When I was younger, I remembered taking my parents’ Love Rock CDs upstairs with me. I was a dramatically romantic teen; what can I say?
When listening to Phil Collings’ Groovy Kind of Love today, it reminded me of these CDs and of the fact that it was kind of ironic that I listened to them more than my parents did.
The best thing about going to school is that some of my homework consists of reading books. I have always thought that since I am a teacher I should read A LOT! I should also be reading classics like Jane Eyre, Hard Times and The Mayor of Casterbridge. Being set these works as homework provides me with just enough incentive to do just that!
I’m currently on my third literature course and we’re now onto discussing literary works from the period of World War I. For this week I had to read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. I started reading this book 4 or 5 weeks ago and I just wasn’t able to get anywhere with it. Last weekend I had just made it halfway through the book and realised I wasn’t going to finish it in time for today. I pushed myself really hard this week to just finish the damn thing and it worked! I turned the last page yesterday evening!
It’s written in the modernist stream-of-consciousness style and especially at the beginning I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. As I reader you not only experience Clarissa’s thoughts, but a couple of other characters’ thoughts as well, which made it quite complicated. On top of that, nothing really exciting happens in the book besides the return to London of Peter Walsh – a guy who had been in love with Clarissa (Mrs Dalloway) but went to India when she married Richard Dalloway. Another ‘exciting’ event was Septimus’ suicide; he jumped out the window while his wife Rezia and his doctor was looking on. After 200-and-something pages that was about it!
Next on the list is William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. After reading a synopsis on Sparknotes, I wonder if this is going to be any easier to read…
Confession time: this is actually the first time in two weeks time that I have logged onto my WordPress account. I have been (and still am) so incredibly preoccupied with other ‘stuff’ that I couldn’t find the motivation to write anything whatsoever. I thought this radio silence would cause an enormous drop in my page views, but fortunately it hasn’t. Apparently I’ve managed to write about topics that people are still interested in or looking for.
At the moment there’s a lot going on in my life about which I’m not able to say a lot about – or anything at all, for that matter. I can, however, say that I have managed to pass all my exams of the previous semester of my Master in Education. I was actually sure I would have to resit one exam, but I actually did quite well on that one.
At work it’s been kind of stressful. A lot of things that have to be done without much breathing space. I have also been dealing with an increasing number of rude and seemingly ill-raised adolescents who think that they rule the universe let alone the school and its teachers. All the stress does pay off when it was made known that our school has now reached its highest amount of applications in a long time. For some reason our school had a bad reputation in the city and the surrounding area, but now it seems like we’ve overcome this and people are actually providing great word-to-mouth about us. This, of course, means that there will be work for us teachers!
We’re still busy with building our own dream house. Next week we’re going to have the first meeting with a constructor and architect to see how much it will cost if we let them build our dream house. We’ll have a similar meeting with another constructor/architect in the near future. Exciting!
Ever since I have been a WordPress blogger, I have been following Siobhan Curious’s blog Classroom as a Microcosm. Siobhan is a teacher at a CEGEP, which is a type of school at which students prepare to go to university or studying a profession or trade (she explains in more detail on her blog). In a recent blog post she provides arguments for a corporatization of education. This post made me realize, yet again, how many different education systems exist worldwide. Therefore, instead of jumping the gun and immediately give my own arguments against corporatizing education, I’ll endeavour to explain the Dutch education system first.
Although compulsory education starts from the age of five, most children start to attend primary school once they have turned four. Usually these children don’t attend school ‘full-time’ but start with an adjustment period. The first two years (group 1 and 2) of primary school – when the children are aged 4 through 6 – are also called kindergarten. After these two years, children continue on to group 3, where they start to learn to read and write and are taught arithmetic. The last group of primary school is group 8. Students in this group are mostly eleven to twelve years of age. In primary school students are in mixed abilities groups, and their achievements are closely monitored. In both group 7 and group 8 most school choose to let the students take tests to quantify their abilities.
