The Right To Not Be Stupid
Kartini – who fought for women’s rights for education in the 1800s once wrote, “I have a right to not be stupid.”
I have a right to not be stupid.
Just the other day I berated a whole class for cheating when they were doing their computer based training and assessment.
They did not understand why I was livid – it wasn’t the cheating that disappointed me to no end – it was the stubbornness on their side to remain stupid; to not have enough belief in themselves that they could achieve things with their own effort.
Instead, they chose to do the things that were the opposite of what our heroes and people like Kartini had fought for; the right for education, the right to learn and improve their intelligence.
The right not to be stupid.
But it seems that it’s all today’s generation about – stupid yet arrogant, stubborn, ignorant, always looking for shortcuts, and lacking beliefs and integrity within themselves.
Are You a Pack Leader?
No, this isn’t an endorsed post for the famous dog whisperer. This about human beings acting like dogs. Well, actually – there’s nothing wrong with dogs; they’re the cutest animals I’ve known, and frankly they have more common sense and morals than some humans living in this world. But after watching so many episodes of the Dog Whisperer, it occurs to me how some humans actually behave the same way with their friends.
Any pack of friends I know always have a Pack Leader; the one with the final decision, the one who decides who can join their pack and who should be cast away, the one who controls the pack, and even so often, the one who pays for their pack as a way to control their friends. Basically, they are The Alpha Male or The Alpha Bitch, so to speak. Seeing as the Pack Leader pays for stuff, the betas feel obligated to follow whatever the Alpha tells them to do.
Some people don’t have problems being the betas – in fact, some seem to enjoy spending money on the Pack Leader’s expense, as well as not having the burden to make decisions which affect the pack. It’s not that these people are bad people, it’s just that they are more like sheeps – they don’t have a mind of their own and they follow wherever the herd goes.
The other day I was watching an episode on BBC Knowledge about the Primates, and even their species have pack leaders. So I conclude that despite the advancements humans make, they are still no different than animals. Humans always want to assert dominance and power over their own peers, and they take great joy in knowing that they have the upper hand. Kind of like Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl – being the richest girl in school, she is undoubtedly the Queen Bee – she reigns over her friends, and in return provides perks for being her betas.
The thing is, I don’t believe friendships work that way. I don’t believe that friendship that can be bought is anything close to the real thing. And how sad is it that some people have such low confidence in themselves to make friends that they have to resolve to using money to win and influence them?
Because strip away the money and what are they? Nothing. No character and not enough personality to make people want to stay and get to know them as real people – instead of the ones who pay for everything because they don’t believe that being themselves is enough to make people like them.
So if you happen to be in a pack of friends who treat each other equally with respect, you should cherish it – because that might be as good as friendship can get nowadays.
Faith in humanity restored.
My car broke down this morning.
I should have suspected that it would happen, after the recent difficulties of failures to start the engine. But I didn’t make a big deal out of it. Not until what happened today, when it wouldn’t start no matter how many times I tried. And I tried lots.
What made it all worse was that I was right in the middle of a busy road coming out of the tollway at peak hours – luckily I managed to steer the car to the side even though I still made it difficult for other cars to go through. It was mildly embarrassing as it is – being the one who caused traffic and getting angry horns from random cars and trucks – there are lots of them in the morning – as they drove past.
I could only call people at work as I wasn’t far from it. But there was pretty much nothing I could do, really. I could only tried and tried many times to start the engine and failed and failed again.
I called a colleague who was still on her way but she would come out of the same road.
While I was stuck there trying to call people – and realizing I didn’t have much credit left on my phone, dammit! – this hawker who sold bottled water, tissues and lilies (they are pretty common here, and they carry their goods in a box strapped in front of their chests) – knocked on the window and I wound it down. He asked whether I needed help to push the car to a safe spot. I agreed, although other part of me – the suspicious one – was feeling alert. But I was desperate for any solution; I even gullibly asked him what was wrong with my car and what did those symbols on the panels meant. Obviously he had less clue than I would be.
