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September 23, 2018

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Teaching Capabilities Statement #2

September 23, 2018

Your understanding of the role of a teacher

  For starters, I’m hard pressed to say there is one role. As matter of psychology and personal preference, different amateur teachers are going to emphasize different aspects of what there is to know and do in a classroom. Me, I emphasize contingent logic and relatively abstract exploration. My role is heavily personalized inasmuch as I choose what I’m going to try making the students talk about and what I’m going to grade.

  But if I had to generalize, I think teachers shift a little learning into the lives of younger people. It doesn’t have to be a lot. But it should be substantial. For preference, it won’t be inert. It’ll be available as a living thing, which I guess means the teacher was supposed to find ways to have the learning become the student’s own.

  Imma also put in a plug for the teacher not being the student’s parent. I can correct their behavior, or try to, if they’re messing up my classroom, but beyond that they’re on their own. Imma need a bigger salary if you want me to spend so much time with your child that I do have to take that larger role in their life.

Why you want to be a teacher

  By nature I think about things for a while and then tell other people about them. I have that academic side to me that does less and thinks more. But I have this other side that wants to take charge. So I end up functioning as a guide.

  So, teacher, dictator, guerilla, or visionary CEO. I checked the want ads and there were more jobs for teacher.

The personal qualities and communication skills that you possess

  Conscientious. Clear-headed. Academically minded. Works best according to a plan (and when I’m allowed to alter that plan as time goes by).

  Not very obviously a primary school teacher, but secondary maybe, and tertiary for sure.

  I’m very interested to know what other people know within my area. I’m not very good at receiving new information per se inasmuch as it usually prompts less conversation and more need for renewed thought. But when someone’s trying to gain the basic ideas in the area, I’m there with ideas to try.

  There’s an aspect of leadership that plays out in my classrooms. Getting everyone onto the same page and having them move forward with the idea – I like that. But let’s not be too weird. It’s not cult leadership. I rather like those times when something is unknown to all of us but we’ve come far enough along the same path that we can work it out together. That’s the joy of teaching for me, when I don’t have to be the only one doing the thinking anymore. The rising tide can lift all the boats.

(◣_◢)

September 16, 2018

Teaching Capabilities Statement #1

September 16, 2018

Explain what you think teaching involves

  My father, long ago, said a teacher shares his love of the subject. I agree. But I don’t think it’s that simple. (He likely didn’t either.) A teacher makes their subject accessible. I suppose a teacher could be the guardian of their subject as well, but they probably didn’t create it by themselves so the teacher more likely makes accessible what’s there and helps you find ways to participate.

  The other side of the coin is when the teacher tells you how you’re going. They measure your efforts and tell you about the standard you’re living up to. And then they send you on your way. It can seem once again like they’re the guardian of the subject. But they were supposed to have given you enough perspective that by the end you can see for yourself how you did. And when you’re sent on your way, you’ve become more capable.

Outline the personal and academic qualities that will enable you to become an effective teacher

  Well, I’ve always liked to learn. I’ve said a few times in other places that I teach so I can learn. Sharing what is functional about a given subject matter is about the best thing I can do, I think. I enjoy it. I enjoyed finding out the functionality. I like it when others pick it up too. I like finding out that the functionality has deep roots. The dynamic process of sharing the knowledge and finding ways for others to participate enlivens the functionality, whatever it was, and feels like something substantial. I’ll be a good teacher because I’ll always want to find out (and share) why what we were doing in the classroom had substance. And because I won’t be finding that out by myself. The students will be there guiding me as well.

Describe your attitude to learning and provide an example of something you have learned that was meaningful

  I learned Economics and Business Studies. I learned them because I was so completely bored with teaching English, a subject in which there is nothing for me to learn. Oh sure, there’s a lot of “English” to learn, a lot of any language. But there’s nothing much to work out. It’s not a system of logic, it’s not a model. It doesn’t describe anything unexpected. (Split the hair: it can be, and technically is, used to describe everything, but only insofar as it gives everything a name and lets you make up any relation you like between these names; what it doesn’t do is tell you the relation between those names.) I’ve always thrived more on the conceptual (and, unfortunately for any career I might have had in Philosophy, on contingencies). In Business Studies I found a vast array of concepts linked by all sorts of contingencies. And Economics likes to make out it’s principled as all get out, but those principles are kind of tenuous too, so, as we say in the kdrama world, cho-wayo, me likee.

