ISLAND LIFE REVIEW
What was intended
The 'Island Life' main lesson was intended to be a main lesson that integrated several different subjects: geology, geography, history, anthropology/culture, music and oceanography. The goal was to gain a deeper understanding about how living on an island shapes life in general, and in Taiwan, in particular. A key part of this main lesson was to be individual student research, with each student choosing an island, and exploring it according to the subjects listed above. A goal was to produce a booklet that would be the 'fruits of our labor', which could be used and developed in possible future 'Island Life' main lessons.
From the outset, resources were limited. After a three-day introduction, there was Dragon Boat holiday during which the students were told to visit the library to take out books on their chosen island. The weekend before Dragon Boat holiday I also had a metal rod surgically removed from my left leg which left me in 'recovery mode' during those first three days.
The students reported that they all had difficulty in finding suitable books for their research, and so the decision was made to allow them to use the internet to do research. I also had a number of e-books, but all of my resources were in English. The students worked extremely well during their main lesson. For 90 minutes each day, they - with guidance and advice from me - searched and gathered information on their island, but it was still difficult for them. They also gave spoken updates to their classmates about what they were doing, what they had discovered, and what their next task was. Many students reported being fascinated with the discoveries they were making about their island, especially those that were more remote and unknown.
Main lessons should be full of interest and enthusiasm and new learnings, and, traditionally are driven by the teacher. This was not strongly evident in this main lesson, where most of the time was spent in individual research guided by the teacher. I feel sorry about this - that the students weren't strongly stimulated by content. I must praise the students though for their wonderful attitude to the research. They were able to work solidly each day and very independently. This shows a very good level of maturity.
Why the gap
This is the hardest part to write about. To put it simply, I did not manage to achieve my goals to the level I wanted. This was naivety on my part about resource availability, and I did not approach other teachers enough for their help. Initially, the month before this main lesson was free for me to do my final planning and preparation, but because of other changes to Class 9's timetable (due to Zoran's departure), I instead had to teach Class 9 Organic Chemistry. This was an important factor that led to me 'running out of steam', and being simply unable to rise to the task of inspiring the students with new content each day. It is my greatest regret, and is possibly connected with my 'aging process'.
How to prevent its reoccurrence
As we continue to gain experience in planning and executing our educational aims in the high school, and increase the staff stability, and resources, this situation should not reoccur. Furthermore, on a personal level, it has made me more aware of the necessity to pay attention to the warning signs of teacher burnout. There are many things that can be done to prevent this from happening again, one of the most important being regular physical exercise. Since my accident, my left knee has been damaged meaning I cannot run. This had been my main form of exercise previously, so I had the terrible feeling that I wasn't able to exercise again . I have now begun strength training which I hope will restore my energy levels.