Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 5 Hong Kong

Today was the presentation day. It was super cool. I was super ready. It was brilliant. The lecture theater was super filled.

First, it was my professor who presented. Then it was mine. I was on a roll man. Made the audience laughed. Made them interact with the questions. Once I saw them smile and nod, I knew this was going to be easy. Prof Marsh was in the audience too!

After the presentation, about 6 to 10 teachers came up to me, congratulated me for a, quote-unquote, 'wonderful'. One particular teacher said straight, 'it was almost perfect'. Even Prof Marsh said it was a good presentation.

Wait, wait, wait. Before you say, "See.. he's getting big headed again." I must defend myself and say that I did not think my presentation was 'perfect'. I think there were many flaws. I am fully aware that teachers have a habit of saying nice things.

All I'm saying is that I'm happy with my own performance. I did not stumble nor did I say anything stupid. I was clear, concise and I even interacted with my audience during the talk. I'm happy to be able to perform as well as I planned it to be. To top it all, I looked super sharp in my presentation suit. Like I normally do... heh heh heh.

Dinner was vegetarian pizza and coke. My room mate paid for the pizza. It was a break from cup noodles. Tomorrow, I'm going China, Senzhen, for a day for the second part of the conference. I do hope everything will go well...

My skin, after having spent almost a week in Hong Kong is super dry. It is the very low humidity I guess. I must remember to bring moisturizer to Turkey. Hong Kong TV reported of an airplane crash in Turkey. I hope my trip will be safe.

Day 4 Hong Kong.

I miss my wife and kids.

Conference proper starts today. It began with a symphony orchestra or something like that. It played a classical tune that reminded me of horse riding and also very traditional Malay stage plays.

The keynote speech that followed was quite interesting. It was stating some obvious points but interesting nevertheless, especially the examples she used to illustrate the points she highlighted. Next, I updated my blog at the café and after that, checked mail and tagged my students' blogs.

During lunch, I ate the vegetarian food: rice, lotus roots thingy, cut cucumber, and black mushrooms. It was disgusting but it was enough to fill my tummy. It was a break from cup noodles. The milk tea was nice though.

The parallel sessions were also entertaining: Journaling in Math and Inquiry Based Learning in Science. When that ended, I met Prof Marsh, as I waited for some other professors I'm supposed to meet. I introduced him to the others. He was my teacher in earlier modules. I learned a lot from him. He remembered me for being the troublesome one in class, I guess.

Then I discussed with some professors about my presentation tomorrow. They gave their inputs on how my section of he symposium should be. I agree to most of their points. Let's just get this presentation over and done with, so that I can finally enjoy my holidays and relax.

We took a cab back to the hotel. Hong Kong really has some strange systems. If you are going back to the new territories, you can only take the red cab. If you are going to some other parts, you must take the green cab and so on. The hospital waiting time was like super long. Singapore has got some systems far more correct than this place.

Dinner at the hotel was cup noodle and cream soda once again. I think I'm not going to eat another cup noodle for a long time.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 3 Hong Kong.

I spent the whole first half of the day in the hotel room trying to finish my PPT for Friday's presentation. At four, went to the clinic to try to get something for my room mate. We had to go to the Prince Charles Hospital finally to get just something.

Everybody else go sightseeing but I have to go send my room mate to go get his stuff. Strange life is.

We took a cab from the hotel to the hospital. It was about 5 minutes drive and cost HK$16.40. The cab drivers are quite honest even if they don't speak any English and we are tourists.

When we reached A&E, I bought this mask at the vending machine for about $1. Now I look like Optimus Prime Number. Hah hah hah... My room mate thinks I'm crazy. He does not know the full story yet.

Anyway, the doctor checked him. The doctor was funny. He was asking why we had five components to our name.

He then asked us to follow the yellow line to the pharmacy so that my roomate can get his stuff. So we did until we reached a road where there were sooooo many yellow lines! OMG!! Hah hah hah

Lunch and even dinner were cup noodles, biscuits and Schweppes cream soda. Tomorrow, we're going to HK Ied once again. Another teacher and me will be manning the poster presentation. I do hope it is not a bore.

Day 2 Hong Kong

In the morning, we went to yet another school. This time it is the Tai Po Old Market Public School Plover Cove (TPMPSPC). That's the longest abbreviation I've heard for anything, what more a primary school.

As usual, whenever we visit schools, they showed off with a wonderful band performance.

Then the parents took the stage and shared how much they like the school. They were very active and you can see that they have almost every say in the school. They were as good as the staff there. The Principal was very democratic indeed and even included two parents in the school board.

