Sunday, 22 March 2009

Odds and Sods

A fallow time, this, a time of Blogger's Block, so I resort here to a list of random odds and sods about me and my handful of obsessions. Maybe others share them?

  1. I am plagued by a crackpot kind of animism. When I consider rearranging my little displays of vases, bowls, candle holders, pebbles and what-not, at the back of my mind there twitter such batty thoughts as ‘I wonder if these two bowls will get on? Is this vase fed up of being in the bathroom? If I break up this grouping, will they miss one another?’
  2. I don’t understand romantic love, or jealousy. I understand lust and I understand companionship, but why anyone wants an exclusive relationship with one other person is a mystery to me. ‘I need to share my life with someone,’ Alonso, a Brazilian boyfriend, told me back in the Eocene. My response was that you open the front door in the morning and there they all are, the people you are forced to share your life with. The best bit of each day is getting home and closing the door behind you. This was not the required response, I gathered. Later, when Alonso had struck up another relationship, he asked me ‘what does ‘swamped’ mean?’ Now, I wonder who could have employed that word in his presence?
  3. I’ve been a teacher for nearly thirty years but I experience stage-fright before almost every lesson, now even more than in the past. At the moment I have some of the nicest students I have ever taught, but I still wake up on Wednesday  mornings feeling intensely relieved that this is the day when I do not have to face a class. I have evolved a teaching persona over the years, a split-off version of myself that leads people to think me a good deal more lively and sociable than I really am, and the persona is beginning to annoy me, like a tulpa that has taken on a life of its own.
  4. In the past, the term ‘workaholic’ has been applied to me. No more of that, πα, πα, πα, πα, πα. I ate, breathed and slept English Language Teaching for twenty of the past twenty five years, training teachers, midwifing research projects and teaching teens, and enough’s enough. I do sufficient to get by, and if I could, I’d jack it in tomorrow. There might be another way to teach the present perfect continuous, but if there is I don’t give a stuff. However...
  5. ...I really enjoy teaching presentation skills. This is partly because overseas students get so nervous about presentations that you have them firmly by the balls, and they will apply themselves with a diligence that few other areas will elicit. Also in lessons, where the presentations are dry-runs and they don’t have to be serious, the students often come up with some very entertaining stuff. Last month my Russian group came up with a Dragons’ Den style pitch to request funding for a new brand of Kazakh vodka, one guaranteed to have a very positive effect on male potency. It came in a vessel shaped like the Artemision Bronze and the booze was dispensed through his knob. 
  6. That snazzy viagra-vodka pitch aside, does anyone really, honestly like or need Powerpoint? Is not its ubiquity in universities due simply to peer pressure? In the coming weeks, I am going to have to evaluate dozens of Powerpoint presentations and as always, I will emerge from the darkened classroom unable to blink my eyes in unison after watching dazzling pictures fade in and out and captions skidding around the screen. Powerpoint is for a generation with a short attention span. It's just a bombastic overhead projector with an ego. So there.
  7. I'm typing this lying on the bed with the laptop on the bedside table and I've got a crick in the neck and aching legs as a result, so this is where I am forced to finish.   



Anonymous said...

Hey there Vilges - Thanks for your comment - I feel bad!!!!! :( Now that I think about it I was a shit to that poor man with the fringe, when he was innocent enough in his message... I'm gonna have a think about taking that part down........ You're my inner conscience!:)

Vilges Suola said...

Hi Tom, sorry if I was unbearably self-righteous. I thought you were being a bit cruel in that post, though, and I bet you are very far from being cruel really. Also you are cute.

Vilges Suola said...

P.S. Those two blokes who contacted you through Gaydar must have thought so too.

Bo said...

I get stage fright before teaching too. And I LOATHE powerpoint as well. Never use it.

Vilges Suola said...

The stage fright gets so wearisome!

Fionnchú said...

I've been teaching nearly twenty-five years, and what I dread is the first day of class. I never sleep well the night before. But, after that it's not so bad, even if it's a course I don't really want to teach. I put on the act, and like my charges I perform.

I do dread the new "blended learning" half-online half-onsite about which I blogged on 21 Mar: "standardized" lessons for "consistency of course delivery systemwide" which we must "facilitate" with little of our own input allowed; and they claim it's a university! I asked if any "prestigious" institutions used such a canned, top-down format, and none had! Oxbridge and the Ivies face no competition from us.

Trouble is, unlike you Brits in the classroom, my employer uses a system for teaching where we log on, our students do, and our supervisors do. Thus my blog analogy to the Panopticon two days ago. My own enthusiasm or lack of such for my lessons therefore gets tagged along with my keystrokes. Our classes also are now invaded without warning by deans every eight weeks, whereas prior we were observed if veteran faculty annually. I've taught fourteen years where I am now, in a dismal labor market, ever since getting my Ph.D.

I do love teaching, but the McDonaldization and corporatization of it grows daily where I toil. Apropos my visceral hatred of PP. My students use it for presentations, my bosses use for same, but I like Bo never will. He already knows that with you, VS, I too engage in "spontaneous divination." As to being partnered, well, me and the missus have been so over twenty years now. Discretion must rule here; she reads LA as well!

Thanks for a great blog, for adding me to a list of linkettes, and don't mind my bitching.

Vilges Suola said...

The Gods preserve us from 'blended learning' - doesn't this preclude any consideration of individual aptitudes and learning styles? Or am I imagining it as worse than it actually is?

How about a Campaign for real Presentations - one that pushes for students to choose words before fonts and encourages listeners to react to content rather than clever manipulation of graphics? I might set this going after Easter, and ignore all accusations that I'm a Luddite.

Thanks for the kind words, and feel free to bitch all you like.

Doomed But Cheerful! said...

I have also been teaching for longer than I care to remember. I detest PP, except as a repository for screenshots from my smartboard - I love my students to develop ideas on the wall, if possible. Having put in so much effort, it is handy to keep those images for later use.

As for e-blended learning, and all the other nonsense: we have dozens of people whose job it is to create this stuff. I am under constant pressure to 'provide content for re-use in the e-blended learning environment.' I don't like it, and nor do my students.

G =]

Vilges Suola said...

I'm such a Luddite I don't really know what 'e-blended' means. No doubt it'll be forced on me eventually.


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