Saturday, 31 July 2010

Teachers - 猪八戒照镜子

Saw the news on yahoo! about a 14-year-old school girl who kicked her teacher in her abdomen and hit her head.

The teacher was insisted by her husband to file a police report.

The news invited many comments. Most are accurate in pointing out that the child's problem stems from her family. Having been in the education field for a few years and dealt with problematic children, I have come to realise that parents are so agitated about teachers' complaining about their children because very often, children are the reflection of a bigger trouble or problem, which is the parents. When you complain about a child's behaviour, the parents feel disgruntled because you are insinuating that they have failed in their parents' duty. These parents often feel insulted, whether they are conscious of it or not. Most of them get defensive. There are some who take it in their stride and appreciate the feedback. However, there are others who feel that you are picking a bone with the child, as well as the parents themselves.

It's hard to believe that until now, there are commenters who still believe that the fault lies with the teacher:
1) She must have treated the child unfairly, prompting the child to react violently.
2) She did not use love to melt the child by showing concern and care.
3) She lodged a police report. It leaves a bad mark on the child and makes the child feel that she is condemned.

These people naively think that all children are mouldable and should be given chances neverendingly.

Up till now, I can confidently say that every teacher I have met is compassionate and has a heart for the children. Sometimes I wonder in awe at the discernment or wisdom of the MOE interviewers who are able to sieve out these teachers. Whether they are competent in their teaching subjects - that's another matter. But in terms of recruiting teachers who have a heart for the children, I'm pretty sure the MOE interviewers have done a neat job.

However, like many other earthlings, we are only humans and have a limit to our tolerance.

Like the rest of the earthlings, we want to give the recalcitrant child a clean slate when we first take over the child in a new class.

But very often, the child's unacceptable behaviour has become a norm or habit for himself. The child views teachers as enemies and refuses to give teachers a chance at working out the relationship. Not the other way round.

If teachers are not bogged down with so much work, perhaps they can afford to take time out to talk to the child, to counsel the child, to be extra nice to the child.

The fact is: I don't even have time to go through a previous lesson with children who were on MC!

A child approached me and asked me to help her with a lesson she had missed. I wanted to work out a day which I could do just that, but I went," Monday I cannot. Tuesday I have supplementary until 3pm. Wednesday I also have supplementary. Thursday I have meeting until 6pm. Friday I also cannot. ... How about next week? ... Oh dear, next week also cannot ... The week after next? ... Too late already."

My situation is not uncommon. Other teachers said the same thing happens to them. They would like to help the good children catch up on what they have missed but due to time constraint, they are not able to do it.

It's a sad fact that despite teachers having a heart for the children, there is little we can do. The schools have this idealised picture of teachers' time being used fruitfully, but they have failed to realise that children are at the ultimate losing end of this calculation. I wonder what sort of society Singapore will become 10 or 20 years down the road.

William mentioned once that an ex-colleague said that it's scary to see into the future of Singapore, because he or she could picture their students robbing the by-then elderly teachers along the street, since these students are not disciplined or have the right values inculcated in them since young.

It's easy to say that teachers should be the one inculcating the right values, but what use is inculcation if there's no discipline? Children cannot be just nagged at or said to. In the process of moulding, surely discipline must come into the picture.

Sometimes I want to laugh when parents tell me,"Go ahead and beat him if he's not paying attention! Go ahead and beat him if he's naughty! I give you permission to do just that!"

The fact is: my boss says 'cannot'. And what if you go back on what you said if I really do it?

A parent recently was appalled when I told her that her child does not pay attention in class despite being right under the teacher's nose. She said that I ought to punish him.

I asked,"Oh, how should I punish him?"

She was audibly surprised at the question, repeating,"How should you punish him??"

The fact is: teachers cannot punish students.

Writing lines? It has been criticised by educators as being ineffective and senseless.

Scold him? Have done that. Not effective.

Use peer pressure to get him to behave himself? Have done that. Not effective.

