Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bored in Bali

I'm sitting in the main hall last Thursday, still a bit groggy and not really awake yet. You are there too. A few rock bands have played and I feel an indescribable sense of pride. The same pride I feel every time I see young people expressing there passion, however, self-consciously. Makes me think that passion when given a voice, no matter how awkwardly, is why I do what I do.

The MCs crack a few more terrible jokes to a smattering of chuckles from the front of the hall. I notice the stoic eighth graders expressionless, always too cool for school, whisper to each other-- clearly annoyed to be lumped together with the rest of these "children."

I think back to when I was your age and wonder if I am doing good work. If I'm making a difference, getting through to any of you. Teaching you anything at all.

Then a Balinese man is on stage placing a microphone near his phone. A shrill painful Gamelan begins to squeak from the PA speakers. We all wince in pain and I look around the room to see how everyone else is reacting. A group of young men take the stage and begin to dance like Birds of Paradise.

I am bored and quickly forming judgments: the music is too loud and needs more bass. I don't like this type of dancing. I don't want to be here. I scan the room and to my horror I see the same expression on your faces. Is my boredom as obvious as yours? Am I that bad of a role model?

Then, as is often the case, my mind takes off. Flutters a bit over my head and disappears into the high corners of the Main Hall. Here is what I was thinking as I watched you watch the boys dancing on the stage:

Education is not about opinions. It is not about liking or disliking. Education is not about always having fun and being engaged. True education is about exposure to a diverse range of expereinces. The truly educated person is not concerned about always liking what they are exposed to, or worried about it always being fun or pleasurable. The truly educated person is simply open to experience for its own sake.

As an adult, I realized that while I was not enjoying the Balinese dance, I could recognize that having witnessed it, it added to my overall life experience. It was teaching me. I was learning. This realization and reminder that everything in life is teaching me and that I am always learning, excited me beyond belief. I begin to wish that you were having similar thoughts.

I wanted to stand up and grab the microphone and remind you to appreciate the incredible amount of expereinces you are being exposed to everyday at school and everywhere else you roam. I wanted to tell you to sit up and not mope. Forget your opinions and your likes and dislikes and just soak in the moments. Every single one of them. There are people in this world who will never even know there is a place called Bali. Never mind watching dancers from the island. I wanted to remind you that you are lucky, not in the annoying way know-it-all teachers  have a tendency to do, but as a mentor, a father, a friend who has been a round a bit longer than you. A man who has learned a few things in his life and has devoted his life to teaching them to you.

I didn't have the microphone last Thursday, but I do have it now, so what were you thinking last Thursday? What are you thinking about now? It's hard to teach people who do not interact with your thoughts. Leave a comment. Share your thoughts with me on any thing I said in this post. 


  1. I believe that one of the education discussions that has gotten way out of hand is passion based learning. How much of what we are passionate about is really that useful for us in life? I have had many learning experiences where I was not happy. I am not even referring to the times I was bored which are there as well.

    Have you ever noticed how someone that is good at something tends to enjoy doing it while at the same time they dislike things they are not good at? How limited would our education be if we only pursued what we really enjoy? Besides, the more new experiences we have the more things we have opportunities to become passionate about.

  2. I was also bored and half asleep watching the Balinese dances. I suppose that I felt guilty feeling like this. Like you said, every student in that hall was lucky. I knew this, I wanted to enjoy it and realise how brilliant it was that I was given to opportunity to view the culture of another country just in a school assembly. But as much as I wanted to, I didn't feel lucky. I felt like the dances were too long and too repetitive, and yet again I felt like most of the assembly was a waste of time.

    1. Thanks for reading and replying Matt, but don't lose track of my point: Sometimes the most important lessons we learn is when we are bored and not necessarily super excited about what is happening. But this only happens if we are aware enough to realize that every experience is in some away a learning experience. We can’t sit around & wait for passions before we start to learn. We have to be open to the boring & difficult lessons too.

  3. Hi Mr Raisdana, I read your email with the title "try to blog more". To be honest I have a lot of ideas in my head and really wanted to put them on my blog, but lately I'm pretty exhausted and busy. It's not like there are lots of homework or anything, but for some reason there isn't enough time for me to do lots of other things. Hopefully I can sort it all out and after that, I'd love to blog and share some really cool things I have in my mind.


    1. Hey Larry,

      Remember that sometimes actually taking a few minutes each day to clear your head by writing can be a great way to manage stress. Don't think of blogging as another thing to do, but rather as a way to be in your own brain for a while and clear the clutter. Good luck. We would love to see the really cool things in your mind as well.

  4. This is like a quote which should be told and taught to everyone before their learning journey. I felt like reading a piece of a poem. It was so true. Education isn't about opinions. I think that very fact that we are getting education mixed with so many experiences is amazing. I think that no lesson or assembly is boring. It depends on the student if they want to make the lessons boring or not. There is never a bad teacher but only students who don't realise that it is them that they need to improve. Education is all around us coming in all different shapes and forms. Students shouldn't need to be told through the microphone what you were trying to say but students should tell themselves that they are experiencing such amazing things that not many people have the chance of. I loved this post Mr.Raisdana. I think it's very true.

