Gracious Uncertainty

Every once in a while, when I’m feeling dry or too tired to pick up my Bible, I will rely on a devotional to sustain me. The devotional that always never fails to speak to me is Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest.

The struggles in my faith over the past two months have been tremendous. Unanswered prayers – Unfulfilled desires – Unexpected circumstances.

Yesterday’s devotional turned my eyes away from all I was looking at and focused my attention on what I should always be looking at – Jesus Himself.

Chambers writes:

We think we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life.

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life – gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life… This is generally expressed with a sign of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises… When we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy

Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in – but you can be certain He will come. Remain faithful to Him.

I entered into this phase with many expectations. I entered into this year with many expectations too. Many things out of the expected have happened.

Remain faithful to Him.

Easy to say – but how can it be done?

It really comes down to the matter of the heart – that relationship that I have to maintain with Him – connecting and believing and pleasing Him through that continual faith that I have in Him, not just in His promises. It really boils down to a deeper level of faith in a person, not just in what a person says.

I put my faith in Him today and indeed I experienced that life of “joyful uncertainty”.

I taught two classes today. In both classes, God did things beyond what I expected or what I had planned. An unexpected conversation which showed me that God was in control happened in the first. In the second class, a brilliant idea dropped into my mind just as I was teaching and that turned the whole atmosphere of the class from lethargy to participation and engagement.

A conversation in the photocopying room lifted my mood. A standardisation meeting became a delightful exchange of ideas and mutual affirmation of our students’ capabilities and occasional silliness.

Coming back home, there was a sense of hope. Conversations were more animated. Laughter was heard. Concerns were shared.

I wish I had that kind of faith, to truly leave everything to Him. It doesn’t mean I don’t plan, but I live with that heart of absolute abandonment – knowing that regardless of how much I plan and anticipate, what matters most is my relationship with Him and how open I am to that life of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.

I shall – Remain faithful to Him.

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Primary School Revamp

The PERI (Primary Education Review and Implementation) committee’s proposed changes have been approved and the Singapore Primary education landscape will be seeing some significant changes over the next few years. Amongst the many changes, the key ones to highlight would be increased emphasis on the arts (as part of a holistic Programme for Active Learning), gradual move towards all single session, reduced emphasis on examinations at lower Primary and improving the standards of teachers. You can read more about it here.

When I first read about all these changes, I had a few concerns.

Firstly, reading through the PERI website, many of those statements don’t really seem to say much or go beyond what is already being done . Amongst some of the initiatives are:

  • Strengthen training of teachers in content mastery and in using a repertoire of generic and subject-specific teaching methods
  • Develop a system to assess the schools’ ability to develop their pupils in academic and non-academic areas and to provide a more holistic education

Too much terminology and it does not really seem to go beyond what we already know about what an education system should be like, i.e. holistic development in non-academic areas etc.

Secondly, from what I perceive, this revamp of primary school education is not really a “revamp”, but rather an adding on to the existing system – which means more work for teachers. The revamp speaks of equipping teachers to use rubrics and give students’ more holistic feedback. What kind of holistic feedback would primary one students understand? What kind of rubrics could we use to assess a short paragraph by a primary one/two student? The skills assessed at that point, I would argue, do not require a rubrics for holistic feedback and sometimes imposing such a necessity creates extra burden on teachers to write things which might not be necessary. Similarly, there’s no talk of reducing the load of current subjects given to them, hence I assume the visual arts focus will be added on to what they currently have to do.

Thirdly, this revamp seems largely to be more structural rather than a fundamental change in how students learn in schools. This is perhaps a sign that our education system is still in transition. Out of the 3 areas of initiatives, I see the changes in infrastructure to be the most significant and the ones which would require the most adjustment to as a nation.

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I was just browsing through my Google Reader feeds today and it seems that UK, too, is undergoing a revamp of its primary school education. Obviously the world is realizing that we need to start at that age because kids are the most teachable and learn the fastest then. The article is available here.

Just based on that article alone, I feel that what UK is doing is genuinely a revamp.

  • They are planning to axe traditional subject headings and group timetables into broad “areas of learning”. Interesting indeed! Do the traditional subject headings of “English”, “Math”, “Science” still serve us well in our society today?
  • Students are taught proper conversational skills and use of proper English.
  • Sex and relationship education at a young age.
  • A requirement to learn about the role of local authority councillors and MPs. Our students could definitely benefit from learning more about this! Part of building up a generation of more politically active youth? I myself can’t even say that I’m fully sure of what my residents’ committee and MP does that directly impacts on my life.

I’m not saying that Singapore should directly import all these changes and use them, but I feel that the fundamental mindset behind the UK revamp is something we could learn something from. It seems that the education system is evolving to become more socially, politically and globally relevant, and the revamp really tackles the fundamental frameworks (not physical infrastructure) of the education system.

Perhaps it is true that Singapore is undergoing a transitional phase in its educational system, where the structures of our education system need to change before we look deeper into the frameworks of what and how we teach. It is hopeful though that students needs are being looked at and schools are given more flexibility in many areas. Let’s wait and see how the changes by this PERI committee unfold in the years ahead…

More stress = more success

Stress!

I was goggling the word ‘frazzled’ this morning for an English vocabulary building exercise and I stumbled upon this article, which I felt really spoke a lot of truth, especially to me.

A Stress Showdown – Let the most frazzled win!

The portion that spoke the most to me, because I too have been guilty of this:

Reisner, who teaches stress junkies to kick the habit, says this increasingly obnoxious behavior has become a U.S. corporate culture phenomenon because “stress has come to equal success.”

“People are now determining their self-worth on how busy they are and how much they have to do,” she says.

Competitive stressing seems to blend two of our favorite pastimes: bragging and complaining.

Perhaps it’s practice for the nursing home, when we’ll sit around and one-up each other’s ailments. Glaucoma and gout? That’s nothing — try shingles and incontinence.

“I’m guilty of it myself,” says James W. Pennebaker, a professor and chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin. “If I’ve got a problem and you’ve got one, I want mine to be bigger and to get more attention and sympathy.”

The solution they propose is something we all know, but not something we always follow:

Start by practicing not complaining for one week, she says. You may feel a bit lonely at first because you aren’t part of the conversation, but you’ll start to feel strengthened and empowered. “It’s like saying no to cheesecake, you feel better for having done it,” she says.

So, for instance, when someone at work says, "I’m so tense I didn’t get any sleep last night," instead of trying to outdo them, say simply: "I sure hope things get better for you."

That doesn’t mean you should bottle it all up inside. “It’s important to be able to vent and share what’s going on in your life, but do it with your spouse or your best friend — people who actually care — not somebody you are trying to impress,” Reisner says.