Tag Archives: students

The Class Gathering

Met up with the 2011 – 2012 class a couple of weeks ago. They are now graduated, moving on to tertiary education. As I asked them where they were each headed to, I realised many of them gave me names of courses which didn’t even exist a short decade ago. The fancy names just flew right over my head. Names like: Eco-engineering. Green Technology. Maritime-something-Something. Nautical-something else. Energy – something else else.

I was reminded of a quote I read somewhere before, poignantly reminding us that the students we teach today are going to work in jobs, half of which have not even been created yet. How true I have realized this to be.

So what are we preparing students for, really? Are we preparing them to ace their exams, only to find that whatever they have studied is irrelevant in the real world? Or are we preparing them to have strength of character, creativity in problem solving through relating to different people and situations, among many more things they will need for the world which has yet been created? Even as the fancy names flew over my head, I found myself reflecting on their time as students in the classroom, thinking about what I have done to prepare them for the careers and contributions they will eventually make to society.

And I found myself thinking: Because of the Thing we know as the Mark and Grade, even skills like creativity and thinking out of the box have become successfully conditioned and packaged to a set of checklists, rubrics, and numbers. They then find their way into Scheme of Works, portfolios and reviews, looking good in black against 80gsm printing paper.

How much of modern education really prepares us for the world we eventually live in? Or has much of education, with it’s increased availability in developed countries, become simply another motion and stage of life we go through? Because it has become the Norm?

Much more to think about.


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!! 


The Age Thing

When I first started teaching, when students asked the usual “how old are you?”, and when I replied with the usual “Guess?”,

The answers I got mainly ranged around 20 – 23, which was quite close to the truth. Some even guessed me to be 18 or 19, which was not necessarily a good thing, because when secondary school kids perceive you as only a few years older than them, things may not always go smoothly.

Then, around the beginning of this year, (only) my 4th year in service, I began to notice things about myself. Things that weren’t so obvious in earlier years.

The tiredness. The fatigue. The eyebags. The lines. Small, but lines, all the same. And the tiredness. The overall tiredness.

I also began to notice that the new batch of students who asked me the same question of me and got the same reply from me would proceed to give me figures that ranged a little higher. Some guessed 25-30. Some said “30+?” hesitantly (sigh). Some said “You can’t be more than 25”, which of course made me relatively happy.

Today, a group of girls in the Sec 2 class expressed such shock and surprise when I told them no, of course I’m not married.

(At the same time I was thinking… Do I need to explain to them what the salutation “MISS” means???)

“But… Cher! Surely you’re engaged?!”


Inside I was sighing, thinking that the years of work must have worn me down so much that I now look like I’m of confirm-marriageable age, and no longer the age of the young and carefree.

“But Cher, you’re so pretty! And nice! Surely you must at least have a boyfriend?!”

“No. But…” a smile crept across my face.

“Thank you for the compliment.”

I know, I am such a vainpot >.<

On Humans and Starfishes

“Those who failed the test must take the re-test on Wednesday afternoon.”

“I can’t. I have to finish my art coursework. I’m very stressed over it. I need to finish it.”

“You can go finish it after the re-test. This isn’t my rule. This is the H* Department’s rule. If you don’t turn up we’ll have to call your parents.”

“Call lor. I’ll tell my parents to write a letter. Ask them to complain.”

And that was the end of that, because I didn’t see why I should continue arguing with her. I walked away, feeling that my day had been somewhat ruined by that short exchange.


On Wednesday afternoon, she came. I greeted her with a smile and spoke to her in a welcoming tone. “I’m glad you came!”

“I just need to finish the questions I failed, then I can go?”

“Yes! Remember not to repeat your mistakes!”


And she did pass, this time.

And then we started talking.

“Why are you so stressed over your Art? Shouldn’t you have finished your coursework in June?”

“It’s because… the new art teacher this year… she wasn’t clear about the deadlines… so we started later. Now I’m stressed I cannot finish in time.”

“I see…”

“Yeah… I’m really scared I’ll do badly for my N Levels.”

“Why would you do badly? You’re not that bad, you’re actually one of my better students.”


“Yes. Just remember that Stalin was from Russia, Hitler from Germany. NOT the other way around.”

She replied with a sheepish grin.

“I don’t even know what course I want to go to after I graduate. I like Psychology, and Design, but I also want to do Early Childhood and become a pre-school teacher. I scared study Design, next time no future. Then I also wanted to go into Law, but that one super hard to get in.”

And on and on she rattled.

I found myself getting to know this girl whom had been nothing but just a face in the classroom, a name on paper. Papers which always produced somewhat decent grades, hiding among the many others as a blur of words and content. That was all I knew about her before she chose to open up.

After discussing with her the pros and cons of studying something which “might not have a future”, I ended by telling her: “Do what will make you happy.”

She seemed to think about that for awhile, and in that moment, we were not teacher and student, pitted against each other by the cruel system, but two humans, sighing and dreaming in the midst of this rat race of life and our search for happiness.

Also a timely reminder that even behind the seemingly worst students, there are fears, hopes, stories and dreams. We just need to take time and effort to reach out to them. And while every starfish you touch may seem insignificant to the world, you may mean the world to that starfish.

star-fishPicture Source

Pranky Teachers

The phone placed in between our tables started to ring.

“I bet its for you.” I said to the colleague who sits beside.

As I picked up the receiver, she turned to me. “It must be ___ ___. ” and she silently mouthed the name of a boy – A boy in one of our common classes, a frequent source of distraction, GREAT disturbance and HUGE irritation.

“Hello, cher?” Came a voice over a phone.

I met my colleague’s eyes and nodded, telling her she was right.

“Yes, which ‘cher’ are you looking for?” Even though I already knew the obvious.

“Er.. Ms Lim.”

I was about to hand the receiver to her, when she mouthed something else, this time with a cheeky grin on her face and a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

“Scold him.”

I must admit I was feeling rather cheeky at that moment too.

So I took the receiver back.


There was a second of stunned silence before he replied with a meek “…ok.”

By this time we were both giggling (silently) like crazy. She was laughing so hard, she could not say anything for almost ten seconds after I handed her the receiver!

Turns out she had punished him after her class today and he wanted to ask if his punishment was over so he could go off.

Haha. So now you know.

Teachers play pranks on students too!