Sunday, 29 July 2012

Procrastinator? Embracing Procrastination... A reflection on my career

I am a procrastinator. Due to an understanding of that, it comes with 'maturity' to truly see yourself for who you are - a procrastinator who loves the rush of adrenaline when you are striving to meet the deadline, and doing a pretty good job at that - when you meet others of the same nature, i.e. 'practitioners' of procrastination, that sense of 'familiarity' brought back some nostalgic feelings.

I hold the principle that if it doesn't harm anyone, I procrastinate, if it concerns a team, a group or of a larger scale, I finish the task before you can even say start. I am a selective procrastinator that way, I prioritise.


You see, I have been in my current job for more than three years, and counting. For those uninitiated, I am a lecturer, an educator/teacher, however you call me, I'd like to call myself a communicator as I am sharing what I learned back in university, and also my work experience when I was still 'out there' in the industry - communication - and I find myself 'communicating' to these young people more than 'educating' them anyway. One advantage is that I get at least a third of my yearly number of 'new students' to befriend me on fb annually and I do get some of them as my twitter followers as well.


However, right from the beginning, I am quite disappointed that the number of 'interaction' hours with the students tend to be lesser than the number of hours I spend pushing papers and deal with red pens (marking) and filling up mountains of forms and preparing reports. I think it is a global phenomenon for educators, the number of hours you actually spend with students are like a third or even a fourth of your whole workload?


Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy my job - the hours I spent interacting with the kids (I still call them kids in a good way as they are so very young!) reminds me of how beautiful youth is, the youth that is slowly slipping away from the physical body. They keep my spirit 'young' and with that, I feel more energetic and 'alive', hubby always commented on how 'fired up' and high-spirited I am - DAILY - he calls it 'hyper'. :-)


I never really know the feeling of being 'overwhelmed' till I took on this job.

NOT when I was reporter and the editor was staying back to wait for me to finish my front page news to complete the printing of the front and back page - which was reserved just for my news.

NOT when my neck was on the line when my client was breathing down my neck and shouting on the phone when something 'went wrong' a day before a huge event or when as a PR practitioner, the media attendance was really poor (read: one media turn-up) - we turned it around and somehow did not get overwhelmed and made it positive anyway!

NOT when it was the umpteenth time your client shoved back your work at you and complained your copywriting isn't up to what they were expecting, and finally they settled for the first few drafts you sent in the first place, without realising they themselves rejected it initially. No, those are NOT overwhelming.

NOT when the board of directors dislike the fact that you wrote something without having gone through it with them, despite the fact that you are not supposed to be answering to them anyway. No, not when your career seems to be in a tight fix.

Nope, I never considered those moments 'overwhelming'.

NOT when the office politics got worse and you are on the worst receiving end of it. NO, those are not really overwhelming, it is easy to walk away when you don't really have a reason to stay anyway.

I kinda summarised my entire career's 'most difficult moments' in those few paragraphs.

lol Exciting times.

Really, the rush of adrenaline in the heat of the chase really (still) gets me all fired up. I am THAT kind of person.

Sometimes, it does get stressful with the sheer number of students - average ten classes which translates to over 200 students at any given semester, and multiply that number by three assignments (not including the in-between assignment exercises you give), and at the end of every semester, you get equal number of exam scripts to mark in less than a week (average five working days and sometimes a few more days if you are lucky).

I find that after my regular work hours are over, minus the family meal times, washing up and household chores, and some winding down time with hubby in front of the telly, I need to sacrifice my sleeping time or even my weekends to catch up with the marking that I tend to bring home. Oh, I abhor marking. Detest, hate, shudder with apprehension... however you describe it oh yeah, I really am not a big fan, not even a small fan of marking. If we are talking about an entire class of a single class with only 18-20 students for an entire semester, oh yes, that is fine.

With my current institution, due to its popularity and large intake of students annually, to the extent we only have a single intake yearly as opposed to other instutitions who may have two or three or even four intakes annually, I guess you can say it is worth being proud that our single intake brings in enough number of students, the volume is really overwhelming we need to put a stop to double intakes or more.

It is easy to get 200 students or more under your tutelage at any one time. If you need to spend about 20-30 minutes on a single item to mark, if you have already done the Maths about three paragraphs before, if there are a minimum of 200 students, you should get 600 assignments, and if it is a 'writing' paper, with exercises, with another three exercises (minimum) - add another 600 exercises, and 200 full length exam papers which takes about 30 minutes to fully mark (minimising errors) - so 600+600+200 = 1,400 items = 1,400 x 25 mins (average) = 35,000 minutes = 583 hours and 20 minutes. That is equivalent to 24 days 7 hours and 20 minutes.

