Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Complaints Privilege

Being a student where I teach can be so fun and exciting. Without taking into account the facts that he's out of his parents' sight and grasp, being free to party all night, drinking, smoking, ogling at skimpily-dressed girls; life is still interesting enough - having the complaints privilege. What on earth is that, you may ask. Well, here's a list of the highlights of this special privilege from the point of view of the student:

1. If my lecturer comes in to class late - even if it's a minute - I can complain that he is not punctual. Of course, if I go to class late then it's my business.

2. If I go to class late and my lecturer does not accept my reason (oversleeping is a VERY VALID reason!) and scolds me, I can complain that he is harsh, unfair and unreasonable.

3. If my lecturer refuses to give me soft/hard copy notes, and force me to make my own notes during lecture, I can complain that he is lazy to give ready-made notes, and he is abusing me (I can copy at the speed of 3 words per hour, and he makes me copy down his entire lecture? Ridiculous!)

4. If I asked my lecturer to dismiss the class early and he complied, I can still complain that he irresponsibly dismisses classes if I failed the course in the end :Þ

5. If I ask my lecturer for solutions and he refuses to give (hey, giving me complete solutions to 5 or 6 past year final exam papers isn't too much to ask ok - you won't take that much time working them out, right?) I can complain that he is incompetent and not helpful at all.

6. If I cannot understand the lesson that is presented by the lecturer in a language he claims is English, I can complain that he lacks teaching skills and cannot convey the lectures effectively. (ei, i get u know in SPM A glade for my engelis wan you know or not. you wan say my engelis bad. you is tink you so gud!)

7. If my lecturer is annoyed and shouts at me in class because I still have not learned a concept that he's repeated 10 times, I can complain that he is impatient and impulsive. (afterall, what is the big deal repeating a lesson 10 times - I'm a paying customer, so I listen only when I please)

8. If I was rude to my lecturer and he reprimanded me for that, I can complain that he is insensitive and fierce (a rude teenager is natural, and therefore, totally acceptable - there is no need for reprimands)

9. If my lecturer penalises me for plagiarising (borrowing a softcopy of my friend's assignment and printing it out as mine is defined as "groupwork" or "referencing", not plagiarising, whatever that means!) I can complain that he is prejudiced and unprofessional.

10. If for no reason I simply disliked the lecturer, I can complain that his lecture is mundane and monotonous; or I can complain that he dresses up real badly and demotivates me; or I can complain that he speaks too fast/slow/loud/soft; or pretty much anything else. I can complain as I please. :D

This place is paradise for students! Anyone?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Duties of a Lecturer

The standard and compulsory duties of a lecturer:

1. Secretary
Prepare all reports and paperwork for government accreditation processes, ISO processes; type them out in the given templates; submit hard and soft copies; stick to the DEADlines

2. Typist
After cracking your brains over exam questions setting, TYPE all the questions + marking scheme out neatly in the given template and submit soft copies to the Exam Center (their job is to store and print only)

3. Telephone Operator / Receptionist
Eh, 10-12 lecturers to ONE extension number - somehow the person who is sitting nearest to the phone, or who happens to be the only one around the vicinity of the phone will have to do ALL the answering!

4. General Enquiries
"Where is this room located?" "Where is that office?" "What time does the photocopy shop opens?" "My bag is locked in the classroom. What do I do?" etc etc.

5. Academician
Revise course syllabus! Revise lab syllabus! Revise texts and references! Revise course syllabus! Revise lab syllabus! Revise texts and references! Revise course syllabus! Revise lab syllabus! Revise texts and references! (this is an infinite loop)

6. Counsellor
Monitor and counsel students who are weak, and who have failed a particular course for more than 1 time (this is very reasonable of course, provided they attend classes often enough to accept your monitoring and counselling, which they usually DON'T)

7. Supervisor
Watch over and baby-sit the final-year students as they work on / plagiarise their project. You can give guidance and suggestions, but they are not obliged to listen to you.

8. Teacher
Prepare notes, examples, exercises to lecture, tutor, guide, spoonfeed the fee-paying customers.

9. Speed Reader/Evaluator
If you have 20 exam scripts, mark them within 72 hours. If you have 100 exam scripts, mark them within 72 hours. If you have 500 exam scripts mark them within 72 hours. Feel free to adjust marking speed accordingly. [P/S: 72 hours (24 per day x 3 days) includes all public holidays and weekends]

10. Miscellaneous
Everything else not mentioned above, that your Dean deems appropriate for you.

Extra duties a lecturer can choose to undertake, which normally can lead him/her to a fast route to promotion.

