10 July 2007

Students' Seminar or Adults' conference?

"'Cher, what are they talking about? See, no one is listening..." And he is right.

Not only were the students not listening to the distinguished speakers, even the directors, those in business suits seated at the first few rows were either talking to each other, or fiddling with their PDAs. One of them was definitely dozing off in a 'strategic way'.

This is a classic case of missing the audience's needs totally by the speakers. These so-called distinguished speakers spoke to impress each other, while their targeted audience, the students, were lost in all the 'distinguished' languages, and just switched off. The HK students were not paying attention too.

What do we want our seminars to achieve? Is it planned for students to learn? Or is it for the schools and even the countries to impress one another?

The best joke of the seminar was where a student rose up to ask a question to the panel speaker. It was a great question, remarked the panel speaker and everybody clapped. The only problem is that it was written by the teachers and taught to the student to ask so that we do not 'look stupid' to the other schools. Hmm, so much for integrity.

The only part where the students pay attention and stopped taking photos of themselves, were the dancing performances and the sand drawing display. When would the organisers start to take notice of what the students are attracted by? Who listens to long boring talks? Isn't it sad to bore these students?

Besides the happenings at the main conference, the daily logistics proved to be an interesting exercise of patience. Every morning we were bussed in different buses with different configurations of students. This was due to the different needs of those going for rehearsals as well as top management's requests for special side tours. My colleague was especially unhappy at being shouted by a fellow staff. Tempers flare easily when we are under pressure.

For me, I re-learnt again that those who are in charge, must be present and be decisive to set clear guidelines if not those below them will have a tough job of leading and dealing with ambiguities. There will always be many "Indian chiefs", each trying to out-do and impress others. But the designated leader must rise up and lead.

There was a nice ending to the whole students seminar episode.

My students and I started off initially as cool to each other. After a few months of working together, they open up and were more responsive. At meal times, they will reserve places for us at the dining table and asked us to join them. When they see us during shopping time or at the hostel areas, they will wave at us and called out to us. It was truly heart warming! When we returned, one of them sent a thank you SMS. Another sent an email thanking all of us, and specifically mentioning our names.

At the end of the hassles, it was worth it. They have became our friends, our allies in the educational journey. Praise God.

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