Wedding Pianist Tales

I've played the piano for many weddings.  I play for at least one wedding a year.  This year, I was scheduled to play for two weddings.

Last Sunday's wedding was the second wedding for the year.  I was flanked by two violinists, and we made fabulous wedding accompaniment for the now, husband and wife.

Weddings are never perfect, at rehearsals and at the actual event.  There are always glitches, or last minute changes.  There are always people who come late.  Sometimes something explodes and catches fire (seriously this happened once).

But I will not talk about non-music related incidents.  Since I think I'm a resident pianist, I will share interesting innuendos about wedding music.

#1 - It's always the pianist's fault
This happened at one of the weddings I played for in my earlier years in Thailand.  There was this lady, a fellow Sabahan, or Sabahanian, whatever you like to call us, who was assigned to sing a special number for the reception.  Now this lady has a tolerable choir voice, but nothing close to solo material.  It is quite unfortunate that she has so much misplaced confidence of how well she can sing.  This misplaced confidence extends to her song-writing skills, as well, as the song she was going to sing was written by none other than herself.  The accompanying music, on the other hand, was ripped-off from some cheesy Malaysian song.  We practice and practice.  At the reception, she soulfully renders her love message for the newlyweds.  She does a terrible job, no doubt.  It was so bad that even her misplaced confidence was insufficient to tell her otherwise.  At that reception itself, while we were mingling and mixing.  I got word that she has been relaying to every wedding guest she forcefully met, that the pianist sucks.  It was the pianist's fault that she had so many off keys.  That _________.

#2 - Every bride deserves her dream wedding
This bride her wedding to be as grand as Maria and Captain Von Trapp's in the Sound of Music.  She had a partial orchestra, a grand piano, a synthesizer, and an organ.  I was on the organ.  The whole concept of the wedding was lifted off from the movie.  At the rehearsal dinner, which started really early, she made everyone sit in front of a giant screen to watch the Sound of Music.  The Bride, of course, was crying by the end.  Now, one thing with wedding rehearsals and the actual ceremony, these two never match.  What you practice the night or day before will not be like what you will play on the actual wedding day.  If it turn out the same, then you are one lucky pianist.  On the actual day, the bride was really feeling the moment.  She waved and smiled as she walked down the aisle.  It was like she won Ms. Universe: Bride Edition, or something like that.  This was confusing, for all of us accompanist.  Halfway through the music, I got lost, so did the person at the synthesizer, as well as the pianist.  So there you go, the piano, synthesizer, and organ playing different parts of the same music.  Talk about having a fugue.

#3 - The bride is da boss
This happened at last week's wedding.  The bride's sister was the wedding coordinator, so I dealt with the sister to get the music sorted out.  I got it sorted out a week before the wedding, sent it off to the sister, and got no response.  That meant it was okay.

Come rehearsal, they asked if I could play a separate song for the groom.  Now, the groom was strategically placed in the middle of the male entourage.  If I were to play a song for him, I would have to let all those in front of him finish the march, then start a new song for the groom, then after the groom had marched all the way to the altar, start a new song for the remaining men.  This of course, would take ages.  Thankfully, the minister, who had done many weddings, was opposed to this suggestion.  Thank you minister!  The bride wasn't going to give up, no way.  She had to have the last word.  She said to me, "could you play the song (trumpet tune) a little differently when my man marches in?" I replied, "what do you mean differently?" she answered, "like maybe play louder."  That was my cue to leave.


Zipper Tales

I've had some pretty intense situations happen to be repeatedly, like 'falling' at different occasions.

Since those falls, I have been quite careful with how I walk, and, I am proud to say that to date, I haven't had any embarrassing falls.  Instead, I have been privileged with other types 'intense situations' - malfunctioning zippers.

Zipper Malfunction #1
I was returning to Thailand after visiting my brother in California back in 2010.  On the flight back to Bangkok, from Taipei, my zipper literally popped.  I was wearing short shorts, a grey shirt, a cardigan, and boat shoes.  I was going for the chillaxed, I-travel-a-lot kinda look.  The flight was uneventful, until I tugged on my zipper to check if my fly was secured.  You know how sometimes the tape (the two parts that become connected when the zipper is pulled up) remains connected, even after the zipper is pulled off (maybe because it broke or maybe because there are no top stops) - well this happened to me.  The zipper just came all the way off, leaving my pants 'zipperless'.  It had to happen right after I finished the meal and drank a whole glass of juice and water.  Sure enough, half an hour after this, I had to use the bathroom.  But using the bathroom would mean risking the tape getting disconnected, and this would mean that my fly would be wide open.  I went to the bathroom and tried to figure out if I could ride my pant high enough so I can pee without having to fiddle around with my zipper.  Nothing worked.  I returned to my seat. And waited.  Landed.  Waited.  Cleared Immigration.  Waited.  Waited for my luggage.  Got my luggage, ran to the nearest restroom, tore my pants open and sat on the toilet while listening to wonderful sounds of release similar to that of the Niagara falls.  Took a fresh pair of pants from my luggage and happily left the airport.
  
Zipper Malfunction #2   
This happened last week.  I was, again, wearing short shorts.  I was bringing a couple of friends visiting from Sabah to Asiatique.  We had taken the boat from Saphan Thaksin to get to Asiatique.  As we approached the pier at Asiatique, I tugged on my zipper to check if everything was in place.  The zipper head wasn't in place.  It had caught some fabric.  I couldn't pull it all the way up.  In situations like this you would pull it lower, and try to separate the fabric as you pulled the zipper down, hoping that the fabric would dislodge itself from the zipper.  I did this.  Fabric stayed.  I pulled the zipper all the way to the bottom and the fabric was still stuck.  We got to the pier, and I jumped off the boat, and ran to a dark corner of the pier.  My friends called out to me to check if I was okay.  I wasn't okay so I called one of them to come help me.  He held my pants down by pulling at the crotch area while I pulled the zipper back up.  While doing this, we both did little jumps.  What a sight it must have been.   

Bangkok T-Shirts

Here are some cool/stupid/funny t-shirts you can find in Bangkok.  These photos were taken at Terminal 21, Asoke.






Diplomatic Relations

Last Friday I paid a visit to the Malaysian and Australian Embassies in Bangkok.  Getting there from the Lumphini MRT was quite a walk, but thankfully both of them were right next to each other.

Australian Embassy
People were attended to in an orderly fashion: we had to get queue numbers.  Once at the counter, the officer was very accommodating, but curt.  They certified my Australian documentation in less than 10 minutes.  There is not much I can say about the embassy because the service was so efficient, and fast.

