Honesty in Learning

This week we had our first quizzes. On Tuesday, A-sensei (that’s the amazing teacher that signed my audit form) kept reminding us that we should do our quiz ourselves. We must not cheat. We must not copy our friends’, must not look at our friends’ answers, must not copy the homework as well. She repeatedly said we had to be honest, otherwise there would be one-on-one conference with the teacher, where we would talk about our dishonest conducts. Wow. As a teacher, I understand this. I mean, I know how important honesty in learning is. Honesty is important especially to measure our achievement as students so we know how much harder we should work to achieve the goals, how much we should improve, and maybe there are things the teachers can do to help, which is why we must not fake it. Say, if my true ability is only 30% and then I cheat and get 70%, the teachers will proceed with heavier materials thinking we are ready for them. And it could be worse since we’re not actually ready. If we are honest, however, the teachers will find some ways to help us improve and get ready for the next or more difficult materials. See what I mean? That’s why honesty in learning is important. This is what I’ve been telling my students as well. While I understand students are concerned about their scores, I want them to focus on learning first before the scores. I mean, if you really are learning, you will eventually get the scores, right? But if you cheat to get good scores, it does not necessarily mean you are learning.

Well, nevertheless, when I see it from a student’s perspective, being continuously reminded like that makes me feel bad. It’s as if the teachers did not trust me. Why would I cheat? I take this class because I want to learn, not because I want good scores. (Yes, I want good scores but that’s besides the point). So yeah, it’s like receiving so much distrust. And I’m kinda disheartened because, hey, I love myself to be trusted. But to think about it again, I understand why the teachers do that. Personally for me, it does not matter because I’m just auditing this class, the score won’t count towards my GPA, in addition to the fact that I am the only graduate student in this class, so, well, let’s say I don’t really have “friends” from whom I can cheat or copy my homework or assignment anyway. LoL It might be different with the undergrads, though. I don’t know if they know each other outside this class, if they take other classes together, if they are from the same major/department, etc. We don’t do introduction to such details aside from name. So, I have no idea who my classmates really are. But yeah, because the score will count towards their GPA, so maybe they’re concerned about the grades and might cheat somehow, though I still can’t accept it. I don’t like the idea of them cheating. I trust them. Even if they somehow copy my answers, it’s their loss, not mine, because I’ll still be learning, they won’t. Strange, though. Because I can’t be like that with my students. I was often worried if my students would cheat. And now that I think of it, maybe that’s how they felt when I reminded them to be honest because honesty in learning is of paramount importance. Did they feel distrusted? Did they feel uncomfortable? *Sigh Now I feel bad, maybe I should do that less and trust them more.

My first quiz 😀

And by the way, I got 100% on my first quiz. I’m so happy but not that proud since everybody seems the get the same score. LoL Besides, it’s still the beginning, where things are easy, so, well… Still, I’m happy 😊 I did my first homework wrong, though 🤦🙈🙈 I was supposed to fill in the table with hiragana characters, but I only wrote a few, showing the steps like the example, so I left the remaining cells blank. LoL That’s okay. Indeed, it makes me happy, because when I realized I was wrong, I knew what I should do next, to fix it, not to repeat it, to improve, basically it lets me know how to do it correctly, so I am glad 😊

The next day, we had another teacher, C-sensei. She said she was going to teach only on Wednesdays, once a week. So from what I can figure out, A-sensei teaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays, B-sensei on Mondays and Fridays, while C-sensei on Wednesdays. C-sensei is a bit slow, I think. We had some practice but sometimes it was too fast, like we needed more time for the practice. But I kinda understand why. As a teacher, sometimes I feel it, too. We ask the students to do something, but we’re worried that it’s going to get boring so we stop it and move onto the next activity. I get it. But now that I’m seeing it from a student’s perspective. Maybe students really need it. It’s not that boring, and sometimes it’s the only time we can optimize the practice. Especially for a graduate student like me. Even though I learn a lot from the book, sometimes I get or understand things from what is taught in the class. So, yes, it’s important for teachers to maximize students’ learning and opportunities to practice in the classrooms.

C-sensei was “different”, too. I mean, the other two teachers always taught us to first write in the air using our finger, while they were modelling how to write hiragana along with the counting showing the right steps. C-sensei didn’t do that. And she ended the class a bit late, too! ☹ (Only 2-5 minutes, though, but…) Ugh, that’s bad because I had to run to my next class, which started at 10. I don’t want to be late. I don’t like coming late!!! ☹ I was kinda hoping that on Wednesdays we would finish the class earlier so I could get to my next class on time. Other days, I’m not worried because my classes are so much later in the day, so all is well 😊

On Thursday, we had A-sensei. And as usual, she was great. She really knew her pace. We practiced a lot and like I said before, that’s when I realized how important what we do in the class is. As a teacher I always emphasize that preparing at home before class is a must, (and I still believe it), but now I also believe that a good class should help the students learn well in the class especially if they don’t have time or opportunities to do so at home. Man, I learned a lot in this class. Not only as a student learning a foreign language, but also a teacher trying to teach a foreign language myself.

