Saturday, March 05, 2011

Things I have learned from my students so far.

I had an incredible roller coaster week.

The past 2 years have been crazy, my whole life was turned upside down ever since I started teaching.

Yesterday, I had a final presentation class with my students. This semester I gave them a project, a conceptual book that also acts as their resume as fresh graphic designers. In the book, they were supposed to design an infographics CV, a magazine interview, a catalogue and an advertisement about themselves. When I gave the project, I just thought of it as a fun way for them to learn the different layout styles.

But I got more than I asked for.

Despite struggling with a new software (Adobe InDesign) and juggling 4 to 5 other subjects with equally challenging projects, they did an AMAZING job. It was way more than I expected, they totally surprised me. But what strikes me most was during their presentation.

I was a bit pissed at first because they seemed to have forgotten a lot of details that were required in the project. I was looking at all the minute details and was starting to get all angry with their typography errors and a whole lot of other things. But slowly as I paid close attention to what they were saying, I realized something more.

They shared their experiences while explaining the infographics, and I found out a lot about their backgrounds. Most of them have worked doing various jobs before and some of them are still working. They worked at restaurants, became gas pump attendants, supermarket promoters and some were even construction workers at some point. I felt a bit unsettled. I'll explain why later.

They also had various education before coming to UNISEL, some were studying architecture, computer science, engineering and one is even a certified accountant. Most don not even have an art background. Some were from other art institutions but continued their studies in UNISEL for the financial factor. It is the cheapest private art and design program in the country, with relatively low syarat kelayakan masuk (entry requirements). This saying that the cream of the crop students would not normally choose UNISEL Art & Design program if they had a choice of other more established institutions like UiTM.

When it got to the magazine interview part of the book, where I gave them a series of questions to answer, like "Why do you want to be a graphic designer?", "What is the area of design that you are most interested in and why?, "Why should you be hired?", "Who are your influences?" and the last one was "What is your ultimate dream in life?", it got more interesting.

I observed that a tie that binds these students together is their love and passion for art. You may not see it in their work, as they are still in the learning process and as is the norm, of course some students are more skillful than others. But these students love art with a vengeance. I am in awe of this. Through their presentation I found out a lot more about them and that besides studying, they do a lot of art and design activities outside on their own. Some of them have online shops selling their own designs, some of them freelance for magazines and newspapers, some of them have their own art collective (ARUS) and whole lot of other things they do for the sake of their love for art. I find this awe inspiring.

Regardless of their age, background or which batch or class they come from, there is no such thing as seniority basis, most of my students get along well with all the other batches, something that I did not have the privilege of experiencing when I was a student. They organize events together, almost every month the Art and Design faculty of UNISEL has events and exhibitions organized by the students themselves. Just this year, we had Gunex (Gundam exhibition), Alam Selam (underwater photography exh), Screenshots A Stop in Motion (a stop motion typography and animation screening and just last Thursday was the fourth Cinemini (screening of students' animation, documentary, film, video... etc) and more to come.

And all of this while still doing their projects and assignments. I am envious of their student experience. They have a lot of opportunities and resources to do many great things that I wished I had the courage and willpower or desire 'keinginan' to do when I was a student.

I am still a new educator, but I have learned so much from my students.

Some have gone through a lot of hardships before ending up where they are now. They had to take the long winding road before finding their call in the field of art and design. These students are brave, street smart, tough and have a resilient attitude in life which I am full of respect for because I live a life full of privilege and chances and my choices in life were pretty much straightforward. I don't think that I would have been as strong as them given the same circumstances.

It started out as just a class project. I was a lecturer who was easily upset and disheartened and got mad at the many mistakes my students made. But now, I have learned to look beyond that and look at the effort of each student, at their journey from the start until the end of the program. The many mistakes they made only helps them to be that much better than before. They are still learning, and it is my responsibility as an educator to make sure they know how to learn and most importantly, to WANT to learn on their own. I learned to be patient, open to other perspectives and empathize with them. I also learned that sometimes you just need to chill, relax and laugh.

To my students, past and present, thank you so much. You have made my life a living hell yet heavenly bliss all at the same time. No matter what they say about students who study Art & Design in UNISEL, I know that these students have so much to offer the world because, hey, look what they did to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what u said is spot on. u learn a lot from your students. this week i literally had to beg a guy (my student who is brilliant!) not to throw in the towel cos it is just a matter of weeks before they graduate. he literally gave up on everything when he had so much to live for..a case of burnt out at such a young age? maybe but i beg him to take leave n come back next sem to start afresh... i hope he will