Monday, 30 November 2009

Her first long sentence

Coco spoke her first longest-ever Chinese sentence last night when she was having dinner with her cousin.

Both of them were having pig trotters soup.

My father asked them to eat the wolfberries in the soup when he saw the boy not eating them.

The boy answered,"我不要。"

Coco immediately said,"我要!它对眼睛好处!”

Although she missed out the word '有' in her speech, I'm so glad she's speaking such a profound sentence for her standard.

This is probably my best birthday present this year. :)

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Bilingualism is not a mistake

Recently, MM Lee has made a speech about bilingualism being a mistake.

He mentioned that he didn't realise that it was so tough for an English speaker to learn Chinese and that the bilingual policy has been a mistake.

I seriously don't think that it's a mistake. In fact, I think that it's a very sound policy. What's so mistakish about it was the teaching method. I really thought, and still think, that the way Chinese was taught during my time was perfect. Our starting point was absolutely zero. I still remember the first few pages of the textbook at P1: there were about 3 separate pictures about body parts ie. 人,口,手.

From there, we built up our vocabulary, slowly but surely. The learning of language is very different from the learning of Maths and Science. The acquisition of a language may be slow at first, but when the spurt comes along, it just drives you all the way. You'll be motivated to read when you take an interest in the subject and languages, unlike Maths and Science, can improve by leaps and bounds just by reading, and the relevant act of speaking.

Hanyu pinyin was only taught at P3. By then, a substantial amount of characters would have been learnt. Hanyu pinyin was a breeze. It's crazy to learn hanyu pinyin as 'foundation' for learning Chinese. Just because English is learnt through phonics doesn't mean that it is applicable for Chinese. This is exactly what's wrong with the teaching of Chinese. Which idiot actually thought of using hanyu pinyin to teach Chinese?!! It actually hampers the understanding of Chinese as a language and neglects the way the strokes should be learnt.

I've benefited immensely from the biligualism incorporated into our education system. I've always thought it a pity that Chinese is no longer taught the same way as it was. It was effective, unthreatening, and provides comfort zones at different levels, at different points to students. I remember reading a wide variety of original student writings in the newspapers when I was in primary school and aspired to write like that, yet at the same time, knew that I had to develop my own style of writing, subconciously. I never got any of my works published, but I was happy to top my Chinese classes sometimes. And I continued to keep a Chinese diary into my mid-twenties.

One of these day, I might just blog in Chinese. It's a beautiful language that doesn't deserve to be strangled. Yeah, I know it's insulting (to me) that I'm contemplating sending Coco to a Chinese enrichment class. I've deliberately alienated her from learning Chinese for years for fear of her getting confused over the two languages, and trying to get her to be really good in English. To me, English is still a struggle after all these years. Many times, I feel that I'm pretending to be good in English, especially in speaking it, when deep down inside, I feel so inadequate with using the language. It's just not me. It sounds crazy right?

It's my sense of inadequacy that drove me to alienate Coco from learning Chinese from young. I feel that Chinese is an easy language that anybody can pick up anytime, so I deliberately delayed her timeline of learning it. It sounds crazy. But that's exactly what I did. Now, I fear that I can't reverse the mistake. I'll just have to try to make her like the language in any way I can, with stories, and simple, readable stories that she can read on her own.

I hope that one day, she will take to the language as brilliantly as she has with English.

And I hope that day will come fast, before she hits P6.

A Short Trip Up North in Progress

I'm about to take my parents up to Genting for a short trip.

It's something quite sudden. I didn't plan for it. I was prepared to station myself in Singapore for the whole hols. After all, I told Coco that she wasn't going anywhere this hols due to her poor results.

After enquiring from other colleagues on their whereabouts this hols, it tempts me to take my parents elsewhere.

They have been to Genting a dozen times, or at least a dozen times. I'm not sure if they mean to help me save money or they want me to go there too since I've never been there before although I claim to be a Malaysian. The whole of Singapore has probably been there at least once and I've never been there. It's amazing huh.

