Sunday Night Marking Music: Cloud Atlas Sextet

“And what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”

Sometimes you just need to be reminded of how vast is the universe we reside in, and how small we are as we stand within a world so large and before a God so mighty. What can we do to make meaning in our lives?

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The Other Sides of Life

Here are some skills and cool stuff I would like to explore in the near future, just so that I do more than just, well, teach and mark. smile.

Art classes (Estimated cost: S$500 for 10 sessions)

I still have not had the time to sign up with the Adult Art Class with My Art Studio (as promised) but I will!

Barista Class (Estimated cost: S$200 for a crash-course)

A Group-on advertisement this morning inspired me to take on some short barista classes. I probably won’t pursue this as a career in the near future, but if I am going to keep this identity as a coffee lover (read: addict), then I should get down to knowing some coffee stuff.

Sewing Classes (Estimated cost: S$500 for 10 sessions)

A colleague and friend signed up for sewing classes with Uyii, and I may want to try my hands at sewing some bags, pouches and such some day! Attune myself to my girlish side teehee.

Singing Classes (Estimated cost: S$500)

I watched Pitch Perfect recently, and the movie really reminded me of how much I enjoyed singing in an a capella group a few years back when I was in University. As much as I do have some musical background learning the piano and playing the suona and singing in a choir, I know my voice is not consistent and I do want to (1) singing better and (2) make sure I am using my voice correctly in the classroom.

Ukelele classes (Estimated cost: S$300)

To own some other instrument than my voice, and use it to make happy music? Why not? :)

The Burning House

Okay, so I came across this one particular update on my Facebook news feed and decided to see if I could even “make a list”, given my abhorrently indecisive nature. This little project is based on The Burning House (which explains the title of the post).

If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.

 

Here’s my list of ten things:

  • Samsung Van Gogh – Samsung SII mobile.
  • SSOE laptop and charger
  • Hard drive
  • Good Heart, the ugly-on-the-outside-hippo-plushie
  • My students’ worksheets – one thing more impossible than remarking the work I may lose in a fire, is getting students to redo the piece of work!
  • Passport
  • Wallet
  • Bag of craft materials
  • Bible
  • Cloud Atlas novel

Well the website doesn’t seem to limit the number of things you can grab on your way out of a burning house, although D did say “ten things”. I suppose when your house is burning you don’t really think of packing the nicest of stuff in a bag and throwing them over your shoulder before running out. I will just make sure my family and I get out and stay safe and away, for all those things are really secondary in defining who you are.

A rather interesting list though… coming from my tired brain at 12:13 AM on a Sunday morning from a little cubby corner. My eye and memory fails me, when conjuring up what I could grab to form a most attractive (but honest) list. Oh well.

Straight Talk I

In all honesty this has been an issue talked about to death since i started working. But that does not invalidate its importance.

I am twenty six (for a moment i typed 27.) this year, and am really seeking for a way to have a healthy social life (of which family and church comes under) and work life. There is a recent Facebook post that says if you have those two, you cannot have enough sleep – you can only pick two out of three.

As teachers, we have tons of teacher-friends on facebook, and I have to admit that not all of us are the happiest beings on earth. We are often bearing the gripe of marking our homework over the weekends, commiserating in the same poor fate together.

The more I think about it though, the more I felt that something isn’t too right. How could such a big proportion of teachers, albeit from my perspective, be taxed as such? It is hard for someone who isn’t a teacher to understand. Many parents and members of the public have contributed their fair share to the discussion of the workload and expectations of a teacher. But without an authentic understanding of the reality going on in an actual classroom, whatever remark or advice just comes across as tacky and based in ignorance. Someone recently mentioned that as teachers we should learn to “manage expectations”. That stirred up some frustration amongst some teachers because it implies an incompetence to do what we should be able to do.

I also realised in increasing measure, that we are not quite doing what we signed up for as educators. I would like to become more adept at doing my thing in the classroom, but there are many other things drawing our attention away from the actual practice in class. I find myself drained and because I’m drained, I find myself settling. Settling for minimum effort, and thinking less about how to maximise learning.

I do try. I believe I do take pride in what I do, although at times, we face situational constraints that compels us to make choices, just like the choice between a career, a social life, and good well being.

