The Ugly Truth About Life As A JC Student
I had recently graduated from my Junior College, and I am glad to say it was a huge relief. Life as a JC student was never easy, especially when you're in a JC that constantly aims to be among the top 5 Junior Colleges in Singapore. Here's my story of the struggles and tremendous pressure I faced every day as a JC student.
Life in Secondary School was way too straightforward and simple. No politics, nothing. Well, as a matter-of-fact, I only came to realize this after I proceeded on to JC. Spurred on by the motivation to do well in lower secondary and hopefully to do triple science in upper secondary, I always maintained my spot as the top few students in class. Maths and Science were my two favorite subjects and I excelled well in them. Although achieving academic excellence felt really good and gave you a sense of euphoria whenever you're among the top few, sometimes this easily leads to developing an inability to grapple with reality such that you no longer accept yourself when you fall from grace. This was exactly what happened to me and made me felt extremely miserable, depressed, and angry about life and myself. I started blaming, hating and punishing myself as the once clear and bright pathway that I had been treading on became one hell of a blur smog.
After receiving my O level results, though it wasn't fantastic, (8 points; blame those A2s), I was glad I could enter my dream school which I told almost everyone on earth about it. In the beginning, the young, innocent me always dreamt of entering this school because I naively thought since it wasn't an elite school, coupled with everyone's optimistic viewpoints about this school, (helpful teachers, new and squeaky clean environment, loads of notes, extremely hardworking students, nice library etc) it was the school that fit all of my criteria to fulfill my dreams and aspirations later in life. However, life isn't always smooth sailing and instead of being a springboard towards achieving my lifelong dream, it just smashed it downright silly.
All the excitement and enthusiasm about starting a new chapter of my life in a fresh new environment was overpowering and entering my JC for the first time felt really good. I made many friends during the first few days of orientation and the food was really delicious too. When I got to know my class a few weeks later, I quickly blended in well and was happy and satisfied at my progress of developing into a young adult. During our outdoor orientation, it was freaking fun under the sun and we all thought and said among ourselves: THIS IS THE LIFE YO, followed by our house team's cheers and we just screamed our lungs out during those days. Reality finally sunk in when we started our very first lecture and tutorial.
Till today, I didn't know WHY I was placed in one of the best classes in my cohort. Probably 'cause I chose to do 4 H2s without having any frigging idea how hard a struggle that'd be. Shit happens. (Lets call my class, K). Under pressure from society's expectations, K was always supposed to do well despite learning more than others. When I chose to do economics, chemistry, physics and maths, I thought this subject combination fits me perfectly and furthermore, I felt economics was important as it'd provide me with an added advantage of having a greater depth of financial knowledge that is crucial in today's volatile economy as compared to other non-economics students. (NO, it was simply memorizing diagrams and essays and regurgitating them during exams) Unfortunately, this was the gravest mistake I've made as it led to my greatest downfall in life.
Believe it or not, getting a C grade for one subject is 1000000000000 giga mega folds harder than it seems. I am not sure whether my school sets paper way beyond the normal standards of what a JC student would expect, but it definitely felt lousy and depressed every time your result slips ended with a mixture of Us and Ss. Never once was I not shamelessly pointed out in class to meet the teacher for such lousy grades. I started having low morale and it was just the beginning of my downward spiral towards anxiety, depression and withdrawal from my social circle.
Being in K at the beginning was fun as it was made up mostly of guys rather than girls. (Look at my subject combination and you'll understand). However, as time passes, some of their true colors started to show and that was when I knew I had to grow up and handle those shit politics. Some of them are really elitists and tend to look down on those who constantly scored Us Ss which irritates me totally. Although I didn't score Us entirely, one of my science subject was extremely weak (straight Us till J2). I vividly remembered one of my classmates (a guy obviously), grabbed the score sheet and started exclaiming, “Wow look! B, B, C, D, C, U.” He stopped at U and later quietly screened the rest of the classmates' results. I happened to be register no. 6 and yeah. I am not sure if he did that on purpose or he was just too excited about the first few excellent grades that he saw, but that was definitely heart-breaking and from that day onwards, I sunk deeper into depression.
Life totally turned upside down as not only did I stopped contacting my secondary school friends, I also started to withdraw from my immediate group of friends. Fortunately for me, a few that I trusted stood by me and till today, I am extremely grateful for them. Of course,my family played an important role in helping me cope with JC life as well.
Most of the times, when I reached home at 7pm (my timetable starts at 7am and ends at 6pm everyday due to the 'additional support' for 4H2 students that the school claimed to be effective) I would shut my door, lay on bed and stared cold and hard at my bedroom ceiling, with my mind totally blank. I had no more energy to even give a thought about my every growing pile of assignments to do coupled with the most useless subject ever, project work. Of course, I could not afford to stare all day and by 8pm, I was back to doing my ritual for the day till 2-3am. When I woke up the next day, lessons would be unbearable as my eyes were so heavy they felt like titanium for the first time.
Not only did I develop depression, I also became almost anorexic. Its not because of vanity, but the main reason lies in having absolutely no appetite to eat. I was always consumed in feelings of desperation (to do well for once), guiltiness (of failing to meet my parents' expectations) and anxiety. This never ending cycle of negativity almost made me want to escape from reality, but I knew all too well no matter how minute and insignificant I was on this humongous planet, I still had a responsibility to take care of my parents when they're old and all the more, because god gave me this life, I had to appreciate and treasure it. I knew I had to persists and live on.
Although some of my classmates are capable of saying the meanest things on earth to weak students like me, I've forgive them and even established good rapport with them in J2 when I started seeking them for help in my weakest subject. On hindsight, maybe all of this was just a huge misunderstanding. Anyway, guys being guys, I am sure they must've forgotten what they've said previously. The girls in my class were one of the nicest people I've met too and I am so grateful I had classmates like them. All in all, luckily my friends weren't bad after all. However, although life was better in J2 as I started scoring C/D for the first time in GP and Maths all the way, one of my teachers gave me hell. One of my previous subject teacher had been replaced by Mr P (not his real name). I started to cringe when I heard from A LOT of people that his teaching methods were so horrible they'd be better off without a teacher. Previously when I was in J1, although I did get straight Us for this particular subject, it was a high U. In J2, I never got a grade higher than 20 before, even till prelims, which made my anxiety level spike. Not only had his teaching habits gone wrong, his attitude towards his students is terrible too. Of course, he despised me for being the weakest in class and there was once during consultation, he crudely told me off while linking to a particular topic, “Look here Anna, (making some reference to a topic), this is like you. Once I chop off this persons' waist, legs, arms, he will have no more balance and can't stand any further and this is EXACTLY similar to your foundation.” I was taken aback as I had always been extremely polite to teachers and I give them my utmost respect as teaching professionals. Not only that, but the very fact that I asked him questions (I thought of them extremely hard the night before and processed them in my mind many times before I asked) related to the topic which I deemed as relevant and important and also to clear my doubts and misconceptions made him feel that I am a stupid and undeserving student of his. Many times he'd single me out to a corner and demand an explanation for my results. Before I could provide him an answer, he would cut me short and said, “Anna, look at your classmates J and L! I am sure they do not need a timetable to keep track of their studies. But I want YOU to devise a timetable for ME to check by tomorrow.” What more could I say? He thought I was the type who always laze around, reach home in the wee hours of the morning, smoke cigarettes with bad company etc. BUT, I really wanted to scream at his face and say, “HEY!! I DID STUDY HARD BUT I DON'T HAVE ANY FRIGGING IDEA WHY I AM NOT IMPROVING!” But of course, I did not.
That wasn't the only hardest time of my life. One of the most stressful and demanding period of my JC life was during project work. During the first few stages, my teacher had this obsession of rejecting my ideas when IN FACT, he'd be the one marking for me and determining my grade (except for oral presentation). Till today, I still do not understand why he has to be so strict as the purpose of project work is to think out of the box and look at things at a different perspective and NOT tailer towards his desires and wants out of a students' idea, though practical. I've got to admit I still haven't seen much of the world outside, as I've yet to step into uni and deal with tons of similar project work like this, but hey I am only a miserable 17 year old student who has to juggle with the mounting workload of economics, chemistry, physics, and maths.
Fortunately, although my weakest subject remained the weakest up till prelims, I started to source out for more help from friends and tuition teachers and some of my subjects did improved or at least maintained a C grade. Most of my friends were getting As and Bs by prelims but I was already satisfied with my little improvements. When the A levels finally came, I stumbled across a few papers but overall, I felt surprisingly good and confident, probably because I did so many countless practice papers that I started to realize all the questions were repeated but structured in a different manner to trick weak students like me.
All right, guess I'd have to end here. Seems long enough for me to stop. Its not possible for me to provide a full picture of my JC life as there are countless factors that made me so mad and miserable. (BGRs, CCA etc) Those that I mentioned are one of the more prominent ones that will always be deeply engraved in my mind. I do believe everyone could easily give the advice of the importance of striking a balance between play and hard work, but it is indeed hard to achieve. Guess this is one of life's obstacles that I simply can't avoid.
This was reproduced with permission from editors of The Real Singapore.
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