A few days ago, I went to observe my father during his Chinese-Ink painting class at Studio Miu. From its initial location at Takashimaya Shopping Centre, Studio Miu has relocated to Centre Point to better serve its students.
You can read about my coverage of his lesson at Jin Yin Mo.
What struck me about my father’s lessons was that he was very approachable and interested in sharing his knowledge to his students. This is an aspect of my father that I had not witnessed but have heard about from his students or peers.
His students at Studio Miu waxed lyrical about how they loved his teaching style and how they enjoyed his lessons thoroughly. One student even stated very firmly that they plan their lives around his Friday lessons – to much fervent consensus.
I have never been taught by my father to paint. He talks to me about painting and all the important concepts behind the paintings, but generally left me to my personal development.
At a very young age, I developed an interest in painting due to my father’s influence. So he sent me to Gradsign Art School instead. I was taught children art by a Ms Tan, followed by Mr Lim Leong Seng and Mr Boo Sze Yang for watercolours.
I stopped attending art classes at Gradsign when I went to secondary school, but continued my interest in painting at the Art Club headed by Mr Ho Cheok Tin. Under Mr Ho’s tutelage, I learnt Chinese-Ink painting. I even managed to get an award from the Singapore Youth Festival for one of my paintings.
Besides covering Chinese-Ink painting, watercolours, gouache, I learnt Chinese calligraphy under Mr Lim Wong Hoe (whom I admired for his precise yet unique style of calligraphy).
Personal development is the core of my interest in art, with my father watching and supporting from a distance. When I made the decision to not pick up painting at a local art college, he was disappointed. While I may not be an artist now, I am supporting him as his manager… my interest and passion in the arts have never been extinguished.
When he shares with me the social going-ons in the art community, discuss various artists’ developments, and even asking me to critique his work, I am still able to rely on my self study of the arts and personal talents to be a competent arts commentator or as a participant in a dialogue.
While I may not have inherited my father’s flair for Chinese-Ink painting, I am honoured to be relied upon to support his work, and be able to advise other younger artists in their professional development.
As a personal belief, something that I hold very dearly to, I am a professional. Choon Jin maybe my father, but work is work. Just as I believe in paying the full value of a painting as per the label price, I do not favour my father’s works when I see something better from another artist.
While some people have laughed at me for being so silly and not asking for favours, I can firmly stand up on my own feet and act as I am, because I have straight convictions about art and knowing when things are professionally aligned. Thus on a professional level, my father is an artist in the wider arts community and he is treated as such.
I am relying on my own skills as a professional – my good eye and sense (for aesthetics, techniques, colours and compositions), my knowledge (of art and its social communities) and my preference for discretion (in the art community) – perhaps these are attributes that set me apart.
Standing here at Studio Miu and observing my father at work, I am appreciative of the way he delivered his lessons in class. Reflecting upon my newly-acquired knowledge of adult learning, he seems to have utilised an instructional approach but couched it in a friendly and open manner.
The students whom I have met, have different learning needs as well. The morning class was more socially interactive (two European students and one Chinese student) while the afternoon class leaned towards a “teacher to student” interaction (one Japanese student). I think my father’s friendly manner makes the students’ learning process much easier and adapt to, as well as receive feedback and critique from him.
Reinforcement and encouragement through his friendly critique seemed to go well with his students, as they earnestly accept his critique and expands the feedback session with more questions. His willingness to share more of his knowledge, and even suggestions for self practise, shows his passion in encouraging his students to push ahead on their own pace and even develop on their own areas of interests.
I hope to be able to participate in more class observations. I may have been away for a long time, I think this is a good time to understand my father and his work much better.
[ Public Service Announcement – this is tongue firmly in cheek. ]
On this historical day, June 6, two strapping young lads (a handsome eloquent Caucasian and an irreverent Chinese guy) created a new brain child of a new workforce-centric credit agency. In line with a national accreditation process, a competency map was thus created to effectively plan and assess the competencies of one such credit agency’s employees.
In the competency map, there are five dimensions: task skills, task management skills, contingency management skills, job & role management skills, and transferable skills. These dimensions grant the ability to assess the current skills of the employee against expected skills – any gap will lead to further training to bring the employee up to standard.
Task skills refer to the performance of individual tasks based on expectations in the credit agency.
Task management skills refer to the individual’s abilities to handle multiple different tasks in order to complete an entire work activity.
Contingency management skills refer to the individual’s abilities to handle exceptional cases beyond the expected work situation.
Job & role management skills refer to the individual’s capacity to handle responsibilities and expectations in the work situation that is not directly related but in parallel to the individual’s job scope.
Transferable skills refer to the individual’s ability to transfer or up-scale existing knowledge and skills to an expanded work situation or expectations.
With that in mind and the local context (Singapore), a proposed credit agency’s skill set is thus developed – introducing Ah Long Inc.
For task skills, ad-libbing (for clients and public agency enforcers), prospecting (for clients) as well as collection of due assets.
For task management skills, documentation of receivables and client particulars is a very important skills. Decorative skills are required as well. Minor renovation-related skills (such as the ability to use adhesives on various materials for strong binding intentions) and butchery skills were considered, but something more realistic and less messy would professionalise the employees.
For contingency management skills, athleticism is a necessary core skill for unexpected and dynamic changes in the working environment. Hand to hand combat skills is proposed but a deep focus on self defence is needed to protect the employees from abuse and potential violence from clients. Contrite submission to authorities is a must for self-preservation skills.
For job & role management skills, the ability to persuade is very important. As professionals, this ability is tantamount to the survival and professionalism of the credit agency.
For transferable skills, employees will be able to transfer their existing knowledge to expanded operations or related fields. One such industry would be credit card companies as collection agents or loan officers. Ad-libbing will be another important transferable skill if the Commercial Affairs Department decides to have a chat with them.
Thus, with a well-thought proposal for the competency dimensions, a professional credit agency will have a good set of standards to adhere and aspire to today!
[ Public Service Announcement – this is tongue firmly in cheek.]
The laughs in class were long and loud.
There was another activity later on developing standard operating procedures. The role play activity was to create a SOP on how to greet customers from various F&B service levels (from high-end dining, fast food dining and to hawker dining).
My eloquent Caucasian course mate role played as a hawker assistant, while I role played as a customer. My hearty well-done to him for trying to speak in Mandarin.
Pro tip – go with AI CHIAK SIMI as the SOP for hawker assistant.
I am aware that I am treading on controversy with that proclamation.
I remembered the days when the keyboard was pressed firmly against my face as I raged silently (and tiredly) at the futility of it all.
Attending the lectures in the evenings for the three years was a different experience for me personally. I would observe my course mates trudge into the lecture/tutorial rooms with heavy hearts and leaden feet – most are working adults and they are making the extra effort in their evenings to study. In comparison, the younger subset of the university population are full time students without work commitments (largely) and were having the time of their lives.
I truly believed that I learnt a lot from my course mates, who come from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds – I was exposed to their collective wealth of experience and perspectives. Some of whom I can definitely get along with, and some of whom I just (I can’t help it) berate endlessly for jumping on different political bandwagons and sending class discussions off the metaphorical cliff.
Due to my certification process in adult learning, I can now make a connection to the challenge of teaching adult learners. During my university days, some lecturers try to explain certain concepts but sometimes they get corrected by the students. A typical exchange would have a lecturer going on about an outdated government policy, and the student (from the relevant government agency) who would point out the error and expand on the current policy in place.
I see it as a humbling experience for the lecturer, who may not be updated on the latest information. Maybe it is a cultural thing, some lecturers take it very personally and spend time trying to justify their explanations.
How gracious, these dwellers of ivory towers.
My favourite exchange was how a lecturer introduced herself as a “twenty year veteran in the communications field”. Her credibility suffered a dent when she marked down assignments for “not having a hook or enough media punch”.
The context was a case study of a serious matter related to a government linked company. The contention was that the context itself is a headline without the need for sensationalising.
Given the operation and media profile of the government linked company, any error that arises from their operations is an instant headline as thousands of people are directly and adversely affected. There is never a need for a press conference call – the reporters will be banging on the lobby door within minutes of the news.
“I don’t care what you think! EVERY news item NEEDS a HOOK! Every news item NEEDS a PUNCH!”
No wonder she is a freelancer for twenty years after a few initial years at a local agency.
After than incident, I don’t remember seeing her name on the list of adjunct lecturers any more. “Oh, you know… she could be too busy with her media work to teach us,” a course mate told me with a sly smile. “You’re terrible!” “I know. And I don’t think it’s just me.”
As I woke up from the soreness of my face, imprinted by the keyboard, I remember the very reason why I dreaded academic writing.
THE AWFUL WORD COUNT.
I love words. I love long sentences of long narratives and soul. Modern academic writing is the antithesis of my nature. Simple! Short! Concise!
I tried so hard to be concise. Then I hit the second wall, the legendary “provide a relevant example” and “explanation of the concept is too simple” comments from the lecturer.
Look, you can only summarise an entire chapter of a singular concept into a few sentences. AND stop asking me to write the explanations as if the lecturer is completely ignorant. If the lecturer is ignorant of the concept, wouldn’t a detailed explanation give the blank-slate lecturer an idea before launching into an “application” aspect of the writing?
Say, I want to condense the entire works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto in four sentences (summarising each of the four chapters), I can give you this gem:
Disparities in resource ownership lead to endless class struggles. Equalise all resources with common ownership. The road to common ownership is full of obstacles. All hail Utopia.
If you tell me that you don’t understand, as a blank-slate lecturer, it is your fault for giving me a word limit when you want me to talk about its preceding influences, core theory and ultimate destination where communism will replace socialism (where socialism is the interim period towards the common ownership that communism is about).
Don’t get me started about writing collaborative ideas, substantive applications, and examples – all for a low price of 800 words!