Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Release of N-level results

Today is the day my former class 4/3 recieve their N-levels results. I was there to see the happy (and some not so happy) faces. I'm quite pleased (and pleasantly surprised) by the large number of students that are eligible for Sec 5, though I'm mildly disappointed nobody got has all As....

To be frank, I'm quite new to the whole N-level structure and this year they have introduced another path for N-level graduates. Briefly, a N(A) student can either
  1. Promote to Sec 5 and take O-levels next year (aggregate 10 pts and below for best 3 subjects)
  2. Enter a Higher NITEC course (this is new) if they obtain an aggregate of 19 pts and below for EL, Maths and other 3 subjects).
  3. Enter a NITEC course in ITE.
  4. Repeat Sec 4N.

Obviously, choice 1 and 2 are reserved for students whom had done relatively well in their N-levels. The new path of direct entry to Higher NITEC comes about because quite a large proportion of Sec 5 students did not perform as well and was unable to qualify for JCs or polys. These Sec 5 students will then have to choose to go to NITEC or Higher NITEC courses, which they were given a chance a year ago. I.e. they have "waste" one year as compared to students that chose to go to Higher NITEC after Sec 4N.

And herein lies a problem. And frankly, is quite a big problem in my former school. Most of the Sce 5N students have an aggregate of 8-10 pts. Sure, they make the cut-off point for Sec 5 but can they make it in O-levels? If they fail to score 15 pts or less in their L1R4 for O-levels, their chance of entering a polytechnic is highly unlikely, which would mean they would see their classmates in ITE but a year behind.

There's also the stigma in entering ITE ('ITE for those cannot make it one lah!') and, perhaps even worse, the mindset that exam results are somewhat unpredictable like a lottery: try and perhaps I can make it. I do hope they do not apply for Sec 5 simply because they feel they can buck up and catch up with O-levels standards in a year's time. It's not a matter of feeling but you must have confidence and determination to walk this very challenging last part of the journey.

Also, I feel that choosing to enter ITE to NITEC/Higher NITEC courses may not be such a bad idea at all. I try and draw analogy using DotA, a game I started picking up recently....

Imagine you're a STRENGTH character, like Sven, the Rogue Knight . Since you're a STRENGTH character, you need items that will boost your strength attributes so you can grow more powerful. In other words, you need the right stuff to develop properly.

Unfortunately, the current syllabus/curriculum in secondary schools are more suitable to develop INTEL characters, like Lina Inverse, the Slayer . Perhaps the N and O levels are testing the INTEL abilities and the school gives you items that will boost your intelligence attributes. So if you're an INTEL character, you will do well and excel in the tests and exams. If you're a STRENGTH character, then you may feel very miserable in some of the subjects or the learning style. Worst still, you get poor results in exams, because you were not developing your correct attributes!

Er...so coming back to reality, getting not so good results in your N-levels may mean that you could be a Rogue Knight in a school for sorceress and wizards. If you choose to remain in this school for 1 more year in Sec 5, you may not benefit at all. However, if you choose to go ITE, you will be able to choose courses that fit your needs, interests and attributes. The courses in ITE is such that all modules/subjects you take are relevant for you to obtain your certificate. E.g. you will not need to take history in an Engineering course, or take Maths in a hairdressing course. Hence you become a Rogue Knight in a martial art school, where you could shine and develop your full potential. Hope I'm making sense...

Well, irregardless of your choice, I wish the best for my students and has only this last advice: Be the best that you can be, not what you think you should be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tks for inviting me to the chalet! Had a great time!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Please try to get onto the news for good reasons...

A word you guys might find useful:

- The quality of being discreet; circumspection.
- Ability or power to decide responsibly.
- Freedom to act or judge on one's own:

Obviously he doesn't know the meaning of this word.

On the other hand, I realise a lot of these 'juicy' news came from kaypoh, nosey concerned public who deem it fitting to post it on Stomp and cause a stir. Should we be thankful to them, to Stomp, or should there be some control in this?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fun with electrical fuse

An extension of the previous video of the electrical fuse. This time, we added light bulbs to the circuit and also posed some questions in the video.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Video of a fuse in action

A short video, made by myself and a colleague (Alfred) in NIE for our Physics course. The video shows an ammeter indicating the current passing through the fuse and how the fuse reacts to the current.

We chose this video because very few people has actually SEEN a fuse being blown. We studied it in school and yet most of my students have never seen a real fuse in their entire life. Hopefully, this can help them in understand how a fuse works, and what is its purpose in an electrical circuit.

