What has team work gotta do with success?

I recently read the article, a reprint by Readers Digest on Tenzing Norgay. He was born the humble son of a Nepalese yak herder and became famous after he was one of the first two people in history to reach summit of Mount Everest on 29th May 1953.

Many people asked him “Who actually reached the top first?”

Read his reply to this burning question as recorded in his biography “Tiger of the snows”:

“The rope that joined us was 9m long but I held most of it in loops in my hand, so that there was only about 1.8m between us. I was not thinking of “first” and “second”. I did not say to myself, “There is a golden apple up there. I will push Hillary aside and run for it.” We went on slowly, steadily. And then we were there.

Hillary stepped on top first. And I stepped up after him. If it is a discredit to me that I was a step behind Hillary, then I must live with that discredit.”

What a beautiful honesty he displayed:) It was simply we did it together.

Along the way, he also shared about how two other teams tried but did not reach the summit. Yet the teams, exhausted as they were, “did everything they could to advise us and help us.”

“It is only because of work and sacrifice of all of them that Hillary and I were now to have our chance at the top.”

As Hilllary and Tenzing started their ascent, they had another team ahead of them to help cut the steps for them. “The steps cut by others made the going easier for us.”

And on 29 May, the morning of ascending the summit, Hillary’s boots were frozen and they had to de-freeze it for over an hour over the stove. Although they both woke up at 3.30am, it was only at 6.30am that they went on their journey.

And yes, what a journey. His life changed after that victorious moment.

And for all the preparation,slogging, Hillary did not take a picture of himself at the summit. He took one for Tenzing and lots for the mountain.

Wow. What an incredible pair.

Imagine if you were the first to summit the highest mountain in the earth. Yet you do not have a single picture of yourself at the summit.

Here are two men, both of different nationalities, one is a New Zealander and the other a Nepalese yet with a common goal.

Tenzing trained hard and was chosen to summit because he has enough experience and also he was found to be “more fit that anyone else” when the doctors examine him at the base camp.

Team work is the precursor of success. Success is never achieved alone.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”, he again outlined the factors that led to a person achieving success. It is due not just to his talent but also to the circumstances that helped him become who he is.

The ingredients for success are simply these:

– talent

– diligence

– perseverance

– hunger

– humility

– gratefulness and teamwork. 

‘As I covered up the offering, I say a silent prayer …”Tuji che Chomolungma. I am grateful…”‘

Are you grateful for the opportunities that come your way? Do you use them wisely?

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”  – James 3:7

Useful links:

About Tenzing Norgay

Wikipedia: Tenzing Norgay

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:http://plchi.blogspot.sg/2012/07/calligraphy-and-what-it-taught-me-in.html)

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 (http://plchi.blogspot.sg/2012/07/revelations-there-is-no-short-cut.html), 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.”

Useful links:



Will a Singapore teacher be allowed to have this kind of “sabbatical?”

I chanced upon this Travelling teacher blog on National Geographic Traveller magazine. The article shared about an educator, Diana Gross, from Garrison Forest School who decided to embark on a year long leave of absence with a “globe-spanning goal of digitally connecting students and teachers by bringing technology education and mobile video training to undeserved communities.” – Source: National Geographic Traveller magazine, Dec 2012/Jan2013.

Wow. I was intrigued. I googled her name and found several you-tubes and her blog where she shared how she used an “An iPad2 and tripod adaptor, a Canon Powershot, a Canon T3i camera, a Sennheiser lavalier mic, and a MacBook Air. This studio became a focal point of her work that year. “(Source: http://travelingteacherblog.com/about/)

She is the “Global Educational Correspondent” for Garrison Forest School, and is currently living in Cambodia.

Now I wonder, will any teacher in a Singapore school be allowed to have a sabbatical like hers?

I have worked for more than 20 years in various schools and am still contributing to education through OURF. I am also as a Academic Associate in local polytechnic 🙂
I left the Dean role in a local school in 2007 for a dream to help poor kids.

As a senior educator, I was entitled to be on “sabbatical” to study something. But I was not interested in doing another course or a phD.
I wonder if I have been brave enough to suggest what Diana Gross embarks to do. Actually I have no idea how I was to help poor kids when I left the teaching post to pursue my dream. I just wanted to use technology to help them. I simply felt that we in Singapore are so privileged. Our schools are well equipped with the latest technology tools.

So I did some work with Oracle Education Consultancy to use their platform for an Online High School project to help Vietnamese scholars learn English.
However, that was over in a year, and seriously I do not think I have that kind of impact that Diana has.

Perhaps the iPad wasn’t invented then so the technology was not right. Also internet was scarce in developing countries then. It was in Jan 2008 that I started OURF.
That aside, maybe I just needed time to fumble around, make some mistakes, help various NGOs and learn from them. In the few years, I helped Lions Gift of Sight, World Vision, Kampung Temasek and Singapore Bhutan Foundation. Some are worth my time, some really wasted my time and money. But I learn 🙂

In Feb 2013, I read this story about this real teacher, who is given a designation “Global Educational Correspondent” with her own local(home) school.

I read through her blog briefly and was amazed at how her simple gadgets helped to reach these poor communities.
She took the plunge in the first year and “The Traveling Teacher Project was funded during the first year from personal savings and a small sabbatical grant.” (Source: http://travelingteacherblog.com/support/)

Here is a sample youtube that she did with kids:
“Students from the Chey School in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia tell a brief history of their school. This video was recorded and edited entirely by students on an iPad2 as part of a ‘Tell Your Own Story’ project. To learn more about the Chey School, visit http://www.theplf.org. To involve your school or community in a video project, visit http://www.TellYourOwnStoryProject.org. To learn more about the WOWi team, visit http://www.WOWi-Austin.org”

Now, I wonder aloud, would a Singapore teacher be allowed to have this kind of “sabbatical”? Must sabbaticals always involve going to a reputed university for a course?
and what is my role in this?

Useful links:
The Travelling Teacher

Art for Love and Love for Art – our new gallery is up!

After months and years of evolving, yep since I started OURF, learnt Chinese painting in 2008 and realised that people do want to buy these stuff, we are happy to launch this website as a social effort under OURF.

We are a group of amateur artists who dabble in art for the Love of Art and we do it to help children and communities from World Vision Singapore.
Art for Love is founded on the premise that we can use art to help children.
OURF is an education consultancy that believes in ploughing a portion of our profits and time into worthwhile causes.
Meet our contributors and browse through their gallery. If you feel inspired to draw for a good cause, join us. If you want to commission us to draw for you and raise funds for a good cause, do drop us an email: pinlay@ourf.sg

Enjoy 🙂Art for Love

A gallery to showcase art pieces by our contributors

Standing firm against unreasonable demands….

Each time I read about hot education issues in the papers, iToday or even a FB post, I feel the need to blog.
Tuition – should we engage tutors or not? Tuition centres overcharge. Tuition teachers are not qualified. They are out to make a fast buck.
A boy get his hair cut by a school teacher. His mum files a police report.

And in the midst of exploring some of these education issues, there were many calls by anxious parents to ask me to consider setting up a tuition centre, one that can help fill the gaps of the current school system….

But is studying in a Singapore School so bad? Are we doomed?

Yesterday at the WorkPlan Seminar for schools, an announcement was made by Minister of Education about the scrapping of banding of secondary schools. Here is a snapshot of the Masterplan of Awards document from the MOE’s website,

Masterplan of Awards
Masterplan of Awards

According to the document, “The MOE is strongly anchored on SEM values where the development of students is the priority, with the intent of recognizing a variety of school achievements in line with MOE’s commitment to deliver holistic education.
The MoA is a unique recognition structure that motivates schools in their pursuit of the Desired Outcomes of Education. First instituted in 1998, the MoA has undergone various changes in response to the changing needs of the education landscapre over the years.
The structure reflects the SEM philosophy that excellence is an on-going journey.”

Let me attempt to give some possible reasons on why the good intentions of MOE has its challenges when being implemented in schools:

a) A new generation of iKids – This is a generation of kids who have grown up on instant gratification – instant noodles, instant growing (eg Farmville, you can grow things in a few clicks!), instant success and a lack of respect for seniority.

Instant everything – in this age of borderless classrooms, the students are exposed at a young tender age to a whole lot of information. Knowledge and facts become “cheap”. All kinds of information bombard the children of today. They get information from Facebook post, twitter, TED talks, wikipedia, youtube, podcast from well known universities or simply bloggers who recycle (re-post) news from one blog post to another. In fact, the era of Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedIn, seems to welcome and exonerate quick-off-the-cuff comments from its members. What is once privately shared with a circle of close friends, now can get re-twitted and re-post in a quick manner. And the post (while yet to be authenticated for accuracy and details), just spread and spread, like a malicious worm…gone viral!

