My Blog

Walking with my warriors all the way

I tell all my students they are my warriors and although I know I have prepared them well for battle, I would pray for all of them on the day of the exam.  This is the ritual I do without fail over the last decade.  

Yesterday was the O-level English paper (I heard Paper 2 was especially difficult) & I share some candid moments… Despite how confident anyone is, it is understandable anxiety is palpable when the moment comes that things can go south.  So ensuring students to stay calm is crucial.  One even stayed connected with me right up to the moment she entered the exam hall 🙂

A great Inspiration from Squid Game

This Korean drama needs no introduction.  Rather than talking about the show (who needs it anyway, haha), I want to share an inspiration that we can draw from its director Hwang Dong-hyuk.

Hwang actually completed the script in 2008 but failed to attract funding to produce the show.  Media companies called script “weird” and rejected him.  At that time, his family was very poor and he was in a lot of debt.  The rejection went on for – TEN years!  Still, he never gave up and continued trying…

In 2019, Netflix took interest in the script as part of its drive to expand the foreign market.  The show (of course you know it already) is a PHENOMENAL success and No. 1 in 90 countries around the world.  The rest is history.

The moral of my story – success may not always be forthcoming.  Never give up, keep trying even when others have no faith in you.  You will rise to the occasion when you stay true to your belief.

Happy Teacher’s Day 2021

Thoughtful words and gestures like these are invaluable. It’s the icing of the cake for this journey over the last decade.

Thank you all!

Thank you Erin for the creative work. To view the innovative work of Erin, click on the Fun Slides
Thank you Yi Feng
Thank you Dylon
Thank you Carys
Thank you Dylon
Thank you Claresta. I love the coffee!
Thank you Yue Ling

Types of Situational Writing

The year-end exams are coming; especially the English O-level Paper 1 begins in October.

There are a total of 6 types of situational writing typically in the exams namely

  1. Speech
  2. Feature Article
  3. Formal Email
  4. Formal Letter
  5. Proposal
  6. Incident Report

Among all, Speech is the easiest as there is no format to remember.  It’s almost like writing another piece of essay.  All students have to know is the structure in organising your speech.

A Feature Article can be a news article or magazine write-up where students become reporters reporting a piece of news or reflecting an experience in a magazine.

In Formal Email or Formal Letter, students typically write to someone in authority.  As such, there must be proper format to follow to reflect the formality of the email or letter.

As the name implies, Proposal is written to propose an idea or event.  Students are usually confused by the format between a proposal and incident report. Beware!

Similarly, an Incident Report is required to report an incident.  As the the format very similar to a proposal, students can be confused.  It ever happened in a SAP school that almost the whole cohort failed Situation Writing for using the incorrect format.  Be careful!

I would like to share with everyone the different types of Situational Writing and the correct format.

Standard of exams has raised tremendously over the years

It’s not easy been a student today.  Thirty years ago when I was a student, tuition was a term virtually unheard of – only the weak ones had tuition.

Today, the tuition industry is worth S$1.4billion in Singapore.  9 in 10 students are reported to have some form of enrichment lesson.  Hothousing students has become the norm.  And it is not without good reason…

I did my O levels more than 3 decades ago in 1988.  I still keep the English paper.  Comparing the English O level exam 30 years later in 2018, the level of difficulty has gone notably higher.  In 1988, comprehension was simply based on inferential skills and vocabulary power.  30 years later, apart from the fundamental inference and word power, answering techniques are required for specific questions such as Language Use, Unusual and Effective, Irony, Writer’s Craft, Contrast and Effect, paraphrasing etc…

To all students who are reading this, you have a much higher hurdle to clear.  I know.

Similar looking words that are actually dissimilar in meaning – Part 2 (Final)

  1.  Determined and Determinism

When you are determined, you persevere.  Determinism has nothing to do with perseverance.  Instead, this word is used to describe a belief that everything is predestined, so people are not able to act according to their free will.

For instance, those who are determined are more likely to achieve their goals as compared to those who subscribe to the concept of  determinism.

2. Systematic and Systemic

Being systematic is doing something in a structured manner. Systemic however, relates to or affects the whole of a system, organization etc

For instance, corruption faced by the country is a systemic one that will require a systematic approach to eradicate over an extended period.

3. Category and Categorically

While the word category is used to indicate a group, it would be a mistake to think that categorically relates to classification.  Instead, the word means something that is clear and without a doubt.

For instance, the government categorically (clearly without a doubt) states that cocaine remains in the category of illegal drugs that is banned even for medical purposes.

