Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Mixed Feelings

I had always thought that whatever feelings parents have for the t-scores begin and end on the day the result is released.

My first experience with PSLE tells me that the 't-score effect' continues to last through the week after the release. It could possibly last through Christmas and even Chinese New Year when we meet relatives and friends.

William was sharing with me how he had gone to the nearby coffeeshop to buy his lunch when he met a parent of a child he had tutored. Even before he said anything, she told him she already know Coco's t-score.

While we are relieved that Coco has passed the mark of her school of choice, we are very aware that most parents are having a hard time coming to terms with unexpected results. If those who score 250 and above are the top ten percent of the cohort, then there are about 70 to 80% of the children or/and parents who have not got their expected results.

I know of parents who are overjoyed that their children did not fail PSLE, meaning the children get to go to Normal (Technical). Some others are happy that their children made it to the Express stream, and still others are glad that their children could go to Normal (Academic).

Most of these parents do not impose high expectations on their children. Usually, they just want their children to do a grade better than what they do in school. A child who had consistently scored 30/100 for Maths managed to get a B at PSLE. I am sure the mother would have felt immensely relieved and ecstatic. A child who had consistently got 50/100 for English managed a B at PSLE. I have no doubt the mother would be all smiles.

Most people would focus on the 'Highest aggregate score this year: 285' and think about how far their children are from the score, and who this child could possibly be. Few would think about the 'Lowest aggregate score this year: 43' and who the child could be.

I am not sure how the child getting the lowest t-score islandwide feels about his results, but it's highly likely that he already know that he would not make it before he took PSLE.

Such a child would have:
- failed all his exams, consistently, throughout his school life
- got U grade (below 20 marks) for all his subjects
- nil parental support
- nil tuition
- not studied for PSLE
- been likely a Foundation stream student

It may sound ridiculous but there are children who are not able to read at P5 and there are some who can only read 'a' and 'the' in a sentence.

There are children who cannot write at P6. I have seen my fair share of poor writings, but William told me he once read a script at an official exam which had 'A boy is a man, a man is a boy, a boy is a man, a man is a boy ...' for the whole piece of writing.

Indeed, our education system has lost these children. They slip through the holes in the system and get 'promoted' to P6 regardless of their results, and get streamed into Foundation.

After the results are released, they are retained for a year and get to try at PSLE again. Then they fail again, and are asked to go to Northlight or other institutions for students who fail PSLE twice.

It is likely that these children are from neighbourhood schools. Is it because the teachers at neighbourhood schools are less competent?

My question then would be: Are not all teachers trained by the same institution?

My take on the seemingly wide gap between teachers in neighbourhood schools and 'good' schools is that: teachers in good schools are given time to teach, reflect on their own teaching and create customised resources for their own students.

Teachers in neighbourhood schools do not have this 'privilege'. They are expected to develop children, in my opinion, more holistically than the good schools' children, to make up for the shortfall in the academic performance. And to do this, they need to turn themselves into event planners, event managers, dance instructors, story-telling trainers, scriptwriters, decorators ... I am not sure how much of these do the teachers in good schools do, but you can be sure these adhoc roles take up a huge amount of time and energy.

Teachers are only human beings. When you keep them in school for 10 to 12 hours every day for meaningless meetings and workshops that achieve little, something has to give. And if teaching is at the bottom of the list to be appraised, you can be sure teaching well would be the last thing on the teachers' mind.

From what I have seen and experienced in Coco's school, the teachers do have alot more support from parents ie. from running events to supporting the academic programmes at home. When they need help, they write a letter or email to request for support, and most of the time, support pours in. They in turn become better and more motivated teachers. Yes, over the years, they do become 'better' teachers than the neighbourhood school ones.

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.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

SSDC Review

Just thought I could give a review on SSDC (Singapore Safety Driving Centre).

I used to google for 'Woodlands Driving School' for SSDC thinking that it is the layman way of calling it. Even when I took a cab to the school, I said it that way and the cab drivers understood it perfectly.

