Monday, June 30, 2008

Stolen Goat

A few things have come up in the last couple of days, but even in the environment of this - a blog where only those who have connected me with it actually know who runs it - I don't feel comfortable divulging all the things that have really - what's that quaint expression - gotten my goat.

I'm currently studying a course that is, at most, an avocation - I don't feel called to be a high school teacher. Yes, I'm fairly good at it, and enjoy it, but I know what I'm supposed to be in life. So, I've got what could be loosely termed as my occupational problems; there's my domestic situation (of which the less spoken of, the better); and it appears that I'm about to become embroiled in a rather explosive political situation with a major protagonist being someone that I thought I could trust. While most of those were wearing on me - a person not known for a surplus of either patience or tact - the last was the straw that, well, unleashed the avalanche on the proverbial camel.

There was a question that I asked myself a while back about someone - what am I supposed to do without [them]. Sure, it's a quote from an episode of one of my favourite TV shows (That '70s Show), but it seemed very pertinent to me.
I watched that same TV episode tonight, thought about that person, and realised...I'm going to be just fine. Maybe because the hole has been gradually filled by other people, maybe because that person's true colours have unmistakably shone through, I don't know - and doubtless it's a bit of a combination, probably with a few other factors that I've forgotten - but I don't need that particular person in my life anymore.

These have been, to me, really big issues. They've occupied a lot of my thoughts for quite some time (and I do a lot of thinking as part of, well, who I am), because they've been about issues of who I am and, in a mutually-effecting role, who I'm going to be - what I'm supposed to be doing, who are the people who can support me, where am I going. I've always kinda figured that the first two will basically lead to the third, but external circumstances have forced my hand - if I want to go in a particular direction (which may actually be the best way to live out the whole 'who I am' bit), I'm going to have to run with that and, at the risk of using inaccurate language, to defend that and put a bit of my self on the line.

In other news...
There was an ordination on the weekend, which was totally awesome - hierarchical Divine Liturgy with an ordination is always rockin'. I was one of the chanters for matins, which was awesome, and was in the altar for the rest, which was similarly awesome - especially the ordination itself, which is just awe-inspiring.

Today I went to church in the morning, which was cool, then went and played mahjong, which was also cool. I like mahjong.

I've done about, oh, one essay out of the six I'm supposed to have done - and one of the smaller ones, too. Really going to have to get past the issues and just finish these papers...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not Many Holidays

It's only been ten days...
In that time, I've been posting the sermons that I've been presenting on my Facebook account, along with some of the theological essays that I've completed thus far, so I haven't entirely neglected the blogosphere.

I mentioned last post that I was largely sans activity, well...not anymore! I checked my inbox and found the next batch of "exams" (really, essays), so I've got six essays to write in six weeks - half of them 4-5 pages, the other half 5-8 pages, which worked out to being about 9000w in total. This wouldn't be intimidating - at university, this might be the amount expected for two first year subjects in a non-theological area - but I haven't even looked at the textbooks all year. Unfortunately, to read the textbooks is actually the point of the course, but just like in my philosophy degree, I kinda skipped that.

Sunday was the last Sunday that I've been asked to deliver a sermon, which is...well, what it is. The Sunday upcoming, the bishop comes up and ordains a deacon to the priesthood, which I'm (obviously) looking forward to.
The Sunday just past was the beginning of what I'm going to call the 'forty hour fever'. It began as a headache (and I had to do a sermon through it - not cool!) and increased so that I was, literally, needing a wet facecloth to get to sleep...then I somehow cottoned on that I was sugar-deficient, and on Tuesday I just had it where if I moved my head too fast it would hurt, and Wednesday, all over. Strangely, it still hurts if my eyes move too much too fast...which I don't understand, but hey.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Some cool links...

Humour related to the Orthodox Church: http://turtlemom3.wordpress.com/2008/05/29/eastern-orthodox-humor/

Kapsalis, on the missionary character of every Orthodox Christian: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles8/Kapsalis-Fishing-with-Jesus.php

Tingley, on the unscientific nature of modern athism: http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=21-05-020-f

GraphJam. Trust me, it's awesome: http://graphjam.com

Orthodox Monk, translating the service to make someone into a Rassophore (a midpoint between Novice and Monk): http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2007/05/service-for-beginner-putting-on-rason.html

Orthodox Monk, translating the service to make someone into a Schemamonk: http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2007/05/rubrics-and-service-of-great-and.html
And continuing with some commentary: http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2005/10/comments-on-vows-of-tonsure-to-great.html; http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2005/11/discussion-of-asceticism-and-vows-of.html

I adjudicated two debates last night, which was nice, and as far as I know, that's the end of my debating season. I'm kinda glad, because it means that my Wednesday nights are back so I can go back to Toastmasters - writing debating speeches is good, but I'm more hoping for diversity - there's a lot of ways of writing and presenting a speech, but I've only got a couple of styles at the moment, so TM should help with that.

