Tuesday, March 25, 2008

LOST....about my future? In God I trust.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Ps 119:105

YOu are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Ps 119: 114

One Space, many paths

I woke up at 3am today. No, I am no longer jet-lagged, but cringing in fear of what is it in my future. I pondered: One space- one person, one soul, one family; Many paths- two kids, several options, many aspirations.

One God.

Dear God, as I sit staring at the screen, wondering if by chance of a divine intervention, I could see clearly a sign that indicates my future for next year. This evening Chitra asked if I would consider staying on to helm Pri/Sec PW. The possibility of having the space to "fill the gaps" for PW Pri/Sec just suddenly clicked. I know after what I have done for the mime, that I needed this "space" for me to innovate. Wasn't this why I stayed on in the system- to put PW in its rightful space in the curriculum? Yet what is holding me back? OPtions and opportunities are aplenty. DCPD suggested SST, yet the "outside world" is increasingly becoming a stronger lure (though the PB in MOE is also a factor that I really ought not to forget). Wondering aloud, what in the past year have I not gained the job satisfaction I so desire? Was it simply just the constraints of the PreU PW, the ambiguous nature of PW in Sec/Pri schools, or too much an open playing field that no one is really playing a proper game on the field? Or could it be that I was happily 'distracted' with the work IDM taskforce, or business development team of DE, or SWAT, or Innolab, or even TLLM ignite?

Two weeks back, exactly this hour- Wed 8pm in Copenhagen, you led DCPD to clearly identify for me over dinner that my heart is still that of an educator. I know that this was not of coincidence, but the works of your hands. TO hear from a woman that I have so much respect means a great deal to me. At least, I was clear that in education, this is where I am "truly free"- sincerely passionate, and highly innovative. My HQ stint has allowed me to appreciate the system- that more could be done to increase the competencies and capacities of teachers, to strengthen the "thinning" of school leaders especially on curriculum instructions, to add colour and diversity to the education landscape.

Yet God, you know the dilemma that I am struggling within. That I would like to have more focussed time to spend with the two kids. I want to nurture my own kids to be individuals who are well grounded in values, having the space to be creative and adventurous, to experience the beauty of this world beyond the confinements of a 5room HDB flat or a early childhood education trapped within 4 walls. I wish I have the ability (and support) to bring the kids to travel around. To see what is truly nature, to hear what the grass says, to talk to people of different skin colours, to have to learn what it means to be really poor.

Show me the way Lord.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Dream School- realised in Bangkok!

In Copenhagen, after the visit to Hellerup Skole (check out my other blog-http://create-teeth-buzz.blogspot.com) I shared with DCPD the concept of my dream school-
1) Parents need be part of nurturing process in tandem with the school and the teachers collaboration
2) Students are assigned to projects based on their interest- whereby talents and skills are also evaluated on the same level of academic excellence
3) Students are able to chart their own learning progress, identify the skills, are able to reflect and evaluate own learning and style.
4) Different ways of learning- from books, to internet, to fieldtrips, to self-initiated projects, to service learning- pervasively across all subjects in the curriculum everyday.
5) Teachers to co-create the curriculum with students and community.
6) Teachers as mentors, facilitators and coaches.
7) Leadership starting from self, driven by choice, capacity, curiosity

The Funny (scary) thing is, the exact details I listed all appeared in the school below: Foreign Media Coverage on Education Issues (15 Mar 2008 - 20 Mar 2008)

A school for multiple intelligences; Vanessa Race discusses why it is important for a curriculum to address the many talents and areas of
intelligence of young students
(Nuttaa Mahattana, Bangkok Post [TH], 18/3)

According to Vanessa Race, the school's first student and now its
academic consultant, the Vanessa School's curriculum is created with
the vision that future generations of its students should be able to
find their place anywhere in the world while showing compassion for
others and enjoying innate happiness.

