Lessons in Education

I’ve been reflecting on so-called ‘what went wrong’ for my previous tuition students. Yes, of course, they too had their part to play in their grades and I shouldn’t take full responsibility for it, but upon thinking back, I realise that as a tutor, I was too ‘Drill and Practice’ and not consciously using materials that would engage them and motivate them to improve their language.

Apart from the a series of sessions where I really prepared a collection of articles for an expository essay, most of my tuition sessions were simply practising functional writing, essay writing and comprehensions because I wanted to equip them with exam techniques.

This week, I decided to do something different with my tuition student. Initially I wanted to ask him to write an essay for me, guided of course by me. Somehow a spark came to me as I went for tuition and I told him to take the newspaper and read the forum section.

The valuable resource of Newspapers!

I told him to read two letters and to summarize the main arguments for me in those letters. We went thru the letters together, checked out the words he didn’t understand and evaluated and rephrased certain parts which were more difficult to understand.

I asked him to pick out details which he felt were important and to tell me why. It went beyond merely teaching summary skills but teaching the rationale behind why we summarize. I highlighted to him that he already has awareness of how to summarize and should not let exam questions daunt him.

Then we discussed the issues inside the letter and I asked his opinion on some matters (the forum letters were a complaint letter about a bus driver and one on increased funding for sport in Singapore). I felt that I was teaching him no longer just comprehension skills, but reading skills and how to be a sensitive and responsive reader to materials in the media.

And as I ended the lesson, I realise that yes, this is what was missing from my previous tuition sessions – engagement with real world texts that would motivate my students to learn. At the end of the lesson, what he gained was not just a language lesson, but also a greater awareness of the issues pertaining to Singapore. And that is infinitely more valuable than drill and practice comprehension – though I do not deny that has its place.

That being said, it is not easy to always find such interesting and engaging material and to know how to use it meaningfully, but I must really make the effort and give what I can to my student, so that he can benefit from the time we spend together.

Of course my motivation also “increased” after receiving a very generous red packet from his mum! Haha… God is good!


Continuing in the vein of education revelations, I met my cell leader for dinner yesterday. Though it was not a long time of fellowship, but it was truly a quality time of fellowship.

Yesterday he shared with me about resonance, about striking a chord that resounds and echoes.

He was sharing with me about how he has learnt thru his school experience that education is relationship and that students will study for you, but that is what he has seen from a tail-end school and what I will see in NJC might be different.

He shared with me that every school has a different educational resonance and even different department have a different resonance. It is a means through which the school engages the students and ensures that learning takes place. He shared with me that finding out the resonance of your particular school takes time and sensitivity but you need to find that out, so that you, as a teacher, can flow too with the vision of your department and your school and create an educational experience that will resonate not just with your students, but with the whole school.

It was interesting food for thought, definitely. My leader teachers in a lower end school (now moving up to a mid range school) and his wife teaches in a higher end school. Together, I believe they have a very balanced perception of what education entails along the whole spectrum. I have so much to learn from them in this journey of education! 🙂


The basis of unbelief

As I was reading the gospels this morning, it just struck me how much the disciples actually struggled with unbelief while Jesus was with them.

Incident 1: Matthew 14

The incident we all know with the five loaves and two fish. The disciples tell Jesus to send the multitudes away to buy their own food. Jesus proves to them that He can indeed multiply the food to feed the masses.

Incident 2: Matthew 15

Yet again with the loaves of bread and fish. This time they are in the wilderness and they have 4000 to feed. They ask Jesus how they can find enough to feed the 4000 in the wilderness and Jesus proves to them once again.

Incident 3: Matthew 16:5-12

Jesus speaks to them about the ‘leaven’ of the Pharisees and he Sadducees and they ‘reasoned amongst themselves’, saying “It is because we have taken no bread”. Jesus outrightly castigates them this time, telling them “O you of little faith”. He is even a little frustrated with them that they still do not understand what He is talking about.

Incident 4: The son with epilepsy, Matthew 17

A man whose son has epilepsy comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his son. He tells Jesus that ‘Your disciples could not cure him’. Jesus, again frustrated, says ‘O faithless and perverse generation’. The disciples ask Jesus why they could not ast the demon out and he tells them – it is because of your unbelief’ (Matthew 17:20).


