Sunday, December 26, 2004
After quite a hiatus, I have had another dream with mega-fauna in it. This time it was a crocodile that metamorphosised into an anaconda. The anaconda arranged itself in an odd position, but someone learned informed us that it was a way for it to maximise the number of us that it could snare. I managed to survive, as my dream transported me to another space and time. I have no idea what happened to my colleagues back at the zoo. The next phase of the dream was a curious one that is hard to put into words.
The recent earthquakes; a huge deep sea earthquake a few days ago south of New Zealand, and just now a huge South-East Asian earthquake (8.9 on the Richter scale) have made me a little cautious about going to Te Anau, which has had been struck numerous times in the last few years. I haven’t noticed the earthquakes or tremors that I have been in the position to feel. As much as I would like to experience one, a huge earthquake far from home is not the way that I have in mind. Or maybe if such an earthquake were to strike it is better that it strikes as far from home as possible... Either way, it should be an interesting trip. ;-)
Friday, December 24, 2004
And so I have come to the 26th Christmas of my years, and I have almost fallen over the top of it. Like a hiccup in the road. It seems sad that it has that feeling attached to it now, after years of meaning attached to it. I hope in the enthusiasm of my step-sister I will see the joy and anticipation. Maybe that's the whole purpose of children, to remind us of things gone by.
As for the title of this, if you were trying to match it to a carol or song, it is quite difficult to know unless you have a broad lingual range. It is the chorus of a cantonese pop-song by Aaron Kwok. Christmas is really taking off abroad. Mindless consumerism and a reason to party? Why not! Xin was telling me Chinese people have their parties on Christmas Eve, something we would never do. It would intimidate Santa too much to have people staying up into the wee-small hours of the morning while he is trying to quietly deliver.
So, I wish you all the best of days, to meet the family and maybe give something useful and receive something useful. Enjoy it.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Every job I apply for I need to mentally accept. I have been applying on and off all morning. Yesterday I wouldn't have considered applying for the ones I applied today. The difference is the time spent musing in the back of my mind that brings me to think that I should apply.
Sometimes I read the job description ten times on different days before accepting it mentally. Of course this is a time-consuming way of doing things, especially considering the number of rejection letters I have been receiving but probably a sensible way of making sure I am prepared for that which I am applying.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Friday, December 17, 2004
Another interview, and again my hopes have risen. I think it went exceedingly well, and wowwed the three interviewers. The preceding interviewee was from the same course as me. Unnerving to know you are competing against someone you know.
Anyway, the job itself sounds interesting. Providing I get the job, I will be teaching the basic core subjects but not art, music or technology. I will be teaching four different classes science, while other teachers teach particular areas too. The school population is 66% Maaori, which means I will need to put a lot of effort to bring that up to level.
One drawback is that I will only find out on the 24th of January whether I have got the job.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Dense Life Prose No. 1
Maybe this is the first day since term end that I have finally been awoken..
Maybe I nodded off a couple of times, but any signs of will and mind are a delight for me.
We are all teachers, yeah-no?
The Purpose of Disappointment rang out at 7:30am. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
They say that but even without a Lord or Tao, everything is a holistic connection to itself.
When at one extreme, the other beckons. Yin and Yang. Inaction and Action.
I moved swiftly between activities and pressed onto my conclusions. Action.
A call to arms. A fit for feet. I'll give them the Benefit of the doubt.
I'm indestructable. Try me. I am moving. Stop me. My money drains away but I won't starve.
I will ask and I will know, because nothing will stop me now.
My refrain for the day ran through my head: We are all teachers.
Don't teach, learn. Don't take it for Granted: I was too academic and not confident enough.
I failed in my homework. But those who spoke, spoke well of me.
I missed for I didn't Try.
Fear is the acknowledgement that something or someone may, could or does have power over you that contravenes your will. So do you fear yourselves, or fear what others will think? Freedom, Goddamnit! Try!
I charged out of the backline, the line was open to the backs. But they were standing passively far behind.
Did they want to play, but not run? Trussed in ties. Corporate lies. Employed only in firms?
I hate the apparent reliance. Or is it all in my mind? Am I not learning again?
My choice to run through the gap, to play, to win. To Try. We won of course. 29 sealed the win.
I danced once more. Just like I did at a time once before. An Asian den with a DJ din.
Retaining a motif, while stylising it. Then retaining the style while randomising the outer actions.
Letting chance create the form, while the essence remains central and controlled.
Maybe that was the way of Pollock. The way of a storm. Circular.
Using left and right sides, is it any surprised I feel more together?
Is it any surprise that dance coincides with the rise in my spirits?
A kiss sealed the win. You told me you were embarrassed. I instructed you that you shouldn't have been.
I was wrong. I should have listened to you, my teacher. So I could hear your perception and feelings.
Chemicals erode me. They may erode you. There is no need at all. The Lord provides for the sparrows, why wouldn't he provide for us? There is no morality at all, except in my mind. Just hit me in the face and you will see.
I walked home with the clarity of the sky. Will I wake tomorrow morning?
My refrain ran again: We are all teachers. That is my: Amen.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
I am back to applying at full-power~ With all new tricks like calling the school directly and asking them if positions have been filled! So creative, yet saving money! (I was going to print and send applications to some of them). Some of them said: "We're interviewing right now. Just e-mail it in now we'll have a look," which is comforting to know! Anyway, back to work.
Monday, December 13, 2004
While I was swimming tonight, I was called at home and on my mobile phone by the Principal of Royal Oak Primary, the school I had been most keen on. My application did not succeed. So it is back to the drawing board... and maybe an anxious wait over Christmas. I am hoping more desperate schools call me for interviews...
The 3rd Annual Mountain Crawl was completed at 6:10pm last night (Sunday, 12/12/04) with four very weary suburban trampers plodding ecstatically onto the summit of Northhead. The 7 mountains done were:
Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill)
Mt St John
Maungawhau (Mt Eden)
My delight was Mt Mangere, which I had not climbed before, and was even more fun than Mt Eden (although not as iconic). It has a varied terrain, multiple peaks, a large area, and virtually no people.
Now I am feeling post walk tiredness. The day after every muscle is a little tender, especially the soles of my feet. It is good to awaken all of these muscles because when I do the multi-day tramp Kepler's Track, they will need to be ready for several straight days of exertion.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
On Kim Hill this morning she interviewed a linguist who raised all sorts of interesting topics.
She was Kate Burridge who was the author of a book, Weeds in the Garden of Words.
She raised the fact that bought/brought were merging as past tense of buy and bring. Apparently she has seen bought used as a past tense to bring in the newspaper!
Apparently it is the case of mongrel grammar were a verb steals from another. It is a common phenomena in English. Go and went (which comes from the verb 'wend') and the Be family (is, are, am, was etc). A long time ago "will" replaced "shall". Will "gonna" now replace "will"? She thinks that is a possibility. Will "Would of" replace "would have"? She thinks no, it is ungrammatical. of not being an auxiliary verb. "Gotten" is older than "got" rather than an American neologism. "Gravytrain" originated from a misprint. Only 10% of slang words survive beyond its error. "That is just semantics" is not a proper statement. Where are your "loins"? Do women have a "groin" or just male sportsmen?
Here is a transcript of another interview with her:
Before that I listened to Max Cryer's segment on the origins of words (usually 9:05ish on Saturdays). There the origin of strange pronunciation such as "colonel", the origins of "corporal", how silly the phrase "a rate of knots" is.
Ah, how I love to ponder words.
Friday, December 10, 2004
All sorts happened today. Possibilities opened and others snuffed.
My language exchange in Japanese went very well, and she was blown away by the fact that I was more accomplished in Kanji (chinese characters) but struggled with the word for "tell" (a rather simple word). Of course there are obvious reasons for it. I forgot two characters though.
Taking advantage of Kathmandu's sale I took time finding some nice shoes, only to find that they wanted to charge me full price, I said I was mistaken and would go back to looking, but then the man who helped me said that he had not corrected any misunderstanding on my part, and even pointed out on the shoe box that it had a sale sticker, so they sold it to be with 50% off. Not bad!
Then I was a little bit confused where to go, and then I suddenly remembered my bus pass, which was deficient in bus-fares. No place could seem to add them onto my card since I still had one final tertiary pass. So annoying. I will lambast the idiocy of Stagecoach tomorrow, if they have someone on... Anyway, I jumped on the bus using the last pass I wanted to be rid of and then got home. That was when I realised I was no longer carrying my new shoes. Arururururururururururururururururururururururururugtfr fr fr fr fr q340y8hifvoiasjfptrtrtrtr53.
