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Saturday, May 20, 2017

P6 SA1 Testimonials

These testimonials are from parents of the originally poorer students. 

This child was failing in early P5. I thought he would be hard to help but he made it!

This child has special needs.



This one was quite poor too, at the start. Extremely careless!



Last year, his school teacher said that he was CMI (cannot make it).


This love note made my day! From client to friend... it makes all the frustrations that go along with being a Teacher so worth it!



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Kawai K800


I have a preference for the rounded mellow tones of the German pianos. Years ago, I explored buying one. The difference between a German piano and a Japanese piano was stark. The German pianos sounded silky smooth with every note full and rich. Back in those days, the Japanese pianos sounded bright and sharp.

I much preferred the deep, rich and complex tones of the German pianos, but I could not afford one.  So, I settled for the electronic keyboard pianos just to have something to bang tunes out on.

If I had the money, I would buy the $35,000 August Forster piano or even the Steinway. These sound even better. However, I really am not a very good piano player so I decided to buy something I could afford and still sounded nice enough for me to feel good playing it.

The Kawai K800 was a surprising find. It is an upright grand. This means that its strings are longer than a normal upright piano. Thus, the sounds it makes are larger, richer and silkier than a normal upright. I liked that it uses ABS carbon (a synthetic material) in its piano action. Most pianos use wood which makes maintenance in our high humidity more problematic. With its ABS carbon parts, I expect the Kawai K800 would be easier to maintain over the years.

The Yamaha upright grand equivalent of the Kawai K800 is the Yamaha YUS5. I much preferred the sound of the Kawai K800. It was nearer the quality of sound I was hearing from the German makes. I don't know if I am dreaming it but 10 years ago, the German makes sounded better. I remember thinking they sounded like creamy soft serve vanilla ice cream. The Yamahas 10 years ago sounded like lemon sorbet back then. - sharp and crisp sounds.

I just prefer the creamier sounds. Possibly, others prefer the sorbet-like sounds. That is still very much what the Yamaha YUS5 sounds like - sorbet. These days, German pianos seem to sound less creamy and the Kawai K800 sounds MORE creamy. So, I guess I found something creamy enough but not as creamy as I would like.

Still nice... and far more affordable.

The design is ever so cute too. The piano sheet holder can be pulled forwards, towards the pianist and underneath it are 2 sound escapes. So, the sound not only emanates from the back and the top of the Kawai K800, it also emanates from the front panel as well. This makes for a lot of resonance.

I do think I bought a piano that is way too good for my lousy piano playing skills. So, I am trying to practise and practise and practise so that I can deserve the piano I bought. I dread to think what my neighbours think because I literally play it all day. After every compo I mark, I play for 5 minutes just to refresh my senses and help me regain focus enough to mark the next compo well.

It also means that this poor blog has been sorely neglected. For someone who has no real job, I really am quite a busy person, you know. What with my piano and my Le Creuset pots...




Thursday, May 4, 2017

Parent Seminars 2017

HOT Skills Parent Workshop and Positive Teaching Parent Seminar are open for registration.

(1) HOT Skills HERE.
(2) Positive Teaching HERE.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dr Tay Kai Xian, Dentist

Last year, I had a wisdom tooth taken out. It was growing on its side and impacting a good tooth. At the point of impaction, a cavity had begun to form because my toothbrush could not reach that spot. I knew about the impacted tooth but somehow, I missed out on the fact that there was a small cavity there.

When I went for my yearly scaling and cleaning at the Woodlands Polyclinic, the dentist sent me to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital to get my cavity looked at.

A specialist dentist looked at it and spent a looooong time telling me how DIFFICULT it was to fill that cavity. He went on and on about the challenging case. It was right at the side of the mouth. It was growing into the side of the tooth and getting perilously near the tooth nerve. If they tried to fill it, it might touch the nerve or there might be a nerve infection. Then, there would need to be a root canal operation OR an extraction.

Then he said, "This case is so difficult that I need to get someone else to look at it."

Within 10 minutes, the other doctor was ready for me. You see, I really don't understand why people complain about our healthcare. I was referred from the Polyclinic and yet I experienced very prompt intervention. Undoubtedly, I had to wait 3 months for my scaling appointment and then another 2, to see the specialist... but once they saw how urgent my tooth was, I waited 10 minutes.

