Monday, June 30, 2008


Can it be? I enjoy giving remedial more than actual teaching. The pressure of book checking is lifted and I can afford to be creative with my lessons. Proceeding with diagnostic tests for English and heuristics for Maths and maybe Science. But having fun so far and I hope I can remove the stigma of remedial in the students' minds.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

He gives and takes away...

Just when you thought you've got it all figured out, something happens that rocks your world. We're singing Blessed Be Your Name this Sunday, but this line will be all the harder to sing.

This post is dedicated to an acquaintance of mine in the teaching fraternity. Her boyfriend passed away this week after battling to survive a massive stroke. There was little sign that such severe haemorrage was going to happen - he was a young man of below 30 - though there was the odd complaint of headaches.

It reminds me of the fragility of our lives and the futility of our plans. May we continue to live our lives as if each day was our last, that when we meet God face to face, we can say that we were faithful with what we were given.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

5 Joy

I'm the new form teacher of 5 Joy and I must say that I've done things very atypically so far. New teachers are warned not to smile, joke or do anything that can give away the fact that they are actually human, especially during the first week.

Well, guess what? I did - and I feel much better for it. I have chosen to take the trust-trustworthiness equilibrum with this class and with my tolerance for behaviour also going up, this has resulted in a less threatening classroom environment. As one student put it, they don't even dare raise hands in another class. I introduced the notion of appropriate and inappropriate noise, so they know how they should react to different situations.

Slowly but surely the tide is turning from ignorant apathy to daring responsibility. Students are beginning to tale risks as they know they won't get shot down if they get an answer wrong, because they realise I'm rewarding them for the effort.

I've also impressed on them that interesting lessons require a partnership - participative students and an interactive teacher. They responded well to my Maths lesson today, even though it's a simple manipulation of practice of fraction-decimal conversion. Didn't take too much time and effort to plan either.

I really hope to keep this up, and once the class desktop and e-Beam are up, who knows? The sky's the limit.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Spend is a verb!

It has come to my attention that credit card companies and retailers are using 'spend' as a noun like so:
"10% discount with a minimum spend of $50."

Excuse me, but stop already, can? Whatever happened to the word 'expenditure'?

Seng Kang Primary

Just finished a whole-day meeting at school. I must admit it was not what I expected.

Firstly, the principal, Mrs Lew, although she prefers to be called Lan Chin. She's more from the Miss Chua Soh Leng-type (Punggol Pri) of principal. She looks like Shirley, and from what I can observe, possesses a true Christ-like character. Her words are so encouraging and she used her sharing to marvellous effect.

While other principals would deign to use the time to talk about policies and programmes, she did it differently. Yes, she was talking about a new initiative called Invitational Education, but she talked about it with such conviction and belief that she really sold me on the idea. I'll probably even use it in Professionals for our module on communication, and I told her so.

I could sense that God knew I needed some encouragement as I was not doing a good job of getting used to teaching life again. Her session on something called unintentional disinvitation (or being unintentionally disinviting) resonated with me. It's basically a scenario where people unwittingly make themselves unapproachable. We were asked to give a personal experience of this, and she shared her example of aunties asking nephews/nieces when they are getting married every CNY - they mean well, but it's just a complete turn-off. *winks to Yinglei*

My example was just as explicit, and I believe God was giving me an opportunity to be open to my colleagues. Bear in mind that I knew 5% of the people in the room, and that some have never talked to me or even seen me. I shared my experience of people recommending cures of eczema to me and how despite their good intentions, it was a bugbear for me. It allowed me to appeal for their understanding, as well as help them understand how to relate to me with me on this sensitive issue. I told them to keep their cures to themselves, and tell me when my skin looks good not bad. I sincerely hope my honesty will make it easier for me to break the ice with them, as I'm not a very sociable person and struggle to make close friends outside of church.

Throughout the session, Lan Chin was encouraging and effusive with praise of people's honesty, and found ways to use visuals to get her ideas across. I badly wanted to pee/doze off, but I found I didn't dare to, lest I miss something important/interesting - such was the engagement.

To top it all off, she asked for a volunteer to read a list out, and I just felt compelled to volunteer, partly cos I haven't heard my radio voice in a while. After I had read the meaningful list of paradoxical commandments, she turned around and told everyone she was giving me the book I had just read from. What a gesture! I really admire her optimism and zest for life and such infectious leadership has sort of hooked me. That's the power of inspirational leadership by example.

I hope to do that some day, where someone turns around and says I've inspired them. Till then, I have next week's lesson plans to write. =[

Zikai's 21st birthday gig at Music Garage, Bugis Village

7 sessions of gruelling practice finally came to fruition where our gig passed without any major cock-ups. In fact, I really enjoyed playing with a wonderfully-talented bunch of musicians, and the pressure dissipated after the first 2 songs.

