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Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Foreign Element

In a recent set of course feedback, I was surprised to read that a couple ES2007S students, presumably Singaporeans, were dismayed by the presence of so many "foreign" students in the class. That opinion was presented via several directly stated assertions, that I will summarize as follows: 1) "Foreign" students don't take their studies as seriously as "local" students, and thus they might make group work perilous because they could become hindrances to a "local" achieving a good mark on an assigned task; 2) "foreign" students participate more than "local" students, in that way occupying classroom social space and currying favor with the teacher.

Being a "foreigner" myself, I tend to cringe whenever I read allegations based on generalizations, especially those which focus more on oddly perceived group characteristics rather than on the traits of individuals. In fact, when I reflect on the past term, I recall the term as quite special; it was a semester that indeed gave me and others in my three tutorial groups an opportunity to work not only with Singaporeans but also with nationals from India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, mainland China, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as far off Sweden, Norway (transplanted from Bosnia), Germany, the Czech Republic and France. It never occurred to me that this was a bad thing. I generally view the sharing of ideas with others from different countries and cultures a good thing, especially when one considers that "intercultural communication" is a key topic in this particular course, one for which a blog post is even required.

 However, I will admit that several non-local students who were visiting NUS on a one-semester "exchange" did demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice some of their work for the apparent opportunities available to "do the tourist thing" and travel in the region. That was clearly the minority though, and  even a few of those who traveled a lot were able to make major contributions to the course in the way of classroom participation and overall coursework.

The allegation that stung me the most though was that some of these students could gain my favor, simply because they were "foreigners." For me, such a perception could be based on the fact that a number of the non-locals were quite vocal, forward in their demeanor and confident in interacting not just with their classmates but with me as well. It is true that some local students are shy about speaking up in class, and more so when it comes to talking one on one before and after class with an instructor. Whatever void students like that might leave in the social environment is quickly filled by the outgoing, assertive students. And from my experience in ES2007S, there are outgoing, assertive students studying at NUS from all sorts of countries, including Singapore, who are happy to interact with their sensei!

Last term, were some of these outgoing personalities who happened NOT to be from Singapore eager to engage me before, during and after class? Indeed. I didn't need to approach them and say "hello" when they made a concerted effort to do exactly that with me.

Of course, it is a stereotype that "Westerners" are more outgoing than Asians. Was this universally true of the European students in ES2007S? No. There were some very quiet European students.

Was it universally true of the Indians, who generally are quite vocal? No. There were some rather reserved Indians as well. But some members of these two groups were certainly outgoing (and -- again -- others were as well). Could the fact that a few of the "non-locals" interacted with me easily and frequently have given someone the wrong impression that they were gaining my favor? Well, I suppose....

Here I need to emphatically state it was "the wrong impression" though because, after 30+ years of classroom interactions, I am not swayed simply by talk. There must be substance there as well.

I also pride myself in being both a suitable, balanced judge of character and demeanor and an impartial evaluator of the quality of work assigned in a course. Objectivity -- as much as is humanly possible -- is required in any educational setting to ensure that every student has equal opportunity to achieve his or her best. Being objective is also essential for a teacher who wants to accurately assess a student's skills so as to provide the most effective feedback for growth. These are  principles that I live and breathe.

In fact, in my opinion, I'm a generally friendly, open-minded guy who is willing to listen and talk to any student, and any person for that matter, no matter where he or she comes from. But I can also be a harsh critic, a demanding coach, one who can separate his personal likes and preferences from the job scope, to honestly address the learning tasks at hand and assess student needs, progress and accomplishments.

What do you think? I'm particularly interested in the views of students who have taken ES2007S within the last year, or even better, in the last semester.







21 comments:

Mohammad Hasan said...

I am really surprised to hear of such an allegation. As a student who took ES2007 last semester I can't really find any basis behind this allegation. I don't recall seeing any incident that indicated Brad treated a particular group of students differently than others.

