“Overworked” doesn’t even begin to describe me right now…

Medals for COM125 student bloggers
Designer Chris Barr and I put together these “student blog medals” I’ve been dreaming about…

Two weeks have past since I started teaching in the SIM/UB program.
Two weeks of emotional roller-coasting as a teacher & disciplinarian.
Two weeks ever since I had a weekend free to do anything but grade.
Two weeks of wondering if I love teaching enough to do it for life.
Two weeks… and in a few hours more, I’ll be into my third.

I haven’t been blogging much this past week and now I feel like my head’s about to explode from the experiences I have to share. As you’ve clearly seen, I’ve just shared video captures from my COM125 Intro to Internet, as well as COM242 Mass Media Effects classes. Judging from the response I’ve gotten from my first lecture video, some of you might find these useful (e.g. learning from my mistakes).

Interestingly, I’ve put this pressure upon myself to being a responsible teacher (and a hip scholar) by spending every waking hour preparing for a good performance / lecture (that’s if I’m not busy grading). I’d typically start grading blogs from Friday evening till Sunday afternoon, dropping comments and suggestions on all 76 of their individual blogs. As my doctoral buddy MrBig has warned me, that’s too much time grading on a weekly basis, so I’ll have to figure out a better way of doing this.

While passion is a powerful motivator for me, the downside of this is that teaching becomes one huge emotional investment. I get especially saddened when a few students participate in the most negative sense of the word, by mocking me in class for my simplest mistakes. Such students make up just two out of seventy-six students in a class. Ironically, I am aware that these cats are smart, but lack the open-minded attitude required to appreciate my lessons. Perhaps for them, value comes in the form of an Ang-Moh or Caucasian lecturer, rather than a Singaporean one. Though this is rather disappointing, I’ve learned to appreciate the experience of difficult students, since it teaches me the value of resilience. I try not to let it get to me so that the better students can still enjoy the class, which fortunately, they apparently do when I read their blogs.

Speaking about reading student blogs, depending on how open they are, you really get a lot of valuable feedback as a lecturer. Though I wouldn’t recommend reading more than 50+ blogs at a time (beyond which you’ll feel like puking from overload), it’s a bit like mind-reading which is really neat. From what I understand, one problem about the teacher/student relationship is that we often do not know what each other is thinking. By reading what they have to say and dropping a teacher’s comment, both sides can understand one another better, yet maintain the respect we have for one another. You do need to be open to good and bad news though, and to know when to stay from getting too involved with your students.

About those medals you see above…
It’s something I’ve been trying to do ever since I knew I could run my own blog-enabled classes. For the past weeks, I’ve made it a point to highlight exceptional student blog posts in class. While this would help them gain a sense of recognition and pride in their work, it also serves to exemplify to other students the kind of work I expect. I would have to rotate student highlights though, otherwise the showcase might get too insular, resulting in a literal “class divide”.

I’ve just finalized the medal design as seen above, and will be awarding it to the best blog posts I’ve read this week, which is on the History of the Internet. These students demonstrate the ability to write meaningfully, instead of simply summarizing class readings.

  1. Kenny’s “Evolution of MMORPGs
  2. Yepp’s “Is The World Still Round?
  3. Melissa’s “Just How Interconnected Are We?
  4. Amanda’s “Evolution of MUD (to IRC and IM)
  5. Liyana’s “Pros and Cons of E-mail

We’ll see how this medals business goes… it might work for or against the class, so I’ll keep you posted. Meantime, there is one more element I might try with my colleague Derek Lackaff, who is teaching the COM125 course concurrently in Buffalo. We’ve synced our classes right down to the blog assignments, so the plan is to try and see if we can have an intercontinental competition among our student bloggers (any sponsors for prizes?). By the end of the course, we’ll see which of our prominent student bloggers gains the most Technorati authority, Google ranking, etc. In a grand inter-cultural and pedagogical experiment, we’ll see which side naturally fairs better in the blogosphere. See my COM125 aggregator (Singapore) and Derek’s COM125 aggregator (New York) for all our student blogs.

I’m hoping to submit a paper documenting all this, including how we turn class blogs into a gaming platform. Using game mechanics highlighted by Amy Jo Kim, the point is to create friendly competition among students, which hopefully helps them learn better, and have fun at the same time.