I think Zikai's testimony resonated with the audience, even his army friends. It really was a cosy atmosphere where they interacted with us and I'd love to do it again. '80s rewind perhaps? =]

Managed to get Jasmine, Valerie, Zoe, and Yinglei+friends to come so they can get the gist of what it means to have a non-threatening evangelistic event.

So all in all, I really enjoyed it and I think we achieved our objective where the seeds were sown and everyone enjoyed themselves. Let's do this again sometime, especially the impromptu fusion instrumental at the end. =]

Monday, June 16, 2008

Euro 2008

Has this been the best tournament so far? Absolutely. Dramatic late goals, remarkable upsets, stunning strikes, and all this with supposedly jaded players and no England!

Holland, Croatia and Turkey have been an absolute revelation in Austria-Switzerland, and you never know quite what to expect from each match.

Take the latest one, for instance. Czech Republic were 2-0 up and cruising when Turkey's Arda Turan showed a remarkably cool 21-year-old head to pick his spot low inside Petr Cech's near post.

Then Nihat Kahveci pounced on Cech's flap at a cross to pull Turkey level. Best keeper in the world? You're having a laugh. Look no further than Edwin van der Sar.

Finally, Nihat broke the despondent Czech offside trap to curl an absolute beauty outside of Cech's reach, off the crossbar and in the top corner.

And I'll tell you what: this isn't and won't be the most dramatic match so far. Arjen Robben's immediate riposte to Thierry Henry's goal in Holland's 4-1 win over France comes to mind. Wesley Sneijder's stunning last-minute goal was a thing to behold. Sneijder for Ronaldo anyone? Croatia's 2-0 ousting of favourites Germany?

This has been a dream of a tournament.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gym buddies!

Went to the gym for the first time today - and boy was it tiring! Went with Joycelyn, Yinglei, Jasmine, Yewhock and Elaine for a body combat class that involved a lot of kicking and punching the air.

It was all a bit strange for me - and I concluded that I'd never dance or teach Children's Church; I'm hopeless with actions and I'm just too self-conscious perhaps. Still, I really sweated it out and I think I'll ache tomorrow - too many ambitious high kicks.

I think I rather stick to fixed weights. Going again tomorrow.

Quotable quotes

"There are three types of people in the world - those who can count, and those who can't."
"I've never been a person to complete my..."
"I don't like superstitions - they're bad luck."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

California Fitness

Accompanied Jasmine, Joycelyn and Yinglei to California Fitness to take a look. I see a healthy lifestyle movement forming - with Jasmine & Yinglei signing up today, there are more than a few members in our church there already; Yewhock, Elaine, Aiping (formerly) come to mind. If we can rope in a few more, it provides a healthy solution to our weekly problem of 'what to do after service?'. It isn't cheap - $96 monthly with a further $77 for each hourly session with a personal trainer - but eczema notwithstanding, the presentation and facilities were more than enough to convince me to give it a shot. As it is, it'll be put on the backburner while I discreetly observe if it is money well-spent for Jasmine & Yinglei.

I also had a free body composition analysis, which confirmed what I feared - I am unfit. Not too shabby, cos I'm 81% fit, but there are obvious areas of improvement.

I had a few myths blown out of the sky:
Firstly, starving yourself and running does not make you lose weight. It just forces the body to subsist on less calories per day.
Secondly, keeping fit is 60% diet and 40% exercise. If you know my diet, you know where my weakness is, and eczema's no excuse for THAT.
Thirdly, increasing your metabolism is the way to lose weight. We do this, ironically, by increasing our muscle mass. When we gain muscle, the mitochondria, or fat-burning centres, also increase their input, so more fat is burned.
Fourthly, muscle does NOT weigh more than fat, the same way a pound of bricks does not weigh more than a pound of feathers. Yes, muscle has a greater density, but I'd rather my mass be in the form of muscle than fat - it sure looks better.

Also, a few inconvenient truths:
I weigh 71kg. Yes, I've unknowingly broken the 70kg-mark. My ideal mass is about 65-68kg so I need to get that off. Of that, 55kg is muscle and 12.3kg is fat. That translates to 17.3% body fat, when I should have only 15% or below. Michael Jordan in his prime had only 0.3% fat! If I gain muscle mass, my body will burn more fat, and I will lose the weight.
Finally, I'm 109% obese. Meaning I am 9% more chunky than the average male. I shall not go into Jasmine's scores, but they are comparable.

The gym people sound pretty confident about us showing results soon, and Jasmine has already started her punishing (physically & financially) schedule. Let's see what results transpire.