And we have to squeeze that into 16 weeks. Each work day, we have 24 hours - Deduct 9 hours for regular work hours - deduct 6 hours daily for sleep (minimum) - deduct 1 hour for personal hygiene stuff - deduct 1 hour for commuting (travelling to and from work, shopping for household products, etc) - deduct 2 hours and 30 minutes for meals (including preparation at home or waiting for food outside) - deduct 30 minutes minimum for household chores, mostly laundry, don't talk about sweeping or mopping, deduct 1 hour for cuddling/telly time/chatting with your partner. That is not including 1 hour of catching up with the news, going online to check mails, some family time - calling up your parents/in-laws, and doesn't include maybe another 1 hour to engage in social media - 15 mins on twitter, 15 mins on fb, nah, who am I kidding, we need to do that twice to be fully engaged in social media - so an hour a day it is.

How many hours are you left with in a day? Exactly ONE HOUR left.
And I don't have kids yet. If I have kids, then that precious one hour will be taken away. Poof. So where do I squeeze in the marking? Spoken like a true procrastinator, back to the topic at hand.

By the end of the day, when you are winding down, the last thing you wanna look at are scores of 'mistakes' and half-hearted attempts of courseworks/assignments/work, however you call it. Maybe about 10% of them would be 'gems', truly a delight to mark but if you think of the rest of the 90%, it really takes away my appetite for even my favourite food. We haven't even factored in the time every lecturer need to prepare for lessons, research time, etc. Something's gotta give. Don't we have some personal me time? I haven't stepped into a spa or salon for the longest time!

For weekends, out of that 24 hours - we tend to have 'more time' to relax, or so we thought.

It is only a sacrifice if you don't enjoy doing it and I DON'T. So you sacrifice your sleep (I've stayed up all night and only took a nap at 7am before waking up at 9am to submit the scrips), your family time (thank Goodness for understanding spouses), your weekends are gone, bye!! and who even have time for some 'me time'?

It does get very disappointing sometimes when you have repeated the same thing for 14 weeks since the first lecture and yet, at the finishing mark, where all runners reach the final destination, they just 'don't get it' and did exactly what you told them NOT to do.

Whose fault it is?
I do take it very hard and feel very bad when students fail or fail to achieve even a minimum pass. Even with a lot of 'hand-holding' and guidance, I find that there will still be 10% who just refuse to listen or just plainly ignore what you say. Such blatant disregard do make me lose it sometimes but I rarely show it in front of anyone.

The kids tend to skip lectures, there are those who diligently attend each lecture, rain or shine, with or without 'traffic jams', fatigue or illness.

Then why do those who chose to skip lectures cannot emulate those who diligently attend each lecture?

It makes my blood boil everytime these SAME STUDENTS ask for exam tips or say: "Please, give us very 'specific guidelines', Miss" - I feel like they are making fun of the entire semester and disregarding everyone's efforts the entire four months. Who are you to come at the end of the semester that once or twice to DEMAND FOR SOMETHING you don't even deserve?

Some even blatantly, albeit jokingly, asked for the actual questions. You might as well break into the safe and get caught and get expelled or worse, go serve your time in jail. You wanna drag me down with such a stupid request? What's the use of attending college/university when you don't wish to use your brain?

Yes, we can procrastinate, but not at the expense of others. If it only concerns you and your personal well-being, so be it.

However, if you are in a group, or a whole big system, just one weak link will cause the entire system to fail. Don't forget that every young person will grow up to be older and be part of the system that forms the society. We are all interconnected and what you do or say will affect others.

Oh yes, I have taken some harsh actions and said some hard-to-swallow remarks especially in the heat of the moment, which I am reflecting on right now. Some people just cannot take it, hence they lashed back the best way they can by complaining or b*tching about it online. Hey, what goes around, comes around, you think we are still in the Stone Ages? This is the Digital Age where nothing escapes anyone!

Your reputation is what people think you are; your character is what you are.

I guess I am comfortable enough in my skin to not really care about either. I have a pretty good reputation and I love my colourful character. We cannot please everyone!

Anyway, at the end of each semester, I do realise I am a forgiving person. I don't hold grudges as it really will eat you up inside, and I do forgive these kids who have 'trespassed', and ultimately, youth is when you are supposed to make mistakes. I blame youth and not the humans.

Related Post: Career Change? What Made Me Stick Around?


Nick said...

Well written. Respect*
Hoping for more posts regarding your experience/thoughts about life of being a lecturer. Would love to know more =)

Sue Tiong said...

Thank you Nick. It means a lot to me that you actually read the whole long blogpost!

Nick said...

The pleasure is mine =) Hmmmm....may I ask, how do I address you?
Your blog posts are definitely interesting! haha! especially this post =D
Oh yea, and how did you find me up on fb? @_@

Sue Tiong said...

:) Check your pm. You can call me by my name or add a Ms in front, either way is fine.