As Brad has mentioned, I think it's a case of misunderstanding on part of some of our local classmates, who took the innate outgoing nature of a few students as a tool to gain favour from Brad. This is a completely wrong idea because in my class, all the Singaporeans were vocal as well. To think of it, they were actually some of the most active and vocal students in our class. It really depends on a student's personality how he/she behaves in class. So, if you see an outgoing "exchange" student having a friendly conversation with the lecturer it doesn't mean the lecturer will favour him while grading.

I am really disheartened seeing this post. All throughout last semester we learned so much about cultural bonding and being sensitive towards each other. It seems we really failed to use the things we learned in class in our real lives. I hope our local friends understand that they are having a misconception and these "exchange" students did not gain any advantages, atleast not in my class. I hope my fellow classmates will agree with me on this one.

Sincerely,
Mohamamd Hasan

Rohan Rajiv said...

Brad,

I have 3 thoughts here -

1. I did not think this to be the case from my personal experience. It's been a few years now but my memories are pretty fresh. I do not recall biases. So, my personal experience seems to indicate otherwise.

2. Biases are a part of being human. Every great teacher I know was biased. Having favorites is a part of the game. Having favorites is different from indulging in favoritism. Great teachers manage to keep those separate. Maybe you have a bias, maybe you don't - either way, it's part of being human. Again, I didn't feel a differentiation when I was studying with you.

Regd the generalization - In my limited experience, I think generalizations are not too far off the mark. So, I do think "foreign" students may be more vocal (on average) than Singaporean. But, since when did talking more equate to making sense?

3. It takes all kinds to make the world. This is something I remind myself from time to time. You might be doing something with the purest of intentions and yet, there is every chance it will be misconstrued by those who want to misconstrue. (i.e. haters gonna hate)

The trouble is that you tend to hear dissent more easily than you hear praise. It's impossible to be universally popular. All I will say is - rest assured, for every student of yours who throws allegations, you have a 100 who love you for having been a great teacher.

Yours was my favorite class in 4 years at NUS. Do keep up the good work, Brad. And, a touch of inspiration in case it helps..

Best wishes,
Rohan

(Apologies for typos, etc.)
--

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

You see.. In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

Chandra's ES2007S Blog said...

It is depressing to hear people accusing Brad of partiality. I was really surprised when I read this post. This actually puts our class (last semester) in a very interesting perspective because I believe that we had the most number of "foreigners" and a few exchange students. Brad was friendly to every person who walked upto him and spoke confidently and he gave every person in the class a chance to voice their opinion.

After such engaging classes and an amazing set of students where people expressed different kinds of emotions, it is really hard for a lecturer to remain unswayed by them. However, Brad accomplished that very effectively and this was reflected not just in the final grades, but during the course when he gave us the grades for various CA's. Not a single time did I speak or worry about grades when I was doing this course. Ironically, that has become the topic of debate here. I worked with an exchange student on one of my projects and I must admit that I was initially worried if she would take it seriously. Later, I realised I was wrong. The amount of dedication she put into the presentation was great. There have been a few cases in other core engineering modules when the exchange students haven't been too dedicated and their intention is just to pass. But please note, this isn't physics, chemistry or electrical engineering. This is communication.

I was particularly aghast when I read that locals accuse foreigners of not being serious about their studies. It is upsetting to see such a shallow comment from these few people. I wouldn't make the mistake of generalizing as locals. Not all locals are of this opinion I believe. I am pretty sure that my class mates are not of such an opinion. I wonder if a poor grade just left people searching for excuses and blaming the teacher is the easiest excuse. Its unfortunate that the guys who have made such sweeping remarks haven't taken anything out of this course. As Hasan mentioned, the course was about cultural bonding and being sensitive towards all nationalities but they have ended up hurting all foreigners here.

Renick Lee said...

What I've learnt: if you are gonna make an allegation, you have to be specific to make your case.