Malaysian Embassy
I got there quarter to two, and they were still having lunch.  Apparently lunch breaks at the Malaysian embassy in Bangkok are two hours long.  I met the liaison officer at one of the schools where I work part-time.  She has been waiting since noon.  When the doors finally opened, there were no security checks, everyone wandered in and formed a line, with the first person being separated by the rest by a red-line which obviously means "please stand behind this red line".  No queue numbers needed.  I felt bad? because I got there quite late and got served the third.  Officer behind the counter told me that they normally took two working days to certify a document, but she added that I could wait around and see what happens after the crowd leaves.  She told me the cost of the service, and I bent over and reached down to my bag (which was on the floor) to take my wallet.  As I did that, my butt pushed back into the person behind me.  "What is he doing so close?" I screamed in my head.  I turned back and glared at him, returned my gaze to the officer who was smiling timidly, paid my money, and went to look for a seat.  Soon after, that guy who invaded my personal space sat right next to me, and started fiddling around with his documents.  He then asked for a pen, then asked if he could share the power plug (that I was using to charge my phone) to charge his phone.  I lent him a pen, and I shared the power plug with him.  Soon, the officer called out my name, and I collected my passport.  I went back to my seat to retrieve my belongings, and my pen, and the guy whom I backed into asked if I knew place X.  I looked at the address, checked it on google maps, and told him, "Yes, I know where that is, and I'll walk you there."

Some other minor events over the weekend:
1.  Attended a participative play of the Wizard of Oz.  I was one of the many Tinmans.   It was at the British Club House.  Half the audience, and even the hosts were not British.

2.  First meal at Dean and Deluca.  They messed up my order.  Saw Gummy Bears and thought of buying it for a friend, but then checked the price: 150 Baht.  I might as well go to 7-Eleven and get a 10-Baht pack of gummy bears.  Otherwise, food was quite good.

3.  Chatuchak with Mom and her girlfriends, also met with friends visiting from Sabah.  As usual, it was hot, muggy, crowded, hot, did I say hot?

4.  For those who want to buy Guesstures in Bangkok, forget it.  Buy it online from somewhere.  They don't sell it.  I wandered around the malls in Siam and rang up Toys-R-Us.  Mai mee.

5.  MBK does not have the latest version of SPSS (currently only at version 21, with the latest version being 22).

I thought this was pretty provoking.  It was strategically placed right at the beginning of the introductory chapter of Culture, Curriculum, and Identity in Education (Milner, 2010, p. 1).


White teachers sometimes do not believe and fully understand that they have a culture [...] or that their worldview and practices are culturally grounded, guided, and facilitated. They struggle to understand that they, like people of color, too are cultural beings and that their conceptions, decisions, and actions are culturally shaped and mediated. They sometimes classify others as “cultural beings” or “diverse” and sometimes do not recognize the salience and centrality of their own culture, and how it is woven through their work as teachers. Culture is steeply embedded within and around each of us, is in and among all groups of people, and is especially shaped by the social context of education. 

What do you think? I wish I knew more white teachers whom I can discuss this.


In the later sections of the introductory chapter, the editor discusses the "null curriculum" - which is what teachers choose not to teach, but is learned.  This is not even those implicit lessons that we sneak into our teaching.  This is really what we don't teach.  Unbeknownst to many, what the teacher does not teach in the classroom is learned by many.  The editor uses a racist interchange to exemplify this point.  If students are not taught to 'speak up' in an (intercultural) interaction where racism is present, they will learn that it is okay for them to keep silent in situations as such.  This prompted me to think of the many times I have used real-life situations as a basis to teach conversation.  Never in my teaching career of 3 years and 9 months did I ever teach my students how to communicate in negative situations (how to respond when you are being scolded, how to respond when someone says something really bad to you, how to respond when someone cheats you).  Have we, English teachers, become fazed with the ideals that language materials portray and forgotten how brutal the real world can be?


Reference:

Milner, R. H. (Ed.). (2010).  Culture, Curriculum, and Identity in Education.  USA: Palgrave- MacMillan.

Pitter Patter

I'm walking down the street, daydreaming.  I think of being next to a gentle stream, where the water takes its time enveloping each rock with a hug.  I walk further down/upstream and the sound of gushing water crescendos.  Wait, I'm not daydreaming anymore.  I smell rain.  I start running, and the rain chases after me.  It overtakes me and I run into a few droplets of rain.

I manage to run into the administration building before all (wet) hell breaks loose.  Torrential rain is dumped from heaven.  It's like, here's all the rainwater you need to fill up your drying ponds.

That was this evening.

This morning was a whole different story.  It was less dramatic.  Well, it did start off dramatically.  I got a little bummed on my way to work because I realized that I had spilled my protein shake all over my shirt.  I was feeling my abs when I discovered that my shirt was sticking to my torso.  I looked down to my fingers, and there were remnants of protein shake.  I came into the office fuming, and of course the first thing I saw was (wow an ambigram!) a news on the opening of an ASEAN center in Chonburi.  This irritated me even more.  ASEAN being so idealistic and everyone putting in (happy) efforts to learn more about cultures of the ASEAN member states.  Of course, I dump all this angst on a very good friend of mine, who patiently listened to me ranting away.  He is always patient, well sometimes I do tick him off, but he is mostly patient with me.  After I had my talk-out, I felt silly afterwords.  Good friend said at least I ranted about this to him, instead of someone else.  He knows I'm silly so that helps me recover from my silliness in no time.

The afternoon was a little uneventful - me trying to revise the evaluation scale for senior students who did their senior research papers.  It was sad.  But what would be sadder is if I stuck to my original evaluation plan and failed them all, I would have to see them again in the future.  No, I ain't doing that.  Sometimes teachers will need to make the compromise.

This evening, I was the designated driver for a colleague who is flying to Canada for two weeks during the mid-academic year break.  She decided she needed a whole new wardrobe for this trip.  Some time away from campus would be good for the soul, and she said she would pay gas, so I drove her.  She brought some of her girlfriends along and we all sang to a thousand miles by vanessa carlton many times till we got to the pak chong factory outlet

The ladies did their shopping while I sat in Starbucks trying to appear un-bothered by the overpriced coffee.


My decaf soy latte.  


Reading a book at Starbucks earns you a few more hi-so (sophistication) points.  Not necessarily points for intelligence.  




What the...

I didn't run after the two #75 buses (airconditioned) that drove by the bus-stop without stopping.  Perhaps my graceful waving needs to be refined.  The third #75 bus did stop, it wasn't airconditioned, but it was the Free Red Bus.  I'm Chinese so anything free sounds good for me.

