Tag Archives: teaching

Class update

The two students who showed up were great, but unfortunately they were also at opposite ends of the language experience spectrum.  So I need to split them into two groups… two groups of one!

My problem is I’m a hard worker, a good idea generator, a good teacher, good at communicating in three languages, but I don’t know the first thing about advertising and I really don’t want to have to learn.

Sometimes I resent the fact that I am supposed to handle so many aspects of a situation instead of being able to focus on something.  

But I guess that’s what happens when you strike out on your own.  If you stay on the beaten path then you have some pre-established means of assistance to take care of some of the more mundane, less interesting aspects, like getting the word out.  But when you begin to forge an alternate route, you spend a lot of time trying to reinvent the wheel.

So far, it is worth it to have the freedom and control to do it my own way.

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Language class

Tonight’s the big night.

I managed to get approval from the recreation center to use one of their classrooms, I worked up a good curriculum, and I have two people who say they will come, three if you count the rec center director who wants to sit in.

Not the resounding success I had hoped for, but ya gotta start somewhere.

I suspect that this particular class will go the way of the writing groups I have tried to start in the past, which is nowhere fast.

But I have come up with several positive points to dwell on so that I don’t get discouraged:

  • Scheduling this class, whether it flies or not, gave me the incentive to put together a few weeks worth of conversation class curriculum, something I have wanted to do for a couple of years but always stopped myself with the thought, why?  What particular group of students am I directing it at?  etc.  Planning this class has focussed me enough to get it done.
  • Perhaps I will impress the director with my class packet and my teaching style and he will list my class in the next rec center schedule, which may generate more students than my pitiful few fliers around town
  • I will have put the wheels in motion  (As Mary Poppins says, “Well begun is half done.”)  This includes having the incentive to buy a dry erase board with necessary accoutrements, ten-sided dice (for practicing numbers), and to make a picture file for use in demonstrating vocab/generating conversation.

I know it sounds like I’m being negative in my assumption that this particular class won’t go anywhere, but I have a list for that too:

  • I feel more comfortable assuming the worst, and being pleasantly surprised when things don’t completely suck
  • It feels more emotionally responsible to see this as the first small step/attempt and not set myself up for crushing disappointment by thinking, “This is it!  It’s this or nothing!”
  • I feel like evaluating things realistically is the only way to figure out how to succeed, to know what is working, to change the things that don’t work

None of it feels like work to me.  When I come up with activities, worksheets, dialogues, conversation starters, etc. I do not feel the effort required but am carried away by my enthusiasm and interest.  I find myself looking forward to this kind of work.  In fact I have to be careful to remind myself that it is important, because I tend to put it off too long the way I would set aside reading a book or watching a tv show or any other form of entertainment that must wait indefinitely because I have to cook and clean and mind the kids.  That’s how much I enjoy planning a class.  If that isn’t the ultimate in nerddom, I’m not sure what is.

So we shall see what comes of it this evening.  If there is anything of interest to report, I will write a post about it tomorrow.  Otherwise, I will write a post whenever I get to step two!

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Experts

Our society becomes supremely credentialed.  I am a passionate proponent of education, but as the inflation of degrees continues, we are forced into massive debt simply to justify our worthiness to do anything. And as we earn these degrees, we move further and further away from the true nature of our subject material.

In eras past, once you graduated from the schoolhouse you had pretty much proven your ability to teach there. Now, you must have multiple pieces of paper, for example, a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s, as well as certification of some type, to be allowed to set foot in the classroom. Someone like me, with proven competence in my subject matter, many years experience tutoring, homeschooling, interning as well as teaching at a major university, a B.A. summa cum laude with honors, a natural teaching ability, plus a lifetime spent reading, studying, and reflecting on the nature and process of education… eh, just doesn’t cut it. Not enough pieces of paper!!!

Which I will get, eventually, I am highly skilled at submitting myself to the established protocols and jumping through hoops.And this is really what they want to make sure you are programmed to teach, right? The actual process of teaching is not the focus so much as ensuring that teacher and student follow proper procedures leading to successful completion of assigned examinations and various other kinds of paperwork, that everyone keeps within the established timetable and curriculum.

So really, all my wanking about an enthusiastic presentation and exploration of content just proves that I’m not ready to teach in the real world because I am too naive and idealistic to understand what really goes on. The goal is not to become a facilitator for the inspired interaction of student and subject material, but an expert who can shuttle them through the maze leading to the all-valuable piece of paper. That’s all that will count for anything anyway.

I am in no way disparaging teachers, those brave souls down in the trenches making the best of a crap situation. Administrators, politicians passing laws, even researchers in their ivory towers, in other words, the official “experts” in education, they are the ones that pretend they know but do not.

Why do we carry on like this? Why do we allow someone with a golden-edged piece of paper to intimidate us so that we turn our back on things we know and go along with their absurd plans (e.g. “No Child Left Behind”). Because they have us in a financial stranglehold? Our educational system, like everything else, comes down to money. Teachers have to eat, too, and so the slide into their red-tape tar pit seems inevitable.

Is there a way to take it away from the “experts”? Is there a way to extricate their claws of theory from the jugular of reality and make education not an irrelevant path of tedium but something that feeds the mind and the soul of all involved?

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Grades are evil

A “necessary” evil, some would say. But why necessary? Because, for economic reasons, we insist on having far more students per class than an instructor can possibly give adequate individual attention to. I think most people accept the traditional evaluation process as “just the way things are” and forget that this is a choice we continue to make with our budgetary priorities. “Things” could be different.

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