Category Archives: Education

Smart or Happy?

It was the school holidays here about 2 weeks ago, and one of the therapists brought her 11 year old son to work, leaving him to entertain himself in the library space shared by us students. During my break in between sessions, we struck up a conversation.

“So you don’t have to go back to school at all during the holidays?”

“Nope! But I know my cousins in Sg do!”

“Yeah, I know because I was a teacher there. Students and teachers have to go back to school practically every holiday.”

“That’s why Sg is ranked like top 5 in student smartness and Australia is like number 20-something…”

“Well it’s probably the other way round if happiness  was measured.”

And he seemed to find that very amusing, for some reason. Maybe he thought I was joking.

So which is more important- being smart, or being happy?


Last year, I had a class of 38 thirteen year-olds under my charge. Somehow they managed to get hold of my handphone number and would occasionally send me messages like: “Cher! We really miss you!”
I am happy to hear from them, yes, but… I just don’t feel as affectionately towards them, you know?
I know teachers are supposed to love and nurture all students equally, but I can’t help having my biases.
And to this batch of students I had barely known for a year, I’d feel:


But. When last year’s batch of Sec 4 students – students whom I have seen grow up since they came in as small puny Sec 1s – send me similar messages, I am a totally different person.

Omgosh. They still think about me. I made a difference!! 


Modern Parenting

Having seen and having had to teach the living and breathing products of 21st Century parents in the past few years certainly makes me agree with most of what this British nanny writes.

Coincidentally, I recently witnessed an incident which made me feel quite impressed with this modern parent.

The little girl, maybe 4-5 years old, was on a tricycle, cycling in front of her father in the crowded train station. Suddenly, because she was looking down and not in front of her, she suddenly finds herself confronted by a huge pillar. She freezes in her tracks just before she bangs into the pillar, and instinctively looks to her father. The guy looks back down at her, and gestures his arms in an exaggerated “I don’t know what to do either!” shrug. The girl pauses for a second more before figuring it out. She retraces her steps, pedaling backwards, then pedaling forward again, this time steering slightly to the left to avoid the pillar.

By not stooping down to change the direction of his daughter’s tricycle for her, by pretending that he didn’t know what to do, the dad gave her a wonderful opportunity to solve her own problem, build her resilience and learn from her earlier mistake.

In another country and culture, I can imagine the parent bending over immediately to help their child out of the fix. Some might even start scolding their children for having allowed themselves to end up in that situation in the first place.

If life is a book, then every experience can be a lesson. Trying to prevent children from making mistakes will deprive them of half the learning they could have had. Now why can’t we have more parents… and *ahem* educational systems… understand this?

Brian Little: Confessions of a Passionate Introvert

I first read about Brian Little in Susan Cain’s “Quiet“. Watching and listening to him speak, I can understand why his graduating classes at Harvard consistently vote him as “Favourite Professor”, year after year. He alludes his ability to act as an extrovert to the fact that he loves his students, he loves what he teaches and he is passionate about sharing his knowledge in his area of expertise. Typical introvert behavior, getting all pumped up when doing something of personal meaning and value. He might very well be an INFJ as well.

I will never forget the conversation I once had with a student who expressed immense surprise and disbelief when I told her I am not, by nature, outgoing or outspoken. I always knew I was acting out of character as a teacher, but her shock at my confession made me realize how convincing my persona might have been – and maybe that’s why I found myself living from weekend to weekend, only looking forward to the time of respite, when I could shed all efforts at existing and simply…  be. I could totally feel Brian Little’s agony as he described trying to find a “restorative niche” after social events and people-meeting.

May this world be a kinder place to our species…

Campus Cafe

Despite having lived on campus for almost 6 months, this was the first time I hung out at the campus’ Bar Cafe. Surprisingly, it felt good to really feel like a student here, to be surrounded by research readings, to see other students come and go, to hear student-life chatter, to see the place start off empty and slowly fill up for lunch.

It’s also nearing the end of winter, so I was able to sit outside and enjoy cool air and warm sun at the same time.

Now, if only they had more artistic baristas..

This Week’s Gratitude

Learnt ALOT this week about a new approach to music education, from top-notch specialists in the field.

We did not have to pay a single cent for an otherwise very expensive course!

Saw similarities in the field of therapy. If fate permits, I might actually be able to try things out across the different fields soon 🙂

Got the chance to reconnect with musical colleagues in other schools, seniors and juniors. Able to share ideas, thoughts, plans, what works and what doesn’t, etc.

Met and made new friends – music teachers from different countries like Ireland and Germany, who vastly enhanced our worldview about music education as well. I was especially inspired by the lady who teaches in SOTA and gave us a very nice picture about the work she does there.

We made wonderful music together, and the smiles on our faces said everything.

Got the chance to hone personal musicianship (have not felt this stressed about aural tests since tertiary days)

I feel that I have also reaffirmed why I signed on the dotted line in the first place. It was about Music, and it always will be. I just need to be careful not to forget that.