Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Teaching environment

I'm not counting but this is my 400th blog post. If I were counting, I'd write something special, but since I'm not, this is just a regular day in the life of a teacher trying to do something about the environment. 

The low energy building course has started up again, with more students this year, and several architects, engineers and materials scientists. In the first lesson I asked what language they wanted me to speak, and what language they wanted to speak to each other. They all seemed to be happy with me speaking English, and over half of them wanted to speak English to each other, with the rest wanting to speak Japanese. Speaking to each other is important as I need to give them time to process what I'm talking about, and it helps them to work together on exercises and calculations. Also it's an interdisciplinary, and an international class, and I want them to meet as many other people as possible, and build the kind of relationships that make universities worth going, because frankly sitting in classrooms listening to teachers is very last-millennium.

I use an instructional method that is borrowed from Management, the teaching industry's estranged sister. The original is called Management by Wandering Around, or MBWA, and I call my version Teaching by Wandering Around, or TBWA because language teachers are the only people who like acronyms as much as management consultants. MBWA is often called Management by Waving of Arms, and I find myself doing a fair bit of arm-waving in my lessons, although this one is very amicable so far. 
A completely irrelevant picture of an electricity-generating shoe

To accommodate everyone's language preferences, I have split the classroom in two, with the Japanese speakers on the right and the English speakers on the left. Hopefully this works for the students, as they will be able to communicate in their preferred language. It also makes it easier for me to know which language I should speak as I patrol the class, see how they are progressing, and offer advice and encouragement. 

There is a significant Malaysian contingent, all of whom want to speak English, although I hear a bit of Bahasa when they are sitting together. I'm encouraging students to sit with different people each week. I'd also like to leave the option open for people to cross the floor, so they are not stuck in the same language with the same people for the whole fifteen weeks. But if I do this too forcefully then I may get all the people from the Japanese side move to the English side, and everyone from the English side move to the Japanese side.