Make him stay back after school? I have to keep tab of the time and call the parent up to inform her that I'm making him stay backfor how long. I once got too busy and forgot about a child, the parent came to the school and told me off. Making children stay back after school is ineffective. At best, they stay back and said 'sorry' to you and repeat their offences. At worst, they run away, giving no regard to your instructions at all.

Ask him to stand outside the classroom? The bosses will question you if they see it happening. And they will question the effectiveness of the punishment and whether any learning has taken place despite the punishment.

Isn't it ridiculous? The child must not miss out on the lessons despite being punished!

Cane him? We're educators and must never touch the child.

So how should I punish him?

If you're wondering what my title for this post means, it's a Chinese proverb about Pigsy, the second disciple of Xuan Zang or 唐三藏, who views his own reflection in the mirror.

The following line is: 里外不是人 ('not a human'), meaning your hands are tied - criticised no matter what you do or how you handle the matter.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Strangers in being Better than Friends

What prompted me to blog about this is my grouse about not being able to blog as often as I would like.

Being an introspective person, I certainly have loads to blog about. But I don't have the luxury to blog as and when I like. I can't blog at work, not because I'm so lousy at multi-tasking that I can't blog while in school, but because I heard that the school tracks down every website and links the staff go to. A colleague was warned by the higher authorities when he was found to sell things on Ebay in the staffroom! Not so recently after I logged onto the web-based yahoo messenger, I realised that that particular website is being locked from my school laptop. It is considered as a 'malicious site'! Fortunately, Amjad has informed me of yet another web-based yahoo website. I call this '道高一尺,魔高一丈'.

I can't blog when William stands just beside me or hangs around in the house. It's like having someone standing behind you when you're making a diary entry, looking over your shoulder to see your inner thoughts.

I don't want my bosses to come to know about my blog since I have various grouses about my job, which I have freely expressed. And I'm not comfortable with the idea that they read my blog from that day forth. I'd probably stop blogging, or start from scratch with another blog address. Sometimes when I look at the amount of blog posts I've chalked up over the months and years, I really think it'll be a waste if I ever have to shut it down. I don't know how I would be able to save all these information and feelings as soft copies (!).

It's a strange feeling knowing that some strangers are reading your blog. I'm not sure how many people think like me, but I feel vulnerable sharing my inner thoughts with people I know. More often than not, people who are close to you could use what they know about you intimately to attack you when the relationship goes through a rough patch. We have a choice in what we want to share or keep secret, but it hurts doubly when your closed ones are using what you have chosen to divulge to them in a vicious way. On top of that, it makes you feel insipid to have opened your innermost self to someone who does not give a damn about how you feel just because it is a heated moment.

My favourite authoress has mentioned in one of her short prose collection that friends are for the purpose of despising. What she meant is: human beings have the tendency to compare themselves and their friends. When others compliment that your friend is excellent in something, you are tempted to say,"Is it? She wasn't like this when I first knew her." or something to that effect. Because we know our friends from a long time ago, we know much more about them and their history compared to our acquaintance, and we can easily use this knowledge to discredit them.

I remember when I was 15, I confessed to a close friend that I had 'tested' her several times to 'test' her character, half thinking naively that she would be happy that she'd stood the 'tests'. She got angry and bitter with me instead and ignored me for some time. It probably changed the way she looked at me and our friendship as well.

I had a close friend when I was at NIE. We hung out together in and out of school. Eventually, I thought she was close enough to be deemed a best friend during that time. I told her about my life story. I was sorely disappointed that she immediately viewed me with a different kind of look that sentenced me to a 'status' lower than her.

These hurting incidents taught me that most people, no matter how close you are, prefer strengths to weaknesses. So now, I don't share with people about my innermost thoughts unless I am sure I won't be bothered about how they look at me, rather than out of the closeness we share.

It sounds ironical that it's easier to be understood or accepted when you're total strangers. Strangers do not have any bearing on your life (most of the time) and they can't or can't be bothered to hurt you (most of the time). Strangers generally don't have fixed or preconceived expectations on you and thus it's easier for them to accept you in your initial, truest form, especially when you don't meet physically. First impression counts, and like what a friend said,"First impression lasts, unfortunately." But in a virtual world, the only first impression is the presentation of a blog, which can be deceiving. Most people are shallow, but not to the extent of staying at the level of a blog presentation.

Apart from being understood by perfect strangers, I have enjoyed reading the comments posted by them, although being a poor conversationist, I sometimes don't really know how to respond, or sometimes it just feels unnatural to respond after a long lapse. Such lack of response is also common to my style of chatting. Sometimes I keep quiet for so long the other party thought I am gone when it is really because I don't know what to say next.

I am not sure if this is an extension of how I was like when I was on the phone with boys when I was in my mid teens to early twenties . I didn't make an effort to say something when I didn't know what to say because I felt that they were the ones who should entertain me rather than me being hard on myself and trying too hard to reciprocate the chat. The reluctance to make an effort probably evolved into a 'disability' in making conversations work both ways even when it's hard. I've seen and read how other bloggers are able to comment back anytime, on anything. I thought that's admirable, especially when after reading some difficult-to-reply comments, I thought to myself,"Now, how is the blogger going to respond to this comment?" and the bloggers surprisingly reply in unexpected ways. Or I supposed any way would be 'unexpected' to me since I could not think of any decent reply to those comments.

Okay, I digress.

That about sums up why I am often a weekend blogger, just like how I am a weekend mum.

Congrats, Sumiko Tan

Wow! She's finally married. The blissful day being last Sunday, at Four Seasons.

Got the pics from here.

For a woman at her 46, she sure looks good huh?

Congratulations, Sumiko!

Sweet Success

Coco brought me glad tidings when I was coaching her in her Chinese yesterday: she is among the Top Ten highest scorers for her latest Chinese mini test in the class!

Coco has always been average in written Chinese, although she is considered as 'below average' in her Chinese-strong school. She is in the range of 0 to 20 percentile in her Chinese SA1 result. At her 'lowest' period, her Chinese teacher would taunt me with one or two twenty-minute-long phone calls per week and asked me to help motivate her in her Chinese work, gave me feedback on how her attitude towards Chinese ought to improve and informed me that she hadn't been handing in her Chinese homework.

I have always felt that Coco's Chinese is average and is within my expectation. After all, I made a conscious effort of keeping her from mastering the language for 10 years. I didn't want the learning of Chinese to interfere with her mastery of English since I feel that English, being a foreign language, is the more difficult of the two. Even up till today, this is still how I feel. However, I do want to target for at least an 'A' at her PSLE. And I thought her progress is checked and she is learning at her own pace.

But of course, such pace is unacceptable to the Chinese teacher. She expects instant improvements ie. in Coco's attitude towards Chinese, her handing in of assignments and being good at the language.

Sometimes Coco gets 41 out of 48 for her test, and she still falls below the median mark of the class.

This is because she is in this programme called 'Intermingling Programme' where children who had passed the first round of GEP (Gifted Education Programme) screening test study together with the GEP children at Mother Tongue lessons. And the top ten scorers are always the GEPers and they almost always get perfect scores.

This time round, Coco was among the Top Ten scorers for her mini test: a good 41 out of 45!

And she's the only non-GEPer within the Top Ten. Even the teacher was impressed and praised her for making an even greater improvement among her attitude towards Chinese and handing in of assignments.

At the rate that she's going, perhaps I can hope for an A* at PSLE? :)

Not only in Chinese have I seen an improvement, she seems to have become more sensible lately. She wakes up when I asked her to in the morning, dresses herself, combs and ties her hair by herself, uses her inhaler on her own, and above all, she does her homework without being told now!

I hope she stays this way for a long time to come.

On reflection, I wonder what actually had worked on her: my caning or my letting go.

