Archive for November 2007

Farewell, Su!

November 30, 2007

My mother rang me yesterday afternoon to tell me my helper, Su, had to leave Singapore today because Immigration wouldn’t grant her an extension to train her successor till next week. When I got home, she was packing and we said our goodbyes.

“Sorry if I did anything wrong in the past,” she said. That did it for me. I hugged her and we sobbed for some time. How could she think she had ever let us down?

Su was the longest-serving helper we had. She lived with us for 5 years, looking after Grandma and our every need. She never complained and was always so cheerful and hardworking. I’m sure she would have continued working her if not for parental pressure to return home to get married.

This morning, there wasn’t a single dry eye in the family. I went along to the airport to see her off.

I cried because I have no idea when I’d ever get to see her again. But I want the best for her. She wants to learn to use the computer and go to school again. I hope she gets to do that.

I cried because she gave us her best years, executing each task with dedication and treating us with genuineness.

I cried because I think she is part of our family.

“I will miss you very much,” I told her. “And anytime if you want to come back here, just write to us.”

Today, I am a very, very sad girl. 

Playing with knives

November 29, 2007

I don’t really like being spoken to this way. Perhaps it was because of my comment.

But this person always makes me feel like an idiot. The words hurt. Bad. At that point, I was stunned, and it really felt like I was slapped across the face. For a good few seconds, my face dropped, I turned quiet, and I felt tears welling up.

Is there a need to be so sarcastic and forceful all the time? I think it is just a sad poor excuse for being a mean bastard. I really think I have a problem communicating with this person. I can’t adapt to the style this person prefers. Maybe I haven’t realised that I too have a nasty tongue, that’s why I get this treatment. Maybe I am just irritating.

Whatever it is, I shall make myself scarce. I have had quite enough. That’s the end for us. Go find somebody else to annoy.

Meet the parent

November 29, 2007

The real objective of R’s trip to Singapore is to meet the family. It was something we aimed to get it done by 2007, and we left it till 33 days before 2008. You could just tell how much we looked forward to doing it.

“Your mother is not going to like me,” he said this to me many times. Yesterday during lunch time, I met him to ease his nerves. We went through the possible questions which I thought my family would ask. We also watched “Meet the Parents” over the weekend. “We must be truthful. Remember what led to the downfall of Greg Focker? Lies.” he said.

When we walked from the train station to my apartment last evening, I noticed a strange thing – that he had shaken off his anxiety. “Well, I’m not going to stress out anymore. Ultimately you are the one making the choice whether to be with me or not, not your family, so I’m not going to let it affect me.”

In the end, I can’t say he was badly received by my family. He bought them gifts from Wales and we in turn took him out for dinner at Ling Zhi restaurant. I was surprised to see that my mother and aunt were so chatty, relaxed and friendly. We had a pretty decent time and I could tell they were not just pretending to be nice.

Apart from R knocking over his cutlery three times (nerves or sheer clumsiness?) during the course of the meal, I can’t think of anything which had gone too wrong.

I expect I will be bombarded with questions these few days from my family or like my colleague said, when the reality sinks in, the objections may come. Whatever it is, I think we are just both relieved we got it over with, and are glad it turned out to be easier than we imagined.

Onto the next level please. And more sleepless nights.

Hand in, or else…!

November 28, 2007

I’m processing module grades this term so quite a lot of time is spent on nagging and harassing students to turn in their work. On the surface, it may seem like students who don’t finish their work by the stated deadline are lazy or unbothered.

Well, I mean, try calling the same person umpteen times with him promising to do the work and it turns out that’s the last you hear from him. I’m sure you’ll feel pretty pissed off. Afterall, teachers have deadlines to meet too.

I was about to fail this student who seemed so indifferent and unaffected about his poor attendance or inability to keep promises. He ignored every single one of my calls. Finally today, he submitted his work.

Surprisingly, it was actually quite a good effort. His handwriting was neat and he was very specific with his answers, paying attention to details. I finally understood what he’s like when I saw what he’d written in one of the sections. “I’m neat in my work but I don’t like people to pressure me. I need to take my time in order to get my job done the best it can be.”