It was not until I called up the school to enquire about something that I realised that 'Woodlands Driving School' was actually a small private driving school, located at the overhead bridge opposite Admiralty MRT Station! I had walked past it every day for at least a month without realising it!

Length of time I took for:

Basic Theory Test

I signed up as a student since November 2011 and the test was in January 2012. During this time, I went for two compulsory theory lessons and sat for 6 consecutive practices prior to the test.

The practice questions were just about what came out in the test, so it was easy to have a perfect score within 5 or 6 minutes during the test.

Final Theory Test

The test was booked immediately after my BTT and I waited for 3 months, till April 2012, before I could take it. I should have started my practical lessons in January but I wanted to make sure I could pass the Final Theory Test first, for the technophobic that I am and the fact that William and my elder sister told me I could never make it for the FTT. I didn't want to waste money on practicals if I could not pass the FTT.

Same thing. I went for two compulsory theory lessons and 4 practices. And passed with perfect score within 5 to 6 minutes again.

Practical Lessons

The manual car practical lessons have to be booked at least 3 weeks in advance. Auto car lessons are thereabout, if not 1 or 2 weeks more.

On and off, you could check the website to see if anyone has given up his date nearer to the date that you want. If there is, you have to give up your original date and book it immediately, lest it gets snapped up again. I think Manual car practical lessons have fewer give-ups compared to Auto car, not that I have a lot of experiences with Auto car practicals though. But I do believe there are a bit more people learning Auto cars, so by the law of large number, there are more give-ups of the dates compared to Manual.

The driving instructors are mostly competent and patient. They have a sticker on their passenger dashboard that reads

to remind themselves not to lose temper or get impatient with the students.

The training cars have rear view mirror and a foot brake at the passenger seat for the instructors to help look out for mistakes and brake in time should the students be at risk of causing an accident.  

The instructors are very willing to explain whenever you are in doubt. They are willing to practise what you are weak in, over and over again. Of course, the skeptical ones will say 'it's so that they can make you spend more time and money in booking the lessons', but my objective was to learn it right, and pass the test.  

They give practical tips on how to clear the courses:  

Crank course: turn at the kerb once it passes the underside of the side mirror or if you are small-sized like me, when it passes the end of the car handle.  

S course: keep the windscreen pillar at the centre of the road to ensure that your car is always in the centre  

Directional change: make sure the car is in the centre of the road and allow the side mirror to go over the front kerb by just a little bit before you do the course. When turning into the lot, do a full-lock to the right to get the car in. Reverse till the side mirror covers the kerb.   When getting out, turn left immediately when the right side mirror passes the kerb.  

Vertical parking: keep to the right side of the lane (without stepping on the white line) till the white line meets the GPS reader. Advance to the point where you can see the leftmost inner kerb lying on top on the car sticker at the left rear window. Do a full-lock to the left and reverse slowly and pay attention to the left rear wheel.  

If the left rear wheel is too near (about to hit) to the kerb, steer one round, or two rounds to the right to clear the kerb. If the left rear wheel is too far from the kerb, stop the car, advance forward as you turn to the right to close the gap, and straighten the car before you reverse it by full-locking to the left again.  

I took a long time to learn vertical parking because I could not grasp what 'too near to the kerb' meant. And I had to memorise the corrective actions: If too near, turn one round to the right while reversing; If too far, go forward and straighten the car first. It is a formula to me.  

Parallel parking: keep to the centre of the lane - the white line would be under the pillar of the windscreen. Advance to the point where you can see the front inner kerb from the left rear window. Then turn one round to reverse into the lot. When the kerb is cleared, reverse to the point where your right rear wheel touches the yellow line of the lot (which indicates the side of the lot). When it reaches the yellow line, turn one round to the right immediately. After that, keep reversing until the mud flap goes above the kerb at the back. Now the car is in the lot, except that it is slanted. To get it straightened, turn full-lock to the left and advance slowly. Then turn two rounds back to straighten the wheels. After that, reverse the car till the kerb at the back meets the centre of the mud flap and you are in the centre of the lot.  

I never had a problem with parallel parking because it is a set of formula and I was able to move the car super slow.

