Trisha Reloaded

Dedicated to Trisha, as always. Dedicated also to L, my source of inspiration, and the reason why I choose to see the bright side of teaching.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hard truth

I didn’t think it would come to this, but it did. My daughter L presented me with her mid-year report card, and suddenly my almost perfect world of gungho teacher, modern mother and superwoman-wanna-be fell apart.

Is it possible for a teacher-mother to have a child who almost flunked her exams? Many people think teachers' kids have it the best – free, 24/7 on-demand home tutoring. Except that in my case, it isn’t like that. Exhausted at the end of the day, I often do not have the time nor patience to coach my own kid. I have also stupidly thought I could be the hands-off, non-conformist mother who will challenge the system and not succumb to the Singaporean obsession with grades and tuition and one-upmanship.

The result of my naivety? My girl only passed 1 out of 4 subjects in her recent exams. It is heartwrenching to see her tasting failure at such a young age. How does she feel? Does it bother her? What happens to her self-esteem?

How does a teacher who spend hours teaching hundreds of other people’s kids feel when her own child is now sinking and she realizes, with a horrible shock, that maybe she is responsible for this? That while she may have devoted time to helping the weaker students in her school, she has left out the person who should matter most to her?

I don’t know how to deal with this guilt. The irony of it all sickens me.

I think of the last year which I have spent pursuing my part-time Masters course and now even that seems so self-indulgent and shallow. Maybe they are right after all, that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Right now, I need to cut off the excesses, and forget about my own quest for personal achievement. My child is drowning and saving her is all that matters. Because when she fails, I feel that I have failed too. And no amount of impressive degrees and thank-you cards from my students can assuage the pain.


At 6:25 AM, Blogger Ensui said...

Perhaps you should talk to your daughter on her results, ask her how she feels and if it bothers her.

Don't be so hard on yourself. Nobody gets full marks for Parenting 101 the first time. There is still time to see what went wrong and hopefully, you don't become over-zealous in correcting your mistake.

Good luck. :)

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Trisha- same here. I'm a lecturer and have the same problem when my son is not doing well in his exams. There is always that fear in me that I will veer towards the other end and harp on his tests and exam results all the time that we both lose the relationship of father and son. Everything in moderation. Yeah, I guess if your girl failed 3 out of 4 subjects, it is time to review what can be done to reel her back in, without making her lose too much confidence in herself. All the best!!

At 3:18 AM, Anonymous dali said...

i hope L isn't feeling like it's all her fault - and don't feel like it's all yours either - i'm beginning to think it's gotten a little out of hand in singapore. you hear of kids getting tuition when they're 5, when what they should be doing is falling off monkey bars and learning about life outside of school, outside of the home.

i remember thinking the PSLEs, "O"s and "A"s were a lot easier than what we were trained for - so we were trained NOT to fail, somehow.

but even if eventually the kids don't fail and exceed expectations, cos they've been overweaned, what about what happens to them as they are getting there?

will they learn it's not all about paper chasing and As? will they learn that even if they fail, they're not failures?

i applaud you for realising the madness of tuition and oneupmanship in singapore - and hope that somehow, you'll find a way to help L get out of this, let's say, period.

At 6:30 PM, Anonymous chlorine said...

Hi Trisha, my daughter is only 10 months old, but I'm already making plans to stop teaching (in terms of financial planning) once she enters primary education.

Currently, I do feel more confident about myself when I work. "Gungho teacher, modern mother and superwoman-wanna-be" is what I want to be too, but I realise that there is no point spending so much time on other parents' children if I cannot even do that for my own. I've seen too many students of mine whose parents are teachers and yet they are always the ones who have all kinds of problems, emotionally, academically, disciplinary etc.

I want to be there for my child all the time, and not just spend 3 hours with her each day, only to tuck her in bed and then spend the weekend asking her to play on her own while I mark, mark and mark.

My colleague who sits next to me says, "We're mothers first, then teachers." I fully agree with her.

At 11:15 PM, Blogger trisha said...

Everything in moderation is wise advice but sometimes hard to follow through. Can I tell my students or my boss not to expect too much from me -- "everything in moderation" -- cos I have a daughter to take care of too? Used to be that teachers have more time for family cos the job doesn't encroach on your personal life too much. It's very very different now.

At 11:25 PM, Blogger trisha said...

Thanks for popping by!
I'm trying hard not to assign fault to myself, and more importantly, L. But sometimes I can't help feeling I could have done more.

You are right about life being more than scoring A's. As far as L is concerned, I'm proud of her other abilities too. I've tried to adopt this approach when I deal with L. Except that now, my under-emphasis on results have caused an alarming slide in her grades and now I'm behaving like your usual paranoid parent who wants to arrest the problem before her child gets streamed to EM3!

Great to hear from a fellow teacher!
Your words :
"I've seen too many students of mine whose parents are teachers and yet they are always the ones who have all kinds of problems, emotionally, academically, disciplinary etc."
actually scares me terribly!

Is it really so? I've not met any of such kind yet. I've heard of pastor's kids who are rebels, though, and that is enough to make me think this is possible with teacher's kids.