1. Getting a DBA
"Doctorate" degree that can be obtained by full distance-learning (see your thesis supervisor? not necessary!), hassle-free and brain-matter-free.

2. Polishing shoes
Extremely effective if you're a male staff (being handsome or not is an irrelevant factor) and you have a lady boss

3. Publishing "research" papers
By definition, "research" means go into the library, borrow a few books on the subject of interest, read some chapters on a similar topic, then do a summary.

4. Gold-fingering
Also known as back-stabbing, back-poking and two-headed snaking.

Now, anyone interested in the position?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Late Night Amusement

I bought a new hair brush yesterday, and just now, I took it out of its packaging. I don't normally read the description written on the package, but having nothing better to do at the moment, I scanned through the writing on a cardboard label inside the pastic box. The first sentence caught my attention, and the rest was enough amusement to last till tomorrow morning! Here's what was written:

Quote -

The above is taken from the label word-for-word, spelling-for-spelling, grammar-for-grammar, punctuation-for-punctuation. :D

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Early Morning Amusement

It was 8 am, the beginning of a typical day at work. I was ready to teach, but the ones who were supposed to receive the lesson were not ready to learn. The computer lab was cold and empty, save for 2 students waiting in it, when I went in. The rest slowly arrived, and those late comers didn't stop coming in for the next 10 - 15 minutes. That's OK - my patience is well-trained. Lesson commences.

Talking, not paying attention, asking stupid questions - these are common occurrences while the lesson is ongoing, yet, there was something more that morning. There was a boy who kept asking a question (and what a question for that matter!) without even trying to understand my explanation. An analogy of the situation:

Me: First, a man walked out of the house, then he went in again. (it is shown on the projector screen)

He: I have a question about what you just say. I don't understand what you mean, so I want to ask you, about the hut...

Me: Hut? You mean house.

He: No, no! You don't understand my question. What I mean is what you said just now... do you mean the man go to the hut or...

Me: House. It's house - not hut.

He: You misunderstand me!! I mean if you mean the hut...

Me: House!!! (boiling by now)

He: OK - house. So you mean the man walk out of the house or he walk in?


And there was another one, who kept saying "We are so confused!" (actually, "we", I am sure refers to only himself and his friend sitting next to him, because they never stop talking) "Repeat the whole thing!" Repeat the whole thing? Alright, I'll repeat one time. Still confused? Want another repetition of the "whole thing"? Fine - one more time. Still confused??? Well, not surprising, while I was wearing my voice out repeating the lesson, he was busy not listening to me. There is so much a flesh-and-blood human can take.

I stopped, and I reprimanded. No raising my voice - I have better things to use my voice for. I use sarcasm, and lots of it. The lab staff was looking at me, I was aware, but I didn't care. Thank goodness, immediately following the scolding fit, there was very visible improvement in the learning.

And, as if having to deal with inattentive, impertinent and rude students are not enough, I still have one more person to deal with. Yes, the lab staff - a plump (I am so tempted to just make do with FAT), overbearingly lazy and arrogant woman. As I walked to the back of the lab - where she was slouching in her chair, peeling off the wrappers of a sweet - she signalled me to approach her with her hand. "Come here," she said. I stared at her - who does she think she is? "Come here lar, come here," she said a few more times. What does she want? I walked to her place, thinking I didn't want any of those sweets if she intended to offer them. But no, of course not. She wanted to know what the subject I am teaching is about - is it difficult? Since when am I answerable to a computer lab care-taker? And the way she "summoned" me! Talk about lack of manners and etiquette! Quite enough amusement to last me a long time.

Thank goodness, and the love of mother earth, I was comforted when I look at my wonderful miracle - which has grown really tall. The leaves are bigger and greener now.
Don't know when it will flower - soon I hope!. My poor colleague's egg still has no sprouts, after two weeks since she first broke and watered it. I hope it will soon too!

Monday, May 16, 2005

More Miracles!

The sprouts growing out of my flower egg are over 9cm tall this morning! That's about 6cm of growth over the weekend - about 3 cm per day. WOW. Now I'm wondering if the seeds are genetically modified (to grow so fast) or if there is some secret ingredients in the fiber from which they grow. Or (most probably) all this wonder stems from my sheer lack of knowledge in the field of plants biology :D

Friday, May 13, 2005

It's Friday the 13th

Yikes.... it's still Friday the 13th. Will be over in about an hour though. :)

The Miracle of Life!

