Thank you, Education Week for sharing my thoughts with other passionate teachers and education leaders.
The need to shift our teaching to incorporate the competencies our students need in life is apparent when U.S. students’ skill sets are compared with those of students in other academically advanced countries.
This week has been an adventure; from registering at the National Institute of Education for classes, spending my first week at my school site and meeting with teachers, adventuring into the labyrinth of air-conditioned shopping malls that put Vegas to shame, and getting happily lost on solo excursions out and about on this fabulous island.
On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday I headed to my school site where the staff and administration have been so welcoming. I have a cubicle in the department head office and feel fortunate to be among these informed instructors. I have been introduced to so many teachers and staff members that my head is spinning, but they graciously repeat their names when I stumble and massacre the pronunciation with my phonetic approach. I will spend 6 weeks here at Beatty Secondary School visiting classrooms and talking with teachers that support students with special education needs.
On Wednesday, the Fulbright group headed to the National Institute of Education; Singapore’s teaching college, where we finalized paperwork for enrollment into classes. Although the campus is located quite some distance from the city center, attending class there will be a welcomed addition to my schedule each week. I will be in a course with my assisting professor, Wong Meng Ee, who is my contact for research through the university. I start tomorrow evening.
I have taken the opportunity to explore when I can and have found great running paths near where I am staying in District 10 near Tam Kah Kee MRT, which is close to the Botanical Gardens. I utilize public transportation everywhere I go and have yet to have any issues other than my own inability to make sense of timetables. I am getting better with practice. Each subway stop (MRT stop) seems to connect with a high-end shopping mall. As passengers make their way up escalators, they find themselves ushered into food courts and shopping extravaganzas. It is no wonder Singaporeans are immaculate dressers and seem to have a preoccupation with all things food.
Chinese New Year is looming on the horizon. It begins February 5 and ends the 19. I have traveled to Chinatown a few times as the energy there is electric and red lanterns, decorations, and pig-themed accessories are out in full force. It is the year of the pig, and one is encouraged to look up their Chinese Zodiac sign to determine if 2019 will be a good year with career fit, marriage, fortune, etc. With this holiday being such an important time for over 20% of the world population, and with so many Chinese celebrating in Singapore, I am leaning into the Chinese New Year celebrations. Thus, the dress.
Next week promises to be another week of new adventures. Thanks for reading.
“I think I just want to find meaning and fulfillment in life so one of those channels would be to be able to help students in need and special education schools in Singapore are deserving of more attention.” -FL
I visited my first school placement today, Beatty Secondary School in Singapore. Freddy Loke, my assigned Academy of Singapore Teachers (AST) buddy was with me from the start of my bus journey to assist me in my travels. We took a few pictures to mark my first day of school attendance and capture our good moods.
My abbreviated day began with a short tour of the school which serves approximately 1200 students. Principal Ling Khoon Chow welcomed me, as did Vice Principal Lim Soon Wai and a leadership team of teachers. We took a brief tour of the school and I had the opportunity to walk the halls and pay a visit to one class taking place in a ‘Maker Space’. To clarify, a ‘Maker Space’ is a collaborative workspace inside a school for making, learning, exploring, and sharing. As we entered the room the students stood to face us and Mr. Lim gave verbal instructions how to address me, and in unison, they said, “Good morning Dr. Powell, Principal, and teachers.” Mr. Lim instructed the students to continue working and they went back to their groups. In the back of my head, I wondered with a smile if I could possibly replicate this greeting and quick following of directions in my classroom back in California.
In the ‘Maker Space’ I watched high school students working collaboratively to problem solve identified issues in their school. The desks were in quads and the students moved around freely during class interaction. This set up was quite different then the rows of desks I had seen in classrooms earlier on my walking tour.
The highlight of my day was the privilege of witnessing an assembly to announce the release of the 2018 GCE O Level results. The results of this exam have a major influence on the trajectory of studies a student qualifies to pursue, and as such the assembly was well attended by parents, students, and faculty. I was curious as the US has no such national exam to test the academic competence of 16-year-olds, nor does California have any standardized test taken in high schools that impacts a student’s academic path following graduation. Knowing the importance of this test and the impact it has, I wanted to witness the result release.
First, Principal Ling welcomed the assembly and reviewed the agenda. He stated, “This is an important juncture in your lives journey,” highlighting the importance of the results of this exam and the implications attached to the scores. He called attention to the documents students would receive in their results packet. Next, he reviewed school-wide results in comparison to last year; Beatty Secondary School increased their pass rate for all GCE O levels compared to 2017. The audience cheered as he showed the data on a PowerPoint screen in the front of the room. The finale came when students were called up to receive their score packets. There were a lot of smiles, a few tears, but overall parents and students seemed pleased with the results. On hand were counselors in the event a student had a hard time accepting their scores.
Students were mixing and mingling in the auditorium following the assembly and I had the opportunity to casually ask a few students how they had performed. Fortunately, I was situated in the corner of the assembly where students who scored ‘with distinction’ were asked to congregate for a photo op, so I knew they had done well. The two boys I asked were both humble in their responses saying they did “All right.” I asked them if they were proud of their scores and they both said that they thought so. I have included a few pictures below of the school and the assembly. It might be interesting to note that the top performers on the exams were listed alphabetically by name on the PowerPoint, and no overall scores were published. I was told this was mandated by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to put less emphasis on numerical points earned.
I’m looking forward to spending more time meeting teachers and getting to know students at Beatty.
*The Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinary ‘O’ Level examination is a national examination held annually in Singapore. The exams are taken by students in their fourth year of high school (Express Stream) or fifth year (Normal Academic stream).
18 hours and 32 minutes after leaving Los Angeles airport I arrived safely in Singapore. The flight was long but manageable, especially since the crowded plane was packed, with the exception of the seat next to mine- SCORE!
After navigating customs and baggage claim at Changi airport, I promptly got a new SIM card & local phone number and purchased an EZLink card for public transit use on the MRT, LRT and buses.
My hotel, Fragrance Waterfront, is located near the National University of Singapore and after waking up at 4 am with jet lag, I decided to go on a run and explore.
It was pretty dark out but I was impressed by the behemoth buildings, impeccable landscaping, the sports hall, and amenities. Grabbed a picture of this snack machine as I thought it offered some scrumptious food choices.
Running home I smelled incense in the air and during my cool down I saw small ornate alters burning in the foyers of business and homes. A wonderful way to be reminded of all I am thankful for.
My family celebrating the holidays 🌲 I am blessed beyond belief 🎄🎅🏽
Thank you, Thousand Oaks High School Special Education Dept. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such dedicated teaching professionals. Thousand Oaks High School is a fantastic place to be a part of and my Fulbright research is in large part due to the support of staff members, administration, and the amazing teachers and paraprofessionals that are the Special Education team.
The beautiful necklace will be a reminder of the students and staff, and all the encouragement that made my educational inquiry in Singapore possible. Thanks, and Selamat Tinggal.
As we celebrate the holidays with family, our thoughts go out to all the Peace Corps Volunteers all over the globe. Your passion for helping others is such an impactful gift🎁 We miss our favorite #PCV in Cameroon, Africa and send our love & best wishes 💟#Cameroon #peacecorpscameroon #family #ccpowell #holidaycheer #