Monday, November 9, 2009

[08] Final Reflection

I think everyone has come a long way from the first lesson back in week 2 of school. From stonefaced students just sitting there listening to Christine's lectures to the friendly banter with each other now, it's really been great getting to know everyone and learning together.

There were a few less-exciting lessons, like those on letter-writing and presentation skills, which have been taught before in secondary education. I enjoyed learning about emotional quotient (EQ) and non-verbal communication, which were quite new to me (i.e. I've never learnt about them in a formal classroom setting).

I guess in a module like this, the most important thing is to practise, practise, and practise. All the concepts in the world would be useless if we didn't applied them. I daresay that the lessons (boring or not) proved useful, because I've been applying them in situations outside of class, e.g. in CCA-related correspondences with external parties.

I remember making mention of wanting to better my interpersonal relations in my first blog entry. Though I might not have perfected the necessary communication skills, I believe that with continual practice, I will only improve with time.

Here's wishing everyone all the best!

[07] Reflection on Oral Presentation

It wasn't entirely disastrous, though there were still many aspects that could be improved on.

I always have this nagging anxiety about forgetting my lines during a presentation, so I tend to want to have cue cards in my hand for reassurance. Perhaps I could have challenged myself by not using these cards at all. The fear of blanking out would still be there, but there would have been more eye contact with the audience, and I would have appeared more confident (provided that I really didn't blank out).

One thing I'd like to work on is the time taken for me to settle into the presentation. I still felt slightly nervous during the initial part of my section, and only relaxed more towards the end. As first impressions count a lot in such settings, it is important that we immediately come across as pleasant and self-assured when the presentation starts.

In general, the presentation went rather smoothly, and the pace was alright. We could have had more rehearsals so that we were more confident of our own sections, and of each other's. Compared to other groups, we had more visuals in our presentation slides. These visuals could have distracted the audience from the content of our presentation, but I felt they helped to make the presentation interesting. That said, the number of special effects could be decreased so that the slides were more professional-looking.

I'd also like to thank S@vvy for being such an awesome project partner, and for all his hard work. (Muchly appreciated!)

[06] Open Topic: Other Communication Issues

The way one communicates speaks a lot about his/her character.

I've recently had an encounter with a someone (let's call her A) who was rather direct, perhaps overly so. During a meeting, she brought up a personal issue against person B, who was also present but was greater in seniority. Although it was a passing remark and no conflict occurred between them, others there had formed a negative impression of her, simply by the one line she said to B.

The appropriateness of setting was probably a factor, but her tone played a greater role in causing others to form ideas about her character. I can't replicate the exact tone of her voice here, but the general consensus was that she appeared to be rude and had no respect for others.

Another incident in which she had to make a request also incurred the displeasure of others. While asking person C to do her a favour, she messaged C (a superior, but also someone A knows personally) in an instructional tone.

Do you think she should be told about the effect her tone has on others? If yes, how should she be told, and by whom?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

[05] Evaluating Intercultural Behaviour

Singapore, being a multicultural society, has had its share of cultural conflicts. These misunderstandings used to pervade entire communities, but now people are generally more respectful towards each other's cultural practices, thus avoiding the occurence of large-scale conflicts.

The absence of major conflicts does not mean that we can be complacent and pay little heed to etiquette when interacting with other. I find the following minor (albeit slightly unpleasant) incident to be rather telling.

A group of friends, inclusive of people of various races and religions, were having a meal.

Wayne* (to Aishah*, a Muslim): Y'know, I think you'll look better if you trim your eyebrows.
Aishah: My religion doesn't allow me to do so.
Wayne: Haven't you ever considered trimming them? My friend did it and she looks prettier.

Aishah went on to explain about Islamic practices but Wayne did not appear to be receptive.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.

Click here if you're interested to find out a bit more about fitrah, the most pure and natural state of being in Islam. (I know there're people who know more about this than I do, so please correct me if I'm wrong!)

It could be that Wayne was simply insensitive, but I believe that this is not an isolated case. Although people of different races get along pretty well nowadays, there is still a lack of sufficient knowledge about practices and beliefs of other cultures. As a result, we might unknowingly offend people around us.

That said, we should still be forgiving towards others, for only then will Singapore remain peaceful and harmonious.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

[04] Personal Statement

It has always been my dream to be a teacher. When I was younger, teaching was just an activity that seemed fun. Now I realize that being an educator involves much more work than standing in the front of the classroom giving a lesson and grading homework, but this knowledge has only served to increase my passion for this field.

I started having more interaction with youths after graduating from junior college, when I began teaching tuition to primary and secondary school students. This little foray into teaching reaffirmed my desire to work with students. Though working with them on a one-to-one basis might be different from teaching in a classroom setting, but the satisfaction of successfully helping them to grasp a concept is the same.

Participating in community service during my undergraduate years has helped to hone my patience. I was involved in Befriending, a Students’ Care Service (SCS) programme in which university students mentored secondary school youths who had trouble coping well in school. These students were often less privileged than their peers. Building rapport with them took quite a long time as they did not open up to us easily. I’ve learned that trust needs to be earned over time, and that rushing the process would not have worked.

During my schooling days, I have held leadership positions in class and in my Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs). These experiences involved having various responsibilities and working with other people. As a class leader in secondary school, I had to ensure class discipline while maintaining friendships with my classmates. During my term as the chairperson of the Befriending programme, I had to liaise between SCS and the school’s Community Service Club (CSC). From these experiences, I learnt the importance of preserving good relationships with people around me. As such, the interpersonal skills that I have picked up along the way will come in useful in relating with students and interacting with colleagues.

