Thursday, April 08, 2004

Home Alone

Dan's at his school's Founder's Day dinner so I'm spending a quiet night home with the tv and the computer for company. It hasn't been that bad. Air Force One was on tv and if not for the long annoying ads in between, it was quite watchable, despite being badly butchered. If they could show the rogue secret service agent shooting two agents, why couldn't they show him shooting the 3rd? Well, anyway, it was Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and presidential music which always hypnotises me into sitting still with eyes glued onto the tv regardless of how bad.

Anyway, it was also a long day in school today in sweltering 33 degree weather. It made -2 degree weather look as inviting as this heat was 2 weeks ago. The results are out for the kids so they range from depressed and sullen to ecstatic and distracted. Either way, they were a handful to handle on a day so hot. Thank goodness for the news that come June, these ovens disguised as classrooms will be airconditioned.

I spoke to one of my students today about studying in Australia. Two dominant thoughts from the conversation.

This boy got a perfect score for his exams, so his parents gave him an ultimatum. Either he hauls ass out of TJ and move to RJ ( Number 1 college in Singapore) or he goes to Australia to do foundation year. And people wonder why our students are stressed. No doubt RJ is a better college than TJ, but not everyone is suited for the pace at which RJ teaches at. This kid probably worked himself to the bone to get those results. He's smart but I don't think he's particularly brilliant. So why can't he stay in an above average JC that will still probably get him where he wants to go. Why force him to move to a college on the other side of the island because it's got a better reputation and ranking?

I've been telling my students that if they're happy where they are, they shouldn't move. It's not as if they're going to be less likely to get into those choice courses in university just because they aren't in a top college. I don't know why they think that. I think the entire idea of ranking has been ingrained in them and it's natural for them to think that if they can move higher up the ladder, they should, because it would increase their chances to succeed. They forget to factor in the competition and the pressure that comes with every higher rung climbed. And the parents do nothing to dissuade them, in fact, they are often the primary instigators for this sort of rash and oft regrettable action.

The other reason also cited for wanting to move, is to move to where all their secondary school friends are. That would mean less incentive to go out there and actually make new friends. Staying within comfort zones means little effort in going out there and exploring the unknown. Unhealthy. I have nothing against people I know who have followed through from secondary school to affliated colleges with at least half their classmates and are perfectly happy about it. I just think that there is an adventure out there awaiting those who dare to venture down the path less taken. And it annoys me to see students who admit on being perfectly happy in their classes wanting to move colleges just so that they can be with their friends. In my opinion, they're just lazy. They want to fall back on what is familiar because they don't want to strike out and try something different. I mean, if you're really unhappy and feel like you belong somewhere else, fine, I say and I will wish you Godspeed. But not when it's just easier and more familiar.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just being unsympathetic to how a teenager's mind works. Maybe I'm wrong, but I stand by it.


Anyway, I've digressed.

The other thought that passed through my mind while talking to the boy who was given an ultimatum was that there are only so many more students I can send off to Australia before I skip town myself. Everytime I talk to someone about going to Australia and help he or she do research for it, I find myself wanting, just that little bit more, to leave. And it impresses deeper upon me that I don't want to be this junction that the kids stop by to ask for directions, before they head out to do greater things while I stand still and be the traffic warden- directing traffic and sending them off into their apparent right paths. I don't think I'm one to remain static, in everyway possible.

Dan thinks I'm the most restless person in the world. I'm not able to do nothing, to stay still. I HAVE to be doing something at any one time. Chill is not a word that exists in my vocabulary. And in professional terms, to chill means to be in inertia, to not be progressing, to be happy with my lot and not look for more. And that is not within my constitution to accept. I think that's why I fight it so much, that's why I'm constantly trying to look for avenues to get out. That's why I worry that perhaps my ticket out isn't as iron clad as it was claimed to be. But then again, it is, according to that Big 5 profile, in my predisposition to worry. I'm a worry wart and I'm proud of it. :) I think it's how I make sure I'm never settling, because I'm always looking for the next thing and I'm always worrying that what I've done isn't enough and constantly look round for more to do. It'll be the death of me one day, but in the short term, I think it's my only assurance that I will not be stuck as a traffic warden for the rest of my life.

In NIE (teacher training college), we were asked to complete the sentence " A teacher is like a _______" and our tutor was impressed when someone used a similie that was in approximation of my analogy. "A teacher is like a signpost, showing our students which direction to head". In a selfless ideal world, that would be enough, but the reality of it is that if I thought of myself as a signpost all my life, it would send a shudder down my spine like no other.

Ondine tossed this thought in at 15:50

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