The student leaders took over. They explained how much the school meant for them. When asked what about the school they would like to change, they answered that they would not want to change anything. "It is perfect," said all of them.

It was later when we toured the school that was quite funny. I showed some of the student leaders some magic tricks and they were hooked. They followed me everywhere. Hah hah hah... that was funny.

We went to Hong Kong Institute of Education after that. That was when I uploaded my blog. They got free wireless access for online discussion for the conference participants. Somebody posted an intelligent post on the forum. When I met Edmund, he thought it was mine. Hah hah hah... that was also funny.

Got to the hotel, ate dinner. Cup noodles, Chipsmore cookies and Schweppes cream soda. How I earn for a proper food. Murtabak would be nice. Or perhaps RK House's paratas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

HK Day 1

We arrived in Hong Kong today. Reached hotel, put our bags and was immediately brought to the Korean International School. It has its own heated swimming pool, its own tennis court on a roof. Its Science Lab, Art rooms and even the typical classroom make ours look, ermm… rather… better not say it. If you know what the school fee is, it would all makes sense then.

Once we were back at the hotel room, we had dinner, which is, cup noodles, Welchade grape juice drink and unsweetened hazelnut instant coffee. How about that? I think I’m going to lose weight at the end of this trip.

Anyway, what is interesting is to see the educational pendulum swinging at ever differing directions at different places in the world. Here, we see people embracing external standardized exams while elsewhere in the world, including the educational systems that we are very familiar with, we see people trying to move away from just concentrating on standardized testing, towards aesthetics, creativity and a more holistic education. Whatever it is, I think a balance is needed. Wonder what the second day has got in store for us.

Pants down

Guess what this is. Give up? It is the fireman pants rolled down all the way down to the boots. So when they are activated, they just slip in the boots and pulled up the pants. This way, they save a lot of time changing and they could respond to emergencies much faster. Here we show the pants right beside a fire bike.

Station Visit

I went to a fire station for a station visit. We toured with a group to see some civil defense stuff. Interesting vehicles were shown. One of which is this HAZMAT truck. HAZMAT stands for ‘Hazardous Materials’. This is where civil defense officers who handle chemical and biological threats keep their stuff and transport it to anywhere to respond to emergencies.

What is interesting is that the whole container could be loaded and unloaded in a matter of minutes. Cool huh?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pascal Programming

Nancy emailed me. She said she missed us and she was now playing with snow and hail. How lucky she is. I've never touched snow yet. My best chance would be this Turkey trip where one of the stop over is Mount Uludak.

I had reservist today. Met an old friend from what, 18 years ago? He was one of the best programmers in my class. I remembered how he tried his best to teach me Pascal, an 'ancient' programming language.

When I was still trying to get my "if-then loop" to work, he was already programming a monophonic Phil Collin song on his program. Both monophonic tones on a Intel 286, as well as Phil Collins were hot those days. Man... I feel old.

He recounted how he was in this big-shot programming company when 9/11 came. His company closed down and he had to join Civil Defense now as a fire fighter. How sharp a turn life can take. One success does not mean you have made it and one failure does not mean that you are a failure.

I've heard/seen/know so much of such stories that I'm convinced that everyday, life can throw to us surprises that could make us respond with nothing else but awe. If we give up immediately, we close the doors of future success.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Silent Walks, Ani, Borders and WALS

We were asked to go for a half hour silent walk around the Seletar Golf Club on our own to reflect and look for an item that we would like to have in our own school. This was what I took. It is a life-saving floatation device. I think I am in dire need of it. I think many of us are in dire need of it.

I just think that if you are in a habit of thinking, you do not need to have a half hour silent walk to think. The last time we did this was two years ago as part of yet another time-wasting exercise.

Why do I need a life saving floatation device? Well, I need it to be saved from time-wasting half hour walks and the inundation of many other time-wasting exercises. I'd rather take a three hour silent walk through Bukit Timah Nature Reserves, or spend that half hour to read few pages of a very good book.

Ani sent me a very very short email. She said she's in Australia but cannot spend too much time writing the email. I sure hope she is doing fine there.

Today, Borders @ Parkway opened. I won't have time to go until I came back home from WALS Conference in Hong Kong. In case you do not know what WALS is, it is not an ice cream brand. It stands for World Association of Lesson Studies. At least I have completed the paper I'm supposed to present next Friday, the 30th. Wish me luck...

