Tuesday, December 13, 2005

How to Be A Tuition Teacher Part 2 - Getting Your Students

After the previous post on how to prepare yourself for getting your students, now I'll continue with how to actually go about getting those students.

In Singapore, there are hundreds and thousands of students out there who actually need tuition, or were harangued into it by their parents. ^_^! Your job now, after confirming your credentials, are to actually connect yourself to these students, and there are several ways you can go about doing it.

Free Advertising - Word of Mouth

blogger two057 in a comment to Part One mentioned that another way to get students was the good results of your previous students. Definitely, word-of-mouth is one of the best ways you can get students, since you have other parents who can vouch for your capabilities and spread your number to other parents. This is the best kind of free advertising you can get.

If you are a new, inexperienced tutor though, then you may not be able to draw on this with the same kind of success. However, you can still use some word of mouth to your advantage. Let your friends, parents, acquaintances know that you are going into the tuition business, and let them help you look out for potential students.

Remember though, to spread the news through people who like you, and who are willing to vouch for you. And make sure you can live up to your obligations. It's not beneficial to your social relationships if you taught Mrs Ong's daughter for a year, only to have her fall 20 places in the class ranking. Not to mention if such a thing happens, Mrs Ong can easily spread the news to Mrs Tan, Mrs Lim, Mrs Chai..... word of mouth can definitely work to your disadvantage as well.

If you want to avoid teaching the children of your immediate social circle, or you have no social life at all, then you can try DIY advertising

Do It Yourself

Make your own flyers, advertising yourself. Some may print namecards, but you can probably get the same kind of result printing out a simple flyer on your home printer and then mailing one into every mailbox in your estate. There are a few advantages to this, that you reach a wider audience than if you were to rely on your social circle, and you don't have to lose any of your pay to tuition agency commissions. Also, any students you get would be living around your area, assuming that's where you mailed out the flyers. It's also relatively cheap and easy

Make sure your printer can churn out hundreds of flyers though. You'd need to print out a relatively large number in order to assure yourself of students. And have fun cutting the papers if you want to print out 2 flyers on one A4 sheet.

Some may do a cheaper method and print out one flyer for each block, and stick it to the wall of the lift lobby, with strips of paper with their handphone numbers on it for the potential parents to tear out. There is one caveat to this, however, which is you may find your flyer torn off the next morning by the cleaners, or rival tuition agencies. This I found out the hard way after one afternoon of cycling around my estate. ^_^!

Tuition Agencies - The Pro Way

Tuition agencies are basically middlemen. They connect you, the tutor who needs students, to parents who want tutors. They are also the most common way by which most inexperienced tutors get students.

Essentially what you do is call up the tuition agency, give them info like your name, contact no, qualifications, what level and what subjects you want to teach, your expected fee and, sometimes, when you are free to teach. What the agencies do after that is try to connect you to a parent. Then, they deduct 50% of your first month's pay as their commission. Their numbers are also easy to find in the classifieds.

Mind you, this is all in theory. You may call up dozens and hundreds of tuition agencies, only to receive maybe 2 or 3 potential students about a month later. Then you may find that they will tell you that the pay that the parent is willing to pay is way lower than your expectations. The tuition agency biz is a competitive one, so what they do is offer parents lower tuition salaries [your salary, mind you] in order to attract the parent's commission. This means that your monthly salary will also be lower than what you could've gotten for yourself. And this is after half of your first month's pay has been deducted.

And then there may be other complications, like they may ask you to er, 'enhance' your tuition experience by a year or so. They may also ask you to teach subjects which you never learned, or which you failed miserably in school. They may offer you parents who live crazy distances from where you live.

Most agencies may also seem shady. Mind you, you may never see the agent who gives you the commission, and you may only speak to them over the phone, so be wary of agencies who ask for commissions higher than 50%.

Naturally, if you approach more established tuition agencies, you will not face this problem. But experienced tuition agencies may not give you, the inexperienced tutor, that much opportunities either. When I started out, most of my students came from the agents over the phone, and not the established agencies. In the end, what's more important is that you get connected with a student, and you are able to teach that student for more than a month.

Right, that's all for this installation! See you next week, when I prep you for your first lesson!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Funny Exam Answers

I doubt whether any of our local students are crazy or despondent enough to hand in this kind of exam papers, but apparently some students [somewhere] were. [my favourite is the last one]

Funny Exam Answers from Currytan

Note: Are we allowed to publish students' work online like this? :p Or is it alright as long as we don't show the names?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Timetables are out!

Before my exam results have been released, my timetable is already out... Do I treat this as a good sign and take it that I've cleared the necessary modules? *fingers crossed* Because there are some modules that I so, so, SO do not want to retake!

How to Be A Tuition Teacher Part 1: Before-Class Revision

So in an effort to keep this blog getting too dusty over the holidays, *blows dust off*, I'm writing a segment on becoming a tuition teacher.

I'm doing this because the tuition industry in Singapore is like, one of the largest underground industries here, and also because of the sheer number of people who want to enter it. [hence, I'm also doing it in an effort to boost visitor stats to this site]

So what do you need to do to become a tuition teacher?

One of the things I found most useful then was Preparation. Yes, a highly overused term, but one that remains useful nonetheless. Before you start making those calls, you might want to decide on a few terms beforehand:

1. Your Working Hours
One of the great advantages of tuition is the flexibility in timing. If you're working full-time, you can choose to teach either in evenings, or during weekends. My usual hours during my full-time tuition days were weekday evenings [except Fri night of course...] and weekend mornings. This gave me more than enough time during the day to do whatever it is I wanted to do.

Obviously if you're taking tuition up as a part time option, then you don't have to dedicate all your free time to teaching. [unless you're possibly that hard up, or that lacking of a social life altogether] Hence decide for yourself when do you want to teach? Some would prefer to teach only during the weekends, some prefer teaching after work on weekday nights, leaving their weekends free. Again, it's up to you.

Once you decide for yourself when you want to teach, then you can save time having to negotiate with parents about your available tuition days. Just tell them straight that you are available "mon and thurs, 730 to 930". If anything, this saves you having to teach during weird slots. [I once had a student whom could only have lessons at 10pm!] Also, this keeps your own schedule relatively intact.

2. Your Teaching Subjects and Level
What were you strong in? What are you good in? If you were an accounting graduate, you can teach Principles of Accounting. If math was always your strong suit, go for it. If you've always been good in the written word, teach kids how to write great compositions.

Don't, for example, attempt to teach O Level English when you scraped through it with a C5 say, ten years ago. ^_^! You will do yourself and the kid no favours.

After you've decided on what subject you want to teach, then the next step is at what level are you comfortable teaching? Primary and Secondary school students come with their own set of baggage each. The primary school kids will tend to be, well, kids. They will be more childish, more playful, and will require more energy dealing with them. [I once had to run after a Pri 6 kid who decided to run out of the house halfway during one lesson]

However, you do get some kids who will tend to listen to instruction more, and these will be a breeze to teach, because they will be relatively docile in the presence of strangers, [yes, even though you're in their house, and after teaching them for a period of time, they will consider you as a relative stranger] and will generally do whatever it is you tell them to do. If you get these kids, hold on to them as long as you possibly can, because they will make your teaching career that much easier. ^_^

This is as compared to the Secondary school teens. The word says it all: Teenagers. They will be more rebellious than the primary school kids, and they will question you more, and be more sluggish during lessons. But you get some where, when it comes to the crucial years of Os and Ns, will be more attentive during your lessons.

You ask yourself: Which do you prefer?

3. Your Qualifications
Obviously this would influence whatever it is you're teaching, [and how much you get paid] but it makes sense to prepare any necessary documents in advance. [yes, time to dig out that ol' dusty O Level cert] Some parents and tuition agencies would want to see copies of these documents in order to ascertain that you are what you claim, so prepare your O level, and maybe A level certs, and any professional qualifications you may have, like ACCA.