Anyway, calling up StarMart resulted in the recovery of my purchased items - I will pick them up tomorrow.
Then to cap it all off, it went and rained out the cricket match.
Good night one and all.
I went to the dentist for the first time in about two years and was in and out in 15 minutes for $60. Other than my teeth being stained by a food colouring (possibly tea!), and therefore needed a bit of a polish, there was no other cause of alarm. Of course, I started to doubt the diligence of the dentist, thinking that every other dentist I had been to at least scrubbed and picked for a while and did all other sort of abuses to my open mouth. But then again maybe my dental hygiene has improved. I started to regularly floss after my last visit to the dentist (I had only done so on a whim before) and I modified my brushing technique the visit before. I have switch completely to Oral-B toothbrushes too because they feel so effective. Anyway, I had better not complain.
Monday, December 06, 2004
Finally, after 99% of other student teachers have gotten jobs, schools with vacancies have finally come to the conclusion... They need to possibly accept the possibility of interviewing Daniel Goudie for the position... well two schools have come to that conclusion, so I have interviews (finally) on Wednesday and Thursday.
This has been a good boost to my motivation.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
I am well started on my Bible reading programme as well as having talked a friend into being a Bible Consultant. The way the programme is set out is quite good, giving a different theme for each day, so Sunday will be one of the Gospels, whereas yesterday was the Epistles and Friday was a Prophecy book. It is also broken up into parts so everyday you need only read a few chapters. There are many advantages to this and the only disadvantage being that it may be a bit disjointed reading 7 different sections simultaneously. This doesn't both me much as I usually read books simultaneously (I am reading a Chinese book and Nietzsche at the same time too!). I am highlighting the sections I read so that I can have a bit of a progress meter.
One of my side interests is to watch TV evangelists (or broadcast sermons). Today I saw most of a Christian one and then changed channel and saw an African-American Islamic preacher.
Recently, on an online debate I discussed Free-Will with some others (as well as related religious issues). One of the people sent me a link to a web-page Thinking about Free-Will and suggested that I write to the professor author. Breaking down his discussion and finding what parts I agree with and the parts that I think are logical flawed is quite an interesting task and also clarifies my own stance on this particular debate. The more I consider the more deterministic I think we are. Initially I also had some disagreements about the way he described the Christian side of things (negatively so), although now that I am reading the Bible, I might relent because some of the criticism seems increasingly valid. Formulating a logical essay is quite fun.
The last couple of days I have found myself falling way below the productivity line, not achieving much at all. I will start a more aggressive approach to organising myself today.
Friday, December 03, 2004
With the few bits of knowledge I have garnered, I thought my philosophies might be related to existentialism. So to check I decided to construct a test. According to an interesting website the Dividing Line there are six themes of existentialism. So I checked to see if my philosophy accords to those themes.
1. Existence precedes essence.
I take this as a logical place to start. This simply means you work with the basis of your own existence as place to work from. You don't take any suppositions on essence (e.g. the nature of being, the creation of yourself, value or morality etc.) before this.
I was amazed that this was the second theme raised. Anxiety over existence itself is not something I suffer from often. So I would have to disagree that it is an aspect of my own philosophy.
"To exist as a human being is inexplicable, and wholly absurd. Each of us is simply here, thrown into this time and place---but why now? Why here?" I don't think that because something is inexplicable, that it must follow that it is absurd. I take my own being as arbitrarily as I do the sun rising in the east. The sun rises there because it does, and I am because I am. There need not be any great sighs of discontent from me on either point.
I disagree. "If no essences define me, and if, then, as an existentialist, I reject all of the philosophies, sciences, political theories, and religions which fail to reflect my existence as conscious being and attempt to impose a specific essentialist structure upon me and my world, then there is nothing that structures my world." Our world is mostly a blank canvas with a few squiggles here and there. There is an essence but there is a lot of creativity within that essence. A person who senses nothingness obviously has been lazy on the creative side of their life. You have a world full of experiences, ideas and thoughts. Paint as you will.
"Nothingness, in the form of death, which is my final nothingness, hangs over me like a sword of Damocles at each moment of my life. I am filled with anxiety at times when I permit myself to be aware of this." I am very comfortable with the idea of death and don't have much of any anxiety about my own mortality. So again, I most likely disagree.
I know what this word means, but the explanation at the website was too deep and obtuse for me. I will "pass" for now.
I think that I have some characteristics of an existentialist and I make similar conclusions at times. But I lack the negativity towards existence of an existentialist.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Reading Nietzsche provides difficult but compelling reading. The prose is denser than even any of the eccentric divergent descriptions I do on a crazy day (making my Magenta story seem like child's play).
I must admit that I find myself on a similar wavelength as some of his ideas appear (sometimes I cannot say for sure whether what he means is how I see things though). And then suddenly a little barb of thought that seems relevant to my current motivational predicament shines through.
It is also highly quotable, here is my favourite section for today:
Let your virtue be too exalted for the familiarity of names: and if you have to speak of it, do not feel ashamed to stammer.
Thus say and stammer: 'This is my good, this is my love, just thus do I like it, only thus do I wish the good.
'I do not want it as a law of God, I do not want it as a human statute: let it be no sign-post to super-earths and paradises.
'It is an earthy virtue I love, there is little prudence in it, and least of all common wisdom.
'But this bird has built its nest beneath my roof: therefore I love and cherish it - now it sits there upon its golden eggs'
There was a rather thought provoking article in Tuesday’s Herald by Gwynne Dyer, “Gentle Monsters offer a lesson,” that raised some past thoughts in my mind.
It discusses how the public are very unwilling to see infamous dictators such as Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot as human. The magnitude of their carnage means that it is necessary to push them outside the realms of what it means to be human. And to try and understand those individuals is a “small step towards forgiving them and admiring them,” which could be seen to be a serious mistake.
It then goes on to raise another person, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, whose image was made famous by Andy Warhol and in the movie Motorcycle Diaries. He was seen as a warrior of romantic revolutionary hero who eventually died for his cause. But he also advocated “relentless hatred of the enemy that… [transforms] us into effective, violent, selective and cold killing machines”.
Is the difference between the humanity of Che and the monstrousness of Stalin merely that one got into power? The main thrust of the article is that if we always regard those that commit acts of inhumanity as monsters, then it will preclude lessons being learnt from our history, that those in the past are all human.
My follow-up to this is to think about the lessons learnt. For me, the cause of the greatest “malevolent” acts and the greatest of “benevolent” acts comes from excessive idealism or values. Soon as your value for anything exceeds the value of human life, then genocide, matyrdom, assassination, suicide and murder will appear. Hitler was well known with his ideals of an Aryan nation and the purging of the Jews. Communists also had their idealist vision.
I don’t think you can separate these ideals into Good and Bad ideals. They are just ideals held by people, to varying states of zeal. A zealot for whatever purpose can be a martyr or a murderer.
Then I think I have my rejoinder to a Camus quote that bewildered me:
“There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.”
This might be a serious question to some, but as I take it as a given that life is worth living, then it is not relevant to me. To me there is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is martyrdom or sacrifice. Deciding whether or not your life is worth giving for your values or the people in your life.
Of course, anyone who says yes, me included, could be potentially a Monster in another context. But I would also say that all change agents too would answer yes. Of course, this is all morally ambiguous, but immediately it reconciles the labelling of heroes as terrorists and vice-versa. We'd all be safe if we lived in a passionless world of grinding life, as Camus may have thought with his thoughts on suicide, but then suicide would be a palatable option. Or we can live in a dangerous, vibrant hopeful world where people actually hold onto ideals, values and beliefs and meaning is freely given as well as lives.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
...is acting up. I thought I lost a post but now it has appeared. Another post is somewhere in limbo or has been returned to oblivion. A rather good post that one. So if you are blogging anything soon. Make a copy before pressing Publish. You may never know where it will go.
Some people live their lives quite solitarily or independently. As a result it is their routines and habits that result in their productivity.
When one such person (or two) is suddenly spending large proportions of their time with another person then suddenly habits and routines are suddenly thrown into disorganisation. Personal routines cannot work well with another person being foremost in your mind and life. So adaptation has to occur.
Spending several days with Xin, I have found myself unable to get myself organised. My body doesn't know when to wake, sleep or hunger. Around other people I am quite reactive, rather than active. What happens when two primarily reactive people wait for each other to move onto the next thing to do?
