Saturday, 24 November 2012

While we celebrate ...

The wait is finally over. Coco got 252 for her T-score.

William had asked Coco to let him look at her result first, even before she did. So she took her result slip, walked out of the classroom and obediently handed it to William.

William opened it carefully. With a frown and a hint of smile, he closed it, and opened it again before he gave it to us.

When I saw the score '252', the only word I could utter was Coco's name. Almost immediately, tears welled up in my eyes - for all the time and effort we had put in, for all the expectations and dreams we had for her, for all the frustrations, fears and stress that we had gone through, for all the months of salary that I had given up, for all the sleepless nights and nightmares that I had for the past one year. I cried. And cried. I didn't care if other parents saw me cry. My hands holding the result slip went numb. For the first time, I understood why Miss Universe always cry when they win the title. For the first time, I understood what people mean when they say 'it feels so surreal'.

Gratitudes overwhelmed me.

I don't care what the rest of the world get. Coco's class average T-score is 250. Her school has more than 30 students who got 270 and above. I only needed her to get 248 + Merit for Higher Chinese. And she got 252 + Merit.

I am grateful.

I am grateful to my principal who granted me no-pay leave at very short notice because I was stressed out by the guilt of not being there for Coco when she needed me most.

I am grateful to the mothers on kiasuparents who had generously shared their strategies for various subjects, especially the one on composition-writing. For all the years of teacher that I was, I could not break composition-writing down as well as she did. And she is not a teacher!

I am grateful to Coco's teachers who continuously set high standards for the children and paved the way for the children to achieve such results. Who says that brand-name schools are only about 'brands'? Who says that top schools push all the teachings to the tuition centres and private tutors? I can see for myself that the teachers had worked very hard at leveraging on the children's ability. They churned out worksheets tailored to the children's ability. The worksheets given were of good quality. The sample compositions given were almost-full-marks quality to show how the children should write at PSLE.

The teachers communicated honestly their feedback with the parents. When the Science teacher saw that Coco was consistently in the B range for Science, he told me that he was 'very worried' for her and that the school expected at least an A from her class. The English teacher told Coco that she was a 'potential A-star' pupil for English, making no promises that she definitely would be. The Chinese teacher said that Coco could get an A-star for Chinese if she continued to put in effort and improved along the way. The only teacher I did not get enough feedback from was her Maths teacher but I knew that Coco was a borderline-A for Maths.

I am grateful that William had put in alot of time and effort to coach Coco for Maths and Science. He probably worked harder than I did because he taught her the subjects consistently for ten months every Saturday and Sunday. He even found a studious girl to study together with her so that Coco could be motivated by a more hardworking girl.

Above all, I am grateful that prayer really changes things. We prayed alot over Coco's PSLE. Before she went for the exams, I prayed for peace of mind, intelligence and ability to remember whatever she had learnt or memorised. During the exams, I prayed at home that she could finish her papers and could recall what she had learnt and apply them accordingly. After the exams, I prayed that she would get lenient or enlightened markers who could see things her way. Even before the release of the results, I prayed and fasted for them. I still believed that God is a God of miracles even if the results had been printed.

We had not been faithful in going to church. In fact, we skipped church for almost the whole year because Coco had her tuition with William on Sundays. But God is faithful even when we are faithless.

Coco's PSLE results mean alot to us.

1) We are teachers by training. Even though both of us did not verbalise it, we know within ourselves that we need recognition that our teaching works, and her results are a reflection of our teaching.

She didn't receive Chinese tuition at all. Although I had always been a distinction student for Chinese, I was not sure if the way I taught her could work. So if she had done badly or even get an A for Chinese, I would have doubts with my own Chinese standard. By getting an A* for it, she affirms me that I did the right thing with her.

