Category Archives: i-Teach

back to teaching

its been more than 1.5 years since i last stepped into a classroom to teach. this cheesy advertisement wasnt produced when i first started teacher training in 2004/5. it came out the year i decided to take a break from teaching. i remember telling my colleagues, “im very disillusioned. let the newbies take over, those who have been conned by all the fables that MOE spins on the prospects that teaching brings”.

truth is, there are very few jobs that give you this possibility and opportunity. it wasnt the students who made me feel disillusioned and tired. it was the bosses chasing awards and getting us to fulfil their KPIs that made us work extra hours to fulfil our own KPIs that made me superbly pissed off at all the image that is portrayed of teachers not doing enough to help students become better. but the fact is, educating children is a passion because i believe in the value of being a teacher.

a promise im making to myself today before i start work tmr. im not going to work for my bosses and i will say no if i dont think it’s going to benefit my students or if i know that its going to take time away from my students.. i’m only going to focus on being a teacher to my students. staying on the ground and being with the students means more to me than climbing the ladder to make ridiculously stupid policies just because a new education minister or a new superintendent or a new Director of Schools wants to leave a footprint in his/her career

off to make a difference to a new batch of kids!

on an unrelated note:

no one needs a holiday as much as one who has just had one. i miss aussie already –  now that im back to all the hustle and bustle of busy old SG.

“The world is hard because you may wake up today but not tomorrow. And yet no one will accept “fear of death and a futile existence” as a reasonable excuse to miss work.” – I Wrote This For You

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Posted by on September 1, 2013 in i-Teach


new school, new directions, new bosses, new possibilities

Thank you Kranjians for making my 6 yrs in kss a memorable one. Teachers and students alike. Wishing everyone ive come across all the best in your future, and do keep in touch!


now its time to mess up the brains of a new bunch of kids from jurong west……. lets see how much damage i can inflict!!! *evil grin*

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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in i-Teach


pride and achievements

there’s something very heartwarning abt watching kids train and practice hard for something and then perform it on the day. when i was netball tr in charge, watching the girls train, struggle through matches, have hopes dashed and still do their best in the next match, their sportsmanship won me over. when i was tr in charge of sjab, seeing them train for first aid competitions, their effort in doing their best, their disappointments when they dont achieve what they wanted, their excitement when they do better than expected… 

National Day parade is the highlight of all UGs. for weeks they train their footdrills and with the whole sch watching, they lead the day. i dont recognise half the kids in the video below… and then there are the occasional vague faces to which i cant assign names anymore. but still seeing this video, i remember how it felt to be a teacher to kids and how satisfied i felt knowing the kids were proud of representing their unit.

so while im determined to play hard-to-get in my new posting, the voice in me has been screaming out to email the principal and to work out stuff. i fear falling into the trap where i spend hours and hours and hours doing meaningless work to satisfy bosses’ KPIs. all i really want is to be with the kids and see them grow. there’s someting really heartwarming abt being a part of their discovery years and knowing you can make an impact in the way they think, grow, learn and develop. maybe i am a teacher at heart afterall. :) and just learn to be honest abt what i think is worthwhile and to be pragmatic abt it rather than emotional.

time to email my new principal.


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Posted by on August 8, 2013 in i-Teach


results day


so i went back to kss today to see my 2nd last batch of students collect their results. i still have one batch doing their O levels this year, but, i wont be going back to kss once i start work in july.

i stood at the back of the hall, those who hadnt seen me in sch yet were surprised to see me, its been a while since.

i stood there reminiscing abt how much ive grown actually. i feel like ive become less affected by matters affecting students. SL and YW said maybe thats cos i havent been teaching those kids for a yr. maybe. but maybe also because ive realised that getting too affected by factors you cant control isnt going to enrich your life. by all means, try different ways to improve your pedagogy so that we can educate more kids, but……. at the end of the day, it really is a case of “it take 2 hands to clap”.