Some people had problems with coordination with turning the steering wheel and stepping on the accelerator. They tend to turn slowly and step lightly, or turn quickly and step hard on the accelerator. So the instructor would advise them to turn the wheels when the car is stationary. The instructor's rationale: it is better to lose 2 points by turning the wheels when stationary than lose 10 points by hitting the kerb or risk immediate failure by mounting the kerb.  

I have met about 3 in my entire experience at the centre that I deem as not-so-competent. The first one did not know how to explain why it was vital to check mirrors, the other two only chit-chatted with me throughout the driving lesson.

The good ones observe your mistakes and correct them immediately. A senior instructor told me,"Don't just follow what the instructors tell you. You must know what you are doing. If not by the time you go home, your brain is empty."

I went for the driving lessons every day on weekdays ie. Monday to Friday starting from 10 April and I completed all my subjects at the end of May.

Driving Test

Each wait for a driving test was about 3 months. That means that you need to spend some money on revision lessons closer to the driving test date so that you don't get rusty on driving.

I had booked both my tests on Wednesdays, not because I liked Wednesday. It just so happened that the dates fell on Wednesdays. I booked the revision lessons on consecutive weekdays just before the test date, including one just before the test so that I was more seasoned at driving. The centre includes one 'warm-up session' right before the test for you to familiarise yourself with the test car ie. to familiarise yourself with the biting point, to adjust the seat and mirrors to your preference before the test. The 'warm-up' instructor would take you on the circuit and a test route once, after which he would lead you back to the waiting room to wait for the tester.

Price to pay

In all, I spent about $2000 on the 30 lessons (mostly off-peak charges), spent close to $800 for the 8 revision lessons and the first test, and another $700 on the 6 revision lessons and the second test. About $3500 in all.

For a technophobic who needs clear instructions, step-by-step lessons and practical tips to learn driving, I think the centre worked for me. Rather than going to private instructors which requires a lot of online reading-up and taking the risk of meeting irresponsible ones, I think I made the right choice in going to a centre.

'Poor men pay twice'. I'd rather go the conventional route and pay more than have doubts if I was learning the correct stuff from private instructors. Besides, as students of the centre, we get to use the circuit every lesson. That to me is very important, because when you clear the circuit with zero demerit points, it boosts your confidence and you have a very high chance in passing the driving test since you would have 18 points allowance for the road-driving.

Thursday, 15 November 2012


I was googling for a solution to Coco's friendship problem when I came across an article about How to deal with mean girls cliques.

I was surprised to read that mean girls cliques are common just about everywhere, any country. Many mothers shared in their comments that their daughters were facing hostile treatment by girls' cliques. One thing was striking across the sharing: their daughters were good-looking or good in studies or something else. It appears that their daughters were ostracised because other girls were jealous of them.

When my sister was looking through a new stack of pictures I had recently developed, she saw Coco and her friends among the photographs and casually commented that Coco was the best-looking among them and said that her friends could have been jealous of her.

I took a second look at the pictures. Yeah, she IS the best-looking girl among those girls. One of the girls had actually remarked to Coco,"You do know you are ugly, right?" and hurt her very much.

For me, a statement from the articles I had surfed stood out well and strong:

Girls with low self-esteem will go around forming toxic relationships their entire life.

Mothers who shared in the Comment section are anxious that their daughters were ostracised because they knew that such alienation and ostracisation would affect their daughter's self-esteem. So do I.

The statement made me reflect on my own life.

Low self-esteem indeed makes you do a lot of stupid things, makes you believe that you don't deserve the good things, good people, relationships ...

When I was young, I never thought that I could get into a university. I 'knew' I was too stupid to do well in studies.

But when Coco came along, I told myself that getting a degree is imperative. Without it, I would never be able to give her a decent life, not to mention a good one. With what I deemed as supernatural intervention, for the criteria of NIE entry to be brought down solely for General Paper - from the previously required A2 to B3, while 'O' level English was brought up from B4 to B3, I could apply for the degree programme and got in quite effortlessly.

