Friday, June 22, 2007
I'm quite sure I've blogged about this but I really can't quite be bothered to look through the archives and find the links. I think it is the nature of my profession that I end up periodically ranting about the shortcomings of the Singaporean student.
In class, I often remind my students that I don't count their successes as distinctions and doing well even though they are good things that students to aim for. Where I draw the line is when their wanting to do well and score all those distinctions comes at the expense of the person they actually grow into. Worse, that they become so tunnel-visioned by this pursuit of grades that they fail to see the larger picture. Sort of like the frog in the well.
There are many different facets of this myopia and I'm usually floored by one aspect or another- they appear pretty often seeing that it is my job to deal with these students on what is generally a day to day basis. Even now, when I'm on leave, it creeps up from behind and leaves a terrible aftertaste in my mouth.
This time, it wasn't because the young Singaporean is spoilt or has no sense of what good manners are or whatever else I have complained about in the past. This time it's about initiative. I have no issue with helping students. In fact, I like helping students. But there is a clause, a qualifier that has to be added. I like helping students who help themselves. The ones that try, and in their trying realise they need a little bit more guidance and a little bit more direction. The ones that get my goat are the ones who come up to you, look helplessly at you and ask you to tell
them what to do.
It could be work related- "I don't understand xxx"
My response " What don't you understand about xxx?"
It could be non-work related- " I didn't know we were supposed to do it like that"
My response " Why didn't you ask? "
"I didn't know must ask"
It could be future related- " I want to go away and study"
My response " Where? "
"I don't know. Can you tell me?"
And when students who have graduated, meaning they've gone through the entire system are like that, I feel very sad. I feel like I've failed. I am angry at them because they look expectantly at you waiting for you to tell
them what to do when they are supposed to be able to think for themselves being almost 20. But more so, I am angry at myself, that I didn't push them harder or make it more obvious to them that initiative was an important lesson in their life. And that's what's hard about my profession, well, being in my profession and thinking the way I think. You see what the system sees as suceesses
and you know they're not. Straight A students who don't know what to write on their scholarship applications or speak at scholarship board interviews are not
successes. Students who do get straight As and ace scholarship interviews but are mindless cogs of the system are not
successes. Students who don't do well and expect you to pull them out of the ditch are not
successes either. My definition of what is
a success is very liberal and controversial but that's me. Maybe that's why I struggle so much with the system and with the students that come my way. Because I won't bend and obviously the system and the students it produces won't bend either.
Sigh.Technorati Tags: Singapore, Teaching, The Young Singaporean
Ondine tossed this thought in at 17:22
At 3:15 am
Wes & Jo said...
me thinks you are trying really hard as it is. the kids will grow up and learn their lessons in other ways. and if they don't 'get it', it's their life. sad but not everyone can be saved. wes
" Far in the stillness, a cat languishes loudly"