Sunday, February 1, 2015

Different Candies

Last discussion we talked a lot about extrinsic motivations, especially for students in Korea and China. From what I observed back to China, there are students motivated by these high expectations from teachers and parents and study really hard. Without enough sleep and enough relaxation, students are extremely nervous about their grades. And the state of keeping working hard collapses when they go to college. While some might just want to give up and quit this game. One of my friends in China started learning painting when she was little and achieved a lot of rewards. Despite her desire of studying art-related major, her parents still sent her to the U.K. to study accounting, which she really hates. The reason is that many people tend to consider one specific way as the only way to have a good life in the future. Not everyone likes M&Ms. Others may prefer peanut butter cups or snickers as their snacks. And in terms of students, not everyone likes doing Maths. With different talents and interests, people really shouldn’t try to find the “best” choice because that can never work for every individual. So maybe this time we could talk about different choices and “different candies”.

People can always find things they enjoy doing alone. For me, I actually sing a lot when I’m alone, not only in the shower. For this interest I don't need any audience or partner with me. Actually if there’s someone besides me I don’t sing like I do when I’m alone. Singing makes me relaxed, especially when I play guitar, I could sing along with it. Or I can just sing without any instrumental. All of those come from intrinsic interest, rather than any motivation given by others. Besides that, I actually do some song recordings every week and share it online because I’m a host for a radio show. However, when I listen to the recordings, it sounds a little bit strange to me because I feel like listening to other’s voices, not mine. And later on, I found that when I record as I sing, it’s more difficult for me to get in flow to really enjoyed singing itself. I become nervous and make mistakes. Because I know there will be audiences listening to my recordings so that I try harder to sing perfectly but that never happens. In fact, my voice becomes tense and dry when I’m worried about my performance. The only way for me to do better is pretending there’s no recording at all. I keep working on it and now I feel pretty comfortable when I click the recording bottom and sing.

From this experience, I realized the difference between two. When I sing just because I want to, that is not something I need to practice or develop skills. No matter how bad singer I am I could still enjoy the moment. While when there’s  audience, some extrinsic motivations require me to practice more, to memorize the lyrics, and take it seriously. At first it only turned singing into a hard work. But later, I tried to improve my skills more and make myself relaxed, it became better and easier for me. Singing would still be my interest in the future. But I definitely enjoy singing alone without any pressure. Of course I have a better understanding about myself, such as the deficit in performing in front of others. But I know It is not just for singing, also like making presentation for a big audience.

Every individual has some particular candy they like. I don’t think there is a “best” one for everyone. In contrast, whether something is right for me seems more important to me and I’m willing to work hard for it. That’s why sometimes I feel confused about why there are so many students over program themselves too much and think about jobs and interns from the moment they enter the college. It feels like there is a prototype for an excellent student: He or she should be involved in professional RSOs’s executive board, get three or four interns during college and keep a high GPA. While many students over program themselves and give up the chances for them to learn or experience something they’re really interested in. And some students just can’t handle all of these and struggle for a long time. Finding a personal plan rather than following the prototype might be better for students to learn, explore and take risks. College life shouldn’t be the same for everyone.


    I read this blog in previous Professor Arvan's class and I am inspired by the change he or she made. I sometimes put pressure on myself as well but I still can manage the schedule and improve efficiency to get enough sleep. I believe a lot of students were or are in this situation. But few of them can manage so many things at the same time.

  2. Nicole -

    Reading this I had the feeling that what you said is heartfelt. There is some emotion in the writing. I think it makes for a better read that way. But that too requires some balance. Too much of the emotional makes the rational side of things dysfunctional.

    What you described in your last paragraph I would call a "cookie cutter" approach to education, based on what a good resume looks like. Personally I find it very hollow, especially if the students really haven't asked themselves why they want what the good resume is supposed to give them. Of course, most of us prefer some financial security to the alternative. That should be one goal. But it shouldn't be the only goal. I'm only guessing at this, but it seems to me some students are afraid that if other goals are allowed to emerge then the financial security goal will get beaten down. If that's right, it is a shame.

    On the performance anxiety theme, which you discussed regarding your recording of your singing, I can report that it lessens over time - you get used to doing it - but I'm not sure that is a good thing. Anxiety and sensitivity are linked, in my view. It is good to be sensitive to the views of others. As you get less anxious, you also start to care less about what they think. I wish there were a way to remain sensitive but not be so anxious, but I'm not sure there is.

    1. In terms of anxiety and sensitivity, I actually feel less sensitivity than I did before, along with decreasing anxiety. Because in order to reduce my anxiety I tried to comvince myself there's no audience at all, which makes me feel more comfortable. Maybe I do care less about what they think and I've never thought about this. Thanks for pointing out this aspect so that I really can rethink and reflect it on my own.
      Actually for this blog I just want to emphasize there are many alternatives for students to work on because of uniqueness. However, many students follow the "rule" before figuring out their own uniqueness and explore more. I think there's anxiety among students.

  3. I agree with Professor Arvan that there are multiple goals. According to my observations, for those so-called 'good students', most of them have different goals and this feeling get reinforced when I got here. There is no conflict between being an accounting major student and a great dancer. There is also no conflict between pursuing to be an economics professor and a good photographer at the same time. You may have different professional certificates and a certificate for being a bartender at the same time. As long as you are a quick learner, having the passion and being persistent, you can succeed in most domains. However, what happened in China is, after being trained to solve exam questions for years, many students get lost about education and learning. In addition, some students don't know what intrigues them and following what most people do seems to be a safe choice. Too many of us become 'followers' instead of 'leaders'.