We need to teach the children of today to have wisdom and discernment. Wisdom seems an odd thing to teach the children as it is associated with an old man or woman. However, when knowledge comes knocking on the doors of these kids and they get bombarded by exposure to an overwhelming amount of facts, it pays that schools give great attention to teaching the children how to discern. Facts from fiction. Gossip from truth. Instant from a long term study of things. Teach them to ask: where is the source of this information? Is it reliable?  What is its track record?

b) Lack of respect for authority – There is an increasing dis-respect for seniority and authority. Children who have grown up with having a maid or helper to “assist” them in all kind of chores, can become very dependent adults if we are not careful. For instance, I know of one boy who was too lazy to even walk a mere 10 steps to turn on the fan and asked the maid to turn on the fan for him  If this attitude and habit are condoned by his parents and those he looked up to, he will probably grow up thinking that as long as the service is “paid for”, he deserves all the help he “need” regardless of whether it is right or proper. While I am not against the idea of having some help for household chores, I feel very strongly that the values we teach children when we engage helpers  in household chores have long lasting repercussions. If we treat these foreign help with less dignity than we treat our pets, we will reap what we sow in the next generation.

As a Christian, I subscribe to what the Bible teaches about learning to respect authority. In Romans 13:1-8

“13 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.

Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s lawFor the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.”[a] These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, remained under house arrest in Burma for almost 15 of the 21 years from 20 July 1989 until her most recent release on 13 November 2010,[10] becoming one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners.

c) Looking at the students as clients and aiming to “please” them – I feel this concept that students and parents are the “clients” have been oversold. While we want to provide the best for the children, educators have a moral obligation to do what is right for the charges under them. Every educator and teacher is bound to teach children values besides imparting knowledge in schools. This is the fundamental difference between teaching children and teaching adults. By casting the school as being service oriented, and projecting students and parents as the clients, the idea to please rather than to teach is subtly introduced. This leads to an erosion in respect for the education institution and for the teaching profession.

d) Is the fit good for the child? – Excellence is a journey that is worth pursuing. But not every child is meant to be in an independent school, under the IP programme. Please…..as in any job, any career, if the fit is not good, the poor child is going to suffer. Adults who pander to the whims and fancies of their children will have to bear with the consequences as these same very cute children, can grow up to be totally dependent adults – waiting for their parents to bale them out of any trouble or problem. We have seen the problem of the “kangeroo” adults in Korea and other developed countries. Do we want to solve every problem that the child face today for them?

Do not force fit your child.I did an earlier post that my niece did not make it to SOTA due to her PSLE score. She is now studying in Christ Church Secondary. She is very happy there and feels more confident. She has a good and supportive principal. She is around students who studies at her pace. So a good fit will blossom a child…not a perceived “good” school.

e) Is there trust? – If your child is worth your time, do consider seriously to partner the school in this journey. A child is going to spend at least 12 years of his life in formal schooling. From P1 to JC2. This is where he gets the chunk of learning in terms of being a decent human being, learning to respect rules, authority and learning to live within a community. No school is perfect. Every school has their challenges. But if parents choose to trust schools instead of questioning at every turn and corner, the trust will be returned. Trust is something that needs to be built over time. There is no instant formula for trust. Schools and teachers in turn must learn to trust the parents as well. Not every negative feedback about the system is bad. Sometimes, and often times, we are so immersed in one system and one perspective that we are not able to see things from other angles. This is your call to committing to understanding the challenges your child faces.

The challenges of the education in the 21st Century is an endeavour that requires time and committment. Earning the $$ to help fund your child’s tuition fees in schools and give him a good education is important. But more important, do take time to understand him as a person. He is only a child once and very soon he will grow up. Take time to understand the challenges he is facing today. Remember, a child that is much loved will feel secure. A secure child who receives guidance and discipline grows up to be a responsible adult.

Let’s learn from the wisdom of the wise King Solomon:

Proverbs 13: 24

“Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
    but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

Useful links:

Spare the rod, and spoil the child

Respect for Authority

MOE Workplan Seminar 2012

The gift of education – keeping 20% for the poor

A boy who benefits from the programme
A boy who benefits from the programme – screen shot courtesy of Akaraka video clip

I chanced upon this while reading a facebook update by an ex-student from St. Joseph’s Institution. Bro Michael Broughton is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Lasallian Mission, Manila, Philippines. I have always known him to be a witty and humourous brother, knowledgeable yet humble. I enjoyed listening to his assembly talks. He is an intelligent person yet he comes across as a person who treats others with dignity.

Curious about what he is doing, I clicked on the youtube link.

I was inspired by what he shared. Through the clip, he shared how De La Salle university has become one of the top and most expensive university in Manila, Philippines. He shared how many of the prominent businessmen in Philippines comes from De La Salle’s School of business.

