It has been a wonderfully busy past two weeks as I have transitioned out of Edgefield Secondary School and into my final attachment, St. Andrews Secondary School. I had a fabulous stay at Edgefield and was embedded with the science department, surrounded by chemistry teachers who were incredibly helpful and kind. They fed me, invited me to networking sessions, listened to me talk about games, and let me observe classes.
I’m still working with one teacher who is helping me with my research. He will be implementing a games-based learning lesson with his students next week and will be providing me with the data. I will be returning there to collect my surveys and to interview a few students about their gaming practices. I am attempting to do the same thing at St. Andrews now, but am up against a tight calendar. Much of classroom instruction time in May is reserved across Singapore for test preparation.
I will miss the people I met at Edgefield and the conversations we had and plan to stay in touch with many. Addie, Bernard, and Elisabeth were especially helpful and took me under their wing. I was given a parting gift and my last day was filled with joy and gratitude for the experience.
I was already familiar with St. Andrews before I arrived this week as it was the location of my first Network Learning Community (NLC) meeting back in January. My “buddy” teacher is Chew Ee and he is helping arrange my schedule. I’ve already met the principal and learned about the school’s history. It dates back over 150 years and is part of a “village” of schools - primary, secondary, and a junior college. There are two very big differences between this school and my previous placements. St. Andrews is a school for boys and it is affiliated with the Anglican Church. The Ministry of Education oversees this and many other “religious” schools in Singapore. Each of these, including girl’s schools, accept students of any religious background. There are 3 chapels within the village and a morning devotional and prayer is said daily. That time can be used for reflection and meditation for non-Christians.
On Wednesday, I was introduced to the entire school at the morning assembly and welcomed by all in attendance. Across Singapore, the first 30 minutes of the day are spent in similar fashion. Students and staff are expected to arrive by 7:30 AM. They are encouraged by a soft gong and reminded of the time spoken by a student over the PA system. As it gets closer to 7:30, the frequency of the gongs increase.
Students arrive in the courtyard and sit with their fellow classmates in specific areas. As 7:30 arrives, all students and staff are required to be in the courtyard. Staff begin to take attendance visually. Students that arrive late are stopped from entering the courtyard by older “senior” students dressed in all white as compared to the regular students in white collared shirts and navy blue pants or shorts. These tardy students are allowed to sit just beyond the courtyard as to not interrupt the morning activity.
As the final gong sounds, it becomes absolutely quiet before one students steps to the microphone and instructs all to rise for the national anthem. The national flag of Singapore is slowly raised followed by the school flag. After the anthem, the national pledge is recited by all with a closed hand over the heart, followed by a pre-selected hymn. Each student has a prayer book.
The boys then sit on the ground cross-legged and listen to the morning devotional led by one of the chaplains. The devotionals connect religious teachings with moral education found in all Singaporean schools. A prayer for a safe and healthy day concludes the religious portion of the morning.
There are three assistant principals at St. Andrews and one of them, or the principal, makes several announcements and reminders. This is followed by a student taking the microphone and announcing results of activities, or upcoming events for that day. Today, I witnessed a student giving a short presentation on how he was welcomed at St. Andrews having newly arrived from Malaysia. The deeply-rooted emphasis on building and supporting a multi-cultural society here is amazing.
This morning session always ends at 8 with students being dismissed to attend their first class. If there is time remaining after announcements, it is spent reading or meditating. It is a delightfully peaceful way to begin the day, supporting fellowship while reinforcing national pride and cultural identity.