Friday, March 07, 2008


I'm tired.

So. Very. Tired.

And it's not that I've been out of the house for 15 hours. It's not that I've been running around working the press release and trying to prepare to fight fires that never came. It's that I've been on an emotional roller coaster ride that's been so intense that it just left me completely drained. I've been pretty much coasting the rest of the way and I'm ready to drop into bed and sleep the sleep of the dead.

The results have been released and...well...they're not stellar. I spent the better part of the morning trying to justify the numbers (inflated national average by elite institutions...) and then wondering where I could get a sword to commit ritual suicide. My emotional turmoil really started when the numbers faded into obscurity and the students came into focus.

Statistically speaking, we didn't do very badly. But it's not about numbers and the day that it becomes about that is the day that I quit. It's about the students...and for the umpteenth time, I wondered if I'd done right by them.

I wondered if I had indeed done my best for them or whether I'd scheduled enough time and work to prepare them for the exams. I wondered if I managed to lead them to the right answers or if I'd managed to get them to produce the right answers. I'd wondered if I'd done my job.
Because the results sure seemed to scream at me that I hadn't.

End of the day, I asked myself the question (and others that kindly reassured me) if they really had learned something. Despite the reassurance that they had, I still wonder if it was worth actually getting them to enjoy the journey or if it would have just saved us a whole lot of heartache to just focus on the destination. Because it sure doesn't quite feel worth it at the moment.

What is needed in our education?

The questions? Or the answers? At the moment, it feels like the latter takes center stage in this. I'm just not sure which one students really need.

And I guess that it's just like me to leave that open ended...So I'll just end with a quote.

"Granny was an old-fashioned witch. She didn't do good for people, she did right by them... Like old Pollirt the other day, when he fell off his horse. What he wanted was a painkiller. What he needed was the few seconds of agony as Granny popped the joint back into place." ~ Terry Pratchett

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Blogger Ondine said...

Give them those moments of agony.It's what is important to them and yourself. If it was just answers that they got out of you the past 2 years, you can be assured that your lessons and by extension, you would have faded into obscurity even before the ink of their applications have dried.

This way, they remember the larger, more intangible but invaluable things that you taught them.

...and if you only did give them answers, then you really wouldn't have done right by them.

The guilt comes from what is expected of us as teachers in such a system and what we believe, we as teachers should be doing. Don't let these demons shout down your better angels.

You did good. You did right.

Sat Mar 08, 08:34:00 am 2008  
Anonymous debs said...

hey sir,
okay, here goes...
I wanted to talk to you That Day but I was feeling too pissed off and too miserable to be able to stomach any more platitudes. To be frank, I'm really angry at myself for not getting an A. I felt I deserved some horribly egotistical manner...and I mean, that was just a slap in the face. Not to mention that my dad is totally ready to kill me and is seconds from actually carrying out the act.
Still. I DID learn something and I dont have regrets about taking KI nor being your student. I just wish that our grades could have been a testament to the juniors that KI IS an independent subject and I'm ranting now so. erm. I guess I'll meet you sometime after my bruised and broken ego has healed.


Sat Mar 08, 09:07:00 pm 2008  
Blogger Jonathan said...


your contribution to your students' education is in teaching them how to think, and enjoy the journey... letter grades don't mean anything in the grand scheme of things.

don't let the system get you down.

*bear hug*

Tue Mar 11, 12:26:00 am 2008  
Blogger Joel said...

hi, saw ur blogpost and would just like to drop u a word of encouragement. I'm not a teacher by any means, but like most singaporeans, I've spent an awful lot of time in school. I've come to realise that education goes beyond mere grades (as much as the system seems to imply otherwise) At the end of the day, it's about how to question and think. And judging from the testimony from your student, I think you right by them.

Wed Mar 12, 10:48:00 am 2008  
Blogger jacq said...


WIth all my years in the Singapore education system (and still am), my greatest learning came from subjects and modules which I got the worst grades in. Sometimes rightfully so.

I'm sure your students would one day realise that the journey matters more. Have faith!

Tue Mar 18, 02:03:00 am 2008  
Anonymous RhapsodF said...

When I hire junior journalists (I write trade mags), I ask them what they assume is a more difficult skill to achieve - writing the right words or asking the right questions.

Most of them have all the basics they need to write.

The intellect and courage to question, however, marks the differentiation between a good writer and a better journalist.

So at least for me as a hirer, in the real world out there: we got the answers, already. Ask the right questions.

Sat Jun 21, 02:17:00 am 2008  

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