Monday, June 28, 2004

Anyway the wind blows.


Sick with a cold again. Twice in a month. Thrice in three months. And three
months since I had a blood test which indicated a lowering in the number of
one kind of white blood cells (neutrophil)...

I am due for another blood test but I can't help but wonder whether that my
recent run of illness is a good predictor of my result in that blood test. I
might be off to the haemotologist, and earning a puncture in a
marrow-bearing bone. This is what would have last time if the doctor I saw
didn't mention that the decrease could have been explained by the cyclical
nature of the body.

Anyway, tomorrow the test shall be. And in three days, a result should come.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004



When do you start to feel like an adult?
What does it mean to be an adult?
Do you actually know?
Or is it just something you realise?
Or are we always the same inside, the same as the
child that skinned its knee on concrete at primary
school all those years ago?

I don't know. I don't feel like an adult at times,
especially when I am in a new context. And when I
become more familiar to a context, everyone else just
seems like a "non-adult" like me. A knowledgeable
experienced child. But not as dynamic as a child.

This is more apparent to me being around children.
Although I can patently see that they are cognitively
very different to present-day me, I still feel the
same as them at times.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Two steps forward, One step back

Oh, the vicissitudes of personal progress. Oh, how I remember consoling ESOL students with the nature of learning. I use to draw it on the whiteboard, graphically, the curve of ability over time, going rocketing up and then plateauing, maybe even inexplicably receding a little, before climbing once more to all new heights.

Students didn't get much relief from their frustrations of course. I think they recognised it as my scientific, complicatedly logical ploy to make them feel better when they failed to reach their own expectations.

Well, the tables have for have a year been turning and turning as I have become teacher and student, learning as I taught and teaching as I learnt. And with time, my frustration has grown. Today was when this was clearest to myself. I made several breakthroughs but at the same time tripped on unexpected hurdles, which have worn me thin.

With now just three days left in my practicum and almost all of my required teaching done, hitting hurdles is mentally taxing not because they are hurdles but because my brain recognises that the necessity to act is no longer there, and to do something requires a bigger push. But today, on several occasions, I reverted back to the most elementary, thoughtless kind of classroom management. And I was too tired to really care.

I could skeptically look at the graph, hoping to see it as a fallacy, in order to sustain my disappointment. But I know it is right, and that is my respite.

I DID make some breakthroughs. Three days to go, I could make this into something that I can really build in on my next placement. I can say that, but will I do it...

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Mental Stamina

I have survived the first three, rather busy, days of this week without much tiredness at all. Today, I took so many different roles in the class because of several incidental occurrences. I think I was in charge for 80% of the day. And still I feel fine...

Touch wood.

Two more days to go in this week, shouldn't count 'em chickens to early, no?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

5:00pm Oh, dear.

Mentions of teaching stamina seem so distant in the past. I am feeling flat as cat, stuck to a railway track. At about 12pm, my will crumbled and I was left just lurching around the classroom clueless. Fortunately, I wasn't alone and the class was not chaotic. After the lunch break I did a lesson which idea-wise was superb. The management-side of things was slightly lacking in forethought but another good class. Exhausting though. Most of my tiredness came from the late night that formulated that and other classes, so what goes around comes around.

The reliever had his last day today, back with my original supervising teacher from tomorrow. The reliever seems indefatigable. He controls the class, writes down copious notes for me and does so at a higher speed than most others. After class yesterday I commented that he should have a good rest now that the class is over. But no, he was off to tutor two Korean girls English for another 2 hours.

That is the sort of endurance I would love to have.

Now, I need to balance some time to recuperate, with some time to plan and some time to not do anything but go straight to bed.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

My current reliever is a great teacher, despite the fact that he has broken the law, asked me to break common teaching practice, and touches children in ways that would not be approved by lecturers at Auckland Uni (not "BAD" touching).

To say why he is great, he has not growled at anyone, he has contained the class, the class listen to him and enjoy him as a teacher (it makes me look bad, but it is great to watch, a child said to me yesterday "We want Mr Newman to read us a book". Sigh).

He is much better than my supervising teacher at giving feedback. He gave me copious observations about my teaching, all written up and explained after the lesson In two weeks, my supervising teacher only gave it to me once. Although both of their notes are similiarly coated in niceties not to hurt my confidence (I have to try hard to translate what I need to do!).

But this teacher tickles the children under their chins, which is technically not proper, he went through a boy's bag, which is a legal no-no, and he asked me to remain and teach a boy one on one in the class, which is a position that is not permitted.

Today had its share of highs and lows. One of my lessons was so difficult. Another went better beyond my wildest expectations! I returned energy sapped. Then the power went out, and I spent 2 hours without the necessities like hot tea. And then when I decided to take a nap, the power came on.

Now, after desperately thinking up more material for tomorrow, I neeeeed sleep. Oh dear.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Another important consideration for teaching is that of mental stamina. I think we all know that when you have a double lecture, or even a whole lecture straight, you can become pretty jaded.

Well, mental stamina is something that can be built up. Young children have next to no mental stamina and expecting them to sit attentively for more than 10-15 minutes is ridiculuous.

Now I know some of my lesson plans are ridiculuous.

Another reliever in today. My supervising teacher is going to be away for 3 days at a tangi (funeral). Soon, I will have seen more reliever lessons than her lessons. Typically she has set nothing much up. Fortunately we had a discussion about what things I can do this week on Friday last week. So I am set and planned.

Making lessons sometimes takes inspiration. It took me so long to think of anything decent for The Three Little Pigs. When I did think of a good order, then things ploughed through to a whole plan for the week. But it is not a brilliant idea, just a normal idea that you would expect. This sort of planning shouldn't be rocket science so hopefully in the future when I have a bit more experience I can produce a set of lessons (a unit), quickly without agonising over it. I had lesson one, and it went mostly according to plan. I am happy.

Talking of mental stamina, teaching stamina is another thing. After my first two weeks being exhausting, the comparatively intensive day today has not dented my energy levels much. Then again it is only the first day of the school week. I might be a mess by Friday 3pm.

Time to get my Wednesday together so I can enjoy a night out at the pub quiz.

Thursday, June 03, 2004


I think the class which I am doing my practicum has been described recently as "off the wall", many of the members responsible for what one teacher described as "the two worst duties in my life" (duty being when a teacher walks around children playing during morning tea and lunch breaks). Today, the reason was five of the boys in my class being involved in an all tit-for-tat punching war (out of the six involved).

Earlier in the morning, one of the "trouble" kids was particularly agitating but when told off, he started to cry. This my supervising teacher noticed as unusual for him, and asked him what really was up with him. After much persistence she found that his mother had hit him in the head that morning.

There seems to have been an escalation of these sorts of disruption since I arrived (although I can't see how I have had anything to do with it). These are only 5 year olds. Born in 1998. And the teacher, I don't see as having many productive techniques to restore order. But is it possible to do so anyway? Some of it seems so affected by external factors.

How do you regain control? Or don't you, just doing the best you can under the circumstances.

Next week, I do take a more administrative role over the class, and will be formally required to do some lessons. I will be thinking about this hard.

This two quotes, passed onto us by our lecturer John Hope, give me courage:

"The Myth of the Good Teacher"
"This is the teacher who doesn't have behaviour problems, who is always in control, who never calls anyone for help.
"The myth is nonsense. No teacher, no matter how skilled he is or how much experience she has, is capable of working successfully with each and every student without support. This myth is especially damaging today because of the increase in the students whose behaviour is so disruptive that a teacher must have help from the principal, the parent(s), and if possible, a counsellor, in order to deal effectively with unacceptable behaviour." Canter 1992

In other words, I really should let these current experiences pour some cold water on my idealistic expectations for myself. I will be hit with the worst case of disappointment if I let my expecations define an impossible goal. Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. And this one:

"The Frightening Conclusion"
"I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As as teacher I possess trememdous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, a child humanised or de-humanised" Ginott 1972

A balance to the previous quote, because we must always remember we are the strongest agent in the classroom. We define so many of the factors. To always point to external factors (mums hitting children etc.) is to look for scapegoats and evade your own place of responsibility.

Anyway, to bed I go, to save my energy for the last day of the week.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I had a sicky on Monday due to sickness, but soldiered through a busy Tuesday. More about that later.

While killing time prior to the pub quiz, I went to Borders where I found an interesting set of philosophical books. One of them, "Life, Sex and Ideas" by A. C. Grayling, had the following quote, explaining why people think mores of previous times were morally superior to today (and the hysteria in relation to new moral dilemmas):

"But a more important reason is that moral panics occur because the increased availability of information about what happens in society is not matched by a public capacity to reflect upon and make sense of it."

I think this is so pertinent. Things like the attempted change on laws regarding legal consensual sex caused an uproar here. Maybe this is why.

The author goes onto say, for whatever advances we have made in media technology, it has not been matched to any degree with an ability to understand the significance of the moral dilemmas that occur these days. We are still rather prehistoric in that regard.

Sleep time for me.