The Rosenthal Effect

March 30, 2010 , 0 Comments

Robert Rosenthal famously suggested that the eventual outcome tend to conform to one's initial expectations or prejudice.

Simply put, there are self-fulfilling prophecies.

Came across this theory in a book about educational psychology and decided to check it out further.

In Rosenthal's and Leonore's experiment, teachers were given a list of students who supposedly scored for a Harvard Test. These kids, the teachers were told, would grow up to be high achievers. (The names were actually picked randomly from a class list.)

Surprisingly, at the end of the academic year, these students really fared better in IQ tests. In addition, the teachers reflected that these kids are better behaved, more intellectually curious and people-oriented.

Therein lies the secret to greater achievement. When there're empowering beliefs in one, one would tend to flourish. The converse is frightfully true too. Anyone deemed hopeless would behave in wanton, self-destructive ways.

Sustaining favourable beliefs in people can be draining. Any teacher/ parent/ executive/ coach can tell one that. But the efforts might be worth its while in the long run.

Just a song that I often take comfort in:


For his Daughter

March 29, 2010 0 Comments

My cousin, a social worker, just shared with me this incredible story.

This story, it just doesn't get covered in the newspaper. It's too surreal to be true and paradoxically, too surreal not to be true. It's so unbelievable, so stunning, so shocking. All the more why it must be true for no one could dream up such a plot...

Driven by desperation and love, a father stole a can of milk powder for his baby. (Milk powder's really expensive nowadays, check if out if you will.) He was jailed for this petty offence as he already had a criminal record.

What's worse? He actually took drugs to boost his guts before he dared to steal the milk powder.

Can't imagine the despair the dad must be in, to be forced into such circumstances. To steal milk powder to feed his baby.

The anguish, the dilemma, the resolve. The fears, the doubts, the actions... and the eventual arrest.

Don't know the man personally. Have no inkling of his name, his history, his present state, much less his future. But sincerely wishing him and his baby well.

Take care, sir, and please, don't give up on life.


Teaching as a Privilege

March 26, 2010 0 Comments

Teaching is a privilege.

Came across this quote and was overwhelmed. It had resonated then, tolling with simple sincerity. And even now, it continues to resonate.

It's easy to lose heart when tutoring, when all efforts bear naught, when all efforts breed resentment, hopelessness, disappointment. It's easy to despair when the kids don't seem to respond immediately to one's painstaking preparation. It's easy to lose faith, to lose sight that teaching is a privilege.

It is a timely - kind of divine - reminder. Teaching is a privilege. How true.

What other jobs allow one to mould inquisitive minds and shape character daily? What other jobs concern itself more with the society's future than one's own financial wants? Precious few jobs do and teaching is one of them.

Business, Law, Medicine, Engineering, Finance. These are the cool fields to be in, fields where making money is easy or at least easier. Despite MOE's attempt to paint teaching as a cool career, no one's really falling for it.

Everyone know that teaching is draining and the pay, by all means, is merely average. It's a job that demands much heart and hard work. Perhaps this account for the skepticism that greets anyone who dare to say they want to be a teacher. Why suffer? Many had asked. Why be teachers?

Well, that's an easy question to answer: because teaching is a privilege.

Always feel like laughing whenever I see this advertisement.
Do teachers even dress like this?! 


Abounding kindness

March 19, 2010 , 0 Comments

The wind whipped past and I felt these gusts of air whispering while they danced past me. The exhilaration seemed somewhat indulgent minutes later, particularly when I saw the old uncle sprawled on the floor, blood dripping from his forehead.

The Indian grandpa had fell off his bicycle and was bleeding profusely from a deep cut above his left eye. He laid, stunned by this abrupt chain of events. Everything happened too quickly. Blood matted his hair, left crimson rivulets all over his face and stained the ground.

He wasn't even groaning, just lying on the ground in a daze.

Under my brother's order, I called the ambulance.

My neighbour - couldn't recall ever speaking to her - was holding a party for his son. The joyful laughter of the kids stopped as they crowded around this old man. The old man, dressed in dirty clothes, worked for a living by trimming lawns. The kids were fascinated, yet appalled, by this aged uncle.

I wheeled the bicycle - it actually has a portable generator attached! - and was shocked by its weight. No wonder the uncle lost his balance and fell off it! That damned bike has the weight of two elephants.

The uncle, slowly waking up to reality, refused to go the hospital. Guessed he's afraid of having no money to pay for the medical fees. He insisted on going home straight away, without waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Left with no choice, I was directed to cancel the call for professional help. Must have sounded like a prankster. Calling in panic to report an uncle falling off his bike and striking his forehead against the asphalt ground a moment ago and calling yet again to assure them that the uncle was just suffering from superficial wounds and vigourously refusing to go to the hospital. Argh.

The neighbour tended to his wounds, cleaning it with warm water, Dettol and cotton swabs. Later, this kind lady even pressed a fifty dollar note into the right palm of the old uncle.

My cousin, elder brother and I accompanied this old man all the way to where he's staying - a corner terrace in a private estate. A somewhat mystifying incident. Why was he still pedaling an ancient bicycle around, loaded with weighty instruments, to trim lawns if he's staying in such a prime property?

