A Gift Letter from Jinn Jinn
By Dr Moni Storz
It is Christmas again. Christmas is about gifts rather than obligatory tokens given in exchange. Gifts usually come from the depth of some divine well, not only bought in shops and stores. Whilst in Malaysia recently, I received one such gift a letter from an ex student of one of my Accelerative Learning camps for teenagers.
Jinn Jinn was a young Malaysian Chinese student living in Kuala Lumpur when she first attended an Accelerated Learning camp that my girl friend, Evelyn and I ran in the early 90's. Then she attended one in Australia. In many senses, Jinn Jinn is an AL graduate from our workshops for children and teenagers. Soon after that, her father died when she was still in high school. That meant her mother had to support her and her brother. Jinn Jinn, truly a child with a strong Confucianist upbringing, worked hard at her studies and earned money through giving piano lessons, managed to win a scholarship into the Dental School at Singapore University. You have to be super brilliant to do that. At the same time, she was also accepted into the Medical School at Monash University.
Jinn Jinn came to Melbourne and taught classes at ACCS for a short summer in Melbourne, attended some classes at Monash University but sacrificed all her dream to be a doctor for the sake of her brother's future. Studying at Monash meant less money for her brother's studies. She returned to take up her scholarship in the dental school at Singapore University. This synopsis of a young Chinese girl's experiences shows many elements of the Confucianist ideal that I have often talked about. I would love to share her story with you.
Jinn Jinn wrote a heart moving letter to Evelyn and me recently and I want to give this to all of you students, family, friends and supporters of our projects for Mirabel.
Here is Jinn Jinn's letter:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
Dear Aunty Evelyn and Aunty Moni,
It's been years since I attended the last Accelerated Learning camp. However, what I discovered was that things that I learnt way back then never lost its significance. In fact, as the years went by, they became more and more relevant to me as I had to shoulder more and more responsibilities.
Last year (2001) was an awfully traumatic academic year for me in Dental school. On top of having to juggle all my tons of schoolwork, I had to manage my ECAs in order to collect sufficient points to stay back in the Halls of Residence. There came a point where everything was just going downhill, and nothing in life seemed to go on properly. Not only did I find myself falling sick easily, I found my grades plunging. For the first time in my life, I failed every single test and I gradually found myself losing interest in my work to the extent of having wanted to give up at some point or another. I locked myself up in the room frequently just to try to "sleep away" the problems.
I realised soon enough that doing all that wasn't going to get me anywhere, except into further trouble. Therefore, I had no choice but to sit down one day, and to get a hold of myself to think about what I actually wanted in my life. Firstly, I needed to get myself out of the dumps. My self-esteem had suffered greatly and every time I took a test, I prepared to fail. I began to feel that I wasn't well-liked anymore, and that I probably couldn't do anything significant. Therefore, each day, I focused on telling myself in the morning that I must not take all the bumps and knocks in Dental school too harshly. I willed myself to smile even if I didn't feel like it. Slowly, it became a habit, and soon it became natural. I took a positive outlook towards learning, especially with regards to my labwork. Everytime I made a mistake, I would tell myself that "Hey look at the bright side, at least you're making the mistake here in the pre-clinics and not in your patient's mouth.".
Exercise became very important as it is my form of stress release. I took to playing sports very rigorously and soon started finding my skills improving. Whenever the exams were near, I would change to do breathing and relaxation exercises.
Then where my studies were concerned, I sat down to examine what went wrong. I found out that one of the reasons why I lost interest was because they didn't seem to have much significance to me during the learning process. It just wasn't fun anymore, so I naturally rejected everything that was taught. Falling back to basics, I recalled that we once took a test to determine our learning styles, and that I was both a visual and kinesthetic learner. This made a lot of difference, because instead of just mugging in the room or library, I took time off during the holidays to visit my dentist at his general practice and watched him at work. I got him to prompt me questions and to discuss all his cases with me. That way, I was learning the practical way. Everything made so much sense, and suddenly all the theories started to mean something. On top of that, I modified the use of mind-maps into flow charts and graphs. I drew a lot of my notes instead of writing them. I kept to a strict timetable, never skipping meals. I made sure that after every 2 hours (which is my max concentration time-span), I took a short 5-10 minute break before continuing.
Suddenly, all the things that I was taught during the holiday camps made a whole lot more sense than it ever did previously. What I found out was that Accelerated Learning is not just about speed-reading, breathing exercises, mind mapping etc. It encompasses a group of techniques devoted to maintaining the total well-being of a person - Mind, Body and Soul. Learning is a life-long process, where techniques learnt will always be there to aid in the process, but need to be modified where and when necessary. Ultimately, it boils down to making learning significant, acceptable and fun for yourself to take in the subject matter, such that learning no longer becomes a mere task, but an enjoyable process. Thank you very much for giving me these lessons early in life. They now mean a lot more to me than before.