It's kinda an odd thing that I can look at my diary and have nothing to do until...y'know, Saturday.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

P's make degrees, 4s open doors...

So. I submitted my assignments. Turns out, I got most of my other assignments back, too - basically, I'm sitting on all fours (no pun intended - for those unfamiliar to university scoring, that means I'm getting somewhere between 50-65% overall for all of my non-prac subjects). I'm okay with that. Not thrilled, mind you, but okay.

Saturday, celebrated my father's birthday (last week was the family celebration; this week was the friends-plus-family celebration). Fair bit of friction between two people (myself included) and one particular person, basically based along the lines that (if I was going to be charitable) she was used to running the show and wasn't about to stop that just because she, ahem, wasn't actually running the show. Bit the metaphoric tongue quite a few times. The irony was that half of the conversation was centred around the explicit theme of disproving her lack of intelligence. It sounds horrible, but she was actually the person who brought that topic up. I'm not quite sure exactly how much of a contradiction-in-terms the entire ordeal was, but I was glad to have an excuse to amuse myself in other areas.

After that, I caught up with a friend who was going overseas. Y'know, eventually - her flight was the next day, and some things needed to be done. Unfortunately, time got away and we ended up talking basically through the time for church. Considering her departure and my going to church the next morning (and, hey, that it was stimulating conversation), well worth it.

Speaking of which, went to church the next morning, had breakfast and coffee afterwards. It's probably the shared experience of the people there (all been/being involved in some form of ministry), but I'm really enjoying the discussions and the interplay.

Monday was busy, went to church in the morning, had breakfast with a couple of people, then did R.E. I was wondering how my first week back would be, and thought that I'd just have some fun with it. Bad move, cardinal sin of teaching is to walk in jovial and then get serious, because it never works without some kind of transition. Especially when, in this case, there were about 45 students there. Afterwards went to lunch, then went home.

Today, I did...almost nothing. If I didn't need to go to the shops and get some milk (among other things), I probably would have stayed in tracksuit pants for the day. Tomorrow will be largely the same, except for debating in the evening; Thursday the same again (without debating), and Friday will also be sans activity.
Sometimes it's good to have nothing to do, but where I am, it's actually sucking quite a bit.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

End of Semester! *Relief*

As of about 4:30 this morning (or so), I finished all the assessment due for this semester. YAY!
I just need to proofread the two pieces and submit them today, then I am done. Oh, I don't normally proofread. But this assignment was hard - probably the hardest assignment I've done to date - and I did parts of it over a number of weeks (about five actual sessions of writing); but, that's kinda to be expected, because it was an assignment that had some primary research in it (mine were surveys). Because of the uniqueness of the area, I'm considering submitting it to a journal of some kind (after some more polish, of course).

Trust me, I'm very happy that - marks going well - I'm half finished my course.

Other things that have happened...

On Friday, as you may have guessed, I finished my practicum and got a 'Very Good' (basically, on a scale of A to D, I got a B), which I'm very happy with. Considering where they expect us to be at this point regardless of how much education we've done, very happy indeed. And I know my supervising teachers well enough to know that they're not just playing nice, either. As I've said previously, I was lucky enough to get people that basically gelled with my personality type, and that means no unworthy praise - which, of course, means more.

Saturday was my father's birthday, so I spent the day over at my parent's with them and my brother, who has come back from Shanghai. Sunday was church in the morning, where I preached a sermon (on the Gospel of the First Ecumenical Council, appropriately enough), and afterwards went to the youth bbq that was being held at another parish.

The birthday of the Queen went largely unnoticed on Monday (uni student, remember) except for changes in bus timetables. I went out to coffee with one of my housemates, which was cool, and bought a pair each of athletic shoes and sandles, which was necessary. Nothing flash - I think I got the cheapest pairs in Payless Shoes, which should say something - but I'm quite happy with the purchases.

