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  • Online Uni Life #8: Sympathy and empathy (Part 5)

Online Uni Life #8: Sympathy and empathy (Part 5)

Note to readers:
This is turning out to be much longer than I had envisioned. I initially thought this was going to be a 3-part blog. But at this rate, it can easily make it to 10 parts. I apologize if it’s getting harder and harder to follow. But I still am keeping track of where this is going. I hope you can stick around longer. Thanks!

I wanted to figure out why my relationship with my teachers at Lancaster University differed from mine with students at UP Open University. There are obvious reasons, of course. I deal with professors in a highly regarded British university as a doctoral student. Whereas at UPOU, Filipino undergraduates deal with me, a masters level teacher.

This is not kind of thing you can read a lot of journal articles about. Maybe my colleagues have been in similar predicaments, but I doesn’t look like they’re as interested about this issue as I am. So, I had to look more inward. And then I actually published papers that covered it. The concept of hiya, a Filipino term that roughly translates to shame, shyness or embarrassment, rang through my papers and how it manifested often during my interactions with students. But is this communication hesitancy really by large, just a matter of culture negatively manifested? I needed to look further inward.

hiya was highlighted as a factor detrimental to engagement of students and their interaction amongst each other. It is believed that this sense of shame may have stemmed from feelings insecurity or inferiority towards older and more knowledgeable peers, hindering students from interaction. Certain students hesitate to make themselves heard for fear of saying anything wrong.

Librero, A.F.D. (2020). Effects of culture on online engagement: The University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) setting. The International Journal on Open and Distance e-Learning (IJODeL), 1-11, 6(2), December 2020.

A boost of confidence and self-worth

Whether it’s a medical check-up, a short quiz or a thesis defense, I get anxious when I’m evaluated by other people. Throughout high school and college, I refused to take tests too seriously, perhaps as a defense mechanism. That, of course, took me to a path of mediocrity. Thank God my mom and dad stopped being stereotypical Asian parents after I finished elementary school. Otherwise, I seriously would have been seen as a failure for not graduating cum laude and not becoming a medical doctor, like I promised them when I was like ten years old.

It wasn’t until my time as a masters student when I started taking things more seriously. Now, I don’t know if I got serious enough. But I was certainly more conscious of the quality of my work. I started believing in the importance of due diligence and would always worry whenever it felt like I didn’t meet it. The defense mechanism was turning off.

Back in 2009, I was writing the course manual for LVM 202 (Development Controls and Construction) in UPOU’s Master of Land Valuation & Management programme. I spent a month in Australia as part of a writing team, hosted by Central Queensland University, to undergo training and immersion while drafting the manual. There was this one day when I had to stand in front of experts from the academe and the industry to get feedback on my draft. I don’t know about the other members of the writing team, but it felt a bit like a thesis defense to me. The year before, I didn’t even know that property valuation and assessment was an industry. But there I was, trying to write a course manual for a graduate degree program on it.

As the course number implies, mine was the second to be evaluated. The panel had quite a few things to say about the first one and its writer. Nothing bad. But throughout that time, I felt I was lagging behind my fellow writers. I wasn’t working as diligently as any of them. We had a running joke at the time. One time, we were brought to an animal sanctuary where koalas are kept. It was around morning. The koalas, were asleep at the time (like they are most of the day), hanging up the eucalyptus trees in funny and cute positions. After seeing that, one of us coined the phrase doing the koala, which meant someone was in the middle of a lecture, slumped to a chair, head hanging down and eyes closed.

This was my first time to see koalas in person. I liked them so much I imitated them throughout my stay in Australia.

I was doing the koala all the damn time. It wasn’t like I did it on purpose, but I couldn’t help it. I’ve been falling asleep in class since high school. And I was painfully aware that I was missing significant chunks of potentially invaluable information for my writing. So, at that point, I anticipated getting more negative feedback than anyone else. I sucked, and I had no excuse for it. When it was my time, I remember squinting, getting ready to look away as I braced myself…

Al, the draft is very good… That was the first thing off the mouth of our head mentor.

Uh… it is? was the only reply I could come up with.

Some people think I have this habit of downplaying my own achievements. I don’t know about that. But this is one time I will concede that I sold myself short. In hindsight, I was probably making up for being narcoleptic through other means and took it for granted.

That was certainly a highlight of that stay in Australia. More importantly, I was given a boost of confidence and self-esteem that helped carry me through the following years as I gained more experience and expanded my portfolio. I would certainly need those for what was to come.

To be continued.

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