I hopped on the bus and noticed that I, along with another youngish boy, were the only youths on board.  Everyone else was aged.  I initially had a seat to myself, but, being the good boy that I am, I offered my seat to an old lady (and in the process of offering, I stepped on an old man's foot).  I scanned around the bus for empty seats and found none.  There were four other old people standing up as the bus raced through Suksawad road.  The other young boy though, was still seated with an old man standing precariously next to him.  Perhaps the old man was hinting that the boy needs to give up his seat?  I don't know.  Here is a picture of his back.  If you recognize him maybe you should give him a talk on respecting the elderly on Bangkok's public transportation.


I got off at Saphan Thaksin BTS and made my way to Elite Bookstore at Phrom Phong.  I recently rediscovered the joy of reading non-academic materials, thanks to James Bowen's A Street Cat Named Bob.  Even though it took me about a month to finish that book, I appreciated the escapes it provided when I'm overwhelmed with my PhD readings.

When I got to Elite Bookstore, I was disappointed.  They had discarded all their English books.  They now sell Japanese books only.  Bleh.  I wasn't in the mood to go do Dasa Bookstore down at Sukhumvit 26, so I went to Kinokuniya at Paragon.

Arriving at Kino, I wasn't really in the mood for reading-for-pleasure books.  I went to the SEA literature section, hoping to find some local works to be included in my critical reading course next semester.  I found a few potentials but nothing really sealed the deal.  I went and checked out Kerouac and Kafka and they were both ridiculously priced.  I'm sure there are second hand copies somewhere in BKK.  The Chinese kicking in again.

Having given up hope on SEA current issues and literature, I headed to the language/linguistic section.  There, I saw the most appalling sight EVER!  What I saw literally made my eyes pop.  This is what I saw:


Omigosh how could you ever put a 1 Direction book next to research books?!  That 1 Direction book has no positive impact on society! All it does is make young girls ________________.  It was so traumatizing that I instinctively took hold of the book and threw it into a nearby trolley.  Then, I thought I should take a picture of this so I put it back on the shelf, took a picture, then threw it into the trolley again (really, this really happened).  Seriously, whoever did this needs to be stoned by none other than 1 Direction.  How could the group be reduced to the lower rankings of academia?

I had no other "what the..." moments throughout the rest of the morning, until I drove my Mom to TESCO in Saraburi later that day.  This is what I saw:


In Thailand, nobody knows how to park.  Moreover, in Thailand, even a trolley needs a parking.

Chasing Taxis

How I wish I had as many readers as I had 3-4 years back.  I even had a serial stalker whom I was never able to identify, called Bloghopper.  Bloghopper where are you?!

Yesterday I chased after buses.  Today I chased after taxis.  I seem to be chasing after things so very often, don't you think? Maybe I'm not chasing, maybe people are running away from me instead.  Anyway, this morning I had to be at a place before 8:40 am.  I live across the river, about 15 kms away from the city center.  Fifteen kilometers may not seem like a huge distance (by car/bus), but Bangkok traffic seems to render everything to a snail's pace.  What makes it worse is that there's nothing scenic to enjoy along the way.

Chasing taxis.  I left my apartment at 6:15 am, and head down to the bus stop where I can hail a cab.  It was raining.  Normally there would be a few taxis waiting at the entrance of my apartment complex, but this morning, there were none.  Perhaps they were afraid of the rain? Why would they be afraid of the rain? They don't need to wait for passengers outside their taxis.  I checked and it was still raining.  I get to the bus stop, and two #75s passing by.  Others who were at the bus stop who wanted to take the bus waved for the bus to stop, but neither of them stopped.  Meh.

I spotted a taxi, and waved gracefully.  The taxi stopped and I hopped in.  It was still raining.  I told the driver my destination.  He laughed.  He said he's only driving this stretch of road.  I was flabbergasted.  He drove to the front a little bit so when I exited the taxi I would be directly under the roof of the bus stop where I was before.  I stepped out.  Stupid Bangkok taxis.

I ended up on another #75.  It took almost an hour for me to get to Charoen Krung (where Asiatique is located).  This stretch is always jammed because of there are so many schools along this stretch.  Instead of waiting in a stalled bus, I jumped out of the bus and ran.  I was running in the rain.  Thankfully I was smart enough to wear my jogging attire, and had packed my formal attire in my backpack.  I ran.  It was raining.

As I was running across the entrance of a school, I spotted a motorbike taxi letting off some passengers.  I didn't even wait for him to acknowledge my presence.  I jumped on and told him to take me to the BTS station.  He did.  It was STILL raining.

I made it, albeit 5 minutes later.

The rest of the afternoon, I was running errands.  It was still raining.  I felt like one of those office boys whom you send out when you're too tired to do your own work.  Hmm, an office boy.  I am a boy to so many people.

I have another appointment at 9:00 am tomorrow.  I hope I won't need to chase after taxis.  Or wear my jogging attire.  I'd like to blend in with the hi-so crowd on Bangkok's BTS.  Raining, it was still.

Chasing Buses

You know buses in Bangkok - they are everywhere.  There are too many buses, as many as other types of road vehicles.  The sudden urge to be frugal this morning saw me chasing after Bus No. 75 at Charoen Krung road.  Those drivers don't care if you're waving wildly, trying to jump into the bus.  Why? Because soon enough another bus will pass by.  But no.  I am not waiting.  I want THIS bus.  So I ran, and I waved, and I jumped in, and I got myself a seat.  I had the smuggest look plastered across my face in the whole 45-minute journey.

I got to my Bangkok apartment a little after noon.  For lunch I had a chicken nan and a bowl of salad.  I told myself I need to lessen my rice intake if I ever want to see any of my six abs.  I'm not fat or anything, just a little soft in the tummy area.

The afternoon/evening was pretty much academic.  I read, and read, and read, and fell asleep, and read some more.  In between reading I was able to handwash some delicate garments, clean the whole apartment, do some major pull-ups and sit-ups (sorry soft tummy!), and walked to uni to borrow a book.

University.  So many nice things to say about tertiary education, but so many not-so-nice things as well.  I'm not sure if you can relate with me, but you know how in your first year, when you're doing all your general courses, you never seem to get it? This is one of the not-so-nice things.  I was just having this conversation with my Mom last night.  She was in a state of disbelief when I told her that I got straight Bs in almost all my general courses (and straight As when I finally started my major courses).  That's just how things go.  You never start off a superstar.  Even those born with a silver spoon up their rear end will attest to this.  Well, maybe let's be reasonable and have a few exceptions.  But these exceptions are a little weird, perhaps.  Hmmm.  I want to be categorized as weird, too.  I'm doing a PhD for crying out loud.  Who does PhDs these days anyway?