15 thoughts on ““Overworked” doesn’t even begin to describe me right now…

  1. You just confirmed my thoughts…you indeed are over working..and from a student’s point of view..thats just great!!! (Sorry!)
    We have had both local and Caucasian lecturers who have taught us and by far, I would have to say that you are THE best!! For the first time, I actually feel like I’m learning something and applying it rather than mere absorption of what’s in the books. I have a very bad reputation of not attending classes and yeah even when I do I come late as well..you must have heard so by now(No I’m not proud of it)!! But I I believe that many have noticed the complete opposite in me for your classes.Nope am not trying to earn brownie points here. The thing is, if lecturers are just gonna regurgitate from the books, I might as well save me my traveling costs and read at home!!! And that has been the situation at UB SIM till now. Because many students complained, they got Caucasian lecturers to teach us.In one instance the lecturer was made to teach us a subject that he himself was not familiar with but somehow many students loved him..I wonder why..maybe because he was Caucasian..I really donno. I must admit, I was skeptical at first because you were a local. I just thought that I was going to be taught the same way that I have been taught all these years under the “British” kind of education system.But I was wrong and I’m glad that I was. I really value the quality of my education purely because I’m supporting myself and I wanna get my money’s worth, unlike many of the other classmates who are really not bothered about the quality of what they are learning. They are more bothered about the quantity I guess.And it is not uncommon to hear many say that they just wanna graduate.
    What’s the point of learning /absorbing soo much of information at school when we are not given a chance to apply it? So far, the Caucasian lecturers we have had(with the exception of 1 or 2) seem to have come to Singapore treating it as a vacation! They hesitate to give us assignments because they would have to spend time marking it and not be able to tour Singapore.Even when they do, it as if they are giving them for the sake of giving them. I donno about the rest but I don’t feel like I learnt much. I think I learnt more valuable lessons in my personal life which has given me the opportunity and plenty of situations that have challenged my thinking and communication skills.
    It’s really in your class that I actually am beginning to feel like a student of Communication. I think you are going a fantastic job…keep it up but please not at the expense of your sanity!

  2. Welcome to the working world of America. All work and no play, unless you “request for time-off using your vacation hours with 2 weeks advance notice”.

    If you can overcome these difficult students, either by hook or by crook (I recommend American parental reverse psychology), you have overcome a major challenge as a teacher/educator. Really.

    In the meantime, BREATHE. Inhale the cold winter air and make footprints in the snow.

    ps: what do I need to do to get on your “Friends List” huh?

  3. Tara: Thanks for the kind words. You’re probably one of the rare Singaporean students who pay for their own education. It does make you a different person. 🙂

    Lin: I’m in Singapore now, but it’s been raining a lot so there’s some cold air to breathe. I’ll update my blogroll soon and add you. The list is so long… do people really click through it?

  4. Wow..sounds like a very interesting class! I can’t imagine all the work you have to reading the blogs. Last semester I assigned written journals every week and while my hands did get tired and I found myself writing the same things over and over again, I did learn a lot about my students.

  5. I know from experience how much easier it is to say ‘I try not to let it get to me’ than actually live it. But all the same I think we can all see the amount of effort you are putting in to make this course worthwhile, regardless of who’s paying for it. So go ye forth and conquer!

  6. Dear Mr Kevin,

    Thank you for teaching us. It is our pleasure to have you as our instructor this semester. I think that your efforts are recognized by the students here. As the saying goes, you reap what you sow. And I believe you are on the right track. Some of the students here (I am also one of them) lack maturity and I hope that you can understand their position. Nevertheless, I am not in any way trying to score “points”. I just feel that you are doing a great job because you attempt to relate to us. That is, the biggest attribute that you have and that is also what we ask for primarily. Of course, the “Ang Mo” lecturers we know are mostly knowledgable and we respect that. But that does not mean that local instructors are lousy. In fact, there are a few respectable instructors that have taught us and they were credible instructors. However, sad to say, many were disappointing. Most lack professionalism and passion. However, I believe you have the talent and the will to rise up and bring back the glory that we once lost. Regardless of ethicity, the power of knowledge or instruction lies in your own hands. You can do it. We know you can. Cheers.

  7. Hey Mr Kevin,

    Just want to tell you that you’re by far one of the more hardworking lecturers I’ve ever had.. thank you for spending so much time and effort in teaching us. (e.g. burning your weekends just to grade our blogs and etc..) I feel that I’m actually learning a lot more about the internet and the mass media now.

    I don’t think it’s really true when you mentioned that value comes in the form of a caucasian lecturer..cos’ there were some that really sucked to the max..and they were non-Singaporeans… .. … .. =x

    Anyways, I think you’re doing just fine. Don’t be disheartened and keep up the good work!

    Thank You once again and Stay Blessed!!

  8. Tricia: Since you teach as well, we should really have a chat sometime… I haven’t forgotten about “gaming” discussion, just been busy.

    Renhao, Yepp, Wan Ting: Hey guys, thanks for popping by my little space on the web, and for sharing your wisdom as students. Appreciate it! 🙂

  9. hello Mr Lim !
    ure pretty cool so don’t worry abt it. yupp, we appreciate all the stuff that you do :))




  10. hey kevin, been a while since i visited your “little space”. seems like you have been bogged down by work, eh?

    i am sure you know this by now, there will always be people who are not satisfied no matter what you do – hard to please, quick to condemn. however, i guess that’s also why teachers are one of the very “thick-skin” people in the society. they just trudge along.

    judging by what you wrote, and what’s here, i am sure you know how appreciated you are.

    besides that, i thought i should be a bit kpo – what do you think of flickr’s latest move to eradicate the usage the old ways of logging in?

    byes 🙂

  11. Panda: Change will always have resistance… MrBrown also blogged his unhappiness about having to signup with Yahoo.com. I do think that it’s trivial compared to what Yahoo & Flickr have planned ahead for users… if you read the email they sent out, there seems to be something interesting coming soon to Flickr.

  12. Kevin,
    Cold air in Singapore??
    Currently it is 22F here, I just spent the last 30 mintues trying to start the fireplace. Come on lah, I am from the tropics, starting a fire is not in my upbringing.

    Eat about 2 bowls of laksa on my behalf, extra spicy hor.

    PS: I am extremely jealous, since I havent been home for over 10 years.

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