Cats strolled lazily in the luxuriant garden as we wheeled the bicycle in. Animal lovers, this family must be quite kind-hearted.

The door opened to reveal an Indian lady with her toddler. She divulged that they were housing this uncle out of charity - otherwise, he would be roaming the streets - and reassured us that they would definitely bring him to the doctor that very night.

In a society often criticised as unfeeling and selfish, it is all the more heartening to learn of such kindness and generosity. To see my neighbour part readily with cash to help another. To hear of people taking care of an elder whom they have no blood ties with.

This world isn't all that bad a place to be in.


Stories of the people around

March 12, 2010 , 0 Comments

He stepped awkwardly into a flat, one that he had never entered before. He did not know what to expect, how to act and react.

'Tututututu, doors are closing. Pasir ris.' A little boy sounded suddenly.

He was confused by this random, yet energetic, phrase. He turned and smiled at this little, innocent looking boy.

Later, he found out that the poor kid had a debilitating fever when he was young. The fever... it caused him to grow up to a very special kid. The life he's leading now, it would be very different from the life he might otherwise be leading.

The boy's fascinated with automated doors. The seemingly magical opening and closing of doors by their own will, their own initiatives. The sentient responses of the doors, their ability to detect the motions of the people around them. To him, it's magical. He could spend hours playing/walking through doors with sensors, be it through the entrance of hotels, elevators, trains or buses.

What others take for granted, he views as miracles that never lose their magic.

As a special treat, his dad would bring him on MRT trips around Singapore. Just MRT trips, nothing more and more touchingly, nothing less.

They would hop onto the trains, travel around the island, walking through the automated doors at every station. After the kid's tired out, they'd then head home for a rest.

'Doors are closing. Tututututu.' These words, they sound so different now.



March 07, 2010 0 Comments

Just attended this play yesterday and was impressed by the themes explored and skillful acting.

The delusions of life and living, the reluctance to give up what's causing one pain, the fear of death while proclaiming one's suicidal thoughts. Of dashed, forgotten, torn, trampled hopes.

A intriguing, rather disturbing, play.

This theatre piece is remarkably Singapore, with broken English, dialects and a HDB setting. Went with the expectation that it wouldn't be too remarkable - like most Singapore plays and most Singapore events - and was taken by surprise. Completely, overwhelmingly surprised.

The hysterical grandmother who attempts and threatens suicide but dare not die. The delusional mother who holds on to fragments of shattered dreams  - she who would fall apart if those pieces of false hope were to be snatched from her. The unfulfilled daughter, her dreams clipped by the vein of insanity running in the family.

This voyeuristic venture into the lives of three women is priceless. The electrifying intensity of the actors, the subtle twitches of the eyes, the eloquent silence of the body language... It's mesmerising.

The lessons imparted, well, they're priceless.


Ending what that shouldn't even have began

March 05, 2010 0 Comments

After merely four sessions, the tuition ended on a sour note.

He couldn’t help blaming himself for this failure, this fiasco. From young, he had learnt that taking responsibility is the first step to resolving any problems. It was a paradigm that had served him well.

And for this tutoring disaster, he tried to blame himself.

What if he had taught with more excitement? What if he had prepared more thoroughly? What if he had just been able to solve that A. maths trigo question?

The greater the extent he appropriated responsibility, the worse he felt. It was neurotic to assume blame for something in which he’s not wholly at fault. The student was so reluctant to learn, so angry, so angst-ridden that it was taking all his patience to just not blow up. It was not his fault, he told himself.

Many people, both friends and family, told him that he should just give up on her. But he don’t want to give up. He would look down upon himself if he simply walk away and admit defeat.

And now, he had no choice.

He messaged the student’s mum, hoping to discuss the course of the tuition. He requested for a phone conversation. The mum apologized for her daughter’s rude and headstrong attitude. On the behalf of her daughter, she requested for a termination of the tuition.

To his surprise, he didn’t feel devastated. He felt relief washing across him and the dread that had been residing at the back of his mind diminished rapidly, conspicuous by its absence.

He felt a curious, somewhat numbing mix of disappointment, relief and yes, joy. He was free from having to dread tutoring, an activity he usually relishes.

He thanked God for this experience, one in which he lost much but gained much too. He would treasure the lessons learned and remind himself not to repeat it.


Wondering about existence

March 04, 2010 0 Comments

It's really hard to be one's own cheerleader.

Suddenly felt this wave of lethargy swamp me, draining away all energy and optimism, leaving naught but parched grounds behind.

Feels as though too much activities - tutoring, work, outings - are packed in a single day such that there's no longer time to do what feels important - to learn, to read, to draw.

Feels as though each day's fading into and out of existence without me being truly aware.

Feels as though life's mainly a monotony, punctuated by brief periods of vibrancy, that life's not an epiphany, not a symphony.

It's really sad, isn't it, to live life without knowing.

How many people realise that they're wasting their energy, time, life away by pursuing mere material wealth? And for those who realised, how many of them - how many indeed - feel drained, dread?