Old Habit Die Hard: From Playing Teacher to Playing Student

Study Habit

You can take the student out of the classroom, but you cannot take the classroom out of the student. This is particularly true in my own personal case, because even though I have already graduated from the graduate school I have attended, I do still maintain a study habit. Even though I am no longer in the university, I am still under its Clutch.  I think I can call myself as a ‘frustrated academic’.

For a couple of days now, I have been spending most of my leisure times sitting behind my desk and going through the journal articles and books, both in print and otherwise, that I have studied while I was in the university. One might say that what  I am doing is rearranging all these disorganized texts by putting them into certain places in a particular order, so that I could navigate them more efficiently. While there is a ring of truth to that, that is not all what I actually do.

To put it more accurately, what I do is more than organizing the text themselves  but I am also re-living the context in which these texts have been encountered, read, and studied. Through the help of the syllabi I collected while still enrolled in the Graduate School for the Humanities, I have decided to retake each courses I took within this programme exactly the way I took each of them. I thought, it would be a very good exercise to continue and keep studying even though one has already finished formal education in the university.

One can fulfil the void in ones life with the pursuit of knowledge, whatever knowledge might entail and it might look differently for different people. In my own personal experience, I get such a rush when complex ideas that I initially do not understand started to make sense after exerting labour to understand them. I cherish the moments when the text that I write – although not perfect according to the established academic and linguistic standards – starts to take its form after frustrations that are painful days after days.

Needless to say that studying is my favourite pastime. Studying is how I play and I play when I study. My desk, which is my most favourite space where I live, is my playground. The way I spend my leisure hours as an adult is not very much different from the way I used to play when I was a kid. School was my favourite place as a child and when I get home, schooling will continue. As soon as I could, I will reconstruct the events that occurred in the class room that day. In that re-construction of the classroom, I play the teacher and would repeat the lessons that my teacher thought that day to the best of my ability. There were also days that I would go so far as to write a lesson plan.

In that reconstruction of a classroom in which I play the teacher, my imaginary students were my actual classmates, myself included. In hindsight, I am externalizing myself in the process and putting my two selves in conversation: the self as a teacher and the self as the student, a process which I find more and more difficult as I grow-up. While that reconstructed classroom in my mind replicates the real classroom I was in during that time, there are certain alterations. In the imaginary classroom, the student-self is the brightest of them all, endeared to the teacher-self, and appreciated by the other students. In reality, however, I was not the brightest student, I was shy and timid, and usually the object of bullying. That notwithstanding, I do still love the institutions of learning.

Now that I am no longer a child, I do still play the way I did when I was a child. I have not outgrown playing school, but rather, grown into it and even perhaps perfected the game. Like before, I spend my free time in ‘classroom reconstructions’. Only this time, I do not play pretend as a teacher, but I play  as a student: I am not teaching, but I am studying. Even though I have already finished my formal education in the university (not unless of course, I will be given the opportunity to pursue a PhD career, which is, if truth be told, almost impossible), I still continue to spend hours behind my desk and grappling with fascinating texts I have encountered while in the master’s degree programme.

As I reread the text again some months after I have graduated, I am quite surprise and amaze of how much I understand, absorb, and process. These are texts that are not easy to consume and I was not able to understand them the first time around, which was very frustrating to say the least. Now, I do not only understand them, but I am also connecting them with other texts from other courses, I recognize many resonances in different case-studies, and more importantly, to the research project that I have conducted within the framework of the research master’s degree that I have just completed. When I have just started in the program and have encountered these texts for the first time, I felt like walking through the jungle for the first time around without a map. Now, as I relive those wonderful years I have spent in the university, I felt like that I have gained insight to that landscape. I feel very much oriented because I can discern more vividly the thread that connect the texts I used to find difficult to understand. This makes me appreciate more the discipline in which I was educated and continue to be educated that I am just now beginning to understand.

If there is a time machine that will be at my disposal, which can bring me back to the past (or the future) while at the same time maintaining the consciousness, memories, and experiences I have accumulated over the years, I will go back to September 2014. From there, I will once again follow the same linear progression of time and take the whole programme again. Knowing what I know now, I could have A’s all my exams, my presentations would have been more impressive, and perhaps I could graduate with flying colours. On the one hand, this constitute to cheating, but on the other, it is the second chance. I would like to focus on the latter. I guess, that is exactly what I am doing all along, as I relive each course, I am travelling back in time. This is my way, to the best of my ability, to give myself a second chance.