There are many interim incidents between the four above which reveal their unbelief.

The final incident at the end though, reveals that their unbelief was not in Jesus. They knew Jesus could do miraculous things. They always turned to Him in times of need and desperation. Their unbelief was in themselves. They did not believe that God could do the same things that they did thru Jesus, thru them.

Of course, Jesus corrected them in Matthew 17. If you only have a mustard faith – it can happen! Yes, He told them that they needed faith, which is something we all know we need. But the most important verse for me this morning came from Matthew 17:21.

“However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Matthew 17:20

What is Jesus referring to as this kind?

He was referring to the demon that he cast out from the child.

He told the disciples that YES you need faith, but the work of the Lord also requires prayer and fasting.

And it is all linked together. The Lord reminded me this morning of the need for prayer as the source of my faith. The motivation and source of my faith is not because I want to believe that God will give me a good life, but because of a genuine knowledge and revelation of God’s intimate love and concern for every aspect of my life. This revelation can only be received through prayer and deep, intimate conversation with God.

Fasting is necessary too as it increases our dependence upon God and makes me realise how much my existence depends not on earthly things, but on the very bread of His presence in my life.

I really need to start praying and fasting more in this year… if I want to see the things I’m believing for come to pass! Lord, please help me to set aside my time and energies to really seek you in this year of 2009.



The New Year tradition is to start off the first day with something sweet. My mum boiled barley with ginko nuts for all of us to enjoy – but in addition to the usual traditional Chinese desserts, we had something else today.



For those interested, the donuts above were purchased from Donut Empire. Take note of the painstaking amount of detail that must have gone into some of these designs, especially the one with bu bu gao sheng.

The Donut craze in Singapore has kind of died down lately, as evident from the significantly reduced queuing time at all donut outlets, even Donut factory. But you really have to admire these people for their innovation and determination!

A prayer to start it all

The time has come again for the usual rounds of visiting and ang pow collecting. A time of reunion, a time where you catch up and get grilled by relatives, a time of feasting and fasting…

So tonight was the Reunion Dinner Night. As always, we started off at my Dad’s side, but little did I know that it was going to be a reunion dinner with a difference.

There were the usual joyful faces…


The usual yusheng…


… and other assorted nonya dishes…


And also the usual games and entertainment…


But the great difference came in how the dinner started off.

My aunt whose a Catholic started off the dinner with a time of prayer – and said, “Anybody who wants to pray, feel free to pray after me. “

And she prayed a prayer that was really touching.

She thanked God for bringing us all here again, for keeping us safe through the years.

She asked for God’s love to be in the family and for all things in the past to be put behind and that relationships would be renewed.

She also said a prayer of dedication to my grandma who left us two years ago.

As she closed, a young cousin of mine joined in and prayed for all our uncles and aunts too for God’s blessing to be upon them.

Note that my family on my dad’s side is still predominantly non-Christian. To see such an open atmosphere for God’s love to flow was indeed a great encouragement to me.

Later on after the dinner, I went around the living room snapping shots of everyone mingling. This is something that we have never done before in previous reunion dinners and I just felt that I wanted to capture this night.

I really thank God for this family that God has placed me in and I pray that truly in the year ahead we will see a greater testimony of God’s love descending upon us in the Chong family. Check out this space for more updates!

Express Vol. 1


So Joshua invited me once again to one of his productions. As Tiara said when I arrived, “We have a fan!”. Seems like I am becoming a fan of the NIE Drama Department 🙂 I have attended most of Joshua and his colleague’s performances thus far, ever since entering NIE and have been really enriched by the experience!

At the end of the performance, the director Wayne mentioned something which really struck a chord in me –

Passion Needs Action

Talent Needs Hard Work

So so true indeed – in so many areas of our lives. How can we say we are truly passionate about something if we are unwilling to put in action and effort to live out our dreams? I am indeed encouraged to see these people in NIE, truly passionate about drama, and actively engaging in it, in spite of discouraging circumstances! Strive on! I believe one day the breakthrough will come for the Singapore Arts Scene, and it will come through this bunch of passionate, energetic young talents….