But truth be told these are sentiments I am not proud of. Why should our thoughts be always so bleak? If we are facing constraints, do our minds need to be similarly so?

In the past week, a colleague had approached a friend and I for help to be substitute oral examiners on a few afternoons. This led to a conversation that sparked off some thoughts for me. My friend was quite upset that people seemed unaware of the work we had done on the other afternoons when we have had to help cover for them in duty. There were other alternatives, taxing us was just one of a few other reasonable alternatives. We had committed slightly more than 2 weeks of afternoons 3 to 6+ doing oral testing. As much as I was glad someone was voicing out a similar displeasure, I felt uncomfortable by it too. Shouldn’t a department work together in mutual support? It was my responsibility to support the learning and assessment of my students, sometimes at the expense of my afternoons, my holidays, my personal and social lives. Should we be defining our job scope in the workplace in order to “protect” ourselves? Does it really have to come down to that? That seemed to run contrary to what I believed a calling is. If everyone began drawing boundaries to work, the world would be terribly unpleasant.

But I am far from being noble. I find that I am much inclined to being grouchy about the workload we are given. Is there any guiding principle that will help me decide where the meaning and joy is in all these? 

Just this morning a few good friends (and inspirational teacher figures) shared an article on Facebook that seemed to specially acknowledge and speak to my concerns and gripes. But the article sounded a very optimistic outlook – one that called for young, noble, aspiring educators to stand together and fight hard for change. It sounded very … fresh-faced and ideal. I do agree that we need people who are in it for the right reasons (not the money, the lifestyle, or even the acknowledgement from the kids) to help lift up this foreboding shadow of teacher-hood off our shoulders. But the article seems also to deal with the issues on a very idealistic and generic level. What about the individual teachers who are willing to fight for an education which they believed in? How long can they last?

Not everyone is made for this. Then I find myself asking: am I?

Grandma

My grandma is the humblest of all ladies, and kindest of all ladies. Despite her weak knee and shrinking physical body, she goes to church every Sunday without fail. She used to take public transport on her own, until her kneecap caused too much worry, then she would have my uncle give her a lift. When they are away on holiday (and trust me, it is not uncommon), she would make plans to attend another church service with us. Her faithfulness in seeking the Lord and desire to worship God is exemplary. I love my grandma. She would also prepare our favourite dishes when we visit her. When we get busier and do not visit as often, she would never complain, but instead ask after us out of concern. She is one of those grandmas who would pick up the phone and call us to talk on the phone, or tell her children off with her own wisdom from experience. 

May God bless our special, strong super lady, who is always so gracious, humble, meek and mild in manner and faith. Despite her small frame, she has a heart of courage and independence. May her spirit always be filled with God that it leaps for joy and hope, may she always find peace in the Lord and enjoy her life with her children and grand-children, and may her mind be warmed by the goodness and truth of the Bible. May she always dwell in the house of the Lord, forever. 

Apple

Image 

I went for an Arts trial lesson today with a main intention of breaking out of my usual routine on weekdays and weekends. I was glad I took up Ms Yeo’s advice and did so, because it did feel good doing something different. I also took the chance to take a bus trip to Upper Thomson Road and spent at least a good hour or so reading Cloud Atlas with a late lunch and coffee at Habitat CoffeeTo make myself feel better after the meal, I walked back home – at least a good half an hour of walking and perspiration under the hot sun. Then back home to a good shower before starting work. It did feel good. Doesn’t really do much in terms of speeding up my work efficiency, but I am now more ready to take the plunge and sign up for a full 10-lessons course. I think. I only wish that I drew more than copying a still life painting of an apple. The next lesson I will insist on drawing something real

We are not Superheroes: The Matter of Fact about Tuition

Some time between yesterday and today a friend of mine asked if I had “spare time” to provide some academic coaching for the sister of a friend. The lady who was hoping to get some tuition support was in her final year of school and would be sitting for her national examinations at the end of the year. According to the friend of mine, she needed tuition in a string of subjects (except English and Literature – which I teach).

