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Knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep… March 23, 2006

Posted by nebulon in Taiwan, Teaching.
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So before we decide that, I should take a look at all the components of the HFRB school I visited which make it effective.
A. Methodology
1. TAQ
2. QAR
3. Spelling Drills
4. Meticuluous and thorough tracking of students’ performance
5. Exacting fault correction on both pronunciation and grammar which directly affects:
6. Taped homework
7. Phonics rules/”Understanding” (classroom, grammar and syntax(?) language)
8. Using Chinese in class to clarify explanations

B. Extrinsic motivational factors
1. frequent short speeches extoling the postive aspects of this kind of class
2. point system, leading to the possibility of excellent gifts/rewards
3. less homework for better performance
4. the knowledge (both parents and students) that continued admittance in the         program and moving to the next level is contingent on  homework performance

It is obvious to me that both these components are equally important. Equally obvious is the
challenge in adopting these for a junior high school program. The question is how to modify them without  loosing the essential. Or better yet, creating a similar environment (both inside and outside the classroom) with different approaches.

More on Linkou, HFRB and blogging March 21, 2006

Posted by nebulon in Taiwan, Teaching, The Lost Grey Matter.
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I should perhaps start at the beginning.
When I was 3 1/2, I asked my mother, “Mom, what is the name of the man from whose penis came out the sperm that made me?”
I am joking. I mean, I actually did say that but I will most certainly not start with that…

Starting a blog feels a bit daunting for me. I am not quite sure what I want to say, in what format, or how personal I want to get. Looks like many bloggers solve that problem by keeping separate blogs, which I suppose I may do in the future. But for now, I’ll just throw caution to the wind and keep my jumbled thoughts and unlearned comments here. This is the way I am in real life. Jumbled. Unlearned. Open
A few weeks ago I came across a somewhat heated discussion on Scott Summer’s blog on the merits or lack thereof of HFRB (Hardcore Foreign run Buxiban). This led to
1. an idea on how to foment new thought and, God forbid, perhaps meaningful change in my current school
2. Meeting Michael T. and Mark W., two inspiring people
3. Finally taking a chance at sounding my own voice
Mark’s post, which piqued my interest even more, got me reading tons of other stuff- including this post on forumosa.com:
“No thanks. I’d rather teach 2 to 9 kids per class, 29 hours/week with basically no prep time for 100,000/month, than teach 30 unhappy kids for the same money with a loud-mouthed, know-it-all, nitpicky foreigner on my back all the time.”
Now, to address the quoted post…
I didn’t see ANY unhappy kids. I saw kids raising their hand ALL the time, smiling–participating, unafraid to speak loudly and make mistakes. Sure, they were nervous at times, but not fearful. This sort of contradicts some “common knowledge” about Taiwanese kids not wanting to speak out for fear of making mistakes. I heard on girl in Ron’s class make more mistakes in one single attempt at answering a question than my students dare make in a month! She eventually settled on an answer (the wrong one) and there was no blushing, there was no cowering back into her seat never to be heard again. There in lay the paradox for me:
They (the students) brought verve, dedication (occasional laughter) and “oral perseverance” during a class based on drills and repetition. I didn’t see any kids looking off into space. If they occasionally didn’t raise their hand, I honestly think it’s because they were momentarily sore.
Classes which (I have often) specifically designed to get this kind of response have gotten exactly the kind of response you would expect from drills and repetition. Go figure.
Mark and Ron really weren’t worried about IP. They were nothing but forthcoming, generous and more than accommodating. They even let me record parts of their classes on my mobile. Next, I will try to put all I have learned together to see what can be of use for my schools ESL program. Mark, I’ll try to get the files uploaded somewhere and maybe your grandma can check you out after all:)
I, Nebulon, will have to find a sizable chunk of The Grey Matter for this task.
To bed, to bed.

stuck finger March 20, 2006

Posted by nebulon in Teaching.
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Much to his embarrassment, one of my 1st year students got his little finger stuck in one of the many small holes of his chair. 
I had to hunt down some dish soap and really gob it on as his finger had swollen.
It was bound to happen sooner or later; i am glad the kid in question was good-natured about it. Oddly, his friends didn’t tease him TOO much… (it’s my hand in the picture. I’dlike to say  that I didn’t take a picture because I did not want to traumatize the child. That would be a lie. The fact is, like in so many other situations, I did not have the correct amount of grey matter at the time. )
This week, 1st years are doing a postcard/travel assignment. They have to find 3 capital cities, decide how much money to bring for 2 days in each city, write a postcard (on a photo sourced from a search engine) that includes a “fun or interesting activity they did there.
They know what capital city is because I told them in Chinese. They know New York isn’t the capital of the US,but still many tried to pass off Vancouver, New York , Toronto, etc. as acceptable choices. One kid even put forth Idaho, Missouri and Kansas.
“DO you know these aren’t capital cities? These are states. Do you understand this?”
“Yes.”
“So, why d’ya choose these??”
“Oh.”
But I, Nebulon, will not be discouraged by this. I will continue my search unaffected by these small, nay, minuscule attempts at obfuscation!

trip to Linkou March 20, 2006

Posted by nebulon in personal, Teaching.
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The trip to Linkou was fantastic,even though I was tired and rambling on a bit. Mark was very patient with me. I was impressed with his easy-going manner and willingness to help me,  a total stranger. I hope he comes up next weekend.
I am super grateful to him (and Ron) for sharing their time, knowledge and advice.
I wish some of the people I worked with were as open minded…
I think I have enough to put together a report and a rough presentation. Looks like no one will be listening though. I will have done my best.