My colleagues were shocked to hear that I haven't done any form of booking yet and advised me to do so asap. They said that 'most' (I don't know if they were referring to the agencies, coaches or hotels - I took it as hotel rooms) are already booked. So I've been searching for Genting related websites and trying to see which are good rates. I haven't been very successful in narrowing down anything. I hope I can settle it by tomorrow so that I can confirm the trip with my parents.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

A Relook at My Life

I came back to my parents' house with the two kiddos yesterday.

William was out since morning and I didn't want to be cooped up in the house with the two kids myself. I know I'll get frustrated and the negative energy will get to Coco. So I lugged the baby's things and all to my parents' place.

I was so relaxed that after a dim sum session at Crystatl Jade Kitchen, I conked out on my sister's bed for about 4 hours. Then I slept again at an early hour at about 9 or 10pm. It was restful indeed. I woke up at 5.30am just now and decided that I've had enough sleep.

I actually dreamt about myself contemplating seriously over a divorce. That sets me thinking about it again.

I've been living as a single mother, with the tag 'married' on me, and without the assets or benefits of being married. There are alot more liabilities than assets in fact. Two banks have rejected my application for a credit card for reasons not revealed to me, but there is only one obvious reason: that the debt-incurring, zero-credibility William is my spouse.

I've thought about things that I might want to attempt besides teaching all my life.

I'm starting to wonder if I should at least try to obtain a driving license. I'm a technophobic and machines frighten me. I've a tendency to mess up things related to machines. People don't understand why I don't have the common sense to know how machines work. I can't read the symbols on the machines, which are supposed to be 'úniversal'. I have an immense fear about cars blowing up while I'm in it, as the driver. I'm worried that I might be the agent for car accidents, or worse, kill somebody while driving.

But recently, I'm thinking about getting a license. I never know when I'll need one. Besides, it doesn't look really difficult. Hey, even someone uneducated is able to pick it up, how difficult can it be, right? But then again, they don't have the kinda fears that I have. I can always dismiss them as being paranoia although they still linger somewhere within me.

I'm wondering if I really just want to do teaching all my life, without trying any other things out.

If I don't have kids, what will I do? Will I give up teaching and try out some other jobs? This is a question I've been asking myself, and haven't got an answer for yet.

If I don't have the baby, would I have divorced William one year ago?

They are 'ífs' questions, no doubt. Some people say that there's no use dwelling on the ifs. But at this point of my life, I feel that they do help me look at things from other perspectives and not feel so negative about my life. Without the ifs, I would feel that this is my destiny - trapped in a life of woes, without the ability to change the course.

I set a new year resolution this year, that I will put divorce on the cards. It's nearing year end.

I look indecisive. It's because the decision is not about me. It's about the baby. I tell myself that I've done the least I could for her ie. to give her a life. But I can't be dragged into the mud for her. I need a life for myself. Everytime I see pictures of beautifully renovated, cosy flats, it reminds me of the dream I have - to have a nice home that I can call my own. With William, I never know when we'll divorce and the furniture sell off at cheap prices. I don't even know if any bank will just barge in and auction off the items.

I don't want to live with uncertainties.

Friday, 20 November 2009

I am negative

Today, we had a Science Department meeting for 3 hours.

I'm indeed shocked to find teachers agreeing that children are 'ceteris paribus', so it's easier to remediate them.

I always thought teachers would think that all children are unique. Even if they are weak in a subject, they are weak in different topics, and in different topics, different areas. Not one child is the same even in their academic weaknesses. Only their results are 'ceteris paribus'.

I am a firm believer of differentiated instructions, but our education system certainly does not agree with this belief.

By 'effective', I mean the remediation must produce results. Even if the children still fail the subject, they should start to border on the 40s range, not remain the same. I don't know what these teachers mean when they say that the programme is 'good'. I didn't want to be rude and start to go into the statistics of the children who pass under them, because of the 'good' remediation programme.

To me, P3 is just too young to have level remediation. They need their form teachers, not some teachers who see them once a week. I'm not sure how those teachers do remediation when they don't even know the children. If there's no relationship between two parties, I don't know how you can see progress. Coco has become more serious about piano ever since she started learning from this new teacher. I believe that it's because the teacher is forming a good rapport and relationship with her.

I just wanted to speak up and voice my opinion, but it seemed to me the other teachers feel that I'm too negative about everything. But most of them don't teach P3, and if they did, they only took the best class. They don't understand that an average P3 child is really a P1 child trapped in a 9-year-old body. They don't have the discipline and motivation to learn on their own, do work on their own. Oh yes, most of these teachers do not have any kids of their own either.

