Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Random thoughts: Final reply to my letter

I wrote a post earlier, 13 months later, and being the last day of school, I read the "letter" again. And also the letter 6 months ago. So many have changed.


1) Shift your department teachers' mindset away from teaching to the test and examination. Deep learning or meta-cognitive learning have higher retention rate, it should not affect the results adversely too much. How many teachers have you convinced with your words, deeds and values? Or have you yourself thrown in the towel?

6m) I have not throw in the towel, although at times, I do struggle about drilling for more marks or teaching pupils how to learn. I think I did well with my low progress kids. This is the first time in my teaching career I receive unsolicited notes of thanks at the end of year and not teacher's day. 

How many teachers? Hmm, maybe 1? But if I struggle, I think she is lost.  

Now) thrown in the towel. Even for myself. Some of things I do like choice of writing etc still applied, but deep learning or metacognitive skills, not in my honest memory.

2) With the focus away from examinations and KPIs, you hope to see education as pupils actively pursuing knowledge and in whatever capacity, applying that knowledge. You have said that the following words stick in your head, let me remind you in case you forgotten. "The world economy no longer pays you for what you knows; Google knows everything...The world economy pays you for what you do with what you know." With the zero-sum pursuit of mindless competition of who produces more A pupils a National Trend, have you hold steadfast to your belief? Do you remember going to your MLS friend's school to teach for a trial lesson? They wear different uniforms from your pupils. With the bell curve effect, they doing well in PSLE mean the bell curve work against your own pupils. (Don't give me the shit that the new PSLE is standard referenced. It is just a static preset bell curve.) But you love them nonetheless, you think they are cute. You felt proud that Singapore provide good and decent education to pupils in the neighborhood. You suddenly felt that it is really meaningless and perhaps shallow to be upset about being "below National Average". Why should I be happy? The "national average" does not fluctuate that greatly, why should I derives so much happiness or sadness in beating fellow Singapore's Children? 

6) Surprising, I remembered that lesson and still talk about it. I have move even further away from ranking, and caught myself competing with my colleagues in terms of results produced. I decided to mindfully remind myself not to do it. They can do better than me, I should be happy and thankful of a strong team.

Now) well, honestly very affected by pupils' grade. But I do not see them as numbers. I have a few pupil very embrassed that they didn't do very well for the exam. I am now sure what happen on that actual day, but they sure did much worse than usual. When I go through the components, I told one of them who no longer looks me in the eyes after the results if she is feeling pie say. She said yes and felt she has disappointed everyone. I told her I am not just a teacher for pupils of good results but a teacher for my pupils. Its OK, no need to pie say.

One thing positive in the midst of being caught up in the pursuit of results, is I still believe everyone can learn, but I no longer believe everyone can pass. Didn't give up on the weakest of my pupil even though there are many calls to put him in Foundation stream, maybe I am too naive.

3) You wanted to prepare the pupils not just for the examinations, but also the future. You believe that joy in learning, is perhaps one of the ingredient for effective learning, and that pupils must be self-regulated learners. You realize that preparing pupils for examinations and the future in that sense, need not really be a zero-sum game, as the two are not mutually exclusive.

6)I did taught them how to be self-regulated learners. I do think pupils pick up some skills from me, but I think I am far from igniting joy in learning. I have however, think deeper about "joy" in learning. Joy, beside fun, is about self-discovery. I am going to move further in that direction.

Now) joy is also about seNSE of achievement. Sadly, I could not give it to most of my pupils. As for self_discovery, if it is about self-motivation to learn, I think I do have a few very motivated pupils whose attitude have improved from last year. But I suspected is the fact that PSLE is closing on them rather than any factors attributed to my teaching. A side note, the pupil that cried in my Chinese class for failing Maths last year, cried for Chinese even though she improved. As a cheapo teacher, I ask if she will cry again in her coming maths Periods. She laughed, wipe her tears and said her Math teacher won't ask. She reminded me of the dilligent girl I had in 2016, who work very hard and got an A but went to NT stream. Could see her working very hard aa compared to last year, wondered if the reverse would happen this year, that she did very well for other subjects but still fail Chinese. But from no talking at all to me, last year, to always asking questions and helping me.arranging my books, I think I can sense she appreciate my efforts as compared to a year ago. Although she still did not say much.

