Thursday, 27 August 2009

Closure: 1 / 5

He pressed the bottle to his lips, tilting it upwards to gulp what was left in the half-filled bottle. Looking at the camera satisfied, he said with a smile on his face, "Ice Lemon Tea. Be gay, be Jeremy Kang."

Laughter naturally ensued, as I stood there baffled at the audacity of it all, and yet, couldn't help but find it amusing to a great degree. Little did I know, the next presentation that followed was going to outdo that.

Yes, it was another Monday, and somehow, when your day, or week in fact, starts with some people parading around the classroom with their t-shirts lifted up, a little bit of male-hoola dancing and a tinge of not-so-hot faux guy-on-guy action, you know that your Mondays will never be the same again.

Yes, this class was "different" alright, in perhaps the best and worst possible kind of way. It is not uncommon that every week saw a couple of presentations that were technically very sound, but with a great extent of liberties taken on the artistic direction, or even the academic value of the works.

"You know, technically, the work is actually quite good. But I seriously wonder, how am I EVER going to show this to my boss," I remember telling them on more than one occasion.

Like almost a comedic slap in the face, it was rather amusing in a semi-masochistic kind of way to see how they would take the skills you had taught them, and totally used (abused) it to achieve something technically sound but totally inappropriate, and striving to outdo themselves week after week.

Naturally, the dynamics between mentor and apprentice(s) would vary from class to class, but considering how different this bunch were, the line was thin with them, and only grew thinner with the weeks.

Yet sometimes, it's funny, how pushing the "wrong" buttons actually end up being more right, as I saw a class that had me worried on first impression, transform into a group that pursued the daily lessons with a twisted fervour.

But perhaps this echoes what I always tell them, and others who have enquired about my teaching experience, that "Teaching at this level is not so much about imparting your knowledge, but it's actually more of a people skill. Learning how to read the students and communicating the lesson across in the best possible way to each individual."

Yet, it's not all a bed of roses, as I definitely gained and lost over the course of the semester.

"I want to ensure that everyone learns to the best of his / her ability" was the ideal that I started my academic career with. And yet, as the weeks went by, I only saw this slowly wither away - enforcement of certain rules became harder, behaviours became more blatant, and distraction was abundant.

In Guns 'n' Roses words, "there are some men you just can't reach", and perhaps this is true as well, and something all mentor-figures have to learn eventually. Learning is a 2-way thing for sure, but at an intermediate-tetiary level such as this, the roles of mentor, facilitator, disciplinarian and friend is a hard hand to juggle.

In the end, most mentor-figures tend to skew towards one or the another, and the impression that you leave on them tends to settle mostly on 1 conclusive point. Perhaps, in that sense, I'm glad that I probably left the building as a "friend", or at least I hope that I did.


Back from my meeting, I made my way back to the classroom, my usual abode where I would spend my 5 to 7s, waiting for my car to become mobile again. Some days, it was having a discussion with a select few on Game Design, some days it was imparting some aspects of my extremely skewed world-wisdom, and yet other days, it was just sitting in and listening to their idle conversations - feeling young and stupid all over again.

But today, it was different.

I walked into the classroom, she screamed, they looked shocked.

"Uh, can you come back later, Faci?" he said to me.

After the longer-than-usual discussion, he said, "Uh, can you follow us for a while?"

With an eyebrow raised, I did so; only to walk into a not-so-surprising surprise party with pizzas and cake to boot.

Of course, all this was quite obvious from a mile away, but the real surprise came in the form of a little (ok, not that little maybe) silver book, reminiscent of one of those student autography books kinda thing that captured everyone's well-wishes.

Of course, I remained unfazed throughout, as I almost always am, prompting them to ask, after blowing out the candles, "Faci, why are you not surprised at all?"

"Hmm. How do you expect me to be surprise when in the morning, you ask me if I like Mango Cake?" I replied, with a deadpan look.

Still, not bad for a bunch of "gays and retards."


Someone once told me that in teaching, "For every 5 students you teach, if 1 of them learns; it's already considered a success."

Well, if put that way, than I guess that I probably can live with a shattered ideal. As not only do I think that I have more than 1 successful student in every 5, I have 4 friends as well.

