Sunday, March 18, 2012

An entry of Purpose... after a looooong year of silence

Its more than a year since I last blogged here. This past year, I have been so caught up in my role as an administrator facing many new challenges and frustrations, somehow, this message from Andrew is truly uplifting. .... Thanks Andrew. All I can say is, God has His good purposes and plans for each and everyone of us. In His Time.

Hi Mr Yeo

I hope you are doing great!

I've been mulling day after day about my future career. And one career option that keeps coming to mind is the teaching career. I am seriously considering the teaching career as I do think I have the passion to impact lives and value-add to their lives. And I would like to let you know, honestly, that one of the real reasons, why I am so inclined to this teaching profession is because of you. You exerted a great influence on me when you were my form teacher in secondary one. You were more than a teacher, you were a mentor and a role model. You also had great aspirations and you go all out in all you do. To top it off, I loved the way you treated CIP projects. It showcased your genuine love for the less fortunate out there. Our class, 1e7 went all out to create a mega CIP project under your leadership, not just for fame or recognition sake, but for the sake of helping the society. This is particularly in line with what God commands us to do. Amen.

In terms of Boys' Brigade, you were again my mentor. I aspire to be like you, a fun-loving teacher, who makes learning no chore, but joy. And I hope to impact other students the way you have impacted me. I am a testimony of how teaching can impact the lives of others. And I would like to thank you for your positive influence on my life.

I would also like to seek advice and guidance regarding this career option.

Andrew Seah

PS. You have in your own way affected more lives than you can imagine, as you have been a precious instrument of God

Thursday, February 24, 2011


on my Bday, i think i am a failure ...

F1. i inspire others to write narrative inquiries of their teaching practice and beliefs... but yet i can't even write a book for those I have inspired;

F2. i train others and design research on creativity... but yet i can't even find answers to my fundamental questions on creative thinking;

F3. i encourage principals to empower teachers with authentic assessment ... but yet this particular P just kept insisting the teachers must still give a defining grade with the use of rubrics;

F4. i help teachers recognise the importance of Lesson Study... but yet i can't even lead those i have partnered for months to understand what it means to 'see' learning from students' point of view;

F5. i bring educators to understand the liberating power of constructivism and learning by inquiry ...  but yet my wife purchases packs of exams papers for my  P1 son;

F6. i desire teachers to appreciate that education can be imaginative and exciting ... but yet my son's P1 form teacher sends weekly email to us parents on decontextualised modes of assessment- test, spelling and 听写;

F7. i demonstrate to Singapore teachers how to maintain a healthy lifestyle from my video in MOE OLIVE... but yet for months I have been walking with a limp;

F8. i exclaim that technology can transform the way digital natives learn and interact... but yet i kept editing and self-sensoring my own private thoughts for fear of backlash someday with my digital footprints;
F9. i tell others its important to help children know that its ok to be themselves  ... but yet i dont even dare to share the contents of this entry for fear i stumble i others;

F10. i  give creative parenting talks to other parents ... but yet i had to succumb using the cane to discipline my daughter;

F11. i long to carry my son the way i used to... but yet each morning he refuses even to say goodbye to daddy;

F12. i love my parents my deeply ... but yet i do not have the courage to say "I love you";

F13. i really want a loving relationship with my wife ... but yet I never seem to match up her standards of keeping my study room tidy;

F14. i (used to) teach others the harm alcohol does to the liver as a bio teacher ... but yet I drown my sorrows in wine;

F15. i lead worship in church ... but yet my own relationship with God is...broken.

In short ... i am a failure. F!

o ... one more F....  i have done well to help some local ministries and govt agencies take on innovation to a new level both locally and overseas.... but yet i detest the idea that i need to be back in green undergoing 20th C regimental training next few weeks for a force that claims to develop 21st C 'warriors'. So much for assessing performance indicators of success for NE! 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A 'scholarly' disappointment

Its been so long since i have submitted any blog entries....been just so busy. At this moment of time, I am feeling a little adverse to words like 'reflection' or 'narratives'. Yet, I just need to 'pen' this down after the past 5 hours of toss and turn, on the morning of my 36th Bday. I am not sure how I will react to this entry years later but at least, I like to capture a glimpse of an important (failed) 'scholarly' aspiration.

I had this wish for this new 'beginning'- to accomplish some good academic writing so that I can grow towards being more than a good teacher-educator but really to step onto path of being a scholar.  But the email below from someone I respect was somewhat... devastating. Not sure why but this really seemed more painful then I can bear. 