To cut the long story short, when the current passing through the fuse exceeds a certain value, the heat dissipated by the fuse wire (given by Power = I^2R) is sufficient to melt the fuse wire itself. This cause the fuse wire to break and hence opening the circuit, protecting it from the excessive current.

Can you guess the rating of the fuse? To see answer, use your cursor and highlight the space below this:

Perhaps your guess is 1.5 A, as the video suggests. However, it was a fuse with a 0.6A rating. Apparently, things are not as simple as what's stated in Physics textbook. In engineering, there's a buffer of about 2-2.5 times of the rated current. This is to allow for surges or spikes in the current which is considered 'normal' and prevent excessive and annoying fuse breaking. Not to mention there's a time factor involved in breaking the circuit. Remember, you are actually melting the fuse wire. Does ice turn to water suddenly, or gradually (depending on temperature difference)?

Still, when designing a circuit that has a working current of, say 0.8A, it is still ok to use a 1A fuse. In other words, stick to the simple explanation given by your O level textbook and that is to use the fuse with a current rating that is nearest and greater than the current in the circuit you wish to protect.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A teacher joke

"He who can, does;
he who cannot, teaches."

- George Bernard Shaw, 16th century

Apparently it's a pretty famous quote, and has been used in many context. The maths lecturer today used it, and extended it: those who can't teach, work in NIE!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Interesting video on teaching Maths

And Singapore was mentioned near the end, though opinions on whether if that was a positive comment would be divided.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Games to help in coordinate geometry!

Found this 2 great games that help with coordinate geometry!

Game 1 - Catch the Fly

For students who are still very confuse which is x, and which is y in coordinates? (2,3) or (3,2) leh?

Game 2 - Equation of line aka Kill the Cockroaches!

This is a great game! Form equations of the stright line correctly by looking at the path of the cockroaches and send them to hell!

Other great games here: http://hotmath.com/games.html

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Back to school for Mr Guay!

QCP - Physics
QCM - Maths
QED - Educational Psychology
QLK - Communication
QGS - Group Endeavour in Service Learning

My time table in NIE. Already swamped with 3 presentations, 1 project and 1 essay. Not forgetting that Physics and Comms hasn't even started.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Learning how to learn

Some of you may realise you aren't studying/revising effectively. For example you put in hours of studying and mugging time and can't remember a single thing, or you are so easily distracted and keep having suddent thoughts of every other matter except the subject you're staring with your eyes

1 possible reason for this is perhaps you did not study in a way to suit your learning style.
For example, I remember things by reading and then writing them down in my own words. I create summaries of keypoints and also include the difficult questions that I was unable to solve. Even though the textbooks or notes already have summaries but I still write my OWN NOTES (not copy the teacher's summary). Because only somebody who had fully understood the topic is able to write their own summary.
I also try to imagine or visualise things in thin air. Not sure how many of you can do this but can you try to do multiplication 123 x 54 by imagining you're writing the long multiplication method on an imaginary whiteboard in front of you, without moving your fingers? If you can do this, you would be able to imagine or visulise how electricity flows, how the molecules vibrate when you change the temperature etc.

Take this short survey to find your learning style, and perhaps you can change the way you do your work to make it more effective!

This is Mr Guay's learning style:

The results of Hansen Guay's learning inventory are:

Visual/Nonverbal 22 Visual/Verbal 26 Auditory 18 Kinesthetic 30

Your primary learning style is: The Tactile/ Kinesthetic Learning Style

You learn best when physically engaged in a "hands on" activity. In the classroom, you benefit from a lab setting where you can manipulate materials to learn new information. You learn best when you can be physically active in the learning environment.

You benefit from instructors who encourage in-class demonstrations, "hands on" student learning experiences, and field work outside the classroom. Strategies for the Tactile/ Kinesthetic Learner: To help you stay focused on class lecture, sit near the front of the room and take notes throughout the class period. Don't worry about correct spelling or writing in complete sentences. Jot down key words and draw pictures or make charts to help you remember the information you are hearing.

When studying, walk back and forth with textbook, notes, or flashcards in hand and read the information out loud.

Think of ways to make your learning tangible, i.e. something you can put your hands on. For example, make a model that illustrates a key concept. Spend extra time in a lab setting to learn an important procedure. Spend time in the field (e.g. a museum, historical site, or job site) to gain first-hand experience of your subject matter.

To learn a sequence of steps, make 3'x 5' flashcards for each step. Arrange the cards on a table top to represent the correct sequence. Put words, symbols, or pictures on your flashcards -- anything that helps you remember the information. Use highlighter pens in contrasting colors to emphasize important points. Limit the amount of information per card to aid recall. Practice putting the cards in order until the sequence becomes automatic. When reviewing new information, copy key points onto a chalkboard, easel board, or other large writing surface.