I find some lessons of life in this predicament. But it is these challenges that prompt personal progress.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
I have had a trilingual morning (not including the English I spoke to my mum). The last language I have been working on is the scariest of them all - Korean. It is not just scary from the point of view that its grammar makes spaghetti junction look like a country road, but the fact that it would appear that I was once highly proficient in wielding that grammar in a logical manner. I have read several sentences which are obvious the work of my hand several years ago which verge on an inhumanly difficult level of grammatical construction - using four or five separate grammatical structures to formulate meaning. Sometimes I don't even know what was written. It is coming back to me though, even though it would be faster with a clear mind, and a machete to carve my way through the cobwebs.
Anyway, back to work~
Friday, November 26, 2004
Another sequence of sickness... Stricken down yet again by another marauding cold. But it has been an interesting time in the last three days. A whole spectrum of emotions, experiences, doubts and expectations.
Despite saying my diary writing in this blog may end I can't help but record this.
Tuesday finished feeling like a Friday, where everything seemed to be finishing.
Wednesday I awoke like Saturday and I threw myself heavily into Chinese study and applying for jobs. Unfortunately I got waylaid by temptation and then by an ink-cartridge on its last legs.
Wednesday was also a climax of sorts in so many ways. Because what could have been seemed like it would be and the dilemmas that created were rather profound. Then suddenly it was obvious that it couldn't be and then there was no problem at all. As my sickness arose my irritation and impatience came too. Thursday I flew into a frenzy when my A-Zone card disappeared when I was about to meet Fiona. 7 applications were ready to be sent so I needed to send them, but I had no bus card to go to Newmarket with. I was always mentally calculating how connecting buses would work if I gave up on my card-search and paid with cash, always thinking that I couldn't neglect to send those applications... Then my card appeared and I was off in an anxious flash.
Pain and Suffering
This morning with the sickness rising into my eyeballs, I watched The Passion of the Christ, an interesting study of pain. As gory as it is said to be, I think most of the people who complained about it have trouble with reality. It is interesting on a personal level, just because I have always had an interest in the human bodies pain threshold. Not that I have much pain, give much pain or experience anything more traumatic than a tractor front end trapping my foot, a 240V electric shock or a bee sting. If I was a person with secret knowledge that I couldn't disclose, could I stand up to torture?
On a theoretical level, I am interested in it too, and the significance on Christ's suffering in the Christian religion. Their symbol the cross is afterall a tool of a tortuous execution. I really want to explore with a Christian how they substantiate the necessity for his sacrifice. Logically I don't think it sticks together well, although admittedly I would struggle to put those doubts into a logical argument.
Three "me"s in the Symphony
I had another night at the orchestra tonight. My stuffed up sinuses prevented me from appreciating it in its full glory. There was a fine young pianist by the name of John Chen who showed his range. And then the night was capped off by Tchaikovsky's 1812 symphony which apparently he hated but has become on of the most iconic pieces of music. While I appreciated those things, my mind was usually locked in distractions and abstractions. I suddenly thought of another trichotomy. That is the three versions of oneself. There is the me I think I am, the me that I am and the me that others take me to be. They are rarely the same and usually all very different. In the past month I have started to observe the differences between what I am and what I think I am. It is quite disturbing frankly. Of course, these are always in flux. The perceptions other people have are different for each person. And their perceptions are based only on a superficial representation of yourself at a few moments in time, so are never likely to approach accuracy.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Find a job (ready and firing)
Revise all my languages (chinese, maori done)
Do language exchange in all my languages (first steps done)
Read a book in Chinese (underway)
Write a reply to a professor regarding free-will (draft done)
Read the Bible (started)
Get fit and lose a little weight
Prepare for a long tramp
Establish my plan for life in the new year (where I am living etc.)
Prepare Christmas gifts
Paint my personal koru picture (materials bought)
Write more short stories (started)
Play chess and visit the local club
Read at least one English novel (started)
Prepare to teach through next year (still recovering from the diploma)
Work out my financial situation
Apply for a tax return on charities (forms and receipts are buried)
Apply for the dole for the time being
Apply for a Listener subscription (re-ask for a form)
Revise my goals and make them specific
Watch thought-provoking movies
Revamp waking and sleeping times so that I can rise before sun occasionally
(possible) Get a job (if my financial situation should require me to and if time allows)
Monday, November 22, 2004
"Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens. Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is...The only problem in your life is your mind's resistance to life as it unfolds." - Dan Millman
I forgot to have a proper shower.
A mixture of exhaustion and lethargy has washed over me. I finished my practicum on a moderate high and then entered a busy weekend. Now I am back at school for two days, met with mediocre assignment grades, a 50% employment rate of my class, and some soporific lessons.
I was kept anxious last night by a surreal "teaching dream" and woke early and couldn't get back to sleep. I had to arrest some of my concerns so I went online, got a list of jobs available, deleted unsuitable ones, condensed them and printed them.
I still have a bit of pent up anxiety about teaching. I am worried about not getting a job, and worried about getting a job. Fortunately this is my only worry at present so it is easy to handle. One goal.
I started to read a Chinese book again today and was presented with little difficulty reading it. I spoke some chinese on Friday and on the weekend and was slightly more challenged. My Maori has not coped as well, being a new language to my repertoire but there is also less knowledge to recoup so that will just be a matter of time.
Anyway, that is my rant for now. This week should be progressively more blissful.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Winding down to the blissful conclusion of this course, I can't help but breathe a sigh of relief. I have few worries now. Only getting a job, which does prey on my mind but I am a little less bothered by it now that all my other bustle has eased.
Maybe indicative of this, my blog will revert back to rages against reality rather than retrospection and analysis of my day in class.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
I have my assessment report from this school, it is glowing~ ;-)
And the day passed by so quickly that it was over before I really new it. Not even an observation from the principal (which went well) made it slow. Nice. Still felt rather worn out at the end though.
Monday, November 15, 2004
The beginning of the end has begun. Today passed easily, with my University moderator praising me highly despite my lack of paperwork (trust me to forget a crucial thing like that). That means I have passed the course, no disaster can stop me, which could be a problem for general focus for the rest of the week, as some things still need to be finished.
And there is still some things to gain.
Tomorrow will be my busiest day of the week (including an observation by the Principal) but then I will be winding down and blissfully so, it is to be hoped.
My mind has already started to get enthused with being engaged in foreign languages, trying new recipes, reading books (which is not my thing usually anyway), painting, tramping and running, playing chess, writing stories, swimming at beaches, travelling and watching movies. The list goes on...
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Friday, November 12, 2004
The last two days have flown by. Things are moving. It is rather nice.
Finally a deluge of feedback on my teaching is flowing from my Associate Teacher, which is great, although disconcerting due to the lack of time to make changes. She is right on the money with many of her comments. I am glad I have a weekend now to think about it all and put it together in my final week, where my actual teaching opportunities will be reduced day by day. My final effective day of teaching will be Wednesday but this will be minimal. Monday it will teaching all but one lesson, and one particular lesson observed by my associate teacher.
Tuesday will be my opportunity to re-view my associate in action. Wednesday will be my chance to try music (body percussion perhaps) and Thursday hopefully will be completely observing another teacher. Friday will be sport, observing and an assembly.
I am knackered yet again. Glad to have an early night on a Friday to recoup my lost energy and prepare for a more energetic period of preparation. There are a lot of non-Daniel caused tears this week. It seems a rocky life being in primary school. Some cruel tongues, some tightrope friendships, some fragile self-esteem.
Depressed by the lack of anything to vegetate in front of on the mainstream TV, I switched through the channels to discover that my beloved Koorero Mai had been moved. I hadn't seen it for many weeks, since I got crunched with the constant work. It moved to 7pm meaning I was an hour late. But flicking back through, I found that Triangle TV had a Taiwanese programme Weijie Zhi Mi (Unsolved mysteries). I focussed roughly trying to listen and to understand the mysteries of my lost language ability. They talked about how the KGB used microwaves to control the killers of the Kennedy brothers, mind reading and other arcane things. I miss learning language. So much more straight forward! My brain sighs.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Monday, November 08, 2004
Monday was a pretty good day, getting caught in the crossfire of a student-clash notwithstanding. With the exception of one chaotic period in the early day which was actually essential to balance out a miscalculation, everything went to plan. I committed another mistake of judgement when giving instructions but still achieved the objectives.