Subject: Your understanding and support please!

Hi John,
I had an appointment with XXX to consult her on my application for XXX and XXX. She went through my files with me and pointed out to me that she found most of my XXX, especially the major ones, were co-authored with others, mainly with my XXX as the XXX in them. One important advice she offered to me was that I need to have more single-authored publications by myself to demonstrate by this year that I am capable of producing mature scholarship independently. My XXX under way this year are mostly around XXX to be co-authored with XXX and others. So I am writing to really seek your understanding and support in my editing alone the XXX  as a token to show my capacity of independent scholarship. See the XXX that I finished as attached. I will definitely be supporting you to finish the XXX with you as the XXX.  I cherish our wonderful and productive XXX year dearly. Hoping you understand my current urgent need for XXX for securing my XXX as I am finishing up my XXX in a few months' time. 
I just feel a terrible sense of ... disappointment? I have been very driven since end of last cohort as XX and I have had shared this vision of writing this book compiling some XXX from earlier classes and started our discussion and editing work. I do admit it's been hard to squeeze more time with the heavy XXX and preparing with the new course. But... To me, that vision was an important academic milestone. Something I have worked hard and really looking forward to. 

Many questions in me... Yes, perhaps academic writing is really not my cup of tea. But then, who am I to ask for anything given I am just a seconded staff and I really ought be grateful for the opportunity to learn, grow and be mentored? I feel this extreme sadness within, though I really sincerely wish XXX well and success. 


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Some private thoughts on your final paper..

Dear 811 friend...
Yanping and I had a good time discussing til very late Fri night on how wonderful it was reading each of your NIs.  Well, I went home to focus on my next 'presentation'.... well, side-track a little… I have been invited to speak to a group of 800 teachers on an area- creativity in education. Not to boast of how 'good' i am but to share on how 'weak' and scared i really am feeling right now.  Somehow the fear of speaking to such a large audience has never been more overwhelming than this. Yet, somehow, just when I am still 'stuck' with thinking… what do these teachers want to hear on creativity… what would be helpful … what would be inspiring so that we can all be more creative teachers to inspire that creative difference in our children.

This tenuous thinking process strangely led to the question I asked you 2 weeks back- “What is a GREAT teacher?”
I revisited the flipcharts and then my Facebook postings. Truth of matter is, I don’t have a 'model answer'. (and I so apologise esp if I have misled  u to believing there is..) Yes, Kok Leong's group rightly pointed out Fri night that there will always have politically correct answers while with some hidden truths. Michael was upfront to say, "perhaps John was not satisfied with our politically correct replies that’s why he posted on his facebook..." Sorry but yes, I wasn't convinced that your answers were a clear distinction between Good and Great. I suspect one attribute of a great teacher is one who dares take risk- especially in our highly conformist system. I am not implying that having the courage to take risk is necessarily the best way... but from your all your NIs, I learnt that RISK THROUGH PERSONAL COURAGE is when you dare stand up for your students when others look down on these ‘losers’, risk is when you dare admit that we are not perfect teachers yet we need to live up to the expectations of others, risk is when your students (esp to the more 'challenging' classes like NT) make excessive demands upon your time and resources, risk is when you dare admit there are times we as teachers feel scared with what you have started, but gone ahead anyway.... risk is when, you know others will turn their back against you...

