#04_Not A Starving Baker

Two hours ago, two of my teacher friends on Facebook shared a link “The Starving Baker for Teachers“. Any thing about a bakery, analogy or not, is too tempting to resist, so I too, clicked on it and read it. It turned out that it was a very honest and sensibly-written article. Given that our Young Adults’ Fellowship sharing last Friday evening was about how new working adults (like ourselves) could learn to cope with the pressure and nature of our jobs, it felt very apt and telling that Someone was trying to push my life into shape.

So are we starving bakers, my teacher friends?

The two main concerns I had shared on Friday evening are these. That first, I am struggling with a heavy dose of self-doubt. I imagine myself thrown into the washer and being tossed and turned, left and right, up and down, as I debate this question. Am I an effective enough teacher? There are so many things I would have done, thought, or said differently if I had a second chance. Just last week I began to understand how some parents feel so inadequate when it comes to bringing up their adolescent. I feel the same way as a teacher too, sometimes. Now that the examinations are drawing near, I feel very nervous for them boys and girls. Are my AFL strategies not clear enough for me to know for sure how much they have learned? If I had taught well, I should not be worrying about whether or not they have learned. I should already know. Gulp. Why is it I still have problems controlling the class? It is not fair to the other boys and girls who truly are ready to learn. And how can a good teacher strike off her students and say they are not ready to learn? Should not we be responsible to make them eager to learn?

Secondly, my concerns at the workplace is taking a toil on my spiritual life. Church and meeting up with friends and family is not a chore, but there are moments when I am just a very empty shell. My exercise regime is nonexistent, and the promise of firing it back to life during the school holidays seem more a myth than anything else. How can I run on just water – taking occasional personal breaks and treating one to coffee while marking – without bread?

This article is really well-written because the author does offer some rather constructive strategies to cope with the onslaught of pressure at work. We need to set out guidelines and markers, and guard those times of solitude and rest, and make sure we are re-energized and helped before we continue to fight the arduous battle at work. As noble as it might sound, we are not very different from self-centred narcissistic bakers who like others to watch us waste away while engaging in the most high task of self-sacrifice.

I need to guard my personal rest time, with God and with friends. I need also to know for sure what kind of person I want to grow to become. I don’t just want to become a good teacher (oh that cannot be my whole life). I also want to become a good daughter, sister, friend and in future, partner and wife and mother. I need to read books more than just the English textbooks, and surf websites more than just Facebook and teaching strategy websites. I need to think of how to help others, not only how to teach my lessons.

Now this article has really gone viral on Facebook among us teacher friends. I can only pray and hope we take time to rethink our lifestyle and how we can better structure it for a more sustainable and joyous life as a teacher, Christian and friend. No less passionate or effective. :)


Weighing Scales, Unkind Surprise and Scherenschnitte

Today was a tiring but eventful day. Suffice it to say I was running about continuously from the start to the end of the day. Thank God I had one period or so to grab some brunch before the nasty Oral exams.

We had to take our height and weight (and blood pressure) to measure our BMI. Guess what, after not stepping onto weighing scales for years, I have currently overstepped the 60.0 kg mark. I am in dire need of exercise, a diet, and a healthy lifestyle. It is time to face our current status squarely and work at it; that is how improvement is born, right?

  1. I stopover for coffee or a snack when I am hungry and need to do some marking.
  2. Having a meal almost naturally comes with a drink. Even when I have H20 beside me.
  3. When I am stressed, I binge on food.
  4. I love milk. When I am thirsty, I thirst for milk.
  5. I drink lots of coffee. In the morning, it is my energizer drink. In the afternoon, it is the best choice of drink available. In the evening, it is my companion for a late-night’s work.

Okay. So five unlawful habits to quit while I think about how to get started on that exercise regime.

I sprang an unkind surprise on my class today: there was a miscommunication and we all thought the kids would be taking their oral tomorrow. I only informed them three hours before the examination, and of course their responses were nasty. They were probably upset, but they were not angry, although I must admit it was a really nasty surprise for them kids. I tried my best to do damage control, but despite the miscommunication, I am not overwhelmingly sorry about the mistake – they would not be prepared even if they had a day’s notice in advance. Some students took it positively, and tried to make the best of the situation. Others gave a bitter face and grumble as they try. Still others just give up. It was the best time to observe the students’ resilience.

