Computer, Childhood, Law School, et cetera


In terms of your ability to learn, are there ways that you wish you were more like a computer? Or are you better than any computer in all aspects of processing information? Explain.


Yes, I wish sometimes that I am like a computer that easily stores, maintains, and recalls information when I need it. I wished this more often when I was studying in law school. I was a working student and had to memorize both laws and cases (jurisprudence) for my recitation. In law school, each teacher would assign ten to thirty cases per meeting that we must make sure to have read. Some cases would amount to more than a hundred pages. Aside from these, we must memorize the pertinent codal (law) provisions of those cases. Even those who are not working among my classmates also find it hard to process and remember information quickly! After passing one semester, I temporarily stopped because I’m not sure if I can balance my work and studies well. It required me several hours of reading. More so, I felt like the stress affected my health. I wish to be back, though. But I am not exactly sure when.


However, there are times I wish I am not like a computer, especially when it hangs for a long time, or when it behaves in a way that adds burden to my work. I do not want to take too long saving or recalling even some trivial information simply because there is something either in my hardware (physical) or software (cognitive)!


Also, in terms of making the best decisions that require emotions, I am not sure if I want to be like a computer. I had to write this down because I know I made some wrong choices in who to love or show affection to before. Also, there were expenses and time allotments that I regret doing because of those mistakes. I’m not sure if I can trust myself if I process like a computer in these situations.


Who was your first teacher?  What was your first classroom like? What is you remotest childhood memory?  How long did it take you to retrieve those information?  What does that reveal about the nature of long-term memory?


My first teacher is my mother. She was the one who tutored me in Basic Math, English, Science, and Filipino. But I do not anymore remember the name of my first teacher outside the family. But I do remember some silhouettes or blurred images of one of my teachers in preparatory grade.


My remotest childhood memory was when I was confined in a hospital. I remember the doctor putting dextrose in one of my arms. I remember my parents sitting beside my bed. There is debate, however, in my family regarding when this happened. What I know is that this happened when I was two years old. However, my mother said this happened a little before or after I turned one-year old.


It didn’t take long for me to retrieve those information because I think they were my first memories. They are also reinforced by other memories I had while growing up. More so, these questions were already asked of me before and I gave the same answers.


If I would base it from my recollections now, I would say that nature of long-term memory is that it can be acquired or processed at the moment of first impression. It can also be maintained and reinforced by other events in our lives that happen to us and we make some references to our long-term memory for them. Also, those that are unusual and those that we have had positive emotions while they are happening–and they have been supported by other memories, whether other short-term or long-term memories–then they are more likely to be part of a specific long-term memory.


What memorizing strategies have you found useful?  What factors positively or negatively influence your ability to remember information? 


The best memorizing strategies I have found useful is the discipline or activity of connecting a particular lesson to a situation–whether real or hypothetical–that seems important for me to know what to do or understand why. Also, this could help by connecting the lessons to other memories or knowledge that I previously have known. Additionally, it helps for me when I talk about it to other people and we engage in discussions that harness and reinforce the correct knowledge and understanding that I have.


When I was enrolled in law school, there was a discussion on the policies of Congress when they would deliberate or enact a bill into law. During that time, I was among the few in our class that understood it because I had experienced attending a Committee Hearing at the House of Representatives and I was representing a group that has interest to the issue being discussed, and we even presented more than 10,800 signatures against the bill being deliberated.


Also, there were times when our topics in law school were related to the topics I was discussing in my classes. Because of that, I was able to talk about our topics in law school and apply them in the lessons I was teaching to my students. When that happens, I felt like I was reviewing myself already.


Until now, almost two years since I stopped going to law school, I still understand complex concepts such as equitable mortgage, value of collective bargaining agreements and the labor code, demotion, and the constitutional infirmities of abortion and the original version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.


As to the factors that positively or negatively influence my ability to remember information, one of the extra factors I know that positively affect my ability to remember is when the topic interests me and I have a credible mentor or teacher I could trust to coach me in understanding a lesson. It also helps when I have eaten well and my emotions are stable.


However, it seems harder for me to learn when I am hungry, when my emotions seem erratic or when I have a dominant negative emotion, and when I feel like the information or understanding imparted to me came from a source I do not trust completely.


How durable is your knowledge after you cram?  How much do you remember 3-5 days after an exam?  How willing are you to take right now an exam that you aced 5 years ago?  What does that tell you about your learning goals? 


When I cram, I still could not yet state whether or not my knowledge is durable when I do cram. The reason is because there are times when I felt like I remember more when I crammed in terms of declarative, factual knowledge. But if the knowledge I need is procedural, then I think I need more time in studying them. Sometimes, cramming would also add to my benefit. It must be important to note that when I use the word “cramming,” I refer to the activity of studying or reviewing a few hours or even minutes before the actual exam. It does not mean, however, that I have not reviewed or studied the lessons prior to the date of my exam.


Yet, I know that I have forgotten some lessons because I crammed, which is why I find it difficult to say that cramming is good or that it is completely wrong. There was a time in law school that I was able to answer a question because I crammed, and it was because the question was something I recently read or understood, but I also had experiences otherwise.


Regarding on how much I remember 3 to 5 days after an exam, it depends. Generally, I remember what I deem very important or has immediate use for me. Also, factual knowledge is easier to forget than procedural knowledge. I cannot say that I have forgotten or remembered everything I reviewed or practiced for after an exam.


If I would take an exam right now that I aced 5 years ago, I am willing if I would be given the appropriate time and materials I could review. Honestly, I don’t remember them all.