Now, currying favour, was it the encouragement given to foreign students? One that as a local you felt you would not otherwise receive for the same product? Personally I feel that there is no reason evaluating (and giving feedback to) someone to whom English is a 2nd language at a same level or gauge as a local, or criticizing every single grammatical flaw for that matter. There is a need to respond to them according to the appropriate sense, and progress is progress, even if you feel someone reached that point later than yourself. So don't be hoping for praise for something everyone else knows you are already able to do.

We have to stop surrounding ourselves with so much negativity when thinking about making allegations, life will be so much easier! Life is so much more than competition that doesnt make us better people, more than grades.

chickinbiskit said...


Brad mentioned 2 allegations being made. I find them to be nothing short of ludicrous and this is why.

The first was about foreign students not taking their work seriously. While I have heard of horror stories of working with exchange students, I have also heard of horror stories of working with non-exchange students. Personally, I have had bad experiences working with locals and NUS students who could not care less about a project and on the other hand I have had great experiences working with a mix of both NUS students/locals and foreign students. My own team mate who was on exchange here was quick to prove to everyone else in the team that he meant serious business despite taking trips and doing the "tourist thing". My point is that in any group project, there's bound to be people of different characteristics, different levels of interest and thus different levels of commitment. It does not make any sense at all to generalize. Such generalizations only serve to discredit the statements made and this, I believe is clear to everyone(except of course the one/s making the allegations).

The second was about foreign students participating more than local students and thus occupying classroom social space, currying favor with the teacher.
I am a firm believer in believing that your experiences in the class and what you get out of it really is what you, as a student make of it. As for those who felt slighted by the more sociable and outgoing exchange students/foreigners, I feel that they would only have themselves to blame for not trying to speak up. Brad did a good job in giving everybody ample opportunities to speak up and even at times, prompted those quieter ones to give them a chance to voice out their opinions.

In fact, in my group 4, the Singaporeans and NUS students from other countries were mostly outspoken and quick to voice out their opinions.
There were a few who were known to be rather quiet in class but I figured that it was in their nature not to speak up. In any case, they missed out on their opportunities to speak up in class. All they had to do was to raise their hands at any point in class. Brad was always on the lookout for anyone who wanted to speak up.

All in all, I feel that the allegations are absurd and unfounded.
This class was certainly the best I have had in all my 3 years (ok fine 5 semesters) in university so far. I'll be honest. I have learned more in this module than any other module I have ever sat for. The class environment was unlike any I have been to and it was certainly a place for anyone at all to speak up provided one took the opportunity. I certainly think that the allegations were made without any solid ground and that it may have been done out of spite perhaps by someone who was envious of those who were more outspoken.

I think Rohan put it nicely when he said that for every student who makes such statements, there will be a hundred others who are will vouch for how awesome the class was any day. Brad, such allegations only deserve one look and nothing more. We have more awesome things to do:D

Cheers:D

edwinK said...

Hi all!

I took this module about 5 semesters ago. So perhaps I am in no position to make any judgements on such allegations. After all, I was not in Brad's class last semester, nor had I observed first-hand the dynamics and classroom interactions that transpired during that period. In addition, during the time where I took the module, we had only about 2 to 3 'non-locals' out of our class of around 13. But upon reading this entry, I have a few thoughts.

As I look at pictures that are uploaded on the module's facebook page semester after semester, I get a little green seeing how much international exposure students in the previous few semesters receive. After all, isn't this what the course is really preparing us for? Singapore becoming increasingly cosmopolitan, it perhaps is an illusion for us students to think that we can escape working with 'non-locals' in the future. In fact, for many of us, we'd probably be having angmoh bosses, or colleagues of many different nationalities in the future. Hence, students of this module should instead of being turned off by the local:non local ratio, be excited about the opportunities presented by such arrangements. There is much to be learnt from our counterparts on exchange. Inter-cultural communication is brought from theory into real life. Every time we speak to someone from another country, we put what we learn in class into practical usage. In fact, we gain even more from what we learn from websites by speaking with them and we are much better prepared for interaction with internationals in the future. What a privilege that is! And if we students overlook all these opportunities for real learning to occur in school, only viewing them as threats to our grade, it can only be described as tragic.