The Science HOD asked if we wanted to get the kids to do Young Scientist Card. I voted against it as well because I struggled to get my weak kids to even do a one-star activity to chalk up another 8 stars. I had to use my curriculum time to get them to complete the activities, with me telling them exactly what to do, giving them the answers, so as to meet the department target of having 80% of the class completing the all-important Card.

The teacher who collected the cards said that "Most of the classes had 80% of the class completing the cards." Yeah, because I forced my kids to do it. Die die forced them to.

I speak up because I know some things don't work. And I know the struggles a teacher handling an average or weak class has to go through just to get them done. But it looks like they are not welcomed.

I'll have to shut my trap the next time.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Once bitten

Yesterday, I was pretty upset over a parent's feedback on a survey form.

I had been getting a girl who failed her CA2 English to stay back every Mon, Wed and Fri to get her to read to me, and I always asked her to read a book or two in English before she came to me so that she could relate the story to me. Eventually, I got her to write book reviews, and include her opinion and feelings about the book by elaborating the parts that interest her. I also edited the reviews to model the language and correct her English.

My intention was so that she would be inculcated with an interest in reading English storybooks.

However, on the survey form, the father indicated 'Strongly Disagree' on 'The teacher is approachable and (blah blah blah)', and wrote his comments as 'The remedial lessons conducted were too late for SA2'.

What I was doing wasn't even a remedial lesson for the child. Technically speaking, the child is not eligible for English remedial class, which was conducted by two other teachers, because there are much worse cases than her.

I felt hurt and injustified that my good intention and goodwill was not appreciated.

I was forking out my time and effort to get the girl to read English books in the hope that this habit will continue even after she's no longer under me, yet the parent bites the hand that feeds him. If that's not ungratefulness, I don't know what is.

I'd informed the mother that I was worried about the girl and I would do this to help her, yet it wasn't communicated to the father who penned the survey.

I have no wish to go clarify the issue with the father as I might get agitated and say things that I shouldn't. And I'm just not one of those people who say "I don't have to do this, you know, but I'm doing this because I care for your child." I find it too wayang, although it's exactly because I care that I did what I did.

When teachers' efforts meet with ingratitude, guess what they will do next time when they encounter similar situations? Teachers are just human beings, not saints. We try to be, but I for one am not.

I'll try to ignore children who need help next time, so that I don't get bitten again.

Furthermore, English is a subject that does not improve by leaps and bounce within a short span of time. Many people don't seem to realise that. They think that English, like Maths and Science, has instant antidote.

What teachers do for English is to do the construction work, building, building and building. The skyscraper may not look promising now, but when the time comes, the whole building will come into its own.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


I'm trying to accomplish a feat: blog every day for a month.

Why do I want to do that?

Well, I used to keep a Chinese diary when I was much younger, and I tried to write as often as I could, but I'm not so faithful in blogging. I'm not sure why.

Anyway, I'll see if I can do just that. It's not very wise for me to blog at my workplace since they do track the websites you visit. The consequences might not be optimistic for me should my boss discover my blog. When I get home, it's not easy to blog either. I don't feel comfortable having someone watching over my shoulder while I blog. So I usually wait for the kids to sleep and William not around before I type anything here.

Okay, I wanted to blog about my diarrhoea. I think it's back. For a few days in a row, I've felt a niggling pain on my left side of my tummy, presumably the large intestine, which from my observation of Coco's doctor's diagnosis, could be some stubborn stool remaining inside, causing the discomfort. This morning, they all whooshed out and I lost a good 300g from that. How would I know how much they weigh? I weighed in at the scale after I went to the toilet, and it read '44.9 (kg)'. Then I went to take a bath. After that, it read '44.6 (kg)'. Don't tell me bathing made me lose any calories or weight. Yeah, the way I see it is weird. I just thought perhaps the body hasn't fully recovered from the 'shock' of whooshing out the wastes, so it remained 300g heavier. After washing myself up, the body sort of relaxed itself and so it was able to show its real weight.

Why do I feel like it sounds rubbishy?

