Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

Just some live examples.

A leader of an organisation criticised some job interviewees at an internal meeting.

…They boasted how experienced and capable they had been… They thought so highly of themselves and talked of commendations and positive appraisals… They knew no humility! A professional must have some humility…

Then, the leader started boasting.

…As your role model, I graciously accepted the difficult job assigned to me… I stepped out of my comfort zones and came forward… My supervisors had never had to tell me what to do… They told me, ‘you are competent, I don’t need to worry about your performance.’ These are not my words. I don’t praise myself…

At another meeting, some members of the staff were late. This leader started preaching.

…I have been watching the clock. You are late for 2 minutes. Highly unprofessional! You need to have better sense of time, or your colleagues must wait for you! Unacceptable…

On the second day, the organisation held a camp. This leader needed to officially open a campfire at 8pm. At 8pm, everything was ready, and the staff waited patiently for the leader to appear. The leader came at 8.15pm, and happily preached on professionalism for another 15 minutes, before lighting the campfire at 8.30pm. No apologies were offered.

The leader often boasts on keeping promises.

…I mean what I say. I keep my promises. How about you?…

A couple among the staff applied for 3 days of marriage leave. The leader granted two days, and the third day under the condition of finishing all their work before the leave. The couple finished their work two days in advance. The leader then assigned one more task to the couple. The couple diligently completed it within one day. But the third day of the leave was still not approved, and yet another task was assigned, specially requested to complete on site on the third day. The groom went to ask the leader. The leader said,

…I did not promise the third day! I told you you should finish your work if you want to take the third day of the leave. Now you have another task to finish. And I want you to do it here in the organisation and not at home….

This is how promises are kept.

The leader always reminds the staff to do some reflection and soul searching. Hopefully this leader can do some reflection and soul searching as well?

2015 Review

I have survived the first year in the new school. There have been a lot of setbacks, mistakes, anguish, anger, stress and annoyance; but at the same time I have also enjoyed good comradeship and friendship with the new colleagues, found my new strength as a lower primary teacher, seen myself as an educator with more confidence. I have been much critical of some leadership issues in the school, as I always am in any bureaucracy; that is in my nature and unlikely will be changed.

I made my first intercontinental trip to London, UK, the No. 1 destination in my list; then I went to Kyoto, Japan, the No. 2 in the list. I enjoyed myself in these two historic cities, while mourning for the ever thinning wallet.

I have also found my true love after 12 years of loneliness. It is an unusual relationship: slow to build up, fast to peak, intense, passionate and yet invisible to many. Now I can’t live without her, nor can I easily bear the seemingly long emptiness if we were to part for more than one day. The mutual acceptance and love make us ever so close together.

Things happened lightning fast in 2015, be it good or bad. It is a difficult year, but it is also surely my best year.

In 2016, I’ll try to work better (not necessarily harder) and survive the second year in the school without much regret. I’ll also propose to my love, and I wish she would accept it.

Wish everything will be fine.

Twenty Fifteen

So here we are, at the beginning of another year. 2015 will see the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta of England, the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Singapore, and my first year in the second school since I became a teacher.

I do not like to write resolutions because I seriously lack imagination. But anyway here they are:

1. To survive, and survive well, in the new environment

Having spent 3 days in the new school, I am still trying to adapt to the new environment. There are new colleagues to befriend with, new facilities to make use of, new pupils to educate, and new leaders to work for. I will try my best.

2. To get fit

Getting fit does not just mean slimming down. I will try some strength training, and also not to get sick. The new school is just 1km away, so I can walk to and back from work every day. Bukit Panjang Plaza is in only 1.4km walking distance from my house, and 1.4km from the school; I can walk there too. Eateries are very convenient at Fajar Shopping Centre, which is only a few steps away, and the proximity of eateries has effectively reduced my tendency to over eat; in the past, I needed to walk quite a long distance for meals and tended to eat too much, or to order food delivery too frequently, because of the high time cost in travelling.

3. To save more money

Renting a much cheaper room already saves a lot. The nearness of my school and shopping centres also cuts down travel expenses. Since I eat less now, I will also spend less on food. With my newly opened OCBC 360 Account, I will earn more interest from my deposit too. And I no longer need to buy so many photography gadgets, as I have moved from Canon EOS to Olympus OM-D. Just hope that I will not develop a new hobby in the new year!

