Saturday, January 14, 2012

A nest in hand

The Wongs are looking at a condo development not far from where we are currently staying. Walking through the developer's mock-up apartments, it's hard the not be tempted by the clean, shiny surfaces and slick ideas for making small spaces look larger than they are. The sales talk and concept drawings are likewise persuasive, promising a resort-like environment where life away from work can be a permanent vacation. Big sigh.

Particularly droolsome is one of the penthouse units with an open skylight for staring out into space at night to observe the heavenly bodies in their nocturnal progressions. For the asking price, all fixtures and fittings are thrown in, except lighting -- almost move-in condition already upon completion of infrastructure construction.

The plan: two Wong households occupy a single penthouse which includes a downstairs studio apartment. Our existing HDB apartments are to be rented out, the proceeds of which will finance the loan for the condo unit.

The Wongs have lots to think about and discuss before the night is over. Our sales rep can't hold the unit too long and has given us 24 hours to commit...

This is not a decision to rush into, though. Other people doing the math for us is likely to overlook or understate important variables that may cause us to regret any over-enthusiastic autograph signing at this time. Fortunately, the Wongs are also willing to err on the side of caution and seek more objective advice on the current and near-future property situation.

My bottom-line is this: I haven't yet finished paying for one, and I'm not keen to start paying for another. For me, living off rental income is counting eggs before they're hatched. It's a caution that's holding me back from being rich, but then I don't like the potential money pit I'm looking at right now.

"Pay no attention to the man..."

For all the forward-thinking that we undertake on the kids' behalf to train them in survival skills for the 21st century, sometimes all they want to do is just pass their exams.

Just took over a new class due to some internal shuffling. Perhaps it wasn't the best strategy to go all meta-subject on them right at my introduction. I thought since they'd already been trained for a year in the subject, they would appreciate a behind-the-scenes look at what they have actually been learning, and what they will be taking away with them once their finals are over.

If it were me, I'd personally like to know that what I'd learned are skills for apprehending the unknown, integrating new knowledge with prior knowledge, making key decisions by appraising available options, and for dealing with information overload. For this bunch, it was all too much, too fast. Shall we just say that they went Yahoo all over my Gulliver?

I realize that my classes can be something like "Magic's Greatest Secrets Finally Revealed". My fellow magicians may hate me for the show-all; tell-all, but I don't care -- that's my schtik; my claim to infamy. But I forget that for the kids, sometimes it's more rewarding to simply marvel at the magic than see the Wizard for what he truly is -- gears and levers; smoke and mirrors. It's all really just clever engineering.

The kids still firmly believe the myth that hard work will pay off. It does, but only if the work objectives are clear; the work crew is organized; the right tools are applied to the right job; and all activity functions according to a systematic process. Incessantly picking at rocks isn't necessarily going to net you a pretty diamond because that's only the beginning of a long chain of other complementary activities that eventually lead to the final product. Likewise, endlessly practicing past exam papers isn't necessarily going to score you an 'A' (especially in GP).

So what should I do with this lot? First, I have to shed their perception of me as a snake-oil flogging huckster by proving my credibility as a true magician. When they are finally dazzled and convinced, then I can come back in with my you-can-do-it-too sales pitch. Implication: expect a few more 'model' essays in the days to come...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Free expression

Thought it would be a good idea to explore how AdSense could help me monetize this blog. The wise ones at Google had other ideas and disapproved my application. Whatever. The show goes on. Content remains free unpaid for all!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ma'am, yes, ma'am!

New drama coach arrived and made a big impression on the kids. Never worked with Adelynn before but she looks like she has had lots of experience working with young people. Her demeanor is formal, confident and most of all, no nonsense. Haven't yet decided if she's really a velvet fist in an iron glove or vice versa. Either way, the kids are going to learn to be very disciplined and respectful under her tutelage.

Despite her frosty cool exterior, she quickly opened the kids up with activities/exercises they seemed to enjoy. Yet while they had fun, it was clear that she was still in charge, keeping them focused and on-task, which is no mean feat, considering how easily distracted these kids can get. If this tone can maintain, we're going to have a grueling run up to production, but by that time our cast and crew will be well-trained and effective. Very.

Drama Night looks to be in good hands this year. Looks like I can take a step back from stagecraft and put more attention on managing the event for a change. To take on the challenge of Producer is something I've been avoiding, always keeping within my comfort zone of assistant director. But I think it's time to grow up a little and do something more responsible for once. Having a good team in place does wonders for one's confidence.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Spread the techno-virus

The industry seems ready to embark on a new phase of educational infocomm proliferation in our schools. The pilot phases are over and we're on the cusp of full implementation, judging by the ETD briefing this afternoon. Training is about to commence for edu-techie mentors to start developing lessons and lesson packages for use in class, as well as coach a couple of edu-techie newbies each. Geek Jedi can have two geek padawan (I don't believe this word has a plural "s"), according to the Geek council.

On one hand, the idea is to spread the techno-virus as far and wide as quickly as possible through all schools at all levels till we have a full-scale techno-pandemic. But on the other hand, and thankfully, the more important task is to ensure that good pedagogy is the bedrock underlying the spread. Good teachers first, tech-Jedi second, supposed to be we are.

Today's briefing laid down the expectations the industry expects of us, our roles and duties, as well as our submission deadlines and training activities for the year. It's a huge and unexpected new dish rolled out onto my already expansive buffet spread, but it gives me a chance to return to what I once excelled at: dovetailing what could amount to several discrete jobs into a single integrated, if multifaceted, thrust that will keep me occupied for the year.

The only thing annoying about our speakers today was that they kept their focus on convincing their audience to buy-in. They tried to inspire us with stories, assured us that failure is par for the course, drew attention to institutional and personal benefits, ad nauseum. I felt they were trying too hard preaching to the converted.

Now then... who can I find to be my padawan?

So simple, it just might work

The character development framework that we've been working with, though implemented years ahead of its time, was somewhat vague and difficult to administer. It was intended for students to appraise themselves as to how they stacked up against a list of personal values we expected them to develop by the time they left campus for the U. But because we didn't define a specific end-point, students being students couldn't see past their immediate future -- the final exams. Shortsighted and vague.

The team this year came up with a simple idea: help the kids to figure what they are good at, what they like to do, and how to bridge the gap between competence and confidence. With these considerations in mind, we can help the kids to find their best match in terms of academic advancement (short-term) and career choice (long-term). After that we'll be guiding the kids through their intermediary goals, monitoring their progress through the year, and offering advice as necessary.

Perhaps this plan sounds too mundane and too pragmatic for some people. My younger, more idealistic self might have balked at it. But with this plan, I can see what I'm shooting at. Hit or miss, I can easily identify what is working and what isn't, and adjust for a better shot next time around.

So the new values and character development framework -- while not really so new -- adds on a vital component that makes it easier to manage, and has longer legs too. The kids should benefit more with this programme over the previous.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

They'll never be used

June just wants you to know that she could possibly be the last person in S'pore to have collected the last two CNY commemorative coffee mugs from Starbucks. Thanks to the helpful barrista who tracked them down for her.