Anyway, I'm more concerned and delighted about the fact that I'm seeing '44' on the scale!

But I just went to the toilet again, and it's again a mash of squeash. Diarrhoea can make one lose appetite as well. I was just starting to fall in love with the unagi omelette rice served at a Japanese foodcourt in Yishun, but having this diarrhoea makes me feel nauseous just thinking about the saltiness.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

She and her best friend

She loves her Pooh Bear bolster for as long as I remember. I can't even remember when she first had it. I only recall getting it for her as a bolster because she cannot have anything furry or woolly for anything. This Pooh is getting quite old and beaten but she still loves it anyway.

Chinese Musical

I took Coco to the Chinese Musical, 生命之树, put up by her school last night.

It was impressive, considered being the first-time production of the school. The massiveness of participants, time and effort put in is not too hard to imagine, amidst the exams and all.

I bumped into Coco's English teacher and she said that the whole production is purely based on voluntary basis. For the whole ten months of preparations, I've never even heard about it, and neither had Coco, until the tickets were ready for sale.

When Coco showed me the letter on the Musical, I didn't think anything of it, until I saw her less-than-satisfactory Chinese results. I thought perhaps the musical could be a way to interest her in Chinese. The tickets were a bit on the steep side though. It cost $45/pax for better seats and $35/pax for the cheaper version and matinee.

I couldn't make it for the matinee obviously so I opted for 2 tickets for 7 - 9pm.

I almost couldn't make it still because I felt so bad after I had fever on Saturday and diarrhoea on Sunday, although I really wanted to go. I'm not exactly a big fan of musicals and plays although I've always been a literature student, but I wanted to be there with Coco.

In the end, I took a fifty from William and took a cab to NUS University Cultural Centre. The trip alone cost $30.

After knowing that the whole production is voluntary and not through deliberate recruitment which goes through the usual audition drill and all, I couldn't help but compare the school with mine. It'll never work in my school. Oh well, life's unfair anyway.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

UK Couple Sued Photographer

The worst nightmare for a bride on her big day: an irresponsible and incompetent wedding photographer.

The photographer in question delivered 400 photographs, of which only 22 were of acceptable standard. The rest couldn't make the cut. Heads were chopped off, overexposed pictures, group shots didn't look like group shots, weird angle, no standard wedding shots. Oh yes, their thank-you card was printed with both their names misspelled! Incredible!

My sympathy lies with the couple.

Fortunately, they had various people approaching them to offer to sponsor a recreation of their wedding.

They are fortunate in that they could relive their wedding moments and have them rephotographed. But still, the ugly episode would have already left a permanent dent in their memory of their wedding. Every time they recount their wedding, they would be reminded of how they were treated by a 'professional' photographer.

Despite all the research, it's still difficult to know if the photographer is a good one until the day he shows you the pictures. Sure, we could see his portfolio and a series of wedding photographs that he's taken, but we all know we only showcase the best of what we have. So in my opinion, it's still not a foolproof method to find a 'good' photographer. After doing all the research by going through a thousand of them, we can only put our faith and trust in the photographer and hope that he'll do his best for us.

Enrichment Classes

I had the chills yesterday and it lasted from morning till late evening.

I slept at 9 pm and woke up at 2 am. Can't get to sleep after that. The backache that I got from the after-effect of epidural bothered me quite abit, so in the end I woke up to do some online chatting, surf net and eventually blog here.

I realised it hasn't been easy to get Coco to like Chinese to the extent of getting her to write Chinese characters through her own initiative. It bothers me because I find it difficult to understand what's there not to like about Chinese. And it dawns on me that it could have been a grave mistake to alienate Coco from Chinese since her babyhood. Now she is not able to recognise characters in her textbooks although technically, she should have already learnt them.

I'm starting to source for enrichment centres. For someone who doesn't believe in paying others to tutor the kid, I'm adopting the 'If you can't beat them, join them' mentality.

I'm left with little choice because it's hard going getting Coco to do Chinese stuff. It never occurs to me that she would dislike Chinese or find it a challenge to cope with. I always thought it part of our nature to like and be interested in anything Chinese ie. words and stories.

I'm starting to be afraid that it might be too late to start her on Chinese. I hope I'm wrong.

