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Category Archives: teaching

I was led to one of those English Teacher moments…

By my reading of that newly found archive, that is. Back in June 2004 I noted this:

One of those nice English teacher moments that happen very occasionally.

Are you my English teacher from TIGS? If so, I just thought I’d let you know that the doors you helped open for me helped make me what I am today — a reasonably successful author.

Check out my website.

— James

Yes, it is still there.

hartley

 

“Slavery” may be a bit strong, but bad nonetheless…

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald exposes what would appear to be a racket in the overseas student business. Make sure you read the associated stories.

THOUSANDS of overseas students are being made to work free – or even to pay to work – by businesses exploiting loopholes in immigration and education laws in what experts describe as a system of economic slavery.

The vast pool of unpaid labour was created in 2005 when vocational students were required to do 900 hours’ work experience. There was no requirement that they be paid.

Overseas students remained bound to the system as completion of such courses became a near-guaranteed pathway to permanent residency.

Since then the number of foreign students enrolled in the vocational training sector has leapt from 65,120 to 173,432 last year – about half of all our overseas students.

The changes have created a $15 billion industry – comparable countries do not offer residency – but experts, teachers and students say many of the private college courses are little more than visa mills. Since 2001 the number of private colleges has leapt from 664 to 4892

That last figure should make one suspicious. How many of these “schools” would pass muster?

A disclaimer: my little bit of tutoring is organised by a migration agency, but it has been in business for twenty years and deals only with universities, TAFE, established state and non-government schools, and the better English colleges. I can vouch for the integrity of the business having known the principals for some time and would add that they also go to some lengths in ensuring the well-being of their clients. But there is no doubt there are some very shonky outfits in operation, some with suspicious links – such as husband to wife – to the “colleges” students are recruited to.

Of course this is a background issue in some of the cases regarding Indian students we have been hearing about lately.

The unfortunate effects on the industry in this case were enabled by the Howard government.

 

Friday poem #11 – D H Lawrence

This is prompted by a recent post from Thomas. We’ve all felt this way at times. Lawrence (of Lady Chatterley’s Lover fame) was not a teacher for long.

Last Lesson of the Afternoon

When will the bell ring, and end this weariness?

How long have they tugged the leash, and strained apart,

My pack of unruly hounds! I cannot start

Them again on a quarry of knowledge they hate to hunt,

I can haul them and urge them no more.

*

No longer now can I endure the brunt

Of the books that lie out on the desks; a full threescore

Of several insults of blotted pages, and scrawl

Of slovenly work that they have offered me.

I am sick, and what on earth is the good of it all?

What good to them or me, I cannot see!

*

                         So, shall I take

My last dear fuel of life to heap on my soul

And kindle my will to a flame that shall consume

Their dross of indifference; and take the toll

Of their insults in punishment? – I will not! –

*

I will not waste my soul and my strength for this.

What do I care for all that they do amiss!

What is the point of this teaching of mine, and of this

Learning of theirs? It all goes down the same abyss.

*

What does it matter to me, if they can write

A description of a dog, or if they can’t?

What is the point? To us both, it is all my aunt!

And yet I’m supposed to care, with all my might.

*

I do not, and will not; they won’t and they don’t; and that’s all!

I shall keep my strength for myself; they can keep theirs as well.

Why should we beat our heads against the wall

Of each other? I shall sit and wait for the bell.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2009 in British, education, poets and poetry, teaching

 

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The nitty gritty of English

I have one coachee in Year 12 doing Advanced English for the HSC who presents with a considerable problem. It isn’t lack of intelligence or insight, but rather a level of English that makes it hard for him to demonstrate what he knows effectively. He arrived in Australia from Hong Kong in May 2007. While he had some English language instruction in Hong Kong, he is very much a Cantonese native speaker.

Here is a small example.

