Wednesday, September 27, 2006

the relevance of Geography

It's amazing. How time flies. It has been almost 4 months since I attended a series of courses at the Tourism Management Institute of Singapore. The sessions were pretty useful for me in a sense that I realise that in teaching, we can become very insulated from the real world. The world out there is so wide, expansive and exciting waiting for us, teachers to explore and put them into our lessons. After a few months in NIE, I realise that when one talks about teaching resources, almost none of us talks about linking what is being taught in school to what is happening outside in the working world. It is almost as if that the realms of schools and the working world are cut off from each other, which in actual fact, are not.

Such knowledge will certainly be very useful to teachers I think, as we attempt to make the lessons more interesting and relevant to our students. It is good to motivate the students to learn for the sake of learning. However, it is equally pertinent to motivate and prod the students to study and to make them see the relevance of what they are studying. This is actually one of the reasons why I wanted to take the course, as I wanted to know if there were any connections to what students are studying to what they might be working after they graduate. Mind you, I am talking about average students who may not excel in their 'O' levels and who may not see the relevance and importance of what they are studying in schools.

While the courses in TMIS are not as 'fantastic' as compared to the tourism modules that we take in NUS, what is being taught there can certainly be very impactful to us, teachers. I was completely astounded to know that much of what is being taught in the syllabus about tourism, is also being covered in the course as well, in a very practical manner. And I do see the importance of Maths and its link to Geography too in the industry if one has to deal with air flights and time lags.

I am very encouraged to know that Geography is not at all an 'useless', 'abstract' and 'easy' subject that students may see it to be (I know that there are students who think this way, back in my ESE time). But, I am also equally worried that Geography teachers of the present may miss the important point about linking Geography back to the real working world. Much of what I observe in today's ICT microlessons packages deals with somewhat unrealistic scenarios of asking students to put themselves into the shoes of government officials or some other roles that they know they can never be (I mean, come on, let's be realistic. Don't throw brickbats at me for even suggesting that). While I am not saying that this is bad, my point is there is a real urgency in drumming in to the students that Geography is very important and relevant to what they may be doing in the near future. It can definitely be a very practical and useful subject, as seen in the case of the Tourism Industry.

Not related to this post, but I find this highly interesting. and thought-provoking. Something on river/canals.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Linking one's history to the present

This post has nothing to do with Geography and education per se. But rather, it acts as a continuation from the last post I made. Having attended quite a couple of lessons so far in both Literature and Geography, I have come to realise that really, the background and expericences of a school teacher is extremely important to influencing how one actually sees what teaching is all about.

The statement made by my Literature tutor about an ex-trainee teacher choosing to go back to a neighbourhood school to teach because he wanted to inspire and encourage them strongly reasonates strongly with me. I am once again reminded of why I am here, in NIE, my purpose over here, which thank God, that my Lit tutor made that remark. This comes from me, coming from a neighbourhood school background and literally working my a** off in my 4th year(coupled with some, ahems, hiccups here and there). Plus having to face with people and relatives who do not look very favourably on such schools. They did not actually say it out loud, but subtle as it might be, I could still feel it and it was not a good feeling at all. And it is still very poor school in fact in comparison to the other schools with spanking new buildings etc. The last time I went back, the roof still leaks!! Really makes me wonder if this would have an indirect effect on the self-esteem and motivation of the students when they see that other schools have new and plentiful of resources, while they have virtually none. In short, the place looks rather ancient in relative to the rest of the schools.

I have seen too many of my friends and schoolmates either dropping out of school or getting themselves into a whole lot of trouble other than studying. When I went back to reflief teach after my 'A' levels, I began to sense the fustrations and despair felt by the teachers back there.
The problem of how to 'motivate' the students and to 'keep them on the right side of the law' became very real to me and I was convinced that no matter how well I am going to do in my Uni days, I will go back to that battleground to continue the work that my teachers had done. Not that these problems weren't real to me back then, but rather I was rather absorbed in battling with my own issues back then.