So, University.  I walked to the University wanting to loan the book Intercultural Communication and Ideology by Adrian Holliday (2011).  When I got there, I met my classmates G and P at the elevator lounge.  They told me the librarian was not in and so, the library had been closed since 3 pm.  Well, I thought, there are supposed to be other library staff, surely they are in.  No.  None of them were in.  All of them went to this huge retirement party going on in the Uni cafeteria.  The head librarian, bless her soul, is nearing retirement.  But the other staff? They all look twinkish like I do, how can they be retiring so early? Now this was a not-so-nice thing.  This retirement ball for our elderly librarian totally crushed my academic spirit to read Holliday, even Adam Levine couldn't soothe my bitter heart.  Oh, there goes another person chasing after a bus.

p/s: I don't hate librarians.  My Mom is a librarian.  Heck she was head of a state library once and I freeloaded on all the perks she got at her office.  

So What? Why Should Language Teachers Teach ICC?

Byram, et al. (1991) is arguably the first scholar to critically analyze the teaching of culture (in the UK English language classroom).  In the early 2000s, studies about the teaching of culture among the EU nations gained prominence with the publication of several studies by Sercu (2005, 2007).  In the Asia-Pacific region, Liddicoat seems to be the sole researcher interested in the teaching of culture, with at least two publications about intercultural communication this year.

Reflecting on the scarcity of research in the teaching of culture, we are compelled to wonder whether or not studies in this area are even worth the time.  Many seem to believe that it is worth our time, with official bodies recognizing the value of cultural awareness for successful communication (e.g. ASEAN 2015, ACTFL, and the Common European Framework for Languages).  Aside from its perceived worth, many also believe that cultural awareness should be taught alongside language (Liddicoat, 2011; Kramsch, 1996), as it is during the process of inter-cultural interaction that cultural knowledge is put to use.  With this in mind, the language learning and teaching industry has seen the publication of materials developed with an intercultural communication competence twist in mind.  Books are now claiming that they not only offer language knowledge, but cultural knowledge as well.


But is it the job of language teachers to teach students to be culturally aware?  In the introductory chapter of Dervin and Liddicoat's (2013) Intercultural Education, they mention that the teaching of culture has been by and large a concern in the broad field of education.  Godwin-Jones (2013) echoes this belief, indicating that the teaching of culture should not be confined only to certain courses, such as language classes, but to all courses in general.


To further explicate this issue, Sercu (2005, 2007) and Luk (2012) indicated that language teachers are not comfortable teaching their students cultural lessons, even though they may feel positive about teaching it.  One reason could be that these teachers were never trained to do so.  This may stem from the very ethnocentric nature of many language teacher programs (Liu, 1998).


Why then, do language teachers bear the brunt of teaching cultural knowledge?  Why is it that only language teaching/learning materials are developed based on cultural frameworks idealized by nation-states?  I am not sure myself, but I think it lies within the philosophy of language and its relationship with culture.


References

Byram, M., et al. (1991).  Cultural studies and language learning: a research report.  Great Britain: Multilingual Matters.  

Dervin, F. & Liddicoat, A.  (2013).  Linguistics for intercultural education.  The Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Godwin-Jones, R. (2013). Integrating intercultural competence into language learning through technology. Language Learning & Technology, 17(2), 1–11. Retrieved from http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2013/emerging.pdf


Kramsch, C.  (1996).  The cultural component of language teaching.  Zeitschrift fur interkulturellen fremdsprachenunterricht, 1(2).  Retrieved from http://www.spz.tu-darmstadt.de/projekt_ejournal/jg_01_2/beitrag/kramsch2.htm


Liddicoat, A. J.  (2011).  Language learning and teaching from an intercultural perspective.  In Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning (Vol. 2).  E. Hinkel (Ed.).  New York: Routledge.  


Liu, D.  (1998).  Ethnocentrism in TESOL: Teacher education and the neglected needs of international TESOL students.  ELT Journal, 52(1), pp. 3-10. 


Luk, J. (2012). Teachers’ ambivalence in integrating culture with EFL teaching in Hong Kong. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 25(3), pp. 249-264.  


Sercu, L.  (2005).  Foreign language teachers and the implementation of intercultural education: a comparative investigation of the professional self‐concepts and teaching practices of Belgian teachers of English, French and German.  European Journal of Teacher Education, 28(1), pp. 87-105. 


Sercu, L., et al.  (2007).  Foreign language teachers and intercultural competence: an international investigation.  Great Britain: Multilingual Matters. 



Mobile Technology for Language Education

Mobile assisted language learning, or MALL, has been around the applied linguistics block for quite some time.  When I think of MALL, I see it as those punk kids - sporting a new look every day, loitering about in the hood, but contributing nothing to the society.  

This afternoon I attended a lecture given by Dr. Hayo Reinders on mobile technology and language education.  Frankly, I was rather disappointed with how MALL has progressed.  Research-wise, nothing has really changed in the past decade.  I wrote a paper with Stuart Towns about issues in MALL back in 2011, and it seems that nothing has changed.  Recurring issues include behavioristic input, pre- and post-tests (cause and effect studies), and logistical concerns.  It is strange because we have new types of mobile devices released all the time and mobile technology is improving rapidly.  One would expect educational innovations to follow suit but nothing has really happened.   This is sobering.  Has research in MALL become redundant?  

Things don't look all that bleak.  There has been a shift in focus on research objectives in MALL.  A quick glance through Google Scholar showed how MALL research (2009 to the present time) are looking at the learning experience as a social event for meaning making, the usage of mobile devices by language learners, and the efficacy of using mobile devices to learn languages (why didn't Reinders talk about this instead?).  Looking at MALL in terms of what results it garners may not be the best thing to do.  Focusing too much on the by-product, especially if it is a positive one, will make us naive, misinformed and delusional users.  I think a focus on the process, as shown in MALL research in the past five years is more fitting for educators and learners.  It is through an understanding of the process that we can fully utilize mobile devices in a language learning environment.  This is summed by Kukulska-Hulme (2009), who mentioned, "(t)he key is to move beyond a superficial understanding of mobile learning which does not give sufficient consideration to how mobility, accompanied by digital, location-aware technologies, changes learning".  

Sadly though, MALL research which focus on the process (in the past five years) are very scarce.  To add to the bitterness, I'm sure in the near future there will be more research which will laud the goodness of mobile technology.  And just like the punk kids, they may come tomorrow, or next week, with a new tattoo, a new piercing, a new hairdo, but have no real impact on the community.  