In the movie Australian, Baz Luhrmann is dealing with the same sort of idea that an outsider Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidmen), is trying to fit in to a country that is completely new to her. The way she belongs to the new continent is by understanding the aboriginal’s thought and accept the way they live and try to fit in to them. With the introduction of the rough cow’s drover (Hugh Jackman) as an assistance of Sarah Ashley, the drover help her to save her remote cow station. In this case, Sarah not only fit in to the aboriginal society because of her acceptance and understanding, but also affect by the drover, she as an English noble is not really standing on their side, one of the reason is the drover doesn’t want to join the English noble group but there is another important reason base on identity that is when a person belongs to a group they will understanding their thought and support them, which is in this case, the aboriginal kid is being accepted by her as her children in the white man society. Her we can see the connection between the experience of Peter Skrzynecki in “Migrant Hostel” and in Australian, both of them experience a lack of belonging to a place because of the lack of understanding to the place. However, in Australia, Sarah Ashley has successfully understand and accept the Aboriginal culture then finally she is truly belong to the continent which is different to all the white people who live in the continent, they just physically belong to that place but not spiritually belong to this place. The sense of belonging is shown in the final scene of the movie, that Sarah Ashley release and let the Aboriginal kid goes back to his grandpa his root this is a acceptance to a culture, which is a way to belong to a new culture.

Here is the work in progress; I have left a section untouched* because I need to discuss it further with the student. Anything in square brackets is to be deleted.

In the movie Australia Baz Luhrmann is dealing with the same sort of idea: that an outsider, Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), is trying to fit into a country that is completely new to her. The way she belongs to the new continent is by understanding [the] Aboriginal[’s] thought and accept the way they live and try to fit in with them. [With the introduction of] The rough cattle drover (Hugh Jackman) assists Sarah Ashley, [the drover] helping her to save her remote cattle station. *In this case, Sarah not only fits in to the Aboriginal society because of her acceptance and understanding, but also is affected by the drover. she as an English noble is not really standing on their side, one of the reason is the drover doesn’t want to join the English noble group but there is another important reason base on identity that is when a person belongs to a group they will understanding their thought and support them, which is in this case, the aboriginal kid is being accepted by her as her children in the white man society.*

“Cow” is feminine, “bull” is masculine; “cattle” is the generic or collective noun.

Here we can see the connection between the experience of Peter Skrzynecki in “Migrant Hostel” and Sarah Ashley in Australia. Both of them experience a lack of belonging to a place because of a lack of understanding of the place. However, in Australia, Sarah Ashley has successfully understood and accepted the Aboriginal culture so that finally she is truly able to belong to the continent, which is different from most of the white people who live in the continent, who just physically belong to this place but do not spiritually belong to this place. The sense of belonging is shown in the final scene of the movie when Sarah Ashley [release and] lets the Aboriginal boy go back to his grandfather and his roots. This is an acceptance of a culture, which is a way to belong to a new culture.

In the previous paragraph I have replaced a few examples of colloquial language with more neutral or formal language.

He is, by the way, improving quite rapidly, but still has a long way to go and not much time to get there.

 

Decline

“Scientists now belive mental abilitites decline from age 27” (sic) says the Daily Telegraph this morning; clearly someone over the age of 27 must have composed that headline! And to think how rabid the Murdoch press is sometimes on the matter of declining standards in literacy!

The new research, reports The Mail on Sunday newspaper in the UK,  shows that our mental abilities begin to decline from the age of 27 after reaching a peak at 22.

The researchers studied 2,000 men and women aged 18 to 60 over seven years. The people involved, mostly in good health and well-educated, had to solve visual puzzles, recall words and story details and spot patterns in letters and symbols.

Similar tests are often used to diagnose mental disabilities and diseases, such as Alzheimer’s  and other forms of dementia.

The research at the University of Virginia, reported in the academic journal Neurobiology Of Aging, found that in nine out of 12 tests the average age at which the top performance was achieved was 22.

The first age at which performance was significantly lower than the peak scores was 27 – for three tests of reasoning, speed of thought and spatial visualisation. Memory was shown to decline from the average age of 37. In the other tests, poorer results were shown by the age of 42.

Professor Timothy Salthouse said the results suggested that therapies designed to prevent or reverse age-related conditions may need to start earlier, long before people become pensioners.

Good news for Thomas, among others, I suppose.

You have to subscribe to Neurobiology of Aging to read the original, but there is an abstract.