The guy indicated to his fellow hawkers to come and lend him a hand, and they pushed my car to a safe spot. And I waited again while trying to call for help. Then one of them tried to get my attention the something across the road.
It turned out that a fellow colleague who was being driven to work by her husband drove past and they noticed me; her husband honked and asked if I needed help and I told them that I called for help already, seeing as they were on the opposite of the road and my colleague was five months pregnant, I wouldn’t want to burden them with my silly stupid car problem.
The hawkers disappeared out of nowhere, perhaps continuing onto doing their job, and I didn’t even realize it because I was busy scrutinizing the car manual I found on the back of my seat.
Something that you must understand is that in my country, it is quite typical for people to take advantage of other people’s misfortunes – especially when they know they can get some money out of it. So I was prepared for it to happen and I was surprised when it didn’t. Especially in that busy road where it was common for people to get aggravated and tensed. It is also very common to be suspicious of getting helped by strangers as there have been reports of people’s cars broken down and getting helped by random strangers who then managed to steal their belongings from their cars.
Fifteen minutes later, I saw my colleauge’s car approaching and out of reflex I started the engine again and – voila! it started as if nothing happened at all.
Five minutes later I got the car garage to pick it up and have it serviced.
I am now home, safe and sound. But I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of being helped by total strangers and knowing that there are still good people in this world.
Faith in humanity restored.
I used to love my job, but…
…it’s not the same anymore.
I love teaching and I get a sense of personal achievement when seeing the students grow and become more confident.
but several incidents that have happened this year make me question myself:
Am I really good at what I do?
Am I a good teacher?
Do I really contribute anything to the students’ knowledge?
In mid 2012, I found out that an entire class of students of whom I was homerooming were cheating. Well, not all – about 98% of them were. This was a real blow to my confidence and faith, because I really thought they were smarter and wiser than that, and despite cheating the scores were not even improved – they got the wrong source. It wasn’t the cheating part that really disappointed me – it was the fact that they didn’t have any faith in themselves that they would trust answers from an unknown source (apparently it was someone the previous class who had done the same exams) and use them for their final exam, rather than believe in themselves that they were smart enough to pass the exams.
Despite its relevance, the whole thing reflected badly on me. Although I was the only one who felt it, but I felt as if I weren’t a good enough teacher for them. I felt as if I had failed to be a teacher – because in the end the students still didn’t feel confident enough to pass the final exams that they had to turn to desperate measures.
After what happened, I began to lose my motivation. I never thought it would happen to me, as I always consider myself to be a person who really cares about her job, but in the end I kept thinking – why bother? They would all cheat anyway. and maybe the previous classes cheated also. Maybe all that sense of achievement was all in my head. Maybe, I am not a good teacher after all.
I know it’s unfair to generalize but I can’t help thinking that way. It was bad enough that they cheated, but it was even worse when, upon being found out, they apologized by buying us food and flowers, thinking that our apologies could be bought. The blow was just too much for me.
Then, a couple of months later, I found out that the students who have graduated and are now working onboard the ships said that we never taught them anything useful while they were training with us. The same students who treated me so kindly and called me their “Mom”, who asked to take photos with me and told me they would never forget me and that I was their best teacher.
Perhaps it’s all a lie.
Perhaps, it’s time to find another job.
The Big Three-Oh
I used to think that by the time I hit 30, I’d be having my own business, preferrably a hotel or a villa, in a fuck-off location somewhere in Bali, and I’d be making paintings or doing something related to art, as well as having the best time of my life. Bear in mind that was when I was still in my twenties, so being naive and silly and all, I actually thought it was achievable, similar to thinking that “If Britney Spears could be successful then so could I” and the logic that if one had the voice and the talent to make that much money in such a short time, one would be very rich in no time, was missed on me.
Am I disappointed?