During the observations for the science experiments, the hot-tempered child in my class was triggered by someone who obviously was not that familiar with his tendencies, tapped him with his metal ruler. Fire erupted and I strode in between them before one could jump on the other, however the metal ruler which was held by both, moved suddenly cutting me on both hands. I didn't feel it but once I calmed down the time-bomb boy I noticed the blood on his arm and was worried that there was more to the fight. Then I discovered that my hand was dripping blood! This was actually quite good timing as it, distracted them, gave good reason to separate them and take one outside.
9 more days. And I can't help but count them down. Tomorrow should be easy and blessed with the return of my associate. Hopefully this will put everyone in a sustainable good mood.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
I have crunched the weekend cryptic slowly with now only two half-clues remaining. At work, there is a teacher's aide who can do them. But we are completely different in solving style. He is intuitive whereas I am logical. He sees correspondences between meanings very well, and has a large vocabulary (he is good at straight crosswords) but cannot construct words out of clues.
He could solve whereas I couldn't the following clue:
Unlicensed recipient (6)
...which is "fences" (a person who receives stolen goods and on-sells them)
Whereas I could crunch this one (it took a while) which he couldn't even start:
Rams after five changes (6)
...which is "varies" (v + aries)
One of the strange things about cryptics is that you can clues without knowing the words, the weekend crossword I solved the clues for "laird" and "ciceroni" both of which I only learnt today.
I have been stewing myself steadily since a rather disastrous Friday at school. There was a highlight of a logistically perfect science experiment lesson. But everything else was rotten, hijacked, poorly done, messy and unproductive. A little blessing of the principal forgetting an observation time meant that a poor reading lesson was not seen. A lot of it had to do with it being a Friday, when children tend to be a bit more likely to be uppity, and a Friday where I was rather exhausted and rather aimless and underprepared.
From end of class to now, I have been pretty quiet and haven't applied myself to the task of planning.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
My ulcer is not healing. It was probably just as painful to eat and talk tonight as it has been any other night of the week, and in the morning the pain was still radiating into my right ear. The doctor said I should visit again if it doesn't clear up in a week.
Now, I hope the morning will prove me wrong.
Routine but authorative (in a good way). I believe that today was probably the smoothest day for me in terms of maintaining consistent control. I also finally developed an idea of how one bit of feedback could be constructively realised. It has saved mat time (my most time-dragging situation) and made it far more efficient. So all is smooth. One more observation tomorrow and then the weekend.... I can't wait. I forgot my medicine today and my throat feels serrated.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I'm back. Still sick, but back teaching on a moderately successful day. Surviving is one of the success criteria which I have fulfilled. Fortunately it was not a rigorous routine day, but a day where there were relaxing activities like Drama (which now is confirmed as an easy subject to teach) and the Great Wednesday Quiz (which I have made subtle alterations to make it co-operative, as well as prepared for rather than extemporaneously grasping questions, so very happy). My actual science lesson fell over somewhat which requires some introspection. I knew even yesterday it would fall over, but it was a necessary step. I lacked the energy yesterday to make it work even in my head. The one highlight was the use of concept cartoons, which caught the attention of the class (thanks Xin!) possibly succeeding in securing the learning objective for the day (making a hypothesis).
Now I need a breath, but tomorrow's planning will hinder any genuine rest. I might vegetate in front of US election coverage, read School Journals and have another tea.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
A day's worth of pennicillin. An early night. Seemingly improving yesterday. All meant nothing.
I awoke this morning and feel probably the worst I have felt in this bout of ill-health. The illusory pain in my ear (radiated pain as my doctor called it) seems to be boring into my skull. The cold/flu symptoms are more prominent and the pain in my mouth excruciating at times.
So, defying my expectations, I am having another day off.
I remember my first year at ASL when I might have only had one day off in a year. And my high school days when I got attendence awards (some of my only days off were actually caused by... throat ulcers). Anyway, I might watch the Passion of the Christ today just to make my pain seem less significant.
Monday, November 01, 2004
Yeah, I have been to the doctor and now have a small arsenal of antibiotics with which to strafe the unsuspecting bacteria that are ruling the roost at the back of my mouth. Unfortunately the flu symptoms are likely to be caused by a virus meaning that my body would have to deal with those independently.
I received my third application rejection today. But using this time to put together another few of my best applicatory shots into the education world.
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Officially I am off tomorrow from school. A good sleep did nothing to make me feel any better, so tomorrow I am taking a trip to the doctors to have my throat, ear and maybe back looked at. In the meantime, I am popping difflam lozenges like they're popcorn and preparing classes that the reliever might have to teach for me.
I wonder if I could be a commerical writer.
Saturday, October 30, 2004
And again my feelings have changed direction on the spot. Thursday and Friday have taken it out of me. By Friday afternoon I was the walking wounded, pained to speak with my possibly doubling throat ulcer, beset by cold symptoms and general sleep-deprivation. I was revived momentarily on Friday evening, but by Saturday I felt my veneer of wellness crumbling and it was harder to keep from showing that I was not well.
Next week, will be back to the ordinary routine in the classroom. I need to get back on the horse... I feel things cannot continue as they did on the last two days.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Thursday is usually my lowest day of the week. I don't know exactly why this is but it has been the day when my energy is lowest. Particularly Thursday afternoon, around 4pm.
Today was a slightly messy day, with some of my preparation shortfalls coming through. The Statistical Investigation lesson particularly was almost a waste of time, and I really regret my choices when preparing that lesson. Apart from that though, I think I progressed. I have reined in control to a degree.
Anyway, now I have preparation to do and no energy to expend... so I might take it easy at first and then work on it. My sore throat may actually be caused by a throat ulcer, something I was blighted with in my teenage years.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Another slightly awkward day was had. I certainly didn't think that I had everything satisfactorily planned but nevertheless it chugged along. The drama session was a success in terms of the product, but still difficult in terms of discipline. I think my street cred at the school among teachers is on the up, as many teachers are scared of teaching drama. Too many loose variables. But then again, I am nowhere near ready to teach dance, not to mention music. The principal then mentioned that she would like to observe how I take a drama class (because of my relievers spreading of malicious superlatives) and so will observe my drama next week (as well as mundane reading on this Friday).
It seems my expectations for classroom behaviour may have decreased. So now the children have managed to increase their volume of chatter and slight mat misdemeanours, and decreased their responsivity. This is a little disappointing but a good challenge for the last two days of the week. The reliever suggested it may have been partially to do with the scheduling being all over the place. This had many reasons, most of which were out of my control.
Tomorrow will be an ordinary day but I might need to make provision for rain (as there is sport on both Thursday and Friday), even though the forecast says that Friday will be the day of pours. Since the syndicate meeting on Tuesday, I have thought that I actually have no sort of contingency plan...
Thursday and Friday will be fine, at least for me, rather than the weather.
The same usual observation about progress. At my last practicum, I only needed to teach full-control for a week, and boy was that a long week and I was knackered by the end. Come this practicum, I have taught for over half a week, and so far it has been mostly smooth. Because I have in my mind three weeks, the short term is very settled and are already fast in my mind.
Anyway, tonight does have a reasonable load of preparation to attend to and the basics of Friday (especially the observed reading lesson).
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
The day before the start of every week always seems to drag with unease. I am usually not feeling prepared (and not actually prepared as well as I could be considering the time resources that I had this weekend), and thinking about how things will pan out. Needless to say that last night I didn't sleep well. I also was progressively becoming more certain that I had gained a sore throat, which also played on my mind.
But today, Tuesday, did fly by with relative ease. I was lacking one troubled child, to be sure, but niggling discipline problems were controlled, the routines were done and maintained. Also the science unit will have more time to be developed since a slight mistake on my timetable meant that I thought it would happen this week, when a sports double-up this week prevents such a possibility. Sport is a nice relief from planning but annoying because I DO want to get into it.
Tomorrow I may be playing with fire by having a drama class. It allows students a lot of freedom and also is out of routine (which adds to student excitability, and misbehaviour). My observed lesson was also one which allowed freedom of movement (and the potential for chaos) but purpose and work were maintained. I hope this is the same tomorrow. My acting experience has brought out the salient features of my drama lectures earlier on in the year.
Also on the feel-good factor was the fact that I twisteded my right ankle, the one I had sprained. It was feel-good in that the natural elasticity of those tendons and ligaments sprung me back onto my heels. It didn't smart at all. This is a good sign for my entire recovery from that injury.