As a Christian brother school, the leaders wanted to ensure that the school remains a school of the poor and for the poor. De La Salle university is in a privilege position to help change the economics of Philippines. He then went on to share how the school is partnering Akaraka to help the poor students. In order to make a difference in the culture of the school, they have set  a target of 20% of the population to be for the poor students. The video clip showed pictures of boys who have benefitted from the scholarships. Students with their parents and families in the villages.

It is such a beautiful story.

Yesterday I was at second meeting of Joy Ambassadors at World Vision Singapore. A group of us volunteers were asked if we wanted to share the joy of being involved in child sponsorship. Though it was a small group, the sharing by the various people present made a deep impact on me. A friend, Joanne, felt led to help after she saw a video clip on Channel 8 about how the children were living in Mongolia. She felt that no one should live like that. It is below human dignity. Her heart was broken by what she saw. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision said “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”

Another shared that she wanted to build a school in Africa, ever since she was in Secondary school.

One by one, the volunteers present and World Vision staff shared about how they got involved with World Vision. For me, it was an accidental journey. But I was glad I started. I am learning to put aside my assumptions about NGOs and what I can do. Instead, I asked myself, “What is needed to help them?”. Time and again I have learnt that what I assume may not be what the locals need. To partner, I need to set aside time, be committed and be available. It has been 3.5 years.

The journey partnering with World Vision has been transformational. When I saw the humility of the weak, the poor and the joy they get when they receive help, I know that the things I prided myself in is nothing compared to the many sufferings these villagers go through just to get a decent meal or even to go to school. When I met the many children orphaned by Aids, I know that being looked down or misunderstood by the community is something they face daily. Suffering is real.

There was a village school that I remember distinctly. The teachers were all rice farmers. They are part-time teachers, yet fully dedicated to helping the children in the only school in that village. Yet they serve with such great joy.

I am excited about this new partnership with World Vision. Being part of the team of Joy Ambassadors, I want to be useful and to let my gifts and talents make a difference to the poor. The under privileged. In my small ways. With the team.

Thank you Bro for always being inspirational. It is through clips like these that we know that there are many out who do more than token giving.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” – Luke 12:48

And we in Singapore has been blessed by a good government and good education. Happy 47th Birthday Singapore!

Do join me in this journey of helping the poor and underprivileged. Trust me, you will become a more beautiful person:)

Useful links

Bob Pierce, Founder of World Vision

National Day Celebrations 2012

Brother Michael Broughton – De La Salle University

Building the creative confidence in your child

The recent TED talk by Dr David Kelley: “How to build your creative confidence” interests me greatly. I liked the idea that the world is not divided into the ‘practical’ and the ‘creatives’. According to his bio on TED.com, he is the “founder of legendary design firm IDEO. He built the company that created many icons of the digital generation — the first mouse, the first Treo, the thumbs up/thumbs down button on your Tivo’s remote control, to name a few. But what matters even more to him is unlocking the creative potential of people and organizations so they can innovate routinely.” (Source: http://www.ted.com/speakers/david_kelley.html)

Innovate routinely. A paradox of terms. We think people who do routine work cannot innovate and vice-versa. Yet the term itself speaks volumes.

Innovation is present in all of us. It is up to us to create the confidence in the child to allow him space to think. To create. To innovate. Within the current constraints.

I believe that having constraints helped us to be more creative and innovative.

To have an abundance of resources – time, money and goods can make us lazy and takes things for granted. A scarcity of resources make us more acutely aware of our “cost” for doing something. Budgeting and cutting down cost to build a viable business becomes my priority when I went to business. I had to find out the best way to do things to maximise my limited resources. I also wanted to give time to people since I have a more flexible schedule. So how do I creatively weave my work, my development of materials and also volunteering in non-profits and lead educational trips into my 24 hours? I find that I work best in pockets of time. In between my meetings with other people to bounce off ideas, share dreams or just to be present for them. Hoarding my time makes me less productive. By giving my time liberally and yet being strict to maintain routines to get good work done makes me appreciate structures. Structures help us scaffold things. Yet how often we worship structures and neglect developing our creative self? Striking a balance is important.

In his TED talk Dr David Kelley mentioned about how a certain psychologist, Dr Albert Bandura who helped his participants overcome their phobia of snakes. Dr Bandura is a renown psychologist from Stanford.  “In 1963 he published Social Learning and Personality Development. In 1974 Stanford University awarded him an endowed chair and he became David Starr Jordan Professor of Social Science in Psychology. In 1977, he published Social Learning Theory, a book that altered the direction psychology took in the 1980s.

