're great students. We smiled goodbye in mutual appreciation, have a good summer.