On the feel stink factor, I did receive a letter from one of the schools I applied to. A principal who visited early in the course mentioned that they don't necessarily contact you if you fail to get on the short-list, so seeing the letter and feeling that it was reasonably fat, surmised that I might have a shot at an interview... But no. They sent a rejection letter and my whole CV back at me... Maybe they thought I could use it again. Ah well.
Monday, October 25, 2004
“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature. This need we may call self-actualization.”
"Self-actualizing people have a deep feeling of identification, sympathy, and affection for human beings in general. They feel kinship and connection, as if all people were members of a single family."
“Whereas the average individuals "often have not the slightest idea of what they are, of what they want, of what their own opinions are," self-actualizing individuals have "superior awareness of their own impulses, desires, opinions, and subjective reactions in general.”
“You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.”
"To avoid disillusionment with human nature, we must first give up our illusions about it.”
I might have to read him more once my course has finished. I think on a similar frequency.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Exit music_________________through my ears ________finished __________________ Or did I?_______just happen to______________________________deliver it____________________ not concerned at all___________________ in another realm _____________ in my dreams _________ _______________________________.
A combination of thorough planning and effective execution led to a great lesson, observed by the principal of the school. I am ecstatic.
The principal serves as a "mentor" who in collaboration with the University observes and grades me while I am on this practicum. So I had arranged for her to see me start the statistics unit. Starting a unit was a little daunting to me at first till I had constructed in my mind how it would progress and put it into some personalised form. And today was the day that I was to start. I was thinking through exactly how to establish the lesson, get the students involved and moving, while retaining learning objectives and some channel for feedback. My lesson achieved all of that and more. It was so embarrassingly easy on the day. In a perhaps overstatement, the principal told my associate teacher that she wished that they had a vacancy (i.e. for which to secure me, perhaps!). The principal is also one of my referees now, and is quite well-known in the education community.
All in all, I am quite positive about passing the course and gaining a bit more optimism about the quest for a job.
...and then a maiden over.
After the high of that success, the principal left and then after a writing lesson, my associate finally upped and left me as she had to go home to pack for her trip to the UK. For a period of half-an-hour I was technically illegally unsupervised although I was fully planned and ready to teach in that time. Regrettably, that phase was not at all successful. It carried out the function but failed to retain a semblance of control over the situation. The small group I was taking for a small group reading was distracted, chatty and for the most part uncooperative. Hmmmmmmmm. I need to think how I will approach this because I have another group to do tomorrow. I had originally asked my associate to observe me take a reading lesson, but she naturally needed that extra time to pack.
Fortunately tomorrow the reliever who will be with me for the next two weeks will be in. From the sounds of it he is no amateur, but rather a living legend, a former principal with a knack for effortlessly managing a class and teaching. Certainly I will benefit from his eyes on my practice.
One down-side to my real associate teacher was that she was terrible with feedback, overly glossy, and finally today (9 days down the track) I get her first written comments on my management, written on a post-it note! I found in my horrid second practicum that sometimes relievers can deliver much more useful feedback than the teacher whose class it is.
Ah, so that was the day that was. I am really looking forward to this weekend. I need a rest and also need to prepare for a solid week at the helm as well as re-launch an assault on the job-market. So far not one of my sent CVs and applications has resulted in an interview, so I cannot neglect this side much longer.
Back to preparation....
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Horse the on
One interesting thing I have found in my education as a teacher is that I may have never had a time in my life where my self-confidence has been so erratic. Things change quite quickly, from plunging into a deep dark abyss of doubt, to discovering all the beautiful fish in depths as I explore.
That is to say today was a good day, with progress, and an obvious path to improvement. I was really thrown into the deep end on Monday, doing two types of lessons that I was not familiar with (handwriting and spelling) and pulling them off with few problems. Today I consolidated that and included maths in the fold. I also picked up a few of the more subtle control mechanisms and ways to direct feedback to students to increase their learning.
Also, three hours of that Sunday work (and a lot of background thought and scribbles) have been transformed into the pride of my day. That was what I put into my Science Unit plan over the weekend. I had shown it to my associate teacher at the end of my “wrung-out” Monday, after which she made her usual excited noises (she uses the same excessively enthusiastic praise on me as she does with the children). But in the morning, I found the AP looking at it with her and the AP was saying nice things about it too. And then I bumped into the principal in the photocopy room and she also mentioned that she had heard how wonderful my unit plan was. (Gee, that could be a good precedent to any attempt to get a job there! However I don’t think they are looking for anyone :-( )
Yesterday evening was highly productive despite the distraction of watching The Others (which was pretty good). I contemplated how I would put together the Statistical Investigation unit (which had already been written, I just need to adapt it and bring it to life). It seems to be fairly easy to manipulate.
Those two units will comprise about the 16 hours vegetarian “meat” of my practicum. So in other words, with the mastery of the bread and butter of maths and reading, the lettuce of P.E. and the tomato sauce of the nice lessons such as News and Reflection on the Week, I now have a far more appetising sandwich of a practicum.
Tomorrow I will strangely lose all responsibilities as three sets of circumstances prevent me from doing anything (hard to explain but never-de-mind) but then on Thursday, I do the whole day till 3pm, and also the Friday which I will have the nice reliever in to assist for some things (should I need it). I met the lad, or rather the spritely gent, who happens to be a former principal with experience handling the rascal with the wicked mood that also happen to be in my brood.
As so it was, that a Tuesday has brought me “back on the horse”.
Monday, October 18, 2004
A professionally unproductive weekend, a late-night work binge, a hasty application and then a morning bombshell have left me tired and rattled at it is only Monday.
I had a lot of tasks hanging over me over the weekend, which I thought I could do at various times. This did not happen as expected and there I was last night, typing for my life till midnight. Then came the expectedly unexpected shock to the system. I arrived to the staffroom at 7:30am after an early wake-up and commute over to Newmarket to find my associate teacher talking to the AP (associate principal) and she told me as I headed towards the toilets, "I have two pieces of good news for you". "OK..." I very warily replied, but she insisted I attend to my bladder first before she told me. Of course, I thought it was going to something far from good news, because there wasn't much that could make things better than the already above-average this practicum has been scoring... other than one particular student being found to be an alien, and had been seized by government scientists for study.
When I returned she said something to the effect of: "I'm going to the UK for two weeks this Thursday." A pin dropped loudly in the background. The reason was completely understandable. Her partner's father was literally on death's door knocking, and so hasty arrangements were quickly made. My practicum doesn't technically require her, but it makes the whole operation a whole lot more difficult.
But then again there are some positive points too if I wasn't so much on the backfoot. I can take extra control earlier and also establish things my way. But I don't feel like I will enter that phase on the front foot. I am behind in my grasp of some of the programmes. And I have received another unit to do on statistics.
Friday, October 15, 2004
I swam well today swimming two (almost) consecutive lengths of freestyle and then two (almost) consecutive lengths of backstroke. "Almost" in that I did have a brief recovery at the end of the pool, but didn't get out.
After that I felt tired, spaed (as in the past tense of "to spa") and then chose not to swim any further. I have had a different strategy to going to the swimming pool. Usually I try to use the time as productively as possible. E.g. Swim then rest till I could swim again, then rest and try to swim again. But that was mainly because I was paying $5 a visit so I wanted to maximise my utility. But on a card, that means I can visit more often and do as much as is appropriate to my energy levels and time. Regular activity always beats bingeing.
I will go again tomorrow morning.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
It has been a busy week adn I have hardly lifted a finger. This is a little bit embarrassing, because again I have a lot ahead of me to do. A plan of action is crystallising which is a relief to have before the weekend. It means I have concrete objectives to do on the weekend.
I have had some interaction with the only genuinely behaviourally challenged boys in our class. Once he burst into anger and stormed to another table, and another time I tried to guide him to more positive thoughts to complete a task.
This class is also very quiet and they also has nightly homework included a household chore! This is amazing...
Monday, October 11, 2004
Another anxiety nightmare, but this one ends in relief.
I had the same "Oh no! I will never get there in time" dreams as I commute to Newmarket Primary School. I went up Dominion Rd for what seemed like forever, and bumped into a friend. I looked at my watch, and was shocked to discover that it was almost impossible to get to the school on time on my first day. I was worried. But I walked further with my friend and then she exclaimed that she had a helicopter, which we got in, and flew to the school. But the school seemed to be rather crappy but when I talked to the receptionist, she said "no, you are at Newmarket Intermediate, over there." So I went there and it was a fabulous school. As I left Newmarket Primary School, I spoke Maaori to a man there (the second distinct dream memory of speaking a foreign language).