20 Questions

Yesterday, we met the whole day. I think I'm going to get into more trouble. I spoke my mind on things that I think I should not have. But I just needed to get it out of my system. The funny thing is, even after saying it, I dont think it has gotten out yet. I need to talk to the relevant people when I get back from this conference trip. We'll see if the anger persists...

Learned a nice game today. A good friend of mine taught me. She calls it '20 questions'. Basically what you do is have someone think of one thing that is either an animal, a vegetable or a mineral. Then you can ask twenty 'yes/no' question to guess what it is. For example

animal, vegetable or mineral?
1. Is it a mammal? No
2. Is it a reptile? No
3. Is it an insect? No
4. Is it an amphibian?No
5. Is it a reptile? No
6. Is it an athropod? No
7. Is it a mollusc? No
8. Is it a cnidarian? No
9. Does it stay on land? No
10. Does it stay in a mangrove? No
11. Does it live in a coastal environment? Yes
12. Does it have legs? No
13. Is it a starfish? No
14. Is it a sea cucumber? No
15. Is it a plankton? No
16. Is it a coral? YES!

Actually yesterday when we played it in the car trip back from that golf club where we had our meeting, back to the East where we recuperate from the meeting at the golf club, nobody solved it. They were close though. The above is just an example. I think I'm going to use this next year. This game is good for learning classifications.

But right now, I better prepare the conference paper that I feel not like preparing nor presenting. But first, I'll have breakfast.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Remember what has happened in the past but never let it shackle you from the possibilities of the future. For those who did well, use this to do better in the future. For those who did not do that well, work harder. This is only the beginning. There is a long road ahead. There's the 'O' Levels, the 'A' Levels and so on... Most, if not all of you, would know of the secondary 2 boy who failed his mid year Math only to score highest in the finals. I've told this story like a hundred times, if not more.

I'll be going Hong Kong soon for a week and then Turkey after that for three weeks, so I'll not have the chance to update this blog till I return. Till then...


A teacher friend told me I've given my best, I need not worry. I told him that love, fear, anxiety and their other emotional cousins, are seldom rational.

The watch shows 4.30 as I type these words. Woke up half hour ago and just cannot sleep anymore. Four more hours before anyone she picks them up. I think I'll go eat at my street's coffee shop after this entry and slowly make my way to school. Most probably have to wait for the security guards to arrive before the gates are opened too.

Today could be many things. It could be my happiest, saddest, calmest, funniest, gloomiest, nicest, proudest, zaniest, most ridiculous, most overwhelming, most irritating, most dissapointing, most elated, most agitated, most cheerful, most depressed, most discouraged, most encouraging, most enraged, most enthused, most exhausted, most helpless, most hopeful, most horrible....

Or it could just simply be the best. Four more hours for me to wait before I can know which ones of the above holds true for me. Yet again, only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I spoke

I was practising the floating dollar note for tomorrow when the new No. 1 saw it. She was kind of tickled.

Today got meeting again in school whole day. I think I spoke too much and have said many things that might just get me into trouble.... but hey, that's me. I think I was kind of drunk just now, drunk with worry and anxiety. So on hindsight, shooting my mouth in a meeting with all the school staff, might just have been a coping mechanism to the stress that I so long to forget.

Global citizenship was what we talked about. I remembered the book that my 6-1'o7 published. I think you guys know more about it than many other adults. I wonder if my next year's class is as intesting and as full of flavour as this year's. I guess I'll worry about that after tomorrow...

I also wonder if I can get any sleep tonight...

One more..

One more day to the release of the results. I'm as nervous as a one year old cat going to the vet for the first time... nevermind.

They spoke just now during a briefing of what is to be done on the day of release. Everytime they say 'the results', my heart beats faster than it did. Anyway, I tried to calm myself by irritating the rest of the teachers with my new magic trick... I can now eat a lighted candle!

That's what I did. The reactions of my 'audience' were simply precious. They thought I was going to extinguish and relit the candle magically or something like that but instead I just chew the lighted top off and swallowed everything! Hah hah hah... sooo funny. I even performed in front of No. 2 and the new No. 1!

Time to release more of my older tricks that the school has never seen before! I normally rotate my tricks every three years of so, just when everyone thinks I have no more new ones... Perhaps just one more each term... perhaps my flaming hand next.

Anyway, I promised to reveal the secret of the floating dollar note to any of my 6-1'o7 who could beat the highest aggregate last year...

I better prepare before Thursday. The big day cometh...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mrs Tan

Two more days before the big day. I sure am stressed. This is worse than waiting for my own exam results.