Based from these reflections, I think this tells me that even if I need factual, declarative knowledge, I need to spend more goals, time, and resources in developing procedural knowledge–skills that I can most probably recall any time I need them. This may be the reason why, in school, they emphasize in Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) where there must be performance tasks for each lesson tackled.


How have your learning strategies and goals been influenced by the ways you are being/ have been taught or how your learning experiences are/ have been designed? Elaborate.


My learning strategies are influenced by the ways I was taught or learning experiences I have designed if I have reflected on the strategies and design used to me, and I find them very useful.


For example, I was home-schooled. Although my mother was the one who taught and coached me in the lessons, the design of the curriculum is for self-study. Early on, we were taught by the curriculum to read and answer the resources first, and that we would only ask for help when we really find it hard to understand a concept or an instruction. My mother organized field trips for me, and she also “home-schooled” other students with me so that I could still have peers to relate with. This setup encouraged and developed in me a paradigm for self-studying, going around places, and meeting people for academic purposes.


Another example, when I was taking my master’s degree, I had teachers who would like to arrange events and trips for our subjects for us to be able to comprehend deeply the topics we are discussing. I remember when we were talking about “poverty in the city,” I was quite surprised to find out that the poverty I was referring to was quite shallow as to the poverty my professor was talking about when we had a trip to the community where he was helping with.


Also, the school had resources and connections that are used to invite speakers for our forum or bring us to places. We were also required to do hands-on community immersions or activities (because my MA degree is in Transformational Leadership, which appears as Social Work and Development for some) for the track or direction we wish to pursue. Initially, I was assigned in a church. Then, I was assigned in a public school. Then, for one and a half years, I was assigned to go up at least twice a month to the Philippine Military Academy to help an internal organization there pursue the transformative goals of the Armed Forces inside the Academy. Then, we were required to process and make a report of our experiences and evaluation if we have met the goals we have set at the end of the trimester (although the goals were set at the beginning of the trimester, sometimes at the beginning of the school year).


Aside from this, the President of the school helped me have a hands-on opportunity or exposure to be part of the legislation process of the House of Representatives by connecting me to some key people and groups.


Having had those experiences that I enjoyed, and I could connect various concepts on community development, outreach, and politics with those experiences, I could still recall them and teach them to others with joy. They also stimulate me to research further.


Right now, if I want to find out something and I was to have firsthand information regarding an issue, I do both checking available materials regarding the subject matter and interviewing the people involved in it when I can. Also, there are times when I wanted to learn about ethnic minorities and I saw the Lumads temporarily settled in Metro Manila, I went to their rallies, befriended some organizers, and even went to their camp to have a deeper feel regarding how they should be justly treated in our society and culture.


All of those because I was taught to self-study, and visit places and meet people for academic purposes. The latter could be part of my learning strategies.


Now that you know…so what? What are the implications to teaching practice, learning strategies, instructional design, school policies, etc?


            Regarding school policies, I wish that they could be more favorable in academic exposures off-campus, especially if there aren’t enough credible people and useful resources for the students to utilize inside the campus. This is deep in my heart because I was reprimanded for my optional off-campus activities. I told my students that if they want to do certain extra assignments or if they want to get additional points, they could go to the National Museum and other historical places and visit people and locations pertinent to the topics covered in our subject syllabus. Then, I’d ask them to make a video there or take photos (with them in the picture) as proof that they have actually visited the places I mentioned. Sometimes, I brought students to the Senate and, in another occasion, I accompanied them in interviewing an attorney, who was also a son of former Senate President Jovito Salonga. When former senators Maceda and Defensor-Santiago died, I also gave points to my students who went to their wakes.


Before sending them out, I explain the behavior they must manifest, the risk of going there alone or in groups, and tell them that all these are optional activities, therefore they are not required. However, there are additional points to those who do. I also said that these can be alternative activities they can do in their free time if they’re the type of people who’d like to go out every weekend or just roam around to find interesting people to meet and activities to do.


Also, my students interviewed some farmers and tribal chiefs when they went to Manila to personally and collectively petition or make public awareness for their grievances–something I was told they do every year.


My students were happy, posting pictures and videos, exchanging stories, and some of them even helped Lumads in little ways they can. Others, even without reviewing their notes, could even tell me one by one the details they discovered regarding their culture and struggles.


However, this was taken in an unfortunate perspective by my previous department coordinator. I was even reported to the Principal and Assistant Principal telling that what I did was wrong. I was even called as “subversive” by my previous department coordinator, who is still working with us in the school but is now assigned to a different department.


I hope there would be favorable school policies for the activities I mentioned and with the rationale of exposing students to these realities of society. There was nothing threatening, pecuniary, or sensuality involved in what I am asking to do as an optional activity. I could also pin-point which part of the syllabus those activities are reinforcing.


I tried making formal papers to get activities like those approved. The first time I did, it took me two or three weeks to get approval simply because, I was told, the administration had questions but they did not personally ask me about it and waited until I was the one who went to a higher office for the follow-up and explanation. The second time I did, I nothing happened.


Others suggest that I must make sure that I accompany the students in these off-campus activities. However, my concern is that not all students have the same free time to use. Although many are willing to do these individually or in groups. This is not required, anyway. Also, I cancelled some activities when there are threats such as terrorism impending in the city or region where we are. Nevertheless, I still gave points to those who successfully achieved them in spite of the cancellations due to threats to their safety, but I did not insist. It’s just that they want to do it.


I hope there would be favorable policies for this kind of optional activities, and I hope that Senior High School students would not be treated as babies but just like the college students before who were in the same age as theirs, however today their high school is simply prolonged.


I am teaching subjects on culture, society, philosophy, and politics, by the way.


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