I am also ashamed to say that I myself have never written a complete 18 pages NI before.  Do you remember I asked you- Does winning some school or national award make you a GREAT teacher? Fact is, such awards do acknowledge your hard work. But yes,,, we give honor to the many other unsung heros. I was once awarded several awards too for a particular project on Service Learning... where I in my leadership position took the risk to give special 'rights' to do something that is different from all the other classes. I was questioned for my intentions by other teachers…  but I went ahead nonetheless.  This was a Sec 1 class that had MSG head over heels compared to all other classes. Yet, as the form teacher, I was saddened with this ‘high ability’ students who dare tell me in my face don't waste their time with unnecessary projects. Parents who say, let my child take a CCA take require minimal involvement as their are here to excel academically. In class, though a little fun loving, they lacked the camaraderie of other children. This was a class with an 'Attitude'! I wanted them to experience more important life lesson of humility and learning to work tog and CARING for others. I wanted them to experience that there is more than just academic excellence. I wanted this class to work on a mega-project work on Service Learning. They chose to raise funds for the Children Cancer Foundation (then, 'housed' under NKF) They worked hard to organise themselves, interacted with the cancer children and brought them to Jurong Bird Park and used their works to make into artifacts to raise funds through auction. Everything well as I planned and kids grew closer, genuinely caring for the less priviledge. In June, the NKF's TT Durai golden tap case was blown out and different ministries got involved. MOE gave a stern warning to stop all fund raising for NKF. My P called me to stop the project even though it was towards the end- right before the actual fund raising segment. I had to gather the kids and explained to them and of course to recognise their hardwork. Yet, magically, during the post SL reflection, the boy who once told me to don't waste time on non academic related project work matters, stood up and reminded the class why we did what we did. He said that while he was assigned to be Hafiz's buddy (the patient who needed to carry an oxygen tank everywhere he went) over the two days of interaction, he realised that he was so much more fortunate. This once proud and arrogrant boy said "Its not pity he wanted from us, its friendship" these words still etched in my heart til today. It was these words that got the whole class to tell me that I should not just stop this project so abruptly. I was beyond my wits. While the kids were crying becos each of them remembered the interaction they had with the patient buddy over the two days, I too was touched …but really I was beyonf my wits.  After that sobbing session, the boy came to apologise for what he said at the start of the year… he shared that he was abused by his step father as a child  and was often branded ‘useless’ by this step father. He told himself since than that he will work hard and not be looked down upon.  He reminded so much of myself. If u remember I once shared that as a child I was violated physically near school compound and no teachers believed in my story becos I  was a ‘bad boy’ who often fought with school prefects- I vowed to be a good teacher one day… and since then worked myself up both academically and in behaviour and rose to be a prefect… his convictions reminded me of who I was and why I wanted to become a teacher…

AnywAY, the class by consensus said they will take over since they know that my P did not allow this project to carry on. As 13 year old sec one students of the top class, they secretly called for a Meet the Parents Meeting and asked the P along as they presented their revised plan so that they could finish what they wanted to do. They coerced the parents to gather permission and to convince the P they will finish up their project by a month and not let their grades drop at all.  Scary to say, their revised plan was even more grand than what was initially planned for... I know I couldn't support it along and yes, poitically speaking, i should not. Some of colleagues heard about it and volunteered to help and gave their time over the weakends to be involved. Even other classes (both upper and lower sec classes volunteered to support this 'grand plan'). I really couldn’t do it at all and was fearful of the repercussions every step. Yet, in the end, it was the class, the volunteers- parents, other classes and my colleagues that showed me that it was possible.  In the end, this story was featured in the papers, it won awards but the credit was not mind. Minister Vivien Bala… on stage whispered “you must have been a great inspiring teacher…” but you know, I knew in my heart, perhaps it was just a brief moment of greatness with a lot of risk at stake- for which I could have been suspended or sacked from MOE for defying higher orders. But intuitively, I think I knew i just had to do it even with the risk at stake.  In that lesson session for 811, one of the things I was hoping, for which none of you said, but was reflected by someone else in my FB,  was the need for group learning- peer development. You know why teachers segment work from friendship- why cant departments grow becos they want to see the best in students- and are willing to unpack what defines ‘best’? I tell you… with all the work in LS that I do in schools… I outright reject schools that say, help us to show that LS can improve results…. I m sorry… improving results is a by-product. John Yeo loves John Dewey … ok perhaps I am getting overboard and pls great teachers should not get runk... This is not my NI… 
The crux of the matter is….Why do you really need to bother about the final paper… let me explain from a personal perspective… I did my masters in US… I wanted to really learn how to be a great teacher (even though we are all created different) to inspire teachers to teach more creatively (because teaching is really sometimes a ‘wicked’ job)…  and till this day, why I choice to b seconded to NIE even though I was given option to eb a school leader…. Becos I think teachers to recognize that their work is not in vain, tat we need to have research to encourage Singapore teachers to  continue the good work we are doing.   I was offered a teaching position with full scholarship in a US university… this to an Asian is a rare opportunity. To b reallllllllllllllllllllllllllllly honest, I miss being a classroom teacher, but I am clear why I m here. I believe strongly that research informs practice and we have so much good work going here in SG… I m jealous of the good work you are doing in the classroom but I know God put me here for a purpose… you know,,,, I lost my second  child due to a miscarriage when I was in US… yet my good wife told me, if you believe in what you hope to do, then persist. It was a difficult decision then to stay on, I was a top student in my cohort and my research project was gaining so much traction yet…. I believe sincerely that the way this final paper was crafted…. with all my heart that this VISION paper will be something that its all worthwhile as you truly seek for your own navigator. Look beyond the grades and write it ONLY FOR YOURSELF.
I feel sad. I feel sad that this is the last sem I am teaching 811, that I will miss the wonderful learning from each of you. Perhaps, unlike other modules where there is plenty of 'know-hows', just like Borko (2009) says a wicked problem has no one correct answer, that its contextually bound, dynamic and interrelated. May your time invested in the group project and final paper be a personally meaningful and fruitful learning experience. While I continue to think about how may I challenge these 800 teachers to greatness (I m not proposing that creative teaching as a mainspring of greatness)...  yes, this was also part of my own vision paper- to inspire teachers to be more creative educators.  I just like to thank each and everyone of you for such a wonderful learning experience for me in 811.
Before I close and perhaps to sober up to think about my 800 teachers presentation… teaching is an emotive work… why did you think I trick you into opening up and talking about the emotional labor of teaching in session 3… o my goodness…. Before I regret doing what I m doing…. Pls know I sincerely looked upon you as my friend n teacher in 811….
Sincere thoughts and blessings
P.S. in Chinese… they say.. jiu hou tu zhen qin… after wine, is where find the most ‘real’ you. I know it’s a risk, but hey… I don’t  really care… I just wish for each and every one of you to aspire greatness in what you can do and will do as a teacher and school leaders…. To me… there are just too few great teachers around. May 811 take you along for your journey of your Greatness..