Reference:

Kukulska-Hulme, A.  (2009).  Will mobile learning change language learning? ReCALL, 21(2), pp. 157-165.  Retrieved 26 August 2013 from http://oro.open.ac.uk/16987/1/download.pdf


What is your writing process?

In the past four years of teaching English, the only language skill class that I have (repeatedly) taught is writing.  I've taught different types of writing courses, freshman college writing (narrative, descriptive, argumentative, comparison/contrast, definition, etc.), freshman college research (the basics of research writing), advanced composition (creative writing), news writing, and senior project (fourth-year research writing).

I'm not sure if the years of experience teaching writing, or the diverse types of writing courses I have taught would quality me to be an expert in writing.  I actually will say that I am not.  Though I think I am improving in terms of managing writing courses (e.g. planning lessons, deciding on type of assignment, etc.).  Still, knowing how to manage a writing course does not necessarily give me insights to my students' writing processes.  Writing teachers typically receive the assignments, or the end-products, which is the written work.  This does not provide us with any clue as to how our students went about writing a paragraph, deciding which vocabulary to use, etc.

Typically, at my work place, us writing teachers would lecture our students on the characteristics of a type of writing, with the hopes that they would be able to implement what we have taught them on their own.  Unfortunately, my students' low quality of writing prompted me to doubt that they are writing 'properly' in the comfort of their own time/space - I don't know what properly means.  Persistent non-performance by my students prompted me to plant a seed of doubt that is till today, growing pretty well.  Knowing that action needs to be taken in the classroom - under careful supervision - I decided that I would lessen the lecture time, and instead, turn the classroom into a hands-on writing workshop - where the students will themselves show me how they write.  What I thought was a promising solution turned out otherwise.  Semester-end evaluations indicated that they would have rather have me lecture.

I still have no idea what my students' writing processes are.  Furthermore, I am not sure if knowing how they write would improve my teaching approach.

I, though, am slowly gaining an understanding of how I write.  Since embarking on this PhD journey, I have come to realize many academic quirks I have.  In terms of research writing, I have noticed that I collect, then dump all the information I obtain from reading into a piece of document; then, I slowly sift through them, categorizing them accordingly; finally, I try to piece them together neatly.  I don't know whether this is a good or bad process.

Where Have You Been?

The past four weeks have really been a whirlwind of events. 

July marked my 'official' departure from the FAH at AIU.  I am no longer a permanent employee of AIU, but a contract one.  I've never been on contract or part-time for anyone until this year.  It feels strange, though in a good way.  It feels like I belong to somebody, but not really, if that makes any sense. 

The first week of July was spent updating the FAH's SAR for this Academic Year's QA.  I know my 'permanent' ties have been severed, but I thought, they're keeping my office for me, perhaps this is the least I can do. 

The second and third weeks of July were really exciting.  I was called for a teaching gig at KMUTT.  The class that I was given is a reading and vocabulary class for (different types of) engineering students.  I haven't taught a skills class for quite some time now.  On top of that, I typically teach writing.  This was a golden opportunity for me to practice what I have been preaching to my TESOL students for the past four years. 

The first day of this 10-day crash course was spent trying to understand the students.  Some of the things I found out were: they don't like to read, they always refer back to their dictionaries (instead of understanding words through contextual cues), they are very quiet, they get bored easily, and they're tired (since this was  the third intensive course they were doing in the summer session).  By the middle of the 10-day crash course, I felt that we understood each other.  They didn't like reading, so I made them listen to me while I read to them.  I would 'force' them to ditch their dictionaries and instead try to understand the meaning of words through the context.  It was going well, I thought.  They passed their final exam with flying colors (duh!) 

By the end of the week, my conviction that segregated language learning has its place and can be very valuable if done appropriately was renewed.  There are many materials out there which are developed with an integrated approach in mind.  This approach would probably be more suitable for those who are aiming for communicative competency at a more general or social level.  The segregated approach, I think, really helps address specific language skills, and highlights the importance of gaining proficiency in all skills for the purpose of academic language proficiency. 

The very last day of this course was also the day that I left for Sabah.  The flight there was uneventful.  There were hardly any passengers on the plane and my layover was boring since I got to Brunei in the dead of night.  We did, however, get delayed the next morning due to heavy thunderstorm in KK.  Once I got home, I slept for two days straight and woke up with a cold.  This happens every time my flight gets delayed.  The week I was back in KK wasn't entirely a 'do-nothing' holiday.  I got to catch up with some work and studies.  I also got to catch up with some much needed leisure time - went to the Tip of Borneo, twice! Hiked, ate lots of noodles also SHOPPED!  Here are some evidence:


Beautiful ocean at Simpang Mengayau (The Tip of Borneo)

 I love how my arms are bulging, but I hated the fact that I was freezing! This was Oscar and me up on Bukit Perahu. 

 Wan-tan Ho!

 Nngau-Chap from Yee Fung Restaurant at Gaya Street (I practically grew up eating this from this very restaurant)

 Sunset from my front yard.


Today's readings required me to be in different frames of mind.  I first read about the evolution of the English language learning objectives, then the types of savoir, or knowledge, needed to gain intercultural competence, and finally finishing my day on Pennycook's (2001) notion on 'critical applied linguistics'.  Pennycook's works easily beat the rest in being the most interesting, for today, that is.  

Starting this PhD did not really give me a sense of definiteness to what I know.  Instead, it has coerced me into expanding my limits - which at times can be very uncomfortable.  Pennycook's first chapter in Critical Applied Linguistics: A Critical Introduction, pushed me even more, probably over the edge.  I can't imagine what the other chapters would do to me.  

Back to pushing my boundaries and making me cringe - in many of the discussions here at KMUTT, we try to be sensible by looking concepts along a continuum with two polar ends.  Hence, we have things like the big D and the small d in discourse studies (Gee), or the emic or etic perspectives in a research, to name a few.  Pennycook brought to my attention another new concept which he argues (and I believe) could be laid out along a continuum - APPLIED LINGUISTICS.  

I always thought AL is just AL, nothing more, nothing less.  To me AL was just a static, unmovable, superordinate term which reigned over all possible subordinate topics which my fall under.  Pennycook said, "No! no! no!" to me.  He says that even AL has a strong version and a weak version (based on previous works by Markee), the weak one is the "application of a parent domain of knowledge (linguistics) to different contexts (mainly language teaching)" whereas the strong one is known as "critical applied linguistics" which is defined by its "breadth of coverage, interdisciplinarity, and a degree of autonomy" (p. 3).  

I never knew.  What does it mean to be on the weak side?  What does it mean to be on the strong side?  