My second point: Participation. From my experience in Brad's class, there is always, ALWAYS room for participation. Brad always allowed time and space to people who wished to express themselves. That was independent of nationalities, or 'localities'. As long as we had something to contribute in class, there was always air time for us. I remember fondly how most of us in our batch were very participative in class, and we really got a lot out of this module. Even with our mainly local class, there were the ones who were more participative, and those who engaged in conversations with Brad after lessons. Brad's is popular you know, not just with the foreign students. So again, I have to say that there's always room for participation, whether or not there are people hogging 'airtime'. It's just a matter of whether we are willing to, and really, unrelated to the alleged foreignness.

Last of all, If we grow to be more outspoken or to be less shy after this module, whether or not it is out of choice, this module had served its purpose. We can take pride and be happy at how we had grown in presenting ourselves, even if we may not be completely satisfied with the grade. My personal belief is this (you don't have to subscribe to it, but do consider it):
We enter into university to receive an education.
A bad grade with an education is one worthwhile.
A good grade without an education is an empty hull.

Whatever our thoughts are about the situation in this module, I hope that we students would be educated through this course, and prepared for the work and the people we'd be working with in the future, locals and non-locals. Have a great semester ahead guys, and jia you Brad!

Dhanya said...

Brad,

Our perception is often the product of our thoughts and beliefs. The student who has made such an unreasonable accusation surely had some bitter ideas about foreigners. He/She probably thinks foreigners perform only due to the partiality offered to them.

I am disheartened to read that an NUS student, probably from my own class, said something like this. With all the talk we had about intercultural spirit driving the world to a better state - I am sad to see that we have failed our own peer in understanding the greatness of bringing in different cultures to one table.

I sincerely hope this said student recovers from his/her personal crude judgement and broadens their thinking. NUS and ES2007S should be creating individuals with open minds and not baseless reservations.

You were one of the three inspiring teachers I have had at NUS, Brad. Please do remember that there are students like me who appreciate your work and are grateful for your friendship! And I can say without any doubt that it was indeed, a wrong accusation.

Best,
Dhanya

Lim Shiying said...

Hello to Brad and everyone out there reading this post, I was a student of ES2007S under Brad and I am a Singaporean.

First and foremost, by "foreign students in Brad’s class were able to gain his favour”, do you mean by they getting more ‘air-time’ compared to us Singaporeans? If you meant that, I would agree with you. But then again, if you were to look back at the class structure, which in my case, we had 1 from China, 1 from Norway, 1 from Germany, 3 from India, 1 from Vietnam, 1 from Myanmar, 1 from Indonesia, and 8 of us Singaporeans, would you rather listen to 7-8 comments based on simply one country or have opinions and ideas from all 8 different countries? I would be interested in hearing viewpoints from the other parts of the world!

Furthermore, in some countries, the way they do things are very different from what we do here. Thus, the exchange students would normally raise their concerns and provide their views whenever such discrepancies were made known. This is partly the reason why they are so vocal I believe. But even so, I do feel that we were given a lot of opportunities to provide our viewpoints. It is just the matter of whether you are willing to do so. And Brad would normally try to ask those who have not been voicing out to give comments whenever possible. Being someone who is not so into raising hands and providing my viewpoints in class, I do made several contributions after several prompts from Brad.

