Friday, January 24, 2014

Inner child

Workshop on using Transactional Analysis to establish a better rapport with the kids could have been useful, but I got distracted by the results of my personality test. Good teachers apparently are able to balance the Parent-Adult-Child states and can call upon the appropriate state to keep interpersonal interactions civil and constructive. When the other party approaches from a destructive state the balanced teacher can neutralize and defuse the situation without it escalating.

It shouldn't be much of a surprise, but my test results came back snowman shaped -- tiny Parent; below ideal Adult; oversized Child states. The rest of the workshop, I was a pest and a disruptive influence. Even after it was over, I continued to be rude and obnoxious to my colleagues and friends while being clearly aware of the negative Rebellious Child persona that was starting to take over.

Now I don't know if how I behaved was 'normal' behaviour for me, or if it was triggered by being made aware of the big inner kid that's driving my motivations. After all, awareness is licence to act up, and that's just what I did. So that's my conundrum of the day: is my behaviour normally childish and because of the workshop I am now aware of it; or is it because of the workshop that I put on the mask of childishness and played along accordingly? And do I really want to know the answer to that question?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Poor choice of words

So a fella gets ripped a new one for posting insensitive comments online. The fact that he is a foreigner is not a factor in this situation because anyone who posts stupid things online is fair game for trolls seeking easy targets to vent on.

The hypersensitivity of the overreaction is more fascinating to me. We are enraged for being labelled "poor". Um, so what? There is no shame in being poor. The vast majority of us do not drive around in Porches, but we still get around town and get our stuff done just fine, anyway. We're resourceful like that.

Besides, we even call ourselves "poor" and complain we can't afford fees, fares, housing, education and food. So we can label ourselves "poor" when it suits our arguments, but we can't accept the same label when it doesn't? Instead, in our online culture we take every chance to shame people who claim to be "rich". Essentially, we are telling people who own nice things to get off the Internet. That's not very nice of us, is it?

His second transgression was stating his desire to "wash [off] the stench of public transport" after his experience with it. We've all thought the same thing ourselves; we've posted the same thought online ourselves; and now we are excoriating someone for also posting the same comment in his own paraphrase? Everybody knows our public transport system is terrible. Online we're so vocal with our complaints about overcrowding; so many breakdowns; such frequent delays... That totally stinks and yet they keep raising fares! TMD!

So we all think the same thing, and we post our thoughts online though in different words, some more prosaic, some more droll, most just shoot from the hip. There is no need to take such huge issue with a "poor" paraphrasing of such a common thought. Let's just take a chill pill and give more room to nuance, off-colour humour, and multiple-entendre. And stop trying to police the Internet for politically-correct speech. Right now, online trolling is more a threat to our Internet freedoms than the MDA. Think about that.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Useful afternoon workshop... although the key ideas presented didn't push the envelope quite far enough to reach their logical conclusion.

Consider that our obsession with making the kids answer questions correctly has us barking up the wrong tree. The right tree to bark up is teaching our kids to ask questions no one has ever thought to ask before so that collectively we can dredge up some new answers from the bottomless pit that contains the sum of all human knowledge.

The highest aim of T and L ('Teaching and Learning' in campus parlance) is the ability to ask questions, not pickle that which we already know.

Sadly, most people can't see past the end-of-year exam. That's why we get proposals like MP Denise Phua's experimental do away with 'high stakes' exams through-train schools cluster. It would be nice to have a stress-free educational experience, but removing the exams does not remove the source of the stress. In every journey there are milestones to pass by en route to the destination. Removing the milestones does not make the journey any less tiring.

Exams are only milestones along the way to whichever education destination we have chosen to journey towards. They tell us how far we've come, and perhaps how far more we have to go, but that's all. As soon as we encounter one, we just walk past it on the way to our end point. No one plans a journey to end at a milestone because usually there's nothing else there, and yet that's what many of us are doing on our education journey. Instead of seeing the little rock at the side of the road with some useful numbers etched in it, we see a boulder right across our path that stops us dead in our tracks. Stress comes from our faulty perception when we can't see things for what they really are.

So why are some milestones harder to get past than others? Because not every journey is a straight-paved path strewn with primroses all the way to the end. Many a time, the terrain becomes difficult to negotiate. There are detours; unexpected obstacles; sometimes the path becomes hard to see; other times, we may have wandered off the path and struggle to find it again; and sometimes we may even change our minds and strike out on another path towards a different destination. The next milestone we encounter tells us we have found the right path, so keep on moving to the next, and the next, and the next until we finally arrive at wherever we want to be.

So pack for a long journey; enjoy the scenery; don't fixate on the milestones and just keep going. Your journey only ends when you decide you don't want to go any further. But it's a decision you have to make. A milestone can't make that decision for you.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Belt up

Taking the dog out in the car can be dangerous. I'm parked so right now she looks real cute and all, like perching up the crow's nest ready to yell 'land ho!' When we're on the move, it's not half so much fun 'n games. A moment of unrestrained exuberance and either she could go flying from an unanticipated jerk, or we could both end up in a ditch.

Now, that's better. She doesn't look so thrilled any more, but she's safely harnessed to the rear seat-belt. No more wild adventures in the cabin.

Here's a closer look at the safety belt clip -- it's just a loop made of seat-belt material attached to a clip -- made by Rogz. While she gets used to driving around all neatly belted up, we have to endure her singing belting out the song of her people (such a sad song it is, too) all the way to where we're going.