A teacher is always torn between taking care of her students and her own kids. Few are capable of achieving the mythical work-life balance. I hope MOE will realise this some day.

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do hope your kid reads your blog cos thats enough hint to spur her on in her studies without that dreaded rebellious reaction. I mean it.

At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quit teaching when my son entered P1. Like you and Chlorine, I found it difficult to reconcile having to spend my best hours with my students and hardly even an hour with my own child.

I can also identify a little with what you are going through. My son didn't do very well in P1 and 2. Maybe his teachers wondered to themselves about why his mother -- ex-teacher and now full-time staying at home -- was so 'ineffective'.

I guess you have to look into why her grades are what they are, e.g. does she understand the lessons, does she understand the questions and how to answer them, etc. Sometimes it's not easy to interpret the questions, even for us adults! And look at the science MCQs -- a)A & B are correct, b)only C is correct, c)A, B & C are correct, etc. It must be so tiring for 8/9-year-olds to work all that out!

At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Option 1: Quit Singapore

Option 2: Stay and accept that in Singapore, grades (especially at Pri school) is everything. Ignore possibility that she will hate it\you.

Step 1: Quit and become a tuition teacher.

Step 2: Kumon-style drills. Buy plenty of assessments books\exam papers. Gradually increase the intensity. Use praise\bribes\threats liberally.

Remember, No "A"s = No Future. Forget "love of learning". Times have change. These days there is no second chance anymore. Remember you voted for it. Most Singaporeans do not even have (or cannot afford) your options.


At 8:21 PM, Anonymous chlorine said...

Hi Anonymous 6.53am,

I admire your courage to take the step to quit working just to spend more time with your child. I'm still apprehensive of whether I'd be able to cope with that loss of financial independence and opportunities to interact with other people other than my child. Not being to work will make me feel so much less confident of myself.

Hi Anonymous 9.11pm,

Has Singapore really become the way you described? I try hard to instill in my pupils "the love of learning" and teach them to see the good side of Singapore, and yet struggle to understand the rationale of the government in pushing certain policies to "benefit" the lives of the citizens.

It's never easy to explain why the ministers have such high pay when they do not wish to give the destitutes more than $290 a month for fear of them being reliant on the government.

How to teach Civics and Moral Education when even teachers are getting more skeptical of what MOE/government preaches?

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm Anonymous 6.53am.

Chlorine, indeed the loss of financial independence is a major issue. I suppose there is the option of doing something part-time, e.g. adjunct teaching, private tuition, etc.

There are many things I've become cynical about but I still believe in education in the true sense of the word and that it's still possible to some extent, both in the classroom or at home.


At 3:57 AM, Anonymous fren from tallinn said...


take it easy la. dun be so hard on urself.

L will grow up just fine. i have no doubts abt that.

At 11:36 PM, Blogger PC said...

Hi Trisha :o)

It's been such a long time.. forget how old your daughter is... at least 10? You may want to take a look at Superkids... have seen phenomenal changes in kids who attended this.

How have you been?

At 7:15 PM, Blogger trisha said...

Hi pc,

Great to hear from you again. My daughter's in P3.

I've been quite sceptical about some of these motivational programmes since my encounter with Adam Khoo's workshop. Heard lots of positive testimonies of transformed lives but when i actually sat in the sessions, I found that I couldn't agree with some of the values they were teaching or the techniques they used to 'motivate' the child.

Still, that's not to say they're all dubious. I suppose we just have to be careful in whom we select.

I'm doing fine. What about you?

At 9:58 AM, Blogger RinGo said...

Hi Trisha,

I feel sad to read what you are experiencing. I am a mummy and a teacher myself. I understand the emotional, physical and mental stress that you and I go through everyday. It's really tough. And it's tougher to be reminded that we are helping other's kids and spending more time on them than ours. Don't be too hard on yourself. :) I wish you and your family all the best!

At 9:05 PM, Anonymous ted said...

Hi Chlorine and all,

I noticed your problem with reconciling teaching Civics and Moral Education and the policies perpetuated by the government.

Here's my suggestion, separate the entity that is PAP, a political party, from that of the government, a collection of administrative and executive bodies that carries out the policies directed from the ruling party.

Thus, actions such as raising ministerial salaries are easily explainable by the fact that the people in power are from a certain collection of elites that seeks to entrench their own powers and status.

Once you can do this, you should find it easier to teach C & M lessons.


At 8:14 PM, Blogger PC said...

Hi Trisha

I'm doing great :o). How about lunch one of these days? You know how to reach me


At 1:56 AM, Blogger singaporeteach said...

I always admire my teacher-mother colleagues. I don't think I can ever balance demands from both sides...

At 11:56 PM, Anonymous DW said...

I like the way you pen, look forward to read your works again.

Best Wishes fro your family in the new year.


At 9:06 PM, Blogger Indiana said...

It is not by succeeding that we become worthy people who contribute, it is by over coming adversity, conquering weakness, and recovering from the falls life offers us that we become worthy.

Better she learn how to overcome a setback now than have to do it when she is in Uni or when she has a job.

MM wonders where the next leaders will come from in Singapore. They will not come from those "elites" who have everything handed to them, but rather from those who have learned that failure is just another step on the road to success.


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