I've faxed over to The Learning Lab on English enrichment. Let's see how it turns out.

I've also enrolled Coco in the piano course conducted by Asia Music School. The Chinese-national teacher seems friendly and kind. She doesn't force Coco to do things that she resists and teaches her patiently. I hope that this time round, Coco can at least take her Grade One exam some time next year. It has been unpleasant dealing with private piano tutors, especially the last one. Private ones tend to take advantage of the fact that you're relying on them for everything from lessons to taking exams. In short, they are not as professional as the ones teaching in schools. And part-time tutors are dubious and fly-by-night. Some have been known to cheat money from parents. Even the last piano tutor I had, by the name of Fanny (yeah, she didn't even give me her surname), cheated me of $50. She was incapable of sending Coco to the Grade One exam and had the gall to say that my slot had been given up to another child, which in my opinion was dubious, and thus could not continue with the lessons. To say that I was disgusted is an understatement. It makes me seriously doubt the integrity of musical instrument learners and that was one of the reasons I wanted to stop Coco from learning piano. I didn't want her to be like these people.

Eventually, I felt that it's more the upbringing and inculcation of values that matter more rather than what you learn. Besides, she seems more interested in learning piano this time round. When I sat in the last lesson, it was clear to me that she was paying attention and asking pertinent questions whenever she was not clear about what the teacher was teaching. I asked her what made her so interested this time round. She replied that 2 of her classmates played beautiful piano pieces in class and they had Grade Five. She said the whole class was only this quiet when their teacher threatened to get the one who talked to wash the toilet.

I only realised that the previous tutors had been making the mistake of getting Coco to do a Level Three piano book when she hadn't done Level Two. It made the task of playing the pieces highly challenging as she hadn't picked up the skills at Level Two yet. I myself was put off by the difficulty level of the pieces. It was only when this current teacher showed us the Level Two book that I realised what we've been missing out. Level Two is a bridging of the skills learnt at One and Three. And the private tutors had not been able to notice that! It speaks alot of the integrity and capability of private piano tutors.

I'll see how it goes with this music school. So far, I quite like the teacher, although she is a Chinese national. A piano tutor must be able to inculcate the love and interest for playing piano, which I thought was lacking in the private tutors. Surprisingly, I found it in this piano teacher from a music school. Most people would think that private instructors and tutors are better since they are able to get business by their own virtue. However, I beg to differ for piano tutors, at least for the time being.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Photography is a science, not an art

Ironically, I haven't touched the DSLR for a comparatively long time. The truth be told: I'm rather disillusioned with DSLR photography in my own way.

Fancy someone saying being 'disillusioned' with photography huh.

I thought that photography is an art. Yeah, I thought, as what the avid photographers, amateurs and professionals on Clubsnap, claim.

But the more I delve into it, the more I feel that photography is a science, and at some point, maths.

Judging from the high frequency of the use of numbers, and accuracy of speed, aperture and a host of other things related to photography, it's hard for me not to relate it to science, and maths.
I won't claim to be artistic. But having learnt some basic and rudimentary level of drawing and painting at O level, I never saw art as being related to a host of numbers, accuracies and speed.

It was, in fact, far from all those.

We were asked not to use rulers to draw a straight line. Precision was never an absolute requirement for an even decent picture. We didn't even think that there was a 'precise' colour to use for any object. When we mixed colours, we didn't break them up into fractions ie. one-third of black and two-thirds of white will give me that grey that I want. It was more intuitive than anything. The only speed-related issue was to paint fast enough so that the oil paints didn't dry up before you finished a painting.

My idea of 'art' is quite far from what the photographers on Clubsnap envision to say the least.

I get abit repulsed by them saying 'Photography is an art'. I'm very tempted to refute that claim, which of course I knew would be met with hostile objections, given how self-righteous some of the users are.

I started to feel this way when I realised that most of those 'beautiful', 'breath-taking' pictures were post-processed, or were taken using sophisticated lens and filters, or even some high-end cameras. Didn't they always say 'It's not the camera, but the man behind the machine'?

I'd always imagined that 'the man behind the machine' can do wonders and it's him who, by his knowledge, skills and experiences, captures those awe-inspiring pictures. But now it dawns on me that when they say 'knowledge' and 'skills', they actually meant knowing what kinda lens, setting, white balance, aperture, shutter speed blah blah blah to use.

