Below is a brief summary of my teaching philosophy for the General Paper, and the English Language in general:
Patrick’s Philosophy of teaching and learning for the General Paper and the English Language in general
The English Language – like all languages – should be seen as a combination of language, culture, self-expression, creativity and a self-learning tool. The expression of the English Language are actually a part of us, manifesting our thoughts into words in an effort to communicate with another party. Hence, language –while not as universally expressive and understandable as visuals, carries with it an importance that is best expressed as precision for both the users and the listeners. While visuals can be open to varied interpretations, languages are best seen to be much narrower and focused, zooming in right smack on the user’s thoughts projection and intentions.
As such, my teaching of the language does not stagnate or remain confined within the boundaries and limits of mere syntax and diction (although both of them are equally important in language learning and usage). Teaching students the fundamentals will only allow them to converse and communicate like everyone, with no distinctive voice and identity of their own, not to mention the fact that students mentored in this manner does not possess a writing style of their own as well.
This is one major fallacy of GP writing – of not having a personal voice, and hence losing one’s voice among the cacophony of other voices of similar pitches.
I therefore move beyond the conventional and encroach on domains not usually recognised by conventional English language teaching. I teach students to think beyond the traditional, to question the stands made and provide alternative voices if need be, to put forward questions exploring issues from various perspectives, to take steps to be compassionate and consider issues from moralistic and ethical aspects, and only after much careful contemplation, to finally make a stand on what they believe – based on the blend of facts and personal beliefs and values.
I believe many would agree that much of GP writings – especially excellent ones – lend their argumentative prowess to not only the articulation of the writers but more importantly, that of their convictions of what they are arguing on. Readers and markers would not believe or credit marks of excellence on GP writers whose writings are mediocre and more prominently – of whose arguments are weak and unsure.
Thus, confidence, is what I instil in students, followed by a strong will to express what they feel on paper and in speech. Confidence begets conviction, and I believe this is what most excellent GP writers possess, and where they excel in.
However, there are many confident individuals in the world with flawed thinking, and careless assumptions. Living a misinformed life is not the path I would wish for my students to lead. Hence, confidence must be preceded by moralistic and ethical thoughts, and fused with compassion.
To me, GP writing is not merely writings of one’s personal opinions (which may be largely biased) but a balanced form of writing, as if one is debating with oneself based on objective evidence and measured insights. Only after weighing all if not most of the perspectives do one finally make a stand on what is right. In other words, GP writings – when done consistently – gradually mould one’s thoughts towards the positive and ultimately, forges one’s life path. This is the responsibility that all GP tutors must bear on their shoulders for from the moment they coach students on GP writings, they are already influencing their students’ lives.
Hence, my emphasis on morals, ethics, confidence-building, compassion, creativity, critical thinking are all fused and coalesced into one philosophy – that of building a promising and fulfilling life for the GP writers.
I also believe in technology, especially when they are used effectively and efficiently within the realm of education. With the emergence of social media and technology, I would say that I have a knack of dovetailing on emerging trends of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), while ensuring that my GP students explore issues with a critical eye.
Social media and technology can thus be considered to be an extension arm of my teaching philosophy, drawing ever more information from the world and nurturing students to be a keen observer and analyst of daily, global happenings, and to be informed and steadfast individuals whose thoughts do not falter or waver in the face of opposing voices and counter-arguments.
As the quote by Rollo May (author of The Courage to Create) goes, “The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt.” Along the same vein, GP students should be nurtured to not only be sound in both their minds and arguments, but to also be persuasive and convincing in their writings so as to convince another.
Such is the prominence of a GP writer, and such is also the philosophy of – in my humble opinion – that of a remarkable GP teacher.