no longer an exclusively vicarious one.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

sink holes and flotillas.

(sung to the tune of starlight by muse).

there is so much calamity in this, our world. the seas are churning, animals are choking, the trees are burning and very ground is falling in on itself. i've taken up reading the new internationalist magazine, and aside from their focus on human equity and justice, there is an underlying worry about the environment as the root of all the problems we are facing.

we had a talk by ross gittins at uni, which was very enlightening (even the slightly boring bits) and he pointed out that the current economic model was designed 150 years ago and has never been able to integrate the concept of the environment being anything other than a free good. there was a report i remember reading that said americans thought access to affordable petrol (gas!) was a human right. people really do think this way, and i think there is truth in those doomsayers that claim the world will end in fire and brimstone much sooner than we think because somehow, somewhere (new internationalist blames capitalism) we all lost our respect for the planet we live on. look at japan: they are planning giant power factories on the moon. that wonderful documentary on the abc about space mentioned that our next big space goal is to get to the gassy moons of saturn and use up those resources. but all of it has the same fatal flaw - we, all of us, think of the planet as something that is there to provide us with everything that we need. we see it as a one-way relationship. remember those food chains that we learnt in school? the shark and the human were always at the top, so it looked like everything only existed for our use (dare i say 'consumption').

now, i don't know what to do to fix it, which i know makes me part of the problem. but i do think that all this starting small stuff is not yet working. maybe, if the major parties manage to continue on their merry way to political harakiri, the greens will chuck a bradbury and skate on by into a meaningful position of power. one day, and i can only hope it is sooner rather than later, people will not be able to ignore the cries of the planet and its creatures and other organisms. one day, people will realise they 'can't eat money' (n.i.) and then maybe we will have to countenance changing our society in a serious way.

until then, we need to keep this on the agenda. not just on the backburner. everything we say should take our impact on the planet into account. whenever you choose what to wear, what to eat, what lights to turn on, think. if we can just manage that, we should be able to slowly slowly swing opinion back the way it will soon become all-too-obvious it needs to swing.

happy start of gulf hurricane season day.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

sometimes the clothes do not make the man.

i've discovered the main reason i hate 'reflection tasks' is because of a disjunction between what i think of as 'reflection' and what teachers think. the reason i disappeared from blogger is because halfway through this sem, we were given (in one of my curriculum areas) a task to keep a weekly reflection journal, detailing our thoughts on readings, classes and generally our transition to becoming a teacher. as much as i bitched and moaned, i actually managed to keep up with this - a couple of entries every week, pretty truthfully reflecting my mental states at the times of writing.
the due date is imminent, and we've just found out that apparently, we have all done the task completely wrong. they don't want us to write what we think - they want to know that we now think what they think. i'm re-writing all of my spontaneous reflections and replacing them with well-referenced, APA-compliant, politically correct 12-pt-typed A4 pages. they will get what they want if i have to do 3 all-nighters to get it done.
i was always confused about why ellison would suggest we "agree them all to death" - it seemed like a pointless, silent protest than no one would even notice. but when it is the only option available to you, there is some passive-aggressive powerf in choosing to blend in. my choice. people never know my name, know my face, because i will be the perfect mirror for their own prejudices.

its odd, for a teaching course, and i don't know whether it is because we are in uni and they expect different things from us, but i seem to have picked up on a lot of worst practice:
- don't let your students explore their own thoughts. shut them down the second they start to disagree with you. talk over them to give them the hint.
- have pet students. that kid in all your classes who always answers questions but you (apparently) don't like the look of? forget their name constantly.
- make assessments as vague as possible. when ALL of the students start to ask for details, shut them down and accuse them of being purposefully disruptive.
- continually amend your ill-defined tasks and add new and arbitrary marking criteria a week from the due date.
- don't keep track of cumulative tasks. let your students flounder and suffer a nervous breakdown right at the end (although you tell them that you know its what will happen, don't provide any explicit support at all).
- create tasks that are explicitly superfluous. ignore all that stuff on meaningful motivation. when they start to get into it, tell them you're not going to address the task again until next semester, when they may all be in different classes.
- don't talk to the guest teachers in your unit of study. when the students get confused about assessment only tell them it has been cancelled 2 days before it is due.
- set due dates on days when there are no classes. inconvenience students by making them come in on their day off and personally hand over their assessments at a set time when they normally would be doing something else (work, sport, sleep, other homework), further antagonising them.

is the purpose of reflection to complain? to document and categorise experience? to draw in parallels and other sources? to develop my own teaching practice?

Labels: , ,