Monday, August 31, 2009

DSA results!

I'm absolutely delighted to announce that Lesley-Anne has been successful in her DSA application. For privacy reasons, I will not disclose the names of the two schools she applied to, they shall only be known as School X and School Y. This post is for me to share how this little journey of just one-and-a-half months had been a test of faith of sorts.

As a family, we had obviously been praying very hard for Lesley-Anne to be successful in her DSA application. She'd applied for two schools, and Kenneth and Lesley-Anne had both prayed for God to give them a clear signal, ie give her only one acceptance so she would know which was the school for her. But unbeknownst to them, I’d been praying for God to give her BOTH schools. Why? In my own twisted way, I felt that asking God to close all options except the right one was a cop-out. Faith to me is about making a conscious decision to follow God's will and I felt that this DSA decision, which would impact on Lesley-Anne's next four to six years, was a milestone - it should testify to God's love somehow. Following God because you don't have a choice is hardly an act of faith. I know, I know, geh kiang right! Must make an easy thing difficult.

So anyway, we went through the whole process of DSA from application to tests to interviews. Initially, all three of us had School X as the school of choice, School Y was the back-up. But within that short timeframe, things slowly changed. It was a combination of things - the admissions process, the school environment, the vibes we got talking to the students of both schools, the fit with Lesley-Anne's personality, the teachers, anecdotal stories we had heard about both schools, even the types of students who wanted to go to each school. Strangely enough, everything seemed to be in favour of School Y.

Kenneth and Lesley-Anne became more and more drawn to School Y and started discussing the possibility of choosing it over School X. But I stubbornly clung on to the idea of School X because in the world's eyes, it was the sensible choice. Even though certain aspects of School X were making me feel apprehensive and uneasy. (Note to those who know or think they know which is School X, I'm not saying it's a bad school, I'm saying that God was trying to point us to the right school for Lesley-Anne, just as we'd prayed).

Finally, epiphany struck when I was sitting on a bench at School Y as Lesley-Anne's DSA interview was underway. I was saying a prayer for her interview to go well and suddenly felt like a big fat hypocrite because while I kept spouting that we'd leave it to God, I still kept worrying about it, trying to second guess God's decision. I then came to this realisation: it’s not that I didn’t trust God, it’s that I was resisting Him. The honest truth was that I’d come to know that God intends for Lesley-Anne to go to School Y but I didn’t want it to be, so I closed my ears. All the time that I was praying for a school where Lesley-Anne could be happy, in my heart I really wanted her to be happy at School X.

The message I received loud and clear sitting on that bench that day was to let go. Really let go. And it was only at that point that I was finally ready to accept God's lead and say, yes, if Lesley-Anne eventually gets accepted into both schools, I am able to let her reject School X without any regret. I actually sent an sms to Lilian right there and then, sharing my thoughts. She was most encouraging as always and told me how great it was to have such a clear idea of God's plan. She's right of course. I thought, how stupid I was to even think of resisting the good gift that God has planned for my child!

So when Lesley-Anne was accepted into School Y, we were jubilant, but not entirely surprised. As a final piece of confirmation, one of the disadvantages of School Y versus School X is distance. Then a couple of weeks ago, Kenneth went jogging in our estate and lo and behold, he caught sight of a student from School Y. We've lived in this estate for over 12 years and never seen that uniform here. He stopped her and asked how she got home. Turns out, there's a public transport route that we didn't know about from School Y, that would take significantly less time than we thought. When God blesses, He doesn't sprinkle, He showers :)

As it turned out, God did answer my prayer - He gave Lesley-Anne both schools. I'm guessing it's because He knows He can now trust me to make the right choice. The nay sayers out there will probably think we made a foolish decision. It really doesn't matter. What matters is that I know deep inside that Lesley-Anne will be happy at School Y and it will play a big role in shaping her very important teenage years. I can't ask for more than that.

Note: Please understand that I wish to keep both schools anonymous so I request that you refrain from speculating openly in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, August 28, 2009

One year on... and why I keep writing

I'm not sure if you'll be surprised to hear this but today is the one year anniversary of my blog!

I can't believe I've done this for a year. For those of you who are expecting a spectacular, witty or fabulously thought-provoking post to mark this occasion, sorry to disappoint you. Here's a confession: I'm kaput of ideas.

For a while now, I've been dragging my feet at blogging. My faithful followers who've been with me since Day 1 may have noticed that I started out with one post everyday, followed by five a week, then four and now three (and struggling to maintain three). Like most projects and most people, I start out full of enthusiasm and then run out of steam. On days when I'm up to my eyeballs in work or have on my mind other matters like DSA, PSLE, badminton, the last thing I want to think about is what to write for my blog. Doesn't help that my blogger pals, Lilian, Adeline and Cindy have also slowed to a crawl or thrown in the towel completely. Wei, can you all start the engines again? No kaki where got fun liddat??