Although she goes for English enrichment, it hadn't really had an evident impact on her English result since P4. Her composition writing was still languishing in the 20s. With the enrichment centre's resources and the kiasuparents forum's mother's formula of teaching writing, I managed to get her to write in the way her teacher wanted and she was just reaching 30 or 31 out of 40, but I was hoping that it would be sufficient to hit at least a mid-30 at PSLE, and I guess it did, to bag her an A* for English as well.

The only tuition she received for Maths and Science was from William. It meant alot to William that she did well in them. He would receive sneers and jeers if Coco had got a B for either of them. I am sure he was hoping for an A* for the subjects but we are just glad that whatever her grades, her score was a good one.

2) We have invested alot of time, effort and money on Coco's PSLE.

I have taken no-pay leave and given up my pay and bonuses for her PSLE. William could have used the time he coached Coco to have a few more classes and earned more money. For this PSLE, we have sacrificed tangibly and intangibly.

We would have been sorely disappointed if she did not do well enough to get into a good girls' school.

We may say that how others look at us does not matter, but we did have this fear that we would be laughed at - by colleagues who might think that my no-pay leave had not been worth it, by my parents and sisters who had advised me not to take no-pay leave as a student's attitude is the determining factor in her studies, by friends and people we know who said that travelling so far to a brand-name school is silly and in vain. And we know that the laughing-at would last for a long time.

For all the vile effects and impacts I have listed, there are many parents out there experiencing them because their child did not do well.

PSLE is such a high-stake exam. Not just for the next milestone in a child's academic journey, but the comments and the looks that others give you which probably mean more.

It breaks my heart to see a crushed child being half-carried away by his brow-knitted father out of the school quickly upon receiving the results. The father was protecting his child from the happy crowd which was celebrating their children's good results, literally, emotionally, spritually. I was too selfish and wicked to show my emotions when I saw Coco's score.

The mothers on kiasuparents forum shared how crushed they felt when their children did not do well. They cried in their own room while their children cried in theirs. They doubt themselves, doubt their methods of training their children for PSLE. They have to think up alternative schools for their children. They think about how to appeal to their school of choice.

It's not easy. PSLE is so high-stake that, I dare say, every parent who is academically-aware treats it as a be-all-and-end-all, no matter what the Prime Minister says on his facebook.

Just like what William told Coco the night before the results were released,"It's not the end of the world if you don't do well. Study hard when you get into secondary school."

Coco asked,"Then why did you tell me it's the end of the world if I don't do well (before PSLE)?"

They are only twelve.

We know and we know that this is 'only' one exam in their life, but the system has made it such that this 'one exam' is an all-important one, such that it either paves the way for your future or makes the course ahead more challenging.

If I never had a child, I certainly would factor PSLE in as a consideration before I get pregnant. Up till now, I deem it as the most stressful thing in parenting.


Anonymous said...

Congrats to coco! I can feel how happy you were and would have cried tears of joy too. 252 is superb! Now you can really go for a good break.

My dd from a neighbourhood school didn't do well, scoring 22x, her classmates mostly scored 21x and 22. There was only 1 scoring 272, 7% scored 250 and abv.
I hate to say that, the teacher was only doing PSle booklet, occasionally onsponge math, nothing more. The students were told to do 5-10 pages at home and teacher would go through when he's FREE.the few days before psle, the whole class was to complete the whole booklet, which was about 20 pages. I told dd not to be burned out, and not to do. I don 'see any other good worksheets,exc my pals revision. My dd is in the best class. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. For english, apart from psle booklet, it was just the little red dot reading and comprehension. Once in a while, I get to see top sch paper questions.
Science was also the psle booklet. Chinese was 1 other assessment book on vocab and that's about it.

I kept reading neighborhood schools producing a high % of quality passes and felt this school should have done more.
I don't know what kind of strategies the school is using to help these pupils, but it was a sad day for us.
On our own, dh also helped dd in math thrice weekly since last nov. and we also enrolled dd in sci and Chinese tuition.

Now to move on, dd s dream of going to a 2nd tier girls school is also impossible. And no chance of appealing.
thanks for hearing me out , Rain, . Good day

Angela said...

