Category Archives: teaching


It’s been a year since I’d last taught in the classroom, and already I’ve noticed a difference in my way of thinking (about work issues) – recently I was in a workshop for language skills and was aghast to hear participants fixated on relevance to exam preparation. It took me awhile to remember that, rather recently, that would have been one of my main concerns, too!

While I appreciate having the space to get away from the paper mill rat race, I do wonder if that will immediately evaporate away should I decide to return to work in a school…



Thought I’d just share just how that makeshift LKY shrine came to be – the result of my very own Clients From Hell experience.

So it all started when I acted on a suggestion to set up a small window display at the school library showcasing his books. I decided to work on a simple sign to accompany it using some graphics from a news site. I got really into it and went on to print and laminate it myself.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.03.08 am

So I decided to share it with the committee in charge of the library before putting it up – just as well that I did, although it was a rather painful experience, since there was rather widespread opposition to the sign.

So, on the advice of some friends, I proceeded to remedy the problem of the missing mouth.


No, I jest.

I ended up finding a photograph and replacing the graphic in question entirely. What really annoyed me, though, was the rationale provided for the requested change. Perhaps it simply wasn’t communicated clearly – if the decision to replace the picture came about because the graphic didn’t look dignified enough or something, I could understand. But really? Was it solely because a stylistically omitted facial feature was unacceptable?

So, what could I do with the existing poster? Since I was the only one who seemed to appreciate it, I decided to put it up at my desk. And there it remained for the next two months, uncaring of criticism and others’ opinions – much like the old man himself.

(Except that he has no mouth.)

Fanning the Flames

Screenshot 2013-12-27 11.17.14

So, the above is the sum totality of the draft I’d saved back on 1 Jan 2014. About a third of a year later, I’m back to finally complete that annual act of introspection…

…except I’ve got nothing much in mind, really. 2013’s gone and past. I could say that it was a time of growth, that it was when I really started growing into my leadership position at work. I could write about how it was my first time guiding a graduating class towards the O-Levels (albeit in a more minor role, paired with another teacher and primarily taking charge of extra remediation for students). I could even talk about how I’d visited Walt Disney World at the end of 2013, my very first foray into an American Disney park.

But why go into all these when they’re pretty much just dim memories in my mind now?

The one thing that has been at the back of my mind in recent months, including the end months of 2013, has got to be applying for MOE’s postgraduate scholarship. For awhile now I’ve been wondering why exactly I want it – is it just a break from work I desire? A chance to briefly live abroad once again? Hardly the noblest of reasons. Surely there has to be more to this!

Today I read an article on Raffles Press – What Prometheus Taught Us About Learning – and it resonated deeply within me. Students are bored at school, and in this case – the teacher is, too! After almost two years on the job, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really detest drill and practice – the incessant repetition of exam-style practices in preparation for the final exams. I must admit that there’s a lot more I can be doing in my current role since my school is starting to move away from that direction, but it’s been difficult for me to do so while taking graduating O-Level classes of my own.

And so, the strong desire to return to what I’m more fundamentally interested in – to contribute to the evolution of education through the use of technology in teaching. If ultimately I don’t get the scholarship, I’ll probably try to get posted to the ministry so I can contribute to this field on a national level.

The results will apparently only be communicated by the end of June, so it’s a long (agonising) wait in the meantime. Regardless, I think a rejuvenation of some sort is definitely in order as far as my career direction is involved.


Some tasks are urgent and some are important – few are actually both. I’d lost sight of that fact for quite some time, but it’s time to get my act together and work out what exactly it is that I need to get done this year.

Sink or Swim

It’s been a bit of a struggle, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of things now.

I’m immensely thankful for the three years spent at my previous workplace – it was certainly beneficial to have gained experience in a stable and systematic environment. Unfortunately that’s made me a little less prepared for the new place, but having a collection of old lesson materials has also helped a lot – I cannot imagine what things would have been like if not for that.

I’ve been having wildly fluctuating thoughts and feelings about how exactly I want to progress in this career path, but I think once I’m properly settled where I am now, those opinions will probably stabilise a lot more.


It’s quite humbling to go from superstar (ok, perhaps more like minor celebrity) to feeling extremely lost in the new environment. I guess I’ll adjust eventually (have no other choice anyway, at least for the next year or so), and I’d chosen this path for myself, but I can’t help but to feel a tinge of regret about the whole thing right now.


So the form class played a farewell video (photo montage, really) for us today. At the very end, they just used simple text and clip art to convey their farewell message. Clearly, in their minds, being handsome is among the highest form of praise.

‘Reply All’ Rage

This is so simultaneously painful and hilarious that I’ve decided it warrants a blog post of its own.

This all began with one school organising a sharing session that they’d opened up to other schools to attend. The guy in charge made the mistake of not BCCing the recipient list (comprising principals, vice-principals and teachers from various secondary schools and higher institutes around the country – thousands of education officers), and I suppose after receiving three emails about the event (over a three month period), somebody decided that he/she was not meant to be receiving these emails, which has led to an almost-week-long deluge of nonsensical emails being sent to all the unwilling recipients.

I guess this all highlights how crowd mentality comes into play and a sad lack of understanding on how email works – leading to the lack of consideration in deciding to ‘reply all’ without considering your actual target audience.

20 Apr 2012(Fri)

This blew my mind. How can somebody reply to an email saying ‘pl check email address carefully’, when it’s obvious that (she?) herself has failed to do so? And by deciding to ‘reply all’, she’d pretty much set the precedence for other people to send their requests trickling in.

23 Apr 2012 (Mon)

After a horde of unsubscription requests, some well-meaning officers replying to attempt to request that people stop contributing to the spam and other irate outbursts, somebody attempts to stem the tide by declaring the next offender to be a douche. You can imagine how effective this threat was.

25 Apr 2012 (Wed)

I think this email speaks for itself. Needless to say, just 56 minutes later, someone still manages to email everyone to request ‘Pls remove me from this mailing list’.

Exploitation of the Exam

I noticed a new picture in my Facebook news feed today – it was uploaded to an album titled Exploitation of the Exam, which immediately rang alarm bells – so I took a look at it, and lo and behold, a marking error from last year’s mid-year examination, proudly displayed for all to see!

I guess it’s water under the bridge now (plus I wasn’t the one who’d marked his paper), but I didn’t think it was very wise of him to publicise that on Facebook… Oh well, kids will be kids.

What was even more amazing (to me), however, were these other gems I’d found in the album (apparently doodled onto Mother Tongue examination papers):

In my mind, this guy should get a medal for those, but I suspect that’s a view I’ll never be allowed to officially express!

Touching lives?

Today, one of my former students approached me to thank me for encouraging him to apply for the in-house Humanities Award – although he didn’t get it, he’s been awarded the MOE Humanities Scholarship, which is still pretty sweet.

The reason I’d told him to go for it was pretty simple – he’s one of those perfect-score types, but during one of the Parent-Teacher Meetings his mother shared that she had actively dissuaded him from offering Literature at the upper secondary level, although that was actually his interest. The Humanities programme seemed to be a good solution to that, combining the prestige his parents were concerned about with a good exposure to Literature, so it seemed only logical for me to just encourage him to consider that path.

It was really a simple act, but it resulted in a situation that he’s (at least for now) pretty happy with, and acted as a sobering reminder that the things I do can indeed make a difference.