Anything can be.

September 27, 2009 0 Comments

Listen to the MUSTN'Ts, child.
Listen to the DON'Ts.
Listen to the SHOULDN"Ts,
the IMPOSSIBLEs, the WON'Ts.
Listen to the NEVER HAVEs,
Then listen close to me...
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be.
-Shel Silverstein

I'm finding it impossibly difficult to get students to believe in themselves.

Many of them are completely disillusioned.

They dare not hope. They dare not try. They are so young and yet, they dare not live.

Been reading the above poem to each kid I'm tutoring. A fuzzy feeling of warmth when I sense them thinking about themselves - their past, present and future.

It's a really lovely feeling, an empowering one, to look into their eyes and feel their minds whirling, thinking. The initial awkwardness when I introduced the poem to them - can simply imagine them thinking why the hell is this guy wasting my time? - fades away.

This poem brought my charges and I closer together. Try reading it to the friends and family around you, won't you? 


Studies of Figures

September 22, 2009 0 Comments

"Existence really is an imperfect tense that never becomes a present."

- Friedrich Nietzche


Denial of Neuroses

September 19, 2009 , 0 Comments

The rock is smooth,
It is cool,


I flip it over

Creepy crawlies
wiggling, wriggling.

There's where they hide.
Almost every kid whom I am tutoring now would claim that they know their subjects thoroughly.

'Any problems with your maths?'

'No problem. Okay. No worries.' (confident smile)

'Any problems with your Chem? Physics?'

'Okay. Can do.'

Naturally, I'd be comforted by their self-assured demeanor. Their cool, unflappable facades would quell any anxieties that I may have. That is before I ask some simple questions.

Further questioning would eventually lead to an understanding that they're either lying or in denial.

Lying would mean that they're actually aware of their woeful grasp of the subject but don't want me to know. These kids are actually embarrassed about their lack of knowledge, ashamed that they don't put in effort for their studies. It's easier to tutor them for they recognise that they have problems.

Those kids who deny their problems are more scary. Despite my best efforts, they'd continue to claim that there was nothing wrong with them. That they understand the topics sufficiently. That there's nothing wrong with their attitudes toward studying. That their approaches towards studying are flawless.

The amount of effort required to make them realise their own neuroses is tremendous. I really wonder how psychotherapists do it - to encourage people to face up to their faults so that healing can begin.



September 11, 2009 0 Comments

The value of setting goals should never be underestimated. Napoleon Hill understands it; Tony Buzan understands it; Adam Khoo understands it; Mr Wang understands it.

It seems that everyone understands it except our NIE-trained teachers and students.

In attempting to motivate my students, I became aware of the need for them to set goals, to have aims that they could aspire to.

To my horror, I found out that no one ever asked them to set goals. Their parents didn't. Their friends didn't. Their teachers didn't. No one ever did. They are practically floating in a sea of uncertainty, with no sense of direction or purpose. They could only go where the wind blew, helpless and hapless.

And in this age when so many people seek instant gratification, it's unbelievably difficult to get my students to focus on their goals and plans to realise them. The resistance and friction are tremendous.

After some severe headaches, I decide that the best method for students to set goals and read them everyday is actually quite simple... It is to reach them through their beloved handphones.

Do you have any friends/brothers/ sisters/ students struggling in his studies? Why not suggest that they try this?

1) Get the students - preferably the whole class - to take out their handphones. (enjoy the gleeful but puzzled glances they give one another)
2) Ask them to type the following out:
I enjoy learning and wants to know more.
English: A1
Chinese: A1
E.maths: A1
A.maths: A1
C. Humanities: A1
C. Science: A1
Visual Arts: A1
3) Request that they set the following note as screensavers for their handphones; Advise them to set it as wallpapers for their laptops, computers; Encourage them to write this note down and pin it onto the walls of their bedrooms.
4) Ask them to genuinely believe that they can do it while constantly reaffirming their worth as individuals.

Of course, the kids can personalise their list of goals. 'I want to study in RJC before achieving a scholarship to study in Oxford'; 'I want to be a caring Student Leader, son and brother'; 'I am going to be the next Minister Mentor.' etc etc

Remind them of their goals as and when you can. Encourage them to take daily action that would move them towards their goals. 'Class, remember to study that extra hour if you want to get those 'A1's for your impending O-levels.' etc

It's an easy enough experiment, rather worth trying.


The State of Our Current Education System

September 10, 2009 0 Comments

It's sad - thoroughly and truly - when students from diverse backgrounds unite in a common disdain of Singapore's education system.

Learning can be and should be fun. Yet, these kids, despite being total strangers, find their education banal and boring. It is as though their joy for learning was systematically sucked out from them, leaving them dull, dry and barren.

It aches me till no end when the kids I am tutoring fail to respond to every approach to learning.

They are so completely disillusioned with life and learning that almost nothing can impel them to go on, strive on.

I enjoy teaching and tutoring. I can put in the utmost efforts into preparing notes and would choose giving extra tuition over going out with my friends for recreation. That's probably why it hurts so chronically when such dedication yields minimal results.

That's probably why a calling feels like a curse.

I'm only giving four kids home tuition and I'm already drained by their diffidence. Wondering how it would feels like to teach a few classes of forty students.

It's no wonder why so many teachers are burned out! Either they care and they get discouraged or they don't care and become indifferent.

Our education system, a sad parody of life in Singapore.