Let’s get bored

I’ve got a draft in my computer that tries to say the same thing, but this blogger’s perspective does more than what I was/am trying to do with my own (draft, unpublished) post. There’s excellent writing to be found all over WordPress!

Preston's Blog

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When I was in China last fall I watched a teenage girl on a Beijing subway say goodbye to a friend getting off at a stop. As soon as they had waved goodbye and the doors closed, the girl pulled out her phone and began thumbing away.

This reminded me that these days, all around the world, it no longer looks “normal” to be doing nothing — even on trains, in elevators, in waiting rooms, standing in lines, or walking down the street.

Since we can now bring our personal entertainment environments with us everywhere in the form of phones, tablets and headgear (like Google Glass), all locations and situations are becoming our personal entertainment environments.

We no longer have to be bored in traditionally boring situations…and are likely never to be bored again.

That’s great, right? Or is it…

The continually advancing capabilities of devices (and the media hype…

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Essay scoring tip: deliver ‘truth’

People who grade essays are human beings, and human beings will always have their own biases. Here’s something that works (I know because I tested it out in JC, and I topped my school in GP!) that is almost never taught — if your essay delivers some kind of earth-shattering ‘truth’, the marker feels the urge to ignore your weaker points and just give you a higher grade.

Let us look at the SAT essay marking criteria, for example. (Yes, the SATs may be an American thing, but trust me, the essay marking schemes for the O- and A-levels are quite similar. These essay tests assess very similar abilities. A good writer is going to score well on any English essay test.) In the marking criteria, it states that for an essay to be given a 6 (the highest score), it “Effectively and insightfully develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates outstanding critical thinking, using clearly appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support its position” (emphasis mine). Now, how many times have you heard your English teacher talk about the need for an essay to be insightful? (I hope the answer is “many!”)

I like the way dictionary.com defines insightpenetrating mental vision or discernment; faculty of seeing into inner character or underlying truth. When you gain an insight into something important, you get a feeling of WOW or as some might put it, ZOMGWTFLOLBBQ (sry). That should be the feeling your essay gives your marker. The word that occurs most frequently in my head when I think about insight is the word “truth” (more often than not my brain goes TRUTH in big bright letters). When I read an insightful piece of writing, I feel like I know more about the truth of the world. For example, reading about the neuroscience of meditation and the various sociological ways of seeing the world simply blew my mind (ZOMGWTFLOLBBQ).

How do you include genuine truths or insights in your essays? You have to have experienced that ZOMGWTFLOLBBQ feeling, that feeling or wonder that comes with learning something genuinely insightful about the world. Optimally, by the time you sit for your examinations, you would have experienced ZOMGWTFLOLBBQ numerous times. This will allow you to respond to many essay questions with something genuinely worth writing about. You should have the feeling of “wow, that was a brilliant essay with a brilliant message, I need to blog about it when I get home so that more people will know about what I’ve written” when you step out of the examination hall. You get this feeling either by parroting/modifying a truth you have read about, or by spontaneously coming up with a truth of your own.

(Side note: the English language should have a word for “wow, that was a brilliant essay with a brilliant message, I need to blog about it when I get home so that more people will know about what I’ve written”. I propose ZOMGWTFLOLBBQ. Probably won’t catch on, though..)

Where do we find readily available truths and insights? A really popular place to start is the lovely TED website. In fact, you will often find speakers “demonstrat[ing] outstanding critical thinking, using clearly appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support [their] position[s]” (that’s SAT marking criteria again). Another thing you could do is to look for non-fiction books about a subject you are interested in. I personally enjoy books about psychology or sociology, like this.

As a thoroughly rewarding and useful side effect, you get to learn more about the world while you prepare for your big essay examinations. So go get a dose of truth or insight. Good luck!

 

Are you looking for an English tutor? For one-on-one lessons or group lessons, please send an email to kevinseahsg@gmail.com, or call/SMS/whatsapp 97700557 (Singapore only). I’m not always at my phone, so if I don’t pick up, please leave me an SMS to let me know you’re looking for a tutor.

For editing and proofreading services, email kevinseahsg@gmail.com or call/SMS/whatsapp +65 97700557 for an obligation-free quotation. I’m not always at my phone, so if I don’t pick up, please leave me a message to let me know your requirements.

You can hack anything

Yes, you can hack ANYTHING. I think most of us on the internet already know this, but we all could use a reminder.

Sales pitch #1
Are you the type who’s perpetually unhappy and morose? Is the tone of your existence that disgusting yellow-brown of misery and pain? Are you sad? Well, luckily for you, there’s actually such a thing as the science of happiness. They’ve discovered a whole bunch of things, but two things really hit me, from the research in the field. Firstly, you can actually ‘train’ your brain for happiness. Secondly, most people who chase after happiness will never really get it — it is that set of people who genuinely care for others and do something about it that find real peace.

(Note to self: write a blogpost about the difference between “happiness” and “peace”, and what our culture(s) seem to have done with those words.)

Sales pitch #2
Do you have the novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (by Mildred Taylor) assigned for your literature class? Well, you’re in luck, I’m here to give you a new hack I’ve found. There’s this little website called Coursera, you see, that carries free online university-level courses. In roughly six days, there will be a course starting titled “History of the Slave South” that will be very, very useful for understanding the novel. (There is a level of racism in the novel that you might find hard to understand if you don’t know anything about slavery.)

More than a means to understand a novel, the Coursera website, and others like it, allow people currently not enrolled in any university to go through basic level university courses, for free. And that’s pretty awesome, if you ask me.

Sales pitch #3
You need to hack your life, because if you don’t, you end up with much less than life has to offer you (if you’ve ever rooted and overclocked a cheap, slow-as-drunk-tortoises Android device, you’ll know what I mean). But I have to offer a word of warning:  just like actual computer devices, if you hack your life and your choices profoundly, you might find that the device doesn’t work as expected anymore. For example, if you’re bored with school you might want to check out my naughty post here, about fully utilising your time in school. If you read it, you will probably be able to envision how “hacking too much” in this case might make your school life go kaboom.

Yes, we make mistakes. Luckily for us, human beings are extremely resilient and hardy creatures. We bounce back from what life has to throw at us to hack another day.

(Sales pitch #4)

Are you looking for an English tutor? For one-on-one lessons or group lessons, please send an email to kevinseahsg@gmail.com, or call/SMS/whatsapp 97700557 (Singapore only). I’m not always at my phone, so if I don’t pick up, please leave me an SMS to let me know you’re looking for a tutor.

For editing and proofreading services, email kevinseahsg@gmail.com or call/SMS/whatsapp +65 97700557 for an obligation-free quotation. I’m not always at my phone, so if I don’t pick up, please leave me a message to let me know your requirements.

If I were more spiritually generous, I’d fix the education system here. But right now, all I’m doing is exploiting the flaws in it to make money.

If I were more spiritually generous, I’d fix the education system here. But right now, all I’m doing is exploiting the flaws in it to make money. It is because parents have such intense fears of their children getting low grades that the tuition industry is so massive now.

The problem starts with the fact that social and income inequality is bad in Singapore. No parent wants their child to be so low on the income ladder that they become one of the beachfront homeless here, or to have to be overworked at a dead-end job just to make ends meet. This problem is compounded by the fact that the education system here tends to favour those who are able to spend more money on their children.

I need to think long and hard about setting my soul right by doing something more than what I already am (<singlish> but eh, free essays and tips for everyone already la, rich or poor also can get </singlish>).

 

Are you looking for an English tutor? For one-on-one lessons or group lessons, please send an email to kevinseahsg@gmail.com, or call/SMS/whatsapp 97700557 (Singapore only). I’m not always at my phone, so if I don’t pick up, please leave me an SMS to let me know you’re looking for a tutor.

Quick profile

Quick profile
Full-time tutor
Bachelor of Arts, Second Class Honours (NUS, English Literature, 2009)
Dean’s List Recipient
Top in General Paper (NYJC, 2001 A-Levels)
Based in Kovan/Hougang
Location of lessons is flexible

Are you looking for an English tutor? For one-on-one lessons or group lessons, please send an email to kevinseahsg@gmail.com, or call/SMS/whatsapp 97700557 (Singapore only). I’m not always at my phone, so if I don’t pick up, please leave me an SMS to let me know you’re looking for a tutor.