Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The medium is the message.

When driving into the township, it is interesting to observe the vast array of homes that are here. One passes corrugated metal shacks along the edges of the highway, and then once in Gugs, we see anything from small wooden structures to large brick double level homes, with alarm systems and satellite dishes.

First thing this morning, I had a double-period Grade 11 English class. According to the curriculum, they start the year with a unit on the Media. Am ecstatic. Had a solid hour and a half with the students, brainstorming and discussing the media, what it means, and how they feel it affects their lives. They were very involved in the discussion, and as we discussed the various media outlets they feel they are most affected by, the conversation turned to music and hip hop videos, which was most interesting. They are aware that they are influenced by what they see, but at the same time they agree that seeing the fancy cars, clothing, jewelry, clothes and women make them feel like it is something they would like to emulate.

Interesting how profound the impact of this form of media can be, regardless of international borders. Had the same discussion with several of my classes in London. Do hope that I will stay with this class for the year as they seem an interesting group that is eager to learn. As two of the students were helping me carry the textbooks back to the staff room (and when I say ‘help me’, I mean they were carrying. I was told never to carry books myself because students would look at me funny). They both said that they wanted me to stay their teacher so they could improve their English and learn about the world. Very cute.

Was given a lesson to do with my Grade 10 English class by one of the other teachers, which she said would take one period. It involved reading an article on the importance of career choices, and answering questions. She said I could read it to them, or get them to read it themselves. Always preferring for the students to do it themselves, I opted for the latter. While the level of reading ability is quite high (at least in those students who volunteered to read), the actual comprehension of some of the words used in the text is lagging. After a paragraph was read, I would ask the class about some of the harder words, and whether or not they knew what they meant. More often than not, they didn’t. this then moved the lesson into learning what these words meant, which in turn meant the siren signifying the start of the next period sounded before we had even finished reading through the article, let alone get started on the questions. But does it make sense to assign questions if the students don’t fully understand the material they are expected to base their answers on? What is the protocol for this sort of thing? Hm.

The teacher who taught the grade 11s after me just told me that when she went into the classroom they were talking about me and the lesson and saying about how I was from Canada. She asked them what part of Canada I am from to which they replied: ‘New York.’ ummm…

So now I am back in the staffroom. On my timetable it said I had double period with a Grade 10 English class. When I got to the classroom however, the class that was there was the one that I taught this morning. After a bit of running around and asking other teachers, I find out that the class – 10H – that I was to teach, has been dissolved into two different classes. So there is now no class to teach.

Tomorrow there is a meeting about timetabling, at which time hopefully things will become a bit clearer. We shall see…

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