Now, this is where it gets interesting.

I hopped over to the next aisle and opened the door into Dr Tay Kai Xian's consultation room. I came face to face with a man that looked not a day older than 17 years. He talked fast and made small jerky motions with his hands. I thought to myself, "Huh? This is the guy who can do the challenging thing that the other older dentist cannot do?"

I was stunned. I stared at this 17 year old male in a dentist scrubs and I asked a few questions, meanwhile, churning in my mind my next course of action. Do I allow this 17 year old to lay hands on me? Do I kick up a fuss and tell the hospital that I object to being operated on by a student? Do I take a leap of faith and submit to the ministrations of this young boy who looked not a day older than my son.

I took the leap of faith.

And Dr Tay Kai Xian was WONDERFUL! His entire demeanour changed from the moment his dentist's mask went on. He spoke slowly and gently, carefully explaining each thing he was about to do to me... "This will sting a bit. I am injecting local anaesthetic. Now that the area is numb, I will do this, so you will feel a lot of pulling on your cheek. I am going to shave off the side of your tooth, so you will next feel some vibration.... and so on."

He had steady hands and he was unfailingly polite to his nurse when he asked for this and that... or gave instructions to prepare the next step. It was so lovely to be treated by a genuinely nice person, who was so quietly confident at every part of the process (except for the start when I asked him if he could really do this challenging op and he started to talk too fast and gesture jerkily). He had such STEADY hands!

Seriously, the moment I sat back in the dentist's chair, Dr Tay morphed into a father figure.

I came home and told my family about him. The Husband asked, "Is he handsome?" Then I kicked myself! Whyyyyyyyyyyy didn't I ask if he was married/attached? Whyyyyyyy didn't I tell him about my pretty daughter with her 8 A level distinctions, gymnastics medals, Dean's lister, good job and a temperament so sweet that 4 kids sit on her legs at Sunday school, with more fighting to do so.

Whyyyyyyyyy?

See photo of Dr. Tay Kai Xian HERE. I highly recommend him!




Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Son: Reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci

I really am not supposed to blog about this. The Son has given me a gag order. I am not allowed to blog about him very much, which is such a bummer because blogging about him is so entertaining for me. And so entertaining for my readers. No?

Anyway, it all started with a BBC broadcast on the way to school. A voice with an Italian accent read out excerpts from Machiavelli. Apparently, the excerpts were shockingly evil in their content. So I questioned why they were listening to them at all. So began an amusing exchange between father and son.

Daddy: My son is so intellectual that he refuses to listen to pop music on the way to school, preferring meatier fare from BBC.

The Son: Noooooo... it is because your selection of pop music is so repetitive. Anything is better than that.

Daddy: **with a perfectly straight face** My son is a renaissance man. He can fight and write.

The Son: **roll eyes** Splutter!

Me: Ohhhhh! My son is like Leonardo da Vinci. He is the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci.

Daddy: Ahhhhh! My son is better. Leonardo da Vinci cannot code computer programmes. My son can code.

Me: Trudat! Our son is better than Leonardo da Vinci.

The Son: **glowering at me**

Me: Heyyyy... how come you don't glower at your Daddy? He was the one who started with "renaissance man". How come when I praise you, you get all mad?

For some strange reason, The Son has evolved to be like his sister. He keeps downplaying his triumphs and saying that he is not good enough. Every time I tell him I am proud of him, he gets peeved... and I am not allowed to blog about his triumphs either! Then, when I play along with his I-am-not-good-enough line, I get knocked on the head for not having faith in him. The conversation unfurled as follows.

The Son: **to change the subject** Oh, by the way, we got into Finals.

Me: Oh! You did!? You got into Finals!?

The Son: **looking peeved again** Mom! I ALWAYS get into Finals! How come you even doubt that I can get into Finals!?

Me: **speechless**

Now, you tell me. Is it fair?! Sheesh! A mother cannot do anything right! You know what... teenaged sons are idiots!! Certainly nothing like Leonardo da Vinci, who, I am certain, was much nicer to his Mom.




Friday, April 7, 2017

Will You Make the World? Or Are You Made For It?

See HERE for the full article.



See HERE for the full article.


Daniel Yap wrote in the article HERE. "I can feel the massive ship turning ever so slightly."

I oso say!

