Category Archives: education

The oddity of a five day week.

Hamster wheel

Hamster wheel (Photo credit: sualk61)

This post might just be me being a lazy bugger, but is a five day working week really necessary?

I enjoy many things. For example, on the weekend I often go cycling and last night I went a run. I even manage to write some stuff now and again. However, if you asked me to do any of those things – note, things that I enjoy – a regimented eight hours a day five days a week, I would almost certainly start to dislike them. So why do we expect work to be any different?

I’m probably romanticising, but I’m guessing things wouldn’t have been like that back in the good old days when we lived in the forest and had a high chance of being eaten by something with big pointy teeth or dying horribly from a common cold. I guess in those times we worked when we had to, ie when we were hungry, and the rest of the time was pretty much up to us, leaving us to sit about grunting or poking the mysterious fire to our heart’s content. So why do we think that sitting in an office for forty hours a week is sensible?

And what is it we are working for exactly?

‘Well if we don’t work hard the economy will go into recession and that would be terrible!’ said a made up Tory politician (I’m pretty sure they say that kind of thing all time.)

But don’t they get it? The economy, money, recessions, they’re all made up! They don’t really exist. It’s just some convention that we’ve all agreed to work by and could just as easily stop working by and do sometime else instead. It would be like going to another planet and finding out that they worked only because if they didn’t the giant bunny rabbit of death would come and eat them. On further questioning we find that they are all perfectly sensible people and know that the bunny thing is… well… nonsense. ‘But that’s just the way we’ve all ways done things on this planet, so no point in changing that.’ So what it we are working for? I can understand a scientist, doctor or someone talking about the advancement of the human race etc, but for most of us our jobs are not like that and what we do is simply production for the sake of production with no real benefit to mankind what so ever. In fact with the way the environment is going we’re probably doing harm.

Another of those fallacies is that if we stopped forcing people to work, then nothing would get done, but again that is total nonsense. Just look at the internet and be proved wrong. A five minute search and you’ll find load of free programs, stories,games and music that people have spent a lot of time and effort making, not for financial gain, but because they wanted to. People are not lazy, we just think we are because we are so tired from working on stuff we don’t like all the time, but give people a month off and once they’ve spent a some time recovering, suddenly the urge to work will come and it wort be work 😦  it will be work 🙂 .

So here’s a not really thought out idea to consider. How about we take the jobs that people don’t really like doing (making shoes and cleaning sewers stuff like that) and divided them up between everyone in the country. Hopefully that works out as about three or four days a week for most. The rest of the days are then ours to work on doing whatever we want. You want to be a teacher, teach. You want to be a writer, write.  Okay so we might be a little less productive, but we’d certainly be a lot more happy.

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Filed under education, Poltics, psychology, Uncategorized

Time to stop debating.

Debate Anatel

Debate Anatel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I helped out with a little debate thing that was happening in the school recently. It was a bit of fun for the most part and reminded me of when I used to do debate with my university students in China, but I did kind of wonder if debates are actually a good idea.

One thing I’ve been trying to work on recently is changing as I get new information. It sounds really obvious, but so few people do it. Most of us just take the ideas that we have all ready and when something comes along to challenge that, we throw up a whole bunch of fortifications built with supporting evidence and gut feelings and argue it out as battle to be won, when we really should be listening to the other side and trying to find out what the truth of things is.

Politics is where you see it most. You’ll have some poor politician stuff towing the party line despite all the evidence going against them, but I’ve noticed it a lot on facebook and other social media recently as well.

Okay so I’m not saying we stop debating in school, but maybe we need to balance it out with more tough arguments where students have to work together to come to a compromise based on evidence rather than just fighting for their side. Maybe that would be a lot more useful.

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Where next?

English: Not to be confused with Clapham London

English: Not to be confused with Clapham London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Well I’m going to be 30 next month, so I guess it’s time to figure out what I want to do for the next decade or so. I’ve got a few ideas, but really not sure which to go with so some advice would be appreciated.

 

The biggest problem is cash. I’ve been thinking about investing in some further education, but it’s expensive and I’m not sure if it’s going to be worth it or not. That’s doubly so since I don’t want to do it part time. If I’m spending thousands of dollars I want to be able to focus on the course, not do it at night after a day of working.

 

Anyway here are some idea I have. I’m leaning towards option one or two but others are still possible.

 

Option 1 : Keep on writing.

I think no matter what I do I’ll probably still write, but if I save up enough it might be worth working then taking time off to write until I’m out of cash and then finding a job again. I could also use this time for meditation and other things like that.

 

The problem with this one is that I’m just not sure I am good enough to do it as a career and the chances of being picked up seem slim. It would be a long shot, but it might pay off.

 

Option 2: The Delta

The delta is a diploma for teaching English as second language. I have the basic certificate, but this is a step up and it would open a few door to such things as being doing IELTS exams and things like that. The course itself is not too expensive, at least I could probably afford it after my current contract, but paying for hotels and food while getting no income for two months, would pretty much burn most of my savings.

 

My problem is that I don’t know how much of a difference having the certificate is going to make. Would it pay for itself in the long term or would I still be doing the same job on the same pay but with another piece of expensive paper? If I knew it would pay off I would be tempted to go for this option as it would allow me to do option one more effectively.

 

I think the other thing that’s holding me back a bit is that I would like to move into something else. I have no idea what, but there might be something down the road.

 

Finally, I hear the course is tough and I’m worried that I wouldn’t pass, wasting my savings in the process.

 

 

Option 3: Masters

The masters is out of my price range at the moment for doing the in person course. There is the option of the distance course for a masters in TESOL, but it would cost around double the cost of the DELTA and I would have to work at the same time as doing the course. It would take two years to do and I’d think I would have to stay in one place while I do it. Again I’m not sure what, if any, doors it would open for me. I know there are some university jobs where a masters is needed, but from what I seen in Japan most of those places are over subscribed already. I’m not sure about other countries though.

 

I think I’d rather do a PGCE, or another teaching qualification, but it would mean doing two years full time back in the UK, which I couldn’t afford yet either. I’m wondering though if I could get certified in another country?

 

Option 4: Chinese

I’ve not looked into the prices, but my Chinese is not bad, although my writing needs some work. I’m tempted to see if I can get a place at a Chinese university for a year to study Chinese full time and see where that leads me. I think it would mean going back home to find a job though and I’m not sure if I’m ready for another year in China. I doubt my lungs could handle it.

 

Option 5: Stay still

I could just keep doing what I’m doing now and see if something comes up that interests me. I’ve thought about moving out the south America for a bit and teaching there. That, or maybe it would be good if I learned to stay still for a bit and stayed in the job I have now.

 

Option 7: Something else

I’m hoping that something will present itself that’s a bit different. Maybe I’ll be lucky and some opportunity will fall into my lap. Who knows.

 

Any advice? If anyone has any information on courses or had any experience with any of the above I would love to hear from you. Suggestions for alternative plans are also very welcome. 

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The Experiment

Today I tried a new thing with my students. I told them they could work on whatever they wanted, as long as it had something to do with English. Of course we brainstormed at the start of class so they could get some ideas and they had to show me what they had been working on at the end of class, but the rest was up to them.

The idea came from a video we watched in training by the writer of a book called “Drive”. He was talking about software companies that allotted a certain amount time for employees to work on their own projects. Something that was taken up famously for Google – It seemed worth a shot.

Well, I wish I could say it was a total success, but that would be a lie. Bearing it mind that it was a first time for students, I’d say that about 40% really went at it, another 40% did work but didn’t really challenge another 20% did “something” but nothing that was really worth the time.

It’s a problem that I’ve found with a number of “free range” activities in the past: The top students get the most from it, students in the middle do fine as well, but the students and the bottom seem to do a lot less than w

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Edutainment

I never really started doing well at school until I hit high school. That’s round about the same time that I got my first PC. While I’m grateful for the education I had, I think I can say that I learn as much from playing games and watching Star Trek as I did from school.

Games have quite a bad reputation, especially among people that never play them. They see flashing lights and characters running around and assume that it all mindless killing and to be fair for some games it is. But when I was growing up – and now as well – it wasn’t that kind of game that I enjoyed.

I grew up with games like Master of Magic and Master of Orion (from the same people that made the first Civ, but it’s in a fanstasy and sci-fi setting). These games were far from the shoot em up killing sprees. They were about managing empires and often in quite detailed ways. If you wanted to play them well you had to be smart. You had to work out the maths for empire management and balance the economy with research. You had to know the races in detail and learn big words like lithovore and transcendental. You had to have some basic knowledge of science – especially physics and they inspired you to learn more and to read more. It was the same for RPG’s as well. Games like Ultima and Bloodwych. Thinking ahead for your character, reading the detailed stories, problem solving, asking questions about morality and philosophy and engaging your imagination. People who have never played these games before should try them. I’m sure they would be stunned by the complexity.

So am I advocating dropping school curriculum and replacing it with intelligent gaming? Well, not yet – that would put me out of a job for a start. But I think we have to recognise that games can be a very positive thing especially for some students. It’s a good learning style for some people, so why don’t we use it more? Instead of telling children to stop enjoying themselves and to stop playing “waste of time” games. Let’s instead direct them towards games that are going to challenge them – note though that I’m not talking about some of these forced education games that appear in schools and learning websites, but rather proper popular games that children are going to enjoy and which they can practice in a fun and indirect way, all the things that we are trying to teach them in school.

Note: if you’re looking for an educational game I’d say the best one that is out at the moment still has to be Civilization 5.

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