In addition, studying Japanese is much more challenging for me. Why? First, because it relies a lot on memorization. (Wait, have I written this?) I mean, for my required courses, I don’t have to memorize every word I read. I just need to understand the concepts and the main points and then I can express my understanding in my own words, simplifying, modifying, or using my own examples. Learning a foreign language is not like that. I have to remember exactly each word, how it is written, precisely. Well, the only way you can remember that “sensei” means “teacher” is by memorizing it, right? And to memorize it you need practice to internalize it in your brain. Practice helps you to get it more automatic. I know, I’m a teacher, too. And that’s what I’ve been telling my students. And now I’m practicing it myself, again.

The second reason why learning Japanese is challenging is because I learned it through English! Well, when I learned English, I did it with Bahasa Indonesia, which, even though it is not my first language, is still my native tongue. With Japanese, I used English, which is my fourth language, to help me understand the meanings. So you can imagine, if I don’t understand the English, it’s likely that I won’t understand the Japanese, either. Besides, all the teachers are “native speakers” of Japanese, something I did not get to experience when learning English. They did not seem to be native English speakers either, so it really takes negotiation of meaning when we communicate in English, either for me to confirm something or when they explain something. It’s fun, though. I love it!

And oh, not sure if I have written this, but since the teachers mostly use Japanese, I don’t really see it as a problem because we, students, always get what they want us to do, with the help of gestures and stuff, even though we don’t understand all the words they say, at least we get the point. And it’s kinda helpful. Not sure if this is because I do a lot of observation and analysis, though. Sometimes I’m wondering if other students are like me. I always try to find strategies so I can learn more effectively and efficiently. For example, I tend to find some patterns in which I can memorize characters collectively in relation to other characters so I don’t have to memorize every single character as it is. I break down phrases and find what each part means so I can “play” with it, modify, etc and make new phrases even before the teachers explain them. But when I work with a partner, it seems that they didn’t figure it out because when I told them about that, it seemed to be the first time for them to realize it. This makes me think that even though the teachers did not explain the grammar or the structures per se, students can actually break it down themselves and figure things out on their own (if they invest enough time on it). Or is it because I’m smart? LoL 😀

The sheet that tells us what to prepare and what homework is due and when.

By the way, A-sensei seemed to be disappointed that some of us didn’t prepare at home. She said something like, “Did you guys read this page before the class? If you didn’t you’d be lost in class!” Well, we were given this sheet where we are told what to prepare for when and when our homework is due, etc, so we are supposed to know what we must do before coming to class. I know I did. Some others didn’t, however. (See, Sensei? Even though I’m a graduate student, I can be more committed than the undergrads! 😜😜)

Quite strange, though. This time A-sensei didn’t remind us about the homework and the quiz we would do the next day, unlike what she did before our first quiz and homework, for which she repeatedly reminded us to be honest and prepared. It made me wonder if we were actually going to have a quiz or we should actually do the homework 😁 But anyway, we did the quiz and submitted the homework to B-sensei today. She was really nice 😍 and this time she taught better 😁 But well, it seemed that I did my quiz wrong. I made a mistake. So like before, the teacher dictated five words and we should write them using the new hiragana characters we learned. There was this word I heard wrong. I thought it was “Mun”, but it turned out to be “Mon”, so, there, I wouldn’t get 100 this time, because “mon” and “mun” are written completely differently ☹ But I always have this problem. It’s not my listening comprehension, it’s not my inability to write the characters. It’s my hearing! Gosh, maybe I should get some help??? But that’s ok. I’ll get used to it, right? This time I solely relied on my hearing since I can only hear and then write the characters without knowing what they mean. If I have learned and understood the meanings, I would be able to use the context and my comprehension to decide what character I should write. Hopefully.

So that’s it about my Japanese class this week. Basically, we’ve learned all hiragana characters in the first table. Next, we’ll learn about long vowels, voiced consonant and voiceless consonants, and glides. Not sure if I’d still remember what I learned when I learn the new stuff later. I mean, it’s so fast! It’s still the second week, and I’ve been able to remember and write all those characters (even though sometimes it takes time to retrieve them from my memory). But I know that some students are still struggling with it. I knew because today we were grouped into 3-4 students. And we were given this blank hiragana table where we should write the right character in the right cell in turn and quickly. I was sitting in the back (because I don’t like the idea of these undergrads seeing my back while I can’t see them. Plus, I love doing the observation from the spot (aside from the fact that I am only auditing the class); I don’t want to be in the spotlight either). The group that could write it correctly and the fastest wins and will be given a prize on Monday. As you can guess, my group didn’t win, with which I am okay (no, I’m not the type who blame other students in my group if I don’t win. At least not anymore. We learn together. We’re a team. Nothing to get mad about. (Damn, I guess I’m really growing up! 🙈😂🙈😂)) But yeah, I can see that some friends are still struggling. They’re not sure if they’ve written the characters correctly. And there are characters that they don’t remember how to write. So yeah, I know how it feels. It’s not easy, but hopefully they can catch up. Learning in a class is sometimes learning in about the same pace. But, well, that’s it, we’ll see what happens in the next classes. Wish me luck! 😊

PS: I think one of the students in my group smoked. When I was sitting next to him, I could smell the smoke. I don’t like it. (But of course I didn’t say a thing because he was not smoking in the class. It might have been the “remainder” (?) left on his clothes from the time when he smoked.) I might be wrong, though. I hope he won’t read this 🙈✌

PPS: How I react to what the teachers do is personal. Other students might react or like it differently. What we must not forget: every student is not the same. My observation as a student is just to add new perspectives for me as a teacher.

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