having said that, it the first week of lessons. and on tuesday, Fenny said, she’s tired and needs to go to sleep. and i told her how my first day of sch in 2011 felt like i had completed a month’s worth of work. seriously, by the end of each day in kss, your body feels like it has not rested in a while, yet the trs still push themselves to work, every single day. starting the day optimistic, but ending it with nothing much a sigh of relief that the day is over. yet, all these effort by trs isnt recognised by ppl who say, “need to improve their grades, we need to hit autonomous”

seriously? education isnt abt grades. its abt teaching the kid to do his best in whatever he’s faced with. and if his best ends up with a B3, so be it. i dont like this elitist standards where ppl say A1 is the only acceptable grade.

sure, i set targets for my kids too. and sure, my targets for most of the kids are nothing below an A2. cos i believe in them and i know they are capable of hitting it. doesnt mean that if they dont, means i didnt do my job.. (or does it?) haha…

anyway, it was good catching up with more trs. its the first time ive been back in kss when the entire staffroom was filled and i was a little overwhelmed. so many colleagues to say hi to… but it was nice to see all the energy in the staffroom. i miss teaching and i miss what i used to do for the kids. it was a little mundane at times, but i enjoyed what i enjoyed when i didnt have to settle bosses’ work. lol…

good luck to the kids in their future endeavours…!

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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in i-Teach


the end of the sch year

photo credits to SLWM

the end of year in a sch brings so much relief. this is a photo of the graduating batch of students taking one of their last mock exams.

this photo was also taken on the last day of the end of year exams for the sec 1-3 kids. its marking time in kss. which means it is also the time trs start to curse and swear and realise that for some students, all the year’s effort has come to naught. haha!

i swear my blood pressure rose when i taught! i started teaching with low bp. and when i had my health checkup, i was at normal bp!

the things you repeat SOOO many times and yet they dont get.

and then you have the students who were your star students, who also end up being the ones who made the silliest of mistakes, causing them to fall to the next grade. but then again, there are those that improve too.

honestly, i dont miss marking at all. but to be fair, i do miss all the hype. it does feel like im so much freer here. although, not necessarily stress-free. its just different kind of expectations. over here, the expectation is on myself to be the best i can be. but in teaching, the stress stems from wanting to teach well enough for the students to learn. and when you are responsible for someone else, that stress is alot higher. at least, i think so.

(im so not looking forward to going back to work from this ‘holiday’ im having now!!)

anyway, its the time of the year and i wish all the graduating students all the very best. study hard. this is the last few weeks before your Os! Good luck and be confident! dont panic!

Especially to my dearest Sec 5s and SJAB kiddos! All the Best!!!

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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in i-Remember, i-Teach


the question of the exclamation mark

so i receive this piece of assignment that i submitted 2 weeks ago. was really excited to get it back because it was a critical review of a paper that was published by “the most awarded man in biogeography” as quoted by my lecturer. i thought, “how wrong can a published paper be?” turns out, i picked out several errors – wondering if i was shooting myself in the arse.

so receiving a high distinction for this assignment was supposed to be like such an affirmation. and i was supposed to be happy. except that seeing this comment on my paper just threw me off.

haha! imagine me walking along the pavement back to the library and i speak to the world, “Bloody hell! you comment on MY paper with an EXCLAMATION MARK!!?!??!?!”

and i was at it for a while.

until it struck me. i write comments with a larger font that what was used on mine. i use a pen that is redder than what was used on mine. and for what its worth, i dont just use one exclamation mark. it usually comes in threes, and sometimes mixed with question marks. and sometimes a sad face.

seriously, i want to know how students take it. cos i was never a fantastic student in sch myself and receiving ‘complaints to parents’ was like a usual thing. so i probably never took note of how my teachers’ marking affected me cos i knew i was a terrible student.

but this one was different. i had put in much thought and effort into it. and i feel intelligent enough to say, if you didnt understand what i meant to say, dont say “redundant” and add an exclamation mark! (of course, if the marker didnt understand it, i probably didnt write it well enough)

anyway, i spent a few hours reflecting and laughed with my landlord about it.

funny, the things people remember of their teacher.

one of my students remembers me telling her (and her friend) to leave the classroom cos her friend was talking to her. she’s a good kid. and up till sec 4, she tells me i was terrible to send her out. we laugh at it now, but still, that is still a memory. (at least we worked it out)

i dont know when i got used to exclamation marks. maybe from JC. when seeing exclamation marks were a common thing. it could mean one of 2 things. the answer was terrible, during when we feel like “how the hell do we get it right?!??!!!” or, the answer was fantastic, during when we feel like “i knew i was a genius”

i guess we learnt to not take the exclamation marks personally.

but perhaps doing that to a sec 1 kid, with red ink and large crosses – now i think that must be quite frightening. you have got to understand, for a teacher who has marked 300 scripts with the most kids-say-the-darnest-things kinda answers, after a while, the crosses and comments just get bigger and bigger…

so then who can we do it to? those we have good rapport with, and those whom we think can handle the exclamation marks?

i asked my landlord, “how else can i say what i want to say?”

and she replies, “just write ‘see me'”

now we all know that wont work. tried and tested. i wouldnt. that was how terrible a student i was!

but to be fair to teachers, comments (not derogatory ones) on scripts do establish some sort of a connection. we cant speak to each and every student, but we can write on each and every script. when my JC chem teacher wrote on my scripts, it was as if she was speaking to me. i could hear her scream at me through her comments and exclamation marks. so did my JC math teacher. thats my earliest memory of seeing comments and exclamation marks on my papers and perhaps thats where i learnt it from.

while i think the younger kids may get startled by the big, red, exclamation marks, i think the older students dont really take it personally. or maybe we just got used to it and moved on.

fact is, there’s nothing like positive comments that makes a kid smile (for most of them at least). it always helps to know that someone else thinks that your work was good. at least for me. thats positive affirmation. and i believe that even the most confident of person can crumble if negative comments are consistently make.

so maybe if there’s nothing positive to say abt that script, perhaps its best to leave things unsaid? to be practical, that doesnt  happen. we are most often disappointed if we cant say something positive abt a person’s script. and to convey our disappointment that our individual high expectations a kid isnt met seems to be the way to go. perhaps not the best with exclamation marks, cos that conveys anger more than disappointment. so we got to rethink what we intend to say and what we are actually saying with the exclamation marks.

either way, ive come to the conclusion, after a few hrs of reflection, that i will refrain from using exclamation marks for wrong answers for sec 1 kids. they are still primary sch and i shouldnt scare them at sec 1.

i have also come to the conclusion that i will refrain from using exclamation marks for students whom i know have put in effort. for these students, negative exclamation marks must surely hurt.

and i have come to the conclusion that i shouldnt mark scripts with emotions. cos that translates into marking more aggressively. and pity the kid who gets the biggest cross for a small careless mistake. i plead guilty.

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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in i-Reflect, i-Teach


freedom of speech

excerpt from TodayOnline on the Yale-NUS resolution thingy:

“Political science and philosophy professor Seyla Benhabib told Today in an email that “the good people of Singapore and our colleagues at NUS should rest assured that we do not mean to disrespect their considerable achievements as a society”. 

She added: “But we do have different historical experiences, standards and values when it comes to matters of free speech in and out of the classroom; freedom of assembly; the rights of sexual minorities, the rights of migrants and many other matters.”