4. To get a driving license

Hopefully I can get my license within this year. Bukit Batok Driving Centre is very close, 3.8km away, just in the distance between my previous house and previous school. With an emphasis of ‘working smart’ and a work-life balance policy in the new school, I believe I can manage my time and accomplish that. Whether to buy a car — and whether I can afford one — is another question.

UPDATED: It looks like I will not be able to learn driving after work because I am mentally exhausted by the time I go out of the office. Look at it this way: at least I save another 2000 dollars…

5. To travel out of the Malay Peninsula

I am not a traveller. My first step out of my comfort zone was taken 16 years ago from Swatow to Singapore, and the second 10 years ago from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. I think maybe it is time to take another step, and a longer one. There are four options: Britain, Taiwan, Japan, and New Zealand. I shall make the decision according to my wallet size — and my mood.

That’s it. I know I am boring. Whatever.

Implications

‘The ones who attended the blah blah course are in fact bonded to the school for two years. Though they did not sign any contract, it was implied so. And now, two out of the eight have already broken the rules.’

And I am one of the two who have ‘broken the rules’ by leaving the school before the implied bond period starts.

To be bonded without signing any contract is something creative. The obligation (and therefore our breaking the rules) lies merely in implications.

Maybe I am too stupid to comprehend this.

My stupidity implies that I have not been provided sufficient guidance… or cash to study… or freedom to further my learning… you name it. Implications are not finite or exhaustible.

The owner of this innovative idea cannot take any legal action against me, as there is no legal power in ‘implications’. And since I am leaving the school, this idea owner cannot punish me at work either — except, perhaps, saying something nasty about me to my new leader. No, I am not implying that my current leader will definitely do it.

Forgive me for the incoherent ranting (?) above. I just feel it hilariously ridiculous for a school leader to utter those sentences. And this paragraph does imply my despising someone.

Updates

I could not find a better title because this entry is going to be quite miscellaneous — chaotic, messy, disorderly, whatever — but, who cares what title I have used? The above title is as good as ‘untitled’ but let’s just move on from here.

It’s been four months since the last entry. Many changes, subtle and minute they might seem, have taken place. The most obvious is my photos. I no longer do daily casual photography with iPhone. I no longer shoot school events with my Canon EOS 7D — in fact, I sold all my DSLR stuff, large or small, within a fortnight. Instead, I use my new Olympus O-MD E-M1 for both purposes. The sensor may be small but the image quality delivered by the superb lenses is impressive. And it is so much more compact than DSLRs of the same level. Surprisingly I started to shoot in manual mode, which I kept avoiding on my DSLR. I also started to pay more attention to aspect ratios, depth of field and compositions. I used to resist electronic viewfinders, but with E-M1, I realised how useful an EVF can be. There are many features that I enjoy on my new toy, but that is not the focus here.

I took part in a political gathering for the first time ever in my life. On 1st October, I went to Hong Lim Park to join ‘Singapore in Solidarity with Hong Kong‘. Thanks to my being outside the Mainland China, I could voice my opinions and take my stand (relatively) freely; thanks to my being a Singapore citizen, it was legal for me to join such gathering at Hong Lim Park. Most of my friends, Chinese or Singaporeans, have been against the student movement. It has been difficult for me to discuss with them on this matter.

I also tried shaving my head for one month. Artificial baldness was in fact my means to disguise natural baldness, as my hair had been increasingly thin since two years ago. Quite a number of friends told me that baldness made me look much older than my already very old looking usual self. So I stopped shaving around 10 days ago. Now my hair is back, as well as that natural baldness.

I purchased a new domain and server, and set up this independent blog (yet again). This is the first entry on the new site, more than one month after it was set up; the older posts were imported from my wordpress.com site, which still exists but will not be updated. In fact I wanted to set up an online shop, but could not make up my mind on what to sell. I also wanted to write on Chinese language education, but my writing have really deteriorated. Maybe this space will eventually become my own cloud storage.

The haze has been harassing Singapore for two months and I do not know when it will leave us. There were some thunderstorms recently (very late compared with ‘normal’ years) and the PSI fluctuated accordingly; but it will stay high unless the origin is under control — which I doubt will be done by the Indonesian authority.