"Thanks you for putting up with me throughout the semester. I think that teaching you people has made me gained a lot more patience. So much so that I think I'm ready for Fatherhood."

The class chuckled, and with these words, I closed my first semester.

To the "Gays and Retards" from my "other class", thanks for the friendship and the memories...


Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The End of the Beginning...

"My name is Jeremy Kang, and 2 days a week, I am a Facilitator. For the other 5 days, I'm a Game Designer, and that automatically makes cool."

And with these words, I began my first term into the World of Academia; a world riddled with uncertainty, a world shrouded in mystery; one that placed me on the other side of the table from where I was not too long ago, and one that I was hardly sure of whether I was ready for or not.

One way or another, I walked out of the first semester alive, and it has indeed been a very different 17 weeks, walking out with a lot less questions and a bit more answers.

"I'm simply here to impart my knowledge to you, not here to be your damn Role Model."

And indeed, these words rang true throughout the classes.

Irony is a bitch, no qualms about that. I remembered how I used to tell people that teaching was the last thing on my mind; and yet, the Fates just have a nice way of blind-siding you and pinching you in the ass for making such comments - and I must have one helluva ass to them.

But upon reflection, perhaps the main point leading to such a career being so unimaginable to me was perhaps largely due to my impatience and dislike for nonsense, not to mention my disrespect for ideals and self-righteous beliefs of "moulding future generations" and all that bull.

Fortunately, I didn't have to show any of the above-mentioned qualities, and could retain my characteristical -self throughout most of the lessons - minus the profuse swearing maybe.

I remember the question posed to be during my interview:

"You look really young. Is respect important to you? How would you get your students to respect you?"

Yes, perhaps age was my biggest worry walking into the class, and getting the students to listen to me in the first place. But at the same time, over the course of the semester, I think it has probably proven to be my greatest asset as well, as the relatively lesser age-gap allowed me to better relate to the students on a more personal level, sharing in their ridiculous jokes and whatnot.

And yet, when it was time to for work, my answer probably rang true, that:

"Respect is irrelevant of age; it is more of a matter of establishing a point of relation and being able to get your points across."

"9 to 4.30, I'm your Facilitator, after 4.30, we're friends."

Perhaps "Respect" is a bit overrated when you consider the context, as the environment lends itself a lot more towards an informal learning experience, than trying to impose a hard-and-fast one.

And indeed, knowing when to play the "Respect" and "Friendship" cards went a long way towards establishing the classroom dynamics, and I think it's a lot better this way, no matter how frowned upon it might be by some more conventional minds.

"So what makes you think you are ready to teach?"

This was one of the most stifling questions shot at me during the interview. And honestly, after 17 weeks, I can't really say that I'm any wiser towards answering that question, and maybe I will never be.

But honestly, that's ok. Because for every doubt raised, at least now I know that there are at least some answers that would justify otherwise; and that alone would allow me to sleep better at night, knowing that I at least did some semblance of my designated job.

To my first class, thanks for the hardwork, tolerance, birthdays, photo-whoring, jokes, laughter and memories...


Thursday, 13 August 2009

Art is never Finished...

A visit to the "Da Vinci - The Genius" Exhibition at the Science Centre proved to be a rather fruitful one over the Public Holiday.

Fascinating was how the mind of 1 man could actually be divided into so many sections for exhibition, ranging across both left and right brain-domained subjects, from physics to art; truly earning Da Vinci the rights to his exhibition's moniker.

I found both disciplines almost equally fascinating, but the Lady enjoyed the "Art" section a lot more, especially the "Mona Lisa" segment. More than that though, was I amazed at how Da Vinci viewed Art and Science holistically, and pursued both disciplines in a harmonious tandem.

Perhaps not fun in the "fun" sense, as we left the exhibition with a weary back and aching feet, but definitely a feast for the mind, and with just enough take-outs to ponder about and to be inspired by.

The biggest take-away for the day?

"Art is never Finished, Only Abandoned."

- Leonardo Da Vinci

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The Road to Ruin

- "You can sleep when you're dead." -

But Death only seems to be creeping up on me sooner at this rate.

40 hours to Judgment and the Restoration of Life as I know it.