By Ling Young Loon (18S07A)
Photograph courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society
How are your lessons going? Have you made new friends in class? Has the orientation fervour flopped out? Are you worried you’ll Fjäll your CTs?
The year begins to drag its feet; the enchanting time of CCA camps and Monday Enrichment fun is waning. Common tests are lurking in the corner. Project Work starts to sink its teeth, and lectures will begin to sting. Academics is now a looming shadow, and the joy starts to subside. You’re boxed into tutorials and pumped into lectures, attacking homework and performing practicals. That’s when you realise: most of your time here will be spent in class.
Class is a tricky term in RJ. Countless lexicographers have tried to coin its meaning, and the debate rages on. The purists have maintained that class is strictly for learning; everything is plotted on your timetable. End of class indeed signals end of class. Revisionists, however, disagree. Revisionists postulate that class is a phenomenal social construct that depends on its members’ psychoanalytic state. Then come the Marxists. I don’t think they want class at all. Is that why blue slips are in short supply?
Despite being an honoured member of the 37th Welfare Department, I have no answer. Our think-tank has tried, however, to unravel this mysterious puzzle. We agreed that class isn’t something trivial. Students spend the most time with their classes, perhaps more than CCA. (One Raffles Press session equals two PE lessons.) Yet to many, class is only a passing whiff, a study tavern and nothing else. Many tend to revolve around the same flowers, never reaching out to the rest. See that guy sitting at the corner of the back row? When was the last time you talked to him?
The connotation of class has transformed tremendously in JC. In our dizzying array of CCA line-ups, orientation groups, and Y1–4 communities, our Y5–6 classes blend into the shadows. Most wouldn’t see class as a source of community, only a bedizenment in this short journey. Maybe it’s weird that we have a school orientation instead of a class orientation, maybe it’s wonky how your class never had an outing. During our meetings, Mr Chris – my ex-welfare teacher – said this could be due to the lack of common space and experiences. In Y1–4 you’d have the keys to your classroom. You’d do decorations and celebrate Racial Harmony Day. Y5–6 isn’t exactly that festive playground anymore.
“That’s probably why HP classes are more ‘united’ in that sense,” a Press member chipped in. “We get a classroom all to hang out and study in, all to ourselves.”
A majority of J2s would agree that class is overshadowed in JC. But is it necessarily a problem? After all, there’s no point squaring a circle. Having a few close friends in class is, perhaps, memorable enough. Take a look at some pie charts, fresh out the oven:
While over half agreed that class spirit has greatly diminished, a slight majority agreed that class spirit needs brushing up. A quarter didn’t really answer the question, and one person disagreed. Probing further, we asked them to explain why:
“Everyone’s friendly and amiable, pretty positive vibes and most of the class hangs out together most of the time which is nice.”
“Although there are cliques, we mix around voluntarily and most everyone is on good terms/good friends with everyone else even outside the cliques.”
Ah, cliques, the inadvertent phenomena of school life. It’s great to have a group of go-to buddies to hang out with, but a clique can’t replace a class in more ways than one. First off, a clique is no longer attuned to other personalities. You’ll be surprised how many new friends you gain from mingling with people with differing characteristics. A clique may also fail to provide the sense of identity that a class provides. It is now reasonable to conclude that class spirit is lacking in JC: the question turns to whether it matters in the first place.
Does class matter?
Is class bonding even worth its salt? Why be bothered? Our J2s pitch in their thoughts:
“It’s a shame you can’t walk up to anyone from your class and chat them up like in y1–4.”
“Your relationship with your class can strongly influence your experience in JC, and it can make JC life a little less tough, or a living hell.”
“Some of my friends say they hate their class or they are not that friendly with their classmates and i think if it were me my experience of school life would probably be very negatively affected.”
“Class is important that they are going to be your home and your family for 2 years and if they aren’t bonded enough to support one another during tough times, it might be even harder to cope and deal with the A Levels as well.”
However, a few J2s highlighted the Herculean nature of class bonding. JC life is, after all, a span of only two years. Some things just won’t work out, and no one is to blame.
“You can’t really choose the group of people you are placed with and if they don’t make you feel comfortable you can’t really force them. So I feel that it shouldn’t matter and let people choose who they want to be surrounded by.”
“I think its already pretty good given we only get to know our class for 2 years and its really hectic.”
“It is important to have class spirit as you are with them throughout the 2 years but yet it cannot exactly be forced.”
“From what I’ve heard, the number of classes that are really bonded seem to be quite little, but as long as the students are satisfied, I don’t feel like there needs to be a change.”
So class is a nice-to-have: You will realise the benefits of a bonded class when you have one, but people do fine without giving class bonding a try. You’ll probably have some friends who do everything with their classes, and some friends whose classes never hang out. And indeed – everyone would enjoy a class like the former. It’s one huge elephant in the room that no one says outright.
So you think you have class spirit?
Our J2 classes are not the most united. That is the foregone conclusion. We decided to probe further. Could it be just our batch? Is this a recurrent JC circumstance? Raffles Press dished out the same surveys to nineteen J1s to dig deeper. The results are in:
Likewise, class bonding appears to be a sticking point for all Rafflesians. But it’s still early in the year, so don’t worry too much if your class appears detached. There remains an open window to sit down, study, or have fun – as a class.
Recipe for Identity
Because class camps and celebrations are no longer organised by the school, the direction your class dynamic takes lies snugly in your own hands. Your class is on your own, and bringing everyone together, in an organic manner, is easier said than done. Call a KTV outing. Have lunch together. Go support your classmate’s match. It’s the little things that sculpt the identity so many classes lack. A class shirt or sweater might also be handy in cementing class identity. Final words of advice from your J2s:
“If your class is really close and bonded good for you! But JC is a quite short, less than 2 years actually, so it’s ok if you don’t know everyone in your class well, as long as you have a solid group of friends in class.”
“Take time to know your classes and try to engage everyone (even the quiet ones) early on as it would cultivate the class spirit very early on.”
“Spend your first month eating together as a class, and if you can manage that, then the rest of the year should be more smooth sailing (maybe).”
“Please try your best to make friends and don’t alienate your classmates (i did that at first and it was kind of awkward).”
“Open up more n dont be superficial.”
“Close the halal gaps.”
“Y’all messy lmao.”
Finally, I end off with a quote from the spokesman of 18S06M, one of the “tighter” classes in our batch. I deeply admire his carefree and effusive attitude, and he deserves nothing less than a class that gels:
“Oh it isn’t just the people you share a homeroom with, it’s the everyday “eh you no game sia” banter, the constant nudging when you fall asleep in lecture, the daily walk to the Y1–4 side to eat claypot and the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you realise that whenever you slip up, they’ll always be there, not to help you of course, but to take pictures.”
– Sin Zi Jian
That concludes our brief discourse on a fragile topic. So dear J1s, give your class a chance. Hopefully it works out. If it does not, you have nothing to lose.