Teachers and ex-teachers, you're in luck. Experience counts way more than qualifications here, so the higher the number of years you've worked, the better. Ex-tuition teachers and private school teachers can also count their experience.

4. Your Salary
And this is what we're all doing it for, ain't it? Salary, like in any industry, depends on qualifications and experience. Graduates, good on you. You get a higher salary than your poly counterparts, with rates going up to $40 an hour for honours students. [based on anecdotal evidence] JC students and below...... Better spend more time in school. With your lack of experience, and your young age, parents are least likely to hire you, one of the reasons being you might scram on their kids when you start uni/poly. [which some of you are most likely intending to do] Sorry to say, but you might have to get a data entry job instead.

Again, people with teaching experience have the advantage. Rates for teachers/ex-teachers can go up to $50-60 an hour, based on experience and the number of subjects taught. Tuition teachers can also get just as good rates, if they have a good sucess rate with their students, and good referrals.

So consider all the factors from 1 to 3 and price yourself reasonably. Bear in mind that there is no fixed income standard for tuition, and that a lot pretty much depends on the bargaining powers between you and the parent. However, if you do have a strong advantage in a particular subject, [like you're a teacher, or you have professional qualifications] I suggest you milk it to the core. Go for as obscenely high a price as you possibly can, and then bargain it down slightly to a slightly more reasonable rate.

Don't go overboard with it though. As of yet, I haven't heard of a tutor getting paid $100 a hour for teaching. o_0

Well, that's all for Part 1... After I post this up, I'll start work on Part 2: Getting the job itself. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Leavings and Beginnings

"Why haven't I received anything from you yet?"

Me: "Isn't the deadline the 28th?"

"No! It's today!"

Me: *Shrieks*

And so starts a flurry of typing...... I never knew I was capable of typing out a 3 hour English Reading lesson in less than 30 mins... ^_^!

Thankfully, this is not for NIE, but for the holiday community project we're supposed to do. [you know, the one that's supposed to instil a sense of service learning in us and make us all ready for unrestrained devotion to CIP]

Face it, it's a bit of a drag having this to do over the hols, but it has to be done...... And NOBODY wants to repeat an ungraded module like this anyway....

My group has managed to get it down to a holiday camp for kids with the theme "School IS fun!", the idea being to convey to the kids that, well, that school can be fun. We've gotten a family service center to agree to the thing, and I'm hoping all goes well by then.

Or rather, I'm hoping all goes well with the kids during the camp itself. ^_^! Planning is fine. I've done dozens of planning for projects just like this, it's the thought of actually facing the kids that scares the shite out of me.

That has been something I've been thinking about so far since reading of Tym's resignation from the teaching force. It raised the question in my mind: Can I actually pull this off?

Well really, it hasn't been a new question, more like something that cropped up every time I [thought I] did particularly bad on an assignment. [conversely, when I think I did ok, I think to myself that maybe I can pull it off after all] But the question remains. I mean, if there are teachers out there tons more experienced than I am leaving the force, what the heck am I doing??

I remember the time I passed my neighbour, who was an ex-teacher with a top school, in the corridor. We chatted a bit in the lift, and she asked me what I was doing, and at the time, I replied that I was waiting to enter NIE.

"You're entering?? My god, I just left teaching and you're entering?? Are you sure??"

Great encouragement.........

But today's a day I feel particularly green about the whole thing. Like a wide-eyed little kid stepping into school for the first time. Gee, and the kids think they have it bad. What about your poor old untrained teacher who has to contend with 40 of you?

*Sigh* Ah well, no point worrying about it too long. For now, I'm hoping the community project goes through successfully, so that after early Dec, I can truly enjoy the rest of my holidays......

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Exam Fever is Here Again

And it shows, because if you were walking through campus, you'd think everyone had been quarantined and were now lying at home, recuperating.

Well, in a sense, i suppose they are recuperating. Welcome to Exam Fever Season. Bane of both teachers and students alike.

Me, in my program, I'm lucky. I had one exam, on Teaching English on Monday, and I'm cleared for the rest of the semester. Others, including the rest of NTU, I know, have it till almost the end of November.

I would gloat, but I know it'll all come back to me in karmic payments, probably in the first time I have to help mark exam papers. *sweat*

But then again, the Exam Season does give rise to some strange behaviour on the parts of some people. It's probably the overall atmosphere of stress and pressure that does it, and me being in a more relaxed mood now, have the leisure of observing these specimens at will.

One interesting foreign specimen started nesting at the staircase on the same floor as my hostel room. I don't know why she doesn't just stay in her room, but she apparently decided that the staircase was a more conducive place for her to study. The first time I saw her, I nearly got shocked into falling down the staircase. This was because I was walking up the stairs, looking down, when then a pair of feet came into view.

I looked up and I saw this pale, haggard face staring at me, wild, dank strands of hair streaked across her face, with piles of paper in her hand, and muttering some weird language under her breath. In the next few microseconds, I realised that 1. she was human, and 2. she was studying sitting on the staircase and 3. She wasn't a ghost. Thankfully, due to the astonishingly fast neural impulses of the human brain, I registered 1, 2, and 3 in time to not scream bloody murder in her face.

Since then, she's been there almost daily, and sometimes I even see her taking her lunch there. Her spot has been reserved for her, with a few sheets of paper placed there. Just tonight, she was lugging a chair up to her spot. I take it she intends to stay there for quite a while. Maybe next, I'll see her huddled in blankets and sleeping there.

Indeed, Exam Fever does bring out the strangest in some people...... Anyone know any other cases? :p

Friday, November 04, 2005

pinkcherryade: I've added your blog to the links section... Any other blogging teachers wanna exchange links? :p You're always welcome.

Not a student, Not yet a Teacher

"This is the last class for the module, so that means your holidays are starting already?"

*A happy sound from the class*

"Well, enjoy it while you can, this will be the last real holidays you ever enjoy in your life."


That was a really nice way for my tutor to wrap up the module huh? *grumble* And he's one of the nicer and better ones in the PGDE program too...

[aside: I heard on the grapevine that some girls are so enthralled with him that they actually went to find out his age, marital status... probably his vital stats as well, for all I know]

but in a grudging kind of way, the guy's actually right. When I think about it, this Nov/Dec hols will probably be the last kind of school holidays we will enjoy as students. Not as teachers, planning holiday programmes, classes and god knows what else more.

I DONWAN!!! WAHHHHH!!!!! I'm not sick of being a student yet! Honest! Lemme stick to my studies, student ID and bad canteen food! I'm not ready for responsibility yet!

Man, times like this, I feel like I should give myself 2 tight slaps on the face and shout, "SNAPOUTOFIT!!!" I seem to be stuck in that transitional stage where I'm enjoying the amenities that come with being a student, and yet, I'm not actually a student, I'm a "trained employee of MOE with all the responsibilities and obligations that go with it". [that one particular line has been thrown at us in these few months god knows how many times already]

Not a student, not yet a teacher.

But the feeling kinda sucks in a way. It's like someone pulled you out of your comfy seat in front of the TV, threw you the vacuum, and said, "It's time you did some real work for a change!" only the effect is multiplied by a gazillion.

The effect this has on me is akin to a pendulum. On one swing, when I'm particularly optimistic during classes, I see the lesson plan I write out, and I think, gee, maybe I can pull this off after all.... On a bad day, I'll thik, wtf am I doing here?!! I'm not going to make it! ARGH!!! SOMEONE GET ME OUTTA HERE!!!!!!

Trust me, I'm not turning schizophrenic.

On the [slightly] brighter side, though, most of the assignments have been handed in, done, even while the rest of NTU/NIE is still having exams. Gives me a little gloaty feeling, when I see all the anxiously mugging faces stuck in piles of books and I'm thinking of my next blog entry and how long my afternoon nap should be.

