I have always believed that education is the key to our nation’s progress. But after a conversation on politics with my mother and uncle over merienda, I realized that values must come first. A person may be well-educated, but without a firm set of values as foundation, such great education can end up being misused.
I have a dilemma. Creating lectures and checking exams and quizzes are increasingly difficult to do when you no longer see the point of these outdated teaching and assessment techniques. :(( Probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed handling the product design class this semester. Very minimal lectures. No written exams. But students have a tangible output.
Why am I still lecturing in class? Why am I still giving exams? Because of standardization in engineering education? The lectures I can replace with an alternative, but still easier said than done due to other faculty responsibilities. The written exams and quizzes are more challenging to remove because I need to convince other faculty members (at least one; my partner next sem) to remove it as well in order to comply with Washington Accord (sections of the same courses should have the same assessment techniques).
I’m still here struggling to finish checking an exam that happened two months ago. Soon I will calculate numbers that will “assess” student learning. But even those numbers are quickly losing meaning. I am currently a student in another school where we are not given grades, but I have learned so much in just one semester. Is it not possible to ditch the grade in university and just provide feedback on student work and have them learn not to get 100% or 1’s, but simply because they are curious to discover new things?
Then again, this might be just the idealistic me speaking. The struggle is real.
Tears in my eyes right now. Deep breaths. Inbox filled with commitments that are not impossible to achieve, but require a tremendous amount of effort to pull through. Commitments that are self-inflicted. Commitments that were carefully chosen to align with what I truly want to do, not what other people want me to do– to provide students with extra opportunity to do funded research, to organize an event to bring the maker movement to more people, to further develop my research skills by crafting my own PhD topic, to test the waters of an administrative position, to see if I could actually find funding to fly one of my role models in Humanitarian Engineering from the other side of the world to our beloved UP Diliman, to test myself if I could design and 3D print something that people will use to further public school education in our country (even if my part of that project is just small, haha).
The first four months of the year was filled with decision-making. Which opportunities should I pursue? Which ones should I let go? Decisiveness is still a work in progress, but I’d like to believe that I am better now than when I started.
The tears are not solely because of joy or fear or stress or confusion or gratefulness or excitement or frustration. The tears represent all those emotions happening at the same time! Tears of overwhelm! :’D
What Steve Jobs said about only being able to connect the dots looking back is definitely true. There were times since 2011 when I felt that I wasn’t going anywhere with my advocacy, or that I was going too slow. But things seem to be coming together now. I know that it’s not permanent and there will be time again for doubt and reflection (which is not altogether bad, I realized there is a need for that). For now, we should make the most out of the opportunities coming up. Opportunities to connect with other departments, institutes, colleges, and universities. May we be able to play our cards wisely to maximize everything for everyone, i.e. faculty, students, and institutions alike. As always, I don’t know where all this is going. Nevertheless, times have taught us to just dive into the uncertainty with a spirit of excitement and joy and curiosity and gratefulness (and lots of hard work!). Let’s go DMMME! :)
#engineeringeducation #engineering+art #design #materials
I think this is the first time in my 3 years of teaching that I taught a class that does not involve any (problem-solving) calculations, i.e. it’s very theoretical, probably because it’s an elective course. And it being theoretical has its own challenges. For one, I find it quite difficult to stretch the lecture to 180 minutes. I will never intend to speak for the entire 180 minutes. That would be dreadful both for my students and me. So I’ve been trying different activities for the past weeks that would make the lecture more engaging. Group discussions are good from time to time, but not always. Videos are almost always good, just don’t make it too long. Design activities are the best, but I have yet to master preparing one (I only did it once; there’s still a lot of room for improvement on my part). Games are also fine, but I’m trying to move away from it to introduce more “engineering-like” activities that are equally engaging. Tomorrow I’ll try this one:
Tinker Thursdays! It’s not an original name. Turns out that the Cornell University library maker space has Tinker Thursdays. I tried Googling “Tinker Tuesdays” (because my class is every TTh) and that name is also already taken by another group. So I settled with Tinker Thursdays (and, yes, there’s a pubmat! Just because I love making pubmats :P). Yay!
I scavenged our house this evening for stuff that we can take apart tomorrow. VHS, floppy disks, Discman, computer mice, etc. Let’s see how this activity turns out. I’ll post an update soon! Wish us luck!
