Best Teachers and tests

March 16, 2014

I read a post by one Wangjangnim at KoreaBridge and raced off a quick comment. Briefly, Wangjangnim appears to be a hagwon owner and his post attacked teachers for two things – claiming to be skilled, to be the Best Teacher and for making and using tests that aren’t appropriate.

How do teachers measure their effectiveness, and here you will slowly realize why I am against how they do it.  Scores.  Teachers effectiveness are measured by the students scores, but there is a problem.  These tests are created by the teacher.  The lesson are prepped by same teacher.  The lessons are given by same teacher.  The test is given by same teacher.  The test is corrected by same teacher.  Anyone with half a brain immediately understands the problem.  Anyone with a smidgen of understanding of HR practices and ethics revolving around test taking knows that this is simply ineffective.

Tests cannot be objective under those circumstances.  OOOO you say, but that is why we have SAT tests and the like.  Generalized tests that are the same for all students and not dependent on the teacher.  Really?  Those tests are made by teachers.  At least, as far as I understand the Education Industry, tests are manufactured by those mostly occupied with the profession of teaching.  Nothing wrong with that.  Everything wrong with that.

My response there (very slightly edited to remove the silly typos):

There is a real problem with judging how effective a teacher is and I don’t think there is any good method to judge all teachers.  Well, there is no easy method.  If you want to judge a teacher, first test his/her students when they arrive, inform the teacher precisely what you want from him(skipping the ‘/her’ for the rest of my comment) and then test the student again after some time has passed.  Also, do this to more than one teacher so you can see if one is doing better than the other.  Then, make sure you understand, and use, statistics to properly decide if improvement has been made

You will soon find that making and administering a good test takes a whole lot of work.  As you appear to want communication skills instead of grammar and vocab, I suggest asking students oral questions or long answer written questions.  Then you will need to read every essay or listen to every single answer.

I don’t know any teacher that wants to teach TOEIC.  My students are required to take a TOEIC test and that affects their grade but we have never seen the test nor know when our students take it.  Administrators seem to like because it is the opposite of what I described above: it is easy to administer and easy to grade.  If you make a better test of English communication that is relatively easy to administer and grade, you will make a lot of teachers very happy.

I haven’t read your posts before, Wangjangnim, and I don’t know you or your place of business.  Your writing shows you have better English than most of the Hagwon owners I have known.  I am not attacking you personally, but your claim that:

“General Tests are scams.  Huge scams with children, an parents, as victims”

is probably true but, only in the same way, “Hagwon owners are scammers.  Huge scammers with children and parents as victims.” is.  Teachers teach to the test because parents and hagwon owners (and some university Deans) require them to.

I just feel you are attacking a group – teachers – that is not a free agent on the issue.  If you can make a better test, I really want to see it.

Now, there are parts to his post that I like and suggest I may have been too hasty in attacking it.  for example, how to do well in a job interview:

If you truly love your profession, a better strategy would be to show me your passion for teaching and to give indication to things you helped master in- and outside of the classroom.

And he includes some kernel of an idea of how to fix the problem:

We will only know who is truly a great teacher, once teachers stop evaluating themselves, and start being evaluated by the results they achieved with their students through proper assessment tools.  Until then, the ESL mess we are in will remain unchanged.

Teachers are indeed somewhat at fault with poorly learning outcomes in their students.  At the same time, many teachers are often given close instruction in how and what they are to teach.  I am mostly grateful for that as I could really get sidetracked into teaching zombie epidemic survival skills and anti-religious rants, neither of which have much value outside of Youtube comment threads.

On the other hand, I have been told to teach TOEIC skills from a TOIEC book and many teachers here are expected to do the same.  I have taught at a hagwon where the owner required me to be the parrot for movie lines.  We spent months watching Avatar, repeating each line “three to five times”.

I don’t know this Wangjangnim but I would sincerely love to hear if he has a test that can accurately test student’s abilities even when teachers do not ‘teach to the test’. One valid test I can think of would be to parachute students who have finished classes into central Canada and see how quickly they get out.   Ah, maybe a more urban area would be appropriate – we are testing English not wilderness survival skills.  I guess we could test for student’s motivations and their strengths to see how much immersion they can handle but then we run into the Hagwon problem – the owner has two clients: the child and the parent and the latter seems to want TOIEC.

 

I want to be fair to Wangjangnim and I really want to hear what a fairly articulate hagwon owner really thinks.  I hope that my attacks on his post are not fueled by the standard hagwon teacher/ hagwon owner tension and will be following his blog for a bit.

Wangjangnim’s original post.

Unnecessary canals

March 2, 2014

I used an ocean of pixels in attacking Lee Myoung Bak’s plan for a canal from Incheon up the Han River to Gangwondo and across to the Nakdong River (which also starts in Gangwon Province) and south to Busan.  The whole canal idea was ridiculous; the ocean offers a open water route between Incheon or Seoul and Busan and there are never traffic jams or delays for locks to fill and empty.  See here and here if you are interested.