  Seeking out these subjects for myself was an example of my search for a sustaining intellectual relationship with something. Kids these days can learn them in class. I suppose I could have as well back in the day. But I didn’t know back then how to distinguish between learning a curriculum and learning something that sustained me as a thinker. I learned Business Studies so I could have something in my head that I could talk about with others and maybe even do. At very first blush it was about gaining business skills. But I’d been a teacher – or at least a person concerned with knowledge – all my life. So I was drawn much more to the intellectual version of those skills than to the prospect of going out into the world and starting a business. The knowledge, which fit right into my preferences for conceptual systems with contingent logics, quickly became something I could and would teach, and not just learn.

  And as we also say in the kdramas, I’ll do better next time, I swear.

@#%

September 14, 2018

Speak before you think

September 14, 2018

  The goal is to teach discourse. And at least as far as marketing this approach to the students is concerned, it’s really better if the students not think too much.

  Now, obviously, you want students to think at least a little about what they’re going to say. But if they don’t know shit about the procedure you want them to learn, it might really just be better to tell them speak before you think. Whatever’s in your head, say it. Make someone else tell you the answer. Keep you utterances simple. Hell, don’t even ask real questions. Just bounce off any keywords you hear.

  Today for instance the Economics classes were supposed to work through a case making simple reference to production possibility curves and opportunity cost. First question said:

  Assume that Brazilian farmers can produce both soya beans and corn. Sketch a production possibility curve to show the choices they might make.

  The class, which has 45 students in it, has previously been divided into 3 large groups of five 3-member teams. One group is elected Leading group and has the responsibility of generating discussion by asking the other groups questions. Leading group gets points if someone responds to their sallies.

  To make all this into actual discourse, I’ve been promoting a model

  It says “discourse”, and in particular “academic discourse”, is a matter first of story telling or data presentation in some situation where something new has occurred. Textbook knowledge is brought in to illuminate this “conflict” between new and old data. If shit gets real, we try analysis – a dissection of the data and an attempt to describe how the pieces go together (or come apart) – and finish with evaluation, some judgment with reasons.

  As such, the students have been forewarned to seek out instruction words (to get an idea of which or how many of the four kinds of they’ll have to produce) and technical words (the better to seek out textbook elucidation from).

  So, together with the rule of Don’t Think Too Much, a classroom discussion is supposed to go like:

Q: OMG, “production possibilities curve”, what’s that?!
A: Shut your mouth, it’s a “simple representation of maximum output an economy can achieve using all available resources to the fullest”
Q: How the hell do you know that?!
A: IT’S IN THE TEXTBOOK!
Q: WHERE IN THE TEXTBOOK?!
A: PAGE FREAKIN UR BUTT
Q: Oh sure, I see. But, like, “output”?
A: Goddamit ask me some other time I want to know what “assume” means for speaking.
Q: …

  And so on. A large amount of simple utterance, roughly guided, to eventually create a complex overall whole wherein textbook knowledge is explored and then applied, and some situation or new data is assessed and accounted for. I provide the conceptual framework, some concrete examples, a scoring system that ensures not too many people sitting on their hands, and viola davis, we all learn.

  Buncha things set it up. Like, I tell everyone in advance what pages to look at and what questions to prepare (and no one does). I lean in during early sessions prompting leading teams with questions to ask (which they do, and I award them points). I cheerlead simple questions. I say speak before you think. I end up talking a lot and getting tired. But it’s only been two weeks so far and no one’s angry yet so……..

  It’s a modified tutorial program. I wonder how it would work with native speakers. Maybe well? Given that there are 45 students in the room and there is overall just one large discussion going on with exactly one speaker at any given time, but that turns for speaking change very quickly….

  I like that it’s not me doing the speaking in the classroom. That it’s not (just) me interacting with the knowledge. And that it’s not (just) me making sense of the questions. Assuming the textbook is a good’un and the case study/question structure they provide is in fact directed… hell, it’s an actual teaching method, right?

