The end has come

Four months flew past just like that. It seemed not too long ago that we attended the first lecture with all the expectations spelt out. Assignments poured in relentlessly and then we got the hang of things. The laughter that we had with the many good lecturers is something to cherish in our hearts. Their words inspired us. By their actions, they showed us how to light the path for others. Their grace humbled us and we were changed in one way or another.

Would we go back to where we have left off when we return to our jobs? This is perhaps the fear that some of us have. It’s so fast-paced you can hardly breathe, let alone think and reflect. One comfort we can take is that we would surely lose those extra pounds that we have gained in those 4 months. The place we work in is a great gym. =p

These are my group members for curriculum project. We were still hard at work a few days ago since we had to present our project to the school and the cohort. How ‘fortunate’. And the following was when the presentation was over and again, a pic of us having the final meal at Bollywood Veggies with the rest of the cohort.


I met a lot of passionate educators in this course and many really want to make a difference. I came across a lot of mothers too who showed much concern about me, giving me advice and helping me with this and that. What privilege! Though it is a real pity that I could not participate in the regional trip with my members, I must say the whole experience was enriching and I’m sure Faith has learnt a lot too!

All good things must come to an end. And am going back to reality the following week. Jitters again. What would life be like?

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The end is near

One and a half more weeks to go before we go back to reality. My Group 6 people, after internal presentation.

Early Summary

So here’s an early summary of the week.
Monday was a public holiday, Tuesday was LSoE’s orientation which, to be honest, was quite a let down.

The upside is that classes on Wednesday and Thursday were very nice. =)

Wednesday was “Leadership at School Level” with Irwin Blumer. Thursday was “Educational Change” with Andy Hargreaves.

It took about 10 mins to warm up to Blumer. I reached class early, looked at the people hanging around outside, saw the classroom was empty and decided to just go in. Classic introvert.
Noone followed until Blumer came in. I stood up, greeted him, and was met with a rather blank, distracted stare. He seemed quietly hostile right up to the point when class started 10 mins later and he formally introduced himself to everyone.

“My name is Irwin Blumer and there are three things you probably ought to know about me. The first thing is that I wear a hearing aid, so to me, I always sound like I’m shouting. It may not sound that way to you (his voice is really very soft…), but that’s how it sounds to me. So if you can’t hear me, you have to tell me.”

“The second thing you need to know is that I hate wasting people’s time. This course is about the practical aspects of being a school leader. If what I’m saying is not practical, you have to tell me. Otherwise, I’d be wasting your time and I hate that.”

He delivered both these lines with the exact same face he wore when I greeted him. Quietly hostile I’d call it, but what do I know…

“The third thing you need to know is that I have an amazing sense of humour. <pause for laughter> You probably don’t see it, <breaks into a small grin while he pauses for more laughter> but I do. I’ve been in education for many years now and you need a sense of humour if you’re gonna last that long.”

I like this guy already. =D

Blumer is very focused on the practical. Even in his assignments, he emphasises time and again that we need to be concrete and concise on what we’re talking about. Provide practical examples and don’t just spout theories.

Hargreaves is probably the exact opposite.

It doesn’t take long to realise that Hargreaves has an amazing mind. He has a PhD in sociology, reads widely, remembers what he reads, and is extremely adapt at connecting the theories that he has read about to real life.

Andy’s course feels a lot more theoretical to me. A lot of focus is given to exploring classical and modern theories of education as well as change.

The professors are friendly (even Blumer) and intelligent, and the classmates are nice as well.

I look forward to both these courses already. =)

Reflections after ED 617

I’ve attended two classes so far. ED617 is on Leadership at the School Level by Irwin Blumer, and just came home after ED819 on Educational Change by Andy Hargreaves. I’ll talk a little more about the classes later perhaps but for now I just wanted to share some thoughts I had while reflecting on yesterday’s ED617 class…
Comments welcome.

