Thursday, September 15, 2005

geography: we bring the world to you

I just finished catching up on the blog posts (finally!) and together with the recent mail from Kenneth, it's really making me feel very disturbed. I can't really pin it down, why I feel so disturbed either. I guess part of it is this feeling of division in the class. And it's a teacher-student divide. I know I shouldn't really put it that way, but the fact is that we are here to learn from Kenneth and in that sense we are students and he is the teacher. But anyway let's not debate that for now...

Kenneth is trying very hard to bring the real world to us so that we're not completely sealed off from the school experience for this one year in NIE. I do appreciate that and I think I see very clearly what he's doing: thank you Kenneth for that, because I know life would be a lot easier for you if you just caved in and taught us lots of geog the way we are being swamped with literature in my CS2. However you choose to try to remind us that as teachers, geography is actually quite low on our list of priorities. I'm not trying to sound sarcastic or anything here; I'm just trying to come to terms with the idea, because I came into teaching thinking that I now have a big picture of how geography is useful and therefore I can better pass on this broader understanding to the students, who have no idea why they're doing geog. But through our geog class, I have come to realise that it's really and truly not "how much you know, but how much they know you care". I used to think that having a passion for your subject is half the battle won, since some of the more sensitive students might pick up the infectiousness of your passion. Yeah... naive, I know. I know better now. To students, you can try to sell the subject until your breath runs out but in the end they are taking it to pass exams. They would appreciate it if you relate it to their immediate interests (developmental tasks anyone?) but they are more interested in passing exams, or else they are likely to not be interested at all. The students of now really do seem very different from the students we used to be, or at least I used to be, because as everyone has probably guessed I was one of those really quiet sponges in class.

Still, I stand by my previous statement that tips in actual geography teaching would be much appreciated too. Not to say that we haven't got that... through our microteaching sessions, I've learned a whole new bag of tricks... for physical geog, anyway *g*. There hasn't really been a lot of human geog. But more of these tips scattered around might go a long way.

That said, I'm completely looking forward to the simulated PTM. A little nervous too, but still, I hope it goes well.

A lot of my discomfort does stem from the fact that I haven't been able to completely throw off my student hat either. It's simply too sudden. I have lived and enjoyed 16 years of my life as a student, I haven't had any extended working experience, none in teaching, and in three short months I'm supposed to have changed my attitude completely around while being piled with endless assignments. I've been told that I have a flair for making the complicated sound simple when teaching peers one-to-one, but teaching students professionally is a whole different ball game. For one thing, the students aren't eager to learn from you, unlike when you're teaching your peers who probably have asked for your help in the first place. Secondly you can't oversimplify since they need the cheem stuff for their exams. Thirdly you're teaching a whole bunch of students, not one-to-one. Whoever told me I would make a good teacher because I could teach them one cheem concept obviously has no idea about the mechanics of teaching in a classroom. Andd if you think having a teacher parent helps, well, it doesn't necessarily. My dad is the fatalistic sort and he's convinced I'll never pull through the trials and stress of being a teacher. I'm trying to conserve my energy but it's hard.

I realise I'm beginning to sound bitter here, but it's just the whining of a person having to face reality after the idealism of being a student. I know it, so don't mind me. I just need to have somewhere to arrange my thoughts.

Kenneth, I apologise for being one of the students misbehaving during the Semakau trip. I enjoyed it immensely. I'm very grateful for that opportunity to go there and learn so much, and I hope it won't be the last.

It is most definitely in our grography lesson at NIE, and only the geography lesson, that the world out there is brought into the classroom. The other geography class is doing what we will be doing to our students next time: bringing them out into the world. Which is better? I'd rather not debate this tired old issue. Being a Libran, I like balance: ideally we would have the best of both worlds. But time is a limiting factor here. So we will make do with what we have and what we can do and be thankful for it.


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