Happy 10th Teacher’s Day – 2022

Today marks my 10th Teacher’s Day since leaving the corporate world.  Time flies…  

Educating the young and moulding their mind has such a profound impact.  You can only experience this sense of fulfillment when you walk this journey.  I have witnessed so much in this journey, yet just like my students, I am learning every day as well.  From these young minds, I see Inspiration, Resilience, Despair, and above all, I see HOPE.  

On every Teacher’s Day, I receive words of gratitude and gestures of appreciation.  But today, to all who have journeyed with me, let me also express my heartfelt thanks to you.  I draw strength from your faith and I shall continue to strive to do better each day.  

Thank you, Elise
Thank you, Jennifer (Nat’s mom)
Thank you Yi Feng
Thank you, Yue Ling
Thank you, Zhan Yi
Thank you, Aloysius
Thank you, Izaac
Thank you, Li Ping (Caitlyn’s mom)
Thank you, Hazel (Rylan’s and Izaac’s mom)

Complacency can crush you – a TRUE story

This happened more than 7 years ago.

That year, among my group of secondary 4 students, I had one student from a neighbourhood school and another one from a top school, Hwa Chong Institution (HCI).  Due to some reasons, the Hwa Chong boy was in the O-level track instead of the Integrated Programme (IP).

The female student from Hougang Secondary was especially weak but she was assiduous and kept trying.  All she wanted was a reasonable pass for English in order to get into her desired course in Polytechnic.  She had been getting either Ds and Cs in her exams…  Despite her weakness, I had full faith in her because she tried really hard, diligently remembering and applying what had been taught.

Unsurprisingly, the HCI boy was a much stronger student; consistently getting Bs and even As.  Perhaps he was aware of that too and became rather complacent.  Despite repeated reminders never to be over-confident, it was inutile.  Looking at both the boy and girl, you could see a marked difference in attitude.

When the O level results were released, the HCI boy was the first to call.  He was crushed that he got a C5.  I was blindsided but was not totally unprepared.  The female student didn’t call me sooner & I was getting anxious.  At the back of my mind, if the HCI boy had gotten a C5, what about her…

Finally she called, and couldn’t stop sobbing.  Oh dear, my heart sank!  I comforted her and her told she had done her best and that was the most important.  I wanted her to stop crying already and tell me how she had fared.  An A2!!!  She cried because never in her wildest dream she would get a distinction for English. I can understand – coming from a weak student.

The moral of the story, it doesn’t matter if you are weak.  Keep trying and surely you will get there one day.  And to those who are complacent – it’s only a matter of time failure will come knocking.

Email Etiquette

Whenever we send emails, we will address the recipient first and properly sign off after writing.  All of us are aware of this basic etiquette.

Students will email their work to me and most do not forget this right practice (attached samples).

Some however, only do so when tested in exams but do not exercise the right thing in real-life settings.  They simply attach their work and send emails with no greetings and a proper sign-off (attached sample).

To these students, I usually educate them the right habit.  After all, what we learn in school is supposed to be applied in real-life situations, not just to pass the exams.

I remember an S1 student (from a top school) once sent his email to me without sign-off and greetings.  As usual, I did what I should to educate the kid accordingly.  I didn’t have his mobile number (I usually communicated with his mother directly),  so I explained to his mother to convey the message.  

His mother responded, “You mean my son has to wish you well all the time, and wish you a nice day each time he sends an email??”  I am speechless.

An Annual Volunteer Session

After a hiatus of 2 years due to covid restrictions, I am delighted to do a 3-hour seminar for O-level students at the invitation of the Chong De Cultural (Buddhist) Society last week.

Students at the seminar were able to gain insights into Editing and comprehension techniques.

I have been conducting the annual session since 2017 and it’s truly fulfilling being able to do something in return for my blessed life so far.

You can view more pictures by clicking on the Photo Gallery at the main page.

Token fee of $5 is to help the temple to cover operational expenses

Big Panda and Tiny Dragon

I read a very good book lately, “Big Panda and Tiny Dragon” by James Norbury.