As for the "Foreign students don't take their studies as seriously as local students”, like what the earlier commentators have said, I do hear my peers and seniors warning me not to group with them as well. But I must say, my “exchange” groupmates had changed my perspective drastically. Quoting a small part of my last blogpost that I made last semester,

“Thank you Ding Ding and Sumea, my 2 exchange group mates who have showed me that even as an exchange student, one can still give his or her best for the sake of others. My friends always warned me not to group with exchange students because their grades do not matter so long they passes. And they are the ones who will be MIA(missing in action) most of the time or present substandard work. However, this was not true for Dingding and Sumea. Both of them were always trying their best to alleviate my work load and worry if they were doing enough so that I can get a good grade. Thank you Sumea and Dingding for showing me the correct way of learning, and I hope to be able to spread such positive attitude on my exchange trip.”

http://shiyingislost.blogspot.sg/

So, to those students who are worried that Brad will favour the foreigners and that exchange students are not going to do work and burden you, I suggest that not to indulge in such pessimism. Why not try to embrace everything with an open heart and involve more in class? I am sure you will see the beauty of this class, just like how all my classmates and I had.

Rohit Mukherjee said...

ES2007S was my favourite module last semester. The allegation that Brad was partial towards the "foreign element" is completely baseless.

Being an international university, NUS encourages the presence of talented students regardless of their home country. Stereotypes are meant for individuals who have not had first-hand interactions with the community in question. I found the atmosphere in es20007s conducive for intercultural communication. It allowed us to learn from each other's expertise and diverse backgrounds.

Brad identified something unique about every student in the class and also fostered a degree of friendship between everyone present in class. This allowed everyone to interact and socialize beyond the classroom. The module as also given me the chance to meet talented, interesting individuals who I pride on calling friends.

It is very normal for students to have healthy relationships with their professors even outside the classroom. This friendship is based on mutual respect and not an attempt to gain favour.

Brad also helped many students improve their reading/writing skills and encouraged the class to help each other out.

I hope my 2 cents in addition to the other comments by my classmates clears this confusion.

Ariele said...

hey brad. what an interesting article you have here. the foreign element is indeed an issue etched in every aspect of the Singaporean life experience and hence, very close to our hearts. in fact, it is quite possibly at the top of us Singaporeans' lists of complains. sadly, this "xenophobia" has insidiously infiltrated our universities as well.

the two points mentioned in the first article instantly get my thoughts going. i understand the cause for concern on your part as a dedicated educator but i hope that you won't take such comments to heart as a foreigner yourself. at the same time, i instantly identify with students who feel this way. while i disapprove of overgeneralizations, i would say that such overgeneralizations are products of previous bad experiences that students may have had or heard of. i hope my comment might shed light on the reasons behind such anti-foreigner sentiments. you proposed two main categories of foreigners that us local students fear-- (1) the free-rider and (2) the spotlight-grabber. allow me to break these categories down further:

there are 3 main types of free-riders as i see it (and I know for a fact that they exist):

the worst kind: they are the final-year (and/or just plain lazy) student grouped with other-year students and counting on their teammates to pick up their slack. it happens in engineering modules. while the free-rider is at times a local, we often hear of particular nationalities being associated with this notorious label. i'm not one to cast and promote certain stereotypes but you might say that certain people bring it upon their nationalities. halfway across the globe in the States, i have friends who share the same perception based on negative experiences.

the bench-warmer: this often refers to one who does not consider English to be his/her first language and struggles with it. in the case of a module like es2007s where we are expected to execute tasks to perfection, the more patient lot of us might try to keep our less linguistically comfortable counterparts up to speed but sooner or later (especially when it's crunch time), we realize that it's more effort-effective and less upsetting to just redistribute said person's workload to the rest. understandably, this is an unpleasant experience as it means more work (on top of our course workloads) on everyone's shoulders. in singapore, as you would know, we consider english to be our first language and it is a pre-requisite given considerable weightage in university admission; what this means is that more often than not, this poor bench-warmer is a foreigner.