I applied to transfer to another school. To make sure that I would be able to get out of my current school, I changed my address to Bukit Panjang right before the application period began. The outcome will be announced next week, and I wish I can be posted to the only new school in Bukit Panjang. My current school is my first school after graduating from NIE, and more than once I pictured myself growing old with her; I like my colleagues here, and I love my kids even more; it took me three years to click that button. The decision was difficult to make, but once it was made, everything just followed: I found myself a room in Bukit Panjang, I changed my address, I gave much more to my pupils as I would not see them next year, I planned my CCA activities so that the next teacher can carry on next year, and I am now ready for the announcement.

Talking about the reasons to leave my current school, well, they are not complicated. My pedagogies have not been improved on during my stay in this school, while I learned too much about administration and other non-teaching related procedures. I came to the profession with good passion and enthusiasm, but the leadership and management of this school have frozen my passion and dispersed my enthusiasm. I saw flaws in the system but my words were worthless; I sensed the school going to terminate herself but they put their effort in wrong places. I do not want to accuse absolute corruption as I have no proof, but absolute power is visible and is being used inappropriately; without checks and balances, power can only do harm and no good.

Just as the entry did not begin with a proper title, it will not end with a proper conclusion.

Fragmentation

It’s been almost three months since the last post. I have been updating on Twitter and Weibo, on all kinds of topics and yet seriously fragmented. Fragmentation seems to be the major trend and concern in today’s world; from content generation to content consumption, from software development to offline education, from organization management to daily grocery, we all face the overwhelming urge and often inevitable necessity of fragmentation: breaking a grand, higher order mission into much smaller, easier tasks, which can be accomplished by utilizing our already fragmented time slots, and yet most of time stop us from seeing the actual mission, making us focus on short term benefits and instant gratification.

Fragmentation has its value in this fast-paced, information-overloaded era, but it is an enemy of pleasant reading experience. I started reading Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, on 14th May, and finished it on 25th May. If I were to read it during a holiday without any work to do, I would have finished it in at most 3 days, and because of the continuous, uninterrupted reading, I would have immersed myself in the book more deeply and enjoyed the flow of the events with more anticipation and fulfilment. However, in reality, I finished the book in 12 days, with some days in between without reading at all. As a result, the flow of the events did not seem intact, and I needed every time to re-read the previous page to get myself reconnected with the story. I could not absorb myself completely in the story, like I did when reading Angels and Demons. I still enjoyed the book, but it would have been so much better without the fragmented reading process.

Not just reading; fragmentation affects my work as well. A very obvious example is the setting of examination papers. I can set a complete set of examination paper of high quality, with all formatting perfectly done, in just three or four hours without any interruption. However, ‘three or four hours without any interruption’ is more and more a luxury, partly because of my never-ending official duty and flooding of emails, partly because of my inability to resist distractions from my phone and my web browser. The time taken to set a paper is not simply ‘three or four hours’ plus ‘the time spent on the web and other distractions’; it is a typical ‘1+1>2’ situation. Besides a longer process, the quality also drops, even if given longer time to finish. In another words, fragmentation reduces efficiency and effectiveness.

To counter the negative effects of fragmentation, schools organize intensive classes, some companies (like Facebook) hold coding and design days, cinemas hold movie marathons, and some text processors (like iA Writer and Microsoft Word for Mac) provide full screen, distraction free environment. Even WordPress editor comes with a ‘distraction free writing mode’, in which I am writing this post.

Numbness and/or Inner Peace

Something really bad happened to me last week. Ridiculous and baseless accusations and defamations just showered on me. But my emotion was under control. I was enraged at that moment, but rather briefly. I only showed my anger by slightly faster breathing, and nothing else. I sat straight, kept cool, and made firm eye contact with that person. I told myself, I was much better, in terms of manner, logics and anger management, than the person sitting opposite me across the table.

Very soon after this episode, my emotion was back to normal. When my colleagues came to console me, I genuinely told them I was alright. I still enjoyed myself in my reading, my work, my conversations with friends and pupils, and my food. Really. I did not hold a grudge against anyone, any more. I found myself especially positive on that day.

Some may say I was numb, while others may say I found my inner peace. To me, the words ‘numbness’ and ‘inner peace’ are equivalent. To be peaceful in this imperfect world, you need to be numb in some situations. The only questionable part is not whether it is numbness or inner peace, but in what situations one should be in such a state.

The mentally strong ones can decide what to be numb to, and what not to. I am not strong enough because my mood still swings occasionally without any particular reason. I do want to be strong. I wish I could have steady breathing in the situation mentioned in the first paragraph.

