Opening lines are a killer. I never know exactly what to say at the start of some writing venture, and so a cop-out waffling on the nature of opening lines is as good as anything else I could come up with, I suppose. The issue, especially for a medium like this, is how to both start things off with a bang, and how to make a post indicative of what the blog will feature in the future. I want to make a funny post, one that shows what’s to come, but one to also show where I’ve been in the last while. For one horrifying moment, I considered digging through the bowels of the internet to my old livejournal account and reading how I started things off there. But the prospect of delving into the masturbatory depths of an internet journal I started writing at… 14, 15(?), filled me with deep, deep terror. Maybe if I ever feel I get too over-confident in myself, I’ll go back and read what I produced as a teenager, just to take myself down a peg.
Enough with all that.
This blog, as it stands, is theoretically to chronicle my big, year-long trip to teach in Korea, as well as the time leading up to it and afterwards. My grand plan, for all four or five of the dedicated readers I am sure to get, is to post about the hilarities of cultural misunderstandings, my run-ins with the education system of a country I am completely new to, and the wonders of international travel, which I hope I’ll be doing a lot of. The problem for this post being: I’m in Toronto right now, where I’ve always lived, which isn’t terribly exciting. I did just finish Teacher’s College, so hey: there’s that, but summing up a year’s worth of hard work and also lazing about into one post is probably a useless exercise. So instead, I’ll sum up the most recent branch of the experience.
A little table-setting: Tribes, a sort of community-building and cooperative learning program, is fairly ballyhooed in educational circles. People say it with at least some degree of saucer-eyed splendour, and discussions of Tribes usually involve teachers talking on it in honeyed tones, with numerous beatific hand-clasps and satisfied sighs. It’s supposed to be THE thing to start your class off right, and THE thing to get them to be a sharing, caring group of kids who don’t particularly want to misbehave because it damages the group.
Tribes is also supposed to look really, really good on your resume, which is why there were about 250 B.Ed. students doing it this last week at OISE. We are a resume-packing group by necessity, and every last scrap of credit and effort we can cram onto our CVs is cherished, because goddamn: we need some jobs.Be aware, I went into this with an open mind. A fair amount of Tribes training, we all knew, was to be practical exercises – actually trying out the games we could later teach to our students. A modicum of cheesiness was expected.
The first problem lied with my trainer. Tribes, it seems, lives or dies by who delivers it, and when the person delivering it has a few years on Methusela and reads from her notebook for the whole four days, you know things are going downhill. She vaguely resembled Ellen DeGeneres, all pleasant but awkward smiles, and she had apparently not done a Tribes training session in a few years. It showed.Another issue was that, going through any teacher’s college these days, you run into more than a few of the Tribes games and processes. This is a Scarf, One Ball Toss, Milling to Music – I had done all of this stuff, and I had done it with people who had a little bit more vigour and enthusiasm.
The other people in the class were fine enough, in their way – too many Junior/Intermediate teachers for my liking, a group I could never psychologically understand. But when I came in thinking it was going to be the old gang (by which I mean: the people I met 8 months ago) and was instead confronted by Crosstown (Crosstown!!) and a bunch of people from Trent and Buffalo, I was a little snobbishly bummed.
Really, though, my main issue with Tribes training is this: it constantly feels like a big advertisement for Tribes. The textbook, when not quoting uncited and unsupported statistics, reads like a brochure, providing countless vignettes on how Tribes improved classrooms across America. We watched a number of videos basically attempting to sell us on the idea of Tribes. I mean, really: you already have as much of my money as I can give without investing, so I don’t know what you want from me. It felt like a Time Share meeting, or like a week-long retreat at the Unification Church – I left with the vague sense of intense brain-washing and that maybe we had been all group-married.