Well, no. Not really. Sort of, I guess. Disappointed in a way that in ten more years I’ll be 40 and even now that I am 30 I’m starting to feel the physical changes that I didn’t think (or didn’t want to think) could happen to me – how scarily easy it is to put on weight and how fucking hard it is to lose it, wrinkles appearing in the most unappealing places on my face, love handles on my midriff, flabby arms, freckles and uneven skin tone… all the while looking at myself and thinking, “Fuck, I AM getting old.”
But why does the physical stuff bothers me so? Because now I’ve set my goal ten years further, and in ten years time I still have to work hard to be able to make my dreams come true. I still want to live in Bali, in a remote, fuck-off location faraway from all this madness I am living at the moment. But I also worry whether I still have the energy and the strength to do it, since I am not getting any younger, and there is still so much work to do.
Every single day, when I drive to and from work, the only thing that crosses my mind when I am surrounded by the iron jungle is, “Someday, I’ll get the fuck out of here.”
But when will that someday be? Sometimes when I am feeling insecure and missing Bali so much, I’d nag my husband and ask him, “Do you really think we’d be able to retire there?” and he, the ever optimistic, would answer without fail; “Yes.”
The insecurity comes every now and then when I hear or read about property prices in Bali being so expensive and I can only think in despair, “There’s NO WAY we’d get to save that much money in ten years.”
Being 30 also means facing the fact that my parent is getting old. I’m all used to taking dad to and from hospital when he is having one of his usual illness – tick as preferred; gout, high blood pressure, heart problem, gastric ulcer. And then my mother will wildly appears and stirs problems and make our lives shit all over again.
It’s just so… tiring.
With all the things that are happening, is it any wonder that people choose to forget about their dreams and settle for what they have?
But I think that is the scariest part of getting old – forgetting our dreams, our hopes, the things that motivate and drive us to work hard while we still have our youths – settling for second best.
My dreams are the only things that are keeping me alive and running – even on my worst days, I will always have it in me.
I Am Not Your Savior
One of my students had to go home the other day, and for some reason I couldn’t stop crying because of it. I am crying now even thinking about it.
I knew he was one of the weak ones; he was actually repeating the class because he failed the previous one. But I’d seen improvements from him, and he tried so hard to keep up, and I kept thinking I should do something to help him.
But that opportunity never came, because the academic director had told him before that if he still couldn’t improve after three weeks, he had to go home, and I didn’t know anything about it.
What killed me more was the fact that he didn’t tell me about it, he’d kept it to himself for three weeks and I couldn’t do anything to keep him in the class because he had already made an agreement with the Academic Director. I just thought it was deeply unfair that he couldn’t stay until the end of the course and get to be interviewed like the rest of the students there. I even stated my objection but the AD was adamant that what was agreed couldn’t be changed.
It was hard for me to see him go, as I was the one who saw him everyday in class, and I noticed how hard he tried, and he did show improvements, and my belief in him grew; I had faith that he could make it this time around.
When the news had to be given to him, I saw that he was disappointed, but what killed me more was that he was still smiling and said that it was alright, that he would come back next year and try again. He was so optimistic still, even though he had failed.
It was even more unbearable to see him come to class and pack his bags while the rest of his classmates just stared at him in disbelief. I had to hide what I was feeling at that time, and fortunately I was pretty good at it. I’m not sure whether the students saw what my face looked like at that time but I was about ready to cry right then and there, in front of all of them.
It’s funny in a way, because this class was pretty solid and most of them were quite smart. But there was always the one student that I couldn’t save. It’s funny how I cared more about the one that I couldn’t save. And I don’t know why up to this moment I am still deeply troubled by it. Everytime I think about it, I have tears in my eyes.
Yesterday he added me on Facebook and I told him how sorry I was for not being able to help him, and he said, “It’s OK, Ma’am. I am stupid.”
No, you are not. No one is. You are good, but in the real world, being good is simply not enough. There is no place for good people who have to work ten times harder than the rest just because they are slow. There’s no place for effort, no matter how insignificant, to be appreciated. And I feel like I am a part of this cruel world.
I am sorry, I am not your savior. I wish I could be.