Yea, yea, I know... karma....... :p

But I really should start preparing myself... To say goodbye to being a student and start being responsible for students myself... *sigh* Wish me luck......

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Don't laugh... *HAHA!*

This really happened during a module, for which we were supposed to do a 3 min presentation to a fictional primary sch class for our assessment.

Speaker: ( Slightly nervous ) Class, today I want to share with you something I saw in the shopping center.

( Slight giggles from one corner )

I saw a girl who was making fun of a mentally retarded child. She was making fun of the child and was laughing at her.

( Giggles again, probably at seeing their classmate suddenly acting so serious. )

Now class, this is a very sad thing. You should not be laughing at other people like that.

( Someone cracks up. The speaker is starting to crack a bit, but pauses and resumes her composure )

It is very bad to laugh at those who are less fortunate than we are... HAHAHAHA!!!!

( Her friends lose control and break up slightly. Unfortunately, this sparks off a fit of laughter in the Speaker, and the rest of the class feel the tremors. The whole presentation breaks up in a small tremor of laughter, and the Speaker clears her throat, tries to resume her composure again, and resumes the rest of her presentation )

So in conclusion, *giggles* it is very bad to laugh at those less fortunate than we are.

( The speaker goes back to her seat, where the rest of her group make frantic apologies in between gulps and guffaws. The next Speaker, waiting outside the class, now comes in and starts her presentation )

New Speaker: Class, I want to talk to you about laughing at your classmates.

( New Speaker wonders why the entire class, including the instructor, is trying to stifle laughter )

Most ironically, the topic the new speaker was supposed to present was that of how unfair it was for us to laugh at our fellow classmates............

and with the start of this week, we at NIE start to look forward to the last deadlines, the last lectures and tutorials, and for some, the last we'd have to see of our tutors. *Yea* It's now about 2 weeks or so to term end, so the holiday mood is starting to set in. People are now looking forward to the end of deadlines, as opposed to dreading them, because it only meant that another deadline was around the corner. They're also starting to book their holidays in the Dec period.

*Sigh* Don't you just love holidays?

Sorry about those who have been coming to a dusty blog. I've been having a billion problems with the laptop connection in NIE and my new laptop only comes in about a week's time. Somehow or another, I managed to survive doing my assignments by borrowing my roomie's laptop to send email, and also queueing at the computer lab. [although it's a little uneasy, when you are blogging at the computer lab and there's like a line of people reaching outside the lab who're all waiting for a com to do their work on....] Hopefully things will be better when I hook up the new laptop....

I'll also try to do little write ups over the hols about the stuff I've learnt in NIE. I've realised that there are highly differing views about the validity of what they teach here. A LOT of people claim it's highly irrelevant to today's classroom and that the lecturers have spent too much time in research. Yet others admit that some concepts do help.

What's the line drawn in the sand? Maybe soon we'd find out....

Till then, I believe this is currently examination period for most primary schools and O level teachers? Good luck to all who are involved in marking, invigilating, and all the other crap that comes with it!! Hope none of you vomitted too much blood over your students' scripts... hahaha...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Slander? Sedition?

Hmmm.... such familiar terms to bloggers nowadays.... especially for those poor JC sods who wrote one too many wrong things on their blogs.....

I must confess, my sympathies go out to those students. For voicing out what was probably in the minds of dozens of their peers, they were unlucky [and dumb] enough to put it on their blogs and get themselves in, as we say, a whole pile of crap.

But are we going too far here?

I understand that what the students did was possibly slander. I understand that had they been older, they might have found themselves in serious trouble.

But as students? Writing about their teachers? Er....... Isn't that the norm amongst most students?

Like, who hasn't said slanderous things about their teachers and discussed seditious acts among their peers before? I remember when I was in school, as a student, the whole school was aflame about a married female teacher and a [much younger] single male teacher who were constantly [we thought] seen in each others' company. The rumours flamed when the married teacher didn't appear in school for a week, and we all decided that she must have been kicked out of the school for unsavoury behaviour.

Now that I'm older, of course, I know that she must have been in course all that while. Duh.

So granted, students saying very unsavoury things about their teachers is a natural course of events. And if you're the source of homework, tests, and evil of all evils, exams, it becomes a for-granted part of your job that students WILL complain about you, insult you, and generally declare you the source of all living and undead evil on this earth.

If you, as a teacher, think they shouldn't be this way, or that they don't, then I think you're being terribly naive.

Now if we take this to be a natural behavior, the next question is, is the punishment appropriate to the crime? Is suing them really going to solve anything?

What was hurt here? The teachers' professional reputation? C'mon, who's going to take a few angry lines in a blog seriously? As bad as they are, I don't think there are much people who would believe in them so sincerely that they would seriously think the teacher was [insert choice accusation here].

And what do the students learn here? "Say anything bad about teacher and he will sue you." What does this say about our ability to take criticism? What does this tell the student?

And most importantly: What does this do to the teacher-student relationship?

I wonder how the rest of the students in that JC is going to regard that teacher in the future, since now the message seems to be "cross me and I sue!" More importantly, I wonder whether they will ever trust and respect him again.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

There but for the grace of God...

Hmm, so my previous post may have been a bit sombre and heavy on the ambiguity... I apologise, but seriously, you never know who reads this blog...

Which is frustrating in a way, because there are tons of things I want to comment on, I want to tell people, I want to let those outside know, but yet....... Well, most regular bloggers will know of all the fiascos regarding certain blogs...

So regarding the 'unpleasant incident'... I shall not mention it exactly. But it didn't do much help for most of the postgrads here, I had to say.

This past week or two after the one week 'break' has been a mash of major deadlines one after another. After one educational psychology essay had been passed up, most of us took a breath and jumped right into the next deadline waiting for us in English, another killer project.

Here's one HUGE drawback about the postgrad course here: It is essentially a crash course on teaching. Everything that took the diploma people to learn in 2 years, we cram into one. So everything is just rush, rush, rush, quick! Finish this paper! Finish that lesson plan! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

Needless to say, all of us have very sour grape expressions when we see others like the dip holders and the PE pple having semblances of actual student lives......

So when that incident happened, you could sense a huge morale drop in our numbers. I think all of us were secretly thinking: That could have been me......

And really, it could have been. Already we get the feeling of being pushed on too fast for us to fully absorb whatever it is we are learning. We get deadlines thrown at us one after the other, esp the poor sods taking SK modules [which deserve another rant all by itself]. And we have NO student representation in the form of faculty clubs, or unions who are willing to speak on our behalf. [most likely because we are only here for a year]

And when you think that, "Hey, if NIE is supposed to be the holiday period before I get my permanent posting............."

Hm. There but for the grace of God......

Monday, September 19, 2005

Another Unfortunate...

... incident bappened in school, which once again made me think again about the double binded knot that many of us trainees are in.

Unlike most other tertiary students, we are bound in a noose which is in danger of being tightened anytime. We do not have the freedom of skipping classes, lectures, and in the case of my coursemates, an abundance of free periods.

Making this worse is the breath of Big Brother down your neck, whispering coarsely the words, "Bond......"

And this is the deal with the devil that all of us signed. That we are bound to this institution with no earthly hope for escape, unless we 1) come into a lot of money suddenly, or 2) be involved in some accident which renders us incapable of physical activity altogether.

Is this bad? Some may say no. We are after all paid to study. This is a deal that is unavailable to a lot of students all over, and perhaps yes, we should be grateful in a sense for the chance we've been given.

But it is akin to a deal with the devil. Because at the same time, we sign ourselves into a gilded cage. Because once you sign on that dotted line, there is no hope for escape or respite. Bound you will be, till the course of your obligation is served, whether or not it really makes you want to scream.

People in the private sector have the freedom of leaving their jobs anytime they want. [let's not take job prospects and employment prospects into consideration for a while.] If the economy is good, or if their job sucks big time, there is room for them to escape. They can quit, change jobs, start afresh. They may envy us for our steady jobs, and our stable paychecks, but they don't see how we cannot escape just when we need to.