She felt that the faculty’s vocal stance on the matter exemplified the meaning of “freedom of speech”. “This is our duty as educators; and no one – not even our President – can take away our right to express ourselves and to disagree with official policy. This is what makes Yale what it is,” she said.”

wow…. seriously, some bosses really know that they are talking abt. (unlike some of the bosses i know)

im just really impressed with that this lady said. like really impressed.

but you know, while i cant reply her back in such articulate terms, i dont know why im confident that Father Lee would have been able to.

i guess in that sense, maybe, im still old-school…

you see, she’s right in saying we have had different historical experiences and it is those experiences that have shaped much of our political expectations on “freedom of speech”. it is every human being’s right, but you have to agree that the society has to (1) be mature and responsible in realising that what they say can be detrimental in as diverse a community as ours and (2) be ready to accept a less stable social environment/more political outbursts which may result in total chaos (in some instances).

im not saying our govt is fantastic cos there are so many other issues…

but frankly, at least for me, freedom of speech isnt half as much an issue as is the way we educate students in sch to be exam smart. now that, thats a bigger problem. no leeway for freedom of answers. we teach students exactly what to write, how to write, when to use which key words, heck, we even have model answers for our students just so they can score well in exams. true education? now that is lacking more than freedom of speech.

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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in i-Teach, i-Want


my prayer tonight

Dear Amma,

i asked myself this question yesterday. “which is more important? family or students?”

the answer was obvious. family.

so why am i not spending equal (if not more) time with my family than i do with students?

on monday, when i called my mom and told her i wasnt going home for dinner, she rebuted, “work, home, work, home. is this life?” i kept quiet. she was pissed at me. but i really had work to do that i couldnt just not do. and my colleague couldnt understand why being so old already, i still feel the need to inform my parents what time i was going home/whether i wanted dinner/etc. well, my mom’s not a teacher. she doesnt know how much work we do behind the scenes, and quite frankly, no one who’s not a teacher would know. but i know she’s lonely and sad. should i wait until its too late to spend time with her? why do we always assume that our loved ones will be there tomorrow?

today, i go to school and return the horrible prelim papers. after i return the results, i see some ppl smiling as they walk out of the classroom. the class MSGs were 6.1 and 6.5 respectively. i dont understand how they can smile, when a few of us were close to tears in the staffroom. at a total loss of how to help those who dont bother abt helping themselves.

i know i told myself to get pumped up and face this term with the most energy i have. but, seemingly, trying to remove the frown on my face is sapping my energy dry. and yet, i have to dig the deepest ive ever had to find the energy to have IP coaching from 3 to 6pm everyday from monday to friday and until 12pm on saturday. even i think its ridiculous and i dont know why im doing it (i just think thats what im supposed to do). while the students might not realise that this means that i actually have to start doing my own work after 6pm, i find myself questioning why its so important that i try to improve their grades.

i never wanted to be one of those teachers whose ultimate aim was to have the best MSG for herself. but you know what, if the collective results of students with PSLE T-score of 230+ produced a fail grade of 6.1, something is wrong somewhere. and i know its not because i didnt do enough. because a class of students with PSLE T-score of less than 190 produced an MSG of 4.3 at the same stage last year, for a set of paper that was slightly more tricky and difficult. and yet, on friday, there is going to be a slamming session mtg for us to explain what went wrong with the prelims, and i cant say anything else except the fact that i didnt inspire them enough. (but, my teachers didnt need to beg me to study. i knew i must study because its my future.)

Amma, im tired. in the end, i know ive done everything within my ability. its tough to carry on when only one party is trying and the other isnt. its tough to carry on when ppl think the results are bad because you didnt do enough.

but i will push through this year. even if everyday is a struggle, i wont give up.

and so here is my prayer.

please give me strength to pull myself together because there are definitely students to deserve my attention. these kids have tried, are trying, deserve my attention to move them up to the next grade.

please give me the mental resilience to pull through all the disappointments. for those who really dont care, i dont see the need to care.

please give me the ability to teach then in the easiest possible way for them to learn. maybe i didnt teach well enough. but this 1 mth is the last chance i have to ensure that they know everything that’s going to be tested.

please give me energy to handle 4 more weeks of 13 hrs of work in sch and 3 hrs of work at home. im going to be out of sleep and moody. and maybe just angry at anything else other than what im supposed to do. just these 4 mths. after that, im converting to one of those ppl who knows that family always comes first and if the students dont study hard enough, its their loss. i dont need to sacrifice family and personal time to beg ppl to study.

please teach me to be patient with those who couldnt be bothered previously, but are not starting to wake up.

please create a miracle, because thats what they need now. perhaps a wake up call. or an inkling of an interest to have an aim.

thank you.