One of the things that stuck on me after watching the documentary, “Becoming Warren Buffet” was focus. Focus on what you want and need to do. Never mind what other people think. He learned from his dad that, “as long as you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, then that’s enough.” Focus.
This year, I told myself that I will focus on what I want to do. There are tempting offers to lead research projects and/or stints that unfortunately do not align with my goals and this week I have to say my “no” to them. It’s a risk, as it always is with life. We always lose a potential outcome when we make choices. But what is life without risks? We grow because of the risky decisions we make. I have enough on my plate for this year. I need to focus more on making an impact than making a name. As Mr. Khanjan Mehta told me when I interviewed him last year, “It’s all about impact. Impact. Impact.”
Another reason why I will say no to these other projects is because saying yes to them would mean saying yes to having a boss again. I have proven last year that I am not the type of person who wants to work for someone. God willing, I want my PI in the US to be the last boss I will report to. I will find mentors/advisors, but definitely not bosses.
Bottomline: focus on projects that will have an impact. Impact. Impact.
My friend and I were talking over lunch about his experiences and realizations from a recent faculty workshop he attended. He described, among other things (and with much delight!), how inspired and excited successful people in the workshop were, how they enjoyed the daily “grind” of work, how good PI’s cared for the growth of each member of their group, how successful people competed in a constructive way, and how they threw themselves “out there” and took risks because they never settled for anything less than what they wanted.
A knot was forming in my throat as I fought back tears (of joy) because all of the things he was saying, I have experienced in some way back home in the Philippines.
I remember so clearly how inspiring majority of my fellow teachers are both inside and outside of the classroom. When demotivation strikes me, I simply remember how passionate my colleagues are and I get back up quickly.
I remember how majority of the senior faculty members in our department care so much for both undergraduate and graduate students to the point that DMMME was regularly sending students abroad (Japan and Taiwan mostly) for short study visits and internships. My adviser would also think about job opportunities for her graduating students (she was the one who offered me a job in DMMME).
I remember how exciting the daily “grind” is in the department (it’s stressful, but exciting!), especially during the semester before I left for the US when I had three simultaneous collaborative projects with different departments and colleges, on top of other faculty duties. It was exhilarating! How I terribly miss that feeling!
I remember how the junior (and some senior) faculty members would have a healthy competition in that we would compare the average performances of our classes at the end of the semester or compare the performance of our students on a specific project. It was healthy because no one was pulling the other down when they succeeded. We would even ask one another what they did to have a great outcome. We help each other grow as faculty members.
I remember how exciting a feeling it was to take risks and throw myself “out there” for the sake of an advocacy I work hard for. It was by taking risks that I got to travel to Europe and the US.
But I left all that for a year and now I find myself struggling to save whatever light and inspiration I have left inside of me because my current circumstances keep sucking it out. I wish I could say that it was only research that is challenging here, but it’s not only that.
I have been in a three-week research hiatus already (going four) because of demotivation. And there were many times in the past month when I would wonder what I had turned into. This is not my best performance at work and it’s not like me to not give my best. That is what’s so bothersome. This is not me!!! But as my friend said today, “Kung ngayon pa lang mag iinarte ka na, wala kang mararating.” I think he was saying it for himself (or not? haha), but the words also hit me. Hard. I can’t be like this. I don’t want to be like this anymore. I need to remember what I came here for and if I am to reach my goal, I have to expect that I’ll be in a far worse situation in the future. As President Truman once said, “Being President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep riding or be swallowed. A President is either on top of events or, if he hesitates, events will soon be on top of him.” I’m not planning to become president, but I do need to persevere to prevent myself from being swallowed by the tiger I’m currently riding.
I came here in the US because I was frustrated by my lack of skills when I was in the Philippines. I felt so limited that I couldn’t share enough to my students and fellow teachers. I must not come home empty-handed. I have an INSANE plan right now; I guess desperation is an effective antidote to hesitation.
We in the Philippines don’t lack inspiration or great minds or perseverance. We lack opportunity. Faculty members are so burned out from juggling teaching, research, extension work, committee work, admin work, etc. making it very easy to lose the opportunity to work for the essential things that matter to us (e.g. thesis, skills development in various aspects, etc.).
Now I need to pull myself together quickly. I only have four months left. It so long a time to stay in my somewhat dreary situation, but so short a time to develop skills and find opportunities. Whatever. As the poem I posted yesterday goes: