Special Watch

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Fancy a game of Monopoly?

Hi hi,
What an easy day! Just 1 Geog tutorial playing a game and that's it. :) Hee. Teachers need to have some fun too! The timing is great because everyone is bogged down by assignments in the last lap of this semester. And this is one of those rare occasions we get to experience something before we get to deliver it in class (if we ever have the chance to do so). And ah, we see another side of our tutorial mates. :) These teachers are not cut out for the money making world!

At our end
Our group started to gather forces because we were the very small land owners, with the majority of us having 1 ha per farmer. So pathetic, hor? We wanted to form a monopoly with the rest of the farmers but the snobbish big land owners refused to buy that. This is so real! :) They saw the small landowners as parasites. But then a monopoly would mean we have more power over the urbanites since we have what they need while whatever they have, we can choose not to need. Of course the game would be up if this happened and that won't be useful. It was a good thing they did that.

The wisest move our farmers' union made was to get immunisation from taxes, because that was exactly what was killing us off. We were pretty rich at first, but those suckers ... hee, pls pardon my language. I suppose the other union didn't think of this?

And the babies! Arghh... What a burden they were! But I think this is one of the most realistic component of this game. We have population issues, development issues and food issues all rolled in one. If only infanticide is allowed ... hee... sorry... just kidding.

The traders and the G.O. were working very hard. The thing was, we were so paranoid after KF sold us the first warehouse at 100 bucks. So, we bargained for lots of stuff from him but kept putting off the deal and the payment. That must have cost him his losses. And we have our very good negotiator with us - Lily! :)

And oh, the sight of banker YP carrying the entire money bag with her was so funny. [Got a pict of her with her money bag.] She was asking to be robbed, I think. Just that it was not how the game should be played.

Ok, tat's all for the report from our side. It would be fun to hear what went on over the other side of the wall. :) And of course knowing the inital prices of all the stuff from the industrialists. We would probably be cursing after that. :)

Some very raw thoughts
I am very amazed that such a complicated game can be played by secondary school students. The instructions are already so complicated. I think the way this particular game was done is more suitable for JC level. Politics, economics, psychology etc are all involved. So cheem! Or are we the ones making it cheem? Sometimes, children can really achieve more than what we think them capable. Not too sure if it does apply here, though.

And I am going to log down some very raw thoughts on this game which needs further reflecting upon later this year (no time now lah). These are some ideas that floated into my brain haphazardly and are therefore very disorganized. I apologize if I sound too critical on the game we have just played. But without playing that game, these other inspirations would not have come into my life.

I was thinking that maybe some alterations here and there to simplify it would probably make it better for secondary school students taking Geog. For example, we can just focus on the agri realm, giving each farmer bigger lands, some with quite a lot more money and some with less. Then they can have children. Then comes land fragmentation. Then comes Green Revolution. Then we can see how the smaller farmers get themselves on a downward spiral and slowly get displaced, while those richer farmers have everything to gain from it. If need be, add in devious landowners from whom some farmers rent their land. Then a small agri bank for farmers to take a loan to buy stuff to improve their yields. Then give farmers the ability to buy the land from the landowners.

I really would not want to make it so obvious that doom is awaiting the small landowners right at the beginning. Although I do understand the rationale behind skewing the game against farmers, must doom be the only fate for them so as to get our students to learn? It is so depressing, I think. Would not encouraging them to put up a fight for their own improvement be better? And if winners must be found, assess them based on the value added of all they finally have from what they originally start off with.

Ah, will catch up on this again a few weeks down the road. Any programmers out there who wants to develop the original game into a strategy pc game where players can choose their own roles? I will be the first buyer. Games like Lemonade Tycoon, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Civilisation, even Sim City are cool! Now, maybe Rice Tycoon? :)


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Nightmare of having field trips

Hi hi,
We had a wonderful field-trip micro-teaching by Jenny, although it must have been a traumatic experience for her. She is so so brave to volunteer for this one and only field-trip micro-teaching, not to mention the extra time and effort she has to put in to plan for this lesson, much more than any of us with the normal micro-teaching. And I thought that it was really well-done, in terms of the activities she has planned and the way she structured both the handout (scaffolding) and the materials (jigsaw and all), and the way she conducted the entire lesson (the pre-, the during, and the post-). Well done, Jenny girl!

Perhaps because this is our only field-trip micro-teaching, lots of creative misbehaviour (snail on white board) turned up. I don't think a real field-trip will see all of them in one go. This is of course good for our learning. But, poor Jenny has to be the one to sacrifice for all our learning. Got to say a big thank you to her.

Because some of us have not experienced planning and conducting any actual field trip either in our school experience or NIE (except the Historians), Jenny's micro-teaching surfaced lots of useful tips and learning points for the ignorant ones amongst us, me, for instance. Will try to list as many as I can remember here. So, this post is really long. But I would have lost some stuff that was in my brain by now, due to my incapacity at retaining info without writing them down earlier. Sigh....

The activities

First, she broke up the students into groups, giving each of them a piece of jig-saw puzzle each, to fit, so that they know where they have to proceed to. This is truly a good idea! Students will find it interesting and there will be a healthy competition amongst groups to see who can get to their station faster, just like a treasure hunt. :) [Our group tried to make things difficult for Jenny, pretending not to know how to fit everything together. And the already very traumatised tcher could not help either. Poor Jenny.]

The 4 stations were chosen with care and much thought, despite the constraints of the campus. I really like the stairs and the relief factor going hand in hand. And assigning groups to different station is a very good idea. It won't do to be examining only 1 spot, with 40 students pushing here and there to try and see what the teacher was talking about. The only concern I have is that the students were too far apart for just 1 poor teacher jaga effectively.

But I would not say the same for our group. Behind the jigsaw puzzle were our assigned topics to examine at our station. Frankly speaking, our group was so so lost as to what we should be doing and how to relate what is available at our station to what were assigned to us. Jenny could have given clearer instructions at the onset but even after she has given us the instructions, we were still quite lost. Some of us thought that she wanted us to examine the factor or the type of weathering she wrote at the back of the jigsaw piece according to the corresponding picture on the picture side. Ie, we were looking at portions of the tree according to the individual pieces of jigsaw. Were we the only group having this prob?

Even after things started to make sense, we still have problems linking what can be seen at our station to what was assigned to us. This is partly because we do not have our content [which should not be the case as actual students] with us, and partly due to the lack of good spots near our tutorial room to examine some of the weathering processes. And also the impossibility of getting students to spot certain types of weathering processes. How to get students to spot and examine hydrolysis, for example, in the field? So, we ended up regurgitating what is in the text book. Perhaps, narrowing down to fewer weathering processes that were more obvious would help. But then this may create the misconception in students that those weren't seen do not occur. Teachers got to ensure no such misconception occurs.

Then, she got the groups to present what they have at their own stations. The rest were to take down notes as others present their points. Another bigger jigsaw is at work here, where students shared what they had and learnt from others what they didn't. And the handout was really helpful for this. Cool!

And finally, the debriefing back in class. [sorry, cannot rem much except the rock profile diagram and homework]. But the tcher built on what students should be extremely familiar by that time, and went on to introduce the more difficult rock profile diagram. This is really well-done.

Good practices

Recapped what was learnt in previous lesson and informed students to tap on the content that was learnt then, to the field-trip activities.

Informed students what is going to happen during the field trip (will be broken into groups). Students will know what to expect later on.

Setting golden rules. I love the one she said about listening when someone else is talking and that the outdoor is not a classroom confined by walls, and hence it is less easy to hear what the speaker is saying. She also listed rules like getting students to inform teacher should they need to leave the group for the toilets.

Choosing trustworthy students as leaders to help her manage the class. Wise move for an actual situation.

The use of a little white board to help out those, whose learning styles incline towards the visual, is a wonderful idea. What a thoughtful teacher.

When students were presenting, she asked repeatedly if others can hear the presenter. And if she knew that some weren't paying attention, she made them repeat what the presenter has just said.

She also went from station to station to check on their students. Although the fainting Mas took her attention away from another group.

