Saturday, April 26, 2008

As a PW Supervisor, I have a particular job to do that my students have not yet quite understood. And this misunderstanding is causing lots of frustration on both sides. My role is not to APprove projects, but rather to IMprove them. So while they send me proposal draft after draft, hoping that I will at some point say, "that's it! That's perfect!", that's not what's going to happen. I will always find ways to make the proposal better. The disparity is that the students see their projects as a destination whereas I see them as a continuum. There IS no end in sight. Honest.

Why it's so frustrating is because the students tend to do what they're told. I keep telling and they keep doing and it never seems to be good enough. Every proposal gets sent back to the old drawing board, the old ogre is never satisfied, damn him! But, hey, if PW was simply about following instructions from some crotchety codger who doesn't know what he wants, then PW really should be scrapped as yet another redundant exam subject.

But the PW process is more about learning to think up a project and then think through it from the perspective of the one who will eventually be presented the project. Most students are satisfied accomplishing the former, and don't push on to even attempt the latter. Then when they receive feedback on their proposals, they think there's something wrong with themselves, or something wrong with the ideas, when most of the time, what they have is quite good enough.

What's missing is their ability to adequately communicate their ideas to the third party, and to see what they have written through the eyes and ears of their audience. This is the leap in thinking ability they have to make in order to succeed at PW. They need to articulate their ideas clearly and coherently, anticipate queries and potential objections, and project an air of confidence that they have done their homework, and competence in the area of work they wish to undertake. Some professionalism in the way they they present their materials won't hurt either.

If they could just try to read what they themselves have written, distancing themselves from their own authorship, and critique their own proposals from a third-party perspective, ask themselves the hard questions and prepare to answer them, then they won't need me any longer, and they can start working for themselves at last. Perhaps then they will see that I'm less tough on them than they will be on themselves.

Until then, it's like I'm driving a school bus and the kids inside keep asking, "are we there yet?" All I'm doing is driving, I'm not going anywhere except down the road. Hopefully, at some point, the kids will quit watching the scenery and poking each other, but instead watch me as I turn the wheel, upshift, downshift, accelerate and brake. And when they finally get it, they'll get off at the next bus stop, climb into their own vehicles and trundle off -- on their own -- towards a destination of their own choice. These will be the successful kids.

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