And then I woke early at 6:30am as planned. I, as usual on a first day, left plenty of time for buses to be late, and was conservative with all estimates of arrival times and got to the school on time at 8am. I found that two classmates were at the same school, which was pleasant, as well as another student teacher from my first practicum and a RTLB (specialist teacher) I met at my last practicum. Upon entering the class, I was almost struck dumb. I was paralysed with unfamiliarity. I had been so at ease in my previous practicum that it was a case of whip-lash not to know what to do, what to call everyone etc. But names came to me quickly, and soon I had handles and leavers for interaction and control.
In fact, I think I have absorbed the names of about 75% - 80% of the class. Probably the fastest case of name-memorisation at any practicum so far. This was done in only the first two sections of the day (up to 1pm) due to scheduling the class was disassembled and sent to other classes after then.
Now I am laden with Unit Plans, timetables and ideas. I will be teaching a whole science unit in my period of full control. This will hopefully be the jewel of my practicum, a whole designed, implemented and assessed unit. But then there is the foundation of a class, the background work on reading, writing and arithmetic that needs to be tamed too. Each running on their own different systems.
After 3pm, there was a staff meeting, then a meeting with my associate teacher, and then I "seized the month" and got a monthly student card for the swimming pool for $50. I swam there today but tired rather quickly (two lengths freestyle, one backstroke, one sculling). I will go there tomorrow, determined to make this practicum also an opportunitistically fit one.
Now I am tired and aware I will be having an earlier wake-up. My associate gets to school at 7am. I will try to get there at 7:30am tomorrow and if possible feasible, go one half-hour earlier. It means a 6am wake-up.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
This weekend marks the change in phases for me. It had my birthday party, the end of 10 Minutes performances, the end of content lectures and assignments. It marked the start of my final practicum, start of regular swimming, and start of the surge to get a job.
I am pleasantly optimistic although feel fatigue in my bones.
Friday, October 08, 2004
My final written assignment for this year is complete. No more essays. At all. From now till next I dabble in education. One more test to do. Science. In mid November. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. And now I am tired. I had a rather late bed-time and a poor quality night of sleep. But ah wheel. As long as I can use just short sentences. I will be fine.
My ongoing real-life assignment continues. I have sent out requests for application packs to lots of schools and will apply to a half a dozen more schools on Saturday.
Applying myself applying.
Lots of my classmates are watching the play tonight. Many of them asked, how did you do all your assignments AND write and act in a play. I still don't know the answer to that. I keep thinking how lazy I have been. But I am not going to say that.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
"According to the dictionary a tragedy is 'a dramatic or literary work depicting a protagonist engaged in a morally significant struggle ending in ruin or profound disappointment.' From the usual point of view life is a tragedy. Each of us is a protagonist playing our own leading role on our little stage. Each of us feels we are engaged in a morally significant struggle. And - though we don't want to admit this - that struggle will inevitably end in our ruin. Aside from any accident we might encounter in life, there's one 'accident' at the end that none of us can avoid. We're done for. From the moment of conception our life is on its way out. And from a personal point of view this is a tragedy. So we spend out life in a pointless battle to avoid that end. That misdirected battle is the real tragedy."
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Well, now I know the feeling of being behind the curtain on a play.
I know what goes into the changes in lighting, the different people co-ordinating behind the scenes.
And I know that being nervous about a rehearsal is almost laughable... Yet it is hard not to be.
A judge decides to fine a person for a particular crime.
Researchers cause the judge to confront their own mortality (i.e. make them think about what would happen if they died etc.).
Do you think this would cause the judge to think he or she fined that first person too much, too little or think that their decision was OK? Why?
Monday, October 04, 2004
I dreamt that I was pursued by several tornadoes. One was such a slim, narrow vortex that it sliced into my room. I ran, grabbing Xin and going down the road on a bicycle. Afterwards I thought my mum was be angry because I hadn't told her to get out of there... And that's all.
I finally applied for a teaching position... Oh, how I have been so anxious about doing so. Technically it should be something that I should be keenly doing, but for some reason I am procrastinating it. I also seem rather pessimistic about getting a job, even though it is my goal. now. Maybe some of my experiences teaching burnt my confidence a bit more than I want to acknowledge.
But the present is the best window for applying for jobs, so I must get down to it. Now that I have done one, another is easy and soon I will have my CV among the piles on the desks of many Principals.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
This blog is the result of a lot of thoughts: my post on typing my date of birth, my experience with Feldenkrais yesterday, my habitual mismemory, my mother worrying whether she hadn't locked the car etc.
I think most times when I forget things are because of some of the automation, or lack of automation of some habits. Most of the automation does not leave a great memory in our minds because their is no cognitive effot put into it (this I learnt in class). My mother did not weigh up her option whether to lock the car or not. She simply did what she always did. As a result, after walking away from the car, she had an eruption of uncertainty: Did I lock the car? For me, I recently CCed what I wanted to BCC, which caused me some annoyance at the time (you use BCC for a reason).
In some forms of meditation, it asks for total awareness, but my experience of learning about learning tells me that you cannot get that through meditation alone. You might be aware of the environment for the moment you are sitting (and hence relaxing all your internal mental processes) but soon as you talk, you will be back to habitual, automatic mental processes. I guess it depends on the purpose of the meditation (whether someone actually gives meditation a purpose).
For example, all speaking and writing requires you to construct your meaning into verbal form. Listening and reading requires many skills including constructing meaning. If I say: "What are you looking at?" the meaning received is built by you in your mind in response to the verbal stimulus by me. It takes effort. Most of this is automatic (although not necessarily done accurately).
Expressing my thoughts here as I am now works on several levels of automation. I am constructing ideas in English, most of which is not conscious. I am typing without reference to the keys I am pressing. In a way this is similar to speaking your first language, where you don't need to monitor where your tongue is, lips are and so on, you just say. Would you like to lose all automation of these processes and do them "manually?" Just stopping now. I seek the keys I press. But my eyes flick automatically to the right keys. And then I press the shift key without thinking either... Automation saves the burden on our minds. Can you communicate while having pure awareness?
Of course, you can do little experiments with yourself to test:
Can you consciously stop understanding what you are hearing? (impossible)
Can you stop yourself building your own meaning to words when you hear someone say something to you?
(interesting just then my mum said she'd have a shower, but without stopping typing or doing the above experiment I said: Yep! without thinking, automatically constructing it)
Can you consciously co-ordinate your speech without resorting to automation?
Is it possible to type without habit once you have developed habit? (or is it impossible)
In my cognitive psychology class (called Learning and Teaching) we are told that causing students to have automation of accurate/good processes should be what we should aim to do. That is our jobs as Teachers. Maybe once you are mature that is when you should deconstruct your processes to an extent and reconstruct them willfully. Or is that impossible?
Hmmmmmmmmmm... Maybe I should try and meditate again.. (I have been quite unsuccessful at the several times I have tried).
Friday, October 01, 2004
"I'm having school withdrawals! Grade me, tell me I'm so, so smart!" - Lisa Simpson
I will be thought-wandering.... bear with me.
Between the ongoing discussion of NCEA, own assessing of students and of course my assignments and action being assessed, thoughts about assessment are bound to arise. The principal of Newmarket Primary School (coincidentally my next practicum school) came in to talk about "reporting to parents" but mainly it was about what reports should be about. It was very interesting and inspired more than a few thoughts.
She mentioned that even though she knows grades are not at all useful, comments and constructive feedback, she still rushes to check her "grade" on her doctorate work. In fact doctorate work only has "pass" or "fail".
Grades or undue emphasis on grades or the tests that produce them remove the intrinsic motivation in learning. Focus goes from wonder and personal improvement to getting that score or that usual University student question - "Is that going to be in the test?"
I believe that grades have become a kind of psychological drug. Although I crave grades like the next junkie, I feel I am getting real medicine when I get genuine feedback. Real feedback with advice can guide me to be a happier teacher. Grades make me look sideways and compare. And perhaps rightly so for some, because grades are a big part of our culture. They are currency for getting many different kinds of jobs. But they are functionally useless. No sustenance whatsoever although they might shine your ego, or give it a gentle prick to test how durable your ego bubble is.