This, I feel, is the worse part about being here. Everyone here is a prisoner of their own making. Until one day someone snaps and tries to fly to better parts.

And what is the school doing about it? They opened a psychology clinic on campus, free to all students. All the tutors encourage the students to use it if they have to. But what's the use? Talking about it is NOT going to help you solve the main problem. It is not going to get the tutors to lessen your workload, it is not going to lessen your bond, and most damning of all, I do not believe it is going to lead to any positive change in policy, even if large numbers of students swamp the clinic.

So what's the point of it all, if I just talk about it to some nice lady in the clinic, but yet, when I come out, all my problems are still waiting for me? And I am still left with no solution for them?

I hope yesterday's incident serves as a signal to some people on top. That push us any further, and one day we will all break under you.

I know I'm deliberately being vague about the incident which happened on campus. I'm doing this because I don't know who reads this blog and whether I will get into trouble for violating some sedition act in NIE or whatever. :p But I believe if you read closely between the lines, you could deduce what it is that has happened.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Happy Teachers' Day!

When I came to my tuition student's house.....

"Er, this is a Teachers' Day card for you. Happy Teachers' Day."

"Oh! Thank you!"

"And, er, I forgot to do my homework because I thought today was Saturday."


Haiyah...... scold or not to scold, like that?

But at least I got something. Teachers' Day in NIE this year was..... dismal at best. In the days before yesterday, posters were put up all over the campus, advertising the "Teachers' Fiesta!" promising games! Food! Stalls selling great stuff!

I came out of class on Thursday, and saw...... maybe a 3 or 4 makeshift bazaar stalls at one far, far end of the canteen, selling some stuff? [One stall looked like it was selling secondhand stuff]

Ok, frankly, it was a dismal affair. These stalls were stuck at one far end of the school, out of sight of half the main traffic, so already there was only a trickle of people heading towards them. Not only that, but each stall was just 2 tables joined together, and stuff was just listlessly piled onto them. Plus, everyone had classes anyway, so no one paid them much attention as most people were just running from class to class.

As I said, dismal.

Funny thing, that a school full of teachers is not very keen or supportive of celebrating a day which pays tribute to the work of teachers. One tutor explained that the People Upstairs thought we were celebrating too hard, and so discouraged Teachers' Day celebrations in school, lest we, I don't know, have too much fun here, and forget that we're supposed to be here in humble servitude. God Forbid!

*Sigh* Why don't you just change the name to "Happy Underappreciation Day"?

But anyway, HAPPY TEACHERS' DAY to all. Here's hoping that your students all score full marks, your red pens never run dry, and that you all get the appreciation and thanks you deserve. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Can you teach people to serve?

Seriously, is it possible to force people to become more charitable?

Ok, here's the situation: The trainee teachers now all do a compulsory module called General Endeavours in Service Learning ( GESL ) called "je-sul" by all of us.

It is a non-graded module, and briefly what we are expected to do is to get into groups of 20-25, and work with an organization to provide some sort of service to the community at large. Eg, some group last year worked with a dyslexic organization to teach dyslexics mathematics. Another group went to the National Library for storytelling sessions with children.

You get the gist. It's somewhat like community service for trainee teachers. Here is the official description from the website:

"GESL is an experiential learning experience for trainees to acquire and develop skills in project management, self- and team-development, and community service. This will provide them the background and experience for trainees to eventually take on leadership roles in their school's community involvement and service-learning projects (CIP) and academic work."

So my question is more towards the 'community service' part. How successfully can you inculcate a sense of 'community service' in us in one year?

For me, I think community service should be something that's entirely voluntary. If you force people to do it, then they may do it, but they aren't necessarily doing it sincerely aren't they? And I thought this was why the compulsory CIP thing in schools was being scrapped. Because of all these piles of schoolkids going in and mucking around just so they could fulfil requirements, and in fact, not doing out of some sense to the community at all.

So now, instead of schoolkids doing it, you have all these trainee teachers doing it instead. :p Same problem, different groups of people.

And you know, so far as I can see, or hear, there really isn't a lot of community spirit being built up yet. Judging strictly by my cohort of people, most of us just find it a waste of time better spent doing assignments due very, very, very soon. And why aren't we getting the community spirit?

I think part of the problem lies with the amount of time we have. We are in this campus for one year. One year. Already the modules we are taking resemble something of a Crash Teaching 101, rather than those who are here for 2 or 3 years. Most people just feel that this thing has become something of an additional burden to bear, on top of all my modules. Not to mention, it's ungraded, so given the choice, would you spent more time on this, or on your graded modules which may affect your job security in the future? I think the answer's clear.

And I shudder to think of more insidious motives behind this. Could the purpose be to somewhat make future teachers feel more indebted to society, and more willing to serve, serve and serve society and never question or ask for anything in return? [Ok, no more 1984 after dinner.....]

Herein lies the flaw of the program then. You may force people to do a job, but you cannot force them to do it out of their heart. Sure enough, most groups will do the project, fulfil the requirements and write glowing reflections about the whole process. One or two may even come away genuinely touched.

The problem is that the number of people turned off by the whole process is that much more. And whether it is worth turning off that large number of people in order to reach those few hearts......

You think about just how much good this does the community.

Module Blues

By this time, I have already accumulated something like a week's worth of rants about school in general already. :( I can't wait till I go to School for the real fun to begin. :( :( :(

First comes...


So all trainee teachers have to take this module on teaching of English language here, unless you opt out of doing it, and so far, everyone's been running around in a misty blur regarding the requirements to fulfil for this module.

At the start of the year, we were told that we would have to have a portfolio of 5 children's books, aimed for lower primary students, to teach reading and writing in school. These 5 books have to be connected with a particular theme in the textbook.

My class had opted to use a Pri 1 textbook, and the theme we had chosen was "Places in my Neighbourhood". So we had to go out and look for books around this theme. Right?

Not only that, but a lot of us took advantage of a book fair in school to buy the books we needed for this portfolio. A lot of people spent between $50-$100, including myself. [although quite a number of books were ultimately for my own pleasure. :p]

THEN my tutor told me that our theme had changed! It had been broadened to "My Neighbourhood". So now quite a couple of my books are now INVALID because they were to do with "Places", and not "My Neighbourhood" per se. You still following me?

AFTER THAT we heard that the requirements for the module had changed, and now there was a whole bunch lot more work we had to do for the module, ON TOP OF the 5 books we had to BUY, and the 3 hour test we had to take in October.

Adding to the confusion is that apparently each tutor had been passing down different messages to their classes. So everyone in my cohort was walking around in a hazy blur regarding this module. :( :( :( No one was actually confident of exactly what they had to do for the module.

NOW that the confusion has finally been cleared up, and we knew EXACTLY the amount of work we all had to do and exactly WHAT we had to do......

We're all just blardy depressed. :(``````````````````````````````````

Friday, August 19, 2005

Comment spam?

We're all familiar with spam in our letterboxes, spam in our inboxes, spam in a can, spam coming out of our ears......

Now lo and behold: Comment spam.

I received a new comment on the previous post, and it turned to be, not from a teacher, a student or anyone even remotely connected to local education.

It was from a US timber company of all things.

"='Brand New News Fr0m The Timber Industry!!'

Recognize this undiscovered gem which is poised to jump!! Please read the following Announcement in its Entierty and Consider the Possibilities�Watch this One to Trad,e!Because, EGTY has secured the global rights to market genetically enhanced fast growing, hard-wood trees!EGTY trading volume is beginning to surge with landslide Announcement. The value of this Stoc,k appears poised for growth! This one will not remain on the ground floor for long.KEEP READING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And so on for a couple for paragraphs.

Like HUH????? What da heck does this guy think he's doing? My blog here ain't even connected to wood, unless you count some of the people working in NIE................... :p

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Server Down and the whole campus crashes

From about 8th August, till today, the NIE portal has been down.