Me? Well I need to get my eczema reasonably out of the way first, then we shall talk. I might accompany them as a guest though. I wanna be a gym buddy too. =]

Monday, June 09, 2008

Crossover vs UniSIM

Dear Mrs Koh,

Thank you for your explanation. I will accept the Board's decision.

However, I must register my dissatisfaction with the fact that the criteria for admission is not made known to student teachers. If I had known my poly grades would be of such detriment to my admission chances, I would not have raised my hopes so high. Besides, my inferior grades were in an unrelated area of study, while my credit was in a related area of study. Why then should such heavy weightage be given to my poly performance? By doing well in Dip Ed, I was hoping to redeem my lack of effort in poly. But it seems that we are being punished twice for our past mistakes and not being given sufficient opportunity to redeem ourselves. I am disappointed in myself for not realising the value of education in poly 5 years ago, but even more so now with NIE & MOE for valuing the efforts of Dip Ed-ers so cheaply.

As for the Advanced Diploma, I'm sorry to say that it makes no sense at all. Why would I want to spend 1+ years getting another diploma when I already have two, with no impact on my emplacement and no direct guarantee of a degree? It would take me 3+ years to eventually get my degree, with little economic benefit to me in the meantime. It is no wonder that many Dip Ed-ers are forced to pursue unrelated part-time degrees at UniSIM etc at the expense of their work-life balance to get the emplacement they need.

I do hope you will reconsider the criteria for degree programme admission and provide more viable and realistic opportunities for us to get our degree.

Yours sincerely,
Aaron Wong
Dear Mr Wong


1 I refer to your email below appealing for crossover to the degree programme.

2 For Diploma graduands to crossover to the NIE's degree programme, both your performance in the Diploma in Education programme and your polytechnic diploma results are taken into consideration. This is part of an overall set of admission criteria that ensure the high standards of candidates who are admitted into the degree programmes in the university. You have obtained a Credit in the Diploma in Education but your polytechnic diploma results fall below the university’s minimum admission requirements. Based on the admission criteria, the NIE Board of Examiners collectively decided that the institute is unable to admit you into the degree programme.

3 NIE is fully aware that we must provide alternative pathways where Diploma graduands like you can have an opportunity to further their studies academically. With this in mind, NIE has put in place the Advanced Diploma programme in the relevant subject area, which we would like to invite you to consider applying for. When a candidate does well in the Advanced Diploma programme, he or she can use this additional qualifications (on top of their NIE diploma and polytechnic diploma results) to apply for the degree programme. Further advice on how to sign up for the Advanced Diploma may be obtained by e-mailing or calling 67903944. We are happy to let you know that some teachers have entered the Degree programme through obtaining good results in the Advanced Diploma studies.

4 We wish you all the best in your future endeavours and hope to see you pursuing the Advanced Diploma in the not too distant a future.

Yours sincerely,
Dear Mrs Koh (Hd FP Adm Off),

I received with great disappointment my results for my final semester in Dip Ed. I realised that I was not offered an opportunity to further my studies in the BA(Ed) programme. I called the FPO and was informed that I did not meet the criteria for crossing over, despite a GPA of 4.36 and a pass in my practicum. I was informed that NIE and poly results were taken into account in considering who should be offered the degree option.

My purpose of writing is twofold:
1. To appeal to be admitted into the BA(Ed) programme,
2. To urge NIE to review the criteria and transparency of selection for BA(Ed).

I am guessing that in the end it was my mediocre poly results that did me in for admission into BA(Ed). Honestly speaking, I did not take my polytechnic education that seriously until my final year. However, on coming to NIE, I finally found something that I could excel in. I applied myself enthusiastically and diligently during my time in Dip Ed finally achieving a CGPA of 4.36, virtually an A-average. I was also a member of the ELL Club (Ref: Mr Jason Loh, ELL Club ex-adviser) that organised activities for Year 1s. I was hopeful of continuing my pursuit of excellence in the BA(Ed), but now having been informed otherwise, I would like to appeal to be admitted into the programme, where I believe I can be a credit to the cohort of Dip Ed crossovers.

Secondly, I implore NIE to review the selection criteria for crossing over. The criteria has been made confidential, and we were only able to hear rumours about what the criteria was. This was totally unhelpful as we were not able to target a certain GPA or involvement to achieve. If we put it bluntly, I was doomed the moment I stepped into NIE, due to my inferior poly grades. I feel I have not been given a chance to improve myself or turn over a proverbial new leaf, despite doing my best to. It feels like a kick in the teeth that I never stood a chance. If convicts are given a chance to turn over a new leaf in seeking new employment, why am I being judged on what I (did not) achieve in the past? I believe I have acquitted myself well during Dip Ed, and more than made up for my inadequacies in the past.