Cultural Lessons in the English Language Classroom?

My readings this week focused on culture and English language teaching.  It is interesting to note that though scholars (e.g. Liddicoat, Byram) have argued for the value of incorporating cultural lessons in the English classroom, successful implementation has yet to come.  This assumption, however, is made based on researches published about this topic.  This expansion of the 'content' of the English classroom to include cultural elements is an ongoing process for about two decades now.  Despite that, the concurrent teaching of language and culture still seem elusive.

Stakeholders are trying to change the ideology of language teachers and learners.  Such efforts can be seen in the European Union's framework for education, where language curricula are developed with culture in mind.  Still, though support from the top may be present, the actual implementation in the language classrooms is still questionable.    

Various studies show that though English teachers feel positive about incorporating culture into their language classes.  However, they are not practicing what they believe in.  Problems such as lack of teaching skills, lack of cultural knowledge, curriculum priorities (which lean more towards linguistic knowledge), and students' lack of interest have been reported.    

Perhaps this grim situation is linked with the relatively low interest towards this area.  The low interest could be subsequently linked to this area of research's marketability.  Many teachers and students of language are more keen to know what can improve or enhance the learning process.  Teaching and learning culture may not provide a direct improvement of language competency.  Hence, taking up culture in a language classroom may seem extra (and unnecessary) to many language teachers and learners.


Discursive Positionings in Narratives? Part #2

In my post yesterday, I wrote about the confusion I had regarding the concept of 'narratives'.  I'm glad I got confused because it motivated me to read more on the subject.

I returned to Laboskey and Lyons (2002) and read through the first five chapters, again.  I first read this book earlier this year and I must say, I missed a lot of details then!  While reading, I reflected back on what I wrote previously.  This process helped me realize that what I have been concerned with (yesterday) is the 'form' of which a narrative should be in.  This is a concern to me because there are many who still perceive narratives in the form of a story, where you have sections which set the context of the story, sections which introduce the development of the plot, sections which introduce the characters, etc.  We are so accustomed to looking at 'narratives' in the story-type genre, which typically appear in one smooth, uninterrupted, cohesive form (unlike a conversation which is punctuated by different speakers' contributions).  Not to say that the SUC (smooth-uninterrupted-cohesive) form does not work, but this form may not be necessary in applied linguistics, or teacher education.  The SUC form may have become a 'norm' since narrative studies in literature has been around for so long, which in turn created a metanarrative for narratives (see my post on this on June 6).

However, for narrative-type researches in teacher education, what is of concern is not the form of which a narrative appears in.  What is important is that a narrative contains a constructive meaning-making process.  Hence, it could assume any forms, as long as the content reflects a teacher's understanding of what he or she does in a classroom.  Furthermore, in narrating, or storying an experience, archetypal elements found in a literary-type narrative may appear.

Since a narrative in teacher education is concerned in what is contained in the narrative process, Laboskey and Lyons (2002) suggest the following elements:  intentionality, relevance to the context (narratives are made together with other stakeholders of the same field), engagement (active interrogating of personal teaching pedagogy), implicating identity (narrators are 'forced' to question their identity throughout the meaning-making process), and constructing/reaffirming (new) knowledge about teaching

Finally, I like the new acronym I made today.  SUC.

Discursive Positionings in Narratives? Part #1

One crucial aspect that I need to address in my PhD study is justifying why my data is called 'narrative'.  My PhD study aims to analyze native-type English speaking teachers' discursive positioning of Self and Others as teachers of culture.  I plan to engage these participants in a conversation about their view of themselves as teachers of culture in their language teaching profession.  But would these conversations I have with these teachers be considered 'narratives'?  

The scholars who formally introduced positioning theory in the world of discourse analysis were L. van Langenhove and R. Harre (1999).  They suggested that positions can be extracted from any types of discourse events, may it be a conversation, a monologue, an autobiographical text, or even emails.  Now, here comes the problem.  The terms that these scholars have used (you must have noticed by now that I am not using their surnames, forgive me but their names are just so foreign and hard to type), are hierarchical in the way they are presented.  They begin with an overall term, "discourse event", before illustrating what a discoure event is by providing examples, such as conversations, autobiographies, etc.     When explaining the positions in each of these examples, these scholars then introduce the term 'narrative'.  For example, in a conversation provided on page 19, it is referred to as a 'narrative' and contains 'narrative elements'.  This is a quandary, for me at least.  Would a conversation be considered a narrative if it possesses narrative-like elements?  For example, would a girl be considered a 'boy' if she sports a crew-cut hairstyle?  

The reason for my concern is I do not want to contribute to the already burgeoning list of misnomers present in the field of applied linguistics (I will soon have a post on this where I discuss the differences between identity, role, position, and personhood).  I am unsure as to whether or not I can directly say that a 'conversation' equals a 'narrative' since no direct statement was made between the two in van Langenhove and Harre's (1999) book on positioning theory.

Of course, I should not rely solely on van Langenhove and Harre's (1999) book.  I went on to look at books written on teacher narratives.  In examining two books on narrative studies (Webster and Mertova, 2007; Laboskey & Lyons, 2002), they were not clear with what narratives really are, though Laboskey and Lyons (2002) mention that it could be in the form of conversations.  

Equating a conversation as being a narrative could be misleading.  In a very recent book on teachers' narratives (Harbon & Maloney, 2013), narratives are in the form of self-reflection or observation which are then presented in the form of story-telling.  This is different from studies published in journals of applied linguistics and behavioural sciences.  I did a small preliminary review of the methodological sections of positioning studies which gathered data from 'narratives', and found that the type of narratives were conversation-like (Duff, 2002; Raddon, 2002; Frosh, et al., 2003), with the interviewer/researcher interjecting throughout the conversation at times when the interviewee/participant appeared to be digressing.  

Okay, I get that we can extract positions from narratives by looking at linguistic features.  But would the semi-structured interview I conduct with my participants be considered a 'narrative'?  Perhaps one way of addressing this issue is to go with the broad meaning of a narrative.  One common thread that binds the different studies that I have mentioned in this post is narrative is basically story-telling.  Perhaps this is the reason why explanations and examples of narratives have been varied.  Could it be that a discourse which contains elements of story-telling can be considered a narrative, even though its form may suggest otherwise?  

I have the urge to write more, but I am more confused now compared to when I started this post.  

Positioning Theory #1 Revisited #1

I began my discussion on Positioning Theory on June 3 by mentioning the liberation of different facets of society.  What does this liberation mean?  What does it entail?  How and why does it happen?

I am revisiting this matter because of the encouragement of a close friend.  Perhaps a second reason for this revisitation is because of my morning musings watching Anderson Cooper deliver breaking news.

