Monday, February 13, 2012

Orientation Week: Days 4, 5 and 6

Well, I've been a bit slack in the updating of this blog.Frankly I didn't expect the course to be this exhausting. But it's also so much fun! What other tertiary education programme gives you the opportunity to put make-up on the head of the department, or has thirty year olds squealing with joy over being given sweets?

Yeah, we're a bunch of silly kids, and it's exhausting, but so much fun.

Let me break it up into days.

Day 4 -Why teach?

George gave a long talk about the importance of being ourselves, rather than taking on the role of being a teacher. It felt perfectly timed, as I had caught myself thinking the day before about how, once I've bought appropriate teacher clothes, I will act more like a teacher. He said that's bad. Rather be yourself, and teach. Kids can spot hypocrisy from a mile away, and they don't like it. Authenticity keeps credibility with the kids, and that makes you a better teacher. He made us write down 5 characteristics that best described us, and then systematically put them down on the table and pretend they weren't part of who we are, and then pick them back up and be ourselves again. Okay, it all felt a bit woobedy-woobedy to me, (woobedy-woobedy being the latin for "a bit out there and new-agey") but it must have been effective because that night I had nightmares that I wasn't myself. Eep.


After the teaching interaction for the day, we went to some short talks by our method lecturers to answer any questions we might have before confirming our teaching subjects. Apparently my combination - English Home Language and English First Additional Language - is an awesome one. So that's good. The fact that our university is one of the last that still offers them as seperate methods is great, because it means more time being spent on each of them. It also means I don't have to teach maths literacy, which would have been my only other option because I didn't do any other "teaching" subjects as part of my undergrad.

Day 5 - What is Quality Education?

This followed on a bit more from the previous day. The lecturer did get into some interesting things about quantitative and qualitative studies that have been done, like benchmarking tests and so on, and how useful those might be at understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the education system in SA. Well, I should say weaknesses and weaknesses - we come stone cold last in most of the tests. So, to remedy this... They're going to do more tests, more frequently, so that the students are more used to answering them and therefore do better at them. I'm not sure if that's such a great idea - clearly the tests indicate problems in the education of these kids. Getting better at doing the tests does not mean that those problems have been fixed. It also doesn't help when the teachers marking them do so badly at it that the problems go unnoticed because it was quicker just to tick everything (even if it was wrong). Hmm... Anywaaay.

More time-consuming marking, but it is SUPER EFFECTIVE!

Another question was whether the tests themselves are a good indicator of quality.

Day 6 - Academic Reading and Writing

Ugh. I know, I know, standard prattle about how to read academic papers and a massive assignment so we can practise doing so. This was a very dry day. But it meant getting things done, and I suppose there are some dull bits in this. It can't all be fun and games.

Tomorrow we're off to Hobbiton for some team building and high-wire obstacles and cockroach squishing and waterfall splish-sploshing. I'm quite looking forward to it.

By "looking forward to it" I mean "terrified"

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