Visualise, predict and anticipate

TWO weeks more to go. The beginning of the end,” said Carol, cheerfully stashing piles of yellowing sheets into a huge garbage disposal bag.  

One of the sheets fluttered to the floor and Lily picked it up.  

“I don’t believe it. Newsprint paper! And typewritten too ? Sejarah SRP,” she read aloud. “Oh my goodness, how long have you been keeping this stuff? Twenty years? No wonder you’re always complaining about lack of storage space.” 

Carol scowled and snatched the paper away from Lily. “Mind your own business. I don’t believe in disposing of things before the expiry date. Anyway, remember how only last week you were wishing you hadn’t thrown away your old Science and Maths textbooks written in English?” 

“I’m sentimental about these things too,” said Sue. “You can’t imagine the memories that spring up. Me in my purple bell-bottoms perched in front of the office typewriter with an examination stencil. You know, I can still remember the smell of the stencil correction fluid ? lovely pink it was too ?” 

“Does the school year ever really end?” said Lily. “Look at me, only nine days to go and I’m still marking end-of-the-year exam papers. And what about those invigilating the major examinations or marking SPM and STPM papers? Attending courses. By the time the school year ends for them, the new session has already begun.” 

“The cycle of life,” announced Mr Kang as he walked in with a philosophical look. “It is the death-rebirth thing. The end of one thing, the beginning of another.” He gazed loftily at the lot of us cleaning out our desks. “What? You people not done yet? Take a look at my space. Immaculate isn’t it, even if I say so myself. Simply apple-pie order.” 

He pointed to his table, which was surprisingly neat and tidy with rows of files arranged orderly in a corner. The entire table surface and shelves were lined with gift-wrapping paper and there were even a few inspirational verses stuck on the sides. 

“My, my,” said Lily, clearly impressed. “Mr Kang, you have outdone yourself. Why, your table positively gleams!” 

“Huh” snorted Carol. “Sheer waste of effort if you ask me. Wait for January and see what your gleaming, immaculate place looks like – after the staffroom cockroaches, spiders and lizards have vacationed on it.” 

“Hey, what have we here?” said Lily who was still admiring Mr Kang’s table. “Fail Laporan Aktiviti Persatuan Sains Tahun 2004 ( File on Reports of Science Society Activities 2004)” she read. “And Fail Minit Mesyuarat Kurikulum 2004 (File on Minutes of Curriculum Meetings 2004). Goodness gracious! They’re all complete with statistics and comments too. This ? this ? is preposterous! How on earth can you get reports, minutes and analyses done before the event has even taken place?” 

“Is this some new concept of efficiency and time-management?” asked a wide-eyed Sue. “You know like what we hear all the time in our Kursus Profesionalisma (Professionalism Course)?” 

After dusting off Carol’s chair, Mr Kang gingerly seated himself, gave us a look of infinite patience and cleared his throat. 

“I quite understand,” he said finally. “Really, I do. Most of you are not Science people, so you wouldn’t know about the science processes – hypothesis, making predictions, testing theories? Now don’t get me wrong, I used to be exactly like you.”  

He waved his hands at us. “Not much imagination. No power of visualisation. Doing things the conventional way. Wait for things to happen first and then end up disappointed with the results or grappling with deadlines. And then, it suddenly hit me. Yes, I do get these flashes of inspiration from time to time – must be those old genius genes acting up again. Ha, ha?” 

He beamed at us and continued: “Why not do the paperwork first. The documentation, the reports and analysis. Model it after the way things should most desirably turn out. Saves a lot of headache, let me tell you. After all,” he lowered his voice, “who actually cares about the facts. Documentation is the key to any teacher’s success – didn’t you know?  

“Do you remember how impressed the operasi cemerlang team was with our ceiling high, beautifully bound files and meticulous documentation? Good for the school. Good for the administration and good for the teacher. A pure win-win situation. And all due to envisioning things the way they should ideally be.” 

“One small point that you may have overlooked, Mr Kang,” said Carol in a brittle voice. “What if the situation or event does not turn out the way you have reported it? Say, for example, only two out of 40 members turn up for your society meeting and you are unable to carry out the quiz that you have already recorded as amat memuaskan – kedatangan 95% (very satisfactory – 95% attendance). What then?” 

“And,” asked a rather perplexed Sue, “how do you do analysis of data that is not even available yet?” 

“You people are missing the whole point,” said Mr Kang sadly. “Totally lacking in imagination. Why do I have to repeat myself so many times? Predict, expect, anticipate, visualise. Of course there is margin for error; all science experiments have this. We give allowances for that. So many factors are beyond our control.  

“Anyway, let me put this as simply as possible. Now what kind of reports would those in administration rather have in their files? One which states 95% attendance and an activity successfully carried out, or one which says 0.02% attendance with failure to carry out planned activity?” 

Sue looked at Lily. Lily looked at Carol. Against such flawless logic there was really no reply. “Come on Sue,” said Lily finally, “let’s go find out what our duties are for next year.”        

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