While investigating the processes by which modeling alleviates phobic disorders in snake-phobics, he found that self-efficacy beliefs (which the phobic individuals had in their own capabilities to alleviate their phobia) mediated changes in behavior and in fear-arousal. He launched a major program of research examining the influential role of self-referent thought in psychological functioning. Although he continued to explore and write on theoretical problems relating to myriad topics, from the late 1970s he devoted much attention to exploring the role of self-efficacy beliefs in human functioning. ” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Bandura)

The experiment involved helping the participants to get rid of their phobias of snakes through a series of steps, which he named, guided mastery. Dr Bandura was able to help the participants get rid of their phobia within a short period of 4 hours! He found that once the participants have overcome their phobia of snakes, they become less anxious, try harder, persevere and have new confidence! We have phobia because of our fear of judgement. 


We live in a world where our beliefs shaped our thinking. For example, for a long time, I thought my English was not good. How can I blog about things? I knew I can never draw anything presentable. I also had a phobia of big dogs. I remember once I quickly shut the door on a big dog at a friend’s house cos when the dog stood on its hind legs, it was very intimidating! I was afraid of the dog! It was as tall as me as look ferocious. (okay, granted I am really not very tall in the first place!)

I also knew I was quite good in Science, in teaching and also in technology planning. And my work history testify to that. People are willing to pay me good money for work in Science and technology. But is that all I am good at?

It took a good art teacher and mentor to helped me see that I can paint. It was an accidental discovery. But this teacher believed that every student can paint. Simple as that. When he first asked everyone in the class to submit their paintings for his exhibition, I was shocked! Can I? I just started learning. But his belief in us, his students were amazing. He simply believed that everyone that he taught can paint. A couple of years later, I paint to raise funds, to give as gifts and to use for talks. I even illustrate the Yong Tau Foo team© and did a couple of logos plus incorporate in my workshops the beauty of using Chinese ink:) Not because I am good or the best but because it is a series of guided mastery that my teacher did. Plus my willingness to try new things. To persevere. To put in the hours.

My phobia of dogs took a longer time. It took me more than 10 years. Yet it was through a friend’s dog, Forest, a spitzer that I learnt to overcome my fear of dogs. Forest was a white and beautiful dog who always welcome me unreservedly when I go to my friend’s house. I would have never imagine myself, filming with big dogs and giving a talk on World Animal Day. A person who have never owned a pet in her whole life!

Building creative confidence in your child is not easy but it is not difficult either. Do you scaffold events for him to innovate routinely?

I believe every child, every person has the creative capacity. Recently after filming at my bro’s house, I witness first hand

With the homemade magnet (solenoid)
With the homemade magnet (solenoid)

how scaffolding helps my nephew, Johanand. He was supposed to be studying for his exam. His science exam. After taking a quick look at his book, he put it down and declare to his sis that he needs to make the magnet. It is part of his assignment for his science. His older sis, a Sec 1 student shook her head in disbelief. She did not believe that he needs to do the project.

I was observing their behaviour. It was an interesting case study for me. After some 10 mins of haggling, the sis left to study for her own exams. I then told Johanand to draw for me the science experiment he is supposed to do. He drew quite a good pix of a solenoid. Ok, knowing that he is an active boy, I said, “let’s do it!” For him the best way to learn could be just doing the experiment

We went to the nearby DIY shop and bought some nails, some pieces of copper wire and batteries. I helped him with the setup. The experiment worked! He was so happy and grinning from year to year. He proudly showed off how the magnetised nail could pick up a small piece of staple.

The small achievement makes him work harder. He started trying to use 2 batteries to test the strength. When he finally went to play football with his friends, he put his “magnet” near to him, a precious testament to him that science works:)

As educators, what are we teaching the people around us? Those young minds? Are we imparting that they can achieve? Or are we slotting them into analytical thinkers, creative thinkers, and if you are in one category, you cannot be in another.

I believe our minds are dynamic. Our habits can be changed. As schools move into the 21st century, let’s be mindful of our subtle hidden message. If a child does not achieve in a paper examination, is he stupid? Is he lazy or simply not motivated enough?

Each of us can be a complete Yong Tau Foo Team© with capacity to collaborate, communicate, be creative and think critically. Let us be humble enough to accept that when things go wrong, it can sometimes be that we need to adjust the way we look at people.

Are our habits of thinking about students effective in promoting an innovative and creative culture in schools?

Useful links:

Dr David Kelly: How to build your creative confidence? 

Dr Albert Bandura: Biography