Saturday, April 23, 2011

Curiosity about Learning Attitude

After a consultation with one of my professors, I was asked with this question, “I was just curious, why didn’t student come and talk to me?” First, I have to admit I was standing in an awkward mind of ‘but I am here – so why are you asking me?’, but this question was exactly the question I asked one year ago.

Growing up flipping encyclopaedias rather than fairy tales, I questioned a lot. Sometimes they are answered, sometimes they were not. I question and think a lot – and I think that’s what most people called daydreaming. I took my time over a bus ride, waiting arrival of friends, waiting for class – questioning what I saw and reason them, at the same time imagine. And when you grow up, reality hits you hard. School teacher don’t really like questions – at least most of them don’t. The education now is so much like a 3 in 1 coffee that everything is packed and teachers were to sell them over in this package. Some of them indirectly did showed their role as an educator but those had slowly become the side dishes, instead of the essence of education. I am lucky to met some who really sparks your mind but most of my school life, I have to behave like a normal manufactured kid – sit down, listen, absorb, remember, answer, score, get the certificate. Your interest, curiosity? Those are side dish, remember? And slowly, we were moulded, into what we were expected to be: disciplined, independent, obedient, efficient – anything an employer wants for employees. This is what some called corporate education. And I never really thought so much of it as I still question and reason – but on a personal level. Things remained so ‘normal’ until I started my third year in university…

Two things induced what I thought: UROPS and History. Questioning became so much more efficient, if it is extended to other people. But to my disappointment, not much people enjoyed the sentiment. I used to be angered by how my mentor question me back my questions – but at least, I enjoyed the process of me reasoning with the question. But opportunities for that became so limited when everything is on the Internet. And I started to realized there’s a problem in my document analysis where I have no idea where is the problem. This is when I found something which Internet did not have – and that was the first time I consulted the professor. And through pleasant consultation, I learned not only theories which one could find on the Internet, but understanding and logics, which is a product of one’s thought rather than a factual display on the flashing screen. Somehow, I felt learning became more interesting all of sudden. As a result, I spent my last year in my university, enjoying learning like no one else. I figured out, there were times when I was as excited as this in discovering the knowledge, but it was one of the rare occasions where I was actually venturing a field and sharing them with someone else. Learning became not a one-way thing, but like what I found out this semester – Greek learning. And then, I was asking myself, what had I been doing all these years?! Not that all teachers I met were totally corporate teachers. Not that I must stay as obedient as I should. I could still remember, during my Lower Six, due to certain low tides, I became very aggressive in learning things. I asked a lot until one day the teacher actually labelled me as the ‘problematic student’. I understand as a teacher, it is annoying to have a rambling student blurting questions all the time you stop teaching – but that incident did silence me a lot thereafter. Papa advised, “ Question – to improve, but not a blind one.” I had always had that in mind and hence am sure I was not asking stupid questions. Besides, with wonderful teachers in NUS, I had wasted two years – not utilizing my opportunity to the fullest, a shame on me! And part of my conclusion came back to me.

Yes, we, tend to take things for granted. Especially when the subject is your major, you started to think that you should understand all that, you can study by yourself, you can check the Internet – what is the need to question then? Teachers became the transmitter and everything else is yourself. The course was compacted that most of the time, you were thinking of finishing and enhancing your knowledge on that area – rather than to think out of the box. When you really is lost, you always have friends whom you could ask from. Independent learning became so independent that the intellectual exchange had shifted from between teacher and student to between student and whatever knowledge source (ie Internet, books). But for my case, I realized – I took my major for granted and that costs me a lot. Your goal was so capitalized that everything else that is important for an education became so blurred and forgotten. And it was one year ago when I found back the joy – of learning something not for the sake of grades. I find relaxation in French class, I feel happy in Science classes – but the joy now, had became so clear that I suddenly saw how dark the things had been. Partly, it was because I was doomed to graduate and hence, pressure of pulling up CAP lifted and I was free to look towards my attitude towards learning.

And I am glad to say that I am showered with such a luck to discover this at an early stage of my life. Of course, there are many factors which brought to the question why students nowadays would rather find answer themselves rather than spending some time for some philosophical talk with people. Some of them are really just shy and peer pressure played some role. I am shy at some cases but nothing come between me and my curiosity towards mankind intellects, that’s the driving force. This is a lesson learned, which did not only helped in history discipline only but I find it rather useful in scientific career. By the same token, I find it an art, to share knowledge but at the same time retaining confidential information. This is something, which a researcher, politician, intelligence agents, or even a normal worker should learn for their work etiquette. And yes, the professor seemed upset of not having students asking – what I could not change how students behave until all of us change our attitude towards learning...

Finally, Happy Easter!

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