Make use of the computer to reinforce learning through the sense of touch. Using word processing software, copy essential information from your notes and textbook. Use graphics, tables, and spreadsheets to further organize material that must be learned.

Listen to audio tapes on a Walkman tape player while exercising. Make your own tapes containing important course information.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

End of the World?

Human life is short compared to the universe, and yet it is all we have.

So what have you done today, and why are you waiting for tomorrow?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Learning trip to Kuala Selangor 18-19 June 2007

07 Jun 07

This will be a post about the learning trip that's gonna happen on 18-19 Jun 07 to Malaysia. 10 teachers, 40+ students from my school. Joy.

Will continue to update this post till the trip is over. However, what I want to show is that http://www.streetdirectory.com/ actually covers part of JB, Melaka and KL! Hence you guys can actually check out the location of the hotel we're staying in.

Which brings me to the next point.... Somehow, I've gotten the impression that this is a trip to KL - Kuala Lumpur. Well, it isn't unfortunately. Click on the link to find out the location of the hotel we're staying at. It's at least 25 km away from KL! Not too sure if you can even see the twin towers... http://www.streetdirectory.com/malaysia/kl/travel.php?travel_id=1369&travel_site=67215&x=780390.9300&y=340085.9300&star=1&viewmode=&level=3#map

18 Jun 07

Time flies and it's now the day of the trip itself! There was an itinerary change, and so instead of the visit to the rice plantations and other 'educational' highlights, we were scheduled for Sunway Lagoon on the first day! Not that the students were complaining of course.

The 4 hr journey was spent on a 30 seater coach. Quite comfy by my standards.

The tour guide trying his best to manage the students. Teachers was slacking somewhere. "It's school holidays wat!"

Finally, Sunway Lagoon!

The students weren't allowed to go into the wet theme park, hence they could only help themselves to the thrill rides at the amusement park. Unfortunately, there were only 5-6 different rides. Most of them went to have a go or 2, before diving back into the cool embrace of the air-conditioned mall that's attached to Sunway Lagoon and began their shopping spree.

The challenge: 360 degrees viking ride

All smiles before the ride....

...and no fear in the eyes.

Not much smiles now though...

Upside down, insides coming out?

4 useless guys posing front of the ride they dare not take. Eventually 3 of them grew enough..er...guts to try it.

"Hands up those that feel sick please?"

The girls from their class showed much more finesse though!

"Go lah...."
"Dowan lah you go with her lah!

Finding that thrill rides are not their cup of tea, they succumb to Singaporeans' favorite past time - makan!

Happy faces.

Meanwhile, what do science teachers do in a theme park? Evaluate the weight mass of the underweight Ms Fu!

Getting a earful and a valuable lesson on punctuality.

In the mall, a lot of the students were hoarding loads of titbits and drinks for the 'late-night party' in the hotel. Well, I guess they got slightly carried away and in the end a handfull turned up late at the appointed meeting place. This obviously did not go well with the organiser of the trip, the VP.

Despite the little lesson on punctuality, their spirits were hardly dampened. Next stop is a 2 hour journey to a riverside restaurant, where we had seafood dinner by the river. I find it quite ok although most of the students (and some teachers) said the food was not appetising. And after dinner, they packed MORE food and drinks from the conveniece shop across the restaurant,

We then visited the Belimbing Firefly park (which was just 10 minutes away) for a boat ride along Sungei Selangor. Here, we see thousands of fireflies lighting up the berembang trees with their luminous tailights. Unfortunately, none of us have a camera that's able to capture the very interesting natural spectacle. So you have to use your imagination, and visualise a tree filled with hundreds of 2mm green LEDs almost blinking in unison...

Reached the hotel in Shah Alam around 11 pm. Despite the long day, the kids could still chat in their room, gorge on the snacks they bought and some even ordered ice-cream and pizza from the room service. I do know all the teachers fell soundly asleep once we hit the mattresses.

19 Jun 2007

After checking out of the hotel (yes, they were late again...), we were taken for a city ride in Kuala Lumpur. But prior to that, I noticed that the buildings and city layout of Shah Alam is very different from the Malaysia that I know. Instead of looking like JB or Melaka, the roads and houses here resembles Singapore. And the cleaniless is comparable to our green city. There are even street signs that worked!

So what do we do when we were brought to national monuments and places of interest? Take photos lor...

Some students from my Physics/Maths class.

The inevitable pose-like-the-statues pose.

Teaching staff. Last smile before school reopens....

Acting cute version 1

Acting cute version 2

Vice-principle, OM and the boys under the shadow of the Twin Towers.

