Month: May 2008


Double the teachers, double the fun!

From next term, you will have two English teachers. I will see you 4 periods a week for composition and Madam Choo will see you 3 periods a week for comprehension. In addition, both of us will help prepare you for your oral exams. Two teachers means that you have double the input. When it comes to being ‘in charge’ of a class, I am still responsible for 3E1, 3 and 5, while Madam Choo is still responsible for 3E2, 4 and 6. The difference is that now we share the joy (and the burden!) of teaching all the classes.


June 2008 Holiday Homework

While you enjoy your holidays, here is some food for thought:




These are the lists that I gave your English reps- for your reference, just in case you did not get a chance to get a look at them in class. Do make sure you know which chapter you need to work on so we can jump right into the presentations when school opens again.

This is the homework handout, in case some of you did not get a copy. I am sorry I do not have a soft copy of the phrase book sample, but I’m sure you can figure it out!


Writing Competitions

There are a few such competitions coming up, and these are good opportunities to hone your writing skills. I would like to encourage those among you who are confident about your writing ability to take part. This is a chance to write for different audiences- not just examiners. There is no penalty for not winning. Just do your best.

Please note that the first competition is only for lower secondary students.

Here are the details:

1. Great Eastern’s ‘Life is Great’ Essay Competition

As part of Great Eastern’s 100th anniversary celebrations, Great Eastern is sponsoring an essay-writing competition for Secondary 1 and 2 students to celebrate life through the written word. Write about how you would make use of $1000 to celebrate life, or make life great for others. Be as creative as possible. Make us laugh or cry, make us wonder, make us want to do exactly the same. The prize? $1000- to turn your dreams into reality. There are ten prizes up for grabs, so get cracking. To download the entry form and view the competition rules, please visit Closing date: 27 June 2008.

2. Learning Curves (Marshall Cavendish)

There are two competitions held by this publishing company.

(a) Words + Art Creative Writing Competition

The Words + Art programme is a programme under the Marshall Cavendish Learning Curves. It aims to develop literary works by engaging students with different aspects of art and publishing experience. With different art themes year on year, 2008’s competition takes a closer look at the artistic expression in historical artefacts. The theme for this year is ‘Remembering Our Past- Inspiration From History’. The competition aims to tap into students’ creative responses to these treasures of SIngapore’s history, thereby producing inspired additions to our nation’s storytelling and writing tradition. Let the world of history jumpstart your creative stories today! Fill up your form and submit your entries by 28th July 2008. Visit for more details.

(b) Budding Writers 2008

The aim of this competition is to promote works by children for children, and is open to all primary and secondary school students in Singapore. The pamphlet I was given did not furnish much detail beyond this, but I invite you to visit the Marshall Cavendish website for more information. It looks like a very exciting competition.

I will be telling you about these competitions in class, and I will also take the liberty of ‘strongly encouraging’ (ie forcing!) some of you to take part. You have been warned!

SA1 2008 Marker’s Report


Here is the report that I told all of you about- the reason I have been holding onto your scripts. It’s finally done. I am still vaccillating between printing it out for everyone and asking everyone to access it online and print out a copy for themselves. In case you are wondering about the reason for my quandry, here it is: the report is 12 pages long! In any case, I will let you know my decision.

I urge you to read the whole report- even the sections that deal with questions you did not answer. There is a lot you can learn. I also welcome your comments and questions regarding the report.


Chasing Rainbows


My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth

I have spent the last two weeks with my head bowed over my marking. Sitting at my desk in school or at home, there was no respite from the hunched-over position that caused my neck to stiffen and my shoulders to cramp. I know that many of you can identify with this, because this is the position that you were in two weeks before my toil started, studying for your exams.

Word after word, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, essay after essay and on and on for 470 scripts! Little wonder then that when I finally finished the last script and raised my head, I blinked in wonder at the world around me, much like a mole does, I imagine, when it comes up to the surface from its burrow underground. My eyes are weaker, my hair is whiter, my skin is more blemished from all the late nights and lack of fresh air. But for now, I’m done.

Here is an example of just how intense my sensory deprivation has been:

I took my kids for their tennis lesson on Saturday. While they raced around after fuzzy green balls, I sat indoors trying to make headway with my last 100 scripts. Suddenly, my son Rishi called me from his cellphone.

“You’ve got to get here quickly,” he trilled, “There’s a rainbow!”

Shoving my scripts hastily into a plastic folder, I ran to the court. And there it was in all its magical brilliance- a rainbow. To understand why this affected me so deeply you would have to know how I spend my time. When I am not marking, I am preparing lessons or studying for my course. This means that I am always reading. I even read for fun when I get a chance in between all the obligatory reading. It has been years since I have spent extended periods of time outdoors. Even when my kids are outdoors I tend to be engaged in trying to finish up more reading. My kids know how much I love rainbows, and I was really touched that it struck them to call me that day so that I would not miss the rare opportunity of seeing one.

I could barely breathe as I looked up at the rainbow that day. I kept staring at it till the rain became too heavy to be outdoors any longer. It was a reminder to me that life cannot just be found on the pages of a book. From now on, I will look for chances to get outdoors. And when I do, I will look up at the sky. I have no idea how many rainbows have come and gone since I retreated indoors. But I will not miss anymore.

So now, if you see me standing in the open and scanning the sky, you will know what I am looking for. And if you happen to see a rainbow while you are in school, look for me and let me know.