I met my Secondary School form teacher yesterday at Cedar. She was attending a Lesson Study Math Workshop and Cedar was the venue. We chatted for about 5 minutes before I sent her to the SDC where the workshop was conducted. Unlike for many others I know, secondary school life was not the best years of my life. It was good but certainly not the best. The best (and in some ways also the worse) for me was Singapore Polytechnic... but that is for another blog entry.

Anyway, I chatted with Mrs Tan and told her proudly how I am now the Subject Head for Science. I also told her that I'm now working with Mr Reynolds, my secondary school literature teacher, in a big project. I wanted to tell her about my first class honours but I just could not anymore. She asked for my email so that she could include me in the Alumni. That would be interesting. I wonder if I'm going to meet my old secondary school friends.

Mrs Tan was the teacher that really taught me compassion. I'll tell you why...

I failed my EL in Sec 4 Prelims... D7, which is preposterous. I aced EL since primary school. My composition writing was always on the board displayed somewhere for others to read. Somehow, some teacher decided to fail me prelim compo paper because it was short of 5 words! I do not know how I failed the other components but honestly, I don't really care.

What that D7 meant was, I could not go to my 3 months course in JC though I aced all my other subjects. So Mrs Tan dragged me to the Principal's office and explained the situation to him. He agreed to remark my EL papers and somehow I got a C5 or C6 (I really can't remember). I still did not go for my three months course, but I learned that a teacher's job is not about just teaching but also about learning and recognizing the potential in every student. I learned, from Mrs Tan, that only with empathy and compassion can I do this.

Anyway, I got a distinction for my English for my O Levels. That D7 could have easily made my self esteem low and God knows what implications that could have made for my O Levels. To think that Mrs Tan fought for me was something wonderful and I knew I could not let her down during the actual exams.

I am sure excited to go back to my secondary school. The guilty feeings for all the bad things I did in secondary school has prevented me from going back thus far. Meeting Mrs Tan, is just the correct reason for me to forget all that and finally visit my alma mater.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Tribute

To my 6-1'o7,

It is very difficult to be a teacher. There are many things to prepare, to mark, to consider, to remember, to do, to not do, to say, to not say, to remediate, to supplement, to highlight, to warn, to tell, to congratulate, to think through, to review, to ask, to collect, to learn, to discuss, to discover, to celebrate... well I think you got my point.

But for the past three years or so, almost everyday, I look forward to go to school... almost every day. And 6-1'o7, you guys are the very reason why this is so. On some days, in fact on many days, you guys were the ONLY reason for me to look forward to go to school.

Trust me when I say that it pains me when I had to appear angry, when I had to pretend to scold you guys, when I had to say things I really did not find pleasure in saying. But like any responsible teacher/father/friend, I had to say what must be said.

I honestly, really enjoy the constant resistance you guys put up in class, when you challenge what I say and even when you challenge the school rules. I have never felt so proud as a teacher, as when you managed to prove me wrong. Like I have mentioned many times in class, the world needs more people who have the guts to correct what is wrong, to be able to speak truth to power, to be able to articulate arguments responsibly, to be able to empathize with the weak and to be driven by justice, love and compassion. I am confident that these qualities, the desire to correct what is wrong and to help those who are weak, will stay with you always.

The class would of course be nothing without the individuals that gives it so much character, so much flavour, so much memories:

The sagacious Albin, the hilarious Shao Wei, the cool Leon, the adorable Gerard, the confident Jonathan, the competent Zhen Yu, the best-dressed Jwalan, the kind-hearted Desmond, the enthusiastic Yong Jie, the gentle-giant Sean, the articulative Sendil, the kindest Sinhao, the cerebral Yi Ming, the serene Zhixin, the unforgettable Chun Chuan, the brainy Paul, the sharp Zuo Xuan, the gentleman Raymond and the imaginative Eugene.

The delightful Kar Mun, the discerning Linying, the insightful Manda, the brilliant Thanjit, the gentle Thiviya, the sapient Jeanne, the quiet Huiqing, the calm Grace, the cool Xin Yu, the logical Anisha, the tall Nancy, the talented Jany, the talented Ras, the mysterious Siu Min, the serene Jocelyn, the motherly Evelyn, the friendly Fiona, the serious Pamela, the judicious Pearlyn and finally but certainly not the least, my wonderful Elizabeth.

I wish all of you the best of luck in everything that you do. This is not goodbye. We will meet again in the near future. Do visit me often in Cedar. You have my email, my blog, my website, my contact. Though 6-1'o7 has officially ended in Cedar, I'll always be your form-teacher/friend, whenever you need one.

Mr. Z