Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Love for Students

I have always derived great enjoyment from talking to my students. Through the countless impromptu short engagements, particularly with the international students, I am always intrigued to find out how well they are coping with new living and learning environments. My curiosity about their learning progress and social integration often gives me a grasp of reality followed by a sense of comfort knowing they are well adjusted and assimilated into our local environment.

Whenever necessary, I will offer my assistance to integrate them into our school’s learning environment through a buddy system. Also, I often extend to them the idea of considering Singapore as their permanent abode; finding employment and eventually starting a family here. Most, if not all of these international students typically come from well-to-do family backgrounds and are cultivated to become refined characters with a good moral values system. Our clean and safe living environment often eases their parents’ concerns of personal security and safety.

The family spirit of FMDS gives these students a welcoming and enjoyable learning environment in spite of the tight space and limited facilities. Our pool of friendly, responsive and helpful FMDS staff and my frequent mingling with them easily outweighs these limitations. The key concerns I have for my students primarily revolve around three aspects. 1. Personal intellectual growth 2. Personal attitude and discipline 3. Personal safety and comfort In terms of intellectual development, I will gauge their pace of growth through their responses relating to subjects covering development in the areas of self-knowledge, research skill, concept thinking capabilities and process understanding.

Through hearing them voice their difficulties in their projects, I am able to determine their ability to handle stress as well as assess their personal learning capacity. Their feedback on their lecturers’ teaching is another area I pay attention to. Whenever I detect that the students need special attention, I will immediately recommend and arrange additional tutorial classes for them, at no additional fees. Where their attitude and discipline is concerned, I take on both the devil and the angel’s roles as the principal. I am known to enforce strict discipline such as attendance, punctuality and promptness in their submissions, and I have never compromised on this. Hauling them to my office for a stern admonishment and threatening them with failure always seems to work.

To these ‘undisciplined’ students, I am seen as a hard-nosed taskmaster. Playing the angel’s role, I am their inspirational figure and am often seen giving them pep talks. Personal mental attitude conditioning has to start early and through my series of engagements, I strive to train their minds to always look from a macro perspective and defer their judgements so as to not kill small but potentially great ideas. I also aim to condition their minds through the lenses of daily life and hopefully increase their readiness to accept the hardships of life. For their personal safety and comfort, I check to make sure they have not encountered harassment or conflict in their living environment.

Personally, I believe that a conducive living environment is paramount in aiding the progress of my students’ overall mental and physical health. Thankfully, such cases have been manageable so far. In case emergencies arise outside school hours, I also avail my mobile number to all of them. Many of the past graduates I spoke with, often left FMDS and Singapore with a heavy heart, cherishing the FMDS’ family spirit and missing their network of fellow Singaporeans. Overall, the development of FMDS has given me immense pleasure and fulfillment – seeing how a boutique design school like FMDS is able to be the catalyst in improving their minds and transforming their lives. This, to me, is more purposeful and valuable than money.

Love, Mark Phooi

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