This afternoon, the portal has been brought back online, but Blackboard still remains stubbornly down.

All functions, like announcements from lecturers, student time tables, discussion forums have been inaccessible to the entire NIE.

All of which means one thing to the average student.

We now have a valid excuse for not having our tutorial notes in class. :D

Teacher Answers Questions

Tym mentioned in the comments of the previous post that she was shocked to see how the lecturers treated us like kids in NIE.

[If you don't remember the previous post, I meant a comment about how, for the National Day celebrations, the lecturers were supposed to 'escort' us to the NIE grounds to watch the performances. Probably as a real life demonstration on how we were supposed to escort our future primary school classes to events in the hall]

Anyway, seeing as how so many of them are ex-teachers one way or the other, I suppose it's become ingrained in them by now, the tendency to treat other future teachers as kids. Which is ironic considering they're supposed to train us into becoming like them, but in fact the way they treat us is making us turn into our students instead.

It's a Catch-22 situation that has no end in sight, unless some really big changes are made.

So most likely even after I graduate and teach for a while, I might stumble upon some blog about how NIE lecturers are still treating their trainees like kids? *shrugs*

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Holiday Book Syndrome

Coined by GTS, this syndrome hits tertiary students of all majors in most universities around the world.

This is when an unknowing student takes home piles of revision notes and textbooks from school over the weekend, thinking that he would take advantage of the weekend to read them all.

And at the end of Sunday, the notes and texts still remain unread.

Yup, I can think of at least one person to which this applies......................... :p

A National Conspiracy

If you had been walking around NIE yesterday, you might have noticed an air of conspiracy about the place.

People walking to their classes, trying to look innocent.

Furtive glances left and right.

That half-suspicious look at you, to decide whether you could be trusted.

And finally, when you had proven yourself,

They would glance around again,

And then whisper in your ear,

"Eh, today you going for National Day celebrations or not?"


So maybe this post deserves some explanation.....

Remember that for us trainee teachers, we are not supposed to skip classes or lectures, because we were trained professionals being paid to attend and blah blah blah.

However, no one made much comment about events such as the Director's Welcome, [during orientation] or National Day celebrations. [which were yesterday]

Classes were meant to end at 1430, and all tutors were supposed to 'escort' their classes to the square in the middle of campus, to watch the concert together. But some people didn't have classes during that period of the day. So there would be no one there to escort them to the concert. Or make sure that they attended it.

And given the choice, would you prefer to attend some dumb concert, or spend the whole afternoon out in town?

*Whistling innocently as they walk out of campus*

Anyway, word on the street was that not all the tutors decided attendance was compulsory either. I heard that one tutor, towards the end of the tutorial and the start of the concert, looked at her class and said,

"Gee, all of you look hungry! You should all go to the canteen for food!"

Of course, her class then eagerly gets ready to go. And then she says,

"Don't forget the concert is on later! There are so many people there, I might not see you! If I don't, I'll just take it that you're there!"

Superb tutor this one....... ;)

Another point hit me later. The upper echelons of NIE is always onto us about our conduct, our clothing, blah blah blah. [Remember my earlier rants about the dress code and the lecturer with the punctuality issue?] It suddenly hit me why such 'nagging' from NIE about how we should 'behave like professional teachers on campus' will never work.

During Educational Psychology, [edpsych] we learned about the Parent, Child, and Adult states of mind of a human. The Parent state of mind is a controlling one, which always tells us what to do. The Child state of mind wants to have fun, but is more willing to listen. The Adult state balances the two.

[I realise this is not an exact description of the theory, but bear with me. I only read 1 chapter of my edpsych text so far]

So what's the connection?

Here, NIE is in the Parent mode, telling the errant Child, namely us, what to do. Now, if they are in the Parent mode, then we as trainee teachers have no choice but to respond in the Child mode. Why? Because if we respond with either the Parent or Adult mode, conflict will arise, since both will want the other to listen to them.

So, no choice! if NIE continues to be in the Parent mode, we have no choice but to respond with the Child! Parent must be counteracted by Child!

So forget with all the 'trained professional' crap eh? If you continue treating us in this manner, then we have no choice but to respond like this lor........

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Educational Cliches

There are some lines, which are heard all over NIE during the first week or so of tutorials, that one can get heartily sick of by the time it gets to Wednesday.

1. "You are to buy the following texts......" [Deep groan throughout lecture theatre, followed by] "Hey, you should be able to afford this, since you're getting paid by MOE/you're paid employees."

This line [and other variations is irritating in two ways: Firstly, just because we get a salary doesn't mean that we like to see one quarter of it burn down the drain because of costly textbooks, photostating, laptops, and all those various other purchases necessary to campus life. Not to mention that the NIE canteen food is relatively higher than those of the other canteens. [though cheaper than outside food]

Secondly, it particularly urks me when a lecturer tells me that the text is compulsory reading for his module, and you notice that the text has his name somewhere on the cover. Gee, since I'm getting truckloads of money from MOE, why not be generous and contribute to my lecturer's retirement fund at the same time? After all, he probably only earns peanuts......

2. "You are NOT to be late for lectures, as you are paid employees. And if you are to be absent, you are to submit an MC to the office."

This one was mainly irritating because it was repeated by just about every tutor and lecturer we had. By Tuesday, whole classes were probably nodding wearily, and repeating the line word for word at the start of the class.

However, there was a lecturer who happened to be either particularly picky about time, or happened to wind his watch 15 mins ahead of time.

In the LT, just about 3 mins after the lecturer was able to start, stragglers were pouring into the LT as usual. Usually, this is a common thing, as people either can't find the venues, misjudged time, or simply bottlenecked at the 2 doors of the LT. [which means that even if you arrived early, you might not be able to get in because the people in front of you hadn't gotten in and found a seat yet]

Most lecturers are either sympathetic, or they would just start the lecture anyway, not caring whether the latecomers were ready or not. Not this lecturer.

He gave us a 'lecture' about punctuality, how we were supposed to know the lecture venues and timings by now, how we were supposed to be trainee teachers, no longer uni slackers, how unprofessional it was to be late, what a bad example we would set to our future students blah blah blah......

The funny thing was I looked at my watch, and saw that the lecture was only about 4-5 mins late, and already he was making more fuss than my mother on menopause. Not to mention the final irony was that by the time he'd finished making his little speech, the lecture started about 20 mins late. Huh.

[Sidenote: One thing taught in TPP is that teachers should NOT let anything interfere with the smooth flow of the lesson, and one thing recommended was to start on time, regardless of whether all the students were present, to not waste time, and also to teach the latecomers the idea of punctuality. This lecturer didn't seem to read the same course book that we did]

3. "These are the deadlines for your assignments............"

Need I elaborate more on why this is groan-inducing? I don't think so......

Monday, August 01, 2005

More about the NIE dress code....

[This post courtesy of NIE com lab...]

I just realised something about the dress code on the way up to the library....

Read and compare the code for males and females.

For females:
Click on photo for a larger size...

And for males:
Again, click for larger size...

Notice the difference in the two? Only to be expected, right, because of dressing differences between the two sexes.

However, here's an interesting thought:

Does that mean that it is acceptable attire, if men wear skirts that are 4 finger lengths above the knee, expose their midriffs, their bare backs, or if they decide to wear spaghetti straps, tubes and tank tops? [As a sidenote, are there any men in NIE right now who want to test out this loophole? :p]

Hmmm..... NIE might think about how they want to phrase their signage in the future.........

Friday, July 29, 2005

Dress [with no] sense

One of the things they will keep hammering into you at Nie is the dress code. All over campus, you will see a sign like this:

[Click on photo to see full size image]

The first time I saw the sign I almost laughed. My general line of thinking is that surely at our age, we would already have an idea of how to dress at school, as a student, and at school, as a teacher.

