My Geog Blog

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Ibrahim's Lesson

Hey guys…as you all know, I was the observer today for Ibrahim’s lesson so I am just going to go through everything that was noted during the lesson, including things that had been gone through for the benefit of those who did not manage to take down some of what had been said. So here goes…..

Given a choice, I would have much preferred writing down the pros for the lesson first because I do not want to give the wrong impression that the lesson was negative. In actual fact, personally thought that today’s lesson was fun though some fine-tuning is needed.

IBRAHIM’S LESSON

Style

Thought that Ibrahim’s style was rather free-flowing and informal. As a teacher, what he first did was to set up a rapport with his students by asking students pertaining to issues that were more personal. E.g. ‘I hope all of you had a good weekend!’ This seems to give the impression that he cared about their well-being before starting the lesson. Instead of making students fear or feel threatened by you, and also making them feel comfortable will show them that the teacher is not concerned only about their academic needs and performance but that their emotional and psychological well-being is of equal importance to the teacher.

However, one draw-back that could occur exhibiting such a teaching style might lead to students not taking the teacher seriously. In the case of today’s lesson, it was obvious that the students neither took his lesson nor his instructions seriously. E.g. Even after specific and emphasized instructions for students not to draw on the vanguard sheet, Jaclyn blatantly drew on the vanguard sheet and even verbalized her actions!

As with different styles of teaching, there are always pros and cons, so perhaps certain things should be taken into consideration: nature of the students in the class, teacher’s own personality. In this case, Ibrahim was successful to a certain extent in making use of this free-n-easy method of teaching….personally, I’m not sure whether I am that comfortable with this….so it is always important to adopt a personal style which means that a style that should not be painfully played out but one that suits us and that we’re comfortable with displaying it.

Attitude

Ibrahim’s attitude remained positive throughout the lesson (which I seemed to have lacked in my own lesson…oh well, just got to practise practise practise!) He actually said ‘Thank You Ragnam’ to Sukhairan even though the fella was clearly uttering nonsense and singing an incomprehensible song. I was a little appalled yet pleasantly surprised at the same time. His patience also seemed never-ending in the lesson. Ibrahim was able to ignore the most irritating sounds and dialogues anyone could ever tolerate and still put on a smile and carry on with his lesson. You go dude!!! Hmm….can I ever do it? I’m still coming to terms with it and let’s hope tt I’ll succeed in time for my practicum. (I believe it’s all mental)

I actually thought that things went a little odd when Ibrahim tried to undertake the role of being a firm teacher. He called Adeline’s, Clifton’s and Run’er’s all at the same time probably because their group was being a little disruptive at that time. But I did notice Clifton was wronged in the sense that he was actually not partaking in any of Adeline and Run’er’s supposed nonsense. Think it is important not to call out the wrong person (an error I committed in my own lesson). Might just lead to students having negative feelings for you unnecessarily. Isn’t it tough to handle a class of 40 and at the same time have a rough gauge of what each individual is doing?

Also thought that it was a bit inappropriate when one of the groups was chatting loudly in dialect and Ibrahim said ‘Please give the other group a chance to talk. Your chance is already over.’ It kind of felt like a death-sentence. I am not sure about how appropriate this phrase was used but would not feel comfortable using it personally. When conducting our lessons, we have to be careful with our choice of words in order to prevent giving out the wrong impressions or worse, to send out the wrong message.

Appraisal

It is necessary to give students appraisals throughout the activity in order to give them some sense of a direction of whether they are on the right, or possibly wrong track. I was pretty impressed in the way Ibrahim handled the class in terms of assessing their performance during the lesson. Noting that this was a lesson planned with creativity as the motivation behind it, there could be many things that could likely go wrong and it did. But I guess we should not only focus on the things that did go wrong, rather, we should pay some attention to how the situation was handled. Which in this case, I thought Ibrahim did quite a good job.