I tried to think about how best to break it to her that it was impossible for me to afford the time and heart for tuition. Furthermore, I am not sure I believe in tuition – not in the generic Singaporean sense of the word anyway.

It frustrated me that this has been the umpteenth time someone has approached me regarding the availability of giving tuition. I have this nagging feeling one of the underlying reasons is because I am a teacher – and teachers are suppose to, well, teach.

So I decided to compile all the frustrations and possible assumptions people tend to make about teachers, students and tuition together. Here goes.

Just because we are teachers in profession, doesn’t mean that teaching comes effortlessly to us 

I think it is a fallacy to believe that teaching comes easy and simple to all teachers. Yes, most of us may enjoy teaching and interacting with young people and may not mind the brunt of angsty teenage minds, but do you realise that teaching is more than just whipping out an assessment book and coaching you through a series of questions? It requires thoughtful planning of an overview, of teaching strategies, to teach, to engage and to motivate. Teaching requires time to plan, mark and to know the child’s strengths and needs. You need time and heart and effort; it is not something that starts and ends when you arrive and leave the student’s home. The last thing I hate is to find myself unable to give my best and fullest attention to a student because I made a mistake in choosing my lots. 

Just because we teach, doesn’t mean we can teach everything 

I teach English Language and Literature, period. If you ask me to teach Science or Mathematics or anything else, I will tell you “no can do”. (Unless you are a kid who is desperately seeking some guidance and I am confident my current abilities will not mislead you.) Even teaching English and Literature means that I need to read up and plan and prepare materials on my part. It doesn’t mean that once someone has gotten a graduate degree, he/she is able to teach anything else from Primary to Secondary to Junior College. Don’t belittle the syllabus nowadays – that’s a deadly mistake.

Just because we teach, doesn’t mean we are obliged to take up tuition 

Teaching and giving tuition are completely two different things, two different ballgames, which require different skill sets, different levels of commitment. I may be a teacher, but that certainly does not make me a believer of tuition. I must say that I frown upon most reasons why people seek tuition. I think it is a concept that has been strongly abused by the rich and the intelligent, and it is founded upon very wrong assumptions of tuition – which has been perpetuated because people are just willing to pay sums of cash for a chance at a good future.

Sometimes I feel that just because we are teachers by profession, people expect us to be interested in giving tuition. “Just teach them in your free time,” my relatives would say. I would want to shoot back, “My free time comes at the end of the year for a few short weeks. Then it wouldn’t be free time anymore.” Honestly, if all teachers wanted to give tuition, we would be tuition teachers.

I don’t believe in every of that tuition crap 

Singaporeans seek tuition for two main reasonsA, they want a guarantee that they can ace an examination. B, they want to make it – they have not been doing well and they hope that a final academic booster programme will help give them what they need to catch up with whatever they have missed for the past few years. 

Usually, the former comprises of students who better off families who also have larger, higher, taller dreams for their child; while the latter comes from families who suddenly realise something needs to be done before a major set of examinations in order to secure a decent future for the child. And both sets of reasons are warped reasons for tuition.

If you are doing well based on your own efforts, you are doing well. Use that as your means to do well in life. You do not need to come in Tops in order to proof you will succeed. Also, nobody (not even the best of tutors) can guarantee a student can ace an examination. Where would that leave the effort on the students’ end if the tutors can guarantee success and achievement?

If you are struggling really badly, you cannot expect a few months or weeks or sessions of tuition to turn things around and make magic. Which brings me to my next point:

We are not superheroes: you cannot create a miracle in a short time 

I advised my friend who asked me if I had “spare time” – that if you need help in subjects A to E, then you need to think about how you can utilize your helplines effectively. Are you sure tuition for all 10 subjects (Well, A to E is 5 subjects) will be helpful?

Also, how do the subject teachers come into the picture? A child should make effort to seek consultation and guidance from his/her teachers at school first – before seeking alternative helplines. For the simplest, most obvious reason: your subject teachers know best. They know the syllabus, they have the latest updates, they most likely have extra resources to spare, they have the strategies and tips.

That is a huge repository of knowledge and skills you as a student need to learn to tap on. Who are you seeking help from? Is it the best means for your success?

The next time you are thinking of seeking academic support or tuition, think about this please.