Sunday, October 31, 2004

What a pain!

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

I'm not Thursday's Child

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

Slight Return

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

Monday Intrepidity merging to Tuesday Assurance

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

A chain of links somehow relating Maslow to the present

Click on "schlemiels" to go on a funny chain of links.

Abraham Maslow quotes

“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

Sculpted words. Prose hacked. The spaces make the form.


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.

Ah well.

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

The New World Symphony

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

Day One

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

The penultimate phase of 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

On completion and.... ACTION

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

It is always nice to solve a problem in a brilliant way killing two birds with one stone, and potentially saving 10% of your mark on one assignment and saving about an hours work.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Tragedy (taken from "Everyday Zen" by Charlotte Joko Beck)

"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

Behind the Curtain

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.
Psychological Question

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


Blogger can be so annoying...
My last dream~

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

Thoughts on Automation -> Pure Awareness

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).
That is where Feldenkrais comes in. It calls for total awareness of your bodies actions, breaking down each of those actions you do regularly, simply turning to the right for example, and breaking it down into what your eyes are doing, your shoulders, your waist, your shoulder blades, where is your centre of gravity etc. That is probably as close to awareness you can get for a single action. But that is with the physical body... The mind seems more difficult to break down into steps.

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

AA = Assessment Addiction

"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.