Merging of JCs

Warning : This is straightly my opinion and thoughts about merger. It could be biased as I am writing this post based on my limited observation and understanding. This is an opinion piece and not a factual piece.

The Singapore Education fraternity must be in the state of shock with the merger of 8 Junior colleges. For me, I am petty taken aback as my alumni, AJC, is one of the chosen ones. On what basis is AJC chosen ? I wish that there is more clarity from MOE the why AJC is the chosen one as there are a few unanswered questions lingering in my little grey cells:

(1) There are other JCs in the North (like SAJC, CJC and NYJC). Why AJC ? Is it because we are just a truly neighborhood junior college and with no strong backer?

(2) There is a new you-know-what JC coming up in Marymount area (i.e., North). So, why is there a new JC (with IP program) when the two JCs in the north are being merged? Again, is it because of the “neighborhoodness” of AJC that make us not able to offer IP program ?




Making Maths Learning Fun with Scorative Race

This it the first time I am using Space Race in Socrative for my students. In the Space Race , the kids are assigned to different teams. They will get points for their teams if they answer their questions correctly.

I have put up simple Paper 1 questions and get them to do it. During the race, they are deeply engrossed in their work. For those who are done, I encourage them to teach their team-mates (and not just to give them the answer). It is good to see them enjoying themshelves and learning at the same time. The best part is that even my always-reluctant students are attempting the sums.

I am very motivated by their responses and would definitely do more for the students!

Will I quit teaching one day?

The two articles on teachers’ burnout Why I am quitting teaching  and the hidden cost of caring about your career too much set me thinking. I have been teaching for more than ten years. Will I one day quit teaching, a job that I hold dearly? I have seen a couple of well-meaning teacher-friends quitting teaching. It is not because they do not love to teach. But rather, they are more likely to be put off by the non-teaching duties and sometimes due to stack ranking . MOE has once stated the top three reasons for quitting service  : “for childcare, other family considerations and a desire for a change of job” [Link]. That is such a safe statement to make . Technically, it is not wrong as these are legitimate reasons. But, if we continue to ask why, will there be a similar underlying theme that causes teachers to resign ? Stack ranking? Excess workload? I believe that there would be two most common themes that could possible emerge if we dig further

I do not deny that MOE has tried to reduce  workload for the teachers. Yes, there are policies but how has that been effectively translated into observable practices in schools? In my school , I do see the efforts to make our workload more manageable (e.g., less after-school supplementary lessons, longer protected time). I am not trying to be in the good books of my SLs (who might just be reading the blog posts) but that is definitely how I feel. Those who know me should know that I mean what I say/write and I say/write what I mean. So, on this account, I do appreciate that and I really mean it.

However, despite the lessening of the workload (on paper at least), I do , at times, feel overwhelmed and really feel like just saying “let it go”. Why am I still doing work over the weekend (e.g, pondering SA1 schedule, looking at the ITQ Specs , thinking of ways to level up my academically-challenged P6 Graduating class)? Why are people giving last minute info and making things more stressful and urgent for others?

Perhaps, it is just me as I am too overly attached to my students and want to go all way out for them despite handling the demands as that minion HOD (who need to settle all the laptop and iPad problems). Perhaps time for me to chillax a bit and try not to be too “responsible”. How I wish that I can, at times , can just be that little irresponsible and heck care about others? How I wish I can give last minute instructions without feeling guilty and heck care those who need to made changes base on my last minute instructions ?  But , can I ? I seriously doubt so  ….

Yes,  this week I am very *FRURSTRATED* by a series of unexpected events (which could well be avoided if people can just pre-empt me by giving information earlier). I already have the plate full dealing with the expected things and with the unexpected things coming in definitely make the plate overflow.  And this is definitely make me in the mood to call it a day. If you find me just throwing in the towel, it would definitely be due the administrative overload

I guess writing this blog post helps me to let off the frustration that I have felt over the week. I feel  much more better now since I have blurted all out. I still very much want to be a teacher as this is in my blood. And I will and should continue to be in the system as long as I can stand the administrative overload. I shall never let the system game me. I SHALL and WILL *game* the system for my students.

