Monday, January 23, 2006

Can You Handle the Truth?

Tune-In Question: How honest can you be in your profession?

It came to me one day how hard and how potentially risky honesty can be.

A friend of mine was doing a feedback form for a community service project our cohort had done over the holidays. And seriously, some of the questions really deserved the most inane answers.

For example,
"What were your contributions to the project?"
Oh yes, my committee was the driving force behind the whole project. In fact, I am certain that without us, the project would not have ended with the resounding success that it did. Never mind that there were other committees in this group, WE DA ONES, you hear??

"What skills did you glean from the implementation of this project?"
Personally? Nothing that I didn't already have. If I had to learn it while the project was going on, you think I'd still have been able to complete the damn thing?

"Give some feedback on your group members. (Positive only)"
What's the point of writing anything then?

And OF COURSE she didn't write any of those answers down. What, you think we're crazy? But it did make me think of how effective all these feedback thingies really are.

For one, does anyone really dare to write their true opinions on these things? When there is that chance our job security may be at sake, or worse, that we may have to sit in our tutor's office for god-noes-how-many hours listening to an impromptu lecture on why the Ministry is right and we, the untrained, uninformed, unworthy trainee teacher is wrong? Nope, most people would rather take the safe, easy route out and simply write down whatever it is that the higher-ups want to hear.

[and btw, they don't want to hear that you are neutral on the whole thing. You're supposed to have an opinion, and you damn well better express one]

This is the same fallacy facing the Psychaitric Unit in NIE. On the official front, the clinic is there for you to vent your stresses, your problems, and receive professional psychiatric advice.

On the unofficial front, do you really want your potential employers to think that you may be unable of handling the work load in school? Or do you want your future school to think that you may have some psychiatric disorder? I wonder if they get much visitors.

So in the end, the problems go unsolved. The people at the bottom are too afraid to voice out the problems they see, and the higher-ups are just to happy to hear about all the things they did right and so they inflict the same crap on the next batch of unknowing trainees.

Of course, the flip side is that who does it hurt in the end? Because when we give the wrong feedback, the higher-ups just make their next policy decisions based on the crap we feed them, and we hurt, and we bleed, and the people on top wonder what the heck is wrong with the whole thing.

There's a whole essay that could be written on the openness of Singapore society, but that would be digression on a major scale......

But then, can we be totally honest? That pretty much depends on how much you think you're going to be hurt by your honesty. As in, how much shit am I gonna be in for this? Cos it's a small comfort to think that you're giving the teachers of the future a better life, when you're jobless, and broke.

So in the end, we build a vicious cycle:

Govt controls our jobs
We scared of govt
Govt tells us things
We say Govt good
Govt thinks it's good
Govt gives us more 'goods'
We die
Go back to "We scared of govt"

*Sigh* More and more I wonder why I didn't just stay giving tuition......


trisha said...

Sounds like you have been thru some real shit at NIE?

Frankly, I didn't really take NIE too seriously. I think it's also because having worked in the private sector for many years before I ventured into teaching, I could tell what constitutes wayang (ie. things that NIE has to do just to please MOE) and what you can store in your brain as useful knowledge you need in school later on (which is not a lot, sad to say).

That doesn't answer your question on how truthful we can be. I don't remember being evasive with such feedback. I just told them what I felt, and nothing has happened to me (yet)!

In the end, just stay positive for the real work out in the schools. Don't let NIE get you down.

Injenue said...

wouldn't it be better if you could comment anonymously?

Tym said...

There is some value to not being anonymous on one's feedback, so that people will not write irresponsibly or pursue a personal vendetta. However, this presumes that the organisational climate (in NIE, MOE, wherever) is one where the feedback-er doesn't feel threatened, which doesn't seem to be the case here.

I used to write whatever I honestly felt about a policy or situation. It didn't come back and bite me in the ass --- or maybe I just didn't notice *shrug*

Anonymous said...

In any profession, how directly honest can we ever be?

If you're a doctor and you're straight out honest about a patient's condition, prepare to see the patient freak out.

If we tell our clients to shut up and be reasonable because THEY are the ones imposing unrealistic deadlines on us, we might be sent packing very soon once we lose the business.

There are so many instances of us having to not be straight out directly honest in our answers.

The glaring truth hurts, unfortunately.

Hence, when we wish to tell the truth, the truth must be told in a way wished by the receiver (i.e. we need to sugercoat it lah).

It does not happen for government related feedback only, in my opinion.

yj said...

Some thoughts from a fellow trainee teacher:

I was spared from having to fill up that same form for the same project (I think), but I did have to write a 200-word reflection on the project. I didn't find that much to criticise about the service learning programme itself -- I thought it was a clumsy but well-intentioned prototype -- but if you or your friend find the programme truly flawed, why not actually write it down or talk to your co-ordinating tutor? After all, it's not graded, and I don't believe your tutor's impression will find its way into some sinister permanent black mark in your record.

I agree that the survey questions are awfully self-indulgent, even downright insulting, on NIE's part, but if we maintain this irrational fear of being afraid to speak up -- "how much shit are we going to be in for this", as you say -- or if we don't care enough for things to change, maybe that's what we deserve.

Xia_mi_mi said...

Well...don't very much believe in annonymity. Coz juz like in my sch feedback about lecturers and stuff it was stated that identity will be kept confidential. But apparently this is nt the case as the lecturers seems to know who made the comment. Or am I thinking too much? =P

psychkitz said...

On a separate issue of confidentiality, the counsellor/psychologist who had seen you is supposed to keep the content of all sessions confidential. Otherwise, you can lodge a complaint against him/her.

But then again, there is no 'real' professional body in Singapore that regulates the professional conduct of psychologists and counsellors. It will be a sad day for the profession in Singapore if clients' confidentiality were broken just to keep the counsellor's/psychologist's 'rice-bowl'. I won't be surprised if it is already happening...