In his whole career, Mr. Cooper, bless his soul, has given the world ample coverage of international conflicts.  In the past weeks, the focus has been on Syria and Turkey.  Thankfully, CNN is not only interested in violent conflicts.  This morning, the international community's attention was diverted to yet another social issue, that is, a controversial gay healing center and its subsequent closure.  At a quick glance, these conflicts may be incomparable.  However, upon closer scrutiny, one unifying link that one may find is not necessarily within the cause of the conflict, but from the result of these conflicts.  Due to perceived oppression by those involved in these issues, there have been voicing out of opinions, to make certain groups of people be heard.  This means of communicating, whether it be by disgruntled citizens or human rights groups, is the core of the postmodern era view of communication, in that there is a right for one to speak his or her mind.  To many, this postmodern mode of communicating indicates a democratic philosophy, to others, this indicates a necessary means for a harmonious relationship.

To help us understand better, we can localize the definition of postmodern communication within the linguistic framework.  We can narrow this further by looking at it from a sociolinguistic perspective, since both language and society are at stake.  An example which provides a detailed elaboration of postmodern communication is Piller's (2002) ethnographic case studies of English-German spouses/partners.  One finding from her study is the high value placed on communication between spouses or partners.  Gone are the days when spouses or partners are automatically 'given' their domestic roles.  Instead of assuming traditional roles of the conservative society, participants in Piller's (ibid.) study were found to have negotiated their familial roles with their fellow spouse or partner.  To illustrate, instead of husbands taking up the long-held role as breadwinners, wives or female partners had equal chance to contribute financially as well.

From this study, postmodern communication can be seen as a catalyst in the disintegration of 'given' social roles.  This process would not be carried out without the use of language.  Hence, in a postmodern society, the power of communication, or language has been elevated.   It is the use of language that the postmodern community believes would bring change, as is what is happening among the Syrians or Turkish protestors, or the human rights activists condemning the recently-closed gay healing center.

Hence, the liberation of society involves the possible reshaping of structure in a society.  A new emerging form may not be permanent, though.  For instance, if the voices of the Syrian or Turkish protestors are genuinely heard, and a reform ensues, they would probably cease their riots.  In this turn of event, the protestors will lose their initial role as protestors and become supporters.  The liberation of a society from a fixed or deterministic role then entails a plethora of possible assumable roles.  People, or discourse participants, who strive to make their voices heard would have the opportunity to reshape or introduce possible social roles.

A third issue which I raised is why and how liberation happens.  This issue needs to be approached by including language in the equation.  We now know that language is a means for making a social role known.  Why and how, then, does liberation through language happen.  Scholars such as Fairclough, Blommaert, and van Dijk have written extensively on this.  Though their emphases may differ, these scholars state a close-knit relationship between language and society.  This relationship between language and society does not only revolve around the idea that language is a code used only to communicate, or to identify a certain type of community (e.g. Malay is spoken by Malaysians, thus Malay is an identity marker of a Malaysian.), but it is also a tool which mediates an ideology held by its speakers.  An ideology, or simply put - a common belief or attitude, is carried through in language.  This is observable in the field of linguistics itself, wherein it is insufficient to look at linguistic through an objective lens (e.g. grammar analysis, linguistic features devoid or isolated from its context of use).  Instead, language occurrence needs to be analysed through pragmatics and semantics as well.  This is because true understanding of 'language' only comes when it is considered in its structure and context.

So, why and how does this happen?  Why does liberation happen in the postmodern society and how is language involved in this process?  One reason which one could attribute to liberation in the postmodern society is globalization.  One imprint of globalization on world societies is the blurring of boundaries, may it be physical boundaries or perceived boundaries.  In other words, the whole concept of globalization is not just an economics one anymore.  The blurring of boundaries have given rise to an awareness that reformation could happen.  From this, emancipation from any perceived oppression is possible.  This perspective is not novel and can be traced back to Paulo Freire, in the 1960s, who encouraged the use and learning of language to 'liberate' slum dwellers from their dire economic state.

TESOL at Forty

It's been a few years since TESOL hit the forty mark.  The issues, though, is still very relevant to the present situation. 

There are at least two main takeaways for me from Canagajarah's (2006) article.  First, the notion on metanarratives and descriptivism.  Second, the critical aspect of language teaching and learning. 


Since starting my PhD, I have been fortunate to have at least one classmate whom I have academic disputes with.  Several weeks back, he brought up the subject of prescriptivism and descriptivism, as they were related to his PhD thesis.  What I learned from him was that, in spite of our efforts to be descriptive in our approaches to teaching a language, we end up prescribing the description.  Canagarajah (2006) echoes this concern in his discussion on TESOL's metanarratives.  Throughout the history of language teaching, language educators have been documenting processes and decisions involved in their pedagogic practice.  Whether the processes or decisions were appropriate is another issue.  But the mere documentation, or description, would render it prescriptive.  This may lead to the formation of more rules for language learners and teachers.  This seems like an inescapable cycle (of death?), instead of a linear progression.  I thought the perspectives of the world, at least in the field of TESOL, have become increasingly in favor of constructivism, moving away from positivism.  This is still a persisting dilemma, with the rationale that total freedom of meaning-making would create chaos.  Regardless, the doubt cast over prescriptivism, or rules, have liberated teachers and students to not set their eyes on the objectives of a certain prescription, but to develop more wholly - parallel to the encompassing nature of language in a real context. 

I first heard of a critical approach to teaching language when I studied my first TESOL class many years back.  It was linked with Freire's approach, called the Participatory Approach.  This approach sees learning as a liberating process, wherein learners are given the chance to improve their livelihood through the learning of a language.  It was many years after that course did I hear about Critical Language Teaching again.  I must say I am still skeptical to the efficacy of this approach, as a language teacher has many expectations to meet in the language classroom, and time constraints may not permit a critical discussion of issues.  However, I do believe that Critical Language Teaching is valuable for those who believe in learners becoming autonomous and sensitive.  Basically, Critical Language Teaching takes world issues seriously.  Issues pertaining to people, the environment, politics, economics, and so forth are discussed in a critical manner.  This approach may bear the semblance of critical thinking such as analyzing, differentiating, opinionating, and so forth.  But, it goes beyond the analytical aspect by bringing in real, social issues which are relevant to the current living context. 

From:  Canagarajah, A. S, TESOL at Forty: Where are the Issues?  TESOL, 2006. 