4. Attendant

Most of us know that an attendant is someone hired to provide a service.  This is so when the word is used as a noun.  But it’s a different meaning altogether when it becomes an adjective.  As an adjective, it means something that occurs with or happens as a result.

For instance, the attendant explosion happened when the pump attendant was smoking too near the gas station.

Similar looking words that are actually dissimilar in meaning – Part 1

This month, I would like to share a set of words that may look alike but are actually not related.  Many students who misunderstood them to be somewhat similar had been penalised as a result.

  1.  Oblivious and Oblivion

The word oblivious is to describe someone who is not aware or concerned about what’s happening around him whereas, the word oblivion can be used to describe the state of being completely destroyed.  

For instance, if man continues to be oblivious to environmental damage, a lot more species on earth will be sent into oblivion.

2. Sanction

Interestingly, this word has opposite meanings when used in different contexts.  On one hand, it is used to indicate a penalty / punishment for disobeying.  On the other hand, it is also used to indicate approval / permission to do something.

For instance,  North Korea faces sanction (punishment) for firing missiles and nuclear testing.  Japan is seeking international sanction (approval) for its intention to release treated radioactive water into the sea.

3. Fatal and Fatalistic

As we already know, the word fatal is used to describe something deadly.  The word fatalistic however, has nothing to do with being deadly.  Instead, it is used to describe a belief that nothing can be done to change an event or situation.   

For instance, if we adopt a fatalistic attitude in the fight against Covid, the consequences will be fatal.

Sheer amount of homework

A student wrote to the press (The Straits Times Forum Page) on 15 March 2021, lamenting that students are overwhelmed by all the homework during the week long school holidays.  A holiday is literally a break, yet it is common for many students to have to go back to school for extra lessons (compulsory for all) almost every day.  

Indeed, I do empathise with our young the sheer amount of work that they have to handle.  Looking from another perspective, students must realise that the more homework teachers give, the more work they are actually giving themselves.  Teachers don’t simply dish out homework based on whims and fancy.  Whatever homework that they give, they have to mark and return to the students.  I am sure it would be so much easier for teachers not to give any homework.  But as an educator, I am well aware that no responsible teacher would do that, if he or she has the student’s interest at heart.

Indeed, the amount of work that students have is significant.  And it’s understandable that they are complaining.  We can’t blame teachers too for doing what they ought to.  It is precisely how rigorous our system is, that has enabled Singapore to progress from a third world country to a first world nation today. Remember – GROWTH AND COMFORT DO NOT COEXIST.

Silly Pronoun Errors

There is an increasing number of students who commit pronoun errors in their writing.  And these types of mistakes not only affect the weak ones, even those who are typically strong overlook them from time to time.

Below are actual samples of students’ essays

Sample Writing 1
Sample Writing 2

As you can see, the errors are minor enough, but if an essay has too many of them, it will erode the quality of your writing.

I hope by showing excerpts of sample essays, it will bring to the attention of everyone to be more mindful and take effort to prevent committing them in essay writing.

A Reflection on 2020

As we enter the new year, I would like to reflect on 2020.  If I may use a catch phrase to best describe the year, it would be “thinking out of the box”.  

Indeed, the pandemic is a game changer; it forces every individual and industry to think out of the box to survive.  The conventional ways of doing things can no longer sustain; much less thrive…  No one is spared.  From the man in the street to global brands.  

As borders closed, travel came to an abrupt halt.  Passenger planes were retrofitted to become cargo jets to keep them flying, restaurants and even hawkers pivoted to online orders and deliveries, and taxi and grab drivers with no tourists or locals to pick up turned to delivering food orders to sustain their income.  Every enterprise and enterprising individual had to think out of the box.

I had been teaching for almost a decade.  And in all these years that I have taught, lessons were conducted physically – either in a classroom or at students’ premises.  Online lessons were never an option; either because of concerns over efficacy, quality of content and the likes.  The pandemic was no exception for me.  All physical lessons had to stop indefinitely… Suddenly what used to be ‘radical’ to me – online lesson was the only way to keep my lessons going.

Embarking on a new platform, I realise all my concerns are unfounded.  Online lessons not only takes away the time commute, time saving also leads to more productivity, lessons can be recorded and reviewed anytime by students and parents, the level of engagement is no different from physical lessons and quality of delivery is not at all compromised.  In short, it’s effective and efficient.  Thinking out of the box has opened more opportunities for me.   The episode was a blessing in disguise indeed.  

We don’t know what 2021 has in store for us.  But we do know that surviving 2020 has made us stronger, wiser and more resilient to deal with what comes in 2021.