(It's finally May!)
I cannot believe I have about 4 more weeks of placement left! This is happening all too soon! Like a good film, the action and drama seemed to have happened in the second act, i.e. the last few months here. I just finally have enough down time to sit and think about what I would like to include in this blog!
The last month whizzed past in a blur, long spells of chilly winds were broken up by the rare warm sunny weekends. Summer came in phases. This, I didn't mind at all as most of the good weather seemed to fall on the weekends, meaning I could fully enjoy it. Weekdays however, were filled with more research and reading. I've finally collected data on my own! I finally made use of my DBS clearance and went to a few schools to collect data for the Daily Mile project as well as my dissertation (multi-tasking; killing two birds with one stone situation). It truly opened my eyes to the real world of researching, especially with schools.
I remember during A-level Sociology, we discussed the benefits of conducting research in schools (captive audience, students are used to tests) and the barriers (difficult to access, tight schedules, working with children). Back then, it felt very "abstract" to me as I was just copying whatever my teacher was saying. The past few weeks, I got to experience the full spectrum of researching in schools (and with children) while conducting a survey looking into the effects physical activity has on body appreciation and mood.
Schools are getting busier and there are more added pressures on them to achieve certain targets. Having me as an external researcher, studying some concept that is not really prioritised in schools, despite it (body image) being a major concern in public health, meant that teachers might have 'forgotten' about my visit. Delays were expected and teachers profusely apologised for having a 'hectic' week. It was the same in every school, not going to blame them, I understood how important it is for them to follow a tight schedule and how my visit might be seen as an inconvenience. However, they signed the consent forms and I'm already there so I guess they can't turn me away. Well, they haven't anyways.
The children are a different matter altogether. There were the really good kids (follows your every word) and the naughty ones (tears the consent form up in front of you *sobs*). That's applied research for you.
That experience, without being too cliche, really opened my eyes up to the reality of research. I tried imagining how the other researchers managed to go to multiple schools and did interviews/focus groups/observations with children who in some cases would not want to co-operate. Do you take the authoritarian role and risk rapport or do you continue with a smile in hopes they'll co-operate in their own time? That was one of my dilemmas when the kid tore his consent form in front of me. Instead of releasing the Asian mom in me, well aware that I was not at home and he is not my nephew/cousin/child, I just smiled and said 'It's okay, I got more.'
That was enough to drain me for the whole day. I don't know how teachers do it, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. They deserve a higher pay rise.
So that's one of the main experience that stuck with me the past month. Thought I'd share it here, hoping someone out there reading this can relate.
Another exciting news, my home country, Malaysia finally has a new government! The voice of the people and power of voting finally toppled a 61-year rule from the same political party and we also have the world's oldest leader. Despite my postal vote drama (full story here), everyone else went out, dipped their fingers in inedible ink and cast their vote, in hopes of a reform. Last Wednesday-Thursday was more dramatic than any TV show, every Malaysian, home and abroad were glued to their screens, constantly refreshing their news feed. Nail-biting to the very end, until the 92-year-old sworn in as the (formerly 4th now 7th) Prime Minister of Malaysia. The whole country celebrated. But that was just the beginning of a new democracy, a new Malaysia. I am just very proud and relieved that the democratic system has not failed us this time.
That's all from me for now. Next time, it will be a final goodbye as I end my placement. But here's a couple pictures from me: