Archive for the 'work' Category

zero point two

My gamble of leaving production and becoming a teacher is beginning to show signs of paying off. I say gamble of course, with regards both to the 3-year bond and of my inexorable interpellation with the system. I loathe to identify with authority, which is something that still weighs down my efficacy as a teacher on a daily basis.

In any case, I went for a work retreat yesterday to discuss future plans for a very specific area of study in school, and I was given an opportunity to hold forth on something for which I am right now immensely passionate. It’s almost stupidly lucky that my direct superior and I are on exactly the same page about this; although we only managed to confuse everyone else with our attempts to explain our ideas, I think our enthusiasm was pretty much enough to convince them of both the necessity of our action and the worthiness of our cause. Unfortunately, I have to be cryptic because of confidentiality issues, for now at least.

I say my gamble has paid off because I’ve somehow maneuvered myself into the exact right place and time in relation to my desired professional and academic future. I think I’m situated at a position where I can do the most good not only for myself, but – uncharacteristically enough for me – the good of Singapore education as well.

The amazing thing is how easy and natural it’s been so far; the even more amazing thing is how difficult it’s going to be in the coming months and how I’m absolutely fucking looking forward to it.



This is such a genius idea for citing references, especially when you’re using a quote buried deep in an article.

What you do is paste the selected text and source url into citebite and they’ll give you a generated link to the exact quote on the page. No need to trawl through whole wikis again!

Just for illustration, say you’re doing a report on Belgium and quoted this:

Antwerp’s total population is ca. 461,496.”

Only problem is if the company goes out of business, then all your links are dead? In any case, quite cool.

survey survey

Ok, so I’m doing this course on special needs in school, and I’d appreciate if my lovely fans (all 3 of you) gimme a hand and fill out this here survey.


going native

I thought I’d ought to bring up the fact that I’ve recently had a very kind mention in my social studies tutor, Kenneth’s podcast (currently the only Singaporean podcast to be featured in the ‘education’ category at the iTunes store, mind). Thanks, Kenneth.

According to him, I am apparently among the first generation of teachers to be digital natives – native speakers, so to speak, of the language of computers, video games and the Internet. While I’m not that sure I’m one of the first to become a teacher (I am a latecomer to the profession, after all), I am pretty sure what little tech-language my colleagues speak doesn’t seem to be helped along very much by our system’s approach to educational technology.

We have a particular module in school that’s supposed to teach us technology-oriented pedagogy, which is unfortunately as legacy as you can get. Things like not using too much animated clipart on a powerpoint slide, fun with agents (like goddam Clippy) and an implicit direction towards using “cutting-edge” presentation software like Flash or Director. I realise bureaucracy is a necessary(?) evil of the civil service, but I sincerely hope someone over there realises that multimedia isn’t the buzzword anymore.

We’re living through the most exciting Internet boom since, well, the bubble, and I haven’t heard the term Web 2.0 in class once. I don’t care if its a cliché, it should have been addressed at the very least. What else is blogging, Myspace, wikis, Friendster, IM-ing but Web 2.0? Why aren’t we using the surfeit of web-based, socially-networked apps – which our students already use – to teach them? Why not folksonomies like, flickr and RSS, off-the-shelf tools our students can continue to use outside of school?

Lifelong-learning is the aim, isn’t it?

To be fair though, I understand that the system won’t be able to change in years, much less overnight. As one of my tutors told us today, if this year we changed the exam system to support new literacies (which is another story), the parents of kids (and the kids themselves) who took the exam last year would have our heads.

Nevertheless, I hope it won’t take too long before someone higher up groks the fact that social networks are the new multimedia, exactly like student-centeredness is the new teacher-centeredness (fellow teachers know what I mean). Instead of finding new ways of merely engaging our students, we should be building architecture to connect and share digital information with them and with each other. Metcalfe’s law is the order of the day.

So what I’m saying here is this – social networking is staring us straight in the face while simultaneously aggregating a civilization’s worth of information a mere click away. And all we can talk about in class is how blogs are just for ranting.

I may or may not be a digital native, but I do know that even if I were, it’s not on account of what I’m learning now at school.

no more reveille for me

Now that I’m supposed to be all teacher-like and whatnot, articles like this begin to catch my eye. It helps when I think I totally agree, of course.

Kids trudge through the week on insufficient sleep, barely limp to the finish line on Fridays, use the weekends to pay off the week’s sleep debt by snoozing until noon and then try to readjust their body clocks on Monday morning. Prof. Jim Moss, a sleep expert at Cornell, says: “It’s as if at the start of every week our kids have West Coast to East Coast jet lag.” He finds that in the early morning classroom “the overwhelming drive to sleep can replace any chance of alertness, cognition, memory or understanding.”

And we also know that later school start times can reduce this affliction. Amy Wolfson, a professor at Holy Cross who studies Americans’ sleep patterns, tells me: “The evidence is pretty clear that students in the later-starting schools get more sleep and have less tardiness, fewer behavior problems, and do somewhat better in school.”

I actually like starting classes at 830am in the morning as opposed to starting work at 10am back in my old job, but I think 730am assembly at secondary schools is pretty freaking crazy. TOM CRUISE CRAZY.

why i hate teaching

Not me, silly.

But lady teacher Trisha, who’s written a post of 10 things she hates about teaching. Here’s a choice quote:

9) I hate it when during my work appraisal, my boss reminds me that teaching is my bread and butter and that I have to do it well, and then merrily gives me ten non-teaching projects to do. Why can’t I just concentrate on my bread and butter?

Not very encouraging for a trainee teacher like yours truly, but I’m pretty glad for the warning.

Courtesy of Heavenly Sword.

fight back to school

Just completed my Enhanced School Experience of 4 weeks in attachment to a neighbourhood school near my place.

Here’s 10 things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Letting students break the little rules keeps them in line a lot better than trying to exert total control.
  2. Any residual glamour from your previous career in TV is lost when they find out that no, you do not have Fiona Xie’s phone number.
  3. If you look hard enough, it’s possible to find pretty subversive literature sitting next to Harry Potter on the school library shelves.
  4. Teachers usually get warmer and larger portions at the school canteen. Only if you’re nice to the canteen aunties though.
  5. Sec One kids – little terrors that they are – are still damn cute and given the right circumstances, will hang on every word you say.
  6. Sit near the ball courts at your own peril.
  7. So-called “notorious” kids can be your best friend if you can earn their trust.
  8. Surprisingly, smoking warrants heavier punishment than truancy. Maybe its the old smoker in me talking but these kids sometimes get their fags from their parents. How to control, like that?
  9. Don’t worry so much about naughty students, it’s unreasonable parents that are your worst enemy.
  10. There can be no real authority without respect. Authority must be earned, not conferred.

On my last day, I asked my favourite class to critique my performance as a teacher. So apparently, I’m a mumbler, I talk too fast, and I smile too much. Personally, I found myself lapsing into Singlish, Mandarin and Malay alot even though I’m an English teacher.

I’m not a fan of the whole native speaker theory, but I do think I need to keep a tighter hold on my speech. It’s a tradeoff, really. Sometimes a quick Singlish slang term explains something more elegantly than anything in perfect English.

Case in point, after 5 minutes trying to explain the meaning of contemptuous to no avail, I tried “no big, no small“, which immediately got me a satisfying chorus of “Ooorrhh….

I guess I rather enjoyed my time at school – burnt out teachers’ complaints notwithstanding – and I managed to get a pretty solid rapport with some kids in spite of the short time. Not sure if I’m really keen on returning to the same school, but at least I know I’m pretty well-equipped to handle it now. In the meantime, it’s back to NIE for me!

zero point one

I’m upgrading myself to Billy Tan version 0.1 as of last Thursday – still in beta, mind – cos I’m finally re-entering the workforce. Yeah, I got a job. Yay.

I’m going to be an English teacher with MOE.

Don’t congratulate me yet, please. I’m still trying to get my head around it. Plus I’m not exactly the type who grew up wanting to nurture young minds. Au contraire, mon ami, I always thought I’d be the type to corrupt young minds. Damn.

I know I’ve been going on about becoming a librarian ad nauseum, but it’s just not happening. I fought the good fight, but I don’t think I can afford to sit around another 2 months sending out applications with the situation at home as it is. Much as I think I’d like to be a librarian, I don’t think I’ll have the chance to find out anytime soon. Bit of synchronicity happening, just came across this guy.

So if I want to pay off my debts, support my family, and eventually afford a Masters, I’ll need a good, well-paying, stable job. And teaching fits the bill right now.

Yes, I’m selling out and taking the one job that will take me on the basis of my not-too-bad results and a single 10 minute interview. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but it’s no wonder why there’s a stigma attached to being a teacher nowadays. Its almost like any fool off the street can be responsible for your child’s education. Granted, a year of NIE and the 3 year bond will definitely weed out the pretenders, but the selection process can hardly be described as rigorous. The stigma remains, and I’m sure as hell feeling it now. The interviewer asked me if this was a stopgap measure, I told him there’s no way I can give him a totally honest answer. How would I know til I’m in the job, innit? In any case, I’m committed to it, and I know I’m up to it.

Happily enough, kids seem to like me, and I get along with them fine. At least, it’ll be a nice change from crazy ad agency execs and publicity-mad jewellery designers. No more soulless corporate videos or vacuous style-documentaries. I might actually have a chance to make a difference of some kind in someone’s life. How’s that for a meaningful career?

So it really comes down to this:

Will I enjoy the job, I dunno. Will I teach the hell out of those kids, hell yes.

Don’t worry, my England not bad.

the end of an era

After 5 months of bank account buffering and a number of aborted attempts, I’ve finally done the deed.
Handed in my letter of resignation just 20 minutes ago, did the requisite “oh, so what’re you moving on to” conversation with the bosses, and had a couple of envious congratulations from colleagues.

Will have my last day in a couple weeks, and a crapload of shit to finish before then.
And what a steaming pile of shit it is. More on this tonight.