Monday, October 30, 2006

Teenagers are growing too fast

The weekend had been very eventful for me. First, I had an epiphany of sorts. Or rather, God willed me into realising that I had been running away from multiple issues that had been haunting me since ages ago. They cannot be resolved unless I make the effort to confront these issues and think of solutions. And I better resolve them all before Practicum starts.

That is on a personal note.

Work-wise, I had a MSN conversation with my P6 going on to Sec 1 cousin on Saturday night. I am going to produce an excerpt of the conversation below.

Shir: I am reading fanfiction now.
YB: What fanfic are you reading?
Shir: Go to lah. You will find out.
Shir: I am reading Scooby Doo now. Very fun.
YB: ok...

O_O Thinking to myself- What the .....???!!!! She's only 12 and she is reading fanfic already?

YB: What rating??
Shir: Don't tell you.
YB: .................

On hindsight, maybe I should not ask her about the rating. Then again, I should not doubt her intelligence over such things. Like many other youngsters, she can be so smart over things that do not relate to her studies and vice versa for school work.

In case you have been feeling quite lost, fanfiction "a fictional account written by a fan of a show, movie, book, or video game to explore themes and ideas that will not or cannot be explored via the originating medium" (

Fanfiction.Net is one of the many websites that have a wide collection of fanfiction.
Now, the liberal in me felt that it is alright for her to read Fanfiction. But the teacher in me started worrying if her values would be influenced in a skewed manner.

1) Fanfiction like movies and TV shows have ratings, ranging from K, T to M. I am using the ratings from K stands for Kids, T for Teenagers and M for Mature. No prize for guessing the type of content in stories that are in the M category. One very mild example can be seen here. Even then, stories the T rating are not that innocent either. Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine would have felt ashamed should they read the stories that are posted online.

2) The language is atrocious in some of the stories. Grammar-wise, spelling (Go figure: lose as loose, you're as your among the many other killer mistakes). How is she going to improve her English? The problem lies in her reading only fanfiction online. Books do not interest her at all.

I suspect that she is just one of the many teenagers who read fanfiction. And if she can surf the Internet without any parental guidance, many of the teenagers could be in the same situation as her.

What will I do if my future students are like my cousin who may be more 'knowledgeable' than me in certain areas? Perhaps, I should accept that it is normal for students to explore and develop through such avenues? The present is unlike the past when most of us had not even owned a computer when we were 12.

Honestly speaking, if I am ever faced with such students like my cousin in the school environment, I would be quite clueless as to how to deal with them. This is a totally different ball game from the past. This means that we would have to find a comfortable zone where we can relate to our students, and at the same time, maintain our authority in front of them. Not an easy job, I must say. How will they feel if we admit to them that we read fanfiction too? Is this an appropriate way to 'influence' them?

There is a disjuncture between how society still views teachers as being straitlace and prescriptive and the reality that we have to get under our own skins to find a comfortable space to share our experiences with students. Especially on the issue of sex. And if we do, when is the appropriate time to do so?

It is unfortunate that teachers have to take on the responsibilities of 'moulding' the values of our student when it is obviously the parents' responsibilities. I do not have to look far and I already have an exampe right at my doorstep. How to guide my cousin along without falling into the trap of being too preachy? How to guide my cousin along without falling into the trap of exposing too much of myself to her? How to share my experiences without her retorting that I am being hypocritical?

If this is going to be so tough on a cousin to cousin basis (does not help when she keeps referring to me as a teacher *rolls eyes*), I cannot imagine how difficult it is in the school/classroom environment.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Ideally- as geographers, we ought to be passionate about them. I love to attend such fieldtrips too. Yesterday's trip to Pasir Ris Park and Labrador Park was fantastic. And as the Master puts it, "learning is experiencing". What I see and processed in my head, I will remember for long.

Ideally- all students who are studying Geography ought to go for fieldtrips for almost every topic so that they can understand the essence of Geography.

Ideally- all Geography teachers ought to and would love to bring their students for fieldtrips. Learning will never be the same again for students. Teachers can transmit their knowledge to students passionately.

