Saturday, 29 September 2007

It Was A Sad Day...

As a seminary lecturer, one of my deepest desires is to see students learn and grow through the assignments, essays, and thesis that they are working on. I do understand that sometimes because of the demands of the heavy workload, one may end up submitting a paper, essay or thesis just for the sake of getting a passing grade in order to obtain a piece of certificate at the end of their studies.

I feel very strongly that one should learn from one's mistakes and weaknesses (if any) in the papers or essays submitted. As such, I do point out some serious errors that students make, and sometimes I require them to make the necessary corrections in order to improve their work and, at the same time, to learn from the mistakes or errors that they make. Not to mention, sometimes this may improve their grade too.

However, comments on the students' mistakes and errors may not go down well at times. Sometimes, the request to rework on the papers may be frowned upon. I had one student remarked to me when I pointed out the shortcomings with the request for reworking on the paper: "I don't have time to look into it. I just want to get this out of the way."

When I heard such comments, I felt very sad, disappointed, and to a certain extent, upset. It was not because of the fact that my efforts went unappreciated. But I sometimes wonder what went wrong. Was there too much work for the students? Was I being too demanding? Or, what else could this be?

Whatever it might be, that was a sad day for me indeed.


Lee Chee Keat said...

Kar Yong,

Keep on persevere, friend. Great at least I know I'm getting a good and compassionate lecturer next year, hee hee;)

Alex Tang said...

hi bro,

people go seminary for many reasons. Some to expand their minds and spiritual experiences, some to get a piece of paper that entitled them to more 'respect' and pay, and some to escape an unattainable situation at home.

whatever their reasons, they are there with you. You are in a unique position to influence. Thank God for that. Even Jesus asked 'sadly', where are the other nine?

Lee Chee Keat said...

hmmm...on one hand, perhaps there's a little bit of communication skills need to be worked on here. m trying to apply the 7 habits from Mormon Covey principles which mayb helpful. The 5th habit, i think it talks about "seek to understand and seek to be understood". Perhaps should have tried to listen to the students voice first and emphatised the students' needs, then help the students to understand your point about the need to excel for God though it's tough and overloaded. o well, juz guessing, may work!!

blogpastor said...

Hi Kar Yong,

You meant it for good, but...

When a student finishes one assignment it is accompanied by a sense of relief and progress, almost exhiliration. To ask him to rework it, is like an anti-climax or worse, more so as he faces the pressure of completing many more assignments.

pearlie said...

I feel for you. And it is not easy, the lecturers' high expectations and the students' endless struggle to meet them ALL. Yes, do persevere, there are bound to be those who would appreciate it.

What that student said sounds like something that is uttered out of desperation. So maybe he (or she) is really facing some problems that he is trying to control and suddenly with your statement, he felt his control disintegrating. I am not sure what you can or cannot do to help - to avoid being seen as special treatment and all - since I have never been a lecturer but you got my attention. I will ask one of good friend professor and see what he says - will update you if he said anything profound :)

Don't lose heart - I am sure that particular student will remember that event one fine day and he will be glad he reworked it coz he will definitely be using it ;)

pearlie said...

ooh ... and I love the dog!

Paul said...

Memories from my days at seminary ... I remember being asked a few tiems to add a bit of this and that for a better grade (ok, not a similar example to the situation you blogged about)... and my response was normally - "no thanks" :-) Why?

If it is to get a slighly higher grade, it wasn't worth the time (emphasis here is on TIME - so much to do etc and dotting one's i's and crossing ones' T's to prefection was so time consuming and a joy sucker.

Example ... (real example, with some details changed)

L: You could have done better if you had done this and this ... I only gave you a B+. You should redo the assignment and resubmit with this and this added and I will give you an A.

Me: Thank you but B+ is more than fine. I have a lot of other assignments to do (esp when back then I did not have a PC and had to write out the assignment in long hand)

L: I am giving you the chance to get an A.

Me: Thank you. I appreciate it and I now know how to improve on the assignment which is what is more important to me. Unless you are insisiting that I have to redo the assignment, I would rather not

L: I am not insisting that you redo but I strongly recommend you do so

Me: Then I will take th B+ and not redo the assignmment.

L: I am disappointed with your attitude. I am giving you rthe chnace to imporve your grade to an A and you are not bothered.


On other occassions, I found that I really never understood why I redoing a particular assignment was so important. Most probably due to my lack of maturity (seriously!) but also due to pretty unconvincing reasons (or lack of actually) presented as to why this was necessary.

For example (again real example, with some details changed) - not saying this is in any way related to your example :-)

L: You did not quote anything from 'so and so's book ...

Me: Why is this necessary? Is there something particular from this book that I need to consider?

L: Because this is the latest book on the subject and has some important things to say

Me: Have you read the book? What important things is in the book to consider?

L: (looking a bit annoyed) No I have not read it yet but that's not the issue. You should read it and its up to you to find out.

Me: ???

Peace :-)

Kar Yong said...

Dear Chee Keat, Alex, Blogpastor, Pearlie, and Paul,

Thanks for all the words of encouragement.

Paul, thanks for sharing some real life examples from the persepctive of a (former) student.

Yes, for assignments/essays, I am not too particularly concerned whether the necessary corrections are made or not. For some classes that I teach, I give the student "second chance" - I leave it to them whether they want to do the corrections so that they could earn a better grade. I do understand the pressure and time contraints. So this is always an option available for them. Some take up my generosity, but say, "Thanks for pointing out my errors, but I am happy with the grade." I think this is fine with me.

But what if this is a thesis? Would it make any difference? More so if I am a supervisor or examiner where I am to sign the declaration that I have approved the thesis, and I know that there are glaring errors, contradiction of facts/argument, misquotation of the secondary sources and failure to refer to essential references significant to the argument in the thesis. And these had been pointed out to the student several times but yet, some of the necessary corrections were not made.

This is where my real struggle begins. What do you do in situations like this? What would you do, as a supervior or examiner, if you were told, "I don't have time? I just want to get this out of the way?"

On the one hand, we would like to see the students graduate, one the other, sometimes, we feel like failing them for not wanting to do the necessary corrections.

Paul said...

Ah ... I agree that if it was a thesis it would be a whole different cup of tea. I would be a pretty foolish student to not want to correct every possible error in my thesis as it would be the "assignment" that will remain for the world to see!

And YES in this case, I would do the revision as it would be to my beenfit as if not, I would not graduate! lol

Anonymous said...

But JR and i had a great time that "sad day"...hahahaa...


Jack Said

Kar Yong said...

Jack Said,

Thanks for dropping by- glad to know you have a great time that day. So...when can we have the privilege of welcoming you as a student in STM? Or...perhaps after you see the "angry" lecturer, you have other thots now....

blogpastor said...

If it is a thesis, it is a non-negotiable.