Lastly, I learned a new word this evening: Scherenschnitte. It’s german for paper cutting. Now I found a beautiful website with a range of designs for paper cutting, and I have a secret aspiration that I can cut such designs too in future! (Looking at upcoming weddings at the end of the year)  http://papercutting.blogspot.com/  :)

#03_Thoughts on Teaching

Need to know my kids and fall in love with them, and not just the them in the classroom.

Facebook, my profile

After ten weeks of falling in and out of love with my students, I still have not learn to love my kids with all my heart. I lament that my love is so human in all its limitations and boundaries. It is so much easier loving students who are keen, responsible and respectful learners; while neglecting students who are unmotivated, uncooperative, and disrespectful. Yet, if we really think about it, it is the latter group of students who needs our love and attention, even if it means they first need to learn to learn. So this commitment to “know my kids and fall in love with them, and not just the them in the classroom”, still remains unfulfilled.

I was absent on Teachers’ Day, but when I returned to school during the holidays for a workshop and to pick up my worksheets and textbooks, I saw a few stranded teachers’ day cards in my pigeon hole. One of them was from a student I never expected. He was the boy I would call on without fail in the middle of every class for either (A) forgetting to bring a piece of work (B) disturbing his classmates (C) not participating and doing the assigned class work. He was the first boy I gave demerit points to, and the first student I sent for detention. He was the boy I spent recesses and lunches chasing after, giving pep talks and signing contractual agreements. He was the boy I was beginning to find hard to love because it is a challenge to understand him and make him understand me.

Perhaps rather than out of his own will, his parents made him drop me a note. Yet, receiving that unexpected note just warmed my heart. It made me realize that D may be a tough nut to understand with his really ridiculous decisions not to submit his work, but he was still a boy with a heart as big as his self.

Many times our kids are lovely kids who are misguided or who lacks guidance, which explains why they choose to do things based on their whims and fancies and emotions, and on which side of the bed they get up from. More on this to come. For now, as the forth term of the school year begins, may I keep the heart and conviction to see the best in every student, and love them because they are a creation of God, and they are special. I need to fall in love with them; and fall in love with my job.


#02_Nine Days Later: Remembering a Great Teacher

My youngest brother’s birthday falls on the 31 August. That was the same day he drifted into unconsciousness was very sick. In the midst of the worry and busyness, many of us forgot my youngest brother’s birthday. He breathed his last one day later, on the 1 September.

It was almost uncanny and bittersweet to have him leave us on Teachers’ Day. You see, he was the best teacher I had ever known. By far, he was the one person with the greatest width and depth of knowledge in his mental repository. If my Literature teacher was fantastically well-researched in all the ages of litter, she had to be because she was a Literature teacher. If my Chinese teacher knew China’s history and knew how to write perfect Chinese essays, it was no big deal because she was a Chinese teacher. But his wisdom and understanding was beyond bounds because he could tell us about cultures, traditions, languages, and beliefs. He could relate it to history, to science, to modern-age developments and research. He knew the great writers and artists and cultural and religious icons of all time. He also knew books so well, he could give advice on which books were a worthy keep and which was not. It was not simply knowledge that he had; he had wisdom too. He could see and understand the workings of a man’s heart and mind. He understood a proud and conceited fellow, and one who needed an ego boost. He could differentiate between one who would learn the hard way, from one who would not learn at all. And in all these, he was patient. He taught and guided us with lots of patience and love as a father would.

Teachers’ Day was emptied and devoid of its meaning for me that day, because the world had lost a great teacher and mentor. We should be in mourning, not celebrating and counting cards and gifts from students, or with fancy dinners and dresses.

So from a student to you, happy teachers’ day. Thank you for guiding us and letting us catch a glimpse of that beautiful and enriching world that you see. May God continue to open our eyes to see even more beautiful miracles and wisdom in our lives.

#01_Holding Our Ground

It is over.

After two evening wake services, a cremation, the placement of the urn and lots of prayer, it is over. We must do now, two things. One, we must look forward with the same positive and empowered spirit as during the services, with a singular heart and mind, in diligent relentless pursuit of one thing alone – God. Two, we must look behind with a reflective, humble and thoughtful mind, to take with us all the lessons God had us learn, right up to the last day his body was on earth.

