Teaching

I survived a year of teaching!!! 😀 I meant to shout this out last Friday, but I was totally knocked out from the long last few days in school. We had a massive reshuffle of time-tables in the last week of school, so that all the tutors can attend to the final presentations of all the years.

There were so many times I lamented, “why am I more stressed than the students?” It felt like an intense last few days, because we had no idea what most students are going to present at the finals. I do wonder how my tutors felt when they were teaching us. 😀 😀 I remember my year one studio tutor constantly frowned into a wrinkled forehead every time. 😀

I realise one thing though. heh heh heh. When we were students, we were always thinking about skipping class, or attending classes late when it was too early in the morning, or when the tutors were boring. Now, as a teacher, unbelievably, I still think about skipping class, or attending class late (most of mine start at 8am), and … okay, I try very hard not to find my students’ work boring. Hah hah.

I remember one fine day, or one synchronistic day, all my students messaged to say they overslept and were rushing to class and would be late (yes, they are very very polite! ❤ ) That was the day that I too overslept. But I took my job quite seriously, even though I do not see myself as a mentor, I believe I need to set myself up as a good role model. I still made it to class at 8am. That was the day I knew that wanting to skip school does not apply merely to students.

That was also the day I reminisced my personal journey through architecture and design and art and saw all the connections of how every up and every down has its very good reason to my position today. So yes, every moment was / is perfect, as all zen / spiritual masters would say.

A senior student sat through the freshmen’s presentations (he helped some of them with their presentations overnight ❤ ), and at the wrap up, he gave much advice to his juniors that melted my (very tired) heart. It showed me that words and ideas can really change the world, or at least someone’s world. I only speak words of truth, and I only speak words of use. Yet, I do not hold my words in high regard. Yet, these words are weighted enough to take a bearing on another’s frame of mind. He repeated my words to the juniors, and told them they really have to “not give up. Just make it work.”

I used to really detest my year 1 studio tutor for many things. But now when I look back, I really think we are all just growing in our own paths and journeys, and she did not exactly mess me up. She was a fresh grad then, and she really was doing her best. I managed to be more confident in guiding my students because I had gone through shitty periods of confusion, and I had led so many different types of design teams while trying to find my footing around the different eyes and positions to navigate the sea of sharks. I had so much resentment for the university in Singapore, who was just squeezing our thoughts and minds into little pigeon holes of rights and wrongs. But if not for this box that made me want to break out of it, I would not have the guts, courage, or the moral drive to open up and let my students play with ideas outside the box.

I was blessed with the good fortune of enjoying a very positive learning experience in Unimelb on the other hand. It really showed me what education means. I remember the discussion with my professors, and I was so jittery because of the shit times in NUS, and he/they reassured me that I was there to learn (and explore and experiment and formulate my perspectives), I did not have to already know. That polarity stayed with me. And I see how useful it is to me now.

I remember during one of the crits in Unimelb, when the tutor (mayor!!!) told the guest critique (vice-mayor!!! different city) off, “leave the young lady alone, let her play with her ideas” when he was bombarding me with all sorts of practical questions. That was sixteen years ago, and I remember it vividly. That shaped my stand today, even when we (my fellow tutors / my seniors) hold similar discussions in the office.

In design, we cannot play safe. With risks, there are rewards. School time is the only time we can safely play with all sorts of ideas. Why would you want to keep them safe right now? They have the rest of their lives to be practical architects and project managers. I had my fair share of crazy fun which Unimelb provided all the space for, with a fair share of practical pointers and direction markers to make sure we know what needs to be tackled to make things work in real life. My tutor (I miss you, Darko) even spoke to the  city council to try to get them to implement my crazy ideas. So, yes, I really had my lioness’ share of fun and crazy experimentation that I am extremely thankful for. YET, I still make a practical implementer – I make design projects work. I get them constructed. I am not deterred by reasons (/excuses) like, “it’s too expensive” (I find budget ways to make them work), or “it’s not practical” (I will get all sorts of people involved to make it clockwork). This is really an experience, a polarity, that I hold close to my heart. Without one or the other, it is just either plain ideas up in the air, or plain projects that anyone else can do.

Then again, people who have not played wild, would not understand the exhilarating feeling of experimentation PLUS making things work. People who have played safe all their lives, would not have the capacity to play or let anyone else play, outside the designated yellow lines.

I hope to support more youths and people to make ideas work. ❤ Their way.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. “…we cannot play safe. With risks, there are rewards. School time is the only time we can safely play with all sorts of ideas. Why would you want to keep them safe right now?”

    That’s probably one of the more profound statements I’ve ever heard with regard to teaching. In both the US and in Japan, it’s become about little more than “passing the test”. That’s fine, I guess, if you’re looking to do someone else’s work. But more than anything, the world needs creative solutions. And that means taking some informed risks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. leapingtoes says:

      Helllooo!! I miss you!!! Finally found time to reply!
      When it comes to design, if we set our sights high enough, it takes more than just “passing the test” to do well. At the same time, it is not wrong to be a pragmatist. Either way, we have to push the boundaries of status quo to bring innovative ideas into this world! (Even pragmatists have boundaries to push~)
      There’s a lot more fulfilment in that than just meeting the marks that predecessors have set (and already defined), and we are probably bound to do the latter when we start work (and have to meet deadlines and client demands).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Classy_23 says:

    An inspiring post. I’m wondering when I’ll get past the “survival” stage of teaching (UK), feeling like I’m just about getting by and then really flying with it. As teachers we never stop learning and perhaps we’ll never fully feel safe but that’s what makes it so exciting!

    Like

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