Finding Value in the Struggle – PW Reflections

By Benedict Koh 14S06N

Coming out fresh from my OP, there was a really odd feeling coursing through my veins – a cocktail of very conflicting emotions. On one hand, there was a feeling of total joy and relief at finally being done with the main bulk of PW. On the other hand, however, was something that was holding me back from jumping around and screaming in absolute jubilation. It could be described as a sense of nostalgia and hollow emptiness – the sudden realization that I was never going to do this ever again.

The past 8 months have whizzed by incredibly quickly. In the blink of an eye, one year of my JC life has passed me by. That first day I received my grouping all those months back seems so close, and yet so very far away. Frankly speaking, back then, I only had one goal for PW – to score that “A” grade, by hook or by crook. I wanted nothing more, and certainly nothing less. But how did things change from then to now? Let me take you through the main events in chronological order.

March 2013: Group Formation

Even now, I can vividly recall that sense of dread and confusion I felt when I was first assigned my group. Everyone felt like complete strangers to me. At that point, I felt overwhelmed by how seemingly impossible PW was – how I was supposed to conduct a research study, write a report, AND deliver a presentation with people whom I had just met and barely even knew?

Going into the project, the members of my group all knew what we wanted – the ‘A’ grade. Despite dreading the experience that was to come, we shared a common goal which we were willing to work hard towards. Finding comfort in the knowledge that I had a determined group, I set my heart to it – to give it my best as well.

April to May 2013: Group Project Proposal

We barely had time to familiarize ourselves with one another before we were forced to hit the ground running. Soon enough, it was time for the first proper group submission- the GPP. Being a student in the Raffles Programme since Secondary 1, I thought this would be similar to Research Education (RE), where we could “smoke” our way through to please the teachers. Oh, how wrong I was.

Sure enough, I soon found that PW teachers adopted a completely different stance towards work. Not only were the teachers’ expectations set at a way higher level, the demands of the examination were much more rigorous.

Despite investing hours of our time into our first few drafts, we found ourselves constantly shot down by our teachers (I speak, perhaps, on behalf of the general populace of the school). It also didn’t help that the workload of Term 2 was intensifying day by day, adding more stress upon my shoulders. Draft after draft, we struggled on, knowing that the only thing we could do to was to keep going.

Soon enough, our GPP was cleared. However, in our hearts, we knew that things were only going to get harder.

June to October 2013: Written Report

Going into the phase of completing our first Written Report Draft (WRD), I knew we were entering the most intensive (and dry) part of Year 5. Research reports have always been, to me, a long series of never-ending arguments, and the obstacle ahead seemed insurmountable. This, coupled with the upcoming CTs and Promos, made everything seem even more impossible than I had already perceived.

This was the point in time when I truly resented the subject. I often found myself short of time to revise my schoolwork in the mad rush to meet the deadlines for the drafts, and found myself struggling with school very badly at one point. It was a period of time when stress levels hit a new high, and it was not surprising to see my peers catching a quick nap in between lessons, and sometimes even during them.

However, despite such struggles, there was the proverbial silver lining behind this dark cloud. I found that even during these tough times, everyone in my group was doing their best to contribute to the project, to keep the team spirit alive. Despite having draft after draft rejected, it was a powerful feeling knowing that my groupmates were still fighting on alongside me. It was this, I felt, that really spurred me on. Slowly, but surely, we made progress on our WR and received increasingly positive feedback from our teachers

Soon enough, the 21st of October arrived, and with our final WR safely printed and bound, we submitted it, lifting a great burden off of our shoulders.

October to November 2013: Oral Presentation

Despite being done with our WR, there was still one final obstacle – the much dreaded OP. Like most people, I was petrified at the thought of having to memorize an entire script and present it in front of a live audience for five whole minutes.

There was barely a break to be enjoyed before we were down for our 1st dry run with our teacher. Being the stereotypical shy teenager with stage fright, I struggled to get my points off my cue cards, and stuttered my way through an immensely uncomfortable five minutes.

Though initially demoralized, our group knew our time together as a unit was coming to an end, and we were determined to put up one great performance in order to end off our project on a high note. We were there for one another, clarifying each others’ mistakes and providing constructive feedback. It was that period of time, staying till late after school, coming up with possible questions for the Q&A section and brainstorming for answers together, that largely defined the PW experience for me.

With each day that passed me by, I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety at the thought of my PW experience finally coming to an end. Eventually, that fateful day arrived – the culmination of all our struggles. Together, we entered the examination room as one group, as one group rather than five individuals.

Being the last speaker, I was seated there awaiting my turn as my groupmates went forth ahead of me. At last, the inevitable soon arrived. As I strode forth, I delivered my speech, line by line, word by word, syllable by syllable. My groupmates had worked so hard for this, and it would be unfair if I were to mess it up. With each sentence that left my mouth, my level of confidence increased tenfold, and as I delivered that final sentence, I knew it was done, that PW was over that we had finally made it to the end. Following the Q&A, you could say that emotions ran high, especially for me.

In Retrospect

Even as I sit here at the computer typing this final section, I would say that PW really does funny things to our psyche. On a personal level, I feel like it has transformed me almost completely. During the process of PW, I actually felt that the subject had no real value. However, on hindsight, it’s really 20/20. It has actually taught me fundamental yet essential life lessons such as “leaving no member behind”, and looking back on the entire journey I’ve undertaken, it has definitely been difficult – but trust me, it was worth it.

And so to all the juniors out there about to undergo PW, here is one simple message from a senior who has been there and done that:

“PW is not a bed of roses. You will be forced to hit the ground running, and it will be a mad rush to the end. You will find yourself under constant pressure to meet deadlines. You will feel like giving up at one point or another. It is not an easy journey.
But trust me on this. Your teachers do care for you, and want you to succeed. You will find yourself getting lectured many times, and you will reach your breaking point. But if you push on and keep fighting back, and if you keep a look out for one another and move forth as a group, you will be unstoppable.”

Indeed, it is not just the results, but the people and experiences, that make life count, and so is the case with PW.

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