A new canal is in the news, and although not in Korea, it might be similarly redundant.  Nicaragua may soon get a canal to compete with Panama’s.

The environmental impacts could be considerable.

A final route for the canal has not yet been announced, but the proposed routes pass through Lake Nicaragua, which covers about six times the area of Los Angeles and is Central America’s largest lake.

The lake is a major source of drinking water and irrigation, and home to rare freshwater sharks and other fish of commercial and scientific value, Huete-Pérez and Meyer say. The forest around it is home to howler monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, and countless tropical birds–not to mention several groups of indigenous people (some of whom have challenged the project in court, so far to no avail).

I’m a citizen of the world and benefit from international commerce.  I know nothing about the environmental impact of either Central American canal but I know I benefit from the one that currently exists.  It will be interesting to see what arguments are made against the proposed new canal and how the current one succeeds or fails on those aspects.

Ship leaking oil near DaDaePo

February 17, 2014

From Busan Haps:

BUSAN, South Korea —  An accident involving an oil supplier and an 80,000 ton cargo ship has caused a huge quantity of oil to leak into waters about 2.8 miles northwest of Busan Saeng-do, with  237 kiloliters of Bunker C oil has leaked into the sea.

The amount of the leaked oil is one-and-a-half times more than that of the recent Yeosu accident. The oil has spread 4.5 kilometers south from the scene of the accident.

 

There is more at Yonhap. And Daum media.

I have learned elsewhere that the Coast Guard has more than 60 ships onsite.  The Korean Navy, Busan Fire Dept, private environment cleanup groups and other groups also have ships and boats onsite. When the recent Yeosu oil spill first occurred, it was deemed to be easily manageable and only a small fleet was sent to work on it. Then, it was found to be larger than previously reported and more ships and personnel were sent but the oil had had time to spread. This time, the response was much greater. Coast Guard vessels from as far away as Sokcho responded to this spill.

Enjoying a short winter- perhaps only because it is short

January 7, 2014

On January 14, my son and I fly back to South Korea.  In Busan today, the temperature is +6C.

Here in Penetanguishene, schools, roads, well, everything is closed because of the blizzard.  The wind is howling and dumping snow and the temperature is below -15C even before wind chill is taken into account.

My son and had fun today anyway.

Winter started early with a lot of snow in early December.  I seem to remember lasting snow only falling around Christmas (and falling for the next ten days straight, but not until then)  This winter, it has been early and constant.

blizzard jan 7 (1 b)

We had to go out the garage door because the front door is snowed in.blizzard jan 7 (2 b)

Even the back door is blocked up.  The wind has actually pushed snow through the screen door so snow has piled up between the doors.blizzard jan 7 (4 b)

Once outside, we built a quinzee.  Outside, the wind was strong and the temp around -15C.  Inside the snow house, there was no wind and the temp was much closer to 0C.  The main problem was having our glasses fog up in the warmth.in quinzee (1 b)

If we were staying in Ontario for the whole winter, we might soon get sick of the weather.  A short but real winter (again, in Busan it is miserably cool but not cold enough for sledding or making snowmen) is fun and I’m glad to have had the chance to enjoy it.

I sure hope our flight isn’t delayed though.

Except on this blog.

January 2, 2014

Funny that I enjoy these tests now that they mean nothing.  Also funny, how they do not represent my actual use of grammar on this, or other, blogs.

I embedded the second image from the site.  If it does not have a working link, try this.

grammar guru


Click image to open interactive version (via Staples.ca).

Late Fall at the Wye Marsh

November 19, 2013

The school groups aren’t doing much at the Wye Marsh this month.  We were incredibly busy in October but there are only occasional groups coming until, I guess, next year when cross country skiing starts up.  A coworker and I felt the need to canoe and see what the marsh looks like in mid-November.

First, I found this wonderful swan-foot print and needed to compare it to my own hand.  Sure, my foot is longer, but this is huge for a 12 kg animal.

DSC09976 b We were using a smaller canoe so we explored areas we couldn’t earlier in the giant ten person canoes.  Here, the edges of the channel were so narrow, we just pulled our boat through.DSC09971 b Did I say, November?  I meant Movember.  Squint or click on the image to increase the size if you cannot see my luxurious mustache!DSC09971 cWe had passed this beaver den almost every day for around five months.  After three weeks away, we arrived to find a cache of small trees and branches with delicious bark for the beavers to access through the winter in front of the den.
DSC09968 b This kestrel is the Marsh’s newest resident of the Birds of Prey program.DSC09966 c