Wah, finally some students ask for a photo with me...

Last stop for the trip was 2 'educational insights into consumerism and tourism of modern Malaysia' aka shopping stops. First we visited the Chocolate Boutique, which showcased the process of making chocolate and that Malaysia, having vast plantations of cocoa, should logically have the best chocolate (anybody heard of Belgian chocolates? Swiss chocs? Heck, Cadbury is from Australia btw...). Of course, they waste no time in showing off their wide variety of unique chocolate concoctions, such as the infamous Durian chocolate (with real durians!), Tiramisu, Espresso beans (which I bought one pack. It was good.). Being the silly and swakoo Singaporeans that we are, almost everyone bought something from the exhorbitantly priced shop.

And to round it off, we were given 1 hr in Sungei Wang plaza, which really resembled the shopping malls in Thailand (small shops space, low ceilings, IT section on the top level, many many handphones outlets...). I only managed to secure myself a copy of Top Gear Malaysia magazine. Is there a Top Gear Singapore?

To sum it all, the trip was pretty enjoyable, though frankly I was hoping to see rice plantations. I'm not sure much learning has happened during this "learning trip" but I'm quite sure they all had fun. And perhaps the trip was more memorable because they were all Sec 4 students and this could very well be their last class outing with the teachers.

Dragon sculpture..made of chocolate at the Chocolate Butiq.

This is why you need to buy 5mp and above camera...for the unavoidable big group photos!

See you guys when the school reopens!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Qualities of a teacher?

Recently there was a small uproar about the termination of one Mr Alfian Sa'at as a relief teacher from MOE. The commotion is caused by MOE's unwillingness to express directly why did they terminate Mr Alfian's job, even though he seems to be doing quite well. To know more you can read his blog at http://www.blurty.com/users/sleepless77/, particularly
  1. http://www.blurty.com/talkread.bml?journal=sleepless77&itemid=161258
  2. http://www.blurty.com/talkread.bml?journal=sleepless77&itemid=159590
  3. http://yawningbread.org/arch_2007/yax-754.htm
  4. http://sturmdesjahrhunderts.wordpress.com/2007/06/11/i-am-singaporean-xxx-prophylaxia/
  5. http://akikonomu.blogspot.com/2007/06/campaign-to-award-martyrdom-award-to.html
  6. http://tinkertailor.blogsome.com/2007/06/11/im-gonna-email-tharman/

Not gonna argue who's right or wrong but, if I were to comment on this issue, it would be that the students in East View has just lost a valuable teacher. And also, it's always not easy to carry your beliefs and ideals in big placards and hold them up proudly above your heads. Your limbs will tire and sometimes resting and taking the easy way out seems much more 'common sense'.

But is that what you want people to remember you as? A being of common sense? Solely?

Anyway, just wanna share this story with my students (the blogs links are all very well written and will certainly improve your EL, as opposed to your daily MSN gibberish...) as well as for me to record this event in my blog. In particular, this few paragraphs:

1:13 am - what i learnt in school

I've been doing relief teaching (for History) for a bit more than a week now at East View Secondary School, a school 15 minutes away from my house, and one which has often been described as a 'neighbourhood school'. The term is of course reductive, and quite often one around which stereotypes agglutinate: the students are ill-disciplined, they are not interested in studying, there are gang members among the school population, etc.

My first week was a difficult period of adjustment. It takes a lot to enter a classroom and to establish a personality from zero. I was very aware that I was a new face and would thus be subjected to certain trials: the kids would test my threshold of patience, see what they can get away with. My position as an unknown quantity meant anxiety on my part, but for them not being recognised with a name meant liberation from surveillance. And thus when I handed out papers they giggled when I mispronounced names, multiple hands shot up when I called out somebody, I was vaguely aware that seating positions were shuffled under my ignorant watch: couples were reunited, cliques re-established, no more the strategic estrangements that kept mischievous combustions at bay.

I have to admit the frustration I felt when half the time spent in a classroom was spent at raising my voice, issuing stern warnings (a whole spectrum of threats was taught to me by the outgoing relief teacher: confiscating EZ-link cards, making them stay back after school, invoking the names of the Discipline Mistress and the Vice-Principal), pleading for the students to return to their seats. The din from the classroom was overwhelming; a tidal wave of restless yelps, red-faced bully laughter, the wailing of the freshly-smacked...a boy at the back gripped the sides of his table and screamed, 'I hate History!' A girl at the side of the class stared at me as if she was putting a hex on me; how in the world did she leave her house in the morning with eyeliner on? A boy ran out of one of the classroom doors and re-entered through the other, as if he was an actor rushing to make an entrance from the opposite wing. A girl was putting some green dye in her mouth, probably Art Class leftovers, and spitting foul green liquid at her classmates. A rosette of lurid green sputum bubbled on her desk. She was like Linda Blair in the Exorcist, but ten times worse, because I couldn't wave a crucifix at her and make her hair evaporate.