An introvert thinker I truly am.

An Eye-dropping Story

One of my senior colleagues told me this horror story, a real event.

One of her old friends, also a teacher, was conducting a lesson when, suddenly, both of her eyeballs popped out (my colleague used the word ‘dropped’). This poor lady was sent to hospital immediately and underwent a surgery. After recovering from the surgery, this teacher went back to school to teach. And… the same tragedy happened again.

That was quite recent, according to my colleague. Simply scary. I’m sure more and more horror stories will happen to school teachers…

Chicken crossing a road

The more times a chicken crosses a road, the higher the chance it is hit by a car.

This is something I learnt in my JC years and confirmed after I started working.

There is this kind of leaders who can always find wrongs and faults in whatever work you do and make you feel incompetent. The more hardworking you are, the higher chance you have to be scolded by the leader.

The unhealthy implication is obvious. To minimize the chance of being hit by a car, the chicken stops crossing the road. To avoid being accused, you start doing minimum work. You avoid all tasks if possible. You start wondering whether the way you have been doing your work all these years is right or wrong. You lose your passion and enthusiasm and would never take initiative again.

But who says staying on one side of the road is definitely safe? The chicken may still be hit by a car that banged into the road side because the driver has lost his direction. Even if you are not involved in some projects, somehow by conspiracy or by misfortune, you might get into trouble too.

It is a sad case that people have been doing hard work and yet are not recognised. It is even a sadder case that these people, despite having invested great amount of time and effort in a task, still get stabbed, from front on the face or from behind on the back.

Sometimes you are just desperate and feeling hopeless after witnessing all these dramas.

Family and school matters

A little boy at the age of 8 has been extremely naughty and restless since his first day in school. His classmates dislike him. He likes grinning to teachers, ear to ear, even when the teachers are angrily scolding him.

The teachers did try to find out the cause of his misbehaviours, and the only conclusion was ‘family problem’. The boy’s parents divorced one or two years ago, and he stayed with the father and the latter’s girlfriend, whom the boy calls mother. I would just call her his stepmother. This stepmother knows only one way of educating her new son: whacking.

The female form teacher tried to contact the father, but amusingly the stepmother controlled the communication channel out of jealousy. So the task of contacting his parents has been given to me, his male form teacher. Still, the stepmother did not allow me to get in contact with the father. Reasons unknown.

According to my colleagues, his father did come to school once last year. In my colleagues’ description, his father has tattoos all over his body and is not properly educated. I have seen his stepmother twice. She has heavy makeup, which does not beautify her but emphasises her ugliness, and a constantly stern face, as if the whole world is owing her some billions of dollars. A perfect match, I should say.

This boy, being mischievous and lying all the time, cannot possibly earn teachers’ trust. And he seems to be content with this image and even tries to get worse.

So this boy stole money from two of his classmates yesterday, before and during their recess. The victims and witnesses complained to me. Being questioned for some hours, and giving a couple of incoherent, self-contradicting accounts of what happened, he finally admitted to me and the discipline team that he did it.

We called the stepmother and asked her to come to school for further discussion. Then the stepmother told us a lengthy story of this family.

Some days ago, when the boy went home after playing downstairs, he saw the father bring home a lady. The father chased him out of the house, asking him to continue playing downstairs. So he did. Then the stepmother came home. The boy told her what happened. The stepmother understandably got furious, and the couple had a fight. Enraged, the stepmother went to stay in her friend’s house. The father was so furious with the boy that he did not only whack him but also locked him out of the house. It was around 8 at night, and the boy slept on the staircase till 2am. The same thing repeated once or twice.

When asked why the boy stole money and misbehaved, the Grade 2 kid answered that it was because he was too angry with the father. Anger with the father and stealing classmates’ money are apparently unlinked. But they might be linked if the kid was doing these to vent his anger. A Grade 2 kid does not know how to mange anger after all.

However we are not 100% sure that the stepmother’s and the boy’s story is true. It was from a parent who kept her two sons in boys’ home before she got married to this boy’s father. It was from a stepmother who abused this boy frequently. It was from a boy who kept misbehaving and lying. It was from a boy who cried with two fountains in his eyes when telling this story in the office and then grinned to me, ear to ear, 15 minutes later.

All these problems are family matters, and yet they become the school matters and the teachers’ problems.

The boy is now undergoing counselling, and I really doubt the effectiveness.