Since the Dutch education system works with tracks in secondary education, students will receive an advice for a ‘track’ based on the monitored achievements throughout the years in primary school and the results of the tests taken in group 7 and 8. The tracks are as follows, from low to high achievers: vmbo bbl, vmbo kbl, vmbo gl, vmbo tl, havo, vwo. Vmbo can be seen as preparatory middle-level applied education and students the lower levels bbl and kbl (and to a certain extent gl) take fewer theoretical and more practical subjects. Even though vmbo tl is also a form of preparatory vocational training, students at this level solely take theoretical subjects and usually end up in higher forms of vocational training than the other vmbo students. Havo (higher general continued education) prepares students for higher vocational education, whereas at vwo (preparatory scientific education) students are prepared to attend university.
Vmbo takes the students four years to complete, so when vmbo students leave secondary school for vocational training, they’re usually about 16 years old. Havo takes five years (students are 17 when they leave) and vwo six (students are usually 18 years old when leaving for university). Both Dutch and English are compulsory for students at all levels of secondary education; government/social studies are also compulsory.
When a vmbo student graduates from secondary school they have to continue their education until they have at least earned a starting qualification (can be earned after two years of mbo). Mbo is middle-level applied education and is vocational training. In a lot of cases, students can choose to take either a working-learning route (working four days a week and attending school for one day a week) or a learning-working route (starting with four days of school and one day of interning). Since the vocational aspects is quite prominent at mbo, these schools often have close ties with companies that offer traineeships to their students so that the students are able to put what they have learned into practice immediately. Vmbo bbl students usually study at mbo for two years, vmbo kbl for three years and vmbo gl and tl for four years. After having completed a four year mbo course, students have the opportunity to continue to hbo.
Hbo is where most of the graduated havo students go to. Hbo can be viewed as a university of applied sciences. Hbo courses take four years, after which the students receive a Bachelor’s degree (which is not the same degree as a Bachelor’s degree from university!) in their subject of study (e.g. I obtained a Bachelor of Education or BEd). After getting a Bachelor’s from a hbo, students could do a hbo master’s or do a premaster course at university before continuing to a Master’s at university.
Most vwo students choose to go to university after their secondary school graduation. Most Bachelor courses take three years after which the students can opt to follow it up with a Master’s course. After earning their Bachelor’s degree, students receive either a BSc or a BA. Since I studied Applied Linguistics at university before I went off to do my BEd, I am also the proud owner of a BA and MA in Applied Linguistics.
As you might have noticed, the education system in the Netherlands is heavily tracked (or streamed or phased) from the start of secondary education onwards. A lot of secondary schools choose to combine certain tracks in the first two or three grades. I teach second and third grade havo/vwo classes, for example. Moreover, even when you are teaching a one-track group, the group is not homogenous! Even in the same track, students vary in their abilities in different subjects. This means that the Dutch secondary school teacher still has to work with ability grouping.
I won’t go into the advantages and disadvantages of this tracking system we employ, but I will give my two cents on corporatizing. In our system, this corporatizing is unnecessary and I’m glad for that. Although, as I already mentioned, vocational schools have close ties with companies and institutions, there is still a certain level of independence. Most companies and institutions strive for profits and will design their in-company training in such a way that it will render them the most advantages. Education will lose its objectivity and young people/adolescents will be moulded into what the companies would like them to be, (unnecessarily) complicating if not inhibiting transfers from one company to the other, consequently limiting the students’ options putting a serious hamper on their freedom. Why would a company put its money into the education of a student without securing the student for themselves? I can see why there is a certain penchant for trying to secure employment in these days of economic crisis and high unemployment rates, however the Dutch system already provides students the opportunity of doing traineeships and securing a position at a company or institution by successfully completing a traineeship while still keeping the independence and objectivity of education.
I would be the last person to deny that it is becoming increasingly difficult for recently graduated students to find a suitable job and even though it might sound slightly naive and nonchalant to state that education is not all about securing a good job, I’ll still say it. Education should also aim to provide students with the tools for personal development and self-efficacy. Having a (secure) job is extremely important, but it should not be the sole objective.
