Orientation, part 2
In my previous post I shared an overview of the school system here in Singapore with an emphasis on teacher training, support, and development. In this post I’ll focus on the rest of my orientation week were I met with specialists in my interest areas who provided an additional overview of the system. At the end of the week, we were treated to a fabulous tour of Chinatown.
On Tuesday, I tested my navigation abilities and utilized my Citymapper app to find my own way to AST. One option was to take a bus the entire way, so I walked one block and caught the number 61. About 15 stops and 30 minutes later I hopped off across the street from the AST campus. Fiona met me in the lobby and took me to the room where my meeting was to be. I was early, so we had a wonderful chat about ELA instruction in Singapore and she later shared some detailed resources with me here and here. This nation-state gets high marks and recognition in math and science instruction, but many folks are unaware that, according to their PISA scores, they are number one in the world in reading literacy because of talented and gifted teachers like Fiona. English is the language of record here, but students also receive academic instruction and support in their “mother tongue” as well.
Chia Hai Siang is the Senior Specialist working in the Educational Technology division and we had a delightful chat. He filled me in on the state of EdTech and very patiently listened as I droned on about Minecraft. He was genuinely interested in what I have done and told me he had some people he wanted to connect me with. We exchanged cards and by the time I got back to my apartment that afternoon, he had virtually introduced me to two others working with games and learning. I’ve since made contact with them and am looking forward to connecting in person soon. After the meeting we travelled to a Hawker Center just down the road and got to sample some amazing homemade food for around $3-$4 US.
On Wednesday and I had a chance to meet with the Master Teacher for history, Mr. Lloyd Yeo. Right away we discovered we had a great deal in common. He is an American Civil War buff, likes jazz and blues music and Indian food, and has helped design learning games to teach history. He explained to me that there are multiple networked learning communities of educators that are active working groups. He has connections with the games community and I will be joining them soon. The time just flew by and I am greatly looking forward to working with him in the future.
On Thursday we had the absolute honor of visiting the Ministry of Education’s Heritage Center and received a guided tour from Madame Heng with support from Kelvin, the education specialist. She was a treasure trove of knowledge and is retiring shortly after a 40+ year career specializing in turning around under-performing schools. The museum was most impressive and chronicled Singapore’s history and commitment to education. It includes interactive exhibits and artifacts, both new and old as well as insightful information regarding their education philosophy. We left feeling very positive and inspired by Mdm Heng who imparted this wisdom about working with underserved students, “to be successful, you must have the heart of a teacher.” As principal she strongly emphasized to her teachers to prioritize, “you don’t teach a subject, you teach a child.” I cannot agree more.
The end of the week brought us all to Chinatown. Our hosts provided us with a guided tour where we had a chance to see and interact others on the streets in one of the oldest parts of Singapore. With many buildings still standing from the 19th century there was an interested juxtaposition between the new and the old. We visited a mosque, two Chinese temples, and a Hindu temple. We saw both “dry” and “wet” markets peeked in to numerous stalls festooned in red preparing for the upcoming Chinese new year celebration. It was a wonderful bonding experience with our new colleagues at AST and a great way to send us off inspired and full of excitement as we now head out to our school sites. I took my Nikon with me to Chinatown, so you can check out some of my favorite photos from the day here.
This week, I am working with teachers and students at Zhenghua Secondary School. In my next post, I’ll reflect on this experience. Thanks for reading!