AT the blog “The General Paper” (generalpaper.wordpress.com), Victoria Junior College (www.vjc.moe.edu.sg) teacher Hoe Gim Yau points students to Internet articles relevant to the A level General Paper (GP) subject, telling them that they should practise leaving comments on the entries posted there.
And why should students bother? Hoe explains:
“So you practise formulating your opinion
To expose yourself in a legal fashion
To make the page more fun”
I like that last point. A fun classroom is generally a productive and creative one.
In the wake of some blogging scandals — particularly those involving teachers, students and some alleged name-calling — it is refreshing to see such a positive use of an oft-maligned medium. Set up late last month, “The General Paper” has seen more than 50 articles posted.
There are 21 categories that range from politics to biotechnology. Students and staff from any institution — not just VJC — can access, comment and contribute to the blog, Hoe says.
It is early days yet — the most active comment section has only five comments, and is titled “The world is one big GP essay”.
That post is a link to a blog article written by lzydata (www.djourne.net/singaporeink), who says that for GP, “you merely need to present your stand reasonably convincingly, not answer the question once and for all”.
Comments followed. “Twostepsfromtwilight” (twostepsfromtwilight.wordpress.com) says: “GP encourages rushed, judgmental, superficial, moralistic thinking, which is, I think, not very much different from that of the wider society, so how can it be useful (apart from allowing students to flex their linguistic muscles once in a while)?”
“Chwee Bock”, a JC teacher, says that questions posed to students that begin with “in your opinion” should be avoided, “because what I am likely to get is what you can also gather from uncles at neighbourhood coffeeshops”.
Not that “Chwee Bock” explains what is wrong with stuff you gather from kopi- tiam uncles — but life as a teacher can be a bit trying, especially if not all JC students are “adequately equipped to be cogent, succinct and effective in their expression”.
“It tests your patience, challenges your passion as an educator and — at times — makes you wonder if you made a mistake in your choice of profession,” he says, before concluding: “Moanday tomorrow … aargh! Aargh!! AARGH!!! :p”
Mr Tan — the teacher who left the heartfelt comment — has incidentally also implemented blogging as a teaching tool at Millennia Institute, where he teaches GP.
It has been up since last September. Like the VJC one, this blog (generalpapertancb.blogspot.com) is a useful repository of links and assessment guidelines, though not as comprehensively classified under the various topics and categories.
There are probably many ways other than blogging for teachers to engage their students, but there’s something reassuring about reading your own teacher’s candid confession that he hates Mondays as much as you do.
As a teacher interviewed in a New York Times article said: “If it gets kids interested about learning, we might as well try it.”
Mr Miyagi aka Benjamin Lee has been entertaining readers at miyagi.sg for two years, and believes doodling and scribbling in class should be made compulsory.