Tuesday was a day when I false-started on the assignment, only to watch TV shows; then, on Wednesday, did largely the same thing. Now, I had two assignments - the research one and a reflection - to go, which was only about 1500 words, but I had no idea on the latter assignment and a lot of things to research in the former. So, I did the logical thing and decided that I would be better able to do the assignments if I was doing them in the wee hours of the morning.
Sound plan, right?
So at about 4pm, I realised that I had my Toastmasters meeting at 6 and wouldn't get home until 9, and then I discovered that State of Origin football (i.e. the biggest three-match series of the year) was on that night. Finding myself entirely unable to do my preparatory snooze has, well, made me doubt my work, hence where proofreading comes in. On the positive side, I'd had that bottle of V in my fridge for too long. On the negative side, I still have half the Red Bull. And as someone who has tasted Red Bull, trust me, it's a negative.

So today, I plan to submit my assignments, pick up the marks that I've already received, and then go home. I'm not sure what I'm doing with my day, but you can be quite certain that I'll not be spending it doing anything terribly radical like, say, moving.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Disparity

For most of this year, I've been complaining about my course, which a course that teaches you how to teach. There are 32 weeks in a given academic year, and in my course, exactly 11 of them are devoted to prac work. About 4-5 are devoted to end of semester assignments, which leaves 16 for actual teaching - which really doesn't leave much time for teaching how to teach.

Now, my chief complaint with the course is that it gave such a small time period for prac - other universities give as much as 16 weeks of pracwork. My solution was to change the qualification for teaching from a graduate diploma to a post-graduate apprenticeship - stick around a teacher you feel is particularly good for a year and you'll figure out how to teach. Hey, it works for other professions.

In the course of doing a research assignment for my graduate diploma (the irony not lost), I've completely done an about face. See, my assignment is on religious education in state schools - basically the only place where a person can teach unsupervised without having a teaching qualification (you need approval from the religious body and a working-with-children card, but that's about it). I've found a great disparity between those who have just taught from their knowledge and those who are trained teachers in one area particularly - methodology of teaching.

See, when you have a small length of time to teach, you can get by on the ol' chalk-n-talk - where the teacher will talk, the students will listen and regurgitate on the test (hopefully metaphorically). That's something you can do when the lesson is 40min or less, and it works well enough, and people wonder why you need to teach teachers how to teach. But, when the lesson is longer than that, you just can't do that - you need to do something to vary the class, some groupwork, some audiovisual, whatever, it needs to be done. The trained teachers understand that. The untrained teachers, well, don't. They remember their old lessons, where the teacher - who knew pretty much everything - would walk into a classroom, talk for 40 minutes, and walk to their next class - pure chalk-n-talk. Teacher training lets you teach differently and in different ways, it lets you plan lessons and know what you want to get out of them.

Maybe you'd be able to get that out of an apprenticeship - probably not, and it would depend on the teacher and there's a really high chance that the knowledge would just get lost. Maybe an 18 month course would be better - six months theory, six months theory-prac, six months apprenticeship (paid at apprentice rates). Maybe that'd work, I dunno. But, you definitely need to teach people how to teach, because you cannot just talk to students for that long a time without boredom setting in.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Lots of debating talk and remembering how good I've got it

Well, final day on prac. Just a couple of further observations...

Yesterday, I was at a debating meeting (my last one), and the three teams gave me a present - a gift voucher for HMV...it was really awesome. Not the voucher, but that they valued my contribution...very happy :)

Today was exam supervision. It was boring. And, of course, will be boring (since I have more supervisions to go). I think they dump supervisions on the prac teachers because, well, we're not marking, after all.

Had an interesting experience on Wednesday night - my first complaint from a coach. I've generally been pretty good in my adjudications, as far as responses go - parents from both sides often compliment, debaters are quite receptive, everyone seems okay with the result, even if it didn't go their way on the night. That night, though, the coach spoke to me after the debate, opening with that classic line of diplomacy, 'I disagree with everything you said', and then worked backwards from there - including following that by saying that she did, in fact, agree with a lot of what I said. She basically said that the Affirmative team (i.e. not her team) didn't explicitly say that they were going to prove the topic (which, I'm fairly sure I said, was a ridiculous thing to say) and that I had missed the Negative team's (i.e. her team's) caseline (which is just funny, because if it's the caseline it's impossible to miss!). I politely told her that she didn't know what she was talking about, and she probably didn't accept that, but she did walk away in the middle of a tirade, which suited me fine.

Had pizza last night. I like my greasy American-style pizza. When the delivery boy came, though, I was struck by how sucky some jobs were, and how deeply unhappy people could be. I've been unhappy before - very much so, like most people - but he seemed to be depressed on a contagious level, as if you get bummed out by seeing him. It's a healthy reminder that I do actually enjoy what I'm doing. Teaching may have its downs and have annoying people to deal with, but it's got a lot of positives and I could definitely see myself teaching for at least ten years.

I'm delivering another sermon this Sunday, on the Gospel theme (First Ecumenical Council). Doing sermons is, well, for me, it's kinda fulfilling. I love public speaking (and rhetoric in general), and I love educating, and I love telling people about God, so personally, it's the best of everything that I'm wanting to be doing with myself.

And my brother comes back from China today...I'll see him after prac. Tomorrow's my dad's birthday, so we should have a nice family day between tonight and tomorrow. It's a full day, liturgically :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

List of books on my list to purchase

Obviously, I haven't won the lottery. Turns out, it helps if you buy a ticket. That means that, financially, that I'm in the half of the population that makes the top half possible.

There are a number of books that I would like to buy:

All of the PostSecret books (I own the first, but not the other three).
St Bede's commentary on Scripture (and there's a lot of them).
Patsavos' book on expectations of the clergy in the first five centuries AD
HTM's Pocket Psalter
Orthodox Psychotherapy, by Metr. Hierotheos (Vlachos)
Christian Philosophy in the Patristic and Byzantine Tradition, by Tatakis.

Also, an icon of St Justin Martyr would be lovely.

Not sure what that list was for, but I'm sure I'll use it when I actually have an income :)

Last Week of Prac - 3 days to go!

This is my last week of prac. I have about, oh, three days to go. One is exams, and the other two are preparing for exams, so aside from about three lessons I'm actually done as far as the whole preparing for lessons thing goes.

How have I found it?
1. Teaching isn't easy. I've had a lot of experience teaching previously, but I've always been teaching things that I've known backwards, where my biggest problem has been behaviour; here, my biggest problem is content knowledge, because I'm teaching topics that I don't actually know before preparing for the class. I'm a little worried about going to a school that actually has behavioural management problems, to be honest, if I have to teach topics that I know nothing about. Of course, behavioural management problems mean that I don't have to know a full period's worth of knowledge, but still.

2. The teachers have been supportive, each in their own way (people are different, after all).

3. The girls are really...quiet. It takes a lot for them to get going. The only time I've had any difficulties controlling a class has been a year 9 class (14 year olds) in the last period on a rainy day, and it was right at the end of the class - and it took maybe two sentences to have all ears on me. I do enjoy the interactions - the young can be so full of life that it's refreshing to see and, even if obliquely, be a part of, and that's particularly so in debating (or, at least, with the debaters).

4. I like teaching something that I know. That's my reason for getting into teaching, after all. I'm a little put off by the reality that during prac, I wasn't able to teach anything that I knew something about - apparently good training for the real world, but it's not doing me any favours. It's also kinda annoying that I've been teaching in schools since 2003, and in schools full-time for a year, but I don't feel that I've really made a difference anywhere. Maybe my bar is set too high, I dunno.

5. Generally, my teaching methods worked - go through a bit of content (off my own head or through a textbook), answer questions as well as I can, generating some teacher-led discussion, affirming student answers, going through a movie and stopping it occasionally to discuss some salient points. The older grades particularly like content teaching, the younger particularly like discussion - it's a matter of realising that you're there to teach them, so the best teaching methods are the ones that they respond to.

6. I'm not totally sure if I'll get into teaching as a career. I know, it's a big thing to say, particularly when I've thrown a year at jumping through the requisite hoops. But I may use supply teaching as a means of supplementing money while I continue postgraduate work.

6a. I'm considering doing something in Public Theology, which would be totally awesome. I'm studying Applied Orthodox Theology now, but that won't give me an academic qualification (it's an ecclesiastical qualification), and I would like to get an academic qualification in theology that doesn't require me saying that The da Vinci Code was solid theology - and moreover, the Public Theology course is about applying theology to the outside world, which is something that I'm both interested in and will need to know.

I know that I've been doing a lot of reflecting on prac, but I'm going to be using this blog as a basis for the reflection that I have to submit after prac is over - it's only 500w, so I think I'll be okay :)