I cane her when she wastes time instead of doing things that are constructive because something I read had impressed upon me - '不爱惜时间的孩子不会懂得珍惜生命' ('A child who idles his time away does not treasure life'). I thought that is so true. At the same time, I shudder to think of what kind of an adult would Coco grow up to be if she continues to while her time away. So the moment I have to call for her for 3 times, I would dash into her room with a clothes hanger and cane her on her butt. When I check that she has not done her homework after I come home at 6pm, I cane her without asking.

Strangely, at the same time, I try not to stress myself over her studies. Emotionally, I have felt more balanced after I'd splurged on myself by buying bags I fancy. I used to save every cent I have for Coco, so much so that I feel let down the moment she is imperfect or falls short of my expectations and would take it out on her. I justified my anger with the amount of money I had stinged on myself to save for her or spend on her. After buying a Kate Spade bag, I felt better about my treatment of myself. After that, I went ahead and splurged on an LV bag. It feels very good indeed - treating yourself well! I never knew it could feel this good.

I don't feel the compelling need to sit Coco down every time I see her to go through this and that now although I do feel that she should do more assessment books and papers. I don't feel unhappy and grudging that I'm earning and spending on Coco alone all the time now. I feel that the spending on myself makes me a more balanced person as well as a mother.

I'm not too sure which worked but I'm glad Coco is seeing fruits of her labour and tasting success in her weakest subject.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

In Limbo

I'm in limbo - between staying and leaving.

I'm actually trying not to make any decision ... until perhaps the lawyer calls to make the next appointment.

I've approximately another 1 or 2 weeks to be in this state of uncertainty.

I look at Baby and I'm not sure.

I just woke up from a dream, or some dreams.

I dreamt of being old and living in a small flat, probably a three-room flat, and being neighbours with equally poor folks, but we're all helpful to one another.

I dreamt that my knee joints were painful when I got up from squating down to wash a milk-stained cloth that was used to clean up an orphan. And I walked with a limp towards a cabinet because of the pain in the knees. ... Scary.

I dreamt of myself arranging tables and chairs for a debate in school. There were 3 teams - Proposition, Opposition and Proposition! Is this a hint at how crappy schools are getting? Doing the unnecessary to create more work?

I'm kinda desperate. I actually posted my problem in a forum to see what responses I would get. I thought people would ask me to stay and give him another chance. Surprisingly, most people asked me to leave.

To qualify my post at the forum, I always try to be as objective as I can by posting up his flaws and merits, although his flaws are evidently, invariably more numerous than his merits. This is so that I can give people a better picture of what he's been doing to make up to ask me to stay.

Reasons listed by those who are for me to leave:

1) It's a loveless marriage.

2) I've already taken the first step, don't look back.

3) If he meant to change, he will change regardless of whether I stay or leave. If he changes despite my departure, then it's for the permanent and I can get back with him 5 years down the road (!!!). But the forummer didn't think that he will change.

4) I should give myself a new lease of life.

5) I should stop living in denial and think that he will ever change.

6) Life with him is miserable. Life alone will be better.

Reasons listed by those who are for me to stay:

1) He may change if I stay.

2) Gambling addicts can quit their addiction if they go through counselling.

After reading the thread I started, I told William once about point (3) above - that if he meant to change, he will change whether I stay or leave and we can be together again a few years down the road if he really does change. To which he replied,"I know you're not that sort of person who will get back with me if you ever break away from me."

And he's right. When you've given up, you've given up. I don't believe in reunite-with-your-love-after-thousands-of-years kind of story. If I ever leave, it'll be a new chapter of a book.

... ...

I don't know how to end this post, after leaving it on for 45 minutes.

I guess it's also in limbo.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Day 6: Giant Buddha

Still staying at Disneyland Hotel, we took the Disneyland MTR train to Sunny Bay Station to take a train to Tung Chung Station after our Sorcerer's Lounge breakfast.

We saw the famous Citygate Outlets Shopping Centre just outside Tung Chung MTR Station and made a mental note to shop at this place after the Giant Buddha trip.

