Sunday, 21 January 2018

My 5th PSLE child - My Son

Somehow, I feel like a new PSLE mum. After #1, it was more or less the same with the next 3 girls as they were on auto-pilot and there was no need to micro-manage their school work.

For #5, after a horrific showing at his P5 year-end results, I need to monitor him closely this year. We gave him a serious pep talk and I think the severity of the exams have sunk in. At least a little.

It helps a lot that there is the Class Dojo app, a lifesaver for parents like me with a boy who is still not getting with the system at P6. I can easily send any of his teachers a quick check-in text and vice versa, and follow up on the reminders they post almost daily.

So far, he seems to be pretty upbeat and on top of things and he has been putting in effort and handing up all his homework on time. I was most glad to hear from his Chinese teacher that he is trying hard but Chinese is still a subject he really struggles with. His aunt has taken on the very daunting task of tutoring him and we hope that he is able to lift himself from a miserable ungraded mark to at least a pass this year.

We attended the talk by the Principal last weekend and 2 things caught my attention.

One was the flip classroom model whereby students are to be more initiated and learn at home via Google Classroom so that when they come to class, there is more time for discussions and customised learning (whatever that means in a class of 40).

I was pleasantly surprised to hear of this transformation from the traditional method to one where there will be more opportunities for discussion and individualized attention. I was wondering if my other kids are also using it as they have never mentioned it before and asked them at dinner. My older girls giggled to themselves and tried to explain to me that it is nothing fantastic. "Mum, it's the same as google docs. Everyone can see the lesson and questions. That's all."

Oh. I thought it was some kind of interactive online learning portal from the way it was explained at the talk. 2 of them have been using google classrooms, in poly and in sec 1, while the other 2 girls in sec 4 and JC 2 have not come across this as yet. I guess it will be rolled out in all schools soon enough.

Let's see if this new method is effective, though I wish the students had more time to get used to it before the PSLE year.

The other thing which I was dismayed to hear, was the Principal explaining that this year the focus has shifted from quantity to quality, that there is no point piling them with a whole load of extra work with no real understanding.

This was the exact feedback I gave to the Level Head 2 years back after #4's PSLE. Many students from her class and the next class fared between 180 and 220 which is disappointing for a top school, and we parents were lamenting how many of them were burnt out from doing stacks of past year papers yet there was not enough time for the teachers to go through with them the corrections to learn from their mistakes.

Yes, I'm glad they take our feedback seriously, but why does it seem like it's still a matter of trial and error. It was disconcerting to know that there isn't a solid system to prepare the cohort well for the national exams.

I've seen this swing in my other kids' previous primary school as well. If there was an alarming case the year before, there would be a call to step down on the PSLE workload given to the point where up till March, she still had almost no homework at all until I explained to her teachers that she did not have extra tuition outside and her teachers gave her individual homework.

The more I go through the PSLE with different kids having their own learning footprints, the more I feel a better way of sorting them at 12 is needed.

The kids are stressed, the parents are stressed, the teachers are stressed. I honestly can't tell who is the most stressed!

I'm not overly bothered about the grade he will eventually get for his PSLE (yes, I've reached this stage after going through too many PSLEs) but it is sad that for a child like #5 who is creative, bright, and able to think out of the box, but weak in Chinese and not keen on memorizing key words and composition formats, he may very well end up in the technical stream which is not suitable for him.

I can totally understand many parents' fear and drive to push their children to accumulate awards and do up impressive portfolios for DSA and such.

We need to relook this PSLE game.

Is it really achieving its objective about educating the next generation and sorting the kids suitably according to their natural aptitude and abilities into the different pathways or has it become a system gamed by the adults with our kids feeling like pawns?

There is no easy solution, but not addressing it head-on soon enough is like letting a bullet train derail at high speed.


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

2018 - Can I run and hide?

2017 went by like lightning because work picked up momentum. I finally felt the weight of a working mum holding down 2 jobs. A busy work week, followed by an even busier weekend of seeing to the kids' needs. I was on a bullet train that couldn't stop.

After a nice, slow December, I am all rested and recharged. I have put Kate in childcare which took a load off my mind. Initially hesitant to move her at K2 as she was happy in her preschool but glad she managed to settle well today, with just a little bit of tears halfway through the afternoon. She missed her mummy, her old friends, and has to adjust to a new routine.

If 2017 was crazy, 2018 will be pure madness. Our student numbers have tripled and it's going to be an exciting run with my team of teachers this year.

On the home front, first of all, I have a PSLE child. After going through this 4 times, the PSLE is just another year to me. However, dealing with my boy is a whole different ballgame altogether. His Chinese has been deteriorating year after year and is now at a miserable 20/100. He used to enjoy Science and was scoring 80+ but failed his P5 SA2 exam paper. This was what he wrote:

Yes. The type of answers we laugh about on Facebook. When I questioned him, he explained the whole molting process and exclaimed, "Mum, such a tough life right?!" His imagination is that vivid. I went for a talk recently and the speaker was explaining how children can be categorized by their fingerprints and he called this group of kids Type R. Creative, full of original ideas, our future designers and architects, but constantly getting into trouble with teachers.

Headache.

This requires a different tact from how I guided the girls, as I'm sure if I left him to his own devices, he will go through the week without any homework handed in nor relaying important messages from school.

His teachers said that a big part of his problem is his motivation, and we are scratching our heads on how to get him to buy into the idea of having to conform to the PSLE structure and memorizing appropriate key words for the sake of doing well in the exams so that he can go into a better school. This is something that baffles his immature 11-year old mind.

Thankfully, the older girls do understand the importance of the crucial years as the 3 of them are taking the O and A-level exams as well as Sec 2 streaming. I do worry though, that they don't get enough sleep and it will doubtlessly be a stressful year even without me putting any pressure on them.

As for #1, she is in a bit of a dilemma trying to decide what her next step should be. After 3 years in poly, she realised this is not where her passion lies, but her interest is veering towards design. She is unsure which aspect of it should she pursue, and several friends in this field have shared their own experiences as we are exploring whether to go for a degree, another diploma, or gain some experience working. Such a tough decision with no clear answers.

Academics aside, these teenage years are the hardest in our parenting journey. The influence of friends and social media is a big concern, along with raging hormones, doubts, self-esteem issues, being critical of everything, and their world view being starkly different from ours.

Sometimes after an exchange with the lot of them, I feel like I've come out of a battlefield. Parenting a bunch of teens is not for the faint-hearted.

When I stop and think about this coming year and how I'm going to fit everything in while setting aside enough time to guide this brood properly, it looks extremely overwhelming. You know, the deserted island in The Last Jedi? The notion of escaping is enticing. Being alone. In silence. Where no one can find me.

Ah well, it's nice to dream for a moment. But this is my reality, these, my responsibilities.

I am so thankful for little Kate.

She's the ray of light with her sunny disposition as she runs into my arms like a furball greeting me with an exuberant "Mummy!!"

Whether it is after a long day at work, or when a heavy issue is weighing on my mind, I can still smile.

When things seem impossible, I can only put my hand in God's hand and let go. By faith, I can find hope. I can find peace.

Rejoice always
Pray without ceasing
In everything, give thanks

Bring it on, 2018! I am ready :)


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~
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