I strongly believe that a teacher should not just teach subject content. Impressionable young minds can easily be led astray, and a good teacher should instil in his or her students the ability to differentiate right from wrong. Most importantly, a teacher should be able to connect with his or her students and to motivate them to fulfil their potential. These are my goals as an educator.

When I was schooling, I met many great teachers who were excellent role models. I hope to emulate them in a teaching career and to inspire my own students, just like I have been inspired.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

[03] Job Application Letter Critique

Goh Jinghui
Block 459, #05-306
Jurong East Avenue 5
Singapore 640459

3 September 2009

Mr. Lu Cheng Yang
Personnel Department
Ministry of Education, Singapore
1 North Buona Vista Drive
Singapore 138675

Dear Mr. Lu,

Application for the Position of Secondary School Biology Teacher

I came across the Ministry of Education (MoE) website and learnt that you are currently recruiting teachers. After reading more about it on the website, I was deeply interested and would like to apply for the position of a secondary school Biology teacher.

Although I am a fresh graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS), I have been teaching tuition since my GCE 'A' Level examinations ended. My Life Sciences degree gives me the relevant knowledge to impart to students, and I believe my constant interaction with my tuition students has allowed me to develop skills that help me to connect with youths.

I have also been partaking in voluntary work as a mentor to secondary school students referred to the Student Care Service (SCS). Being in contact with students with some social or behavioural problems has given me the chance to learn to deal with them in a way that is best for them. There, I discovered that every child responds differently to teaching methods. This awareness and flexibility will help me to successfully motivate students to learn.

The MOE programme has developed many great teachers, some of whom I'm blessed to have come in contact with. These teachers inspired me to want to be like them, and to benefit more youths through working with them.

I have attached my resume for your consideration and would deeply appreciate it if I can attend an interview with you at your convenience. Please contact me at 81239030 at any time throughout the day.

I hope to receive your reply soon. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
Goh Jinghui

Encl.: Resume

Okay, that was my cover letter. Click here to see what MoE wants.

(Edited as of 11 September 2009.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

[02] Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

Conflict, just like communication, is part and parcel of life. I'm pretty sure every single one of us has experienced disagreements with friends, family members, schoolmates, superiors and subordinates, or even random strangers we encounter. (Admit it, you must have run into at least one rude salesperson who expressed displeasure simply because you were just browsing and had no intention to buy anything.)

Since everyone is wired differently, it is inevitable that we have different views. This discrepancy in perspective and method of handling issues leads to conflict.

What a mess the world would be in if everyone was at loggerheads with each other all the time!

Thank goodness for our innate ability to relate to other people (even if some people are better at it than others are). However, having this ability isn't enough; we still need to learn to utilize it effectively, and the only way to do this is to practise.

Let us consider the following situation, which is probably familiar to many.

Cast - Parent, child.
(Let's just arbitrarily assign a gender to each of the persons involved, say, mother and son.
Alright, for convenience's sake, let's just name the son... Stan.)

Setting - Home.

Plot synopsis- Mother and son got into an argument because he wanted to go out with his friends, but she wouldn't hear of it.

Stan: Mom, can I go and play basketball with my friends?
Mom: No, your 'O' level exams are coming. You should be studying at home.
Stan: I've already finished my homework and revision for next week!
Mom: No, you'll be too tired by the time you get home, and you still have school tomorrow.

(The exchange goes on until Stan gives up and storms off to his bedroom.)

Disclaimer - This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Looking at this issue from an outsider's point of view, we can see that the parent is just trying to show concern for her child, who seems unable to appreciate her efforts. Both parties are probably frustrated that their point isn't getting across, but are unwilling to come to a compromise as well. (I've been in Stan's shoes before; this kind of situation just results in an unhappy atmosphere at home.)

So. What do you think? Suggestions to resolve this issue will be most welcome! (Yeah, please save me from watching this scene on replay every week at home. Hahah.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

[01] Effective Communication Skills

The act of communication occurs so frequently in our lives that most of us hardly give a thought to it. In all honesty, I've never pondered about how I was communicating with others before I signed up for this class.

Communication skills are important to me because I've experienced first-hand how meanings can get misconstrued. Often, when I'm working on projects with schoolmates, good intentions get mistaken for accusations, which lead to tension within the group. My guess is that such misunderstandings are due to our not knowing how to express our feelings or thoughts in a way that is appropriate to the situation. Should every group member have had effective communication skills, such unpleasantness could have been avoided.

If these problems are already surfacing in school project groups, they’ll probably be magnified in the workplace. Communication skills will thus play a big role in helping to foster good working relationships with my colleagues in the future. Conflicts will definitely arise in the process of working together, but I believe that with the necessary skills, such disagreements will be resolved quickly and efficiently.

If the ability to send and receive messages accurately in a work-related setting is important, then it is even more so when we talk to friends and loved ones. Although these people readily forgive our misgivings, it is unfair to them if we are slipshod in the way we communicate with them. Since effective communication involves active listening, having a good grasp of it will help us to listen, not merely hear what others are saying. This will increase our understanding of people around us and improve our personal relationships.

We, as human beings, are social creatures. It is quite impossible for us to live in our own little bubble without any interaction with people around us. Unless we can live as single entities, effective communication skills will be essential in helping us to bond with people.

I'm looking forward to learning these skills which will help me better my interpersonal relations!