First of all, I was struck by how values-based the roles and responsibilities of a principal were. I had read about it before and brushed it off as a natural conclusion, but now it struck me as something not just relevant, but absolutely integral to the role of a school leader. I believe Dr Blumer’s comment about how his role was to draw out our personal values and beliefs on education that left an impact on me, as well as Sergiovanni’s declaration that Principalship (and indeed all of education) has a moral purpose by virtue of the unequal relationship between principal and teacher and teacher and student.
With this thought, several more followed.
As much as all of us may sometimes see the ugly side of education and end up feeling rather cynical about the whole system, we cannot afford to allow that cynicism to extend to our own values and beliefs, especially if we are school leaders.
There is a need for all educators to understand that the system, while flawed as it may be, generally means well, and that sometimes, systems don’t work as well as they should because of the lack of understanding of the people running them. A simple example in the Singapore context is that of the Enhanced Performance Management System (EPMS).
The EPMS was designed to be a developmental tool. It makes this very clear. However, over the course of time, some teachers and even some of their supervisors perceive the tool to be one for teacher assessment. In such cases, the system means well, but has been let down by the people working within the system. Yes, the system could be better designed to move away from such dangerous misconceptions, but it is important to stem our own cynicism of the system by noting that it meant well.
It is also important for us to recognize that the people who misunderstand and subsequently misuse the system do not do so maliciously. They may do it out of a genuine misunderstanding of the purpose of the system. They may do it because they feel that this is a special case where the end justifies the means. But they rarely, if ever do so as a consistent means of abusing their position. Supervisors may genuinely feel that the EPMS is a tool for teacher assessment, either because they were not explicitly told otherwise, or even because their experience of the EPMS from their own superiors have suggested as much. Or they may feel that in a particular instance, the EPMS was needed to justify certain actions that the school wanted to take on a teacher. He may have been under undue stress and may have convinced himself that this would be the only time this would happen and that it is only happening because it was the only way for something important to be done. He may struggle with this as he thinks it part of his role even though he himself might be a very moral person. (Which is one important reason to recognize that our role in education IS indeed moral.)
In other words, by and large, people are good, but we also have to recognize that people do and will fail every now and then. The Christians reading this should be very familiar with this concept. If we do not fail, we would not need Christ. However, even non-Christians should recognize that none of us are perfect, so it makes sense to be kind and think kindly of those who fail because that could very well have been, and probably at some time will be, us.
What does this mean in the practical context? Firstly, as individuals, we should always examine ourselves and our own values as these are what will provide greater consistency in our actions and decisions. Secondly, we should all try to think kindly of others and approach our work and others in a positive way. We try to avoid cynicism not because everything is always rosy, but also because there is a greater potential for good to be done when we are not cynical rather than when we are. Finally, it is our responsibility to spread both of these attitudes to whoever we can, through our actions and decisions or through dialogue and discussion. This will inherently improve the whole system that we are working in and hopefully produce in practice the system that we hope for in theory. Those of us in leadership positions have an even greater responsibility to do so.
In summary, three things are important for all educators.
1) Be true to yourself
2) Be kind to others
3) Be an example to all

Go! Eagles! Go!

We waited for Hurricane Earl to sweep into our area on Friday, around 8pm as forecast by the weatherman. But…there was only heavy rain (not even storm!) and then our internet connection was cut off for another 24 hours. Apa ini!??

What a HUGE disappointment! The tropical girl just wanted to experience what a hurricane is! Bummer! Hurricane we did not have but we couldn’t sleep well nonethless because of all times of the day, our dear neighbours decided to have a chat in the wee hours of the morning and they have come to a conclusion to involve the others as well. Their voices were so loud that a microphone would be unnecessary. It was torturous. The night before, some young lads decided to come together to watch a football match and made a din in the area as well. We were panda-eyed and gained some muscles here and there by getting on and off the bed, trying to open and shut the windows, according to the volume of the noise. I regretted not bringing my ear-plugs. I vowed to blast my music early in the morning just so that they could get a taste of their own medicine. Alas! The loudest the computer could go could only wake dear hubs up. In the end, it was revealed that we should show mercy. =p

We also decided that we shouldn’t allow unhappy incidents to affect us and we went for a football match at BC. Homeground! We were supporting the Eagles! Hubs was excited and I tagged along. Who knows? I might enjoy! And I did! Hubs was explaining to me the game and it was exciting to watch the players in motion, their tactics. But it was a rather slow-moving game ( I don’t know how to really explain; Ken should know) and by the 3rd round, we decided to leave since the Eagles was going to win anyway.

It was nice – Ken teaching me about American football and I, educating him about cooking =p.

Oh yea! Happy belated Teachers’ Day to my fellow colleagues!

Ardent fans!

Orientation whee!!!

The orientation continued throughout the week and even as I am typing this, Ken is still in campus, attending the various sessions while I dropped out in the middle to come back to my culinary world.
Thus far, the people (students & staff alike) have been incredibly helpful and extremely warm towards us. Each spoke with much enthusiasm and confidence about BC that you felt it is the place you really want to grow with. I just attended the session organised by the Graduate Students’ Association and I must say I enjoyed most of the sharing (just that I could get restless after a while =p).

I didn’t go for the whole thing, that’s for sure. In fact, for yesterday, I only went for the harbourcruise organised by BC. When I met up with Ken after his day of orientation, he was so hyped up and of course the pride he had when he got hold of a book for his required reading. It was by Andy Hargreaves & his academic advisor, Dennis Shirley (oh, Hargreaves! I love his works; he has impacted me much in my work when I read his papers last year). So, dear Ken was going on and on like a young boy about how he could loan the book for one whole semester (?!!) and some of the tips that he gathered from the sessions.

