Home » Online Uni Life #7: Sympathy and empathy (Part 4)

Online Uni Life #7: Sympathy and empathy (Part 4)

More than just one of them

Right at the beginning, I started to notice how my habits were taking shape. Hmmm… I was going to use the term study habits, but that would be me being too generous to myself.

Maybe it’s because I’m playing with house money. Or maybe I’m not 100% passionate about what I was getting into. It’s also possible that since I thought I already had a good idea what to expect in the coming years, I want to play it smart and not exert myself needlessly. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these, and then some. The bottom-line is that the sense of urgency was not there for me. From time to time, I find myself asking why I’m even bothering.

I found myself reverting to old habits – a constant cycle of procrastination and cramming. I used to joke that I had this down to an artform and got away with it many times during college. Unfortunately, that didn’t work anymore at this level. I’m not that good. I couldn’t meet deadlines half the time. This didn’t worry me because I could always ask for an extension and would never be turned down. The pandemic further loosened the already lenient policies upheld by Lancaster University, which I did not hesitate to take advantage of.

Excerpts from a required learning journal in mid-2019. Doing almost nothing for months, then attempt to come up with a draft research paper in less than a week. Granted, mentally focusing on anything was extremely difficult due to tinnitus. But the cramming persisted even after I recovered from it.

It’s not like this was a strategy I had intended to employ from the beginning. I honestly thought that I was free of these old bad habits as this was rarely a problem for me even at the most hectic of times as both a teacher and administrator in UPOU. Was it because other people were relying on me at work, as opposed to studying where I only needed to worry about myself? I don’t know.

Willing myself to break the cycle was difficult. The real frustrating part was whenever I succeeded doing so, there was always something that would lull me back to complacency. There were a few natural calamities here and there. Sometimes me, or someone else in the family got sick. Then there’s the pandemic. The last big mental and emotional blow to date was my dad’s passing, followed by an administrative issue relating to my studying. Surviving these issues was one thing. However, rebounding from them to restore my mindset back productivity was a different thing altogether. I can’t help it. It’s how I work.

Two of the most important drivers of my PhD pursuit. My son goes without saying. But this was something my dad had wanted for me, perhaps ever since I decided to study again after graduating from college. It is… unfortunate that he won’t be here to celebrate with me when I’m finished.

At some point in my struggle, it occurred to me. This is probably the same reality that many of the students in UPOU deal with themselves. The circumstances of course would vary. But the end result… perhaps even the mental toll and its effects, are the same as mine. And if that were the case, had I become so insensitive to their difficulties under me that I couldn’t care any less?

I’ve thought about it for a while now. The answer is no. I’ve always taken student welfare seriously. There are people who can attest to that. But perhaps my approach wasn’t the best. I did have a short phase where I was legitimately uncompromising when it came to class policy. But even then there was an open hand ready to reach out. Students just needed to take it. But they rarely did. That was where I was different as an LU student.

I perfectly understood that communication between students and teachers was of utmost importance. As I have found out for myself, Filipino students exhibit reluctance towards talking to teachers more openly. I was no exception. So, I had to consciously overcome that. I won’t lie. At times I truly felt embarrassed as it felt like I kept giving one excuse after another. It wasn’t in my nature, regardless of legitimacy. But I understood that it was as much about me making sure my teacher knew what was going on with me as it was hoping I am given extra considerations.

It was a little embarrassing, constantly emailing excuses ranging from calamities, getting sick to administrative issues.. But keeping teachers in the loop is important.

That, in turn, gave rise to another question. If I was willing to exert more effort to communicate with my teachers, why do I have a hard time getting my students to do the same for me?

To be continued.


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