This book is neither a novel nor a self-help book.  It’s actually like a comic that narrates a journey embarked by two soulmates – a panda and a dragon fly (hence tiny dragon) through the four seasons.  

I like particularly one part where the dragon asked the panda what if he had met people who didn’t like him.  There the panda replied that the dragon had to walk its own path,  for it’s better to them than to lose himself.

How true indeed!  How many of us have lost our own uniqueness just to conform or be accepted by others.  We must remember, never to lose ourselves just because we yearn to be accepted by others.

You can borrow the physical book or electronic version from the library.  Have a read, it’s really inspiring!

Teachers can teach wrongly too

Discursive writing requires a balanced view and I have always taught in my lessons to provide 2 points for agreeing and 2 for disagreeing for discursive essays.  This is also the format I have used for both my lower and upper secondary books.

A student recently informed me that her teacher in school had taught her otherwise and she was confused.  Instead of simply telling her that I was right and her teacher was wrong, I asked the rest of the students what they were taught in their schools.  Everyone mentioned the same format as what I had taught.  With that, I got the confused girl to verify with her teacher once more.  And true enough, the teacher had admitted it was her mistake and she apologised to the class.  

A similar thing happened in 2019.  For the phrase – ‘on the bus’ or ‘in the bus’?  A teacher had taught her class that we should use ‘in’ since we are inside the bus.  Only after I had provided an explanation from MOE, that she realised she had misled her charges.  You may click to read the read the details

The moral of this – teachers can be wrong too.  After all, we are also human.  

Understanding International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme

Last month, we talked about poly as another viable alternative to university.  Some students have asked about the IB Programme?  How different is it from the A levels?

To begin with, both IB and A levels are globally recognised 2-year programmes for university admission.  Unlike the A levels where the entire grade would be awarded in the final exams, IB focuses on consistent work.  This consistent work throughout the 2 years will contribute 20 to 30 percent of the final  grade.  The final exam makes up 70 to 80 percent.

Generally, students who are self-motivated with good time management, and prefer to explore learning out of classroom will find the IB programme enriching.  They are also likely to do well.

There are currently 4 national schools offering the programme:

  1. Anglo Chinese School (Independent) ACS (I) L1R5 cut-off: 5
  2. St. Joseph Institution (SJI) L1R5 cut-off: 7
  3. School of Arts (SOTA) Requires talent in the arts
  4. Singapore Sports School Requires sports talent
source: The Straits Times
source: The Straits Times

The next milestone in your quest for success – Poly or JC?

The O level results will be released in a week’s time.  Many of you would have decided the next path of your education journey.  Good for you!  For some who are undecided or have a misconception that Polytechnics are for those who “either cannot or barely make it to JC”, allow me to share some inspirational insights.

Some say that JC is better as it’s “easier” to get into the University.  Ask any JC student and he or she will tell you that you have to work your guts out to earn a place in our local university.  In fact, our education system has evolved so much over the years that it is no longer about ease of access to university.

Moreover, there are numerous students who thrive in Poly and have gone on to achieve amazing feats – becoming doctors (read): or being sought after by world-renowned universities such as Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (read).

So, the road that gets you to success is really your INTEREST.  


A poignant reminder of how toxic bullying can be

Joe Bell is a true story about a boy who was constantly bullied in school and eventually taking his own life to escape the ordeal.  The whole family was shattered following the suicide.  His father walked 8,000km across the US (about the distance from Singapore to New Zealand) to speak about the terrifying effects of bullying to pay tribute to his dead son and learning to let go.

The movie is a poignant reminder to bullies, never allow yourself to live in regret for destroying someone’s life.

Marking Scheme under New PSLE Scoring System

Contrary to popular belief, there is no bell curve when marking PSLE papers.  That is, no quota for the number of candidates who can get AL1 or AL2.  Under the new system, marking falls under a natural bell curve instead.

In fact, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE), almost 50% of candidates achieve 75 marks (AL3) or higher. (Click here https://moenrichment.com/resource-readings/#PSLE-scoring to understand  the PSLE Scoring System)  Examiners are not rigid when marking the papers.  They will deliberate over every answer and award marks accordingly.