The new plant? A post for the new plant? While the old one is hardly cold! :Þ

This is how the flower egg looks before it is broken. Of course the one pictured here is not the one sitting on my desk in the office. This one contains the seeds of the Mimosa Pudica. I got it like 2 days after I got my first one. Just can't resist the temptation sometimes. :)
I am yet to break it. Soon, perhaps.

And this one is how the flower egg looks once the top is broken. The eggshell is ceramic, the inside filled with some kind of fiber, and some very fine stones. The seeds are actually not visible, probably buried deep below the surface. Of course, the egg pictured here is not mine as well - it's my colleague's! She was so captivated by my egg when I first brought it to work, that she asked me to get one for her the following week!

Now this is mine! Taken early this morning, this photograph shows my flower egg seven days after it was first broken and watered. The sprouts were hardly discernible two days ago, and about 1cm tall (the tallest one) yesterday. Man, once they grow out of the fiber, they grow fast!

And THIS is how TALL my flower-egg babies are just before I left the office today. The sprouts are very obviously inclined to the left. The egg is placed on the topmost shelf of my workdesk, and from its position, the nearest light is on the left. The sprouts are all heading for the light! This is just too cute!
There are all in all about 10 sprouts growing at the moment. I have no idea how big they will grow to be, and if the seemingly already crowded ceramic egg can fit all of them. Probably when they are getting too snug, I will have to break the entire egg, and transfer the whole bunch of them into a bigger pot. But I so love that egg! I have to admit it was the sheer idea of a ceramic flower pot in the shape of an egg that attracted me so much in the first place. Of course, I am now equally enthralled by the little miracles sprouting out, providing me small amounts of life-sustaining oxygen... and I will be equally captivated by the promised red blossoms once the plants flower!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Of Toilets and Corridor

My faculty is a peculiar one - the location of it, I mean. This vast, long, rectangular room accommodates 30 plus academic staff - all without any partitions. There are two entrances/exits - one of each of the far ends. At one end, a door (say, door A) leads to another part of the building containing a printing service counter, lab service counter and also numerous computer labs (henceforth, called lab area). At the other end, a door (say, door B) opens to the outside of the entire building, where there is a sidewalk cafe, and also staircases to upper levels of the building. This is the door most lecturers use as exits/entrances to/from classes. Within the building, on the right side of door B, there is a long corridor. At the end of that long corridor, are the toilets. Two toilets - one for the ladies, one for the gents. That is two toilets, one per gender, to 30 plus of us. Bad? There is more.

About a month ago, the small passage joining a small room on another side of the buidling to the long corridor was cleared and opened up. A second door (say, door C) was installed between the long corridor and the open space where the academic staff are placed. So effectively now, coming from the direction of the staircase, we would have to pass through 2 doors (which keys to numerous locks we have to carry) to gain entrance into our faculty. Troublesome? Still more to come. The small room, mention at the beginning of this paragraph, was then rented out to an external operator for the provision of "network printing and photocopy" services. There are 2 accesses to this photocopy place - their main entrance, two large glass doors overlooking the carpark, and a side passage connecting to the lab area. But no, two accesses are not enough. The third access is through the long corridor, from door B. And what was the reason they installed door C - to separate students from the faculty space - although door C itself is a rickety old piece of junk, salvaged from goodness-knows-where!

Now the real problem. Students are practically walking freely through our once quiet and private long corridor, littering the place and making noise. Of course, the noises they make a not in English, despite the whole English-Speaking Campus whatever. And, as if the staff number to toilet ratio is not high enough, the students are now using the two precious toilets like nobody's business. After the first couple of days it happened, one of the lecturers printed "Staff Toilet" on A4 paper and pasted one on each of the toilet doors. But the students still used the toilets. Another lecturer (or the same one, perhaps) printed another sign "No Students Allowed" and pasted one below each of the previous signs. Almost immediately, the second sign was ripped off from the door of the ladies' and female students continued using it. Goodness gracious, Christopher Columbus!

I quote myself " girls have as much sense of hygiene as a fly". And yes, they do! They dirty our toilet, litter precious toilet paper all over the place, and (brace yourself, reader) throw used sanitary pads into the toilet bowl! I personally have developed a phobia for the toilet I have been using for the past 3 years - I don't know what I might see inside!