An interesting question is that if we move strongly towards qualitative assessment (NCEA, unit standards) over quantitative assessment (School C, bursary) will this result in a change in the learning culture of our culture. Going back to the three classes of goal motivation (from a previous post: Performance Approach, Performance Avoidance, and Mastery Approach), it could fundamentally change the nature of motivation. Qualitative assessment will be more closely aligned with the Mastery approach.
But what if you are a competitive person? Perhaps competitiveness is genetic? Robbed of your precious grading, you can no longer rely on an "objective" grade to distinguish you from the dross. Or will there still be competitiveness but over actual ability instead? In other words, a performance approach may still be just as applicable. As will performance avoidance.
Or maybe the grade-competitiveness is a product of the existing culture... so eliminate the constant grading and no longer will people look for a letter or a number to evaluate their entire being and focus on more intrinsic goals of self-improvement. Again, we are in an experimental situation with our country, which for me at least is quite refreshing.
One interesting example which arose in today's lecture where the children actually created the assessing system for an activity, and could grade themselves. e.g. The highest category was: Can do it without help and can teach others how to do it; second highest was: Can do it but needs help sometimes etc. The teacher also mentioned what criteria they would be looking for (as you should because you need to make sure all areas are covered).
With this the children know what is expected of them, can grade themselves and hence take control of the learning process, and not feel like control is outside of them. Fascinating!
Sometimes the effects of routine and muscle memory are very obvious. Handing two assignments in required me to write today's date on the fronts. But my hand didn't take into account the year. Writing 01/10/79 (which of course is my date of birth) is almost a signature kind of reflex. You just put your hand to the paper and you produce it. It took effort to write the correct date on other sheets of paper.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
(a review from a movie, seen with a free ticket, contains potential spoilers)
I carefully avoided all the hype and reviews from this movie in hope of seeing it without much of a clue. It is the fourth movie from M. Night Shyamalan, who also made The Sixth Sense and Signs. It is done in more or less the same style and atmosphere from Signs, cast with a sort of morbidly silent air that is broken by occasional dialogue.
Joaquin Phoenix, who also starred in Signs as Mel Gibson's brother (the baseball player), co-leads with the almost blind lady (Bryce Howard). They live in a 19th century town surrounded by a very forboding wood, forboding as in having rather terrifying creatures in it. But don't worry, apparently there is an "agreement" with the monsters lurking out there, that they stay out of the valley, and the villagers stay out of the forest. The forest that separates them from the rest of the world, so there is no contact or trade with the outside. Things get a bit angsty with the monsters when a few of the villagers cross the boundaries...
The secrets are of course the centre of the story, and the impending monster invasion is just the background. As with his previous movies, you need to find which "ball" you are meant to keep your eyes on, if you get are waiting for the monster-human showdown, then you might get disappointed.
Probably one of the big surprises for me is that I saw Adrien Brody's name in the opening credits and then at the end credits without realising what part he played! Then thinking back, well of course it was him, but he played very differently from usual (well completely different from The Pianist) and acquited himself well in his part. I look forward to seeing him in King Kong.
There are two incredulous ideas in the movie though, which mars it somewhat for me. If it is a plot-based folly, it should at least connect the dots in a realistic way. Old Boy connected the dots more convincingly for me. This didn't. It didn't carry itself as well Signs either, and lacked variety. But the whole concept was well-worth investigating. The usual kicker ending came as usual in M. Night's movies, which was much appreciated, and made the slightly overlong story sew itself nicely for a satisfying conclusion. In a way, it was a polemic about village society versus modern society. It also had strange significance for me, as I am doing a drama assignment on the Chinese story Peach Blossom Springs, which has strange connections with this movie.
Overall, on my usual rating system, I rate it a good movie. Nothing to rave about (and I have heard people rave about it) but still worth a watch.
Monday, September 27, 2004
Sometimes scientific principles and everyday experience collides in a new awareness. Tonight as I walked home I was thinking about the way we are moving hundreds of kilometres per second, yet accelerating to the centre of the earth, then suddenly I felt it in my feet. I was walking on the moon. A big moon. I could feel the sensation of rapidly floating to the ground with every step...
Friday, September 24, 2004
Thursday, September 23, 2004
In my eyes, there are three kinds of expression. Two are social, one is antisocial (neutral) or individualistic.
The first form of expression is that which is done to look the same or be similar to those around you. It is designed to not separate you from the rest, maybe bury you amongst the masses, so you can belong. On the dance floor, that would be being a member of the "circle," or saying what you think everyone is expecting you to say. Or falling into what other people want you to do.
The second form is expression motivated by the desire to be seen and admired, to be get attention. Even if this is viewed as disruptive, it is not antisocial because it is done to get the attention of those around. The person entering into the circle would be doing this form of expression. Showing off or dressing in the latest fashion can be this too. It is the source of most of the Idols and stars of our times.
The third and final form is that which comes from within, without regard for what other people think. The desire for truly personal art is this. It is probably also the source of many heinous crimes, as well as the greatest change agents of our time. It is the source of the whistleblowers, it is the source of the arsonists. It is the source of both creativity and depravity, freedom and wantonness.
I think any form of expression in life can be divided into these three forms. Can anyone think of something that escapes this trichotomy?
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
We had our first dance class today for our course. Interestingly everyone loved it! Our lecturer started with a nice spiel and then we got down to moving about. It had a nice variety of creativity, active play and co-operation.
At first, it was hardly dance. But then that is the case with many activities. You start off with the basics. First, we had two seconds to find a "safe" place to move. That means a place where you won't run into anyone. Then she would say "walk" "jump" "run" etc. And we have to move around then she would say "freeze" and change the action. This was all to see how capable they are of moving together, avoiding each other.
Then we got in a circle, the teacher numbered us 1 to 7. We had to cross the circle in one of three modes, "High" "Middle" or "Low" referring to whether you should walk tall (which is "high"), walk crouching or be on all-fours (which is "middle"), or "low" which means to slither or be on the ground. The other rules were that we couldn't repeat any action and you mustn't do the same mode twice in a row. So the teacher would say "3" and all the threes would cross the circle any way they want. She'd say the numbers really quickly so it seemed like everyone was crossing at a busy intersection.
Then we did our own choreographing. But that is too hard to describe. It was so fun~
Monday, September 20, 2004
Suddenly, despite tiredness, I am full with academic fervour. I got an unsavoury C today in a handed back assignment. I didn’t like it much but there were more justified declarations of grievances from my classmates who could say they were short changed. There were Cs all over the place. I think my C was deserved and possibly the lowest she could go without failing me.
This is not a good state of affairs but my enjoyment of doing the assignment I did last night is clear. I also am looking forward to the silly test tomorrow (the timing of which flies in the face of what we are taught in this very teaching course!).
I woke up this morning to my room well-lit by the rising morning sun glowing through my curtains. This was not a good thing as I had intended to sleep in after a night of assignment construction. The days just before the October daylight savings change are the worst. You get woken up earlier and earlier by the sun, and once you adjust, in comes daylight savings to put paid to all that adjustment.
Anyway, my sleep-in, which I wish could have been longer, should have been much longer. All the diploma students crammed into the lecture room, exchanging stories of 3-foot horrors, disdainful associate teachers, cute little kids and post-practicum postmortums. These conversations went well past 9am as no lecturer had come in. It is a sad day in a course when students are now use to lecturers performing a no-show. Especially on the day of an assignment...
So our first real lecture started at 1pm, and laughably had two lecturers arrive to lecture. One, the one that should have taught this morning, quickly gave way to the person who was scheduled to teach, and beat a hasty retreat. So we learnt about the history of astronomy and physics. Fascinating stuff!
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Aphids have taken over one of my basil plants and were in the process of springboarding onto my recovering little basil plant. So, I showed what a brutal biological dictator I was, taking to them, picking them off, squishing them, men, women and children with no discrimination. They are pretty dumb but camouflaged (well not the winged ones but most of them). They are dug in and entrenched on their first conquest so this will take some patience. If anyone spots a ladybird around the garden, bottle it and bring them here. Apparently they can serve as my secret police preying on those sticky rebels, bent on creating an aphidine paradise.
Friday, September 17, 2004
Probably my favourite set of ads would have to be the SKY ads with the two rugby and movie addicted mates who do anything they can to enjoy SKY TV without having it themselves. Or suffering the detriment of not having SKY. They are improving I think. The last two with a satire of Italian gangsters and then the hysterical Gorilla documentary one are the works of a genius mind.