The school was founded 23 years ago by Vanessa's mother who wanted to
create a unique learning environment for her daughter, which consists
of: An environment where children are free to ask questions; a place
where adults and children learn together in a friendly atmosphere; and
a place where freedom and versatility create a happy learning
experience. Two decades later, the objective of the school remains

With the master's degree in Mind, Brain and Education from Harvard
University, and being the only Thai student advisee of Dr Howard
Gardner - founder of the Multiple Intelligences Theory - Vanessa
returned to Thailand to share her knowledge and experience with
students in her school and to maximize their individual potential.

Why MI?

The theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) answered a lot of questions
in my mind, says Vanessa. I used to wonder why my friend is better
than me in ballet, and why I'm better than her in academics. Why do
people label students who are good in academics as "competent", but
usually ignore many others who might be good at music, sports, and so

The Multiple Intelligences theory sensibly explains what already
exists in human nature. While IQ exams measure only a person's
mathematical, logical and linguistic intelligence, MI evaluates all
aspects of human intelligences. Everything we can be and become is
taken into account. It provides a place for everyone with special
skills and talents.

According to Dr Gardner, the MI theory includes Linguistic
Intelligence, Mathematical-Logical Intelligence, Spatial Intelligence,
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence, Musical intelligence, Intrapersonal
Intelligence, Interpersonal Intelligence, and Naturalist Intelligence.
It is believed that, given the right environment, the human brain can
develop each of these intelligences to its maximum potential.

Begin with the end in mind

Asked how to bring the theory into practice, Vanessa says she designed
her school's curriculum with the end in mind. Although Vanessa School
includes kindergarten through the primary levels (Prathom 6), she does
not think her job ends there.

When designing the MI curriculum for my school I imagine the farthest
my students could go on their academic path. That could lead to
becoming a student at Harvard or becoming the prime minister of
Thailand. Then I think about what skills it takes to get there. You
need to be able to work under tremendous stress; to work within a team
and share information; to maintain your work-life balance; to have
leadership skills and at the same time to be humble and respectful of
others. All these elements plus a few other theories comprise the
curriculum at Vanessa School.

Theory into practice The school is located in the Rangsit area where
students learn through a variety of activities. They develop their
Naturalist intelligence through activities like the Nature Walk.
Kindergarten students are thrilled to see that things change in the
garden of their school every morning. They learn to love their natural
environment and at the same time learn basic science through what they
see and touch.

Music and physical activities are also applied to maximize brain
potential. Brain Gym, for example, is the physical exercise in which
two sides of the body move through the center of the body. This helps
both sides of our brain to work well together, Kru Oh, a kindergarten
teacher, explains after the school's morning class, which is filled
with dancing, singing, and a stage play that teaches the youngsters
basic discipline.

The Messy Activity is one of the most popular among the students. The
outdoor challege is divided into a few stations. Students use sand,
water tubs with balls, food, water colors, painting and cooking

Students play with the equipment in whatever manner they wish. Through
this fun and quite messy activity, children learn to develop their
bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, and interpersonal intelligences through
sharing and playing together.

For older students, Mind Map and Project Teamwork are introduced.
Through various assignments guided by students' interests, they learn
to understand each other, apply creative thinking, share ideas, and
practice linguistic intelligence through project presentations.

The most important skill is Intrapersonal Intelligence or the ability
to understand oneself, says Sutamas Autchin, a Thai language teacher
in Primary level.

In the room is a big mirror for students to observe their reflection,
draw a self-portrait and talk about what they think is superior and
inferior in themselves. This helps them think and understand
themselves better, which enables them to excel in what they are good
at and to work on areas that need improvement.

Right environment

The school, teachers and parents work together to nurture the child.
Vanessa believes that parents should not forfeit the power to impact
their children's education at school. The child's school and home
should empower and support each other in educating the child.

We start at the selection process, she explained. I believe that there
is no best school for every child, only the school that best suits
your family. If you are an authoritarian parent, you may not be happy
with a school that uses the democratic approach with your child, and
vice versa.

It takes the right combination of teachers, staff and students to make
an MI program work best for the students.

After the school selects students based on the parent's questionnaire
and interview, the parents' role continues. At home, we ask parents to
create the right learning environment for their children. This
includes the student's food that their parents provide. The school
advises parents on what kind of food is good for the brain - brown
rice, for example.

As in the school, at home brown rice is served; and white sugar and
soft drinks are banned. Parents should talk politely with the child
and at the child's eye-level. The idea is to make the child feel that
she or he is a person, too, and is worthy of attention and respect,
just as an adult. All parents are encouraged to read bedtime
storybooks to their kids and to take them out on weekends to broaden
their horizon.

We discourage parents from buying expensive toys because the best
"toy" children can ever have is their parents. Vanessa School teaches
parents that either the father or mother - preferably both - must
spend quality time with the child every evening.

It is interesting to note that video games - which many fathers love!
- are banned from the home by the school. According to Vanessa, video
games stimulate the same part of the brain as heroin. Accordingly,
says Vanessa, no parent should ever want their child to be glued to a
video game for many hours.

Parents in the school

Parents also play an important role within the school structure and
influence the direction of the curriculum.

A parent who is a business owner once complained to Vanessa that, "My
employees earned bachelor's degree, but they can't think at all. They
cannot even do what they are told!"

From this parent's comment, Vanessa organized a brainstorming session
to find out what skills parents expect their children to have.
Qualities befitting a CEO were added to the list.

Parents want their children to have good skills in leadership; active
listening and team work skills; creative thinking, analytical
reasoning; and reading, writing and public speaking skills, among

With this vision in mind, the school transformed the way students are
evaluated during their final examination.

A theme will be given to all primary level students. They will then
have to work together in a project to visualize and later to realize
the theme. At the end of the project, parents are invited to the event
and give scores to the students.

Students' scores are based on how well they utilize multiple
intelligences in their projects.

This year, the theme is "Thanks to Life and the Environment". Students
decided they want to organize a fun-fair event called "Tales in the
Garden" and have invited teachers and parents to share a good time as
a way of saying thanks and to show respect to the surrounding
environment. Students from Prathom 1 to 6 work together as a team
applying their individual skills to organize the event.

In real life, Vanessa says, there will not always be a boss to tell
you what to do or where to go. Students must learn to think, evaluate
and get things done on their own.

As promoters of the Multiple Intelligences concept, Vanessa continued,
our duty is to create an environment that enables a child to achieve
whatever they want and to be whatever they want in the future;
function well under stress and be a happy person.

Nuttaa Mahattana has a bachelor of arts degree from Chulalongkorn
University and presently works as an assistant director of
communications and customer service at the British Council.

My resident photographer/s

Joshua can really be a very creative photographer. He really takes quite amazing amazing photos. These 2 are some his best work-
a) photo taken using my new phone (last yr) when he was only 3yr old
b) photo taken this Feb when his favorite uncle Daniel was snapping our pictures

O yes, talking about Daniel, he is finally getting married on Feb 28, 09.
And I have agreed to be his bestman (yes, finally can sabo him liao) and Joshua to be his page boy....

Friday, March 21, 2008

A silly me...

Every trip sure has some interesting stories to tell. Well, I was amazed by the "flow" of the creation of the new blog http://create-teeth-buzz.blogspot.com that since I was jetlagged (or was I not??) I started creating this blog to journal the inspirations and thoughts from day 1 of the trip. However, I spent so many night hours to wake up to call Vanessa and the kids (but mostly in vain) and thereafter to blog every night for 3-4 hours. However, IT finally came. On Thursday morning, I went to bed finally at 5am and set the alarm for 7.30am. Alas, phone rang twice and finally I picked up, and realised it was 8.20am. Bus was set to depart at 8.15am.

I jumped out of bed still in my boxers, wore my shoes and jus popped in a mint to rid the morning "freshness". One hand grabbing the shirt, pants, jacket, Throwing in socks in bag, I decided to use my other hand to pluck a pud of hair gel. I really thought I could do it. Rushed out of the door, I heard a voice in a distance... worried, I decided to pull up my pants. BUT, realised then that my shoes got stuck in the pants and I was on the ground... rolling. NOt wanting to dump the gel on hand, I struggled and tried to kick out the shoes. Such a joke.It was comical that all of my belongings were all over, wanting to shout out for help, but yet super embarassed. Stupidly, I decided to just smear that pud of gel on my hair and free my other hand to help. I was almost in tears then....


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Singapore brings Sunshine to Copenhagen

Check out my new blog on Immersive Creativity and how Innovation is rocking the world of New Design and Education in Denmark....brand new blog with daily entries started just becos the air here is so inspiring. http://create-teeth-buzz.blogspot.com

In this entry, allow me to tantalise your taste buds with the goooooood food we had (but trust me, things don't come cheap ;)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Life Purpose and Future Directions

Last night, it was odd that Edmund made us do our incomplete "homework" together to answer the question using Matthew 6:19-34; and 22:34-40. It was timely as we just had round of sharing on our future directions.

AS I struggled to ponder upon what should I do next yr, I was reminded that I need to "seek ye first HIs kingdom". I am wedged between two realms, unable to find a comfortable equilibrium and conscious of the struggles of wanting to be a better dad. Whether be it to apply for the Science and Tech school OR to take one to two year to spend more time with the kids as I seek for opportunities to deepen my practise, either as a consultant with psychometric profiling or to work with institutions on Project Based Learning or the Creative Problem Solving Thinking Skills model- of which I am very very keen to facilitate action research.

Choice A)
My experience with some of the earlier future schools gave me some deep personal insights. That many of the schools that were initially selected were based on their existing programmes. I was disappointed that some of these school leaders lacked the vision of what to them is a future school. It was even more painful to have them describe how they thought technology would change their schools, without much thoughts on how their new curriculum would distinguish them from the rest. In fact, with my work as curriculum partner supporting schools on the TLLM ignite PBL cluster, I am increasingly clearer that it would be quite a arduous journey for schools to truly rise to the awakening of what it means for engaged learning to take place. One of the saddest questions I hear principals ask is "Would we be able to measure the effectiveness of the programme by comparing these classes results with the rest?" In my heart, I wish most honestly to ask them- "Would you rather your students enjoy the process of learning and thereby change the way they would learn in the future OR would you rather gain immediate gratification by seeing a 10% increase in test scores and then get more classes to use PBL just because it works?"

At times, it even irks me to hear of so-and-so boasting of how they have transformed their schools with their knowledge of curriculum design. My sense is that the heart of true curriculum innovation would require the school leader or the teacher to boldly create a learning experience that is not just solely based on single pedagogical approach but to customise the experience to reap the best means to help the child enjoy learning. Yes, I am unashamed to say that it is my deepest desire to run a school of my own- somewhat independently- so that I could work work with a selected group of teachers- of diverse interest, passions, personality and learning style types- with just a common goal to change the way learning works. Its a school of fun-where kids chart their own learning, have the autonomy to plan for how they want lessons to take place (who says UbD is good only for teachers??), teachers to be well skilled as faciltators so that deeper discussion and debates could take place on a daily basis. Who says Project Work needs be a subject in silos? It was somewhat funny to answer a call few days back when a teacher called to ask "Should PW have a grade for in the report book?" I am just wondering if this teacher lives in age of isolation- in this day and age, i wish teachers are great networkers- to tap on the communities of eager folks willing to share ideas and knowledge on the web or jut be linking up and talking. One of the deepest questions I wish to raise to the C2015 taskforce is "would we dare to challenge the notion that Structures ie. exams Drives Behaviour?" The heart of matter is it takes more then just knowledge to make transformations. Michael Fullen inspired me to believe that purposeful and courageous leadership is the heart of change. I want to build a school where the behaviour changes structures. Wrong, behaviour puts new structures in place.