On the subject of doors... recently one of the lecturers in my faculty lost his bunch of keys (yes, a MAN he is!) and fearing break-ins by students in case the lost keys fell into their hands, the management had to change two of the 3 locks attached to door B. And subsequently, all 30 plus of us had to have 3 keys exchanged for new ones. Talk about bulk inefficiencies! Oh, but that's nothing compared to the toilets and corridor crisis.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Requiem for a Plant

I first got it (the plant, I mean) for reasons not quite concerning it, really. I was attracted, absolutely fascinated by those colourful, fanciful jellies that contained nutrients to sustain small, decorative plants that are kept indoors. Naturally I couldn't stand the temptation of getting myself a pack. Then I chose a glass bowl to put them in, and of course, I would require a plant to complete the picture. And that is how I got to getting my plant.
From a whole pot of the plant, I took three stems and placed them into my glass bowl. It took some weeks for the roots to grow, but grow they did! And it took more months to notice new leaves growing, but flourish they did! I left them in the care of a very kind colleague for some months and they continued to grow - leaves and roots alike. And for a couple of years they were there, on the highest shelf on my workdesk. Then the inevitable happened.
The leaves began yellowing and withering at the edges - there was nothing I could do (all right, I have had cacti that withered and died under my care, but that's a different story). Slowly, the smallest plant withered completely and I had to have it removed. Then, it happened to the second one. All its leaves turned brown and fell off (sort of like what trees do in autumn, but there are no seasons here in my office). And the remaining one - at the time of "death" of the second one to go - it still had lots of green leaves with brown edges. I trimmed the leaves, in hope that new ones will grow, but none did. It just stayed like that for a long time. And finally, when I saw that there is no hope that the poor thing could survive...
OK, I am the one who threw out the last, pityful plant that has been with me for over 3 years. I have been called sadistic (especially when I was so into The Sims) but it was just a matter of time before it withered completely. (Excuses... excuses!) Fine. The real reason for getting rid of my poor plant : I got a new one! :Þ
It is not quite appropriate to talk about my new plant in the requiem for my old one... (it's in a ceramic egg, and it will flower!) ahem. I will always miss my plant. Rest in peace.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

The First Week

The first week of class should be full of excitement, anticipation and expectation. In reality however, our first week we usually spend within 4 walls - tables, chairs, projectors and whiteboards all around us - all ready to give, to impart knowledge, except for that one catch. There are no one present to learn! And the few who may be present are definitely not in the mood to sit through an actual lecture. There - the first week.

The management insists that classes must be conducted on the first week. But we can't be teaching if there are none sitting in the room, or if only 3 turned up (out of a class of say, 20). I usually start by the second class of the first week, and that, I'd never had ALL students attending my first lecture. If the rest come in after the first or second week, and try their best to follow the lessons, it would be by all means fine with me. The problem is, some would insist that I repeat the lessons they had missed due to faults definitely not mine. Repeat? A whole chapter, sometimes two (that's usually how much I can cover within week 1 and 2)? It's insane.

For that reason alone, we don't usually start teaching if too few are present. And thus, generally, lessons don't begin in week 1 because many are still not back from their holidays. They don't come back before week 1 because there are usually no lectures conducted. But that is because very few would be attending classes! *Headache*

And that is the story of our first week of the semester.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

The New One

Here it is - the new semester. I wonder what I will have this time around. Will I have exceptionally good, hardworking and obedient students? Or will I have (yet again!) the typical lazy, always-looking-for-short-cuts good-for-nothings? One thing for sure, I'll have some of those who didn't make it the last time, back in my class again this time.

A new beginning is always full of hope. After the first week, most of that initial hope fades away, and as the weeks dragged on, we're just glad, at the end of everyday, that the day is over. Hoping for a miraculous change of pattern this new one? I'd rather not put my hopes too high.

Stop and Feel ~ then Think!

Work, work and more work! All we do is work! Wasn't there someone I wanted to call but forgot? Wasn't there messages to reply but... "later". Isn't there something more to our lives than work, earn more money, get more of your boss's attention, climb higher on the corporate ladder, stab more of people's backs (oops - this is limited to a specific group only)? Work is all I had been thinking of for the past several days - new semester, masters thesis, terrible timetable - wait; what is this thing I have just overlooked?
It is a feeling. My best buddy and I had known each other for 14 years at least. Once, she told me - we know each other so inside-out, that we can practically read each other's minds. Probably - the feeling. Two short conversations with her and I had ignored the feeling gnawing at my heart. It struck me just NOW - my best buddy is unhappy! Something is bothering her. She is not how she usually is! But why?
OK now, it may be all my psychological misinterpretation, but the gut feeling is still there. Perhaps there is something I could have done, perhaps there is none. Think. And think again.

Oh, this is my best buddy and me. Of course, we don't always look like this. Sometimes we look better.