Come Monday, I will be moving on to a full time teaching position at Republic Polytechnic Centre for Educational Development.
What are some of the lessons learnt (I hope!) of the almost 10 years I spent away from a full time teaching position in an educational institution when I started OURF consultancy with a fellow ex-colleague?
Your plans can go haywire. We started out want to do e-elearning solutions using Moodle for schools. The plan was that my partner customised the solution and I will deliver the training to schools. We did for a few schools and even presented a paper on Moodlemoot in Hakodate, Japan in 2009. However policy changes in MOE meant that a small team like ours will not qualify for the bids.
I wanted to leverage on technology and elearning platforms to help students from developing countries. I did an online school for Vietnamese scholars for SJI and even presented during the EdTech conference under Oracle Education Foundation. There were training sessions held at different primary schools to promote the use of OEF Think.com. Changes in technology caused the project not to take off as much as it should have as new and better platforms were surfacing that were more attractive to students.
Embrace new opportunities – An accidental writing of calligraphy 福 for business associates and friends (to remember our company better) led to funds raised for World Vision Singapore. The Chinese ink journey just got bigger and bigger. A most non-motivated learner, I discovered that when people were willing to pay good money for the calligraphy that I should be more hardworking and kept writing. In 2013, I had my first humble solo exhibition in Jln Kledek. God uses different people to show me that this was the path I should take as I threw a challenge to him (like Gideon in the Bible) and asked Him to “show me the money!” for my paintings. 5 years later, I had done 5 exhibitions and sold more than 100 paintings and counting!
Know yourself better – Understand what you are good at and what you are bad at. The business that we run allowed me to learn new people dynamics. Despite being a “people” person, there were lessons for me to learn on how to relate to “extroverts”, “introverts” and God kept sending me people to teach me new areas and mould me. I got myself certified in ExtendedDISC, Emergenetics and went for certification under ACTA for adult learning. By then, I realised that much as I like coaching and team building, I still prefer to teach skills and impart knowledge in a new way to folks for an extended period of time. I found out that I do not know how to market myself and definitely disliked marketing myself. Networking to gain business contacts were also something I did not enjoy as they seemed ‘superficial’ in me. I enjoyed developing new things and simplifying materials for people. The Yong Tau Foo Team was then born. It was a random brainstorming session at one of the kopitiam in Bishan where we sat under the sign “Koo Kee Yong Tau Foo”! “Journey In ink” for both visually impaired and others were my journey to challenge myself to teach Chinese ink paintings in a different way.
Learnt new skills – Divide and conquer. One of the first things I picked up when teaching heuristics as part of G101 Cognitive Skills and Problem Solving was to use the heuristic on myself. I disliked doing personal and company accounts. In the past, I could easily file my taxes when the accounts department gave me the IRAS form. Now I have to learn how to account for expenses and income. I decided to set a routine to update accounts details weekly via cloud server and well, it has served its purposes!
Getting organised – Although I thought I was organised, there were moments when I realised my so called organising skills were “very low level”! The storeroom was messy and the home studio was cluttered. God sent me friends who are excellent in packing. They have such structural minds that I am amazed. Happy to say that I decided to benchmark my organising and de-cluttering skills to higher levels and in gamer’s terms, to level up!
Lesson 5 – Do what you are good at naturally and bring your expertise to a higher level.
I enjoy travelling and documenting my travels through blog, website with pix. After travelling to the different World Vision ADPs (area development programmes) and even helping out at a special school in Tianjin, the oft quoted saying “the world is really unfair” become even more real. There were questions I could not answer. What if I was born in Zambia? In Cambodia during Pol Pot regime? In India? and so on. What happens if I am a special kid? or a refugee? Some of these are really painful to even think about. I intend to use art and ink as a way to share their stories and to bring hope. Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10. Hope that I can reflect some of this light and not be the thief!
Lesson 6 – Cultivate deep friendships and get interrupted for people
There were many times when I preferred to draw or hone my painting skills or even to read my book. A friend will call up and ask if I am free to meet up. Setting aside time to spend with people are important. Knowing how much time to spend with each one is important. Being able to say “No” is also important. I realised that Jesus only spent the most time with 3 of his disciples and he has picked 12 disciples. Though he is with the crowd and minister to them with compassion, He also had quiet moments where he fell asleep, prayed and struggled to do what is needed. I cannot be everyone’s savior and I am no one’s saviour. I just need to be accountable to the resources that are given to me!
Lesson 7 – Be a good steward and don’t over “own” things
Someone asked me which are my favorite paintings. Do I get “heart pain” when I sell them and won’t get to see them again? What if people dislike and criticise my paintings?
I try to make a habit of not over owning my paintings or possessions that are given to me. These are still works in progress. If I believe God enabled me to paint and draw, then these are just ways for me to experience the goodness of God. They are channels for me to experience how God works in His mysterious ways. Each time someone buys my painting (and sometimes in a ridiculously good price beyond my imagination) I know it is grace. God is too big for me to box in.
Lesson 8 – Cultivate your spiritually and not your religiosity
There is a difference between between spiritually atuned and being religious. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24
Hone the skills of following up on promises I have made, and being faithful to the tasks I am given. One of the things I am learning is to be able to give cheerfully for God loves a cheerful giver. No one can see my heart and my intentions. But God can.
I look forward to new challenges and new things to learn in the next phase! To God be the glory!