Positioning Theory #2

Positioning Theory aims at providing an analytical framework to study the ontology of sociology in terms of identity and individuation.  Instead of looking at social relations through space and time, Positioning Theory proposes an alternate reference - by considering persons and conversations.  Persons, or discourse participants, construct stories about themselves by discourse which have social acts comprehensible to other discourse participants.  These stories contain positions, which tell of the discourse participant's moral or personal attributes.  Positions in discourse may not come naturally.  At times, a discourse participant who may impose dominance may compel other discourse participants to challenge this imposition.  Types of positioning include first- and second-order positioning, performative and accountive positioning, moral and personal positioning, self and other positioning, and finally, tacit and intentional positioning.

First- and Second-Order Positioning
This type of positioning occurs when there are discourse participants interacting with each other.  First-order positioning happens when a discourse participant subjects him/herself to a position.  Second-order positioning occurs when another discourse participant negates a position which was subjected to a discourse participant. 

Performative and Accountive Positioning 
Performative positioning is related to first-order positioning, whereby a discourse participant actively subjects him/herself to a certain type of position in his/her discourse.  Accountive positioning is that of second-order positioning.  In particular, accountive positioning occurs when a position is rejected within an ongoing discourse, or when a position is rejected in a subsequent related discourse.  Though seemingly similar to first- and second-order positioning, performative and accountive positioning focus on the immediacy of the perlocutionary effect.  Hence, the plot in which the position is subjected is taken into account. 

Moral and Personal Positioning
Moral and personal positioning basically looks at the types of position subjected to interlocutors based on their 'roles' in society.  For example, it would be typical for a incapacitated patient to request from help from a nurse, and it would be the nurse's responsibility to attend to this request.  However, it would by atypical, or rather, amoral, for the roles to be reversed, in that the nurse makes a request beyond the means of the incapacitated patient.

Self and Other Positioning
This relates to performative positioning, whereby when one positions him/herself, he/she would subject 'others' to being deviants to what constitutes the self.  In other words, whatever characteristics used to define a self position, would define what positions do not constitute the 'self'.

Tacit and Intentional Positioning
Most first-order positioning may occur in a tacit manner, in that the interlocutors are not aware of their own positionings.  Intentional positionings are common as well, especially in discourse events where the interlocutors' self perceived positions are challenged by others. 

From:  L. van Langenhove and R. Harre, Introducing Positioning Theory, Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action, 1999.  

Positioning Theory #1

The postmodern era celebrates the liberation of different facets of society.  Conservative modes of social classifications, such as essentialism, is deconstructed and abandoned for social constructivist world views, where the attributes of a singular persondhood is no longer deterministic.  Interest in the 'personhood', and how it constructs meaning in the social realm gave rise to several theoretical understandings, such as Neoliberalism, Positioning Theory, and so forth. 

Positioning Theory acknowledges the fluidity of the 'personhood'.  As in identity studies, positioning theory recognizes that a person may assume different positions in a social (semiotic) act.  Specifically, Positioning Theory is interested in uncovering subject positions held by a person in a discursive act.  This discursive act, or interaction, involves discourse participants who affirms or refutes "personal attributes [...] such rights, duties, and obligations" (p. 2).  As a methodology, Positioning Theory identifies a subject position by determining the (i) indices for position, (ii) act/action , and (iii) storyline.  The second and third factors would further provide the moral positions of subjects and their rights to make certain claims, and the effects of their actual sayings in shaping the social environment around them.  Subject positions could be formed in at least three ways: first, individual or collective positions formed by other individuals or collectives; second, a position formed by one's self, or a self-reflexive position; third, the manner in which different individuals position themselves for a similar position.

From: R. Harre and L. van Langenhov, The Dynamics of Social Episode, Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action, 1999.  


Table Manners

There is the introvert, and there is the extrovert.  But there are also those who are plain nasty. 


This evening, a friend of mine invited another friend to join us for dinner.  I like meeting new friends so I was pretty excited about it. 

I soon discover that this new friend is a doctor.  I don't have many doctor friends so I was really looking forward to meeting this new friend.  However, I soon found out that this new friend really lacked any table manner/social skills.  This new friend knew how to talk... not talkative, but not quiet either.  However, the things that this new friend talked about were not really topics or issues which would earn you 'true' friends.  The things which this new friend talked about ranged between being a doctor, a lecturer at two different schools, upcoming trips to Hua Hin and Samed at 5-star hotels, other doctors who come for advice, stalkers, collagen, vegetarianism, and finally, the previous life of being a San Franciscan.  By the third topic, I was already chatting with another friend on Line. 


Later, in the BTS, I began wondering what may have caused this dislike for those who boast/talk about themselves.  Perhaps why I felt turned-off was not so much of the seemingly boastful nature, but because of my insecurities about myself - something which I discovered that very afternoon, and felt really ashamed of.  I don't know, maybe a new resolution for 2013 - get rid of insecurities! 

 

Equal Education for All?

At a global scale, the education sector has seen an increase in enrollment.  Yes, we rejoice at the number of people wanting to be educated, but is this the reality of what goes on within the four walls of the classroom.  Recent events have actually given me the opportunity to verify my doubts. 


In a university in Bangkok, a group of about 60 students huddle inside one classroom.  This is the second section of an intercultural communications course.  Right from the beginning, it seems that nobody is paying any attention to the teacher.  Everyone is busy, touching-up their make-up, updating their Facebook status/instagram/twitter/everypossiblesocialnetworkingplatforms.  There are several exceptions though.  Right at the front, some random locals with all of the non-local students have taken their seats - ready to learn.  Looking at this group, I feel sorry.  I am apprehensive as to whether or not they will be able to take away anything from this type of learning environment. 

The teacher tries to quiet them down, to no avail.  One of the local students who was sitting in front actually shouted at the class to shut-up.  This worked for a couple of minutes, then the rest of the class continued its chatter.  The noise is becoming unbearable, to the point where the teacher resorted to using a very loud microphone.  At least the teacher's voice now overpowers the students'.  This, though, doesn't stop the students from talking. 

Now, it is funny because where these students are studying is one of the expensive "premier" schools in Bangkok.  What's disappointing is that instead of building its reputation as a school where knowledge is creatively imparted and absorbed and applied, the standards are dumbed down.  Why?  There is hearsay saying that a lot of "rich" kids who didn't quite make it in their secondary education because they don't need to worry because their future is practically okay come here just to have a variety of environment.  You know, one cannot stay in the mall for too long.   I am not sure if there is passion anywhere at all.  Everyone seemed to be interested only in the facade they build.  Don't they know that intellect lies in what is on the inside? Instead of the pretty face they carry?

I personally think these people are not qualified for such high-level education.  It's really disturbing to see people who do not value education getting one.