    1. I disagree with some of what you said. I don't believe that "there is never a bad teacher" but I do understand the point you're trying to make. I'm not sure if this applies to every student but growing up, every time the word "education" was mentioned, I would straight away picture myself confined within classroom walls. It was only until a year or two ago when I appreciated the reality that this was not so. Most education does in fact take place outside of the classroom but the way we are brought up, it's made to seem like all of learning takes place at school and that's that. This ultimately comes back to the education system but I think if you have a teacher that does not help their students make this realisation sooner rather than later, they are a bad teacher. "Bad" is maybe a harsh word. "Poor" works better I feel.

      What is sad to me personally is that adults nowadays try and convince the youth the truth about education being a privilege (which it is) and that it should be fun but the reality is that the reason many of us don't necessarily think it's a privilege is because of the way kids have been taught for the last few generations. We're made to believe that learning is what happens at school. I loved Mr. Raisdana's post as well and completely agreed with it but the reason his expression was mirrored on everyone's face in the room was not because he is a bad role model, but because of how the education system goes about teaching kids, students, men, women, whoever.

      I will also say that, of course, people will simply not find many things interesting. It's as simple as that. Interests differ which is what makes us unique.

    2. You raise some great points Hassan. I particularity agree with this line, "Most education does in fact take place outside of the classroom." What schools should do and teachers should do is prepare students to be receptive and ready to learn lessons when they seem in the "real" world. To do this, you have to have some basic skills, that is where school comes in.

      I also feel that the more ideas, skills, and people you are exposed to throughout your life in and out of life, the better you are able to cope with learning on your own when you are out of school.

      That was really the point of my post-- even when it feels boring and dull, your experiences when added up will help you become a life long learner, but you have to be open to the experiences and allow them to guide you. If you are indifferent, apathetic or worse hostile to ideas and experiences than you will have a hard time learning from them.

  5. I also have some opinion about the dance at the assembly. In UWC students are taught to be open-minded towards differences, including cultural differences. Most of the times people do not show disrespect towards these differences out of spite, but simply because it's something that they don't understand, and are not used to. During the performance I tried hard to appreciate the dance, but it was very difficult and I ended up curling into a ball, closing my eyes and covering my ears. I think to have everyone liking one another is impossible, but if people try to understand the differences it will grant them the ability to see the world in many different and possibly more interesting perspective.

    1. Thanks for replying Larry. You make some great points. " people do not show disrespect towards these differences out of spite, but simply because it's something that they don't understand, and are not used to." I think developing an understanding for difference is what I meant by increased exposure to diverse ideas. Just by witnessing this dance, you are better equipped to handle a similar topic in the future. You are also right that we cannot, or should not try to get everyone to love everything, but for some, that dance may push them to do further research on Bali or dance or folk culture etc....As teachers we never know what will spark a fire in a student heart. We simply try to put it all out there and hope you are open to it.

  6. The following comment is form a Music Teacher friend of mine, who was having issues posting her comment:

    The first time I went to Bali, I was five and I was with my father (an expert on all things Indonesian) and his high school students. I remember the intensity of the colours, the heat, the unusual music and dances and being fascinated by the people (and them with us). I don't have a single negative memory about the experience, but I'm certain that there were boring moments or moments when I was irritated. Memory is brilliant like that, it cuts out the boring bits, just like when I'm preparing for a concert or a play, I have very few memories of rehearsal and many of the big moments.
    The next time I went to Bali I was an adult. Rephrase. The next time I went to Bali I was an adult with years of life experience travelling around the world and a university education in the Arts (specifically Music and Drama). What I was most looking forward to about the trip was the opportunity to see a Kecak performance. Part of a kecak involves a group of men dancing and chanting to mimic the effect of hearing monkeys chattering in the forest. It is a brilliant and challenging vocal feat and having sung for years in choirs I had some perspective on the musical mastery it could take to achieve, and the one I saw in Ubud was mesmerising. Not only was the choreography so expertly timed and the vocal layering so intricate but the setting itself made the experience magical- sun setting over a rice paddy with torches to illuminate the performance arena. I felt a little sorry for my husband, though who didn't have my years of accumulated knowledge on Kecak to draw from, he tells me that it was still quite memorable.
    Some art can be boring, but some art simply suffers from a lack of context. Think of trying to read Shakespeare poolside versus watching a production in the Globe, or better still performing Shakespeare in the Globe, I know which I'd prefer and get more out of. I know your post was about being openminded to all sorts of educational moments because there's often great moments to be had in even the boring bits, but I also thought there was something to be said about how good memory is at editing out the boring bits and how time, place and accumulated knowledge can make some learning experiences transcendental.

  7. Jabiz I distinctly remember my 11th grade physics teacher telling me "Anyone that's bored doesn't have a brain! There's a whole universe out there to think about and explore." or something along those lines... somehow that stuck with me and I remember it quite frequently!

    On the outdoor adventure trips I lead when students are 'bored' because they can't use their iPhones & iPads... they start to sing, play games, tell jokes, laugh and interact on a different level.. which is what I want... so maybe 'bored' isn't the right way to see it...

    I wrote The Box People when I was 'bored'... I write songs and dream up crazy ideas like leaving my job and leading outdoor enviro ed trips when I am bored...being bored is an opportunity to escape the distractions that surround us and possibly think new and uniques thoughts...

    Boredom is the threshold to creativity if we are disciplined enough to cross it...