My own “aha” moment – Educate, Education and Learning

DoggieRecently I was conducting this lesson with my poly students using the PBL approach. I had 3 classes of year 1 students and we spent a day each talking about these issues.

Hey, to an educator, that is a fantastic time. I have always wondered how our students felt about education, being educated and learning. Now I got the “air-time” plus get to hear their views…all in the name of a lesson 🙂

What is the end goal of education in a formal system?

Are there informal ways of learning? What is the role on informal education in one’s lifespan?

My own “aha” moment came when I had to re-look at everything from another perspective after I accidentally discovered that I could draw and paint, and that people actually liked my paintings enough to buy them…

The journey in learning Chinese ink, was pretty much incidental and accidental.

Like a good programme, (for those programmers out there…)my life was “interrupted” with this new interest which I somehow couldn’t explain.

You see, from young, I learnt that I cannot draw cos I have “D” or “F” grades for Art. I could never draw that brinjal or do potato prints. I did not understand why we had to do calligraphy with a manuscript pen. Still life bores me as I cannot understand why we need to draw objects.

And my idea of Chinese ink? Well, it pretty much belonged to “Chi-na” people who do not like English and are often seen  as “uncool”.

But I like art books, art galleries and have been collecting them ever since my twenties.

I liked water-colors and the way the pictures are done. Of course, there are some artists who are so different from me and I cannot understand their art at all.

But what happened was that it took a good art teacher, my first Chinese ink teacher, Mr Tan, to make me believe I can draw. How?

He simply asked and told us to exhibit our paintings. Nothing is impossible for him. His unquestioning look when I brought my only art piece (a piece on “Orchids”, which incidentally I did right when I ran out of ink…yep, it’s true…as my friends will tell you :)) and my determination to put my piece as part of his exhibition started my journey into excellence for art.

To him, I owe this small yet important step to unlock my “drawing” potential.

He simply believed me. 

Then my next step. A calligraphy teacher, Mr Guo from Shanghai who taught me the basics of strokes and make even writing “One” a delightful masterpiece. (Read my blogpost on this:

He taught me the details and the structures of the words. It may seem boring and not as fun as the other class. But he taught me the basics of the strokes. The delight of forming that perfect stroke and the beauty of each Chinese ink brush stroke.

Confirmation of the talent came from friends, my sister, sister-in-law and when I finally drew a complete painting, my favourite to date, the water village series (, a friend, Adeline remarked “but now you can..”

and finally my watercolor teacher, Mr Cheng, whom I learnt a little on how to draw and sketch on the spot.

However, not all of my “education” for art was formal. Some were “aha” moments when friends passed me a calendar to sketch, another was when I got this stylo milo portable water color set from another friend, cos I drew a self-admiring panda for her.

Not forgetting the many who liked my Chinese new year pieces and were kind enough to donate monies to my fund raising activities.

So what is education? Really it is about meeting with the right mentors and being diligent.

Mentor Beginner – the one who started you on the first step, who spotted your potential and believed in you

Mentor Structure – the one who “forced” you to practise hard on uninteresting stuff

Mentor On-the-Spot– the ones who taught you outside the typical classroom

Mentor friends – people who affirmed your talents and gifts through feedback and encouragement

Mentor buyers – people who are interested enough to buy your products

So, for students out there who are frustrated with the “formal” education, do not be discouraged. What cannot destroy you can only make you stronger:)

Adversity breeds perseverance..a forgotten virtue in this “instant” world.

I am fortunate to have met some of the most wonderful students in my poly teaching. These are not the typical academic “A1” students whom I used to teach in premier schools but students who have good attitudes and fortitudes. They are students who could be acting in shows like “Ah Boys to Men”.

What is ultimately more important is not to let people, system and grades label you as “cannot”.

Everyone has a role to play on this earth. Just discover your role and work hard.

And yes, when people fail to recognise your “talent”, don’t be so hard on yourself and play the blame game.

Learn to take yourself less seriously and laugh at your silly mistakes:)

Make “Excellence” your choice.

2 Cor 4:7-15 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

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