One of the best things about being in a distance learning environment is the independence. One of the worst things about being in a distance learning environment is the independence. I’ve always prided myself in the fact that I am an independent learner. I regard deadlines within the boundaries of the sacredness of the Holy Trinity. I’m an introvert so I don’t crave for social interaction as much as other people. I can stand it for short periods of time, but sustained overstimulation just leaves me drained. I prefer the comforts of solace and uninterrupted silence. So the choice of enrolling in UPOU was a cinch. The fact that I find the idea of commuting to school on a weekend (after a full week of navigating the coma-inducing traffic on the streets of the metro) just torturous in itself was also a factor, but that’s beside the point.
Upon first enrolling in UPOU last term, I found myself coasting through the modules and the requirements, albeit not without difficulty. It was manageable at best. The end of my first month in UPOU presented me with a challenge I had not anticipated as the demands of school and a full-time job beckoned and started piling up. Weekends were lost in pursuit of completing requirements and chasing deadlines, and my weekdays were no less hectic as I struggled to keep track of activities at MyPortal. In the thick of the situation, I had failed to take a quiz in one of my courses. I berated myself for such unacceptable negligence and oversight. And I secretly worried and obsessed over the implications and consequences of such incompetence. I was harsh on myself. I am harsh on myself. I had scarcely recovered from this incident when I realized that my midterms for the same course was looming. I was so busy stewing over my failings that I almost missed my midterms. The midterms was set for the day after, yet I hadn’t even started reviewing for it. I was in trouble, not because I was flunking the said course, or any of my other courses for that matter. The rest of the weeks went by without a hitch, in fact. I was in trouble with myself for committing the grave mistake of allowing myself an oversight. Yes, I have this unbecoming and intolerable habit of picking, poking and scratching a scab long after the wound has healed. As a teacher, that makes me insufferable and overbearing. As a student, that just makes me relentless to a fault. Don’t get me wrong though. On the surface, you’d never realize that this thing was nagging at me and eating me up. I’ve been living with this disorder long enough for me to learn to mask it with an air of sophisticated indifference.
So it was under these conditions that I was responding in one of the discussion forums. The forum was fairly light as we were tasked to reflect on our previous activity, the main objective of which was to find out how well we knew ourselves and the people around us and the importance of such when undertaking a task. One of my classmates had aced the activity and everyone was commending him. I had likewise expressed my admiration for his achievement. He seemed nice enough, very affable, in fact, if I may say so myself. I guess it was this quality that had caused me to mention in passing my despair over missing a quiz and nearly missing my midterms. He had so politely and humbly shrugged off the praises that were thrown his way. He was juggling school and work just like the rest of us, he said, and it was no easy feat. It happens to the best of us, he told me. “Look at the bright side. You only missed a quiz. You didn’t miss your midterms. Just don’t let it happen again,” he jokingly added.
To this day, I don’t know what it was that made me feel better when he said that. It may be the comfort of being heard and understood. I had casually mentioned the incident to my friends over dinner and stories one night, only to be treated by the chorus “How could you have let that happen?” Well, there goes the sympathy, I thought. It may have been the camaraderie formed by having common interests or goals. Or it may also be that he embodied the qualities of a good model for social learning: salience, respect and liking, and similarity. It was then I felt that my sense of independence could also prove to be my downfall. It was pure hell to be miserable and alone. It was not at all that revolting to be miserable in the company of others. Learning is a social process, they say. It was then that I was reminded of all those times in high school and college when doing homework and studying for a test was not that much of a drudgery, when study groups inevitable turned to gab fests and tell-all segments straight out of The Buzz. The simplest interactions could surprise you sometimes for it was at that point that I stopped feeding this insatiable one-eyed monster inside of me.
Models and Mentors in My Life