the tourist: you've mentioned him already. we've heard the stories about the exchange student who takes flights out every weekend, crams last minute mugging in the 3 days before exams and is more read-up in tourist attractions than their course materials. they can afford to do all that because they're evaluated on a pass/fail (as opposed to graded) basis. no, i'm not talking about the angmoh who steps into NUS' doors; i'm talking about the whimsical picture painted to us by many a Singaporean exchange student after spending a semester in europe/america. so you can see now, why students might attach the same fear of lack of seriousness to incoming exchange students?

i'm sure you would agree, brad, that NUS provides such a competitive scene that even in an open-ended class like es2007s, at the end of the day, we want to secure that A and harbouring a potential free-rider is too much of a hassle. so although i disagree with associating this stereotype with foreigners only, i understand why students might feel that way.

Ariele said...

as for the spotlight-grabber, i can sort of relate too. i think more than anything, it might be a case of inferiority complex. i may be speaking for only myself when i say this but singapore has a very strong sense of shame and i think that comes hand in hand with having high standards for pretty much everything. personally, i only speak up when i think i have something unconventional and correct to say. with foreign exchange students in class, i would imagine that there's the added pressure of setting a good impression because we slip into "singapore ambassador" mode. while it is not a healthy way to learn, students who have the gift of gab, exude charisma and are comfortable with freestyling speeches, tend to intimidate the more softspoken lot of us. our insecurities about the way we might sound, our lack of eloquence and the shallowness of our opinions restrain us from thinking we have anything of value to contribute to the class. foreign students, we feel, are better than us when it comes to an open-ended course like es2007s. obviously, this mentality has to change.

i really don't think the students meant to accuse you of partiality. as most of your ex-students have shown on the comments here and from my experience as one of them, i never did get that impression from you. it was clear that you took well to all students- you were responsive to the vocal ones and you tried to get the more reserved ones to break out of their shells more. i think what they really meant is that foreign students, being generally better communicators (for the reasons mentioned earlier), naturally "shine" more, making it difficult for the local students to stand out.

but here again, it was wrong of our local students to firstly, take healthy competition with a defeated attitude and secondly, to associate this with only foreigners. we had our fair share of powerhouse individuals in our class--titus, tanisha, loshini, mercia, jacq that put this allegation to rest. at the time, i didn't really worry about them stealing my thunder but was more focused on learning from them; it is lamentable that your later students missed out on reaping the same benefits because of their shyness.

so i hope that i've made you realise that these allegations, though admittedly wrong, are not as irrational and baseless as you might have thought. either way, in a class like es2007s, every experience, good/bad, is a lesson in disguise. i'm sure that these students are still hung up on the quantitative aspects of the course, reflecting over it in terms of grades, time and effort spent, opportunity costs incurred. after a semester or so, these students will probably look back on this module more fondly. i have to say though, if it's post-course feedback, chances are, there are concrete reasons behind them.

well that was quite a lengthy comment, couldn't help it lol. it was like a blast to the past, commenting on a blog post all over again. to sum it up, don't sweat it, brad, you're an awesome teacher and you have hoards of students who would vouch for that.

Titus Lim said...

It is said that "the meaning of life is to give life meaning". An evident translation of that saying is that your destination depends on your effort.

As a local student who has taken and thoroughly enjoyed this module, I do believe that these allegations are rather baseless. Given that this is a communication module, how can you expect to score if you don't put in an effort to learn?

To learn communication, one must communicate often and always be receptive to constructive feedback. Therefore, local students who cry foul simply because of the presumption of a special "bias" towards foreign students simply are not trying hard enough or need to re-examine their learning attitude.

Moreover, Brad is one of the most personable teachers in the entire campus. He makes a genuine effort to forge a friendship that is beyond the classroom. As a lecturer of the communication module, students should view him as a role model to emulate.

Lastly, I've not known any local students who felt this way towards Mr.Blackstone's class. Suffice to say, every lesson was an enjoyable learning experience for us and although the final grade does matter to our transcript, it is ultimately the life skills we garner for this class that will put us in good stead for the future.