Anyway, on to my thoughts on today’s performance. There were three parts to today’s performance – Angels and Flies, rePLAY and Children and Places. If you are interested – please read on…

Continue reading

1st Cell Group Meeting of 2009

So finally after two weeks of break, we’ve resumed our cell group meetings once again! 🙂 We had our first meeting at G & M’s place last Thursday and it was a great start to the year!

We started off with a very unique ice-breaker – Jenga!

It’s been ages since I’ve played that game before – I remember loving that game very much when I was in Primary school. We played it much like the typical game, except with penalities this time. The one who collapsed the tower would have to do a forfeit, which was confirmed as 20 push-ups! My cell-leader’s a PE teacher, what do you expect? Heh. He once shared with us stories before about how he used to punish his student using push-ups.

Anyway, it was really exciting as WX and some other brothers decided to start off by taking the bricks at the bottom – immediately making the tower unstable. I was very glad though that many times we thought the tower would definitely collapse, but we still managed to push the boundaries and press on with the game. Eventually the tower was collapsed by a sister – who obviously couldn’t do push-ups! So no forfeit then…

We worshipped and then moved on into the Word.

What really struck me this week was not the Word itself, but the mulitude of testimonies that KT (my cell leader) shared with us throughout the whole message.

When he ended the message, he told us that the mesage was actually so short, but he was so excited this week because he had not seen us for so long, so he ‘lengthened’ the message with all his exciting testimonies. His energy and enthusiasm is something that I really really want to learn from. The way he enters a room and just lifts up the energy level immediately and he continues to keep that atmosphere up with his body language and his speech throughout the whole meeting

He shared this week about his school’s marvellous O’ Level results. His secondary school did extremely well for O’ Levels this time, with a marked improvement in the average grades of the whole school. The school has really moved up a new level, from a merely ‘surviving’ school where students struggle to pass, to one were students now have a glimpse of hope to see themselves get a few As at least in their O’ Levels.

He shared about how he went from class to class to give them the news and the creative way in which he did it. It was just one extended incident from his week, but he really used it and exhausted it to ilustrate so many spiritual principles which we can keep with us, even if we have forgotten the whole content of his story.

Finally we ended off by praying through the first five commandments, consecrating ourselves anew to God and then we took communion together as a cell group.

Praise the Lord for a wonderful cell group meeting and I’m looking forward to even more of such meetings in the year ahead!

Called to be a Teacher

Finally started and finished reading a small booklet given to me by Ben, a very dear bro-in-Christ. The title is:

Called to be a teacher – a Christian and personal viewpoint

by Ruth Wong

The late Dr. Ruth Wong was a very renowned figure in the arena of education in Singapore. She was a dedicated teacher and a dedicated Christian and this booklet contains some of her musings and reflections on her own journey as a Christian teacher in Singapore.

There were a few passages in her booklet which really resonated with me…

“A teacher is not a pot-filler: he is a lighter of fires. Once rapport with his pupils is established, he will not fail to notice the cooperation his pupils give him in the things he requires to be done, and the little acts of attention which only children can show so charmingly.”

“How lovable children can be, but only love and concern can beget a lovng response! If the Christian message is one of love, then there is fruitful ground in the classroom and in the school for such love to be shown. Every opportunity exists for forging good relationships. The techer is not merely an instructor; he is a friend. In no other profession do the years of a single career bring one into contact with so many potential friends.”

“… If a Christian wishes truly to do His will, he has to have confidence tat his reward for good work will surely come one day from his Master, whether or not he receives any from an earthly one. He may be slighted, unjustly treated, without receiving any commendation or apprecation, but he will grow on the job. Lessons of patience and endurance he will have many, and like the Biblical Moses he will ensure, “as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).  Others will notice that there is the presence of the Lord in all his ways. Surely this is true testimony for the Lord; it is maintained not in spectcular success or in talk without example. It is a daily learning of “godliness with contentment”. (1 Timothy 6:6). “