Saturday, 16 April 2011

A really rubbish class: defective teacher/school/system

Schoolboy receiving bare bottom birching, from...Image via WikipediaMy blood was boiling first period Wednesday morning. Had time to cool off, but now I sound vindictive and holier than thou.

Team-teaching not my favourite classroom set-up; seen it done well occasionally,  but known it to be horrible/dysfunctional/lame/boring/trite/unplanned etc etc most of the time. I have been there, and done that too often to be surprised too much...nor to have overly ambitious expectations.

But, being asked to help with the 'good' group, who want to go to uni and who have a genuine need to improve their English in a local HS, I figured would be an interesting proposition. how could I have allowed myself to be so deluded...again.

I know the school, and have experienced working with the lead teacher. Unimpressive, but maybe changed his ways? The high school kids' very first class of their HS career was their new English class. There was no lesson plan that I was aware of, and no sign of 'the grand plan' which we'd asked for (again, every year the same). Instead, the first golden 15 minutes were wasted with an utterly dreary, rushed, monologue in Japanese about God knows what because I tuned out just about the same time as all but the most nervous newbies.

Then that truly shite 'self-introduction' moment...a total cop out from JT (Japanese teacher) (used when they have run out of steam), pointless for kids as serves no function/is no purpose behind it. Now, had this been sat down and talked about, a host of quick & easy ways to make this 'phase' enjoyable & interactive could have been conjured up. Jimmy on the spot? Nope.

 The students hate me already for being part of this transparently unplanned sideshow. Reinforced as JT sets a blank piece of paper exercise for class to 'write self-introductions', tells me to monitor, and pops out (first of a couple of instances) of the class. Erm. What are we supposed to be trying to achieve here? The limited 'instructions' they were given were in L1, and there was no 'teaching'. The monitoring goals have not been established, nor has the end-product been defined (apart from "100 words"). Holy shit. I wanted to push this lazy-assed 'teacher' out of the third floor window - except he'd buggered off again.

So now I discovered this was the writing class - and the children were going to be doing just that - writing. Not learning how to, what to, when to...I think there's a book from the monologue at the start mentioning something or other, but no sign of that being cracked open today. "One kid won't speak - mental condition. Don't go near" was the only direction to me from JT. Which was alot more than the students got.

Basil Fawlty
Any luck, Fawlty?
No pre-writing tasks, like a warmer upper? Nothing to get the juices going like a quick team brainstorm? A couple of fast & loose tips? Any suggestion of format, or tone, who the reader will be? How about a sample, or a template, or topic sentences for paragraphs (what are they?) Will this be assessed? What are the criteria - spelling? Grammar? Interesting? Number of words?

I wanted to curl up like Basil Fawlty and hop around the floor with my head between my knees. Can I let the rest of the year ahead go like this? I am just 'the help', after all. How on earth can the school, and this veteran JT think they can get away with this gross dereliction of their moral & and professional responsibilities to actually provide their charges with an education? Do I leave my integrity at the entrance with my shoes, and the euphemism of the cheap slippers that don't fit becomes obvious?

Me? The end product should be just that. At the end. Give the kids all the tools, scaffolding, safety harnesses, inspiration, examples and bite-sized chunks to snack on, bit by bit. Show them what is going to be expected of them, explain where the goal posts are, and reassure them that by the end of the year, they will know have been given all the input they will need to be able to murder the dreaded blank sheet of paper. In fact, they'll be chomping at the bit to do so much with it, they will have serious time-management issues. The only time management issue they all had in class 1:1 today was "can that minute-hand go any slower?"

"Jim sensei, in 3rd period I want you to correct and mark the "assignments". Oh yeah? Based on what criteria if you don't mind my asking? Didn't do much of that, but made notes on what I could see they were capable of, where we might go with topics (JT "What shall we write about next week?" as I was leaving an hour late) and a few ideas about how to come up with a skeleton for them to flesh out.

And I felt very guilty, professionally shamed to be a part of this scam. How do I reconcile situation 'as is', with need to turn the JT out & replace any concept of curriculum he might have with a back to front product recall? Spend half a tree every week on photocopying? Give up on the job (and therefore, the kids?).

Hopefully my beer-drinking PLN will have a few ideas at our Ohanami Party tomorrow afternoon. Dreading Wednesday. This is why I used to puke up before my University classes.