Ngong Ping Cable Car Tower is a stone's throw away from Citygate Outlets.

Two types of cabin: Crystal and Standard.
We took the Standard Cabin 'cos we didn't need the see-through floor. Singapore also have.
Staff taking pictures for the visitors who will be coaxed to buy the prints at the end of their cable car trip.
"Little girl, look over here!"
A whole line of cable cars
A meandering river or road? I like the meandering look in what look like a valley

There are actually crazy people out there who took the steps up to Ngong Ping Village.
Hong Kong Airport

After 25 minutes or so, we're finally here!

First zero plastic bag village - Ngong Ping Village

But they use plastic bags in this huge display
People catching forty winks in a pavillion. I wondered why ...

Tourist attractions: Walking with Buddha and Monkey's Tale Theatre

I thought the paper lanterns, or were they plastic (?), were not very environmentally friendly either
Wishing tree

We finally reached the place. At the bottom of the Buddha.

Finally up there! The more-than-200 steps almost had me hyperventilated!
The child in me always wondered what's behind the Buddha
A close-up of the Buddha
Strangely, it looks like it's waving goodbye at me
There are people living in the area!

We went for a bowl of tow huey after we came down the steps

Tow huey with gingery liquid. We still prefer the Singapore version.

The signs tell us how far away we are from the various landmarks of the world.

Coco exhausted from the short trip. Now I know why the people in the pavillion were sleeping.
Those are not dirt, but people fishing for sea creatures in the shallow waters!
We went to the Citygate Outlets foodcourt, meaning to look for the famed mango pudding but it was sold out. We had to settle for the mango roll - mango wrapped with glutinuous rice. It was tasty. We had another serving or two.
Coco's main course: wonton noodles with beef noodles soup base

Going to see the Giant Buddha is purely for my parents, but it was a tourist attraction so it was no loss to me either, although I could not say that it was thrilling. The view from the above was breathtaking - you could see a thick white layer of cloud above the village below. The air up there must be fresher.

Getting to Giant Buddha:
1) Tung Chung MTR STation
2) Take a cable car to Ngong Ping 360, which is basically a village.
3) From there, walk through the village till you reach the Buddha.

Ticketing information:
Standard Cabin
An adult round trip ticket cost HK 107 (S$19.50)
A child round trip ticket cost HK 54 (S$9.85)

Crystal Cabin
An adult round trip ticket cost HK 157 (S$28.60)
A child round trip ticket cost HK 104 (S$19)

You have the choice of taking a round trip on Crystal Cabin from Tung Chung and Standard Cabin from Ngong Ping or taking either of the cabins as a single trip and taking a bus (1 hour journey) back from Giant Buddha.

Reasons to leave

In my frustration and tiredness after waiting for students' parents to pick them up after the NDP Preview Show last night, I revealed to William that I was proceeding with the divorce, despite his plea.

I waited for my sister who mentioned she would pick me up at approximately 10pm in vain. When I called her at 10.15pm, she was still not ready to set off yet. The unbalanced feelings of being a teacher and had to work at graveyard hour in the school, being angry with parents who were impunctual at that kinda hour, being angry that my own husband doesn't have a car and thus I have to be subjected to this kinda treatment all added up at that moment.

And the only thing he could do was to sms me how Baby was behaving at that hour, when I was supposed to be home to be with my baby!

He has been giving me his money from giving tuition since a week ago, although I have no way to verify if those money is really all that he has, as he claims.

It is an effort to show that he really wants me to hold the pursestring and to get me to stay.

In my heart of hearts, I really do want a divorce.

Like I told him: if I am 30, 31, 32 or even 33, I will give you another chance. But these ages have passed, and I've given you so many chances. Now that I'm going on to 35, if I give you a chance, I'm denying myself a chance. And I just want a chance to start my life afresh, without you.

Another thing that's stopping me from giving him the 'last' chance is the fact that I had met up with the lawyer.

