Thursday, December 07, 2006

In & Out of the Role

As a TF, I want my students to understand that Confucianism has undergone major changes and transformations and throughout century has been studied and used not only as a moral philosophy but a political one. As a TF, I want my students to understand that the notion of modernity is at times more blurred than expected, that a modern man like Xu Zhimo could divorce a woman who was 7-month into her pregnancy, whereas another modern man like Hu Shi would choose to stick with his rather bossy and country-side wife. As a TF, I also want my students to be amazed that Tang was the golden era of China - the quintessential model of pre-modern-day cosmopolitanism - to understand that the Yuan named itself after "yuan" for the meaning of "origin," to know that clashes of Eastern and Western civilization had already occurred in the 18th century except that the Europeans weren't strong enough to advance its imperialistic attempts, and to see that the KMT/CCP party structure wasn't all that different at the point of their formation.

As a TF, I may even *hope* that one day, as a 40-something-year-old investment banker or the CEO of some multi-national cooperation based in the U.S., a student or two of mine would visit China and upon hearing some tour guide's introduction of 蘇堤春曉 in 杭州, he/she would suddenly cry out - "Oh, I remember this guy! He's the guy who opposed Wang Anshi's reform back in the Song Dynasty! And he wrote beautiful prose and poetry!"

Or for him/her to look at a Great Leap Forward poster and remember - "Now, this is the movement that caused the deaths of 10 million people in China, mostly peasants in the poor countryside."

Stepping out of my TF role, however, I CAN CARE LESS about whether or not they remember any of the things stated above. Not a thing.

Ok, maybe except remembering *vaguely* who Confucius or Dr. Sun Yat-sen is.

Stepping out of my TF role, what I really want is for my students to have a college education that not only teaches them knowledge about this world, equip them with critical and analytical thinking skills, train them to think outside the box, develop a genuine curiosity of the things unfamiliar if not unknown, but also to develop a sense of care for the well-being of each human soul and to cultivate further their compassion for those who are underserved and underprivileged.

Stepping out of my TF role, I also want them to see that learning how to write well could carry them very far, knowing how to speak articulately but not imposingly or overbearingly is crucial to human communication, and maturing in their understanding of and respect for other voices of dissidents may provide them the key to forgiveness or reconciliation in any arising conflicts in future.

Stepping gout of my TF role, I even desire more for them to continue to embrace their dreams, follow their hearts, and listen to the inner voices inside rather than what the world - or wall street - is telling them. I don't want them to be mere over-achievers who live in cloud 9 or under achievers who only care for the comfort in life. Nor do I want them to start feeling beaten up or weighed down by the insurmountable pressure from friends or competition among peers who have always been "the best" and "no. 1" and cannot imagine life lived otherwise.

Nor do I want them to joggle among 3+ extracurricular activities (plus playing for varsity baseball or writing for The Crimson) or live on sheer 3-4 hours a sleep a day. Even though, sigh, at times I wish that for myself too.

When I look back at my college years, I know that the greatest lessons learned are hardly the knowledge that I gained in class or the insights on Japanese lit/art that I diligently acquired - though those are precious and important too. Nor are the professors whom I respected the most those who gave the best lectures or acclaimed to be THE most influential masters of the field - though one of them indeed is all of the above.

Besides the 8 months of abroad time in Kyoto where the city, the host family, the challenge of learning a new language (and becoming comfortable with it), and the everyday-life immersion in art, aesthetic beauty, seasonal change, and relics of historical past accounted for THE heyday of my college career ... Yes, besides these things, what truly accounted for the highlight of my college experience was the time spent on working with a team of ppl under a common goal AND the time spent on meeting/interacting with professors who cared about the students not for their grades or knowledge or intellectual ability per se but for their qualities as mere human beings, energetic human beings, the young 20-yr-old, the crazy 20-year-old who are passionate yet a bit wild, a bit direction-less yet bold (or ignorant as some may say) enough keep dreaming for the great future.

Role model that is called. It was meeting those role models that made the part of the college experience forever memorable.

As a TF, I want to be that role model for my students. But stepping out of my TF role I want to be just the same to them. I want to be a role model not b/c I may boast the most amount of knowledge or interesting insights but simply b/c I care for them and want them to care for those around them as well.

And not only those who swim and float but those who sink as well. B/c unless they learn that, they are not going to learn to care for the more underprivileged out there in this world who are in desperate need of attention and love.

I'm not sure if Harvard is a place that doesn't really care if a student floats or sinks even though a student who transferred in from another school has readily told me so. But I want to make sure that I'm not going to be one of the contributors to such a reality if it indeed has been.

And I want them to know that - stepping out of Harvard Yard - they are very very good and have worked very very hard already. There's more to life beyond the Harvard Yard, if only they look closely.

梅ちゃん at 3:48:00 PM



at 12/8/06, 6:58 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...


at 12/8/06, 12:23 PM Anonymous Derek said...

When you design your tutorial class, could you require students to work together in group assignments? Could you encourage students to try experiental learning in underprivileged parts of Cambridge?

"Service learning" is one example of integrating the community life into the classroom:


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