So, to reconcile with my introduction; how we feel is often how we choose to feel about our circumstances. One can cry foul of the self-perceived disadvantaged circumstances or one can choose to reflect, move on, work even harder and reconcile your learning. Unlike popular opinion (that it is natural to feel disadvantaged), I feel that this is a conscious choice.

We only live once.

Sofie said...

I find it very strange that in a course where the main focus is to express yourself and your opinions one choose to save such serious accusations until it is too late for the "social space occupiers" to do anything about it.

I can not agree with "exchange students is taking to much space" but I can see where it is coming from. Speaking from my own experience moving across the world to a new country and a new language meant I was forced to grow up and come out of my shell to get by. From that experience I feel more secure in many things, one of them is speaking up in front of a crowd. I am not sure if any other exchange students feel the same? For a local student it might feel like I am stealing the attention when all I am trying to do is improve my own skills from where I am at and contribute.

A major reason why we do group projects is to learn how to work with others. If you come and complain afterwards you are missing something here. Most exchange students I have worked with have been incredible. NUS do not let us in unless we have really good grades, so most of us are decent.. To blame a failed group project on an exchange student is like blaming the refugee you lost a soccer game. It can have an impact but it is not the main problem.

To gain the teachers favor because you are a foreigner in a class with strong focus on intercultural behavior is even more stupid than blaming the refugee you lost the game, it is like blaming your mom in the grandstand. Goes against everything we discussed and learned in class. Would a teacher do exactly opposite of what he teach his students? I do not think you can get by with that in the long run, not even as a "foreigner".

It was a long time since I had a teacher with such genuine intrest in each and every individual's development, so I understand that these accusations hurt a bit, it always does when you put your heart into it.

I had to do an elevator pitch today. Everyone had to pitch a design idea in 30 seconds. There were judges giving out points (50% design concept and 50% performance). I made it to the second round and finished 4th from the top in the finals. It would not have happend with out the skills i picked up in ES2007S.

So keep the spirit up Brad, it is truly a great course and you are truly a great teacher.

//Sofie

Mark said...

Sup Brad,

I'd like to be able to help you decide which exactly is the problem you'd experienced, but that just isn't going to happen properly without a congress discussion with all the protagonists and antagonists at hand. Then could we be sure the congressmen do not equivocate when detailing the processes and interactions in which they thought they truly saw a favoring problem with you, so that we definitely could get down fast and sure to the problem that is? Squabbling all day amongst one another at the congress without finally finding the real problem is something that no congressman needs, and in such an interpersonal and intercultural setting as the one you experienced in class, it is likely to happen, precisely because every one of those congressmen will have very subjective definitions of what the problem is, without an objective ruling, perhaps the qualified Head of Congress or The Dean, on them. If ever the problem is finally pinpointed by some agreement, still we find there will be a trace of reluctance among those who had dragged themselves into the arrangement; they would still be finding ways to think of how contrived such an agreement is, because they know full well they have lost some or all of the high-ground, and they are averse to the solution of the problem because they might be all of it. They are so coerced by the The Dean that they have to forfeit some of their egotistical views in exchange for being a helpful participant to the solution. What'd be worst is if they had pretended all along to have been complicit and full of repentance, and that would be very true to some very large or small extent, always. Then we find another problem that didn't get resolved and continues to this day to suspect.


There is no true resolution of any problem, only second and third best deals!

Our high courts and justice systems *truly* issue next-best verdicts insomuch as they have learned to come to think of them as best or perfect, and that just might happen haughtiness and subsequently corruption into the supposed doubly reinforced sinews of Virtue.

Cheers!:)

Mark said...

Dear Brad, you’d all the fair power in your profession to determine what’d been fair according to you only; you didn’t need any threats to doubt that, and why would you, anyway, after all the years of keen experience; I imagine that there is not very much to add to that collection of stature. I’m not finding you an excuse!