I hope to look at Number Two tonight.

After a period of about two weeks being confined in the hospital, he returned home to rest. His health deteriorated days later, and he drifted into unconsciousness. One day later, he departed.

Some of us had the privilege of speaking to him for the last time, as we saw him slip away. As his blood pressure decreased and heartbeat increased, we could see his breathing get more and more difficult. He had to take in deeper breaths of air, and hours later, those breaths became deep gasps for air. It was painful for us to watch him go, but thinking back, I realized that it was harder for him to go through the entire process of being diagnosed, receiving treatment and chemotherapy, right to the end point as he lay on his deathbed.

It has been two years since he was first diagnosed and began almost immediately to start treatment. These two years have been a long and arduous, but a worthwhile and glorious fight against cancer and spiritual woes. As I saw him lying on the bed breathing with so much difficulty, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why is he still fighting? What is he still holding on to? If I was in a similar position, I may possibly have already given up fighting. But here was a warrior, nearly three times as old as I and in so much physical pain, and yet still fighting to live, to worship God, to serve God.

He was a fighter, mum said. He had fought countless spiritual battles, and finished the race with victory. He never once laid aside his weapons because he knew the consequences for even allowing ourselves to take a break. It was this relentless fighting spirit that characterized him and his physical and spiritual battles. It was this spirit that said “Press On!” no matter what, that made him hold on to the last possible moment. And in his last moments, he still taught us important life lessons.

This champion fighting spirit is the lesson I have learned that day. He was never telling us how much pain or discomfort he was in. Instead, he was constantly using his illness as a reason to rejoice and praise God even more, for His grace is sufficient for us. Can we live such a victorious life – to hold our ground to the very last possible moment?

I remember in our old house before we moved out of Jansen Close, my brothers and I sometimes attempted a game of soccer in the garden we had. Because I was never good with my hand-leg coordination and the ball, I always offered to be the goalkeeper – believing it to be the simplest job on the field. I never gave the game a chance to prove myself wrong, because I would run away from the ball each time it came for me. I realized, after running away several times, that it was not the ball I was afraid of; I was afraid of the hoard of people that threatened to run into me and knock me aside.

Goalkeepers are suppose to hold their ground, right up to the last possible moment before they jump at the flying ball, using their body to block the vicious attacks of the opponents on the field. In the same way, are we good goalkeepers of our faith and the church of God? Let us think less of our physical bodies and value our saving the goals from the flaming arrows of Satan more. This is one battle we cannot afford to lose.

Writing Promises Change

When my sister drew to my attention how my blog was accessible to foreign eyes, I felt insecure and created a second blog. As I revisit this a few month’s later today, I realised the significance of the name I gave this blog.

Writing Promising Change.

Our dear Reverend Lai has been constantly urging us to write. Language is from God, and to be able to use the written word for the glory of God to spread His Truth, is a gift we should yearn and pray for. I have not done that enough; I have conjured up excuse after excuse to pardon my slothfulness in my mind and my body to write. And what could possibly have been promptings from the Holy Spirit have long grown cold and weak, just like the spiritual fire in my soul about to be snuffed out.

I was moved to tears for two reasons when Mum read out Reverend Lai’s last short story, “The Battle Drum of Little Matthew”. The first reason was how the fictitious story echoed the zeal and the spirit Reverend Lai exuded while he led our church in living an upright missional life.  The second reason was something I never felt so strongly for, and that was the stark realization of how powerful words can be. Words can paint pictures, leave deep impressions in a person’s heart, mind and soul, build up or tear down, support or destabilize. With that, I suddenly felt moved to devote myself to writing, finally, to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Reverend Lai, and ask God for the gift and foresight to begin writing what I could share with others humbly. I pray my search for this gift will be a humbling and fruitful one.

With that, I hope this blog marks the start of my conviction and commitment to begin writing. Not perfect essays or eloquent articles, but putting thoughts, prayers and reflections down into words. This, will mark a change in my promise to write for the Lord.

Writing can also change people’s hearts, minds and souls. May all the words that are written or spoken, be edifying and build people up to become restored in the Lord.

Hello, writingpromisingchange. <3