[This is excepting the diehard rebels who know the rules and who delight in flouting it. But then again, in order to flout the rules, you have to know what they are in the first place. So even for the rebels, you can't claim that you have to keep reminding them, because they already know of the rules.]

So why all the incessant brainwashing about "you must dress correctly, you must dress correctly"? It's become almost like a mantra in Nie around the entire campus. Everyone pushes the line that:

"Since you are paid employees of Moe, you are expected to dress appropriately and exhibit the proper image of a teacher"

I have a few doubts about this stance. For one, does that mean that ALL law students should therefore go around NUS in full lawyer gear and wigs? Or wear starched-collar shirts with black bottoms and carry briefcases and large piles of paper? Since that's the image that everyone has of a lawyer, and being in the Law faculty, they are naturally embodiments of the legal system in Singapore, even if they aren't being paid?

Or should it mean that ALL nurses should go around in nurses' uniforms, whether in school, or at home? And that if you have a scholarship from one of the major hospitals, you have to set an example by doing so?

I'm pretty sure that most law students and nurses would disagree with me on the above points. For one, it's blardy crazy to walk around campus in full lawyer's gown and starched wig. If the laughter from the other students don't kill you already, the heat generated by walking around in billowy gowns surely will. And let's not start on the nurses' uniforms.

So why do we have to dress in 'teacher-appropriate' attire even when we're in school?

This is a point that will be driven home to all trainee teachers, and even those already teaching. Unfortunately, we are in a vocation where we are expected to set examples to the children. Whether we like it or not, children will definitely look up to us, and follow our lead. We're almost like surrogate parents to them, and thus, people expect us to set examples for their children to follow. If you're a parent, and you wouldn't want your kid to smoke, you wouldn't be smoking in front of them, would you? And you wouldn't want them to see their teacher smoking right?

However, my opinion is that rather than apply a standard wardrobe to all teachers ['teachers must always dress like that in school'] wouldn't it be more useful to stress appropriateness? As in 'Teachers must dress appropriate to the occassion'.

THEN it makes a lot more sense. You are allowed to dress like a student, [spaghetti and all] so long as you are in NIE/NTU. However, during working hours in school, you should dress as a teacher should. Which means ditch the tubes and the spaghettis for after-hours.

[Note the similiarities between this and the Speak English campaign. Remember how they tried to wipe out the usage of Singlish, and then later changed their stance to using a language appropriate to the occassion? NIE might take some hints from that...]

However, I did note a few interesting points about this dress code in school:

1) The word 'appropriately' apparently has several meanings in school.

Just last Friday, there was a formal welcoming ceremony for all the trainee teachers, and one of the segments included a 'fashion parade', which AGAIN stressed the dress code [as if we hadn't heard it a thousand times already] and had a few 'models' parading on stage, to show what was considered appropriate attire in school.

When the first female model came on stage, the entire assembly burst out in raucous laughter. The model was wearing a 'smart white-collared shirt with long sleeves, a long black skirt, set off by diamante high heels and a stunning diamond belt'.

For blardy sake! No sensible female teacher is EVER going to wear something like that in school! Considering that most schools in Singapore still rely on the 2 ceiling fans in each classroom, the heat from the shirt will kill you and cause massive sweat stains all over your smart, crisp shirt. The high heels will give you arthritis in less than 3 months, after walking all over school in them, and up and down the stairs to your classrooms, and the students will be too mesmerized by your diamond belt to listen to your lesson!

Can you almost see how comical it all is?

2) Appropriate attire doesn't always include good taste.

During the ceremony, I noticed one woman sitting in the audience, somewhere near the Director, which meant that she was probably Nie staff. So she has to dress 'appropriately' to show an example to us, right?

Well, let me describe her outfit. She was wearing a long sleeved lime green shirt, which had crumples all over the front [deliberately designed, I think] a knee-length hippie skirt, and calf-high boots. And I'm being as objective as possible here, cos frankly, I think her outfit looked awful, but that's just my opinion.

Then I thought of some of the [stereotypical] old Chinese teachers in schools all over. The same image of permed hair, thick spectacles, and the same 'aunty' clothing.

My conclusion: You can dress with as much bad taste as you want, as long as it's 'appropriate'.

In other words, if I decide to wear a bright red dress with white polka dots, that has large puffy sleeves, and reaches to my ankles, and tie my hair up with a huge pink ribbon, does that mean that Moe can't object to my dressing, since:

1. It is not a sleeveless top
2. It is not exposing an indecent amount of cleavage or leg
3. It has no offensive logos, or slogans, or vulgarities

Maybe such repetitive reminders just don't work on people like me. They just make us want to rebel, even when we don't. :p

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Learning to Teach... In the Jungle...

So what better way to get inspiration for a blog on [mis]education, than to sit in the very heart of education and learning, the computer lab at NIE?

Well, actually I can think of tons of better places, but since my laptop is not hooked up to the Internet yet, this will have to do. :p

Yes, it is the first week of school already, and from [trying to] teaching in one, I've now gone to [trying to] learn to teach in other schools. :S

Not that lessons have actually started though. This week is still considered Orientation week, so it's still mainly briefings, briefings and briefings on other future briefings. As opposed to work, work, and mind-numbing, suicide-inducing work, so I'm not complaining.

But first time visitors to NTU/NIE be warned though: The physical geography of the place takes some getting used to.

Already, I commited a big boo-boo by taking the wrong bus from Boon Lay interchange. Which landed me waaaaaay on the other side of campus from where my hall was, and earned me one lonely, long walk at night, only seeing the occassional passing jogger, [hall people are capable of jogging at weird hours of the night. I can barely bring myself up 6 flights of stairs to my room] and the sound of rifles punctuating the night.

Whenever I take a bus in, I'm always looking into the bushes to see whether I can see one very lost NS man sticking his camoulflaged head out of the jungle.

Not only that, but unlike NUSSUX, NIE and NTU tend to be built, er, long. THe buildings of NIE itself are built in one straight row. Getting from one end of the campus to the other is basically a long distance straight lined walk. And so is getting from NIE to NTU, and the computer shop. In order to find the computer shop, GTS and I walked along both spines of NTU [North and South] before we got to where the laptops were being sold.

Most appropriately, in the middle of the computer engineering faculty, it seemed. What, the rest of the campus didn't need computer stuff?

So now, at least, we know how to get from Hall to Various Parts of Campus without getting too lost. Simply walk. In one very straight line.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Teacher Answers Your Questions

Like in any class, the Teacher likes it when students ask questions, or raise [intelligent] comments. Here are the Teacher's responses to some of the comments:

Petals gives other suggestions, like:

"1] to give them a piece of assignment and tell them tis a test"
~ A variation of this, is to tell them that they MUST hand it in by this period or there will be bloodshed.

"2] threaten to detain them during recess or after school"
~ It can work. There's no thought more dismaying than the one that you have to stay in this hellhole of a school longer than you have to. But newbies be warned: If you detain them during the whole recess, you are depriving them of time to eat, and go to the toilet. If you detail them after school, there is the risk they may not catch the schoolbus in time to go home, and you may face some very angry parent complaints.

However, my experience today showed me that it's quite an effective threat. I sat in front of the class and duly stated that "No one goes home until I'm satisfied you can stay silent for 10 seconds." Most of the class became extremely silent, and even scolded off those errant boys who still wanted to 'strike pose' in front of me. Peer pressure at its most effective.

"3] switching off all the fans in the class to reinstate order if they go crazy but this can get rather unbearable for the RT him/herself "
I agree. :S This one may not be worth the pain to yourself.