[Leadership 04] Normal teacher watching Normal play

I went to watch the drama , Normal  by Checkpoint Theater last Thursday (6th Apr) . This was part of the CLDC Learning Journey. It was indeed a very powerful and realistic show that highlighted accurately both the realities and challenges that both the teachers and the students faced in Singapore schools.

Definitely as teacher, I still believe in them even though they can’t really do well in their academic subjects. I remember giving my P6 students a talk last year before they leave school :

“Do not let the academic results define who you are. You have your own strengths and it just happens that your strength is not in your studies. Do not let anyone put you down. I assure you in the whole world, there would be at least one person who believes in you (that is me of course!)”

Even I firmly believe in accepting for who they are , at times, I still need to push them to  do more exercise in the name of “passing the big P”. And of course, not forgetting those book checks to show evidence of students’ learning. The hard question to ask ourselves : “How can we, in our own little way,  change the ingrained result-oriented educational system?” Yes, there have been talks at the higher levels about being not focused on the results. But, has that been really translated into actual cultural shift in most of the schools?  Does the higher level talk match the actual context in most of the schools? I can see that we are moving in that direction, but we need to move *FASTER” [Link] .

As a practitioner on the ground, rather than having the mindest , “That is the result-oriented system, we can’t do much”, let’s look inwards and what we can do to to help such academically-challenged students within our own means. So, what can I do as teacher?  I need to constantly need to balance between the system demands and my students’ needs. But , to me, my students’ interest would always come first. I would need to use my little grey cells to match both the interests. Why so? So that I can live with my conscience and still meet the needs of the higher demands (let’s be practical, I need the salary for my retirement! :-).

For example, currently,  I seldom focus on the worksheet (which is just too beyond them)  but allow my students to use technology (like creating of videos) to show their learning. I usually use the worksheet as a means for them to take down notes or get them to do the more “doable” questions [A tick for book checking, Yeah!] . Why technology , you may ask? I notice that they would be at least doing a bit more thinking when I get them to articulate their thoughts online as what they have written are visible to the public audience rather than just the teacher. When I show their posting on the projector screen, they would always want me to showcase their posting. Good to see them so enthusiastic about their learning. You check out my reflection on the lesson at this link.

In my role as AVA Co-coordinator in my previous school, I always tried to get my NT students to helm the team. I gave them responsibilities and made them run the show. I still remembered some of them being very affected when I told them I would be leaving the school when they were in Sec 3. This showed that rapport that I had with them. I have seen them mature and grow up over the years and had indeed been a great help in AVA matters. One of them is now in polytechnic and even text me to thank me when he was accepted in polytechnic. He was , at first, a very bad-tempered boy but the AVA duties changed him. I talked to him and made him change his way if he wished to be part of the AVA team. In Sec 4, he was the 2nd in command and helping to run the AVA show. This was definitely one of the highlight in my teaching career.

In my first year in teaching, I was given the tail-end Physics S3 Express class (in which almost all of them failed their Mathematics). My name would always come up as one of the teachers who never gave up on them. I still remembered one of the boy (which I scolded regularly) giving me a card when he was about to graduate. That really made my day!  One of the girls in the same class  has not failed to texted me every year during  Teachers’ Day . I am very grateful for that note as it keeps me going as a teacher especially in the busy Term 3.  Their O level results were not that fantastic (only half of them cleared combined Science) but as far as I am concerned, I have not failed them. I had never given up on them (despite them challenging my limit for the two years) and was with them till the end of the O level journey.

Till now, I can confidently claim that I seldom give up on my students eno matter how academically weak they are As a teacher, I definitely have not failed them and give them the attention that I can within my means (I need to take care of myself too!) My colleagues know that I always talk about them fondly (despite scolding them regularly), “You know, they are actually nice students but it just happens that studying is not their forte”.  No matter what their results are , they are and always will still my little rascals :-).


