While writing these lines, I feel extremely disappointed and outrageous at the same time. Before coming to any conclusion, let me remind you that I am a Vietnamese as well, so this means no offence in any sense.
I now in a middle of a Bioinformatics summer school, in which fortunately I was accepted to be a TA. Needless to say, this means a lot to me – one of the first steps in my academic career and helps me to explore what I am capable of and do best. This opportunity does not come out of nowhere, instead, it is my decision, my determination and my dream that motivates me to apply for this position. Two years ago, similar summer school was hosted and introduced the wonderful world of Bioinformatics, in which Computer Science plays an essential role in solving the Biological problem in general. Back then, as an active participant, I believed I could do better than the TA team (they tried their best though) to demonstrate the idea for other participants. Thus I promised myself one day I would ask Prof Son to allow me to do that. One year had passed, I gather all of my courage to write an email and tell him what I can do better to improve the lecture. Time keeps flowing, my hope keeps decreasing, there is no sight that this miracle would happen twice. Then suddenly 3 weeks ago, Prof Son told me the summer school would be held in my old University and I could apply for this position.
When you have something that drives you crazy all the time and it happens to be real, you would understand my emotion at that time. I tried to finish all of my current works to spend time studying the exercise I am supposed to “teach” people. Technically, my job is assisting the lecturer, not teaching, but I do my best to prepare as much as I can. Luckily, I felt that I touch the surface of the love of teaching when giving them hint to solve an open question, or using hand gesture to redemonstrate a problem. The moment you see the change in their facial expression is priceless. Little did I know, people only act like that when it relates to their own playground.
Besides doing TA, I am merely an ordinary student as any other people in the rest of the week. I have met two particular types of annoying students: the one who says nothing when it comes to learning something new that having no intersection to his own knowledge, and the one I can name “Mr Know It Alls” that talking nonstop. I wish that the latter can shut his mouth for just one minute, and maybe he can learn a thing or two from other people. The second type is quite rare though.
Now it’s the part about the outrageous feeling that I am having. In the previous school, for every six days of that week, after coming home, I went to bed immediately. The amount of information I have absorbed made me exhausted, but happy at the same time because I utilised my time effectively. I bet 10 dollars that no more than five people in this summer school felt the same way. How could I say so? One could simply know by observing the interaction between the learners and teachers. The way the students saying they understood even though their face tells exactly the opposite. The way the students barely raise a single one question though the problem is too complicated that it’s impossible for more than half could fully understand in one pass. Whatever the reason is – afraid to use English or to be laughed at…-, this only means harm to them.
Maybe it’s just my personal feeling, but it turned out I am the best student so far. They may say, that guy is from NUS, and he is a TA as well, so he knows more than us is understandable. I have to admit that that feeling is great for a while, but the truth is, it’s not. We have a bunch of ACM competitors here, who easily outsmart me in programming, and we have Biologists, who I doubt having any problem in genome thingy. I might act similarly though if I have not trained myself to question everything since I was young, nor had no confidence in Biology due to my passion for this subject when I was in high school. I have fun when I learn new thing, and thus it drove me through every lecture.
For the disappointment, I want to keep it for myself, though it’s partly contained in the outrageous as well. Don’t get me wrong, this post is my thought about the learning way of students, not reflect the content, valuable lessons nor amazing efforts from the organisers.
For anyone who has reached this line, I just want to ring a wake-up bell if you find the first type is familiar, and change the way you learn right from this moment. For me, I now know what I want to do in the future: an educator who is capable of bringing his knowledge to anyone want to learn.