{..}

September 4, 2018

Application: Personal Statement #3

September 4, 2018

  I teach so I can learn. That’s been the imperative behind the last ten years of my amateur teaching career in China. I’ve managed the book learning by myself relatively easily, and practiced it a great deal with students over the years, so I think I can claim a fairly solid subject foundation. But as far as genuine teaching is concerned, there is something missing. I’ve read books and tried new things in the classroom and as the years go by I’ve begun ironing out my obvious mistakes, but it all takes so long and is so riddled with naïve personal blindspots that I can’t in good conscience call myself a professional. What I really want is real and rigorous training.

  But as for the subject teaching foundation, it was born out of interest. I had started out as a language trainer and wasn’t making much progress until I discovered how business topics and higher level language classes went together. Then I wanted to know more about the business topics themselves. I could have left China and taken some courses in Australia but instead I went to my employer and said how about I start teaching some real Business classes. To my enduring surprise, they said yes and put me in contact with the Management and Economics school here.

  At first, I was teaching university level courses. Business Administration and International Marketing, mostly. Reading the textbooks wasn’t difficult, but finding ways to bring those books to life in the classroom was. About three years into that career, I discovered and began using the A Level Business Studies syllabus. Stepping down from university-level textbooks to high school oriented instruction was, in context, an excellent move. In a Chinese college with university-level students, language was an issue as was academic background. In the Business Studies syllabus I found a readymade structure that included all the necessary information but, crucially, also had built in to its structure an introduction to critical thinking. I was able to shift away from being the presenter of large amounts of incomprehensible information to being more of a guide as the students attempted to manage the information by themselves.

  It’s been seven years now of working with the Business Studies material. In total I’ve spent 864 hours in classrooms with about a thousand students. Those hours represent 4 complete cycles through the Business Studies syllabus with 12 different class groups. My knowledge of everything the course requires is of course incomplete, but it’s not inaccurate. If it were, the students would have let me know by now that I was incoherent. Instead, the classes have been successful and I was able to begin introducing A Level Economics as well. To date, I’ve been in the Economics classrooms for 216 hours, or 2 complete cycles through the syllabus with 8 different class groups.

  Now, this has worked out for me. I have become very familiar with the high school subjects of Economics and Business. But I’m still an amateur teacher and I make naïve mistakes all the time. I feel often that genuine teaching practice is right there, just outside my grasp. I can’t find it by myself. I found the subjects by myself and mastered them with aplomb, but when I’m teaching it’s just so clear that the students themselves aren’t book knowledge, and to meet their needs I need better practice.

  So I want to get into teacher training as soon as I can so I can get started.

Application: Personal Statement #2

August 25, 2018

  I teach so I can learn. That’s been the imperative behind the last ten years of my amateur teaching career in China. About three years into that career, I discovered and began using the A Level Business Studies syllabus. I had been presenting various university-level Business Administration and International Marketing classes, and I’d found the material stimulating but altogether too complex to perform anything other than lectures with. In the context of a Chinese college with university-level students that meant I had to assume my students could already handle academic matters in English, and that just wasn’t true. Within the Business Studies syllabus I found a readymade structure that simplified the kind of information I needed to present while maintaining a strong foundation. I was able to shift away from presenting large amounts of information and toward having students use the information.

  It’s been seven years now of working with the Business Studies material. In total I’ve spent 864 hours in classrooms working together with students to develop an understanding of the material, how it should be used, and what would constitute progress through the syllabus. Those hours represent 4 complete cycles through the Business Studies syllabus with 12 different class groups. My knowledge of everything the course requires is of course incomplete, but it’s not inaccurate. If it were, I would have been incoherent in the classroom, and the students would have let me know by now. Instead, the classes have been successful enough that was able to start developing A Level Economics as well. To date, I’ve been in the Economics classrooms for 216 hours, or 2 complete cycles through the syllabus with 8 different class groups.

  Now, this has worked out for me. I have become very familiar with the high school subjects of Economics and Business. But I’m still an amateur teacher and I make naïve mistakes all the time. I can feel it sometimes, how genuine teaching practice is just outside my grasp. I can’t find it by myself. I found the subjects by myself and worked through them like a trooper, but students aren’t book knowledge. I can’t learn how to handle them without learning how to handle them. I need better practice, so I want to get into teacher training as soon as I can so I can get started.

