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Friday, March 31, 2006

Our Class

hey hey hey it's all good this LIFE business, I just love it.

Woke up this morning, and as usual, felt very happy. Mind you, I was a bit surprised to find my girlfriend here. Two days apart and I'd got used to the bachelour lifestyle again. Forgotten how nice it is to be trodden on first thing in the morning (the futon fills the entire floor of the broom cupboard) tee hee. Anyway, she's off to uni now, leaving me here to sort out the pile of crap I've accumulated over the past week or so, a weeek that has been monumental in its business.

Must clean that spot off the screen. I keep on thinking it's a full-stop.

Anyway, so I woke up, and as *cough* was busy getting ready for uni, eating organic Swiss Style muesli (ahh, natsukashii... When I worked on that dairy farm near Luzern, we had Burche Muesli (sp?) every morning, with milk straight from the udder [ok, so it went via a sucky thing, some pipes and a bucket), thanks to the herd of cows out the back of the chalet. Mix the muesli with fresh fruit and yoghurt ...ah, the smell. Hmm, wow, brings a tear to my eye thinking of those days. I really must write to Fredi and Antonio, the farming couple who so kindly helped me through those post-marriage months), erm, I digress.

Yes, so anyway, whilst thinking about how cute *cough* was, I decided to listen to the end of the BBC's "Digital World" podcast that I'd been listening to last night. They were talking about the potential for development in technology over the next couple of decades. Basically, they were saying that everything until now has just been the kind of mundane foundations. We've reached the limit of relatively inflexible silicon chips and 'fixed' hardware - with the new developments in optical processing power we are going to see HUGE developments.

One thing that really brought it home to me, just how far we've come, was when one of the presenters was talking about the cost of memory when he entered the business about 20 years back.

Take a bog-standard 20mb memory stick (although actually you can't buy a 20mb card because it's on odd size and really rather small to be of any practical use, but anyway, if you could, it would probably cost about 5 quid, right?) He was saying that 20 years ago, that would have cost 100,000 pounds!!

Ok, so amazing fact of the day out of the way, we move on.

Recently, there has been a lot of complaining going on in our year at uni regarding the workload - indeed, my voice has been amongst those expressing arrrrgh-ness (see here)

HOWEVER, I do think that a few people need to open their eyes, and their minds to see the situation for what it really is.

One complaint that has been continuously voiced has been regarding the weighting of our weekly Japanese essay, which despite taking up to about 10 hours to complete (depending on the individual - I usually spend about two days on mine!), is worth' a minute percentage of the whole module. The argument here being that X number of hours should equal X percentage points towards our degree.

I must say, I do think that this is an absolutely ridiculous argument. I mean, come on, this is LEARNING we're talking about here, not only that, but the learning of a LANGUAGE. I wonder how many people have heard of acccumulative knowledge, step by step? The idea that one can apply a rigid framework to the assessment of the accumulation of knowledge is, in my opinion, just silly.

Imagine if we weren't required to carry out such an asignment every week. I am sure that I am not alone in thinking that if that were the case, I would probably put the grammar sheets to one side following the class (in favour of other more 'pressing' matters such as a translation piece that needed to be done etc), and not look at them again until it was time for revision. Then promptly forget all said grammar once the exams were over.

This way, we are required to pull the grammar out of our memories on a regular basis, until it makes its way into our long-term memories. Therefore, the weekly sakubun is an absolutely vital part of the learning process. So what if it's only worth x% - this is a degree we're doing, not GCSE maths - I wonder if it has occured to anyone who complains so bitterly about this percentage how much lower their results would be in the final exam (which in itself is worth 70% of the entire module grade) if we didn't do the exercise.

I was really heartened yesterday to find quite a few like-minded classmates during our impromptu drinking session, which followed our last class of this 8-week segment of term.

