Saturday, August 2, 2008

B for Boring

Ok, it's boring, not bored. So far, I have not come across a student who said " I'm boring, teacher". Thank goodness for that, for
1. They are good enough to know the difference between boring and bored.
2. My students do not suffer from low self-esteem and think of themselves as boring.
3. Well, at least they are polite enough to not to tell it straight to my face even though a few of
did break into a muffled thud on the desk.

That said, I have to admit that my kids are getting bored. If I want to take everything with an extra huge chunk of salt, then I will say that novelty has worn off and my kids are getting used to my style ( i.e. amiable, gentle : won't get into a barking mode if their attention starts to wander off). Meanwhile, if I want to be honest and a little hard on myself, I can only say that my lessons and teaching are indeed getting boring.

I have always wondered how my kids in my two classes got on in their English lessons with their own teachers before I came. This is something that I will never find out for myself because I had made the decision to not to observe how my mentors conduct their classes as I wanted to start off everything with a clean slate sans any indirect influence or baggage from them. Besides, being kids as they are, I think students will always go out of their way to put on their best behaviour when someone is observing them, which brings to mind a remark from a compatriot who said that teaching is a whole faking business. The theories and the simulation during the first three years are not real, supervisors who do not understand how things go on at the grass roots level, students who put on their pseudo alert mode when someone is sitting at the back watching their every move, etc, etc.

I have never blamed my students for getting bored in my class. In fact, I feel really, really bad for them because it is always the teacher's fault for falling to engage the students, good or weak. It is my failure, not them. Therefore, the only thing that I can do is to make the lessons more interesting for them. But how to?

Sometimes, I feel it is not the content of the lesson which bores the students but the way the teacher conducts the lesson. My kids in 4C get all excited while learning about something like homographs when I let them off the hook and we had Chuck and Larry jokes (note the homo there). Hmm, being politically correct is not that much fun all of the time. I think it's time to let the abui ( for your information ma'am, abui means fatty in Hokkien and all the gorgettes who love me call me that) in me come out in the classroom, I mean at least most of my friends are not bored with me, are they?

Okok, now I am being bombarded with the suggestions of bringing fun learning activities into the classroom. The thing is, it does not matter what kind of activities that the teacher uses, what matters to me is the teacher's personality in the classroom. For example, how can you expect a teacher with a stiff upper lip to conduct say, a lively beauty parade like what Anantha did, but it's not that I have a stiff upper lip anyway. I am not saying that teachers have to make a fool of themselves by clowning themselves in front of the students but they really must speak in a way that can engage the students.

However, this is also not to say that the activities and the contents of the lesson are not important either, what counts is bringing something that is engaging and constructive to the students. Moreover, my kids are very used to the chalk and talk way of learning, they are not interested to participate in some outrageous, over the top activities that they feel that they will learn nothing from. A case in point would be the speaking lesson. We have always planned a 35-minute or so speaking lesson with role-playing, etc in our simulated but it just won't work in the real classroom. I have discovered that role-playing, presentations are only for very good, outspoken students because the rest of the kids will not pay attention to their friends unless they have something very interesting to watch, which makes me feel bad all over again for asking them to speak and having no one to listen to them. Besides, the weak students are just not confident enough to speak and we are making everything worse for them for making them embarrass themselves and not learning anything. Thus, everyday should be a speaking lesson and integration is the key to make lessons less boring.

As I have said in my earlier post, kids come to school to learn and they expect to learn something whether they realize it themselves or not. Making them aware that they are learning something is how I feel we can get students to respect us and be less bored with our lessons. For my one class, I can go into the very technical areas of the language and still not see blank stares but for the intermediate class, it is more of a balancing act of catering to mixed bunch of them with different needs and personalities. It is not until my first observation that I realized that I have been taking them for granted and not paying attention to their real needs. After all, they are still kids and they need a lot of guidance especially in literary texts for the weaker students. There are also more boys there and sometimes they are more passive than the girls in my 4A class. Engage, engage, engage is the answer.

Anyway, my first observation came and went. As usual, my Achilles heel is on giving clear instructions, come on, not everyone can read your mind, abui. It was with 4C and Dr R said I have to cater more to their needs and not set tasks that are too difficult for them. Dear, dear, my poor, neglected kids, I am boring them and not teaching them anything sometimes.

Alright, there is always so much for me to vent here. I have to write more frequently in order not to make each post too tedious. I think this is one of my weaker posts here, perhaps the title is already defeating it. To make it up, here is something I have shared with my kids while teaching about organ donation, yes, Kugi from 4C, sharing is caring (he always tells me this when he forgets to bring the textbook and shares it with his friends and I will tell him off that it will apply during Christmas) and teacher hopes to share more things that teacher likes with you all so that you kids won't get so bored.

p/s : one thing that I have discovered about teaching is you start to speak in third persons.

To Remember Me

Robert Noel Test

The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital busily occupied with the living and the dying.

At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.

When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don't call this my deathbed. Let it be called the Bed of Life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman.

Give my heart to a person whose own heart has pain.

Give my blood to the teen-ager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.

Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain.

Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that, someday, a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her windows.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil. Give my soul to God. If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you.

If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.


Labyrinth said...

aaahhh you reflected about your teaching, your students' learning etc you are also trying to know yourself better as a teacher. You know your students do not like 'over the top' activities and i sure think that you do know how to cater to their needs. AND not be boring. ;-) Why Frost's poem? How do we relate?

soonchen said...

Uhh? Ma'am, what Frost's poem? I used 'To Remember Me' as a set induction to teach a reading passage on organ donation. Well, they think that it's a moving piece. uhmm, now I am trying to look up abt something on fris bees for my boys, thanks ma'am, cheerio

Labyrinth said...

nice...let us know what happens...

Johnny Ong said...

It's such a waste that you're not making this post/ blog public. I'm sure your students would be touched when they read about how hard you try not to be a "boring" teacher.

You mentioned that, "kids come to school to learn and they expect to learn something whether they realize it themselves or not. Making them aware that they are learning something is how I feel we can get students to respect us and be less bored with our lessons."

It's the students' loss if they do not appreciate you because I feel that you are definitely qualified to be my teacher. I know I can drop by for any1 of yr lessons & leave with new knowledge at the end of it. Matter of fact, I even learned a thing or two reading this.