Monday, December 01, 2008

Post-China Reflections

We went, we saw, we shopped, they (the students) laughed, they yelled, they sang, they connected, they cried. That about sums up the 11 day Zhuhai trip.

I was very glad to be home, mainly because of my daughter. This is the first time I've been away from her for so long.  I thought of the night before I left for China, how she insisted on sleeping with me, how she clung on to me and cried herself to sleep, how I had to leave the house for the airport as quietly as possible so I wouldn't wake her up and have her go through another heart-wrenching sobbing episode, how I later learnt from my husband that she had wailed upon finding me gone. She had then gone to school, teary-eyed and sniffing and she later related to me how some of her friends had laughed at her in school for crying in class. All these, is enough to make me want to rush home to be reunited with my flesh and blood.

So, while the shopping in China was fabulous, and for once, I felt like a rich tai-tai because many things seemed so affordable compared to the cutthroat prices you pay in Singapore, there is nothing that can be compared with the joy of seeing my girl trying to hold back her tears when she saw me at the airport. I don't think I want to be away from her for so long again, at least not until she becomes a teenager and begins to find me annoying and uncool and can't wait for me to disappear for a while. Until then, I want to be there to let my girl be mummy's girl.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A bibliophile's obsession

Following my earlier post about my love of books and a short discussion with some students and ex-students about certain books, I thought it is high time I include here some sites which I visit obsessively.

To students who don't read often and hence are not sure what books to read, you can always refer to lists of recommended books compiled by bibliophiles, respectable publications or book publishers.

One list which I refer to quite often in the last year is flamboyantly called "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die". It is not merely a list of 1001 titles, the suggested book list is actually compiled into an impressively heady tome, complete with reviews and pictures and interesting snippets about the book's and its author's history. The book has now taken pride of place on my bookshelf.

Then I discovered, to my delight, that someone has actually prepared an Excel spreadsheet which lets you tick the books (out of the 1001 titles) which you have read, and then calculates the number of books you must read in a year if you were to complete the 1001 target before you see your Maker. Call me crazy but I take a perverse delight in actually wanting to know what that insane number is. Filling in the spreadsheet transports me instantly to giddy exhilaration. I encourage all book lovers to visit Arukiyomi's site, download the spreadsheet and then see how many of the 1001 you have consumed and discover your reading target for the rest of your life. You can take comfort that I have so far achieved a mere 3.5% of the target and would need to read 24 books per year from the list if I were to complete this massive mission.

Something less intimidating which any compulsive or casual reader can do is to visit the Amazon website and check out ratings and reviews of popular books you have seen or heard people talk about. I like to do what I call a book chain search. Say I have finished reading a James Patterson novel and like it a lot, I then search for titles similar to James Patterson's book in Amazon. I'm then  led from one book to another to another until I'm utterly intoxicated by the sheer number of great books waiting for me to read! Hence, I'm never short of ideas on what to read next. I always have a list of at least 10 books I can read after the current one and I often visit bookstores or the library deliberately or randomly to check up on books I can buy or borrow. 

I am also thrilled that our local library does stock many of the bestsellers. To find out which branch of the library has the book you want, simply search for it and you can reserve the book or visit the branch that carries the title. (Xiao Wei: The Handmaid's Tale is available in the public library. Just do a search and visit the branch that has the title.)

Perhaps I'm boring some of you who can't fathom my love of books. It'll be a real pity if you can't enjoy the world of reading. Reading nourishes your mind, enlarges your vista and enriches your life experience. It'll also make you a more interesting person to talk to. It's never too late to start reading.  The rewards are too numerous. So what are you waiting for? 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

First time stuck in lift

What an odd way to finish the school term.

I got stuck in the school lift for about 35 minutes today. Right when I was heading to my class for the class party. The lift heaved a little more heavily than usual on the 3rd floor and then stopped dead. Cassie, the IT trainer who was in the lift in me, stared round-eyed at me and started hitting all the buttons on the lift panel frantically. Me, I tried to act cool. It was a surreal moment for me.

I told Cassie to calm down. Just wait for help to come. I saw lots of students walking outside the the lift. We waved, shouted, banged on the door, rang the alarm bell. But no one heard us. Now what? Thankfully Cassie had her phone with her. She called the office. Then we waited.

