We’re pretty fortunate at Impart Education. From time to time, we get to see relationships and growth that venture beyond formal education. One of these we had the privilege to capture in a recent video featuring Ruwen - an Impart youth and his tutor, Rui Zhe.
We caught up with Rui Zhe to hear more about his year-and-a-half long relationship with Ruwen and his reflections on the filming experience.
How would you describe your relationship with Ruwen?
“It’s more like between friends than between teacher and student. Ruwen’s pretty open about his life, he doesn’t really treat me like a teacher. He’s pretty casual, and a chill guy - he doesn’t get too worked up about things, but he doesn’t get too serious about his work. He do half then he’s pretty happy already.
He’s [also] quite outgoing and friendly, at least towards me. He loves to make small talk and just talk about random stuff… I try to ask him about different aspects of his life, and he’s quite willing to share, and that’s quite fun lah.
I think [over time] we’ve gotten less formal, and we’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with each other… He’s more open to sharing about other parts of his life other than his academics, and he’s also more responsive when I joke with him -- he will joke back and laugh.
The academics part has been more of like an up and down rollercoaster ride. He was getting better with doing homework and coming for tuition in the second half of last year, and then this year he kind of stopped going into school for a while. No one really knows why, and [why] after that he started going to school again. But he stopped doing the homework I assigned him, which was a problem last year. It has improved this year, so it has been up and down lah.
I wouldn’t say there has been a very linear trend, or progress, it’s more like up and down. I just try to support him whenever he lets me support him. When he cancels I try to reschedule, and if we reschedule then I turn up. I’m not too offended or anything. And I understand that sometimes, tuition is not what he needs right now.”
Could you talk about some of the memories you have of/with Ruwen?
I actually think filming the film was [one]… The film was like 7 minutes right, but like it actually took freaking long to film. Two days to film! So I was just sitting in Ruwen’s house for two days. That was actually quite a bonding experience.
I remember when the producers kept trying to ask Ruwen to share one of his raps. He was very shy, he was like [araruua], no inspiration today, don’t really feel like rapping. So there were a lot of moments where they were just giving Ruwen space, while doing their own setting up and stuff. [At some point] Ruwen was sitting in his room, and they asked me to go and talk to Ruwen.
I was just sitting besides Ruwen and he was looking at one of his raps. I started talking to him about other stuff. Eventually, he decided that ok, he shared with me one [rap] that was a bit vulgar, but that one he [understandably] didn’t want to share with the producers lah.
He shared with me this other rap that he was working on with a friend. He turned on his computer and showed me the beat, rapped for a bit. Then then I started asking him some questions about his rap. ‘Why did you write this line, why did you write that line, what does this mean…”
I’m not super into rap so I had to ask, and it was interesting to see the things he writes about. This one was about romance, or like, about getting rich or something. He uses a lot of phrases that popular rappers use, which I don’t understand. So I have to ask him about certain parts, like, ‘I quite like this part, or I don’t really understand this part…’
While we were doing that, I think the producers recognised an opportunity, and so they also started filming from outside the door, far, far away. They weren’t secretly filming, but they started filming outside the door, and I see that they included that scene. Other than the fact that they got that [nice] scene, it was also an opportunity that I really got to know… Like I really for the first time got to hear Ruwen’s rap lah, cause he always say that he raps, [and whenever I ask him,] can you show me one of your raps, then he’ll be like okay lah, next time, next time, next time. So I finally got to hear it over that weekend!
What do you think that you’ve taken away from the whole experience so far?
I think I got to really interact with someone who thinks very differently from me. Ruwen has very different priorities, and for me that’s quite eye opening. It really constantly reminds me that not everybody cares about the things that we care about in my college, and only a very small part of the population cares about the things that we care about. It serves as a constant reminder, especially for someone as academically driven as me, that the rest of the world has very different priorities from how I am lah. So that’s one thing.
The other thing [it shows me] is that even with a population that is so different from me, I can also interact with them. It’s not like their experiences are completely foreign to me. So when I talk to Ruwen, it’s true that he cares about very different things, he has a very different primary school, secondary school experience from me. But we still can talk like normal people, and we still can joke around like normal people.
So it’s not like our experiences make us completely alien to each other, and it’s not like [youths in Ruwen’s situation] have completely nothing to teach us. I guess he also taught me what it means to build a tutoring relationship with someone that doesn’t just involve teaching them academic stuff, but also involves learning about who they are as a person and revealing who you are as a person to them. More than just you talking to them and just trying to disseminate knowledge to them, it’s two-way.