Every time I pass by the entrance of Prince of Songkla Univeristy, I see this sentence on the gate frame: ‘Our Soul is for the Benefit of Mankind’. And I always think that I’d like to kiss that person who came up with this idea as a welcome note. In fact, for me it is not a welcome note at all, but an urge to reconsider my actions and thoughts. It often brings me to a contemplation state: am I using my time in this life wisely to leave it as a better place at the time of my exit? Which type of actions I am taking are dominating which, the good or the bad?
If I wanted to narrow down my actions to my current career path, teaching, my questions became: how was I using this privilege of spending time with these people (students) to make some sort of positive influence in their lives, be it temporary or permanent? Was I not the same as (or worse than) a YouTube tutorial from which they could learn the same content I am teaching?
With kindergarteners, my strategy was always compassion, patience and understanding. And knowing that their age was a critical stage of forming characters, I tried my best to be an idol in my behavior and values. And now, as a university teacher, I always try to urge my students to think for themselves, to write down their ideas so they can observe what’s in their mind and understand it. I try to expose them to sociological and psychological ideas that have personally interested me, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, or Pavlov’s Classical conditioning experiment. I ask them to make vision boards, to write love letters to themselves in order to highlight their best attributes, to read biographies of their favorite idols, to make plans for their futures… Every now and then, I let them watch movies that inspired me personally. Movies of remarkable teachers, such as ‘Dead Poets Society,’ stressing the idea of Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) or ‘Pay it Forward’ to understand ripple effects…
Oh, there’s much more for improvement all the time, and even though doubts about my approach come and go now and then, I’d rather be in a state of recurring contemplation, experimentation, learning and growth, than in a statue of ‘I know it all.’ Because, as Henry Ford said: ‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.’ And I’d rather keep my mind young, because ‘When a tree is growing, it’s tender and pliant, but when it’s dry and hard, it does. Hardness and strength are death’s companions, pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win’ (quote from Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’)