Meanwhile, I pondered about the absurdity of the situation. Here I am, armed with a box of brownies for my class, but I'm trapped in this metallic hellhole. The students outside couldn't hear us. The air in the lift was getting stale. But I had food with me!! Let's eat here! I told Cassie. Let's take a picture too!

Finally some boys from F34 saw us. They pressed their faces to the glass panel. They laughed, pointed fingers, whipped out their handphones (not to take pictures I hope!) and got more of their friends to come and look at Exhibit A. Oh no, not when my make-up was melting!

Miss Johnson came. I put on my best woebegone face to gain some sympathy. Then the repairman came, pried open the door, and we stepped out.

I patted my hair, checked my make-up, and tried, as suavely as I could, to make my way up to my class. Last day of school, and I had to experience such a malu moment. But thank God it's the last day of school. I wouldn't want to start the year being known as The Teacher Who Got Stuck In The Lift. Like that where to hide my face?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What do you read?

To my dear students (especially the more vociferous ones from F31) who have been lamenting on the near-demise of my blog, I shall attemp to breathe a bit of life back to my blog. This is particularly important to me since I discovered several ex-students who still check my blog for any signs of life and use this blog as a means to stay in touch.

Of course, my lack of activity here is not entirely forgiveable. Busyness is a pathetic excuse I know, because I always frown on students who use their busyness as an excuse for not picking up a book to read. You will always make time for things that are important to you and for that matter, I will always have time to read, and you will always see me with a book wherever I go. I will readily succumb to any spot check by any student to see if I practise what I preach. If you promise not to laugh at the songs I have in my ipod, you can always spot-check my bag and see if I have a book tucked inside.

Talking about reading, this year has been a very very productive year for me as far as reading goes. As early as December 2007, I began my frantic foray into Chinese books (very humbled by my lack of Chinese fluency after my visit to Beijing) and devoured close to 20 Chinese novels in the space of 3 months. That is a personal record for me as I have never read more than 10 Chinese novels in the last 30+ years since I learnt to read Chinese! Since this personal Olympic feat, I have been able to maintain a constant reading diet of about a Chinese novel every 6 weeks.

Interspersed with my Oriental diet is a steady stream of English books - my first love naturally - and I went through a surfeit of thrillers (David Baldacci, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Tess Gerritsen, Kathy Reichs, Tami Hoag to even the quaint but equally titillating Qiu XiaoLong) before I exhausted myself and have now retreated to more sedate but more satisfying authors like Barbara Kingsolver and Peter Carey. The thrillers have served their purpose of getting me reading voraciously (1 book every 2-3 days) through the year-end holidays last year and up till the first quarter of this year. Then the formulaic serving begins to wear me out and I started to seek a more eclectic cuisine.

I have also bought tons of books in the meantime and they are all sitting nicely on my shelves, waiting for me to explore their riches. I must give special thanks to F31 for giving me a most precious gift for Teachers' Day - you are evidently a class after my own heart! :) I shall savour the delights of Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex with great joy once the December break starts. (I need to clear the backlog of books from the National Library first!)

This year also marks the year I start exploring some authors that I see my students reading. The girls in F31 seem very fond of Jodi Picoult so I took the liberty to order some of her books for the school library, although I must confess I had no idea at that time if her books are 'wholesome' enough for the school library. I discovered, after trying one of her books, that the 'risk' was worth it. After the Jodi Picoult fever, I saw Stephanie Meyer making her rounds in the school. I mentioned it to some of the English teachers and one of them promptly bought one to read and pronounced it a page-turner (the vampire content notwithstanding). So I've 'choped' the book as it is making its round amongst the English teachers and I can't wait to read for myself this page-turner. I can't guarantee that Stephanie Meyer will take residence in our school library next year seeing as the school is not that open to vampire stories but I'm optimistic that if a sufficient number of teachers give the thumbs-up, we may be able to see our library stocked with books you want to read.

Which brings me to the title of this post. I'm curious to know what authors you like to read and why. Since I have quite a big say in what books will appear in our library (in fact I get to choose the books!), you will do many students in GM a big favour by telling me authors and books that you want to see in our library. So please respond in the comments section and I'll see what I can do next year.

Ex-students who read this post, you can also let me know what you read. I've always believed in recommending good books to people. A good book is one of the best gifts you can give to anyone and if you think teachers are clueless about what teenagers like (there is an element of truth in that!), then pray, englighten us. I look forward to hearing from all the hungry readers out there.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tips for Powerpoint

JX says my blog is getting boring cos I haven't updated it for so long. So in order not to lose my readers, I thought I'll provide something useful here so that my students can still find some value in visiting this site.

