Monday, September 04, 2006

Teachers' Day Mass Lecture

(i) Speech by Minister

The Minister's speech has brought in some good news... the GROW package that everybody in the service has a bite share...

Some reflections:

  • Growth: Sabbatical Leave for Education officer - yes, now we can go for some 'enhancement programmes' without having to face 'monetary shortchange'. I think that's a welcome move... hm... something can be considered and tapped on in the near future :D TIll now, still have yet figure out if I've already tapped on the PDL while in the OutReach Programme... hm... one day will find out, if I were to tap on this scheme :D
  • Recognition: Extension of the promotion grade... this probably sends a message that to many who has already reached the 'terminal' grade. I think this is introduce to address the handful who are 'unmotivated' or 'disillusioned' who have reached the 'maximum'... there are always a couple of such cases raised during the annual staff ranking sessions. Will this bring in some new light that they can look forward to? On the other hand, that reminds me when the GEO1A1 and GEO1A2 grades were introduced many years back... many of us who were then GEO1A were automatically be promoted to GEO1A2... so, will this happen again? If yes, it will not leave much impact on the existing GEO1A2 officers, isn't it? Oops, on the other hand, does that mean that HODs who are currently GEO1A2 will have to cross one more grade before moving on to SEO1?
  • Opportunities: Did not quite catch this part of the presentation, probably tied to Recognition?
  • Well Being: More admin staff... yes, a welcome move, definitely... though there are some many newly created posts... do we have the right people to fill up the vacancies? It's just like when MOE decides to step-up its recruitment of teachers... in the school end, the quality of the teaching force (in particular the more recent batches) has changed... we have good gems amongst them, however, there are also more challenging ones that the school has to take in and manage... we don't manage just the 'changes' in the pupils' profile, but also that of the teachers! Oh yes, not forgetting the $400 fund that education officers can tap on for other forms of 'enrichments' including subscription to professionally-related magazines... hey, that reminds us of the "Computer-copayment" scheme that was introduced in mp1... hm... we can save that to get new gadgets???

(ii) Understanding Digital Kids - Teaching & Learning in a New Digital Landscape (by Ian Jukes)

Key Inputs from the lecture

  • Changes in an environment that faces digital bombardment
  • Digital Immigrants vs Digital Natives
  • Digital Natives use Digital as First Language while Digital Immigrants (like many of us) speak Digital as Second Language. This somehow creates a "Digital Divide" in terms of "Communication". Hence, it is important for us, especially educators to recognise the fact that pupils of today are different from pupils of the yester-years (ie. whom we were!). It is therefore also necessary for us to understand who are pupils are... in terms of the changing learing habits... so as to 'prescribe' the appropriate approach and 'employ' the right strategies.
  • Digital Learners prefer (i) Parallel processing and Multi-tasking (ii) processing pictures, sounds and video (ie. multimedia) (iii) random access to hyperlinked multimedia information (hence, the conventional sequential approach may not work well here) (iv) network simultaneously with many others (v) learn just-in-time (that opposes to what many teachers do - Teacher for "just-in-case") (vi) instant gratification and immediate rewards (vii) learning that's relevant, instantly useful and fun.

Other useful information

Some reflections:

  • Throughout the lecture, I was wondering... what's the speaker is trying to drive at... on one hand, he reminded us of the change that's happening... and we are to be mindful and sensitive who are 'clients' are (ie. the students) - in the chinese saying, 知己知彼,百战百胜。Only with this we are able to identify the most appropriate strategy to bring about the desired outcome. That's part of the 'life-long' learning process that all teachers will have to undergo... pupils of today is different from pupils of the yester-years. Indeed, this applies not just to pupils, but also our teachers, too... our teaching force is also having an increasing number of 'digital natives' too.... the younger lot of teachers... that reminds me what Mr Chua always tells the SCC... our teachers are different, the profile has changed... so are their values, their perspectives of things and how they do it... as the middle management, we sometimes simply could not understand why some teachers do not conform to the 'norm'... forgetting that... they are different... or should I say, we are different... and therefore they have difficulty in understanding where we are coming from and why things are to be done differently... indeed, I wonder, who carries the 'baggage'?
  • On the other hand, to hear this lecture, perhaps it's the way it's being delivered (???) Suddenly, I just felt... hey, are you pointing out to us what we lack of? Think deeper... hm... our competency level has ....??? Hey, a bit discouraging when it's supposed to be something inspiring and spirit-lifting kind-of-a talk!

Other observations...Several things struck me while waiting for the event to start...