Someone said:
"while there are some useful tips on relief-teaching mentioned, like always be firm, the general approach advocated in this blog seems overly totalitarian. From experience, a warm demeanor from any teacher will certainly bring many happy acknowledgements from students as he/she walks past the schools' corridors. "

And ningx seems to agree:
"I dislike teachers like that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!No offence but as a secondary school student, I like teachers that come in and make small talk with us.About the no permission thing, I once had a teacher who forbidden water drinking.I hated her. "

Erm, can I state for the record first, that I always allow my students to drink water in class? :P Water deprivation seems too close to being an infringement of human rights.

And next is my disclaimer: Everything in this blog is strictly tongue-in-cheek. [If you don't know what that means, go ask your teachers, or ex-teachers.]

I cannot stress or bold that sentence enough. I advocate firmness with students, because there is no way I can teach a class, if everyone ignores me/shouts back at me/defies me/or tries to make small talk with me. Again, in a class, I am outnumbered. I need to make the students respect me, and possibly, fear me. [And I especially believe this, having relieved what was possibly the rowdiest class in all of Neko Primary.]

BUT I am not encouraging others to become a semi-Hitler in their classes. Being firm is fine. Being a total dictator is another. Maybe it was not clear in the tongue-in-cheek way I wrote it [it was supposed to make you laugh. Ha. Ha.] but now I'm stating it clearly in bold.

Once again, I'm just a trainee teacher with about 2.5 weeks of teaching experience, and I write mostly for humourous [and the occassional stress] relief.

Don't take this blog too seriously.

And I'll show that to any principal who claims my blog turns his teachers into sadists.

From Tomorrow.sg, I've also found a funny entry on Yao guai's blog about Teaching as a Performance Art, and Teaching and Dungeons and Dragons. The one I can't figure out is how a magical elf becomes a teacher.......... ??????

Anyway, check out his blog here.

Thanks for sharing your comments with the Teacher!

Reflections with relief...

AKi: It's been about 3 weeks since I started at Neko Primary, and already I have only one more week in the school, before I head to Nie. (!)

Was that fast or what? It's funny that the Enhanced Schools Experience (ESE) only lasted such a short time, and yet is supposed to help us decide whether a teaching career is suitable for us. :S So how do we decide based on such a short period of time?

I have a feeling most graduate trainees would not be able to experience the full workload of a teacher. What is the point in asking someone to sit on a committee, for an event happening next term, if the person is leaving in a month's time? And how much teaching can you entrust to an untrained teacher?

So most of us probably did a lot of relief, with some light teaching work, and then not much else.

But has it helped? From a friend of mine, it's certainly helped him to decide that teaching was NOT for him. :S The combined trauma of lesson planning and standing in front of a class of 40 little darlings was just one more straw on the camel's back and he's decided to leave.

For me.... I feel I can go on. But I'm not sure.

Because after all, I know that what I'm going through now is definitely not the full duties of a teacher. And even if I can take it all now, I don't know for sure that I can take it in the future, when the full load crashes upon me.

And there are times, like today, when I feel that the class is spiralling out of control, that my nerves are feeling extremely frazzled, and when I feel utterly helpless in front of the 38-40 boys who refuse to listen to me.

Sometimes it's not just a matter of being fierce or being firm. It's being able to MAKE them even notice you in the first place. And THEN you can be fierce.

Most people don't get this. They think that all you have to do is to be fierce to the kids, and they will listen. Which will work for 1 or 2 kids at a time, but when 40 of them resolutely ignore you, is much harder to accomplish.

And you can scream all you want, but you will never be able to outscream 40 voices in unison.

So how do I get by? I come home, dump my workbag on the floor and change into my comfortable home clothes.

I turn on the radio to some soothing jazz.

I step into a shower, and let the warm water spray all over me.

And with it all the knots of the day are unravelled........

Here's to the next 4 years......

Monday, July 11, 2005

Tips for First Time Relief Teachers

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

Inhale. Exhale.


Whoever said being a relief teacher was an easy job with easy pay? Smack the bugger in the face right now... it's NOT that easy...

Ok, it's definitely better than being a regular teacher, but it still isn't that easy all the time.

Here then, are some tips [and shocks] for aspiring relief teachers. Add this onto all those simple info like "show up at school at 730am" and "Just get them to do some worksheets" that the school will tell you.


Being relief, you will have no choice in what kind of class you will be teaching. If you're lucky, you will have a relatively well-behaved class, and this is what will happen the minute you walk in:

"Class, stand!" Everyone stands up, and greets "Good morning, teacher." and sits down again, looking at you with curious eyes, wondering what happened to their regular teacher.

If you're unlucky enough, and the class you're relieving happens to be one of the 'bottom' ones:

"RAHAHAHAHAEHEHEHEHCHERCOMELIAO!!!!HAHAHAHA" and other classroom gibberish. One or two boys will be running around the classroom, despite your fervent attempts to catch them and bring them to their seats, another group in the corner will be blatantly ignoring you, and playing their own games, and when you try to speak, a chorus of childish voices will totally drown you, and leave you to die.

And all this while their teacher is either a) at home trying to recover from the high blood pressure and heart failure his kids have induced in him or b) happily out shopping because her relative's a doctor and she got a free MC, while you desperately try to control her class.


This means never smile, never joke, never play games, never let them do their own thing, never talk to them, never reply their inane questions, never back down on anything you say, never show weakness, never show hesitation.

In other words, switch off the humanity and act like your old, grumpy Chinese teacher with the bad dress sense and the perpetual PMS.

This is vitally IMPORTANT if you ever want the class to do what you want. Because the moment you let slip your guard, and they know that you are human and therefore FALLIBLE, you are so doomed. They will run circles around you like dogs in heat.

Some people may say, "Oh, but that's so fierce! What if I scare the little darlings?" and I say, "[insert name of animal faeces]" remember that you are outnumbered 40 to 1 in a classroom, and that if they were to suddenly realise that they could all scream, shout or run out of the class and you wouldn't be able to stop them all, you are so screwed.

If you were outnumbered 40 to 1 by a gang of ferocious hounds, would you go, "Oh lookit the cute little doggies!" and try to pet them? Same concept.


No one goes to the toilet without your permission. No one goes to the bookshelf without your permission. No one drinks water without your permission. No one talks without your permission. No one even lies on the table to sleep without your permission.

This is now part of classroom discipline. Establish yourself as Most Revered And To Be Obeyed Leader of the Pack. This is once again important, in order to get the class to listen to you. If they feel that you can't lead, they will never listen to you.

And if you survived your relief teaching, and you're out of class, you may do the last thing, which is:


Shop. Eat. Drink. Chat. SMS. Become human again, and shed off the Dictator For Life persona you were carrying in the classroom. For one, it will endear you to your peers a whole lot more.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Road So Far...

Here's a rough outline of the Educators' Journey I've roughly taken so far. [Also a handy guide for people intending to know what lies ahead for potential teachers, and for frens clueless as to whether I'm now teaching in school, or studying in NIE]

Registration at NIE

My path started on the 20th of June, with registration and briefing at NIE. As a graduate, I was put into the Post Graduate Diploma in Eduation course, known as PGDE (Pri) on all official documentation.

That's when they informed us that we had to go for classes the very next day, bringing me to the next step, which is...

Content Upgrading Modules

Because of feedback from the public, [darn parents...] MOE has decided to make sure all its teachers are aware of the higher levels of English grammar and language, so that their English teachers didn't end up sounding like PCK trying to sound educated.

Simply put, the course is supposed to make us clueless teachers grammar experts in 4 days.

So for about a week, I went for these language classes, and absorbed a lot of information that, as Dr Andrew Lim put it, I would probably never use in my teaching, because it's just too cheem for the kids I'd be teaching.

After the good Dr did all he could, I went on to the...

Teachers' Preparatory Workshop

This is where, for 2 days, I went back to NIE for a Teachers' Preparatory Workshop. This time, it was a crash course on teaching methods and classroom management. [incidentally, classroom mgt could be one of the most important skills to learn as a teacher, but i'll touch on that later]

Thankfully, I had an interested and well-experienced tutor, who managed to teach us and make us listen to his voice, rather than the sounds of the refreshment tables being set up outside with our tea break snacks.