And I put in a lot of hard work for the degree. I sat through 9 hours straight at the computer to do up a 4-person project which undoubtedly got us an excellent grade. I started on my assignments the moment I received them. I was just very grateful that I was given a chance at studying again, and a degree programme at that.

Prior to the exams, I looked through the past year papers and sussed out the possible questions and topics. I ditched all the 'you cannot memorise' advice and memorised like hell. I believe too much in the 'you cannot memorise' rubbish since primary school and look at the kind of rubbish results I got all my life!

And I got what I wanted. A good degree that could give me a decent paycheque in teaching, my childhood ambition, except that it came really late - ten years after my peers who have decent self-esteem done it.


I was told I was stupid and slow since a young age. I could never grasp what others could in a heartbeat. When my sisters were asking my father about how to make a car move, I was disinterested, thinking that I could never understand what the gear does.

When my siblings got their driving license, I still could not picture myself driving. It did not help that I am a technophobic. I have this strange fear when I first come into contact with a new machine, that I may cause it to break down or explode. I still have great fear of the stove or microwave oven exploding whenever I use them, every single time. I imagine how I would dash to the sink or washing area to douse the flame if a combustion occurred.

I told myself I could never drive. In any case, my family told me I could never pass the driving test.

But my father's eyesight is failing. He is getting frail. One day, he will no longer be able to drive me or Coco. It suddenly dawned on me that it is my turn to drive him and getting a license is imperative. It is no longer a choice for me.

So I put my mind to it, and today I am a licensed driver. Not a proficient one yet, but a licensed one nevertheless, and I did it 18 years later than most people.


When I was in church, I told myself that the guys in church are 'too good' for me. When I met nice and good guys in school or outside, I told myself that I didn't deserve 'good guys'. In the end, I ended up with bastards and jerks. And I wondered why! 'Toxic relationships', indeed.

An ex-colleague told me that she was reading 'The Secret' and it said that everything that we are is what we have always wanted for ourselves. And she thought how true it was. She was often lamenting why things turn out this and that way for her but it struck her that she had subconsciously asked for them.

How true!

And all these, I have no doubt, are a result of our self-esteem.

Low self-esteem gives a girl nothing but pain. Yet the pain comes from the girl herself. Ironic and painful. With low self-esteem comes low self-worth. Low self-worth makes you think that you don't deserve something better.

It stems from childhood. We don't grow out of it if it is never dealt with.

Building self-esteem

A video at the end of the article gives some tips at 'How to boost your child's self-esteem':

1) Listen to your child
2) Give constructive criticism
3) Encourage independence and decision-making ie. allow the child to help out in the kitchen, trust the child to drive the family's car
4) Encourage creativity ie. allow the child to explore what they like to do or have a talent in doing eg. music, art, sports
5) Be a good role model ie. show the child how to stand up to bullying and how to find worth among family and friends

I am guilty of not consistently doing (1) to (4). The only thing I ever did for Coco was (5). For the weakling that I always had been, I braced myself to stand up to unfair treatment especially when I had Coco with me. Surprisingly, it did not quite rub off on her. Sometimes when she was given the wrong thing for which she had paid for, she would not dare to return to the shop and ask to have the stuff that she had paid for. I would go back with her and do it for her on her behalf.

Hope floats though. Just yesterday, she bought some vegetarian bee hoon and the stallholder took $1.15 from her when the bee hoon cost $1. I told her to tell the stallholder that he should give $0.15 back to her instead. It took her some hesitation and courage, but she did it anyway.

When she went to buy some milk at a 7-Eleven store shortly after, the cashier told her the milk cost $2.50 and took $2.60 from her. She was surprised and told the cashier that she had charged her $2.60 instead of the said $2.50. The cashier was a little taken aback but she quickly apologised and clarified that the milk cost $2.60.

Courage is not the easiest thing to build, but it is the first step to constructing good self-esteem.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

My First Driving Test

My first attempt was a wrecky, miserable failure which accummulated 30 demerit points with 1 immediate failure (mounted kerb).

It was 8 August, 11 am. I had timed it well - auspicious date (8/8), a day before National Day, a public holiday, so that the tester would be in a good or holiday mood; best timing as advised by my last driving instructor as it was supposed to have the least traffic during that period.

