Some RJC students finally pinned me down after a couple of weeks or pursuit. I had gathered some sense that they had done their reading, and so succumbed to their persistence.
They had previously interviewed Geh Min (ex-NSS president) and Mah Bow Tan (Minister of National Development) by email but have yet to nail down Joseph Lai or Ria Tan. I suggested they indicate the depth of their reading in future emails, ask more specific questions and indicate the extent of their work so far.
You see, the plethora of group projects investigating a variety of issues by students in tertiary institutes, JCs and even secondary schools means we receive lots of requests annually. Initially I over-extended myself in the early years which was not always constructive, so now I quickly adopted a sustainable strategy.
- Is the email properly constructed? (Includes a proper introduction, signs off with a full name, essentially gather a sense of effort and attitude).
- If so, answer email. Usually also ask for their reading list of articles of websites.
- Supplement their reading list if need be.
- If they have done their reading and have more than a couple of questions, schedule a meeting in NUS or Holland Village (if after hours) – emails take too long and are restrictive.
- At the meeting, I’ll pretty much spill the beans (i.e. include context) to the normally fresh-faced students. Usually this includes writing out graphical visualisations on paper – larger table, more elaborate drawings (students are a source of very interesting pens and paper and will usually proffer their favourite pen).
- Depending on their project and if they are able to integrate the role of context, I then provide additional information. I might suggest names to consult.
- By now, I’ll know if its a serious group and am probably done in by their eager-beaver faces. So I might help setup very specific and short interviews with relevant and reluctant individuals – once this sort of group gets their foot in, the session will last as long as they need.
- I try to remember not to leave with their favourite pen.
However, once my busy semester begins (Aug – Nov), its coupled with NUS research student supervision so this category of activity is shelved until February the next year. I have a few more requests I’d better respond to now.
It’s not all a chore, though, despite this considered approach and the hint you might garner of significant reluctance! Often I leave the interviews with a sense of hope, and I think did so today as well.