But: as I was novelty, the one they could gleefully blindfold and turn around like the guy in blind man's buff, there was something else, almost melancholic, in the background. Some of these classes have had up to four relief teachers in the space of half a year. Every new relief teacher was an opportunity to start again, to revise the rules; but it also meant abandonment. This was what was unspoken in class--why were they fostered out to so many of us, was it a) frustration b) hopelessness c) surrender or d) all of the above that ushered the hasty exits of all their former teachers?

Over the next few days, I realised how humbling teaching can be. For someone used to attention, indifference can be bewildering. I learnt to pace up and down the aisles, standing in the crossfire of rubber bands, eavesdropping on conspiracies of after-school plans, trespassing through barbed wire enmities, lingering over baroque mind-maps, scraps of notes, learning that a boy had cried because a classmate had written the words 'I LOVE' over the name of Mr Jeremy Wee, his English teacher on his journal cover. It is an illusion to think that the classroom is a homogenous neighbourhood. There are overlapping ghettoes.

This morning, a girl in one of the classes got sick and vomited on the floor. She went to the toilet, and I was frankly at a loss as to what to do with the mess under her table. If this was back in RI, I could imagine the class too being paralysed, by both helplessness and embarrassment. Someone might then suggest that we call the school janitor. But in that class, a boy walked up to me, a tall, gangly boy who I once scolded for not bringing his spectacles to school. He said, 'Cher, I go toilet ah.'I asked him what for.

'I go and take the mop.'

'Do you know where it is?' I asked. He nodded. The boy promptly came back, with a mop and bucket, and cleaned up the mess while I resumed teaching. He did everything with stoic professionalism, although I caught him taking a deep breath, hands on his hips, surveying the mess as he brought himself up to the task. He was probably used to doing housework.

This all happened in a sec one class. And at that point I believed that the boy's initiative, that hands-on spontaneity, was a mark of intelligence. I wished I could have rewarded him in some way for that act. Actually I believe that all the students I teach are intelligent, although perhaps they respond better to visual than auditory input. I have to constantly strain my throat to get them to quieten down, but I realised that when I draw on the whiteboard they are rapt, respectful. And thus I would sketch the faces of Brahmins and Shudras, the four Ministers of the Melakan Sultanate, the Shang dynasty Emperor. I would draw four-clawed dragons, cavemen, even the faces of some of the students, who would blush at the attention. I have had so many requests for drawings: Stamford Raffles, a character called Lady Xin, exhumed from her tomb, from their textbook, and even a hamster. I have complied with all. After lessons, I allow the class to take pictures of the whiteboard, even though I know some teachers impose detention on anybody caught with a handphone in class.

While conducting a mock-election in class, to familiarise them with the meaning of democracy, I picked two students out and asked them to make a campaign promise to the class. In one class, one student offered to have a computer in class, another offered air-conditioning. It did strike me how these were freely available in other schools. In another class, one of the students offered the class money, the other offered 'food every day'. The majority of that class chose 'food every day'.

There's something to learn from that response. The students are hungry. In more ways than one.

My last day will be this coming Thursday. And then the school will start to have exams; they have more than enough teachers to invigilate. I might be called back after the exams, but everything's still up in the air. It's going to be less than two weeks that I would have spent at East View Secondary, but I have a strong feeling that I will miss the students, the cries of 'hello, cher!' when I walk past the canteen, the cheering when I give them toilet breaks, and that one time, when passing by a whole row of students, the voice that reached me: 'Mr Alfian, we kena detention, come and save us!'

Certainly gave me something to think about. So are you guys hungry?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Very Interesting Answers Pt 3 - Graphical Humor

I think I deserve some comic relief after marking the mid-yr papers. And these sure put a smile onto my weary face! I'll show the correct graph, followed by the hilarious mistakes.
Type 1 -Quadratic curve.
This is the correct answer:
This student manage to draw a straight line....don't ask me how!

Type 2 - Histograms

Correct answer:

Variant 1: artistic impression of a histogram

Variant 2: I don't even know how the student plot this graph!

Type 3 - Cumulative Frequency Curve

Correct graph looks like this:
Variant 1: wrong axis produces interesting curves

Variant 2: "I love curves, let's do more!"

Variant 3: I don't like curves:

Last but not least, though not related to graphs, it's my personal favorite: