Learning Is Not Necessarily An Outcome of Teaching

About the Dictum

I have been a follower of this dictum for several years, started from the time when I was a college until I became an engineer. We call it “no spoon-feeding” some are aware of this and some are not. Please don't get me wrong! In thinking that this is a stairway to heaven, that when you follow this dictum and adhere to what it says then the result will be a state of nirvana. This is just a barometer where you can measure yourself to what extent you can realize your overall capabilities and at the same time, you will be reminded of your own weaknesses. Here we can learn independently by reading books then asked questions on our own, solve problems and find the answers to any resources available after all we have still the instructor to answer our queries. The good thing here is that when you get the correct answer the retention of the information is much sticky compare to just mere listening with our instructor while doing lectures. Furthermore, if you are already aware of your own specs, you will not waste time to upgrade.

Weakness is inherent to human being but worst thing happens when we cannot recognize it to the extent that it can jeopardize our skills unexpectedly in times we need it the most. 

From personal experience

Like academic matters, life lessons encourage me a lot to be more adherent to what the dictum says. I took my engineering in a state university way back in 1997 and at the same time took my part-time jobs to help my financial expenditures. At this point, I was too independent of our class lectures but I have learned through frequent reading of the books we used in our subjects. While exploring the different principles, sometimes I encountered problems and questions wherein answers can be found only by further reading and understanding even without having your instructor around. It is sometimes like a matter of watching the movie again and again. In effect, I have completed my engineering degree in due time without any academic achievement but I have a single “red’ in my transcript that was a “removal” in my engineering statistics subject due to lack of one major exam when I got sick, but eventually, my instructor let me pass the subject after 3 removals (exam re-sits).

When I became an engineer I have encountered several challenges both in personal and in professional aspects. The first thing that I have learned when I became an engineer in the industry is that there are people who are expecting a lot from you (typically admin/dept. managers) and there are other people who will undermine your capability (typically contemporaries). Those who have a lot of expectations will give you work, not minding whether you knew how to do it or not but expecting a good output while those who undermined you will assign you to work to test your competence. Two opposite forces though it manifest in different forms they shared a common denominator--- pressure.

Pressure in engineering practice

Being a neophyte you cannot claim experience since you don’t have it yet, all you have is the training you have in school. I contemplated that during our school days our mistakes cost us only “red” marks and some tears but in the actual world of practice your mistakes can cost money or even the life of a person. In addition, during our school days, we are dealing only with problems where the answer is absolute and right there our professors can assess whether or not our answer is correct. But in reality, it is very possible that nobody will tell you whether your work is right or wrong until sometime that you will find burnt wires, protection devices explodes, building that will collapse or a material estimate amounting to million while your competitor amounting only to thousand and the later made it right. While it is true that you can ask our superiors to guide you but it does not follow that you can expect them to help you for that is a blatant forfeiture of the reason why they hired you. In the same vein, we can ask our contemporaries for some idea but relying on them fully is equivalent to incompetence whether you like it or not.

Important things to ponder

We may get our diploma and even pass the board exam but without being responsible, it is hard to compete in the real world. Learning and responsibility is inseparable just like the equivalence of matter and energy in Einstien's relativity theory. 

So what is the point then? In my opinion, it is our training that the majority affects the way we evaluate things especially when it comes to problems even though we don’t have encountered them yet. I am referring to collegiate training in relation to one man’s future career and his development as a professional being. Factly of the matter, engineers are expected to solve problems, doing designs, simplifying things, and provide appropriate solutions and not just a mere observer. His brilliant mind to manage these things transcends not only to technical matters but also to other areas wherein analytical skills play a vital role. That is why I think the reason why people with an engineering background is successful in different endeavors even outside the realm of applied physics and mathematics. Being not reliant on what we call teachers can compel us to maximize our capabilities while slowly knowing our weak points. Weakness is inherent to human beings but the worst thing happens when we cannot recognize it to the extent that it can jeopardize our skills unexpectedly in times we need it the most. In effect a person who knew his weaknesses and keeps on trying to find improvements, such a weakness can transform him into a better person. So do not just smile and expect teachers to provide learning because they are just a guide while we are discovering things. The thesis plus antithesis equals synthesis formula is a popular culture among engineers where problems are simulated in trial and error scheme in order to get the right solution with a minimal error during actual implementation. And in congruence, any student who has done nothing similar but merely relies on his instructor/teacher cannot experience the ecstasy of the reason why it is popular. We may get our diploma and even pass the board exam but without being responsible, it is hard to compete in the real world. Learning and responsibility are inseparable just like the equivalence of matter and energy in Einstien's relativity theory.

Being an engineer

Now in our actual career as an engineer, the irony will pop-up like a computer glitch when more responsibilities to come while the riskier it is, a scarce resource of teachers can be found in our sight to teach us and most of the time none. Like static electricity that is looking for a ground path, a very exciting question now will have to take place, how can I do these things if no teachers around to teach me? Again if we don’t have the training that reminding us to be independent we will find it hard to solve problems in the real world of engineering. Despite it could lessen our confidence as engineers as if we know nothing. We will be humiliated with our own rank as engineer, it is better for us if we do not become an engineer at all because so that we can claim a lot of excuses it times of our incompetence. When an engineer got a job he is already practicing as an engineering statement is in-congruent. I remember when my former mentor told us during a class “…Kung yan man lang pala ang gusto ‘nyung trabaho bakit ka pa mag engineering papahirapan mo lang ang sarili mo (if you just only wanted that job then why take engineering, you are just making to much sacrifice in your self)". This statement is very true indeed. However, there is still hope because it is not yet the end, we can still start to be self-reliant even after graduation or even after passing the board exam but maybe you are already left behind, you maybe out-skilled with those who made it earlier when they are still studying, all you have to do is to pray that they will not be your career competitor.

Final thoughts

Know yourself, know your weaknesses and reinforce your self.

For those who wanted to quit engineering, I wish you a good life, maybe God has another plan for you. For those who are already aware that the weak but did not exert effort for improvement or reflection better look for a time machine. Since we are just human who have the limits we must acknowledge that when things go wrong and it seems our life is indeterminate we must remember that we have the one who sits in the infinite heavens, HE WHO is the most benevolent among his students.

Learning, teaching, self-learning

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