Things that can be done better

When students were walking from the class to the field, she could have assigned responsible students to help her to check on the students behind. She could have picked councillors/prefects or monitor etc to help.

Should not leave her items out of sight. It gives the class ample time to do silly things like hiding the markers, putting a snail on the white board, and finishing the choco bar that tcher has confiscated. Maybe carrying a bag or paperbag will be useful.

Okie, this is way too long.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Last chance to abuse tcher

Hi hi,
Today was Janice's turn to micro-teach. The silence was a little unnerving at first. Little did I know that it was the calm before the storm!

I really love all the flash stuff. I will go pick it up this hols! I must. Quite useful in customizing what we need in class, especially when we are dealing with processes. Those used by Janice were really nice. Although some minor changes here and there as mentioned in class today will be just perfect.

The structure of handout did not allow space for capturing the formation of the 3 types of rocks. So, just a space dedicated to this would be great. Because she specifically asked us to take those down.

The rock cycle diagram, I think, is too cheem already for Sec 1s. Especially when she was not pointing specifically to the components and arrows she was referring to. But if students are the adcanced type, can start with a simpler diagram, get them to understand the cycle, and then move on to the cheem one.

She had a feedback form. Hmm... something new and commendable. But personally, I won't use it after every lesson. Once in a while is ok. If not it becomes too tedious.

Okie, then all the nonsense that occurred in class, in no particular order: Chris, the crying autistic (ultra-dramatic :P) child who ran out of the class; Lly and Daffy, the new residents of the class's walk-in cabinet, and the hide-and-seek with tcher. Poor tcher! It reminds me of bollywood movies. :P Ok, back to my thoughts. I felt that she should have shown more concern on the autistic child and be really stern with the inmates of the walk-in cabinet. And a learning point, never ever lose sight of your students, even when peeping into the cabinet. And of course being more alert to the pupils in class would be better. She will have to work on this because a real class is bigger. And when new to the class, it will be very very hard if students knew that they can get away with hiding during class.

Oh Chin Huat Hydroponics
Some picts of the farm and useful signs around the farm.
The farm may not be really as clean and neat and tidy like the aerogreen tech one. But we learnt more than we thought we would. They have a row of aeroponics grown veg as well, and the guide opened the styrofoam to show us the misting underneath. Aerogreen didn't do that so we cannot see the aeroponics process up close. They have a show piece at the entrance though. And a corporate video which Oh did not have. They obviously have lots of experience with important people, like ministers both local and foreign, since it is the pride of Singapore.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Vegetables for makan, animals for cuddles, mangrove for sinking in

Hi hi,
What a long and eventful day today! The 7 of us (SJ, LY, WH, CY, Jo, Janinah and myself) started our day so so early, to embark on our little farm tour of Singapore.

We started with Oh Chin Huat Hydroponics Farm (http://www.ohfarms.com.sg/). The lady I spoke to kindly agreed to hold a tour for us even though there were only 7 of us. And our very nice and well-informed young guide (Libing), brought us to almost all parts of the farm, shared all that she knew in a really forthcoming manner, and generously showed us everything to quench our untiring curiousity.
[This is one of the 'baby' vege from the nursery.]

While sharing with us info on the farm, she would also pluck off spices and Japanese cucumbers (it was so yummy because it was so fresh) for us to try. Wow! This is the freshest any vege can get! They ended in our mouths the moment they were plucked. :)

Also, the entire hydroponics process was shown to us, from the mixing of minerals for the veg, right up to the cold room where we could choose the vegetables we can bring home. :) And of course cameras clicked non-stop and fingers scribbled non-stop. What dilligent students we were. :D

Ah, the cold room. This was where I got a new nick - Polar bear! Because I have a natural layer of blubber such that I am not afraid of cold, even at 4 to 6 degrees C. :P And this Polar had to get herself into some mischief towards the end of the day.

We then moved on the Aero-green tech aeroponics farm (http://aerogreentech.com.sg/). Things were a bit more disappointing because we had to tag onto another group, since the farm refused to conduct a tour with just 7 people. And the tour was not as detailed as that of Oh's farm. Plus, a coming storm shortened the whole tour of the premises. But we saw lots of herbs and other edible 'stuff' here, like the passionfruit and the snake gourd (what's that - hee, I'm not telling). Hmm.... And the lettuce cum fruit extract that comes with the $3.50 we have to pay, was pretty good, if one can conquer the initial shock at the strong taste of chlorophyll.

Then came the storm. We sought refuge at the gallery of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. To wait out the rain, we went back to civilization (Lot 1) for lunch. Thereafter, a short ride on the most kampongy road in the whole of Singapore led us to a small tropical fish farm where mollies are bred for export, after much confusion over the address. The shy but generous uncle gave us a whole pack of mollies, depsite CY's chants of "Uncle, enough already." But, got to say sorry for dirtying LY's car and for causing Janinah some discomfort with the number of pariah dogs found there. Sorry, sorry.

Next in line was a short stop at an orchid nursery run by my uncle. I hope my tutorial mates have gotten use to my having to go round greeting everyone there and my obsession with hands washing there. Orchids are not vege. There are lots of pesticides and other chemicals on them.

Finally, we ended the farm tour with a visit to Farm Mart. The highlight of the place was the little animal corner. Bunnies, goats, frogs, guinea pigs, turtles etc... None of us could resist cuddling the cute rabbits and laughing at the little cute noises made by the guinea pigs. And the kind-hearted CY got us started feeding the various animals. :) Boy, are they hungry. Poor things!

And see just how adorable they simply are. Who can resist them? And it is simply great that we have a bunch of animal-lovers together today. :D

The farm tour ended here but Jo and I went on to Pasir Ris to check out the mangrove swamp there. Sad to say, but the mangrove swamp is not in a good condition. Rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish everywhere. There are some reafforestation efforts going on. But the mangrove swamp is still obviously going downhill. This is so depressing! Jo and I were cursing mankind while we strolled along the boardwalks. Arghhh! I really do not think that the mangrove swamp here will last another 5 years. Sob sob...

After that, we went to the beach area to check out what the coast can offer. The tide was extremely low and we could walk a little further out. Herons and egrets were on their rounds, making full use of the low tide to feed their hungry little stomachs. I was so engrossed watching them that I walked right into the muddy area and started sinking at the rate of 5 cm per second. When I tried to get one foot out, the other sank deeper. Arghh! Jo tried to rescue me. But the poor xiao mei, a quarter of my size, could hardly help. Finally, I had to go on all 4's to widen the surface area of my weight placed on the mud, to extract myself out. I just hope that there weren't any of my students around to witness my sprawling on all 4's and trying to pull my feet out of the mud. It must have been real hilarious. This is not a mud walk. How can someone just get herself stuck in the mud in Pasir Ris beach? Good thing I have done a mud walk before. If not, I would have panicked. And thanks to Jo for relieving me of all my valuable items so that I can crawl to safety. Sigh.. What a way to end my day! Blind polar bears? Don't think they exist.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Mr Wee's class

Hi hi,
Hmmm... Mr Wee seemed to have resigned himself to the fact that the class was all out to seek revenge on him today? The poor guy! Friday evenings...sigh... Am so glad mine is long over.

Wes was brave enough to try something new, ie not using ppt. But then, the problem of students knowing the fish names but not being able to identify the fish correctly (as aptly brought up by Daffy), due to a lack of pictorial reference is one shortcoming of not using ppt. Wes tried to justify himself by saying that identification of fish will not be tested in exams. But, I think this undermines what learning should be. I always think that we should make use of every opportunity to impart knowledge, not limiting ourselves to what is examinable, especially if a student is more than willing to learn. Perhaps just tell those interested to google the fish names and they can see it for themselves. What makes matter worse is the lack of a textbook in this case.

Right at the beginning, Wes got us to write down 3 words that come to mind when the Blue Revolution was mentioned. This is a good move provided students do have just a teeny weeny bit of knowledge about it. If not, in a real life situation, I wonder how long it would take for him to finally get one student to mention the word 'fish'? Or would Wes have prompted the students further to get the right answer out of them? He didn't have the chance to do this if this was ever in his mind.