There were other interesting tutors of course. I heard from Turtle that as a filler at the end of the lesson, his tutor played Abba. (?????) not quite sure of her educational purpose in that.

Then, comes the final step before full-time study in NIE.

Enhanced School Experience

I was sent to a local primary school, which for personal reasons, I shall call Neko Primary School, as part of my Enhanced School Experience.

The ESE is actually for trainee teachers like myself who have had no formal experience teaching in schools. [as opposed to contract teachers, who first start out teaching, and then make their way to NIE] It's a new programme, and my batch is the first batch of trainee teachers to be going through this.

Onwards to....?

Now, the situation stands as such: I'll be a trainee teacher at Neko Primary from now till the 22th of July, taking on whatever teaching duties is necessary, and possibly observe other experienced teachers at work.

If my performance at Neko Pri. is satisfactory, I will then enter NIE as a full-time PGDE trainee teacher.

Following which, the Journey will continue on...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

I am a Japanese School Teacher

No, I'm not, but this guy is, and his editorials on the Japanese schools that he teaches in is hilarious. [seen as a link in Singapore Teachers Journal]

Eg, from the first entry:

"You know, before we come to Japan, they tell us a lot of ultimately useless stuff. What kind of computer to bring, if our DVD's will work, clothing sizes, that kind of nonsense. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, in the 3-4 months of orientations did anyone ever mention that at some point, a Japanese kid may try to stick their fingers up our butt. That's something I would have liked to know, personally.

It's called Kancho, and just about any kid can be a Kancho Assassin. Even the sweetest little girl may be prone to jam her fingers up your ass the second you turn around. This happened to one of my friends, which just goes to show - don't trust anyone. I'd say the little girls are the most dangerous cause they have natural ways of lowering your defenses."

So.......... anyone feel like teaching English in Japan? :p

Click on to take a read!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Adventures of GTS and GTT

This was actually based on real events that happened during lecture, except for GTT's response in the last panel...

If you know Yenn, you will know that she's the kind of person that CANNOT stand any kind of bimbotic behaviour, and it urks her to no end. [and also you will know that that's my favourite strategy for urking her out.]

It turns out that our lecturer for this particular lecture is an atypical motherly-henly kind of woman. And since our lecture is about how children acquire language in early childhood, she loved to punctuate her lectures by giving us audio examples of how these children would speak in early childhood.

"Lookie that! It looks like an E! How clever!" she cooed.

"Daddydaddydaddydaddydaddy" she chattered happily.

"This is my cat. My cat is nice. I like my cat." she clucked.

And so on, while Yenn and Turtle cringed for dear life on either side of me.

Anyway, here's the cartoon:


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Eccentricities of Teachers

One of the first tutors I've encountered, whom we shall call Dr Andrew Lim for now, [due to his similiarity to the actor] is a pretty interesting character.

While we were doing his tutorial today on text types, he gazed into the distance, for a while, and started telling us stories about his teaching days. [Now which tutor will do the same and distract you from his own tutorial, I have no idea]

One particularly amusing one concerned the vice-principal of one of the institutions he was teaching at. For anonymity's sake, I won't mention any names, but only briefly describe her.

She was an old single woman [we all know the common 'nick' for such a woman] who had a truly, er, ancient sense of fashion, thick spectacles, and walked, or rather hobbled around school with a slight slouch, and she was pretty short at that.

This grande dame of the school looked so unintimidating, in fact, that during the first three months, one of the JC1 students, not quite acquainted with the school hierarchy yet, went up to her and said in Chinese:

"Aunty ah, the tables in our class dirty, later can come and clean can?"

The grande dame must have been in a forgiving mood that day, since she stared at the student and let him go without so much as a scathing glance. It was only later that the [probably horrified] student realised his mistake and he probably keep a very low profile in school for the rest of the 3 months.

Anyway, the point Dr Andrew Lim was trying to drive at, was that teachers develop various eccentricities in their teaching career. Apparently, it comes about from the stress of the job, and the outnumbering of juvenile minds to the adult ones.

He also named some of the possible eccentricities:

- Neurosis.
- Poor sense of dressing. Untidy, unkempt, or clothes fashionable during the times of Queen V
- Bad hygiene. [one VP was seen picking her nose in public, in the bus stop right outside her school]
- A tendency to order other adults around, like they were 7 year olds. [following this, he proceeded to warn the men never to do this to their wives, something which prompted me to think that he must have learned this lesson the hard way]

He then went on to say,

"Some of these teachers, they spend so long in the teaching force, they develop all kinds of strange, eccentric behaviour! It's so funny to see them!" Following which, he started to laugh, a little nervously at first, and then ascending to a slightly more neurotic, out-of-control pitch. This caused some of us in the class to look nervously at each other and think Is he, like, all right? and Are we going to turn out like him???

Anyway, he stressed that as teachers, the one key survival tool we needed to have was a sense of humour. At the end of the day, we had to be able to look at everything, all the crap that happened, and still be able to laugh at it all. And if you had that, somehow, you'd make it through.

Following which, he proceeded to laugh slightly more maniacally............

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The First Day...

Come in, and sit down.

Get your notes ready.

Done? Good.

Welcome, then, to your first class.

Welcome to NIE.

This is where all future teachers are taught to be teachers, by those who were teachers, and those who were teachers for a while, became aghast at the thought of teaching Spore's precocious young things for the rest of their earthly lives, studied frantically to gain their Master's in Education, and then took up a career preparing other people for the career they so frantically jumped ship from.

Well, ok, maybe not all.

I'm glad you survived the bus ride into campus. Enjoy it while it lasts, because when term time starts and the rest of NTU start classes, you will no longer be able to find breathing space on either 179 or 199. In fact, you will be lucky if you weren't squeezed up against the glass pane of the bus as it trundled dangerously through army training grounds, or if you didn't suffocate and die unnoticed in the crowd in the bus.

Did you find your way here? Despite the rudimentary map with the lack of labels and names? You did? Without help? Man, you were smarter than we thought.

How did you find the briefings? Were they helpful? Did they give you a good idea of the courses you'd be taking in NIE, the level of difficulty of the courses, and the amount of the coursework you might have to do? Did they emphasize the seriousness of the course, that you weren't students anymore, you were paid employees of the government, and that your ass may now be severely kicked if you skipped classes with the same regularity that you did in your previous institution of learning?

Well, if you didn't run screaming with despair out of the lecture theatre, then I don't think they did a good job in the above.

How about the food in the canteen? What food have you tried? The undersized cups of drinks in the canteen? The suspiciously rubber-like western food? The unappetizing... well, pretty much everything? Did you manage to find a table, with a fan blowing comfortably at you?

You did? Man you have to tell me how you did that.

How about the tutorials and lectures? Yes, the ones we surprised you with on the very first day of school. Man you should have seen your faces!

All right? Well, of course. It's only the first ones. Trust us, it will get more interesting...

And we hope you understood that lecture on the development of the English Language from the Celts to Present Day Singlish. We hope you diligently wrote down piles of essays, like that girl who was sitting three rows down in front of you. Amazing isn't she? I think she actually wrote down more information than was given by us.

And we hope your first tutorial on the different forms of text was interesting too.

It was?


And the lecturer? Yes, the Andrew Lim dead lookalike.

He was interesting too?

Hm. We'd have to have a little talk with him over that...

Anyway, it's been nice talking to you.

We're hoping you will stay around a while.

Oh wait, you HAVE to anyway. What am I talking about? There's still that matter of the 3 years of servitude you owe to our government.

Oh well then. See you again soon.

Don't despair... yet.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


This is the newest blog I've set up, revolving around education in Singapore. It's still under construction, so please be patient. If anybody involved in the education industry in Singapore is interested in contributing to this blog, please email boredslacker@gmail.com Thanks!