Application: Personal Statement

August 22, 2018

  Hello Gatekeepers, how are you?

  So you’ve said to get into the Master of Teaching program, an applicant shall have two teaching specializations, and that these are demonstrated by passing six undergraduate courses within each of those specializations. Twelve semesters of undergraduate study. Basically, a major and a minor.

  You’ve also said, and I quote, “the entry requirements are determined by the Teachers Registration Board of [my butt] and the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.” Which, unfortunately, is a lie, isn’t it. I asked the Teachers Registration Board, and they said, and I quote, “The [Board] do not place any limitation upon a teachers grant of registration in terms of what level of schooling or subjects they are able to teach.” And I checked over the AITSL website and their teacher standards require a teacher to “demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the concepts, substance and structure of the content and teaching strategies of the teaching area” and while passing undergraduate courses would likely satisfy that call, it’s not exactly a requirement of undergraduate study now is it, you fucks.

  You needed a high bar, didn’t you. The Commonwealth supports these courses, and that makes them appear exceptionally cheap to applicants, meaning you don’t have that barrier to entry, so you went for the academic requirements, eh. The overkill. It probably helps politically too. Every fucker has an opinion about education and middle class parents vote all the time so, bam, over-specification and sucks to be me.

  Well fine. Like some angry letter from me will make a difference. So is there some alternative proof I can supply? Is there some way to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the concepts, substance, and structure of the content?

  By the time you’ve skimmed this and are edging you cursor toward delete, I’ll have performed a literal one thousand real classroom hours amateur teaching of both Business Studies and Economics as they are constituted in the British AS and A Levels system. The students and I will have worked out way through the case studies and questions of the standard textbook. The goal all the way through will have been to use the knowledge supplied by the text to investigate those cases in terms of how those stories pan out when the textbook knowledge is used to filter the details, what aspects of the stories can then be drawn out and examined further, and what kinds of conclusions or recommendations can then be made. (If that was a very long sentence, observe I’m referring to the skills A Level proficiency is supposed to be measured in terms of: Knowledge, Application, Analysis, and Evaluation.)

  And you know what? I’m going to have to tell you that doesn’t constitute “sound knowledge”. If those students had gone on to sit the A Levels and passed, I could use that as some kind of proxy, but none of my students were ever meant to do that. I teach them Business Studies and Economics as a way of having them practice discourse. You know, the fourth system of language after vocabulary, grammar and phonology – extended presentation of language with meaning and purpose. The students are supposed to use the Business Studies and Economics knowledge to discuss together, under my watchful ear. Uncovering the right answer to the case study questions is a proxy for adequate discourse. I of course have to know what the right answer is for that to work. I have to know why the cases are presented as they are and how the questions are structured and what they’re supposed to do for the students.

  Which, in the end, adds up not exactly to the kind of sound knowledge indicated by university coursework passes, unless “hella acquaintance” with the high school course is enough to let you pass a university course. (And fuck you, it’d be a firm foundation at least.)

  I might have gotten it all wrong too. I’m amateur teaching this crap, after all. No one is checking what I do. Well, no one except the students. If I make it all incoherent then something will break in my pretend classrooms, right? Wouldn’t I have found out by now? Besides, are you saying I can’t learn this stuff adequately on my own? I have a PhD by research, you turkeys. That pretty much means I can study the shit out of some area by myself and both accurately and quickly assimilate that field.

  Do you want a demonstration? Shall I tell you about macroeconomics? Well I can’t. The first time the students went through the econ course they couldn’t really be said to have gained any adequate understanding of microeconomic discourse. They weren’t ready for the wilder abstractions of macro. This time around I’ll be dealing with classes of 45 students apiece who last semester learned nothing about discourse in Business Studies I, and honestly I’m kinda looking forward to failing all of them this semester in Economics. That’d generate some buzz around here, certainly.

  I have a firm foundation. It isn’t traditional and it isn’t complete. (I won’t be telling you that in the real letter though because you’re assholes.) But I have all the tools to make it right. I lack the teacher training to stop from stepping on my own toes too often. I want the teacher training. Goddamn you fucks. Let me have the training!

  Sincerely,

  Your butt.


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