I urge NIE to place greater weightage on performance in NIE rather than previous qualifications, which have less relevance in excellence in teaching. Moreover, if past results are taken into account, then my 'O' Levels would be in my favour, but apparently they are not considered at all.

I also urge NIE to be more transparent in communicating criteria of crossing over in official channels, instead of leaving us in the dark where we were trying to do our best but not knowing if we were on track at all. If PSLE and 'O' Level students know the score they need to get into the school they want, why shouldn't student teachers know what they need to achieve to cross over? I believe such transparency would help NIE get the elite students they want, as these would be the people that really do their best in NIE, to be excellent in their teaching.

I hope you will consider my appeal favourably and allow me to further my studies at the cradle of Singapore education.

If you need references of NIE tutors/lecturers, I'm sure Prof Douglas Edge (MME), Mr Jason Loh (now HOD Eng, Innova Pri) and Ms Jo-Ann Netto-Shek (ELL) would be glad to oblige.
6 Jun 2008, 1245hrs
I have not been offered the crossover option despite a GPA of 4.36. That's virtually an A-average. Jasmine says it's because I only got a pass at practicum, though that's another issue. Jon says it's because of my poor poly grades. But tell me, isn't busting your gut to do well in NIE after realising the importance of education enough to earn your place? Apparently not. Above is my letter of appeal.
23 Aug 2007, 0045hrs
To all aspiring crossovees, Aaron has done the math for you so you can decide if you should crossover to BA or BSc(Ed) next year if you are offered it.

My calculations assume you are graduating from Dip Ed, as I am, in June 2008, and will begin work in a primary school in July 2008. It assumes you enjoy a pay adjustment for NS. It also assumes you get three-months' bonus each year.

This calculates your net loss/gain till June 2011. Why June 2011? Well, assuming you start studies in UniSIM immediately after graduating from NIE, you will graduate from their part-time degree course by that time. So here goes:

Crossover to 2-year BA(Ed) programme at NIE:
Stipend: $10,000
Salary [GEO1: Jul 2010 - Jun 2011]: $42,330
Studying full-time

Four-year bond [CAA 2011]
Education degree [too specific]


3-year part-time degree at UniSIM, English major with another field:
Salary [GEO2: Jul 2008 - Jun 2011]: $95,310
No bond [CAA 2011]
General degree [non-education]

Course fees: $21,000
Working full-time & studying part-time


So, the question is, are you willing to work and study for three years, albeit a degree you have more control over and is more saleable outside, just to gain $21,980? I know I am. =]
Duncan brought up a very pertinent point though. Optimistically, if I can add another tuition student [total: 2] at $22.50/hr for 4 hrs/wk, I can make $720/mth, or $25,920 in 3 years, more than making up the shortfall. Now the picture is not so rosy.

MOE will even loan you $14,000 interest-free & bond-free to study part-time.

Hall & Oates - Out of Touch

Hall & Oates - Maneater

Friday, June 06, 2008

Teaching Practice: 25 Feb - 9 May 08

Despite a virtual guarantee of a credit by my main CT, I only got a pass. I intend to clarify with her why this happened, but I strongly suspect my supervisor's ill-timed and ill-prepared second observation did me, Nazir and Hui Erl in. It does leave a bitter taste in the mouth, seeing we did our best and were at the mercy of general incompetence.
9 Apr 2008, 1843hrs
I'm geting swamped here. Have been trying to keep up with my lesson plans and as a result, am falling back with my marking. The result? I bag full of worksheets and a 0.5m stack of books. Die...
7 Mar 2008, 1343hrs
Another treat! My CTs don't require me to write daily lesson plans in painstaking detail. They just need a weekly lesson plan with details of the procedure, resources and all that. This reduces the workload by A LOT. Of course formal observations still need the detailed one lah. But thank God for His mercy and providence.
My, my. What a surprise. Practicum's been a breeze so far with only obervations going on. Little chance of me teaching next week due to CA and my CT's wanting to finish their incumbent unit first. Looks like I'm only starting in Term 2, which means I have the term break to piah lesson plans. Term 2 Week 7-8 should be interrupted by SA1, so I'm left with 6-7 weeks to fit 10 observations in. It might not be that bad after all. I think the P2 class will be the challenge.
21 Feb 2008, 1843hrs
This is the biggie. Ten weeks altogether. One week of observation followed by nine weeks of teaching. I'm teaching P3 & 2 English and Maths respectively. My main CT is the P3 level head. Our practicum will include CA and SA time, so that should cut down the teaching load.