Loshini Prabhai said...

Dearest Brad,

I feel so sorry that you had to undergo such a unfair judgement on the part of those students who put you through this! You highlighted two main woes in this post.

The first being the fact that local students feel that exchange students always tend to contribute lesser than the local students and that they are not as serious in their work as the local students. I find that this problem is due to the fact that local students have a very unhealthy habit of stereotyping and often make a mountain out of a molehill.

I have to disagree with the local students who acted in this manner because I personally have had many pleasant experiences exchange students. 2 semesters ago I took this module where every group were allotted in such a way that there were 2 exchange students in each group.

I felt that our group discussions were very engaging because the exchange shared so much of experiences and information with us given that they were globetrotters. Sometimes they would be absent during group discussions because they may have gone to a neighbouring country for a holiday given that flights in and out of Asia is cheaper than it is from Europe.

My group never complained because the exchange students in my group always made up for the time that they were absent for. Therefore I value their contribution very much. I have also heard other instances of exchange students who have indeed 'slacked' in their work. But which local student does not? We cannot stereotype an entire group of exchange students just because of one bad nut!!!

The second problem highlighted in your post is the fact that the local students feel that you are curry favouring the exchange students??!! Brad could you please show me that student? I want to just stand there and laugh at him;) HAHA.

I have to mention that Brad is an exemplary tutor who highly regards students in favour of their work well done and not in favour of their nationality definitely. He is also a tutor who is always willing to put in after-class hours to help one improve his work in class. Brad did that for me when my peer group member and I were very disheartened by our performance in class during a certain session! To add a kind note at this point: My peer and I are both locals and indeed we did not experience any sort of biasness!!! Stereotypers please bang your heads on the wall next to you!

Brad please do not be disheartened by the fact that some students may treat you in a unfair stance. I suggest you should mark down these students under a new marking scheme which includes: presence of stereotyping!!! Haha just joking! I still think you are the best tutor I have gotten in all my classes so far and I am in my final year! I still miss your classes!!! See you soon Brad:) You will always be the best:)

With lots of wishes that many other students must benefit from your teaching just like my peers and I did,
Loshini Prabhai

Kavishna Ranmali K. A said...
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Anonymous said...
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Eunice Chew said...

Hi Brad,

As a Singaporean who has taken your class, I am rather appalled to hear such feedback from your students. In fact, what I miss in your class is the discussion and sharing of ideas with others from other countries and even from you who is a foreigner. I enjoyed hearing the different perspective shared by people of various background and nationality on issues. However, it is a pity that our locals view foreigners in this manner. From my experience in your class and going for exchange in the US, some foreigners do speak up and participate more in class but I sincerely believe that they have no underlying intention of doing so, so as to take up class time and “curry” favour the teacher. If no one participates, how can we learn from one another? In fact, I appreciate the times when they spoke up and shared their thoughts. I learned a lot from them.

When we look at a particular situation, we can choose to think of it positively or negatively. Have we considered them speaking up as one who is contributing to our learning and discussion rather than one who is taking up class time and “curry” favour the teacher?

Working in groups with different people is never easy. It seems convenient to blame the foreigners who do not take their work seriously. However, as adults, it is our responsibility to work with the team and make it work… If the member fails to do the work, one can approach the teacher with clear evidence that he/she has not been doing the work or try to talk to the member. As I work now, I believe that such skills in managing a team is very important and the more one should be learning it in the university before they start work.

Professor Brad is a really approachable teacher. I have no doubts that he will listen to his students’ feedback no matter what country he/she come from as he has done for me. What I respect him the most which I can remember till today is that he is a very objective and principled person.

I hope that we can learn to change our perceptions towards foreigners and see it as an opportunity to learn from one another.

I miss your class, Professor Brad.

Eunice (2010 class)

Brad Blackstone said...

Thank you to everyone who has commented. Not only have you made us think about this topic in more detail, but you've touched my heart.

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