First and foremost, while the students did not follow closely to the instructions meted out (resulting in students tearing up of amenities, unnecessary drawing on vanguards and building of houses on hill-tops), Ibrahim was able to maintain his composure and did not discredit their creative actions. When the vanguard sheet was drawn and was brought to Ibrahim’s attention, he (though visibly a little upset) ignored it and carried on with what was more critical > The Lesson. Also, even though he did not get the ideal results from the students, he turned to crediting their creativity. E.g. To Adeline’s group ‘Look what this group has done. They have done it in a different concept’.

As much as it is important to give students positive feedback and comments, I personally think that teachers should also give realistic and practical comments. This would help a great and long way in terms of their academic progress. Do remember teachers forever telling me ‘You’re intelligent. You can do it. I believe in you. You just need to put in that little more effort’. Well, the down-side to this is that students might begin to question or even doubt these positive comments if their academic progress is not visible.

Here then, I believe, we might just have been directing out energy in the wrong direction. As I’ve always believed in: A Balance. We need to be encouraging and positive in the way we teach, but we also have to be brutally honest in our comments at times, if we believe that students are not putting in their best efforts. They have to pull up their socks! Reality-checks are important! Yes…we have to do the dirty-job…but all in their best interests.

Materials

I thought that it was commendable of Ibrahim to spend so much time and effort in preparing his lesson. It also irked me quite a bit when I saw students destroying his hard-work. So one way to deal with this, (as we have discussed) is to use recyclable/reusable materials, especially when preparing a creativity-charged class. You never know what those monkeys can come up with….true it is restrictive, but let’s put it this way: the teacher’s efforts have not gone to waste. Though their creativity might be restricted, but with every creativity class, control is an absolute must. We are supposed to be facilitators of their learning journey, not baby-sitters!

So what I’m suggesting here are the houses and hotels that we use in monopolies. Toy cars for cars…..ermm….we can use a little bit of creativity here in thinking about the materials we might be able to use for the rest of the amenities yeah?
Hmm…I’m not sure whether I’m stretching this material issue a little bit but it just happened to pop up so….Furthermore, using a vanguard sheet merely gives students a 2-dimensional image of the settlement patterns. By using plastic or other more concrete materials, students are able to get a 3-dimensional image. Maybe then they would think twice about building an office building on a hill?


Direction of the lesson

With every lesson, we have been told that it is best to talk a little about the learning objectives before each lesson. The point of this is to give students a sense of direction, and also a goal that they should be able to attain by the end of the lesson.

Although Ibrahim neither gave learning objectives nor a final goal that students could set their motivation on, he kind of made up for it by guiding the students throughout their learning process. He explained in a step-by-step manner as he added on more and more facilities why they would ‘miraculously pop out’. E.g ‘As you get lay more roads, you have more people coming into the area and jobs are created, hence more factories are built’.

I could not exactly see where the lesson was heading if not for my prior knowledge in settlement patterns and his lesson plan. Students were doing everything haphazardly and after a while, they got bored as they could see a point in carrying on the ‘never-ending’ activity as described by Clifton. So yes, even though the teacher knows where everything is going, we should not assume that students will find their own direction in the lesson. Assumptions are dangerous, and they are even more so in a classroom bustling with creative activities.

We all had fun…even I couldn’t help myself asking what Adeline’s group was doing because it was simply too interesting. However, at the end of the lesson, I was left asking myself ‘So what was that all about’? Direction is good….direction is essential.

Content

One question that has been on my mind all this time has been ‘what is the content-knowledge that students should have’. Should it be simply minimal whereby thought processes are more important? As I’d put in my last entry that many students simply have a problem with executing thought processes, there are some things which I think should be brought to our attention as well.

When I mentioned reinforcing thought processes, what I meant was to give students additional help. However, all teachers should bear in mind the content knowledge that all students should have and use that as a guide in their drawing board for most activities. I do believe in teaching less, learning more. But teaching less content does not mean that the content knowledge in a lesson should be subjected to creativity, would not we be committing the error of short-changing our students unknowingly? Hence in advocating creativity and thought processes, we have to bear in mind that both the starting point and goal in activities are for students to be able to gain substantial content knowledge without the usage of unnecessary memory work.



I hope I am making sense…ask me if I’m not….brain is not working again.