Blogging is siong because there is no finish line. As a professional writer, my motivation is often writing that very last page or vetting the final proof (because it means I won't have long to wait for the paycheck!) So in that sense, blogging is very daunting because the end is never in sight. Maybe that's why many blogs just die a natural death. I'm reluctant to let that happen. If I want to stop my blog, I want it to be a purposeful, deliberate decision, not something that occurs due to lack of inspiration.

I did a quick review of my posts over the past year to remind myself why I started this blog to begin with. I didn't have lofty ambitions when I began, I wasn't even sure if people would tune in. I had a few strong views that I wanted to broadcast, opinionated as I am. (I've certainly come a long way from my very first post griping about a certain individual). But in the past year, my views have evolved, concretised and even grown extensions. Such is the power of written expression, bolstered by ongoing feedback. On this anniversary, I've become emboldened to dream bigger - that my blog can actually make a positive impact on somebody.

And for now, this is the reason I feel compelled to keep chugging along, even though it's tough going at times. I don't have delusions of grandeur, I don't expect people's lives to change dramatically from reading my blog. But if one parent can see the value of letting her child pursue her passion for sports instead of single-mindedly focusing on mugging, if one student can see that she doesn't have to memorise model compositions to write well, if one teacher can stop pushing kids to compete for that extra ½ mark in an exam, well, then that sentimental side of me wants to believe that it's an endeavour worth continuing.

So to my readers, I promise I'll keep at it for as long as I can. I'm not sure how long that will be. Keep the comments coming - they let me know what you think and add that element of interaction to what would otherwise be a one-way street. I'll also confess that they boost my morale just a tad :) I only ask for a little laxity if I start to ramble or blog about irrelevant stuff, if only to fulfil my promise of putting something out! In the meantime, here's to happy kids and happy parents.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why being able to cope is not enough

I often hear this question from parents when they're considering whether to send their kids to a top school: "Can my child cope?" Not too long ago, I was one of those parents.

As Singaporean parents, this question is asked so often that we don't even think about it anymore. But it recently dawned on me that the question is all wrong. You see, coping implies the ability to survive some difficult event. Why is it that we're not asking what the school can do for our kids but instead whether our kids can survive there?

The goal of any education system should be the nurturing of the whole person, not the clearing of a series of obstacles. What I'm suggesting is that our expectations of the education system have become warped in this competitive arena, that we're happy if our kids emerge in one piece, as long as they have a prestigious certificate to show for it.

In other words, coping is not the same as thriving. When we choose a school for our kids, we should look for one where they will thrive, not cope. A good school is one which will help our kids mature intellectually, socially and emotionally. Throwing in prestige of the school just confuses matters. Different kids thrive in different environments - some need the challenge of a competitive landscape, others require a nurturing and supportive culture, yet others need a lively, vibrant campus bustling with activity. There really is no one size fits all.

If what I've been hearing is to be believed, some schools appear to have forgotten that they have a responsibility to mould their students. Be wary of any school that cares more about its own glory and reputation than the well-being of its young protoges.

Education forms a very big part of the journey of life. For the first two decades of our lives, the bulk of our waking hours is spent at school. It is a long time to be miserable. Surely you don't want your kids to emerge from the process saying they "survived". Rather, you want them to feel that they have become better, more knowledgeable, more perceptive people, ready to enter the world of adulthood.

So consider your child's needs, strengths and weaknesses, and search for that school that can unleash his potential. Not merely one where he can cope.

Monday, August 24, 2009

An extraordinary ordinary individual

Last Wednesday, a dear aunt of mine passed away. She was only 61. She had battled breast cancer for 7 years and during that time, we saw the extraordinary lion heart that she possessed - determined and spirited to the end.

I wanted to pay tribute to her publicly through blogging but the task choked me up. So I asked Kenneth to guest blog about her instead. This would not be the first time that he had written about my Aunt Pat. In 2007, he wrote a letter to The Straits Times in response to an article about the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF)'s dragon boating team, which was published in Mind Your Body (click on the down arrow on the top right to increase size of article).



The article turned out to be a huge source of encouragement and comfort for Aunt Pat, as we learned from family and the BCF members who attended the wake and funeral. And here's the guest post from my dear hubby.

**********************************************************************************
Aunt Pat was a breast cancer survivor who succumbed to her condition when her cancer returned in 2007, after a 5 year remission. Although we are naturally deeply saddened, we are greatly inspired by the pride and joy with which she led her life. So today, I write this not to lament her passing but to celebrate her living.

Patricia Lim was a remarkable woman.

She was hugely courageous in her steely and quiet resolve to fight her condition, no matter the odds. She never let her illness define or limit her. She was fiercely independent and in spite of her condition - never wanting to be a burden to her family or friends, she continued to live life to the fullest, with much determination, optimism and cheer.