I must admit, my mindset on this matter has only crystalised in the last week, as before now I have given it very little thought, as I have not considered it to be an issue at all. It was only following vocal complaints from one or two people in class that I was (reluctantly) propelled into playing an active role in negotiations on this issue.

What really annoys me is how ungrateful people are. They are so obsessed with what a hard time they are having that they have very little consideration for others. If they think THEY have a lot to do, they should consider what pressure our teachers are under. One might say that that is not our problem, we are the paying customer etc (oh, is that Matthew back to haunt us?!!), but the fact is that they are human too. The disprespect that I know to have been shown to them is really very upsetting.

One such example would be the posting of messages on the university-moderated message board by one student stating, when referring to what I think is the bloomin good idea of us embarking upon a project to create a Japanese website which tells people all about Sheffield: (and I quote)

"And I DEFINETELY don't see the point in US ADVERTISING FOR THE DEPARTMENT! I mean, we write our sakubun each week...because the department don't want to spend money, or get off their lazy asses and do it themselves! And, just to rub it in...we are actually PAYING for it! It's rediculous! I'm so sick of it!"

Naturally, this came to the attention of the tutors, and naturally they were very hurt. To write something like the above on a departmental message-board is just bang out-of-order. Not only that, but this kind of attitude has really dragged the whole class down, and I think that's really sad.

Incidentally, regarding the website thing: basically, we're posting all our weekly Japanese esays online, blog-style. Mine can be found here. It really is rewarding to see all that Japanese up there - I can't quite believe it's all mine!

It seems that current attitudes are an unfortunate by-product of an education system that is obsessed with league tables. Schools, in a bid to up their ranking, do all they can to produce students with high 'A' level results. How do they do this? Spoon feeding. Thus, when these students enter uni they are unprepared for a world where they have to look after themselves in an academic sense. This has manifested itself in our year in complaints that we don't get enough feedback on our work - when we all know for a fact that the door of room AT6.02 is always open - even at weekends! I recall that there was one complaint that we don't enough 'Well done'-type gold stars on our work. In a direct response to this, our teacher then reintroduced some rather groovy (graded) stamps with monkeys on, like this one


However, this then resulted in complaints that the marking system was not clear - thus Sensei has this week reverted to the A+, A, B, C etc marking system. I think you get my point.

Within our year there is generally a very good sense of community. Unfortunatley, the side effect of this is that a great deal of mutual wound-licking goes on, meaning that problems soon become universal of their own accord - they just take on a life of their own.

So anyway, it's been tiring, all this politics, playing go-between and all that, but I must say, that having heard both sides of the argument, I think that a lot of the claims made against Sensei (as essentially that's where they are directed, despite students claiming otherwise - it should be kept in mind who designed our course) stand on distinctly wobbly ground, and I really hope that in our last four weeks following the Easter break people just get on with it.

As I've stated before, I think it's incredible what we have achieved. Many of us started off with no knowledge of Japanese, and yet here we are, 18 months later, able to communicate with Japanese people in everyday situations. This has only been as a result of superb teaching, combined with our own hard graft - It's really been worth it.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I bitched a lot about it the other day on my journal, but that was just because I was very very very very very stressed out... When I thought about it properly, sakubun are amazing practise for our Japanese, but I sort of wish that sometimes they were every 2 weeks or something rather than every week. Would make things a bit less stressful. But meh.
I generally love the degree.

and yes, I thought those comments on the messageboard were completely out of line as well. I wish people would just accept the fact that they're doing a degree which is difficult and get on with it. Not when it's me who is doing the complaining though, hehe.

1/4/06 06:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh also I was wondering where the stamps had gone. :( All we needed I think was for them to point out which one was which, and then it would have been ok.

People should be happy to belong to a department where the teachers obviously care a LOT about how we're doing and stuff.

1/4/06 06:54  
Blogger Joseph said...

ne,

"please check your email account for my response"

:-)

1/4/06 07:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has been my side from the beginning. It has just been hidden behind a wall of complaining, for I am british.

1/4/06 10:29  

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