I told my sisters, parents, some friends about the test. They wished me lots of 'good luck'.

I wanted so badly to pass at the first attempt because my third sister, brother-in-law and brother had passed at the first attempt. I wanted to prove everyone who had laughed at me and 'prophesied' that I could never pass a driving test wrong very badly. And each time I return for revision lessons and driving test/s, it cost me another $700 to $800. On top of that, time was not on my side. I knew I would not have the luxury of time to learn driving when I return to teaching next year.

There was a lot of expectations and pressure from myself to pass at the first attempt.

But for some reason, I did not think that the tester wanted to pass me. It was the look in his eyes. The moment he met me, he asked,"First time?"

During the test, when I was doing parallel parking, he commented,"It's not parallel yet." when I was still adjusting my position; when I was doing directional change and reversing into the lot, he said,"Go in, go in." as if I was not reversing at all. Driving instructors had warned me against testers' telling or teaching you what to do as testers usually keep quiet as you go about your test except giving instructions on what to do. As I turned left to a straight route after completing my parallel parking, I mounted the kerb. And I knew I failed the test. After that, I went on to accummulate even more demerit points, especially when on the road.

He asked me to lane-change during heavy traffic. Suddenly, I saw all types of vehicles on the road - motorcycles, vans, cars ... ... I felt so deceived! What 'least traffic'? Never had I lane-changed under such heavy traffic condition!

So, my takeaway from my first attempt at the driving test are:

- if the tester had meant to fail you, you will fail;
- nevermind what timing it is. If the tester had meant to make things difficult for you, he will find a very busy road for you, especially at cross-road junction, to lane-change;
- you need a lot of luck - good ones - to meet a kind tester.

William and my driving instructors did tell me that the testers would fail you if they think you are not confident. I thought it ridiculous since there would be a set of rubrics or checklist to benchmark how you drive against it and they cannot fail you just because they feel or think negatively of you.

But they are really right. Testers can always give you demerit points for not checking blindspots and not doing safety checks at the drop of the hat. One safety check indicated by the turning of head would constitute 4 points. It is so easy to chalk up 18 points!

I had felt depressed after I failed my driving test. I told my family and friends that I would like to give up learning driving since it was not meant to be. My family members who took the driving test in Singapore passed at the first attempt, and I could not do it. So they were right about me not being able to pass a driving test ever.

But strangely, this time round, everyone encouraged me to do it again!

My brother said,"My colleagues only passed at *can't remember* attempt."
My third sister said,"It is not common to pass at the first attempt. Most people don't pass at the first attempt."
My fifth sister said,"Our third sister has a biking license, so it's easier for her to pass at first attempt."
My elder sister said,"You are crazy not to continue! Spending a few thousands on getting an experience for learning driving is too expensive!"
My father said,"You should try again. If not, it would be a waste of money."

All of them wore a shocked look as they dished out their 'encouragement'.

If you know my family, including William, you would know that the only words that come out of their mouth are "You will fail one lah!" "You look ugly!" "You are stupid!" "You can't do it!"

So I grudgingly signed up for another driving test and instead of 8 revision lessons which I had done for my first driving test, I decided to do just 6, just to show that I did 'put in effort' for it.

I chose the very next test date and an 11.45 am slot, a timing close to lunch time. But I thought: if the tester wants to fail you, you can choose a 12 am slot and he will still be able to find you an ultra-heavy traffic road for you to lane-change.

The first day I returned for my revision lesson, I saw a test car doing parallel parking. The car was in the lot already, but the tester was standing between the car and the kerb to, possibly, see if the car was in the centre of the lot. Then he went to the back of the car, and stood on top of the kerb, and said something. The car moved backward and hit the kerb. Undoubtedly, 10 demerit points would be deducted for striking kerb.

I thought that was a very mean tester, but that was not within our control. As what my mother said,"Keep trying. You can't have bad luck all the time." Yeah, but my question is: when will the good luck occur leh? 2nd time? 3rd time? 8th time? or 100th time?