In fact, just a few months ago, she even went to KL despite her deteriorating condition, to attend a regional dragon boat meet with her team, the Pink Spartans. Due to her condition, she was not able to row but was the drummer.

She returned proudly with 2 medals, her joy palpable as she showed us her medals and recounted her adventure.

And yet, her story is not unique.

At her wake, many of her friends (fellow cancer survivors) from BCF came to pay their last respects. They are strong, independent women who are not afraid to confront this disease and stand unflinchingly in support of their sisters sharing the same condition. One especially poignant moment, was when a friend (whom I later found out was with Stage 4 breast cancer), came with her young daughter, who could not be more than 10, to say their good-byes.

Theirs are such remarkable stories – stories of pain and suffering, of acceptance and hope, of sheer courage and optimism, of victory and loss, of friendship and support, of compassion and love.

These women, and many others like them, are such blessings to their families and friends, no matter what the outcome. Their lives and stories are an inspiration to all.

Dear Aunt Pat – you will be forever in our hearts. You have fought the good fight, rest in deserved peace.

We will miss you dearly.

Friday, August 21, 2009

25th anniversary of GEP

Believe it or not, GEP has been around for a quarter of a century. I know this only because there was a celebration recently for all the GEP kids. To mark the occasion, each GEP student received a cap and a water bottle.

I'm showing a side view of the cap, but in case you can't make out the embroidered words, they read: 25 Years of Gifted Education.

In Lesley-Anne's school, the GEP students had a day off lessons and instead, spent the time making gifts for the kids from a children's home. The p6s cross-stitched patterns on pillow cases. Yes, even the boys! Even though some of them could hardly thread a needle, they gamely did their part.

I'm not sure if all the GEP schools did the same thing but I thought it was a very nice gesture and fitting way to commemorate the occasion, by giving back to the community. It's a timely reminder that those who have been blessed should seek to bless others in return.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

PSLE ala Mr Brown

Tomorrow and Friday are the PSLE oral exams. AND SO IT BEGINS. (Cue dramatic Lord of the Rings soundtrack).

To all those parents with p6 kids, good luck!! Oh wait, I'm sure if your kid is in p6, you won't be reading my blog right now. Maybe not for the next two months as you go underground to prepare for PSLE commando training.

Anyway, since everyone is probably very kancheong, I'm going to attempt to provide comic relief by posting this hilarious Mr Brown video on the proposed revised PSLE exam format. See if you like it!



Ok, gonna run now. Guess what I'm gonna do for the rest of the day:

a) Pretend to help Lesley-Anne prepare for her exam
b) Pretend to work while actually playing computer games
c) Eat too many double chocolate chip cookies
d) All of the above

Monday, August 17, 2009

What's My Line?

Often, my kids will bring home forms to be filled in, asking for personal particulars and other information. This is usually a trivial task albeit mundane. But inadvertently, I will come to one question which stumps me: Mother's Occupation.

I never know what to write. 'Director' is printed on my namecards but appears too pompous on a school form. 'Writer' makes me sound like someone who pens Mr Midnight books. 'Editor'? Nah, I don't work for a newspaper. 'Entrepreneur'? Macam like I'm Sim Wong Hoo or that Bengawan Solo lady. 'Business woman'? Blecch. Don't even think about it.

Have you noticed that it's harder to pinpoint our occupation these days? When I was at school, we never had this problem. The occupations of my friends' parents could usually be summed up in one word - lawyer, engineer, hairdresser, housewife, businessman, hawker, doctor, teacher. Back in those days, my father was simply 'accountant'. In today's context, that would never do. He'd be a 'Financial Controller'. Or maybe 'Senior Financial Controller'. Or if you want to go really grand, 'Group Deputy Director, Finance'.

Over the years, titles have become longer and fancier. I don't know when it started but I think people and organisations just got so caught up with making themselves sound important that they have lost perspective. A title has come to define who you are and somehow, an upmarket title is supposed to enhance one's value. I acknowledge that words are powerful and 'Corporate Service Officer', for example, sounds better than just 'Clerk'. But it is still an artificial change, especially if it comes without accompanying salary or job adjustments. Worst still, companies sometimes believe their own propaganda - "by the way, since you're no longer a clerk, we have to increase your workload."

Nowadays, you can't tell what a person does by looking at his title which is rather ironic. Isn't that the whole point of a title? You would have thought that with longer titles, it'll be clearer what people actually did. On the contrary, the longer the title, the more vague it is.

Here are some real examples: 'Senior Executive, Resource Development Services'. 'Research and Evaluation Principal Officer'. And I am not making this up but I actually came across one 'Acting Senior Assistant Director'. Seriously! I wonder if there is a 'Senior Assistant Director' who isn't 'Acting' and another 'Acting Assistant Director' who is maybe not so senior. And by the way, Deputy Director is one up from Assistant Director.