Cross-sectional comparisons have consistently revealed that increased age is associated with lower levels of cognitive performance, even in the range from 18 to 60 years of age. However, the validity of cross-sectional comparisons of cognitive functioning in young and middle-aged adults has been questioned because of the discrepant age trends found in longitudinal and cross-sectional analyses. The results of the current project suggest that a major factor contributing to the discrepancy is the masking of age-related declines in longitudinal comparisons by large positive effects associated with prior test experience. Results from three methods of estimating retest effects in this project, together with results from studies comparing non-human animals raised in constant environments and from studies examining neurobiological variables not susceptible to retest effects, converge on a conclusion that some aspects of age-related cognitive decline begin in healthy educated adults when they are in their 20s and 30s.

Now I do have a large hat size, so I am encouraged by another bit of research I found here.

Confirming earlier studies, a British study of 215 men and women aged between 66 and 75, has found that the larger a person’s head, the less likely their cognitive abilities are to decline in later years. Those with the smallest heads had a fivefold increased risk of suffering cognitive decline compared with those with the largest heads. Encouragingly, however, this doesn’t mean you’re doomed at birth — the researchers found that it wasn’t head circumference at birth that was important, but head size in adulthood. During the first year of life, babies’ brains double in size, and by the time they are six, their brain weight has tripled. These, it appears, are the crucial years for laying down brain cells and neural connections — pointing to the importance of providing both proper nourishment and intellectual stimulation in these early years. The study appeared in the October [2003] issue of Brain.

Nonetheless, I can report signs of cognitive decline in some areas at least, especially in an increase in those pesky “senior moments” when a word or a name just eludes me. Common enough.

I would say in my teaching I had two peaks – one around the late 20s to early 30s, the other in my fifties.

I took up blogging in my late fifties: has it arrested decline to some degree, or is it a sign of it? 😉

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2009 in amazing, creativity, health, memory, personal, teaching

 

I have praised Maralyn Parker before…

She is one of the most down-to-earth, sensible commentators on education in the media today – here in Sydney at least. Perhaps her having been a teacher helps, though that isn’t always the case.

Yesterday, for example, she took on the NSW teachers’ salary claim and the two hour stop work meetings in pursuit of that yesterday morning.

NSW cannot afford to cut teacher salaries. The offer soundly rejected by 99% of NSW public school teachers yesterday was an attempt to do exactly that.

The NSW government has made some very stupid decisions over the past decade and the people of this state will pay for them dearly in the coming years but here is a rapidly approaching future catastrophe that can be avoided.

The offer of 11.4% over the next three years will not lift teachers salaries enough to even cover inflation…

She went on to question whether the government’s “list of 25,000 teachers waiting for jobs in NSW schools” is a myth. No, there is such a list and I believe I am still on it. That may indeed lead you to question! I know I am on it because from time to time I get letters telling me how far I have moved up it. I am on it because I did some marking for SBHS last year and, though retired, had to “rejoin” to get casual pay. Thus I appear on the list. But I am not waiting for a job in a NSW school, obviously…

Finally, she offers I think sage advice to the Teachers Federation about the danger of losing parental support if the action they take inconveniences parents – especially in the current climate where it is only too easy to paint teachers as lazy, greedy, or reckless in these straitened economic times.

Good article, as is often the case. I wonder sometimes what she is doing in the Terror – but I am glad she is there.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2008 in Australia, education, teaching

 

A Chinese Thomas? And old, but not a sage.

Not really, though they are of close age, if in different countries. Ben is a discovery Jim Belshaw made recently: Bachelor’s Day – China. His blog is Rambo’s Blogger. Do visit him. He comes from Zhejiang Province near Shanghai.

1111

Ben is not a trainee teacher in fact, it appears. There is also a serious problem for the Chinese underlying that as well: the gender imbalance caused by the One Child policy and the traditional preference for male children.

But speaking of young teachers/teachers to be… Or young teachers that were…

My oldest ex-student is now 60 years old!

Yikes! Or OMG as they say here in The Cloud. Yes, I worked that out last night as I was thinking, for some reason, of the Class of 1967 at Cronulla High where I taught the very first HSC English (Third Level). Now most of that class turn 60 next year, I would think, if they turned 18 in 1967. But one or two were a year older…

Now how does that make me feel?

You guessed it! See the second half of this post title.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2008 in blogging, Chinese and China, education, Jim Belshaw, memory, other blogs, personal, teaching

 

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