What do you think of the Dutch education system and of corporatizing education?
 In favour of clarity, I have left out special education in this exposition.
Palm oil is an ingredient of nearly 50% of our consumptive goods. Usually, the packaging would say that the product contains vegetable oil masking the true story behind this ingredient.
About a year ago, I saw a Dutch documentary on the social impact of palm oil in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, where for quite some years now IOI Group has run its palm oil plantations. They yield about 6 tonnes per hectare per year and are the world’s most efficient plantation company. To acquire farmland, they bought out local farmers under false pretenses or simply chased them off their lands. Dutch Unilever and the port of Rotterdam are huge players in the palm oil trade.
Using pesticides like paraquat, misinforming its employees on the use of this pesticide, and dumping it in small rivers and lakes, effectively polluting the environment and its inhabitants.
Even though the local Supreme Court had ruled that IOI had to leave Sarawak, the company just stayed put. They were aided by a corrupted government and
Companies like Unilever and Albert Heijn founded a hallmark for sustainable palm oil, called the Round Table of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The plantations have to be checked, and receive a certificate when all is well. Unilever and Albert Heijn only buy products containing palm oil of certified plantations. It is suprising, however, that some IOI plantations were able to receive said certificate.
Oxfam Novib, a Dutch affiliate of the international organisation Oxfam, is part of the RSPO’s board. However, IOI Group was a co-founder and fellow board member at RSPO. Unilever had even already stated that they wouldn’t amerce IOI!
This evening I was confronted with another image: orangutans kept and taken care of by Dr Ian Singleton. They are a critically endangered species, with approximately 7,000 left on Sumatra (the Sumatran orangutan) and still decreasing (see the IUCN Red List)
In about 20 years time, one-third of Sumatra’s rain forest has been cut down in favour of paper and palm oil plantations. This also means that one-third of the Sumatra orangutans’ habitat has been destroyed. Besides illegal capturing and trade, and the shooting of these highly intelligent great apes, destruction of their habitat put the species in great jeopardy.
If these arguments are still not enough for you, the public, to become more aware of the existence and use of palm oil in our products, I’ll add that palm oil isn’t even all that good for your health.
The World Health Organization recommends caution when consuming palm oil. They state that there is convincing evidence of its contribution to an increased risk at cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, an analysis of 23 countries has found that there was a rise in ischemic heart disease deaths for each kilogram of palm oil added to the diet annually.
It would be such a waste to lose such an incredible place on earth and be responsible for the disappearance of the orangutan. So, try to be aware of the products you consume. Don’t merely consume with your stomach and your eyes. Consume with your mind and your heart.
The new upper school at my school has been in existence for about six months now, and I have already learned a lot.
First off, before starting a new upper school, you should always make sure that your lower school is up to par. Right now we’re dealing with students that are not at the level they are supposed to be at and they’re kicking the dirt. This can be extremely frustrating for the students, their parents, and their teachers. I am class teacher of one of the two groups and I get e-mails and lectures from colleagues on how bad these students are doing, that they’re not doing their work, that their level is too low and that they’ll just not make it.
When talking to various parents on parent-teacher night, they asked me how I thought this was possible. Fact of the matter is that the students have been pampered and spoiled in their first three years at our school and now we are asking them to show skills that we have actually never taught them. This means we’ll need to play a game of catch-up, because the students really need these skills for the present, but also for their future education.
Fortunately there a some of my fellow teachers that think critically, yet constructively towards a solution to the problem we have created ourselves and who also wouldn’t mind going that extra mile. However, a number of my fellow teachers don’t think this way and only seem to be able to criticise.