Now, the purpose of this post is not to expose my sob stories or whatever. This is a post, a very carthatic one in fact, that allows me to reflect back on my aims and purposes in coming into the education landscape. It also allows me to realise more clearly the importance of where one comes from actually shapes their attitudes and perceptions towards teaching. I won't actually say which perspective is more valid than the other (though it took me a whole lot of energy to restrain myself from hitting out at those who take up rather 'elitist' attitude) , but rather, I am beginning to realise God's purpose in putting me in this place called NIE.

Not to 'mould the future of the nation', but to encourage and inspire my fellow neighbourhood school students/extended family (or whatever you want to call it) that 'hey, if I can make it out alive despite all the difficulties and unfavourable perceptions others heaped onto me, you can too!'

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Reading the article in today's paper about the 'Hottest Teacher' in Singapore, I am, once again, reminded about how fragile the line is for teachers to segregate their work life from their personal life. Indeed, it is difficult to do so especially when our own perspectives and experiences can influence how we will teach and relate to students, as so often told to us by the 'experts' from a particular institution.

This brings to my mind the caption "Moulding the future of the nation", which we are so familiar with it. How do we want to 'mould' the minds of the young generation? How is it possible to 'mould' someone's mind with a particular idea/thought when it can be possible that some teachers may come from a different position in relation to the official position?

More applicable to myself would be: How is it possible to reconcile what I had learnt in the University to what is being taught in schools today? This is so especially in the realms of National Education and Social Studies, among other subjects. When I studied the module on Nation-building in Singapore under the History Department in NUS, I felt really free. Free in terms of how I am able to read from multiple perspectives of the same historical event. Free in terms of how we can critique the perspectives.

Education in Singapore can be very political, in my opinion. It is made even more political when we are told that education should be apolitical. When in fact, it is not.

How, then, is it possible to segregate work from our personal lives?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Maiden blogging

I just added a new link to the blog. I discovered Cityscape by chance, and thought that this could be a teaching tool for the topics of Industrialisation or even perhaps Development, as well as Urbanisation.

It is pretty amazing to think back and look at how far/fast the education landscape has evolved. During my time as a student, all we need as a motivation to learn in the classroom is for the teacher to be genuinely passionate in her subject area and to really show care and concern for us. Being in a neighbourhood school, I guess we were hindered by the lack of technological resources as well. I used to wonder if I would be in this career if I did not fool around during PSLE and went to a 'better' school with much more resources. I guess this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as my experiences as a student led me to totally appreciate my teachers and inspired me to take up teaching as a career. Not to mention that this is God's calling as well.

Anyway, moving on to the present, I realised that being passionate about teaching is necessary, but not sufficient. On top of that, teachers have to think of creative ways to engage students, be it in technological or non-technological aspects. Times have changed. The teenagers of the present are constantly assaulted with technological and media advances, which makes them have a completely different notion of what would truly engage and motivate them to learn. Games, and more games. Movies. Filming. Audio recording. Blogging. Defininitely makes our task much harder with more resources available, actually. More challenging, but I am game to take up the challenge.

I think the use of blogs is an interesting aspect to promote learning by having students to process their thoughts and type it out. However, it is one thing to encourage students to voice out and produce blog entries in an informal and fun way, and another to grade a blog. Well, personally as a student now, I realise that taking the fun and 'subversiveness' of blogs out definitely do not increase the motivation of a student to really contribute to the discussion of a particular topic in an online journal. Difficult it is now to type something in this space now, well, at least I am more mature in understanding the need for online journals to be assessed. But I am not quite sure if teenagers will have the same level of maturity and understanding as us, student teachers. A topic to be further explored definitely...

Yet, it totally astounds me that globalisation and development (perhaps) can indeed aid in a student's learning process. Virtual networking of blogs and websites in the virtual space has somewhat trivialised the notions of borders and segregation, and time too. Collaborative learning with people whom students may not meet in real life is constantly taking place, whether consciously or sub-consciously in their own minds.

(However, I would prefer not to point this out to students. Students being students, once something is institutionalised or highlighted by figures of authority, will give that 'eeeee. yucks!' reaction. I am assuming that teenagers are a rebellious lot over here, of course.)

Interesting write-up on globalisation and development and teaching pedagogies

I really like Geography. Alot. *g* The relevance of this subject never cease to amaze me.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

venturing out

Testing... in the process of making adding new stuff into the blog