2nd Attempt at Padlet-Enabled discussion

This is my 2nd attempt at Padlet-Enabled discussion (Use of Claim-Evidence-Reasoning) . [Link] What  I do differently this week:

(1) Pair work – This week’s topic’s Heat is more challenging. Thus, I make them work in pairs so that they can support one another

(2) Use of iPads for the very first time for this P5 class. This will allow me to conduct ICT-enabled lessons even when the labs are not available.

What are the outcomes? There is more quality commenting after modelling commenting but I still want MORE!!  🙂 In the last exercise [Link], I gave each posting a targeted comment. Some of you may go like “Where got time?” But, I see this as marking and giving them very targeted feedback. Hopefully, this will help them to move forward as a learner.  One trick to cut down on the “commenting load” is to allow them to work in pairs like what i do this week. I admit I am lazy and want to find the more efficient way to save time but yet not compromising the learning experience for my students!

For this week, my homework for them to look at my comments given for the heat exercise ( I just posted my comments last night)  and try modifying the answers based on the answers given. I am happy to see one of my not-so-engaged student taking interest and even modified her post last week at home (without  me asking so). This week, she requests me to post it on the kidblog so that she can edit at home. Good to see this little exercise enthusing her!

I am glad that I have this ICT-enabled discussion as this make their scientific reasoning visible. Here are their gaps which I need to work on:

(1) Not being very specific in their evidence. They mention about the Cup X is hotter (but it is actually the temperature of the water)

(2) In reasoning, they do not mention heat transfer matching their evidence and claim. For example, they mention Cup X gains heat faster than Cup Y. But, they ought to be discussing about heat transfer of water (as the evidence or claim is about the temperature of water)

I actually designed this exercise deliberately for them to make their mistakes visible. They are taken aback when I say that none of the posting would be awarded full marks. I believe even if I explain to them earlier, they might not be able to grasp. I hope that this will “shock” them and create cognitive dissonance (sounds ATAS, right ? -) . Hopefully, this would get them to be more meaningfully engaged in their learning. It is easy for me to “show and tell” but are my students really learning. Hopefully , such exercise will create more meaningful learning experience for my students!

ICT-enabled discussion with Padlet

As I have indicated earlier [Link] , I would be focusing on strengthening my students’ scientific communication using Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) . Hopefully, with this focus on reasoning, they would be in a better position to communicate science concisely during their PSLE next year. Of course, this skill is not just applicable to the examination. They can also apply in their daily lives.  For example, using CER to detect fake new  You can check out this link for the actually activity.

Reflecting on my past use of padlets, for this activity, I am making the following changes :

(1) Use a few padlets. To avoid too many posting. Too many posting make the padlet very messy and students might have difficulty in navigating.

(2) Different questions to be answered so that students can learn more about different concepts.

(3) Using 1 star and 1 wish to frame their comment (for the very first time)

So, what about the outcome?  I am basically quite satisfied as this is the very first attempt. Most of them do try to frame their answers around the CER and they do give quite good answers. However, they need to brush up on their commenting as only some of them give very specific and targeted comments.  This is the first time they are trying and I only show them once. Some of them post “non-scientific” posting and I need to warn the class not to let this happen again. Actually, such posting is inevitable as kids being kids. Just need to constantly nag at them no to do it.

So, what is next? These are the steps that I would step to further refine this plan:

(1) Model the commenting . I have given each posting a comment using the framing

(2) Address learning gap: They seem to be confused with pollination and fertilisation. The reasoning for these two process is vague (like the flower pollinate another flower) or inaccurate (the ovary is being fertilised or the ovule being fertilized by pollen grain).

I am glad that I have given them these exercise. By making their thinking visible, I know what they are not strong on and would work on their weak points!