I thought the document holder with 3 compartments/zips was a good way of distributing packages to students for group work. It will be easy for him to give the instructions and for students to follow the instructions, to retrieve the right materials slowly, one at a time, so that they won't get so excited/confused with many items distributed to them all at once (cue cards and all). But the zips must be specified. :P

And I got to say sorry to Wes for being less than an angel today. The SARS and the face mask was never my intention. It didn't even cross my mind. It was just a habit when I laugh too hard. But the humourous or sensitive Wes picked it up and thought otherwise. :D Sometimes, things are really as simple as it seems.

Okie, got to zzz... Long day tomorrow. Vegetables and mangrove, here I come.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Have a cuppa and hop Downunder

Hi hi,
2 great micro-teachings today! Coffee fanatics will find SJ's Geography of food something close to heart. And KF's Tourism must have moved travel bugs to secretly wish they were in Australia, instead of having 3 assignments/presentations/microteachings due per week. :) And for both teachers, I am impressed with their ability to mould popular 'materials' found in our daily life into what they are teaching. :)

SJ's St. Arbuck's
Getting students to guess Food X is a good strategy to get the class started on the topic. The clues became more and more obvious as we went along. I also think it a novel way to get Singaporean students acquainted with things around us which they take for granted. Most students would not have known how coffee plants or coffee cherries (the fruit) look like.

Although Sec 3 would not be acquainted with economics, the basic principle of demand and supply, and the balance between them which in turn affect prices, should be quite easy to grasp. I guess we were able to follow the lesson because we were no longer Sec 3. So, for real Sec 3 students, SJ could have explained the basic principles to the class before going into group work.

And I like her handouts which were quite easy to understand. And she drew a margin for students to note down the main points! Wow! That is a great tip.

Just that SJ has prob teaching while standing (did I hear that she couldn't sleep the night before?) and finally settled into sitting on a table with her leg propped up rather high.

KF's Colour of the Rainbow
Hmmm... this tune has been hummed by numerous people when the ads appeared on tv some months back. My students sang it to me once when I mentioned Australia. :) So, it was really wonderful that KF used it to start off the lesson. The song was mersmerizing and the sights as captivating.

As mentioned in class, some parts of his teaching content were a little too challenging for Sec 4s. I have to agree that KF will make a good tertiary level teacher! :) But personally, I was so so happy to be able to sit in his lesson because I really missed attending Geog lessons at tertiary level. Sob sob...

And KF is really an expert in handling students' responses and moulding them into what he wants.

Disneyland in Ubin? What a daring idea! Students may actually welcome the idea and be more than willing to explore it. But I don't think most students in Singapore have sufficient knowledge of Ubin, unless they have been there and toured the whole island. Perhaps internet search, as mentioned by KF in his handout, can help a little here and there. But nothing beats seeing the real thing for themselves, because the scale and spatial arrangements of all that Ubin can offer cannot be easily represented on websites or with pictures or write up.

And oh, the peanuts thing had better not turn up in an actual class, although all of us can appreciate the humour at our level.

Okie, got to hit the sack really early today. Another long day tomorrow. Hope to be able to clear some nitty gritty assignments tomorrow during the free time in campus. Oh, another pict to share.

Cirque and tarn


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Declarations of love

Hi hi,
Hell broke loose today during our Geog lesson. :D Poor Chris. All of us were enjoying ourselves at his expense during his micro-teaching. All that declarations of love, the goading and the fainting fit are enough to drive any teacher up the wall. And the way Chris responded to all the above seemed to invite more 'naughty' responses from the class. The poor guy cannot be blamed because a student's misplaced affection is a highly prickly situation to deal with. On the one hand, he has no wish to hurt the student. But on the other, he does not want to encourage her. Try as he might, he could not balance the 2. But I don't think anyone could ever do so under today's circumstances. Students are not likely to be so so thick skinned (no offence meant to Mas), although their raging hormones may bring about lots of crushes on their teachers. But somehow, I am of the mind that maintaining a gambler's expression, ie being expressionless, is more apt than showing any other expressions (facial or body language). Because if students find a teacher's expression entertaining or amusing, the cheeky ones may be encouraged to profess love just to see how the teacher responds and get themselves nicely entertained.