Hi Rain
I am so so happy for you, Coco and William. I stumbled upon your blog a month before the PSLE and it has been a source of comfort and encouragement for me as I journey with my son in his PSLE. My son did not get 250 but already we are over the moon with his result. I can imagine how you feel ... times 20!!!
I only have one one son but this will not be my last PSLE. I have been helping a hearing-impaired boy from a financially disadvantaged family background in his studies for the past 6 years since he was in kindergarten. This boy will sit the PSLE next year. I am unable to coach him in Math and Chinese as the curriculum is way beyond me so I plan to focus on English (my strength) and Science (not my strength but at least I have my son's Science tutor's notes to help me).
You mentioned that the mothers in the kaisuprents website gave very good strategies for tackling various subjects, in particular, composition writing. Can you point me to the thread please? I cannot find it and it is a maze in there! I would like to use those strategies to help this boy.
I would appreciate your help very much please.
Thank you and God Bless!

Rain said...

Hi Angela,

Thanks for sharing! I will go through another PSLE with my nephew next year. I hope I can hold out till then. PSLE is really not good for the heart!

The page on compo-writing is here:
Look for the post by 'psle2011mum' dated '12 Dec 2011 18:40'. She went on to share her strategies on other components and subjects on the next few pages.

I am impressed by your big-heartedness in helping a boy who is from a disadvantaged background, financially and physically. William was telling me that one of his students' parents told him that his friend's daughter who was blind in one eye scored above 270 for PSLE a couple of years back. The parents were very strict with the girl and caned her when she performed below expectations. They didn't want her to bury herself in self-pity and give herself excuses not to do well. Hope this could encourage the boy.

Rain said...

Hi Christy,

Thanks for sharing too! I have read quite a few entries similar to yours on kiasuparents forum. I know it's not easy to talk about it yet you poured your heart out here. I really appreciate it.

Coco didn't do her Science psle booklet until the very last minute, but it was no fault of the Science teacher. Coco herself forgot that she had to do it. In the end, the Science teacher didn't even get to go through with her as we got Coco to stay home for the last week before PSLE and she didn't even attempt Section B for at least two exercises. William said that the questions would not come out again anyway!

The info on the forum may not be accurate and the number of neighbourhood schools producing high percentage of quality passes may not be as high as you'd imagined. It is very easy to think that the forum is dominated by the majority when it really is not. So many parents and students on the forum claimed that the Maths paper was easy but the result shows otherwise.

From what you have described, it does sound like your dd's school did not do enough to stretch the children. I must say that's not common as most schools would try to up their quality passes by doing more for the best class/es, especially neighbourhood schools, because their best class/es is/are their best bet. But 7% of the cohort scoring 250 and above sounds good.

No matter how hard our children have worked, or how much we have prepared them for PSLE, we would never know how they would do on the day itself. I went through something like that myself. I suddenly decided to change the way I approached the questions for Literature at 'O' level, thinking that it was for the better, and I got an F9 for it when I usually managed a B in school.

You have prepared your dd to the best of your ability. You have finished this lap with her. She still has a few more laps to complete on her own. Brace yourself, so that she can draw strength from you when she needs it most.

Angela said...

Thank you for the reference, Rain. I found it without any problem after that. Good luck with PSLE 2013 - I am sure it will be a less stressful experience given your 2012 journey!
Thanks and God bless!

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much, rain, I really appreciate your ears to my verbal diarrhea. Hehe.. Sorry that I made you like an aunt agony.

Thanks for all your time and patience in penning your thoughts too. Today. I went down to dd s pri sch, spoke to one of the p6 teachers about the 'rotten' results the best class achieved. He said he knew, there was a silent agreement on his face and he said, just move on.

Have a great week and all the best to coco

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to write my name to the post, christy

Rain said...

Haha, Christy, I knew it was you lah. Can understand can liao. Have a great week ahead too!