I guess this back end of a cheetah needs a little explanation.  My son loves cheetahs and this is around half of a Christmas gift I am working on for him.  There is more, and another mustache shot at Creativiti Project.  Midland Wood Carvers is a group of carving hobbyists that I sometimes join to beg for assistance and wisdom.  Their workshop is at the Wye Marsh. DSC09981 b

Cheetahs and other cats of the Toronto Zoo

October 21, 2013

On Saturday, The Little Guy and I went to the Toronto Zoo.  We were there in part to meet an old roommate from  university but we also had a set of animals we had to see.  Those animals were Pandas, cheetahs, Komodo Dragons, and Orangutans.  The other animals were expected to be interesting but not nearly as important to The Little Guy.  In fact, it was only with difficulty that I convinced him to see the pandas.  My tiny knowledge of Hanja allowed me to read one character in each of the pandas names.  Er Shun was ‘2’ Shun and Da Mao was ‘great’ Mao.  My friend and I chuckled that ‘Great Mao’ might have been a dangerous name to have not too long ago.

I gotta say, this is a great time to visit the Zoo.  We were among perhaps fifteen people who entered at the nine AM opening and we didn’t feel crowded at all during the day.

 

The animal that most caught my attention was this feral cat carrying its lunch into a ravine.DSC09822 b The Little Guy and a lion.DSC09785 bTLG and a orangutan statue- the plaque is in honour of a friend of mine.DSC09816 b Three chameleons.*DSC09815 b A resting cheetah.DSC09795 b

The single best part of the trip of TLG’s interactions with one of the cheetahs.  It saw him running along the path and ran to meet him.  Then the two had a few running races.  I wish my camera had a better focus as I think it focused on the fence and not the animal inside but here it is clearly interacting with TLG.

 

 

—-

* I think there is only one chameleon in the picture.  As with Ninjas, one can never be sure.

Hallowe’en at the Library

October 20, 2013

Finally, a Penetanguishene Library event that had good attendance.  My son has had a great time at the Friday evening activities – Lego and chess are his favorites but there is also a Scrabble night and…something else.

Anyway, Hallowe’en came early on Saturday October 19 at the library.

DSC09833DSC09834DSC09829
Mad scientist Mel enthralled the kids…with science!  I don’t know how much the kids absorbed but I want to make a smoke ring cannon now.
DSC09830DSC09832 DSC09831I have tried to avoid children’s faces in the images.  If anyone notices a problem, I will happily edit or remove a photo.

 

Awenda on Thanksgiving Monday

October 14, 2013

We had a picnic at our backyard provincial park today.  Awenda is just 10 km from home and really haven’t gone there as much as we should have.

My son learns to take chances:

awenda thanksgiving (3 b) awenda thanksgiving (3 c)

 

The variety of rock forms is suddenly interesting to me.  I have lived near Georgian Bay for years and never cared about the rocks.  They were mostly good for snorkeling over or diving off of.awenda thanksgiving (24 b)

Methodist Point:awenda thanksgiving (36) Stitch

I have had trouble capturing the vibrancy of the fall colours.  It has something to do with the right distance.  I can get one tree or one leaf but getting the feel of the forest eludes me.

awenda thanksgiving (39 b)

Today was the last day for camping this year.  Awenda Provincial Park is open for day visits until sometime next year

Great Muskoka Paddling Experience 2013

October 13, 2013

The Little Guy and I were fortunate to get to Bracebridge for the first part of the Thanksgiving weekend.  We met friends and did the Family Paddle event in the Great Muskoka Paddling Experience.  On Friday, we borrowed a canoe from some friends and  tried it out on the North Branch of the Muskoka River near Wilson’s Falls.DSC09620 b

Here are the Falls in question.

DSC09615 Stitch b

On Saturday, we went to Annie William’s Park for the paddling.  You can see that it was not just any canoe but a Langford 16′ Cedar Strip, made in Bracebridge, beautiful and a joy to paddle.  Many complemented the boat and I felt compelled to admit that I had only borrowed it.DSC09627 bThe colors were good during the paddle, and the trip in general – but I don’t think they have peaked yet.  This striking tree was opposite the Riverside Inn and where the North and South branches of the Muskoka meet.DSC09630 bI was impressed by the variety of vessels competing.  First up below is what I consider a sprint canoe, a very modern version of what I once competed with for Akomak Sprint Canoe Club.  OUr races were up to 500m and I really can’t imagine going 10 or more kilometers in one.DSC09629 DSC09628 b SUPs were common and another craft I would not want to race long distances in.DSC09626My friend Glen is in this boat and, as of October 13, 2013, the one used in the promotional materials here.DSC09624 b I really can’t say what kind of boat this is.  I am especially intrigued by the high stern seat.DSC09622 A few leading members of the 10km race passing our vantage point.DSC09621

I would never have finished it, but I wish I had seen this race, also on the Muskoka River.


Added later:  Results -for the actual races, not the ‘family paddle’ I was involved in, are now up.


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