My favourite mag The Listener commented:
"And what is Sky Television's popular campaign featuring two stooges who just want to watch television but an epic of contemportary masculinity under siege. A contract is put out on them by real hard men. The reliable male wish-fulfilment fantasy of the sex-starved worman goes awry as they're chased by transvestites - "Look at the size of you!" Even more alarmingly, the big guy (significantly, it's always the big guy) gets harassed - "Awwwwwwww ...... Ewwwwwwwww!" - by an amorous female gorilla. It could all be seen as quite misogynistic if it wasn't so funny."
My least favourite ads are the "I saved hundreds"/"I saved thousands" ads. I just hate the sense made by them. The hypothetical characters in them are portraying the idiocy of the modern buyers. YOU AREN'T SAVING IDIOTS! I just wanted to yell at the screen.
Apart from the sickness and stress, teaching throws a few other unexpected curve balls to an aspiring teacher. Today I pulled out a chair and sat down, but regrettably a child had put their glitter pen drawn picture there to dry. Feeling the cool moisture of the gluey glitter mixture seep through the fabric of my pants I got up, and it was still stuck to my backside... After removing the picture and most of the glitter, still a lot remained. Only a few children noticed though (or at least told me about it)
Cruel and Usual frustrations.
Although I appeared for a brief period on The World's Most Hugged Person chart, today has been a rather meaningless day and I feel a sense of unease. I have finished my practicum, but it is becoming more apparent that I haven't got enough information for my assignments. Ah well. Now I again will have to do some stretching of truth and proof.
Another big weekend due for assignments coming.
Late last night while briefly wanting to check the internet accidentally pressed the backslash key as I pressed enter to connect. This wiped the "saved" password and re-"saved" a backslash as my password, which naturally was not the real password... Fortunately these things can be fixed although I think the system for resetting passwords is not very taxing for the would-be connection thief.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
I don't know if anyone else gets "enlightenment"-grade feelings from the most mundane of thoughts and observations. One that recurs in my life is the simple thought that at any one moment a billion things are happening. A million thoughts are thought by a million people. Just because one's brain cannot even remotely capture these things or understand their simultaneous ramifications, they still happen.
In the same way, things that change inperceptibly also cause those enlightened moments. Just before, a picture that had been stuck to my wall fell off. It had been held there by bluetak for weeks. But obviously, day-after-day, the stickiness to the wall or to the back of the picture gave a little, perhaps the paint on the wall loosened and then only now it came of. Just like the build up of an earthquake along a fault-line.
The imperceptible change illusion use to be part of my wishes. You would get a new pot of runny honey and take some of the top, it smooths out, and it appears nothing has left it. So perhaps I have the bottomless cup... But no matter whether it was a box of popcorn or a bar of soap, even if it appears to get no smaller, it is smaller.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
An easy last week is what I would like but the truth is I will be busy but not driving-myself-bonkers busy, maybe a moderately bonkers state. I am still cobbling together what is needed for this last burst.
This weekend has been a nice catharsis. Singing and dancing around the house to music, drinking mugs and mugs of teas. My body acknowledged that it is well and truly springtime. I have the urge to run about like a rabbit, sleep in the raw, go walkabout and climb mountains. Only some of these are possible now, but give me time and all will be done.
I made my second celebratory card this weekend, combining my mothers idea, two sheets of A4 and some paint to make a cutely demeaning birthday card for my abroad sister. And I finally watched GATTACA which was an interesting tale.
One thing I have taken to doing more often on Sunday morning is watching Tele-evangelists. I have no interest in becoming Christian, but I have a great interest in theology, the philosophical work required to make Christianity work in the eyes of the believers. I am also interested in the techniques that evangelists use to persuade and compel.
This morning I watched one called Questions of Life, which I had watched previously, that frames questions about God and Christianity and then seeks to answer them. Today the question was: How can God allow evil and suffering in the world?
There were many interesting points. Some of them were elegant proofs, while he occasionally used straw-men to disprove other views. This is where you state the oppositions opinions erroneously or incompletel and then blow it away. It works because you can be a little loose with how you make the straw-man so that it is easy to blow down. Opponents are not around to correct the error, or if in a debate situation, sometimes cannot find where the description provided was flawed and have to concede.
He only referred to the Bible twice in thirty minutes. Although this in good for the non-believer's understanding, I realised that perhaps this was not proper. He was addressing a Christian audience so there was nothing to fear. Many of the things he said, as logically necessary as they might be, may not be in the Bible. That meant they were not to be taken as "gospel," it was just his opinions. This was just a passing thought though, I might ask a Christian what they make of such a comment.
Probably one of the best parts of listening for me is just appreciation of a great speaker. Our world is deficit in compelling speakers I feel. I remember while reading A Penguin Book of New Zealand History that it often referred to politicians as wonderfully eloquent. Modern politicians are pretty drab, Winston Peters and Peter Dunn withstanding. Activists are similar. So many causes lack a clear and compelling voice.
The pastor on the programme, Jeff Vines, strung storeys together and punctuated his sentences with emotion. It was great. Perhaps preaching is the last bastion of persuasive talk that people will be subjected to.
Saturday, September 11, 2004
A few weeks ago, I heard one of the weirdest songs I know on Chinese radio while I was having a shower. What was odder was that it was not a Chinese song, and it was in my CD collection, the strangely named: Kid A.
The song done by Radiohead was a mix of a incoherent computer voice, with a background childhood music box playing in the background in amongst synthesizers. It is a weird song that works well, almost mocking the need for lyrics and then mocking the need to have "proper" instruments.
For me, it is interesting that someone on a radio station would notice such a song. I had never heard it on other radio stations (in fact, the album also called Kid A was released deliberately without singles). The host to the radio show explained her views on the band saying they are completely without limits and that is what made it good. It is nice to have my stereotypes challenged.
Recently, I also bought another Bjork CD, a rather challenging listen called Medulla. Some of the songs leave the strangeness of Kid A in its dust. Some to there detriment, others to their advantage. Just then, I heard a review of it on National Radio. The little riffs that they played were wonderful and made me want to hear the whole CD again.
It is strange the feelings you get when you hear songs on your own CDs on the radio.
Friday, September 10, 2004
With the other side of the tunnel reached, today was gently therapeutic. My associate took back over the class showing how easy, and relaxed she makes it look. A lion tamer she is. Or a snake charmer. I still had my role, taking the class through maths.
One thing that counts against me is a sensitivity for control over the whole class (I am a control-freak). I find it hard to proceed when there are distractions; either for members of my class or for me. That means that I tend to stop to suppress it, making the time I am in control rather uneven and negative.
Watching my associate with the clinical eyes of someone who has just been teaching a week, I notice that she suppresses it without too much stoppage. She keeps the momentum. She doesn't just sit waiting, she is always occupied keeping the focus on her or the matter at hand.
We have negotiated what will be done over the next week so I can do what I need to do and also keep trying to improve my practice.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
As repetitive as it must sound, I am exhausted. Well, Thursdays always seem exhausting. This one signifies the end to my compulsory full control. That is quite welcome regretably. Today has been a mixture of passable and disastrous (more the latter when the Uni lecturer observed, regrettably). By 3pm I felt wrung out mentally. I have never felt sicker this week. I hope Friday passes smoothly and I can go home to crumple in a heap.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Today was another passable day, having its own ups and downs.
After coming home, my cough started heading towards hurricane strength.
Tomorrow will bring another formal observation by my University lecturer at a rather inopportune time, 2:40pm to 3pm. Not only is that time-slot awkward (it will usually just be the tidy up and dismissal), but tomorrow my associate is going to be away and there will be no cover for her (this I found out at 5:30pm today). So classes will be merged for P.E. outside... for the whole afternoon. After discussion with my teacher and a practicum facilitator at the school, the plan is to do an athletics lesson (Long Jump) when my lecturer arrives. I have taught one extemporaneous athletics lesson in the past, and now I will have to create all the paper work for teaching it.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
With my voice even worse, I lasted another day with even less energy expended on classroom management. It seems my current set of techniques have become well-suited to the class just at the right time, so that my lack of voice has not been a big factor.
I miscalculated my after school time though. I usually start preparation at about 8pm. So I thought there would be no harm going out for dinner with Xin, coming back at 8pm to start. But dinner was a lot more than I thought and I went a little overboard. Upon coming home, things started well, but then soon as I sat to watch Child of our Time, I suddenly felt drowsy. My meal was sending me to slumber. I have revived myself enough to do the necessary but that is all that will be happening tonight.