Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Visit to the Toy & Comic Convention

Mum, YOU need a Nintendo Wii. It's good for YOU!

We visited the Singapore Toy & Comic Convention at the Suntec Exhibition Centre on Saturday. Three interesting observations we made:
(1) There were more adults than kids at the fair.
(2) Darth Vader and the stormtroopers were pretty friendly - shaking hands and taking photos with the kids.
(3) McDonalds had a big booth showcasing all their wonderful toys. I always knew that McDonalds was a toy company that give away hamburgers.

The boys had great fun playing with the Nintendo Wii. They are quite convinced that MUM needs it. "Mum, there are lots of games to help you exercise and keep in shape!" Good try, boys!

The Imperial Choir

The Padawan

OK - Game Over!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Island Getaway

We are thankful that we were able to make our annual pilgrimage to our favourite island getaway during the last week of the June holidays. The weather was fine and the water was clear. What more can we ask for? We really enjoyed each other's company.
Armed with my second-hand Olympus underwater camera (mju 720sw), I was able to experiment with it during the trip.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Boys and Soccer

J's Soccer Annuals (circa 2008)

My Soccer Annuals (circa 1975)

What is it about boys and soccer? Throw a ball to a group of boys and they can occupy themselves for hours! When I was in Primary School, we would kick a plastic ball around the basketball court during recess till our shirts were drenched.

Many boys look up to soccer players to be their role models. Unfortunately, there are not many good role models around these days. The big money in the game is making them all puffed up with big egos (check out how Ballack and Drogba from Chelsea quarrel like little boys). Lack of sportsmanship on the pitch and unruly behaviour out of the pitch makes very few soccer stars worthy role models.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Spend more money or spend more time?

The Great Singapore Sale is starting again. Newspapers are inundated with advertisements and offers to entice us to spend more during this period. Instead of spending money on things that we don't really need (such as badly-made toys), I'm going to spend more time with J and C this holiday. I want them to remember the times that we spend together doing things, rather than the things we accumulate over time.

Our first stop this holiday was the Singapore Botanic Gardens. We spotted interesting flowers, plants, insects and small animals. We had a great time walking and talking and laughing.

Sure - it is easier to bring them to the air-conditioned malls and let the various shops "entertain" them. But I believe that we need to spend time with our children. We need to talk to them and get to know them better.

When they are grown up, I believe that our children will remember the times we have spent together. Thanks to my dad, I still remember the many weekends we spent at Changi beach 30 years ago!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What are supplementary lessons?

J and C have just finished their semestral examination and then they announced that their supplementary lessons will still continue after the examination. For a long time I've been wondering about the purpose of supplementary lessons. I did a quick check on a couple of dictionaries and the meanings of supplementary that came back were "Added or serving as a supplement: additional" and the second "Added to supply what is wanted; additional; being, or serving as, a supplement". This is where I am a little confused. I've always thought that supplementary lessons are additional lessons. And if they are additional, they should be optional. But they are not. These supplementary classes are compulsory and they are usually conducted twice a week for about two hours. Most of the time, the teachers were using these classes to catch up on classes. It seems that the normal curriculum hours are not sufficient to cover the syllabus.

A couple of years ago, MOE's Teach Less Learn More (TLLM) was every principal's and every teacher's mantra. Teachers were to be given greater flexibility by reducing curriculum content so that they get ‘white space’ or more room to customise their teaching within the same curriculum time. I am not sure whether this has happened yet.

Do not get me wrong - teachers are working very hard and they are introducing various teaching methods to engage the students - project work, problem-based learning, investigative field work. I am very thankful for all the dedicated teachers who put in extra hours to ensure that their students get the most from these activities. However, due to the nature of assessment (pen-and-paper-do-or-die) in the education system, they need to prepare the students to tackle the traditional exam questions. Many of them are using the supplementary lessons to do just that.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Things teachers have to do

C came back with a form from the teacher, requesting for support for the Fruttie Day Programme. The teacher-in-charge of Fruittie Day Programme quoted a survey result reported by the Straits Times (Nov 24, 2007) that while at least 70% of students know about the daily recommended intake of fruit and vegetables, only 24% follow that guideline. The school will declare a day in a week as Fruttie Day and each child will be given a fruit to consume.

This initiative by the school is certainly commendable. However, the amount of extra work (and paperwork) generated for the teacher can be daunting. There will be indemnity forms to be filled up and money to be collected. On the weekly Fruitte Day, teachers will all be mobilised to distribute the fruits to students who have signed up to be in the programme. The teacher-in-charge will probably have to evaluate the programme is successful and write a report.

I'm thinking that we should leave the teachers out of this extra administrative duty and let them concentrate on thier classroom teaching and student development. Parents should be responsible for the child's physical well being. Once the school takes over this responsibility (which looks good on paper), it may give parents an illusion that all is well with the child's fruit intake. A weekly apple is not going to keep the doctor away!

Incidentally, we did not sign up for the programme. Oh yes, we had to explain why ... "We love fruits and we have lots of it each day!"

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Be Afraid ... Be Very Afraid ...

Have you ever tried to help your kid with his spelling? There is definitely some rote learning and regurgitation going on but that is not the point I want to bring across here. I was helping C who is in Primary 3 with his spelling one day and I almost fell off my chair when I saw his spelling list.

"Dad, please test my spelling for the following words!"

Fear - alarm - panic - dread - terror - horror - fright - nightmare - trepidation - apprehension

Spelling lists have certainly come a long way since I was in school. It is good that our kids are equipped with a list of words in their arsenal so that they are ever-ready to spin off tales and poems at a drop of a coin. At least, their future in writing will be brighter than mine 30 years ago: "It was a dark and stormy night, I was alone in the cemetery and I was scared ... very very scared ..."