Pragmatically speaking- how many of the Geography teachers have the time to arrange fieldtrips for their students? Arranging for one already takes up alot of time. Plus courses and other non-teaching duties that teachers have to fulfill. Arranging for fieldtrips just isn't top of their priority.

Pragmatically speaking- Geography teachers like any other teachers have a syllabus to follow and rush through. It is already stressing enough to teach what the students need to know for exams. Bottomline: the bosses want results. Fieldtrips or not. The goal of the education system is focused more on pragmatic results and on the economy. Is it in congruent with our ideals that students should enjoy learning for the sake of learning? It can be possible in Secondary levels, but unfortunately, this is often not the case, despite the ultimate aims of the education system.

Pragmatically speaking- Can we trust our students to behave themselves in public? Do we dare risk our rice bowl to achieve the ideals of (a Geography) education?

Pragmatically speaking- Do students have the time to spare for fieldtrips, save for the occasional one? CCAs, enrichment lessons, industrial attachments... Will this favour those who are exceptionally capable once again?

Pragmatically speaking- There is always the issue of safety of students and financial viability. If the boss is reluctant to push for fieldtrips, the subordinate will have a difficult time to convince him/her. This is especially so when there are others who share the same view as the boss. Or worse still, if the boss is not exactly what we expect him/her to be. You know what I mean.

Therefore, pragmatically speaking- as teachers, we have to remember too that this is not just a vocation for us. This is also our rice bowl. Blame us for being selfish, call us sinners if fieldtrips cannot be organised for students. But do not blame us totally. We want to and we dearly want to do it. But at the end of the day, do not forget that we are human beings after all who have to work to support our families. Do not forget that we are human beings who do not live in isolation. Do not forget that we are human beings who are battling our own fears as we trudge onwards on this path.

Do not blame us, teachers, totally. We are human beings after all. And all human beings are not perfect.

Fight the system if we have to. But we should fight smart for the sake of our own survival and for the good of the long-run. Yes, we should not be too pessissmistic, but let's douse our sense of idealism with the reality.

(Note: These thoughts are mine, and entirely mine. This is my personal opinion, therefore I am not speaking for anyone else. Cross-posted.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Reflections on reflections

What I am writing in the following paragraphs is going to very ironic since I am going to critique the purpose of having reflections in this so-called reflective space of mine over here.

In all true sense, I like having an online journal so that I can process my thoughts and put them down in concrete terms. And I understand the purpose of having this blog so that I can write and share my thoughts about my preparations and experience in microteaching etc.

However, what I personally disagree with is the mode of assessment of our personal reflections. This does not pertain to Geography, but rather more on the Individual Differences component. Yes, it is appropriate to reflect upon our personal experiences to relate to what we will learn in this component. The main questions that I would like to pose is: who has the right to decide on what is 'right' and 'wrong' in our personal reflections? Who is to decide on whose reflection piece is going to be worth more marks than the others? Besides, why does 'Individual Differences' not go beyond the issue of disabilities? What about gender? Social class? Sexuality? Ethnicity? These are a few of the many aspects which will mark one individual differently from the next, isn't it?

Personal reflections are very arbitrary and much entwined with our personal lives. And I resent very much having 'experts' to grade and judge upon my experiences and life when I am the sole expert in understanding and experiencing my own life. I think it is pretty unfair that the rubrics of such 'reflection' pieces are set by these so-called experts. One may say that life is always unfair. Yes, I agree with that as I have been at the receiving end of such 'unfair practices' due to my 1) education background, 2) disability and 3) other issues which I shall not write over here (except in my personal blog). And I have been fighting against all these for so long that nowadays I really feel very tired of doing so, but I cannot not fight.

Nonetheless, I think that it is extremely contradictory for this component to have a standardised set of benchmark (I assume so since you must always have one when you want to assess something) to grade our reflections when the main focus is on 'Individual Differences' on students. Don't teachers have their individual differences as well? We are exhorted to be true to ourselves by many (and it is a principle which I firmly believe in). On the other hand, when it comes to such 'reflective' assignments, how can we be true to ourselves when we want an 'A' grade? Are we being hypocritical or self-delusional? Are we shortchanging ourselves? Do we want to be just another 'teacher trainee' or 'teacher' in the system?