Self-dicovery, if its about confidence, I might have planted it in a few pupils because they find reading less taunting and the RESULTS reaffirmed their progress.

4) Joy of learning is not about having fun doing activities, it is about making sure every pupils can progress and achieve. You seek to do this with Differentiation Instructions (DI). You have in the past, pursuit only the form and not the substance of DI. You have a better understanding of the whole DI approach by Tomlinson , you understand what it means and possibly how to differentiate the process/ content or product according to pupils readiness or if possible, also take into considerations pupils' interest and profile. You are no expert in this, but with Formative Assessment (FA) and DI in your mind when you did the 2 trial lessons in 2 different schools the last 2 days (6-7th April ), you genuinely felt different. I think I will cut you some slack for not able to prepare lessons as thoroughly as when you are on course. But, did you stop observing pupils' readiness? Have you stop asking yourself how to present your information more clearly and preparing for multiple content sources and process to cater for pupils who cannot follow your intended lesson? If you have been doing this at least once a week, I think you are already doing well. You also want to present your true self to your pupils, you realize you are generally a fun-loving person, so the humor in class should let pupils feel more at ease. But have you become so tired or pressured about the academic performance of your pupils that you have start reverting to becoming a team commander of soldiers in a war zone?

6)I did this with flying colors. I am like an ah beng in class, so much so that my pupil kept laughing at my antics to her mum. Lucky she is amused and not offended. However, i did get very firm with my pupils and not everyone appreciate my "true" self. I can see some are shocked more than entertained, and others most probably think I am very "boliao"

I change my way of presentation of information at least 3 times, I didn't track that it work for everyone, it stopped when it worked for some, and I didn't prepare multiple and customized notes for everyone, although I did try to track their proficiency in reading comprehension for my high progress pupils and I think they did improve 

Now) well, I continue to give personalised feedbacks to my pupils, although I am Not sure how sustainable it is. Just before the oral exam, I gave my HP no. To all my pupils, and ask them to send me recordings of their readings and oral conversation. I am able to pinpoint their weaknesses specifically and I know I did turn a few pupils around and at the same time also improved on the clarity of feedback to pupils. But I ended up listening to my pupILS work all night (till 12pm), and I think its a contributing factor to my burnt out. The joke is only about 60 percent of pupils did more than 50percent of the practice. If it is 80 percent doing 80 percent of the practice, I think I either don't have to sleep or give standardize feedback that is useless.

If u ask me if I know my pupils weaknesses, I think I can say yes resoundingly, and I know of different ways to possibly plug the gaps too, because others have been through that. The problem is time and fatigue.

5) Self-regulated learners are learners acutely aware of their own learning. During MLS, you have been reading a lot about how the brain works, about metacognitive strategies, and the easy essence of it are having
1) Compare and Contrast
2) Classification
3) Meaningful Transfer
4) Self-Monitoring
5) Mindful selection process
6) Gap filling either individual or in group

1) Done, through error detection exercises, not effective

Now) nope

2) Classification of difficult words, if it is considered as classification, yes

Now) mind map of oral according to qyestion types. Underatanding qn types of comprehension

3) Done, from model answers to adapted answers, yes, from adapted answers to internalized understanding, nope

Now) oral to writing to comprehension, many links are identified, can be actively pursuit

4) I did that after their exam, didn't observe impact.

Now) nope

5) Yes, in composition, Oral, Vocab, presented in comic form, given pupils more options

Now) nope

6) Yes, useless

Now) Not gap filling, but specific learning objectives that show their writing progress 8n terms of content. But sadly, such progress dun get translated to marks unless there is the next big jump. Some are close to inflexion point.

You have worked hard to try to figure out how everything can be applied from reading comprehension stage to speaking and writing. Did you continue to use these? Have you extend the activities and strategies? How many teachers beside your soulmate/ friend in your department have you gotten excited about all these teaching methods. I can't write the teachers' names here, but MS, SC, JAN, NF, YZ and SY are potential champions you have considered, are they really champions now? Have you not even started? Did you keep their interest burning, did you make them turn around and help you keep your own passion alive?

Project done, but interest? I do think they see value in the project we are doing, but I hardly think they are excited, because the schedule is too punishing, and their work too hectic. I am just glad I am still alive

Now) Hmm.. maybe I gotten a few excited about the memory technqiues by Brian. Those teaching the low progress pupils.

I have also made annotation a visible learning strategy and although there are variations, some have applied it and I have also learn a thing or two from my colleagues.

6) You want to streamline working processes such that you can reduce at least 5% of teachers' workload. You had wanted more flexibility in weekly PDT, you wanted technology to help in discussion and some marking. You wanted to scale down some programmes. You understand a burnt-out teachers cannot really inspire pupils. This is one area that you felt is toughest to do, if you have actually found a path, you do yourself proud. One area you are looking at is purposeful reflections, as diagnostic data collection means and stimulus for discussion. Have you done anything about it. How did it fare?

Done, but felt it is a paper exercise. flexibility is given to teachers, but many are still burnt and tired. I have not read all their reflections, so maybe this part need to KIV

Now) same

7) You have wanted a more systematic approach to integration of various learning objectives across levels with strong build-up of differentiated resources. One key success factor shared selflessly by your HOD friend about active selection of topic to drill in the final year is not a short cut, but a meticulous and calculated move(3 years prior to ensure maximum exposure and repetition), much like company prospecting in investing. Have you embarked on this journey? 

Kind of tried to do it for reading comprehension, did not turn out the way I envisioned, but there is some data and information to use

Now) no progress since 6 months

8) You have wanted the professional learning project to be of more rigor. You have bought books for teachers to engage in literature review, and the use of lesson study lesson plan template for discussion and planning. You wanted more informed and well-planned initiatives. How has those plans work out for you?


Now) hmm... there is more reading as compare to the past, but I realise just put the right people in, and just tell them the direction, and thinGS will happen. People are better than books. Books can help me give the right direction and be mindful of people strength. I am glad the strong parents volunteers have returned to help.

9) You wanted to continue with the NIE library membership and spend at least 2 days in a year visiting the NIE to borrow some books to read.

Intend to

Now)Sigh... I just want to rest

10) Finally, something less tangible. You said "Human First, then teacher, then a HOD to bring everyone along" How does this sound to you now?

Think I still believe it. 

Sama Sama. But I also want to MMOB if possible


Seem like I didn't do too badly, but what have I done for my department...

LOL... I live by the day, perhaps its beyond my capacity. 

I do enjoy my lessons and teaching better, like my pupils, even if the feelings are not mutual. 

2018, lets hope the letter do not get lost or worse, forgotten

Now) tired, to the extend of having planned a pokemon catching outdoor lesson does not excite me. I just went into a classroom and delivered the lesson surgically.

Tired, that when my colleague told me a parent from her class praise me that I am.the contributing factor that her son love Chinese now, I just said "OK, thanks, during PTM she did thank me too" when the usual shameless me will be jumping up and down in joy.

Tired, that having delivered that last item of organizing a competition for foundation pupils does not stir me. I wanted foundation pupils to have a chance to shine and compete, but most of time as I plough on in the planning, I keep asking myself why I so "extra". I saw my MLS friend who came with her pupils. She reassured me that it is something meaningful I am doing. I told her that is the last item in my "bucket list" from my course with her as I knew the operational daily activities will bored me down and I need to focus and do what I set out to do. I wasn't really joking when I smiled and say "now I am ready to die" I am ready to let dreams die now.

I still feel for the kids, they get me off my bed every morning when I think of getting  medical leave for the day.



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