I’m excited for him as he’s starting his term. He has his own anxieties too, of course. But as I gathered from some of the questions from the international students, I felt Ken is in a better situation than most of them. For one, he doesn’t really have to think too much about finances (although the wife will help to deplete some of them) and thus does not have to concern himself with part-time work. He could really devote his whole attention in his studies though I hope (and I know he will) he could maintain work-life balance. The other students were asking questions about how to get jobs and stuff which, to me, was a great burden for a student. Having worked full-time and study part-time, I could totally empathise with them – the struggle between work, finances, studies and personal life. It’s not easy at all. And to think that they have given up a lot in terms of finances, family and opportunity cost to travel miles to study here, that, is a decision that requires great courage and determination to pull through the whole course.
It’s great to go back to school, to be in such an atmosphere. It’s a great college and I’m sure Ken would be enriched greatly. As of now, I think he’s raring to gooooo…and he has borrowed all (if not, most) of all the required readings! Oh! I’m sure he has much to share about his experience. Stay tuned!
Following are some pics taken while we were going for the 1.5-hour harbour cruise. A must-do if you are in Boston.

The mob from BC.

Orientation

“Hi, I’m Lynn from Singapore. I’m not under any programme. I’m just accompanying my spouse.”

Applause given at my introduction. I was perhaps the only one (if not, another) who was not studying but was present at yesterday’s International Students’ Orientation. It was an informal session in which we had existing students in an panel giving advice to the new ones.

Of the turnout, almost 1/2 of them were from China. The rest of the students were from HK, S. Korea, Kenya, NZ, and some S. American countries. Singapore got her respresentatives from Ken and another fellowman, Matthew, who will be studying Theology (how’s that?!). We were actually quite surprised to see another Singaporean and of course we immediately made contact with him after the session.

The BBQ was All-American buffet style, complete with buns, hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, pasta and cookies. I must say it was a good change from the Asian food that we have been having. We managed to catch up more with Matthew who just came over 2 days ago and looked seriously jet-lagged. =p

Back home, I have decided to enter this challenge on foodblog. Not that I wanted to win desperately but since I am already learning and experimenting with cooking, it is a might-as-well kinda thing. The challenges are also interesting; I would still attempt even if I don’t sign up for it! Stay tuned for more updates in my foodblog!

Initial start-up

We were up at 3 plus in the AM, couldn’t sleep no longer and went to do online research…for a bed. The management had earlier emailed Ken that they would not be supplying the additional twin (looks more like a single) bed and thus we had to go buy a decent-sized one for us.

So to Craigslist, Target and Ikea we went. The first two were recommended by friends who told us that we could really find good deals in there and of course, it’s always good old Ikea we go to if we lack any furniture. Problem was the transportation. As we currently had no car, we could not transport the bed or any purchase back home. Of course the solution is to pay for movers but that cost a lot. Ikea was way too far away for us and we eventually struck it off.
 
We were on this mission for a good 3 to 4 hours until the hubs gave up and suggested a morning jog around the reservoir. Might as well. I felt the more we fussed over it, the more uptight we became. We decided that we could just go back to BC and asked the representatives for advice.

Saying a prayer, we left for BC to tidy up all the admin stuff that Ken had to do, including his health report submission, student card (hey, I’ve got one myself!), opening a bank account and the registration of the courses. It was tiring walking around the campus and having to look for the different people. I don’t recall my going to grad school as so confusing! But of course, we are talking about international students now and definitely more procedures to be made. It was fun though and as we entered the Lynch School of Education, I could feel myself wanting very much to study too! Oh, btw, I would be going for the Orientation too! (me am very kaypoh =p).


After settling most of the stuff (phew!), we decided to do some shopping at Coolidge Corner as recommended by Meghan, the rep at the International Students Office. We wanted to go there primarily to look for beds as she hinted that we could find good bargain there. However, one store captured my eyes and we basically stocked up on kitchen stuff. Now, at least we have kettle, pans (I’ve got pink ones!) and bowls and in no time at all, the kitchen would clearly be stocked up and I could cook! I am getting sick of those food out there (for the record, we only had one meal today).

And you know what? When we opened the door to our apartment, we were overjoyed! An extra bed was placed next to the previous one! They have given us another bed! We could save a lot from it! Ken later revealed that it could be the email that he wrote to them. Whatever it was, we were thankful. Thankful that we did not go ahead and purchase online in the morning. Thankful that we were distracted to buy kitchenware. Thankful to the Lord mostly for his provision. =)


Our abode for the next 1.5 years.