  • As teachers, we are expected to be role model... we walk the talk, right?
  • Is exhibiting the basic social etiquette something expected of us? Let me lower this by one level... do all teachers know what's are some basic social etiquette? (To be fair) We are ignorant of what's expected if we don't even know or have it, right?
  • Punctuality: The event starts at 2.30 pm... teachers were still scrolling in... walking while talking on the handphone... While the ushers tried to direct them, many of them ignored... We expect our pupils to observe punctuality... so, do we walk the talk?
  • Being Considerate: This year, to save manpower, the organiser placed the goodie-bags on the seats... those who swapped the seat took the bags away... do they expect 'auto-refill' to happen here? OK, are they sending a message, "Latecomers? So, you deserve to go without the bag".
  • Politeness: Leaving the event half-way, rushing out immediately after the show... does leaving the seat slightly earlier, leaving the hall earlier helps a lot in reaching home earlier? I wonder...
  • These are ... TEACHERS!!!???
  • On the other hand, perhaps I belong to the 'older' or 'more conservative' generation, some of the presentation slides (that were suppose to be the time-filler) before the actual event was 'distasteful', perhaps a stronger word 'disgusting'! No doubt the organiser may want to portray a light-hearted atmosphere to the event, many of the images are not appropriate - perhaps reserve that for an aesthetic event?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Teachers' Day

Last night, I had the privilege to attend the Teachers' Day Rally @ Singapore Expo - words direct from the mouth of our Prime Minister.

... some thoughts...some reflections...

The many peaks of Excellence - that is already happening in schools, but a handful at this moment... yes... it's moving up to 30% in the near future. Yes, perhaps there's how our education system celebrates diversity. Saying is certainly much easier than putting it in action. On the other hand, it's like the Chinese saying, 百花齐放. It has slowly changed the mental model of what defines a 'good' school... it's no longer just being academically strong... though it is still one that draws the most attention - in this place where paper qualification is still the key, out of the entire education system, though in the recent years, other affective factors such as character development comes in. Now, it seems like everyone has a place, be it in the fields of character development, sports, arts, etc... yes, the first step was when the ministry introduces the School Excellence Award... it's not just academic excellence, but holistic development of children under our charge... as such, such recognitions/awards are just

Leveling up - every child will be taken care of... somehow, this is the perceived message... no one will be deprived from schooling because of financial disadvantage. Yes... I think that's the beauty of our system... Remember several years ago, there's this work on 10-year Compulsory Education...

Perhaps it's the environment that I came from shaped this mental model. I was lucky to be in a school that has strong financial support from the school management committee (SMC)... "Money is not a problem" - that's what the principal always said... and that certainly freed us up in planning and implementing our programmes, as long as it is purposeful, meaningful,... and yes, pupils who are in the financial scheme are taken care of, not only through the various provisions by the ministry, but also those by the SMC. Yes, children should not be deprived from any opportunities because of being financially disadvantaged.

Socio-Emotional Bonding... to Singapore - National Education... our pupils' sense of belonging to the country... this is an reiteration of one of the key messages in the National Day Rally. Coincidentally, this was briefly touched on when we had lunch... when we talked about the amount of effort that was put in to bring out the nationalism amongst the younger generation. All agree that the school has done alot in this aspect, in raising the awareness of national identity, and the importance of feel and love Singapore. Some find that we have done so much that this over-dose, to some extent, made it too 'artificial', to 'force it down the throat'... it's probably something should not be taught, but a natural grow - the love, the belonging - from the individual. What's happening at home has an impact too! The influence from parents, in particular, shapes the kids' mental model, too!

Well, perhaps one can tell how successful it has been only when this 'natural bonding' to the country is being tested, in some stage. Back at home, the older generation has somehow stronger emotional bond to where our ancestors come from, although they are born and locally breed. Why? Simply, the sense of belonging? or they see the land beyond reach a better one? (There's always this chinese saying, the foreign moon is always brighter.) Well, I guess I found myself more Singaporean than ever, after going through the emotional challenge when I was away... that one year has brought me closer to the land I belong... on the other hand, it's also dangerous, come a second thought... I appreciate my country more, many a times, based on comparison... yes, Singapore is a better place to live in, the system we have... though sometimes seem 'too rigid' but it's for the good of the country... but not to forget, I'm comparing what we have to a developing country. What if I've been immersed in one that offers more than what Singapore does? What will my thoughts be? I guess that will be the real testing - to test my sense of belonging - what guides my thoughts and actions! I can't tell... perhaps should look out for such an opportunity to test it out!

Teachers - the assurance of support... and more teachers... yes, if we look at the recent changes in the system... into the professional wing... more funds have been channelled for schools to employ teaching aid, to purchase support, etc... On the other hand, sometimes, despite the fact that there is money, it's not easy to get the right candidate to fill the post...

PS: "Teach Less Learn More", "Prescribe Less, More Work"