Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Buh Bye!

Well, my "fun" with getting the last post up has led me to rather abruptly end my tenure here at blogger.

A number of reasons have me saying goodbye.

1. Wordpress is better.
2. I'm at a bit of a shift in my career, starting off towards a Master's degree.
3. I am presently in the UK - not in HK, as the name of the website would suggest - and I may find myself leaving HK in the next 1-2 years.
4. Maybe with a new start I will be more diligent about posting onto my blog? Heh.
5. If I switch to buying my own hosting space, I only have myself to blame if I don't like the way my blog works.


Here you go:


I hope that the three people out there who have subscribed to my feeds will continue to do so at the new site.

Give me a few more days and I should have more up online at the new site.

Oh and - not sure if I'm going to keep on importing the new blog to facebook. I feel a need for a clean break here...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Urban Myths

Live to you from Bath University, England (national motto: our summer is your winter), I'd like to debunk a popular myth – teachers spend all summer on vacation twiddling their thumbs and picking their noses. Well, that may be true for some / many teachers. But not the great ones. Great teachers got that way because they devoted a significant portion of those vacations to their professional growth, by spending time on their own reflecting and reading up on their discipline and / or at a conference or course with other teachers.

One of my too-honest middle school students told me at the end of the school year, "Mr. Pierce, you're not a great teacher. But you're okay." And I agree with him; I do some parts of the job of classroom teacher darn well, but in other areas I am still woefully inept. And to be adequate is not enough. I want to be a great teacher. So my professional growth for this summer is the beginning steps of a part-time master's degree in International Education from Bath University, starting with two modules: Research Methods this week, Multilingual and Multicultural Education next.

The best sun-bathing weather in England

Here's another urban myth to bury further: those who can do, those who can't teach. From just the one hour orientation session I was jolted awake by all of the different elements that go into an educational experience. There is just SO MUCH that it takes! It's the sort of thought that is always quick to surface whenever I return to the role of a student and start observing a classroom, rather than being the one creating the framework and guiding the flow.

Example Number One: assessment must be fair and standards must be high. Assessment of student work at Bath involves many reviews of marked work to ensure fairness, up to three in the case of a distinction or fail, including one review by an outside examiner's board. Maybe that is standard at the post-graduate level or in the UK, but coming from an American background I was impressed with the pages of detail given to me on Day One about how I'll be marked on assignments I will submit a year from now.

Example Number Two: the little details matter. They jumped out at me from my front row seat…awkward posture, an untied shoe, powerpoints not yet loaded up, presenters who left themselves without a copy of the student handout. None of these small missteps made much of a difference in the end result, my orientation and learning. But I can easily see how there is a point at which the small details would matter, when they escalate into detracting from the learning experience at hand.


I've had far too many swirling thoughts today to come up with anything else cogent, but there is plenty more to come I am sure. So I'll leave you with a couple of fun vocabulary challenges.

Check out the definition and meaning of the word "cynosure". Seriously how awesome of a word is that?! It's the cat's meow! It's the bees knees! It's the...okay I'll stop. But look them up.

How is a "dispreferred answer" different from a "wrong answer"? (I don't know either but my professor used the term in an article I found via google. She's smart.)

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8088927@N06/2291156394

PS Did blogger become idiotic since I last posted, or did I get dumber? Because it took me about 30 minutes to find a way to get the post I typed in word into blogger. I had to email it. That's stupid. If I have to keep this up I'm dropping this one and going to wordpress.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Corinthians 13:11

Something is going on lately. Not sure what. Been doing lots and lots of thinking over the past half year about The Future. Most of the time, The Future is fun to think about. A new nicer flat. A summer holiday in Europe. A new job. A master's degree in education.

But the problem is when The Future becomes The Present. I've spent the last hour staring at a letter that I've finished which is going to close a door that I had been hoping to go through for some time. Even though I know that I've got a better option in front of me for the next 12 months, even though I've turned this decision every which way for the past month and come back to the same answer every time, and even though I know that I can come back to this same door if I want to in 12 months...this feels odd.

My future for the past month has been completely in limbo, a tabula rasa, my imagination's fun house. But this letter makes that lovely Future a step closer to The Present.

Time to move on with it, Pierce:

"When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."

Monday, March 02, 2009

On Mobility

Or, an unexpected benefit to a broken arm.

I've been slowed down quite a bit these past weeks. A horrid missed tackle in a rugby match on January 10 has my left (non-writing) arm in a cast as you can, see wrist to armpit. At time of writing this post, it's been seven weeks and I'm soon swapping the cast for a brace (it's Removable!!! Showers!!!).

It was particularly horrid timing to be forced to move to one-handed typing, what with one hundred student comments to write and semester grades to calculate the week after I put this baby on.


But now in the new semester, I've gotten back to the joys of creative teaching. Maybe a lot of this has nothing to do with a broken arm and is a sign of getting used to my schedule. After all, I did just finish a semester of one brand new prep and the other two changed significantly from last year. I am also the only returning member of my department, and collaboration takes a long time to develop.

But one aspect of the new semester, my lesson and unit planning, has been greatly improved by the loss of one arm. I've abandoned the computer as much as possible due to how slow I am with one hand. Now I'm doing all of my plans on paper, like I did in the first years of my career. A notebook for each course, full of random scribblings, scratched out lesson plans, and highlighted to-do tasks.

My hypothesis is that now that I'm not planning on google docs I am staying much more focused on my lesson prep. My fingers can't dance away to a website to check out the answer to a random question. I can't write any of the numerous emails I remember I "need" to send. Nor can I take a short break into the quagmire that is Youtube...

It's just my brain emptied onto a blank sheet of paper. A miraculously versatile and efficient tool.

However, lest you think I am reverting to luddism (luddite-ism? is ther a word for this?), you should know that the first draft of this post was written on my cell phone as an unsent text message. Because these thoughts struck me on the walk home, a time when no pen or computer can assist.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"When Death Comes" by Mary Oliver

A poem about death may seem inappropriate for this season. This is when we make plans, set new goals, convince ourselves that next year, in the New Year, Things Will Be Different.

But today, December 31, is the "death" of 2008. And even though it may seem to be a depressing topic, in this poem about death Mary Oliver displays her amazing ability to infuse wonderment into daily reflections.

I cherish the second half of the poem. Ever since I first read it a few years ago, I knew that I would be returning to it over and over.

Question of the day: What do I want out of 2009?
Answer: I want an amazing year. I don't want to end up simply having "gotten by".

Lastly - even though they're all over the internet, poems are not free. So I've decided to link to a few different sites that have the poem. And also I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND purchasing a collection of Mary Oliver poems. Here's a link - it's worth it.

When Death Comes, Link 1
When Death Comes, Link 2
When Death Comes, Link 3
(they're all the same - just want to make sure you get there okay!)