The fainting incident did not turn out the way we anticipated because we did not expect Chris to personally help the fainting WH out of the class. But it was very quickly dealt with because Chris was highly alert throughout his lesson. That was very decisive of him, something necessary for such a situation. :)
However, we have a problem with a male teacher having physical contact with a female student. Didn't think it is right to do so. This is of course to protect the interest of the teacher who may be liable to answer to charges of outraging the modesty (commonly known as molest) of the student he has physical contact with. While I am not sure if there are any written rules for teachers about this, I paste our statutes here for reference:

http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/ - online statutes of Singapore
Penal Code - Chapter 224

Assault or use of criminal force to a person with intent to outrage modesty.
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any person, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage the modesty of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with caning, or with any two of such punishments.

Criminal force, under the Penal Code, is defined as
Whoever intentionally uses force to any person, without that person's consent, in order to cause the committing of any offence, or intending by the use of such force illegally to cause, or knowing it to be likely that by the use of such force, he will illegally cause injury, fear or annoyance to the person to who the force is used, is said to use criminal force to that other.

One of the illustration given in the statutes pertaining to our interest:

A intentionally pushes against Z in the street. Here A has by his own bodily power moved his own person so as to bring it into contact with Z. He has therefore intentionally used force to Z, and if he has done so without Z’s consent, intending or knowing it to be likely that he may thereby injure, frighten or annoy Z, he has used criminal force to Z.

Checked with a tutorial mate, Paul, a law graduate.[Have his permission to quote him here]. He says that in order to prove molest, it must be shown that the man had intentionally touched a woman with the intention to molest her. When there is such a charge, the onus is on the man to prove that he did not molest her. And very often, it is the woman's word against the man, and hence it is very difficult for a man to prove that he did not have the intention. So he says that a male teacher should avoid contact with a female student in all circumstances, unless it is really unavoidable. And in no circumstances must the male teacher remain alone with student, out of sight and proximity from any other witness (es) who can help ensure there is no hanky-panky. And if a male teacher has to carry a female student, ensure that it is done in full view of other females.

And I vaguely remember something being mentioned briefly (probably during my first aid classes many years back) and when applied to our context, it looks something like:

Male teachers should not have physical contact with students EXCEPT:
1. when there is no other female person who can perform the task
2. when by refraining from giving assistance, worsens the current condition of the student or brings about possible death

So, Chris might have gotten other female students to help WH to the sickbay. Also, being investigated on may not be such a pleasant experience we would all want to have. So, all male teachers must know how to protect themselves against such probable allegations.

And back to the fainting scene, I was trying to tell Chris that WH is malnourished since he asked, although he thought that I was punning on his teaching content. Sorry to confuse you Chris. Should have just told him she was too poor to eat breakfast and lunch. And in general, for fainting fits, we can give some glucose, since usually it is either hunger or a general low sugar level that is the cause (unless of course they are diabetic or have other probs). The rest is up to medical officers to ascertain.

The ppt slides were also a problem because no one could tell the colours apart once they were projected. Lesson learnt: When preparing for slides, we got to take into consideration the fact that they would end up a few shades brighter/lighter. So, use only picts/charts/diagrams with high colour contrasts.

Chris has a great teacher's voice and also good eye contact. To extend that further, he has the habit of searching for eye contact, so I ended up being called and stared by him because I too have the bad habit of staring straight into a person's eyes.

Arghhh... Got to get rid of my bad staring habit and my chow chow face. A senior teacher, once out of goodwill, came to me one day and told me the general sentiments of how a few other teachers, whom I have no direct contact with, felt about me and she used the word 'stuck-up'. Yes, yes. I am trying hard to smile more and to do the royal wave as often as I can. But then, maintaining a perpetual smile is next to impossible, firstly because of the physical difficulties, and secondly, I think I would end up looking like a siao person instead of a friendly person. :)Hee..

More next time,