I read the above 2 articles in the past 2 days that gave me much to be excited about. Since 2010, I wondered why our educational system had evolved into the huge mess that it pretty much still is, at the moment, with its over emphasis on academic excellence to the detriment of other developmental areas.

In the end, I concluded that the MOE had forgotten about first principles and allowed itself to be seduced by the fads in education emanating from the USA... standardised testing... PISA and what not. For 7 years I wondered why the MOE was not preparing our children for life. 

Since Ong Ye Kung and Ng Chee Meng took over, it does appear that we have come to our senses.

What is the use of topping the PISA scores and having a world class testing methodology if our children are poorly equipped for life at work? So finally, the MOE, helmed by 2 men with WISDOM if not actual educator experience, is working from first principles.

What is this first principle? 

To know what the education system needs, we need to work backwards from the future ready children we want to have, 20 years from today. Certainly, the future is hard to predict and nobody expects the MOE to be entirely clairvoyant. However, certain things are perennial in a useful and productive adult.

- Emotional intelligence
- Social networks
- Literacy and numeracy
- Knowing how to learn and unlearn
- Respect for high standards

Throughout The Son and The Daughter's education, their schools focused largely on literacy and numeracy. It was up to me to teach them emotional intelligence (the old people will simply say 做人道理  for emotional intelligence). It was up to me to nudge the development of their social networks along. It was up to me to teach them how to learn independently, and how to identify stuff to unlearn. It was up to me to insist on high quality work with the mantra - If you're not going to do it properly, please don't even do it at all.

Every week, I do battle with parents and students who want to do a lot HW but give me junk to mark. This attitude is endemic and it takes all of my strength and determination to stand firm and say, "Your junk will end up in my bin. It will not be marked. It will not even be returned to you. You will not learn anything new from me until you learn this properly."

At least learn something small, but don't learn nothing at all.

In truth... right up until today, with Ong Ye Kung and Ng Chee Meng at the helm of the MOE, the strategic direction of our education was still very much what Goh Keng Swee had set down in the 1960s when he had to MAKE people fit the staffing needs of the global MNCs which invested in Singapore. 

Singaporeans learnt to be compliant do-ers. Our best students were compliant do-ers. Never break the rules. Work hard. Work very hard. Work very very hard. So, not surprisingly, our top entrepreneurs seemed to have a less than stellar academic history. Think Sim Wong Hoo and Eldwin Chua. These are people that the MNCs would vomit out from their ranks and told that they were un-employable.

And yet... what wouldn't I give today to BE Sim Wong Hoo and Eldwin Chua, my Phd notwithstanding?

With so much disruptive change on the horizon and in front of us - Grabtaxi, Uber, AirBnB, Facebook, Kickstarter, Redmart... the world is very different today than what it was when I grew up. The MOE can no longer make people to fit something. Why? Because the MOE (and everyone else) does not know what the world our children grow into, will be like.

As a 3rd world country, Goh Keng Swee could look at the 1st world countries and project our manpower to fit those needs. We are now a 1st world country. We have been a 1st world country for a long time now. This change in strategic direction is long overdue.

Yes... help our children find their passion. Give them the following set of skills...
- Emotional intelligence
- Social networks
- Literacy and numeracy
- Knowing how to learn and unlearn
- Respect for high standards
... and then watch them make their world.

The young all have that capacity for change. It is in the adolescent's natural psychological evolution to challenge the status quo and to question if things can be done differently. We spent so much effort in the past 2 decades trying to prepare them... to groom them... to mould them... for a future that you and I do not know. Adolescents are programmed to re-make their world.

However, in this new direction, where we actively look to bolster strengths and grow diversity of skills and encourage passion, we will have a whole field of colourful wildflowers ready to take their chances with the new world.

Their world. Not ours.

Gone are the days where the government can predict the world and protect us with their clairvoyance. It will be uncertain days ahead and only diversity can give Singapore the resilience to make it through.

We must educate our children to make (or re-make) their world so that they can shape their future. We should not make them to fit it.








Wednesday, April 5, 2017

925 Chicken Rice

This eatery is opposite the Sembawang Shopping Centre. It is new, good and reasonably priced. In my humble opinion, it is better than Sum's Kitchen (its neighbour). Strangely though, the queues at Sum's Kitchen are longer.