Monday, July 06, 2009

Clear and Present

When Chris and I had our first intramural pitch-off at CNET, I remember he mentioned to Jennifer how stressful it was putting together a PowerPoint and give a 15-minute presentation to a group of sales people. Her response was essentially, “Hmmm… try giving a 50-minute presentation to a group of bored 8th graders every day.” Since I’ve dabbled in the corporate world and the education sector, I can see their points. In my opinion, the daily presenting is the best and worst part of teaching. Best because presenting and being in front of an audience is a thrill; worst because being a good presenter 5 days a week for 9 months a year is daunting. But Chris has a point too. Teaching is more like regular season baseball: lots of games, you win some, you lose some. Giving a one-time presentation to your peers is more like a high-stakes boxing match: perform or get laid out.

This sentiment transcends culture, as was demonstrated in my year 13 class last Thursday and this afternoon. I certainly didn’t try to create a stressful environment, but the kids were very nervous. Tui had clearly been practicing. Marie was jittery. Sinaumea, who is usually humourless, was more smiley than usual and kept nervously laughing. I appreciated the serious way they approached the assignment, but I also it found it hilarious. I rarely take myself seriously, and when others do my first inclination is to laugh. Not that I mock my students. It was very cute.

We don’t have an LCD projector, so we used a monitor to show the presentation. Rather than giving them a small monitor to look down at, I set it up so the monitor across the room would also show the presentation. This allowed for the speaker to see her presentation without moving her eyes too far from the audience. It was essentially a teleprompter stationed 15 feet away, and I was impressed with how quickly they were able to master the art of reading and maintaining eye contact.

I asked that presentations last between 5 and 10 minutes. I would guess that all of them missed this window. None of them felt rushed, but most ended after 3 or 4 minutes—the sole exception being Sinaumea who finished after 12 or 13 minutes.

The most impressive part, and probably the biggest source of nervousness for the students, was 5 to 10 minutes is a lot of English. When group 81 was in training in the village, we were grade on a series of presentation-style practicals that were also supposed to be between 5 and 10 minutes. I couldn’t bear to simply memorize a laundry list of sentences; but talking for that long challenged the boundaries of my Samoan. Hell, I remember doing presentations in Señor Martín’s Spanish class where I forced to break out the Spanglish.

With all that in mind, I tried to assign topics that leant themselves to familiar vocabulary: places in Samoa, things to do on the weekend, favourite TV shows, what makes a good student, etc. Sinaumea did things to do on the weekend, and he just kept going and going. It was a bit longwinded, but is that such a bad thing?

Tui, Marie, and Kate mostly read the text of their slides, with a little bit added here and there. It was fine. Mostly I was happy with the ease they created their PowerPoints, so it’s cool. It’s not a speechwriting class.

Sione and Sisigafua still have to present tomorrow. And then it’s back to me presenting. Every day. Woo hoo.

I hope you’re well. Pictures from yesterday’s car ride below.

Riding in the car. Trent didn't fit in the frame.

Banyan tree.

We stopped by the Organic Coffee plantation at the top of the mountain.

Coffee beans.

Koa's house.

We found these houses up in the hills. I'm pretty sure this is where The Others used to live post-Dharma Initiative, pre-flight 815.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I see you are reading Faulkner, one of my favorites. If you are a fan of his, and appreciate a bit of dark humor (as I detect from much of your writing that you do. Excellent.)read "As I Lay Dying."