Rays of Splendour

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Teachers Day :)

The whole of this week, my mind has been so focused on being in Seoul, looking for a house, moving, settling down and many more that I had completely forgotten it was Teachers Day yesterday. I only remembered all about it when I received a text from D that says “You’ve not been forgotten” and accompanied by the following photos:



Needless to say, I was very surprised that I still received something for Teachers Day this year even though I have not been in school long enough to forge a proper bond with the students. Still, I am very thankful to these two students for remembering me and taking the effort to make me something by-hand to wish me a Happy Teachers Day. I really do look forward to being able to see the contents inside when I have the opportunity to do so.

Seeing these cards made me realize that this is the first time since 2007 (excluding 2010 when I left teaching momentarily) that I have not celebrated Teachers Day. It feels strangely… Odd.

Overall, I am allright that I do not get to celebrate this day for I firmly believe that it is not necessary to have a day dedicated to honour educators. However after celebrating the day for so many years, this day has sort of become a tradition ingrained in your system whether you like it or not such that I felt something was missing now that I do not partake in it.

Know what this means?

Well, it goes to show just how long I have spent working in the same occupation!

Sometimes (who am I kidding, it’s more often than not) I do wonder whether it is time to move on and explore another career path. I love my job as an educator but yeah, I do ask myself this too: Are there any other career paths that I’d like to be able to pursue if the opportunity presents itself?

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Occupational hazard

As a Geographer and a Geography educator, one of the areas that I work closely with is the knowledge of Plate Tectonics. To be specific, a lot of the knowledge I deal with pertains to case studies on the impacts of tectonic hazards on a nation and society.

For instance in the years proceeding the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, a lot of the case studies and discussions we have would center around the tectonic processes that led up to the underwater earthquake and thereafter, the aftermath of the ensuing tsunami that resulted from it. The plethora of photos, videos and articles available in the world wide web have been useful for people like me as we sought to better understand the disaster and yet it can’t be denied that these same sources portray grim scenes of the disaster itself which does affect us more deeply than we wanted.

I never knew that this part of my work had affected me until last year when I visited places which are vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. The two places I visited – Yogyakarta and Bali – lie in a region that is at the boundary of destructive plate movements commonly associated to phenomenon like the formation of mountains and volcanoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis.

I still remembered that increasing feeling of fear emerging inside me as my feet gradually took me closer to the coastline of Tanah Lot, Bali, and my senses picked up the deep sounds of waves rushing to the shore and thereafter breaking on the coast with an energy you knew would engulf you in an instant should it morph into a tsunami.

A glimpse of the waves as I approached the coast.

A glimpse of the waves as I approached the coast. One could even make out the wave height even from this distance which shows that those waves are not small!

Then as my eyes chanced upon the countless signboards detailing warnings that the area is a high risk zone in the event of a tsunami, I started to grow more worried. Things I’ve been studying, researching and teaching about seem to get too real. It’s not that they were not real before this it is just that there is a difference between reading about them in depth from the comforts of your home or office and to actually be physically there yourself right in the midst the hotspot. Experiential learning can really be such a powerful experience!

Thus on the one hand, I’m blown away by the natural landscape and features of the area and would like to spend more time exploring that place and taking in the sights. On the other, my mind kept on flashing images of the photos, videos and information about the effects of earthquakes and tsunamis and all I wanted to do was to get out of the place as soon as possible.

Part of the beauty that is Tanah Lot, Bali.

Part of the beauty that is Tanah Lot, Bali.

A signage indicating the route to take in times of evacuation. It is essentially redirecting people towards a place further inland and on higher grounds.

A signage indicating the route to take in times of evacuation. It is essentially redirecting people towards a place further inland and on higher grounds.

A map showing the areas most vulnerable to tsunamis. The zones that are most at risk are those shaded red and pink.

A map showing the areas most vulnerable to tsunamis. The zones that are most at risk are those shaded red and pink.

In fact in retrospect, I also realized that the knowledge regarding tectonic hazards had played a big role in the decision I made on where to stay while in Bali! Avid travellers to the place would usually recommend staying in one of the many villas or a location near to the beach. However I realized that the accommodation I finally chose was one that was many kilometers inland! Even then, I still worried every night right before I go to sleep whether I could wake up on time to escape in case an earthquake were to strike in the middle of the night. I mean, I have also worked with a lot of case studies in which an earthquake hits a place in the middle of the night and how those can be more disastrous as the people were unprepared….

And so, as that time of year for me to review those materials I have on Plate Tectonics arrives yet again, I’m reminded of the occupational hazards it brings. I used to disregard this term as I had immaturely presumed it would be something that would never happen to me. Alas, I guess I spoke too soon. Like they say, never say never.

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The learning never stops

Before I joined my workplace last year, I had anticipated that I will be gaining new experiences when it comes to educating high-ability learners. In fact, it was this prospect of expanding my niche as an educator through teaching a new group of learners that had attracted me to this job.

Thus, the start of 2011 saw me officially starting work in the new school. From the get-go, I found myself being carried along fast and furious down the trajectory of this thing called the Learning Curve. I had also anticipated this. After all, wouldn’t there be new things to learn if one were to enter a new working environment? Getting to know the places in school and its systems, familiarizing oneself to new colleagues and the ins-and-outs of the organization, etc. These are basic elements that anyone the world over who starts working in a new place would have to face. Thankfully within months, I was able to get the hang of things in the new environment and thought to myself ‘Well, the bulk of the learning is almost done! I can rest easy from 2012 onwards!

I was to be proven wrong soon enough as fast forward to a year and a half later, I found that my prior assumptions about learning had been hugely contradicted. This realization did not occur to me until the past two weeks. At that time, I was busy reading up and updating myself on more current information pertaining to the topic on South Africa which I will be teaching my class. As I read, it struck me that I am learning something new as in my whole life, I had never had much opportunities to deal with knowledge pertaining to this part of the world and neither was I compelled to learn more about it.

The realization that I am learning something new sparked off a reflection on my part on what else I have been learning this year. These inner retrospection brought me to other areas of learning I gleaned this year which I didn’t expect to encounter when I started 2012. For instance through the walkthroughs conducted by the more senior colleagues, I was brought to awareness about the areas in my teaching which I can improve on. Thankfully, I have very inspiring and encouraging senior colleagues as after the debrief sessions they conducted with regard to my lessons, I felt motivated to improve on my areas of weaknesses. Hence in the past few months, I found myself devoting more time to lesson planning. This time, that extra time was spent on planning higher order questions to ask in class as well as to look at ways to stretch my more intellectually-able as well as gifted students.

Then this week, I was thrown yet another learning curve. This time, it pertained to designing an assessment that will benefit the students. For this, I am grateful to another senior colleague of mine who took the initiative to share with me what she had learned with regard to assessment. Her sharing presented new insights to me on the importance of question order, mark allocation as well as ensuring that the students are able to interact with the data given in the assessment pieces we created. At the end of the session, I couldn’t help thinking “What happened during the past 5 years since I became an educator? Why didn’t anyone ever tell me of the errors that I had made with regard to the assessments that I have designed?” Thus, I am very grateful for this unexpected learning opportunity.

Overall, I am glad and grateful that God allows me to undergo all these learning. It makes me feel less static, have more things to look forward to at work and lastly, I feel myself becoming a better educator with it. Thank you, God.