In art, when we say that a person has the skills, the artist actually draws from scratch, mixes the colours from scratch, and paints the picture brush by brush to get the desired picture. There's no sophisticated machine to help him with his creation.

Or perhaps to me, a technology dinosaur, art remains as something very manual. I can't relate it to technology. To me, anything to do with technology has less of a human touch, and art has alot to do with human touch.

I'm not against technology. Technology is mankind's greatest invention. It brings about efficiency, effectiveness in many areas and creates wonders in things like digital photography. However, when it comes to art, I have my doubts, and reservation. True, it creates amazing images in photography, but it disappoints me greatly when I try to steal behind its back to look at the process of creating the images.

Art is different. It never fails to amaze and fascinate how each art piece is created. A lot of thoughts go into the planning, drafting, actual drawing and painting and eventually the final touches.

I'm definitely not dismissing photography or despising it. I'm just abit pissed by people who self-righteously claim that it's an 'art'. Perhaps it is in its own way, but definitely not the way I see it. The way I see it, the more monies you have, the more beautiful a picture you can create. That's not what art is. A 'skilful' artist does not need to have a lot of money to create a beautiful painting.

To me, art is not just the final product. I like to know the process that creates it as well, and very often, the process is very intriguing and creative. Unfortunately, photography loses out a great deal in this department. It's at most the use of certain equipment, which costs a certain sum of money to acquire.

I started feeling melancholic about photography when someone in Clubsnap mentioned that my kit lens is 'useless' indoor without flash. I always thought that it's me who failed to properly utilise the lens, resulting in blurry or underexposed pictures. I always imagined that a skilful photographer would overcome the poor lighting problem indoor. It makes me feel cheated by the tagline 'It's not the camera. It's the man behind the machine.' and the whole hoax of DSLR photography.

No, no. I'm not dismissing DSLRs, although I sound close to that. I still enjoy the sharp images my D90 brings and I appreciate a great deal the good pictures as a result of fast shutter speed.

I just want to voice my opinion on photography on being more science than art.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


I bought an Adobe Creative Package (CS4) at student's price, which according to many is a steal. But I forgot that my CD/DVD drive isn't working.

Coco's Holiday Timetable

I got Coco to design her own holiday timetable yesterday. There were some hiccups, like she had problems dividing the paper equally into 6 parts (Monday to Saturday - as we decided that she shouldn't be doing work on Sunday), but fortunately, I realised we hadn't allocated space for 'Time', so it was a tiny blessing in disguise. She also thought that her lunchtime is flexible and put it down as 2pm or 3pm, until I pointed it out to her that lunchtime ought to be fixed, and she fixed that by using arrows to switch the items occupying the 1 - 2pm slot with her lunch.
This is her timetable:

What drove me to get her to do up her timetable so quickly was not the intelligent mother's blog. Rather, it was Coco's dismal exam results. The first time in her academic life, she brought home Band 2 for English, Maths and Chinese, with Maths at the bottom-most, and Science remaining unknown.
I was utterly stunned.
I hope that by getting her to do up her own timetable, she'll be more motivated to follow it through.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Parenting - a tall order

I recently chanced upon a very well-written blog, by a mother of two, which I shall not reveal here as linking her blog to mine might eventually be read by her many readers.

I'm very impressed with her articulate expression and precise use of vocabulary. Above all, she offers views that are well-balanced. Her parenting is so immaculate that I feel the need to learn from her. She offers constant reminders on how we as parents should give a lot of space to our kid - to grow, to develop, in their own ways, while at the same time provide proper guidance and good modelling to them. It's a tall order, but she seems to have done it really well.

I've learnt that:
1) If I tell my kid "Do your best and that'll suffice", I should really mean it.
I am guilty of saying this and when Coco comes home with marks below 90, I conclude that she hadn't done her best.

2) I need to create a timetable for Coco during the holidays, using construction paper and have it drawn up using pencils and ruler, not computer tools.
It prepares kids better when they know they have certain work to do, and not have a last minute test paper sprung on them.

At the risk of sounding juvenile, I still want to say this: I hope I can be like her.