Ms Ho questioned about my point that the curriculum of 2015 may arrive to level where students are ready to co-create this learning experience iwth their teachers. I believe it is possible to a large extent. If the school leader is ready to foster the right learning culture in all teachers and students. It is only with lack of passion and knowledge that many are not ready to embrace the power of co-creation-where new meaning is synthesized- that to me is true learning. During one of the Innolab meetings, DGE once commented on my point that schools lack the courage to change the education system. She said "What stopping them?" Huh.. my personal take- lack of vision and courage. NOw that the education landscape is transforming- with strong senior leadership who dares make the difference- do I still choose to abandon that dream which I publicly declared back in 2002-on my wedding?

Choice B)
Torn on the far end of my inner world, God allowed me to come to realisation that I am not such a superman afterall. (yes, 2N1's A1 size poster of Super Yeo still stands tall) In December last year, I realised that much as I love my work so much and I love my family so much, which I do love more? Action speaks louder then words, I believe its near impossible to balance both. It was ironic that as the staff welfare champion last yr, on one hand, I encouraged colleagues to go home early to spend time on own or with family, yet on the other hand, I am the culprit that frequently works til 9pm. What is work life balance? Or could it be more of work life integration-of either bringing the work home to do? Recently a principal friend shared that many of her Pri 1 parents flustered to resign from their jobs just to be a better parent. She opined (much as I hate this word) by the time the child reaches P1, it may just be a tad too late. As an educator at heart, I knew the truth in this and it sure has disturbed me quite a bi, sufficiently enough to get me make some serious actions.

Next, Vanessa told me that I really ought to spend more time teaching Joshua since he listens to me more and enjoys the "classes" we do together. She made this comment last night- "Her life purpose is that to be a helper to people" So real. Little does she realise her pivotal role in helping her man make the many life changing decisions. How she "forced" me to resign from BMG- the first job I held, which could bring in as much as $8k with commisions- but to what cost-she asked, and how we prayed together for the Zoo Curator post which I spend some good 2yr that I truly loved, and her green light for me to take my Masters and her courage when we had to abort the second child. Last Sunday, I jokingly said that I ought to resign and be a better dad and explore taking up the couple of offers. I was shocked when she said "GO ahead". I guess she knew how my perspectives have changed, and she knows where my heart and my gifts are. This is the most practical woman I ever knew and yet, here she is ready to nudge me to take the big plunge. To resign or take 1 or 2 years no pay leave or .... heaven knows.

I am clear that unless I make parenting my primary focus and career or professional development my second (rather then the other way round) life will just go on til the day, I realised that I am but the absent dad.

Where should I go from here? I promised wabbit that I will stick til the end of the year. I have many unrealised hopes that I have in CPDD. For sure, i wanna see that the TLLM schools would do well in their research projects. And for sure, I wish to build my community of practice from the 200 or so teachers I trained in creativity tools and to get them onto the next phase of creativity tools in CPS. Anyway, I am so indebted to the great learning in CPDD I just want to give back.

Finally in response to Edmund's question, I wrote: 1) To entrust EVERYTHING to God- my family, my career, my passion, my life 2) To immerse in a life being a child of God Upped the game,I have, all right.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Having left the theatre with my performance in 'I Have a Date with Spring' since 2001, 'Family@doors' is the most challenging piece I have personally scripted and directed. Doors is a metaphor of the two doors in life- one that GOd receives us with His loving open arms and, the other-that man creates as an innermost thirst to feed his rebellious need to seek for freedom and power.

A modern day story of the prodigal son, presented as a Mime by a 20 strong cast from 6 to 55 years old, with a dose of abstract videos, be prepared to be blown away and torn apart by the harsh reality portrayed in this powerful mime.

Providence Presbyerian Church (Orchard Rd)

celebrates our 40th Church anniversary with this Gospel Rally during Good Friday.

21st and 22nd March (Fri and Sat). 7.30pm.

Contact me for more details