Monday, September 27, 2010

What has God got to do with Chicken Rice?

I was talking to a close brother in Christ- Edmund Nai on prayer and  I found it easy to ask him why I often felt so 'distant' from our heavenly Father. He asked me in return- "What do you teach about when someone asked you how to communicate effectively?" Interesting as I could sense where he was leading me with this abstraction exercise. I listed the following: Need to be honest and real, genuine interest to discuss, keep an open mind, active listening, waiting, pacing, body language, willingness to accept no response, not be judgemental, etc.  The logic than became a clear fit for me- have I practiced the above if I was genuinely communicating with God. Wonderful points of reflection!  Hearing God's voice was something we desired and he shared the need to have a strong desire and pure heart, laying aside our pre-conceptions and focus on communicating honestly with God as a process for spiritual growth.

Before we closed, Edmund invited me to close my eyes and ask- "What does God FEEL towards me?"  I clarified- 'think' OR 'feel'? Yes FEEL was the focus. In order to 'feel close' as that should be nothing that can hinder us from the love of God since the redemption has already been paid on the cross.  I was excited and ready, but was I really ready?   I prayed and asked but somehow, was unable to clear the olfactory, tempting,  distraction- wonderful fragrance of chicken rice that someone was dining in a nearby place. Quite shamefully, I opened my eyes and confessed that I was distracted .... by the smell of chicken rice. Edmund in that instant shared that he actually felt the urge to remind me while I closed my eyes that sometime God uses the immediate images to speak to us- and this had nothing to do with the chicken rice then.  He indicated that since what he felt was exactly how I was 'stuck' in that moment-  perhaps that 'smell' was so distinct and it really did not happen by chance. And perhaps this was also God's creative way of speaking. I closed my eyes and asked again, "God how do you feel towards me?". This time, the smell reminded me of how much I delight in food and that immediately connected to how God delights in my happy giving- giving to others, to enjoy fellowship or simply being who I really am- a happy and creative individual. I found peace in this strange yet comforting sense of understanding and chose to accept it. The next moment I opened my eyes, the guy eating the chicken rice had already left.

This unusal yet powerful experience was a timely reminder that we serve a very creative God.  While I often teach others to use the Visual Connections as a creative strategy to find new ideas, little did I know that God can use the same trick to enlighten me too!  If God places in me a desire to seek for novelty, than the Father of all Creation can use this same disposition to creatively connect with us- in a way that is most easy, comforting and close to our hearts. Unusual yet, beautifully meaningful at a personal level.

Creativity is the ability to look at the ordinary, and see the ... extraordinary.
Dewitt Jones

Friday, August 06, 2010

An interesting Facebook conversation from something so seemingly trivial

I posted this on Facebook last week after a conversation with Joshua.

On my FB wall, I wrote-  Son just asked me-" 爸爸, u r a science teacher, can u tell me why my teacher say when we put our underwear in the freezer, it can help save the earth?" I m trying v v hard to defer judgement.... What should I say ????