This is a boy who takes pride in what he does, a perfectionist who will not allow himself to produce shoddy work. And so, he takes his time. The perfectionist has no sense of urgency, and will ignore all pleas to hurry up. But I really think he needs to realise that even if he churns out a beautiful piece of work, but misses the boat, it may cost him success. The world cannot wait for him to finish up, however long he takes.

While I’m waiting for the last-minute students to finish up their work, I always look at them and wonder, what kind of families do they come from? What has made them who they are? What kind of problems do they face?

It’s terrible enough to be a teenager, let alone one who’s plagued with family and relationship worries. Sometimes I don’t really want to teach, but I want to sit down with every single one of them and just listen to their woes. I hope I can offer some kind of support and encouragement.

Afterall, how can anyone study properly when they are overwhelmed with problems? The last thing they need is to have someone hounding them and shoving sheets of assignment in their face, telling them to “faster finish or you’ll fail”.

Fail from what? Life has already failed them, so what difference does it make?

R-rrolling into town

November 25, 2007

It wasn’t difficult to spot R at the airport. He was this dude who walked with a limp and wore a funky air-cast boot. His tendon healed well enough for the doctor to approve his long-haul flight to Singapore, and so he’s here for a fortnight, staying at my family’s new flat which we haven’t yet moved into.

We haven’t been up to too much since he arrived. I have to work in the day so we can only spend limited hours in the evening and over the weekend together. But I like that we are taking our time to get to places (mainly because he cannot walk too fast), rather than rushing around everywhere.

Yesterday we went to have ice-cream at Raffles Creamery during the hot afternoon and then visited Sharon and WL at Soon Lee. Their neat little boutique will be featured soon on Channel U. I’m so proud of them!

And today, we stayed in the whole day. I marked assignments at the dining table and we had a good laugh over the atrocious things some kids had submitted. He read the paper and had a late breakfast while I continued with the marking. Then we decided to mop the apartment and watch a DVD.

He’s met Mum briefly but he will be having dinner with the family this Wednesday at a vegetarian restaurant. I have no idea how that will turn out, but I like to live by this motto: go with an open heart and no expectations.

As for my Mum, this is what she said to me so far: “A man and a woman shouldn’t be left alone in the apartment.” This is afterall still the Qing dynasty.

Guilty till proven innocent?

November 20, 2007

Some time ago there was a dramatic episode in the staff room. One of my colleagues broke down when she could not submit her marks on time. She claimed a student damaged her laptop when she stepped out of class. And because of that, she lost all her data and so she failed that student.

Fast forward one year and I now teach this class. They are my Engineering boys. In the beginning, I told myself to be wary of the accused culprit. He wasn’t exactly a very participative and attentive boy, but I didn’t have any problems with him. When he was in class, he always did his work.

Last week, my supervisor told me to get this boy into the office because we got to help him pass that module he failed. Otherwise, he will not be able to graduate at the end of the year.

“Teacher, I really did not damage the laptop. I refused to say that I did it, so that teacher failed me,” he explained to me.

I decided it was not for me to judge who was telling the truth. All I wanted to do was to help this boy clear all the assignments required to pass that subject.

Do you judge a person by the way he behaves with you, or what you hear from others?

Due to the lack of time, we gave him only 3 days to complete the assignments, including a report and PowerPoint presentation. Amazingly as promised, he delivered his work today. And it was not bad at all.

I got a text message from him shortly afterward.

“Thanx alot for helping me. I really appreciate it alot. Thank you, teacher.”

It came as a surprise. I didn’t expect him to thank me. I don’t normally get words of appreciation from students who maintain a clean record, let alone from one whose behaviour is in question. So when I saw that message, I really didn’t know what to think.

Has he repented? He has realised his mistakes? Maybe he really never did it. Was he maligned? Or he’s just a smooth talker?

I guess all the above are unimportant. What’s important is, the boy found help and support in us when he desperately needed it.

Which reminds me again why I am doing what I am doing.  

Sleep not enough

November 18, 2007

Oh dear. I have no idea why I feel so tired this weekend. I was alright during the week but the moment the weekend started, I just can’t seem to sleep enough. Even after taking afternoon naps, I still feel drowsy and lethargic. What’s wrong? What’s sapping my energy? My evening classes, my apprehension re: R’s visit, my marking, what?