A Goodbye Letter to My Sweetheart

This post is dedicated to my desk. I think he/she/it deserves a proper goodbye after three years of being such a wonderful piece of Scandinavian office furniture.

Moving Day:

The time has come for me to change desks.

De-cluttering existing space will NOT be easy by the looks of that.

This photo is taken from the front desk. You will notice Henry, the chicken. Visibility from the outside is EXTREMELY distracting. I love the students to bits and end up spending way to much time chatting, instead of working.  

New Desk. Can’t wait.

My Farewell Letter:  

Dear Desk,

Sadly, not every relationship lasts forever. As you know I will be moving to a new location within the next two weeks. Although it is a tough choice, I must take it up as there may never be another opportunity as this one. In light of this, I would like to end our relationship. The time has come for both of us to move on.

I will carry with me the memories of the three years we have spent together. You were, and will always be, a great desk.  I hope that we can continue to be friends and you will write to me from time to time to let me know how you are doing.  I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Yours Sorrowfully,

Fay

 

 

 

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The Paradox of Plenty

Otherwise known as the resource curse, refers to the enigma that countries with an abundance of natural resources (Particularly non-renewable) tend to have less development and growth, than those with a scarcity of natural resources. Elsewhere, this has also been referred to as the curse of oil. Interesting.

In Kuwait, we have dedicated a large amount of time, resources and effort into emerging as one of the largest exporters of oil. Neither our oil producing capabilities, nor the environmental implications are within the purpose of this post. Instead, read this:

The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.

No, these are not the words of some green-peace-tree-hugging-something-smoking-barefooted-hippie. These are the words of Ahmed Zaki Yamani (Click here for his page in Wikipedia and here for an interesting article in the Economist), Saudi Arabia’s second Minister of Oil from 1962-1986.

The ultimate point here is not a debate about the environmental implication of oil production. The ultimate point is the immediate need to revolutionize education. What lies ahead is unpredictable, and anything less than extraordinary education (Click here to read about why the current status quo is anything but extraordinary) will not prepare our kids for future challenges.

As things are, Kuwait runs the risk of falling victim to the paradox. Over dependency on oil is harmful. The old saying of never put your eggs in one basket seems very appropriate to insert here. The time to diversify must start now, and it begins with a new era of educational awesomeness. An true worthwhile investment.

Otherwise, we are doomed to a Counterfeit Nutella infested future.

#Fact

I tell my students that they can use Wikipedia in their reports, as long as they reference correctly.

Shouldn’t students be able to use the world’s largest encyclopedia? I also find it admiral that people who actually produce the articles are self-motivated and intrinsically driven to write and share information. Wikipedia is great.

And all this talk about the SOPA and PIPA bills just makes me sad. Truthfully, perhaps time ought to be spent passing bills for tobacco companies. It is quite bizarre that they are still allowed to get away with making money out of producing products that contain over 4000 harmful, carcinogenic and addictive chemicals.

Back to SOPA and PIPA. These bills will affect Wikipedia by raising the cost of copyright compliance. For example, Wikipedia would be required to actively monitor every site they link to, to ensure it doesn’t host infringing content. Any link to an infringing site puts them in jeopardy of being forced offline.

The trust and openness that underlies the entire Wikipedia project would be threatened, and new, restrictive policies would make it harder to be open to new contributors.

I want to share this TED talk video. Clay Shirky argues the case against SOPA and PIPA so eloquently, and calls to defend the freedom to create, discuss, link and share information.

I guess only time will tell whether the blackouts, petitions and tweets are actually going to work.

Until next time, remember that school is cool. #Fact

Death By Grading

The following image pretty much portrays the situation at work for the past few days. Entering results, grades, percentages and attendance. Numbers, numbers and more numbers. I think everyone here, not just me, is in serious need of an excel detox.  

Spreadsheets.

More spreadsheets.

It is easy to see that a significant amount of time, with respect to my job, is spent looking at and working with the numbers. The more I looked at spreadsheets, the more I got to thinking about grades. Seriously, how much does a percentage really tell us about a student’s capability. If the doctor tells me that I am operating at a 78% health level, what does that even mean? I would ask for more clarification.

In my opinion, there needs to be a shift in focus from grading to feedback. Constructive, of course. unfortunately, from my experience many students are not interested in the feedback teachers have to give. Very often I have students tell me (In the middle of trying to give feedback, which come to think about it, is quite rude) “Ok Miss, so what’s my grade?”

And I think this de-emphasis on grades should start in primary school. Is there really a need for kids to be subjugated to this extreme obsession with grades at such a young age? I don’t think so. My belief is that this creates a student body that only cares about grades. A student body that does not embrace education for the pleasure of learning.

Ranting over. Got to get back to work now.

What’s In A Pile?

At last, all marking induced blood, sweat and tears is finally over. As teachers, we can all go back into our caves, hibernate and reappear just before the start of the next semester. Of course, before cave season begins we have to showcase the fruits of our labour. Fellow readers, please meet various assessment piles.

The Sky’s The Limit

Neatly Arranged:

Not So Neatly Arranged:

Papers in The Jungle:

Papers With A View:

There are many more piles around the office. I wonder whether they say something about the “Pilee”?(That word doesn’t even make sense, I know). I am sure they do.  

Well anyway, enough procrastination* for now, I should get back to work.

*For further reading on procrastination, particularly productive procrastination, please click here.

Hey! Teacher!

We don’t need no education.

We don’t need no thought control.

No dark sarcasm in the classroom.

Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone.

Perhaps not many teachers would post about a song that urges teachers to leave kids alone and advocates the lack of need for education. Although I do not agree with everything that Pink Floyd have to say about education, I do actually like the song. Furthermore, when I do look closely at the lyrics I can’t help but wonder that the song does make sense.

My interpretation of “thought control” is an education system that molds school children into mindless entities. Rote learning in schools produces little more than people who know many definitions. Yet not many are able to produce an original, imaginative and creative thought (Have a look here at counterfeit Nutella).

Perhaps we don’t need this type of education. In this sense, it’s a criticism against the types of teachers and systems that supress creativity. Read this if you are interested about my experince with a student called Y. If not then I guess you can check your email or continue browsing the internet for random facts.  

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.

Final Presentations

Check.

Finally done with watching around 50 individual student presentations. By no means an easy task and at times I feel like the college ought to compensate us for sitting-too-long-on-hard-chairs induced injuries.

It is also a joyful/sad occasion. Joyful because of those students that do well, those students that apply what they have learnt and those students that make you think to yourself “What do you know I actually taught them something”. It is also sad because it marks the end of our journey together (Jesus Christ that sounds so cheesy, nonetheless it is an honest expression of my opinion and I will resort to actually publishing such material).

I think I also feel that way because I have truly enjoyed teaching those two classes of first semester kids.

Following are some photos I took on presentation day. They are “samples” from their hypothetical business that they have spent weeks and weeks coming up with.

The Gift Store:

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The Baby Products Store:

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The Chocolate Store

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NB: These are camel milk chocolates. Surprisingly delicious.

And here some cupcakes that another instructor, S, brought for the kids as a “thank you” for being such awesome fun to teach.

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Take care for now. School is cool.