    • Frederick Chong Tell teacher,"My daddy tried but he's no superhero still.."
      Thursday at 10:45pm · ·
    • John Yeo Good one Fred... Thanks for reminder. Now to go look for my red cape. Maybe my old and torn crocodile undies be helpful too...
      Thursday at 10:54pm · · 2 peopleLoading... ·
    • John C Lim i really would like to know what is the teacher's answer to that remark. If he/she cannot give an acceptable answer, MOE should need to answer parents what kind of teacher they had employed to
      Thursday at 11:24pm · ·
    • Loo Kang Lawrence Wee not everything people say is true. Decide and verify yourself the validity of that hypothesis
      Thursday at 11:40pm · ·
    • John C Lim
      allow me to rephrase. "kids are kids. they are in a learning mode. They will absorb what their teachers teach to be true. It is good that Josh will ask Teacher Daddy, but not all parents pay extra attention to what their kids learn, and for... some when parents ask, they simply do not respond, so, the children assume what they learn in school is correct. My daughter will came home one day and argue with me about 'rain rain go away', because the tune was somewhat out of rhythm, i corrected her. Her reply was, 'no, teacher teach me is like that'. so, kids accept what their teacher teach to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Of course if we are talking to a secondary school kids or jc student, they are already at the stage where they know how to judge whether the teacher is teaching or joking. but at early childhood teaching, for me, age between 2 up to, even primary school, primary 3-6, we cannot expect children to judge accordingly. So, if there are teachers who teach such things, we as responsible parents should be ask what kind of teacher is that? and we should also ask, whether Singapore is really in a state of shortage of teachers, when we should take in 'tom, dick and harry' to teach our children? (of course, i had known good responsible teachers but this one is a black-sheep among the white ones.)"See More
      Yesterday at 12:38am · ·
    • John Yeo
      Wow... Thanks for the very thoughtful comment guys. Interesting it's all the daddies staging this discussion. I think it's a matter of perspectives. Firstly, from a child's perspective, did he interpret what the teacher said accurately? At ...the very least, the teacher was highly successful in helping the child inquire about some scientific principles. There is a high level of logical reasoning involved here and I sincerely celebrate that the teacher was able to stir the curiosity of the young mind. Hypothetically, what does it mean to 'save the world'? Look at the quick connection Fred made immediately in his first comment. Rather then passing off as thinking it was a silly joke, is there value in verifying that question? Digging deeper, could there be certain excretory substance that contain some catalyst that can be activated below zero degree c? Ever wondered how Viagra, penicillin, or post-its came about? From a parenting perspective, I am more curious to ask my wife why she wanted Josh to ask me that question- was it stemming from an intent of ignorance, of wonder (and amusement) or of (loving) trust that the scientific father may know better??? Now I am really curious ....See More
      Yesterday at 4:43am · ·
    • Frederick Chong
      I can't help but think everyone is over-analysing this simple statement. 1. Cold gonads, less thinking of reproduction, hence less over-population.
      2. Cold gonads, prolonged sensation of feeling cool, hence less need for air-conditioning (think electricity, heat, fossil fuels)See More
      23 hours ago · ·
    • Allan Yeo wow i need to hang out with all of you more. Science out of my area and after reading this post, i've already learnt so much more about my freezer
      13 hours ago · ·

 Sometimes you really never know what social media platforms like FB can do in terms of knowledge co-creation. From the above discussion, there was so much to learn about critical and creative thinking and more importantly, how people can read/ misread information. All said and done, I am lurving it!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Brick

The following story received was an encouragement during days where I felt constantly 'heated' while roving on the roads. I was 'hateful' of so many different drivers- those zooming past recklessly, those far too slow-and-steady type, the lady drivers who don't seem to give a hoot of external road conditions. I always ended feeling angry.  I may only drive a humble red Honda jazz but this still serves as a timely reminder.

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag's side door!

He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, 'What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That's a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money Why did you do it?' The young boy was apologetic. 'Please, mister...please, I'm sorry but I didn't know what else to do,' He pleaded. 'I threw the brick because no one else would stop...' With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. 'It's my brother, 'he said 'He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up.'   

  Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, 'Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me.'

Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. 'Thank you and may God bless you,' the grateful child told the stranger. Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy! push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home.  

 It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message:'Don't go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!'   God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don't have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. It's our choice to listen or not.