I Passed!

I went for my second attempt at the driving test yesterday. And I passed, with a mere 6 demerit points!

The tester didn't even go through my mistakes with me at the waiting room after the test. He handed me the assessment slip and said,"You passed. Go to 4th level to watch a video."

'Overjoyed' is an understatement. I couldn't help but smiled and smiled and smiled.

The receptionist commended me as she returned me my result slip,"You are very good. So less points. Some people 8 times already still more than 50 points!"

This time round, the tester was an old, kind-looking man.

He was quiet throughout the test except giving instructions on where to go.

I breathed heavily to try to calm my nerves, almost throughout the test.

As I was about to move off at the start of the test, I realised that the car did not budge despite me stepping on the accelerator and lifting the clutch.

Then I realised I have not changed the gear from its 'free' position and released the handbrake!

I told myself that's at most 2 points off, or even zero, since it was the first time I made the mistake.

But I think the tester put it down as 'insufficient acceleration' which constituted 4 points.

It helped that I thought it was only 2 points. If I had known he had knocked off 4 points, I might panic, again.

Everything else was smooth and good.

Earlier on during the last revision lesson, I mounted kerb on the crank course twice. The instructor was so nice. He told me to allow the kerb to go past the handle before turning and that worked beautifully for me.

Upon returning to the centre, as I drove back to the waiting room, I saw the '!' sign on the board. I was shocked, knowing that something was not right. Terms like 'handbrake', 'seatbelt', 'clutch', 'brake' rushed through my mind, but I decided not to do anything and pretended all was alright. I did not want to show the tester that I did not even know what the sign meant.

This time round, the tester did not make me lane-change under heavy traffic condition, and he took me to a proper test route! So my hunch was right: if the tester means to fail you, he will take you to a heavy traffic area to do lane-change.

I am a worry wart and a nervous wreck. Practicals are far more challenging for me than an average person. My hands turn cold involuntarily, goosebumps rise on me all over and my stomach churns when nearing test time. I would need to go to the toilet, and something solid would really come out. In the days that lead up to the actual assessment, I would suffer insomnia.

How did I go through it all afraid and nervous? I read sad stuff that made me feel depressed or pensive. I read an article 'liked' by a friend about how the writer's lumberjack father was frustrated by his failing body. It calmed me and made me think that there is more to life than a driving test. And even if I don't pass the test, forever and ever, it is not as if I am handicapped or paralysed. I got nothing to lose, except money and time invested in the driving lessons.

It was not easy, still. I was still nervous when the tester sat beside me. So I breathed heavily. Doesn't matter that the tester know I am nervous. Know lor. Fail, fail lor. Not like I never fail before.

So I think feeling depressed and pessimistic about myself passing helped. Of course, at the back of my mind, I knew that if I failed again, I might not have the time to do it again, but I just had to tell myself that not knowing how to drive was okay. Anyway, I was deemed by the whole world not to be able to drive ever, for the technophobic that I am.

Oh oh, and for my second attempt, I did not tell anyone except William about it, until I passed it - an advice given by my third sister. Her exact words: Next time, don't tell anyone about it.

That really helped!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Baby's First Concert

Baby's kindergarten had a graduation ceremony and concert for the K2 graduands a fortnight ago.

 Parents of the graduands were busy taking pictures of their little ones
 Then I spotted Baby! She had told us that she was the 'flower girl', but we did not really know what she meant. We had guessed that she was to present flowers to the VIP or Guest of Honour, but I was skeptical about her being the 'selected one'. And there she was, sitting among the emcees.

 The steps were huge. She needed a little help to get her up on stage.
 And she presented the gift to the pastor who gave a speech prior to the ceremony
 She and her class performed an item, Victory Chant
 The children chuckled, amused to see themselves on the screen as they turned to return to the backstage. The audience laughed to see such pure innocence.

 And that's my nephew in another dance item
 All nursery and kindergarten classes performed, except the graduating classes

 Enthusiastic parents taking pictures of their babies' performance

A buffet awaited the hungry crowd after the concert. And I was just contented to have a picture with my baby.