Monday, 25 April 2011

Facilitator 2.0

Deep breath, door slowly grasping the handle, a firm downward push, and a forward thrust.

A room full of eyes turned towards me, as I walked in confidently, making my way across the room, ignoring all of which, and brushing it aside with a casual "Good Morning".

A sureness in my stride, and a sense of command clenched within my fist along with the handles of my laptop bag, as I took my time to take my place, and proceeded to set up for class in my own time, as a presumably uneasy silence rang through the air; yet hardly rattling my disposition. 

They say that life comes full circle, and I was sorely reminded of this fact when two familiar faces stepped into the door with a sheepish grin, and a hardly-embarrassed and joyous "Hello." The irony of life – of having two students that I taught in my very first class in my very first semester stepping into my very first class for the new academic year.

It was great to have an anchor or two of familiar faces to latch on to in a totally alien class; but more than that, they served as two totems and one solid juxtaposition against my past - from a time that I had trouble digging up and virtually re-living - until the familiarity of sitting down in the same room with them jolted something probably now deeply swept into my subconscious.

I used to consider my words very carefully, and my actions even more so. The slightest hint of a tangential point that quickly and unexpectedly went south would cause an obvious flush, and have the class gushing at my shyness; my physical being unable to mask my mental thoughts - that was a different time. A time of self-consciousness and self-awareness; rooted by a deep sense of uncertainty - the uncertainty of the lack of the ability to anticipate, driven by a greater general lack of experience and knowledge of the approach towards the juggle between being an authority and being a friend. Awkward, perhaps; but cautious, even more so.

That was of a different time - one where interaction was a lot more of an effort, always conscious of what to say, how much I was saying, how much I was revealing; and yet always cautious of how much I shouldn't be saying, how far I was going, and what impression I was leaving...

"You've changed Jeremy", said one of the familiar faces, "I still remember the time when you..."  

I looked him in my eye and retorted calmly, "Two years is a long time."

And indeed it has been, with the clocking of one-year in full time, on top of the first year in part time, I believe that I have a much firmer grasp of the ropes in a classroom environment now - being able to see without looking, hearing words without focusing, and reading thoughts without asking; there is probably still much to learn, but at the same time, I have probably learnt much. Confident and in control, experience has taught me the basics of rapport, connection and communication. 

And yet, some things don't change at all. The persistent mantra of:  "9 to 4.30, I'm your Facilitator, after 4.30, we're friends," holds true to today even, and perhaps even more so, with the increased time spent with the students, and the greater involvement in their academic life. Talk becomes more casual, laughter flies all around, jokes dart in all directions, and the (ahem) occasional swear word comes to light, bringing to mind the second mantra of: "I'm simply here to impart my knowledge to you, not here to be your damn Role Model."

Re-visiting a question I had no simple answer for during my interview, I sordidly recall my stern interviewer's countenance when she asked, ""You look really young. Is respect important to you? How would you get your students to respect you?"

To be honest, I still haven't found the exact answer to this question, and I never might; but I probably never have to, as over the years, I think I've learnt to shift between the planes of a facilitator and a friend with ease, being able to transcend the planes in a split-second; and sometimes blending the two. Somehow, somewhat; I've learnt that respect doesn't necessarily come from knowledge or achievement, but sometimes, it is simply established with a tinge of connection.

A recent inside joke had me challenging my minions: "Wouldn't it be ironically funny if despite all the abuse and sarcasm I put you guys through, somehow I could still get an award this?"

Well... guess what happened?

- Welcome to Facilitator 2.0 -


Viviane said...

As hilarious as that award might have seen, I think you might have found your (temporary for now, maybe for life) calling with handling students. Not just the normal MOE-path sort but more independent thinking ones.

Plus it is a pretty stable and inspiring career. Who knows, I might just join you sometime down the road after I decided I'm done selling my soul to the big companies.


I really wonder if it's really a calling, or is it that I am simply just getting better in adapting to my sitaution, that even if not so... I have or am making the best of it, which could already be better than most...

Stable, yes. Inspiring, not always... and sometimes hardly, depending on which part of it I have to deal with.

But yes, as I was in class yesterday, it kinda hit me that you might actually be a good fit for this whole part-time, boho-teaching thing... I'm sure the students could do with another cool faci in my department. So yeah, anytime when you're ready, hah.