For those of you in the midst of preparing your Powerpoint presentation for Project Work, it would be really helpful if you can check out the evils of Powerpoint presentation. If your internet connection speed allows it (which means you have to do it outside the school!), click on the other videos on the link too.

I've always been a firm believer of simple, slick and concise Powerpoint presentations. It's a sign that you have transformed from being cutesy to being cool. And that is a very fine but essential line to cross.

Happy powering your Powerpoint!

P.S. This is entirely unrelated to the subject matter but I thought I'll let it be documented here that my whole family are now ardent fans of JJ Lin. His songs are in my handphone, my daughter's handphone, my two mp3 players, my computer and in my mind. And I'd gladly blue-tooth them to anyone who shares the same slavish adoration I have for him. Don't say I never share ah!!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The First Time

I told myself I would never ever do this. Because it's better not to know. Because behind my cool, composed, and (I hope) no-nonsense exterior, I am a sensitive, sentimental, and fragile piece of tou-fu. But today, I had time to kill. So my fingers disobeyed me.

So here I was, sitting at my keyboard, and I finally, for the first time in my life, typed on the Google search bar - "Mdm Sng". I held my breath for an agonizing split second as the page of search results flickered to life on the screen.

Most of the results were irrelevant. I heaved a tentative sigh of relief. Then some of the on-target results began to show up. Some were taken from blogs of students I know. Some were new.

Should I delve deeper, poke around? Should I read about what other people have said of me? Is it safe? Will I lose my confidence?

I tiptoed into some blogs. Nothing defamatory or bruising in there. My ego's still intact. After the third page, I decided. I can't go on anymore. This is totally unnecessary. I should spare myself the worry and the agony.

Some things are better left undiscovered. Lunch is waiting. I still need my self-respect. I'm not aiming to be Miss Popular. So it really doesn't matter. My wantan mee beckons. I shall obey my stomach instead.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What you don't know about me

First of all, a big hello to my first visitors from F31! Step in and I hope you'll linger for a while and we'll get to know one another better in class, in this nebulous world of cyberspace and even in the neighbourhood where I spend most of my non-working hours.

Someone threatened to spam by blog while I was having lunch at the canteen today and though I acted really nonchalant about it, in reality I nearly choked on my fishball. Please please, have some respect for the elderly. I took 2 years to build up this blog so don't massacre it. If it's spammed, and thrashed, and disfigured, my blog would simply disappear into oblivion and I won't have the energy nor will to raise it from the ashes. Perhaps our lesson on Unit 4 of Power-Packed Vocab is what triggered the sudden aggression in the student. Perhaps I should skip Unit 4 and go on straight to Unit 5.

In any case, I should take this chance to introduce myself to you all, since we are new to one another. So a peek into my secret world :

* I love languages - English, Chinese, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese. I love listening to a language that is beautifully spoken. I love listening to Mandarin because it touches my heart the way English can't. In my dream, my Romeo would be someone who can spout sweet-nothings to me in perfect Mandarin. I love watching the Chinese news on TV. Somehow, the English newscasters with their fake accents really turn me off.

* I love Engilsh pop songs more than Mandarin pop songs. There's more variety in English pop songs, I feel. I've recently discovered Keane and Click Five and they're brill!

* I'm a gadget babe. I love my gadgets more than I love my wedding jewelleries (seriously). I throw my wedding ring carelessly into a drawer and now I don't know where it is. But I still keep carefully my very first PDA (a Psion Series 5 which is now a collector's item I'm sure).

* I MUST change my handphone every year. I can't imagine life with the same handphone for more than 12 months. I'm a flirt when it comes to handphones.

* I'm crazy about my daughter (9 years old). She doesn't like it that I'm crazy about her (the first hint of her pre-puberty angst) but she knows I'll do anything to support her. I've changed jobs, moved house and given up my studies just for her. And I have no regrets.

* I'm very excited about my form class this year. I always start the year in a rather tentative way, not sure what to expect with each new batch of students. But I'm quite positive we'll have a great time together this year. :)

I shall now go back to marking your essays. And pray really hard that this blog will not suffer an ignominious death because of some prankster. Remember hor, your tests and exam marks, and TESTIMONIAL are in my hands. So don't do anything dastardly (Mdm Sng brandishing red pen menacingly in the air).