On another note, I have noticed that – while reading literature with my upper school kids – that reading literature is also a skill that should be taught and acquired. Therefore, I have changed the curriculum for the second and third years so that they will have to read books as well (not those flimsy readers from the school library, though!). So, last week I have started reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl with my second years. Today we spent some time on in-class reading with an audio book. That way, students can make some progress in the book during class, they practice their technical reading skills and I get to watch them while they do this. It was touching to see that most of the kids were diligently reading along in their books while listening to the audio, while some were just listening (which, by the way, is okay too). And they seemed to be relaxed while doing this.
My third years are reading Holes by Louis Sachar and with them I also use the audio book to read parts of the text in class. Although I had a lot more trouble getting these kids to get the book, there were quite a few of them who seemed to be enjoying reading it.
My fourth years (upper school) are reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. What strikes me is that this book seems to be liked by a lot of my students. Today, one of my students was reading the book instead of making the practice test I provided them with. I asked her if she was reading because she was behind on her weekly reading schedule. She told me “No, I am just completely engrossed in this story.” This kind of surprised me, because two weeks ago she had asked me why I hadn’t picked another book for the class to read and that she didn’t seem to be able to get into the story…
What’s also really great is that the students talk about the story. They tell each other what they have read and they share their predictions on how they think the story is going to end. I guess this also might have something to do with the classroom activities I picked. All three years have to work in groups of four and they had to pick a role that they have to play within the group. These types of activities are also known as “Literature Circles”. One has the role of the artist, who has to draw a scene for each week’s reading; another has to write down important and unknown vocabulary, translate and make new sentences; another student has to be a plot wizard and write a summary; while yet another student focuses on background information. By introducing “Literature Circles” I was hoping to show my students that reading a book doesn’t need to be an individual activity, but that it can be a social activity as well. I think it’s starting to work!
Furthermore, I have also started to be more creative in the tests I compose, although I’m still not satisfied with them. I’ll write more about this in a future post. I’ll revisit the “Literature Circles” as well!
Where to start when writing about Django: Unchained?
It’s humour, it’s suspense, it’s western, it’s blood splattering, it’s romance.
The last aspect might surprise you, but it’s just as simple as that. Django (Jamie Foxx) loves a woman and he would do anything for her.
When he’s taken by two slave traders to a new place of work, the small convoy is stopped by Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz), who needs Django to point him to the Brittle Brothers. They have a prize on their heads and Dr. Schultz is a bounty hunter. Schultz frees Django and together they go on a bounty hunting spree. Until one night, Schultz tells Django the story of Brünhilde and Siegfried and Django tells Schultz about his Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is his wife and still a slave.
After they find out she is now kept at a plantation owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) called Candyland, they think of a plan to buy her and set her free so that Django and Broomhilda can live happily ever after.
The opening credits are accompanied by Django, belonging to the soundtrack of the eponymous and controversial movie Django (1966). Among the soundtrack there are also original songs by Elisa and Ennio Morricone (Ancora Qui), Rick Ross (100 Black Coffins), and John Legend (Who Did That to You?). The soundtrack is just as diverse as the movie.
The movie has met with some controversy about the use of the word “nigger” throughout the movie and for making historical events (slavery) more violent than they needed to be. Fellow director Spike Lee commented on Quentin Tarantino’s new film that he found it “disrespectful to [his] ancestors”. There were even comments on the violence against the “whites” in the movie, saying that it is just another post-modern excuse for anti-white bigotry.
As for the violence: yes, there is a lot of it. Shooting, whipping, cutting, hanging, stomping, and exploding are all there. I don’t think it’s like watching a gore movie; it’s more like watching pictures in a graphic novel. There are so many great shots in there, so many great scenes (e.g. the one with the ‘precursor’ of the Ku Klux Clan) and an abundance of fantastic one-liners (e.g. “Hey there little troublemaker.”).
I thought all the actors in this film were magnificent, like the completely believable “turn-coat” house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), the almost bipolar character of Monsieur Candie was brilliantly put on the silver screen by DiCaprio, as was the bounty hunter with a heart of gold by Waltz and the ex-slave out for revenge by Foxx.
Go see this movie for the Tarantino-ness, the amazing shots, scenes, music, cast and one-liners!