Posted by on September 15, 2011 in i-Pray, i-Sad, i-Teach, i-Wish


aspirations of students and teachers

the recent spate of mess in sch is leaving me kinda aimless and distracted. im with a lack of focus.

it was all fine, starting with the N level prelims. but then the mess of CT (which i thought would last till friday, but it didnt) and the start of O level prelims and the keying in of N level prelims results into cockpit and the submission of my O level prelim papers coupled with the marking of sec 1/3 CT and the start of intensive revision with 4NA (all within these 2 weeks) has really left me feeling lost.

somehow it feels like unless i have an urgent exam, nothing else is impt. i am falling back on all other non-student related admin work. haiz…. i really shouldnt be this rebellious. but to say that ive lost interest in adhereing to deadlines pertaining to anything non-student related would be an understatement.

what makes me really happy is seeing the kids feel satisfied with their results. the O level MTL results came out on thursday, and as many of us jumped to see the results at 10am, we heard complains abt some students not achieving their supposed targets. we also felt sheer joy at seeing some of the very hard working students get A1s.

in the end, what makes a teacher most happy is seeing her students motivated to aim high and work towards their targets and be a genuinely nice person who inspires others. so we were really happy for those who deserved the distinctions.

and for those who did put in your best effort and did achieve your targets, be it a distinction, or a pass, congratulations!! as long as your best satisfied you. :)

the N level exams are up next. and sometimes i wonder how the weaker students are going to make it through. i hope they do their best. and then, once again, it’ll be time for the O level results in jan. with ppl applying for DSAs and DPAs, the next phase of their lives will be yet another challenge. in fact, “the best is yet to be” :)

a new experience, new challenges, new friends with ppl from different sch cultures, the need to adapt to the non-spoon feeding educators (which is what educators should be like. but unfortunately, results mean so much to some ppl that we end up telling them things that they should rightfully be discovering.)

i saw my babies in limbang mac a couple of weeks ago on a saturday night. to say i was heart warmed is just the least of it. they’d have no idea how proud of them i was, hearing them say, “cher of course must study lah! we target GPA 4 you know! we want to go uni” these ppl aspire to make something out of their lives. i am genuinely proud of them. :D they are on track.

what else could be better when the students aspirations to become someone in life is actually on track/realised.

in the staffroom, we always say, “its as if we are the ones going for the exams!!!”  well, the teachers are working hard, just as hard as the students are. ultimately better results will benefit the students, giving them a wider range of courses they can consider. so i hope the students will continue to aspire, set dreams and goals to achieve and put in their best effort to realise their dreams.

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i wish this batch of graduating students all the best. no matter how tired we are, this is the time to push! we will make it through!

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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in i-Reflect, i-Teach


something up with me?

ppl have been asking if i was doing fine. and ive been wondering why. last week when i was in a good mood, someone impt msgs my RO to ask if i was ok. and i was shocked, wondering why she would ask on a week where my mood was fantastic. someone also asked my colleague whether i was fine. this morning someone came to ask me.

today? i agree…. i started my day with a frown and i think i still have a tiny remain of a frown on my forehead.

actually, i think im just starting to get nervous with my classes. the 4NA maths prelims are tmr and the day after tmr. they arent ready. the 4exp and 5na prelims start right after the National Day week. and i doubt they are ready. i am nervous. cos i dont really know how close they are to getting ready. after doing a series of topical revision, today, by a stroke of ingenuity, i decided to give my 5na a paper to try and suddenly, i see many ppl struggling to answer the questions. im freaking out. later im giving the 4exp the paper too.. seriously. i think  most ppl are not ready..

i am seriously worried.

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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in i-Teach


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