I don't want to cancel the whole thing with the lawyer and run back to him half a year later, or two years, five years or worse, ten years down the road.

If I ever cancel the proceedings, I want to be sure that I'm here to stay for ever.

But knowing William, I really cannot be sure he is someone I can spend the rest of my life with.

In fact, I have more evidence pointing to him being someone not suitable to spend the rest of my life with. Actually, I have nil evidence supporting this 'last' chance.

One of my sisters was saying that William will stand to gain while I don't if I stay. I racked my brain to search for benefits of staying with William and found that it was true. And I know for sure I will stand to gain much if I divorce him. 'Gaining much' not in terms of monies, but on the spiritual and emotional levels.

To a large extent, the desire to get a divorce has elevated to that of something that is more spiritual - for the preservation or regaining of my dignity. From my previous relationship, I have realised that when a woman loves till she loses her dignity in a relationship, there's nothing that should hold a woman back from leaving. If a man truly loves you, he will preserve your dignity for you. He won't trample on your dignity and corner you by blackmailing you emotionally.

I ask him to let me think about the matter. Like I said, the only reason for me to stay is Baby, but even then, I am not sure if I should let Baby live in a confrontational condition constantly. William never fails to quarrel with me in front of the kids. In fact, he does not hesitate to fight with me in public, on the street, in shops, anywhere. That's another aspect I'm looking at for divorce. I'm sick and tired of quarrelling, and putting up free shows for others to watch. I'm not a quarrelsome or confrontational person, but he wouldn't let you off if you don't give a response. And if you show any sign of being intimidated, his volume would get louder so that more people get to hear it. So I've learnt to be 'unreasonable' and 'shrewish', which is totally not me! I'm sick and tired of putting on warfare armour when I really am a small woman.

Even holding the pursestring - I never want to do it. A husband is supposed to be the head, the leader of a household. I just want to be a small and submissive wife who listens and supports the husband. This is my wish. That's why I've never tailgate William or check on his activities to see if he's telling me the truth. I truly believe that a husband and wife relationship ought to be totally transparent and truthful. If not, what's the point of being husband and wife?

People tell me I ought to set conditions for William to follow so that he doesn't go back to his old ways. Inside me, I feel miserable. A marriage that has to have conditions listed down in order to tame the husband. What kinda of f-up marriage is that? I know many marriages are like that and the wives don't mind. In fact, some of them pride themselves on these conditions as a husband-taming instrument. It's not me, but if I were to stay, I have to put some conditions down, simply because I have nil trust in William.

That brings me to another point that I should leave this marriage: no trust.

I have no faith in William that he will keep his side of bargain for long. Simply because he has no inkling of what a 'promise' is about. He has no qualms about breaking a promise because a promise 'gives people unnecessary pressure' or 'they are made to be broken'. He has lied and gone back on all his promises too often. I have no reason to believe in him again.

Honestly, I hate to say this as a Christian, but I truly feel liberated by my decision to get a divorce. I feel that I have been shackled by the belief that Christians should not divorce, for too long. Is that truly what God wants for His children - no matter what your husband does, don't divorce? I can only tell myself to put aside all my holy beliefs about a marriage and Christianity so that I can hold my head up as a sane human being.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Day 6: Breakfast at Sorcerer's Lounge

This is one of my top favourite spot in Hong Kong. It's a beautiful lounge in Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel: Sorcerer's Lounge.

Being a carpenter's daughter, I love the varied yet uniformed furniture for both form and function in the Lounge. The Victorian decor coupled with its sombre lighting gives the Lounge a mysterious and romantic feel. It has a Grand Lounge attached to it (the one with a CHJMES-like chandelier), just outside the Lounge itself. I had a hard time trying to decide which Lounge I wanted to dine at! Both are just as beautiful, in their own unique ways.

However, I must say that the food is not up to standard. Quite poor in fact. The noodles and skin of the har kow were equally hard, in particular. Nothing could be rated 'fantastic'. Enjoyed the different types of cheese nonetheless.