It's quite clever really, you can create entirely new hierarchies of rungs to be extended on the corporate ladder so people can keep climbing for longer. This proverbial ladder, I assume is headed by the 'Very Senior Chief Executive Officer'. Well, if you're the Chief Executive Officer, then you probably don't need a long title. Unless you feel slightly intimidated by the 'Even More Senior Chairman of the Board'.

I've come to the conclusion that if you're really important, you don't need a lengthy title to prove that you're somebody. Hmmm... the most important person in the universe? God.

So back to school forms. I'm pretty sure I've used every one of those titles listed above interchangeably at some point or other (except 'Business woman'), depending on my mood at the time. If some administrator were to compile all the forms I've filled in over the years, he'd think that I am either some multi-tasking superhero or a schizophrenic.

I thought it didn't matter what I filled, it's just another administrative task, nobody cares right? But alas, one innocent form with 'writer' on it got me invited to speak at a career talk at my kids' school. And I detest public speaking so I might just scratch 'writer' from my list of choices. Maybe from now on, I'll just write 'mum'. Afterall, that's a full-time job.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ode to reading (with apologies to Popular Bookstore)

You've seen it all before
Kids sprawled all over the floor
With grubby hands on books
Getting sneak peaks at the store.

Popular says, "It's a good habit
But there's a library opposite.
If you want Artemis Fowl,
Perhaps you'd like to buy it."

So the kids don't get free reading
As their parents do their shopping
And I do understand, really
Even though I hate paying.

But what's this I see?
A boy in a yellow tee
Absorbed in his Beast Quest
A refreshing sight for me.
Because it's Andre reading!
Voluntarily!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

English composition part 3

Since I last posted Lesley-Anne's composition, I've had a few requests to post more of her writing pieces. Unfortunately, I haven't had access to her English file as she usually keeps it at school, so my apologies to those who asked!

I finally managed to read another of her compositions when she brought it home to do her corrections. Here it is (in blue), reproduced below after the instructions, errors are hers.

You were out on an excursion with your class. Your friend asked you to follow him without the teacher's permission.

Based on the above situation, write a composition of at least 150 words. In your composition, make use of the points below
  • what your friend's intention was
  • what happened next
  • what happened in the end
Every time she comes into the classroom my ears work their magic. They completely shut out the noise. Okay, since it is science class, I shall put it in scientific terms. My ears are adapted to shut out unwanted noise. This is a behavioural adaptation. That is the best way I can put it. I have to admit that my science teacher has a special power though. That is the power to put people to sleep just by talking.

I was brimming with excitement when I woke up. My class was about to go on an excursion to the zoo to learn about animals. At last! Something interesting in science! We were waiting for the bus to arrive in our classroom. Then, our science teacher came in and started briefing us about behaving well and the rules to abide by when in the zoo. I only saw moving lips, I did not hear a thing. After what seemed like ages, the excursion bus came and brought us to the zoo.

When we arrived, we headed straight for the tiger enclosure. Just then, James pulled me aside. "What?" I asked.

"Let's leave the class and go see the other animals!"

"Why? You mean we can't see them with the class?"

"Didn't you hear Mrs Lam? We do not have time to see all the animals. We are only seeing those animals adapted to exteme climates."

I debated following James. If we were found out, we will be doomed. On the other hand, I would be able to see my favourite animals like the giraffes and the crocodiles. I may even be able to write some poetry on them and I do love poetry. The choice was obvious.

Me and James started walking very slowly and soon fell behind the class. Then, when our chance came, we ran off. James said I can pick whichever animal I want to see first. As long as I create a poem about it. I accepted the challenge.

We ran to the crocodile enclosure. "Okay Mr Poet! What is the poem?" James asked.

"Crocodile, crocodile with your toothy grin. With your cunning smile and your scaly chin," I answered.

"Only two lines?"

"It's called a couplet".

"I think it's lame. But it's still a poem anyway, I guess".

Victory! I won the challenge! For the rest of the day, James and I saw many cool animals and Mrs Lam was not in sight. In the end, me and James headed back towards the exit. We planned to hide behind the vending machine and wait to rejoin the class. This way, we would be twenty minutes ahead of the class which would only arrive at one o'clock.

However, much to our surprise, the entire class was already there. So was Mrs Lam. She caught sight of us and stormed over. "Where were you two? You don't know how worried we were! When we did a headcount and found out you two were missing, we traced back our steps and even searched the gents! We came hear to see if you were at the fast-food restaurant!"

Amazingly, my ears could not work their magic this time so I got it at full blast about safety and causing inconvenience to others. With Mrs Lam shouting at the top of her lungs, I was surprised she did not get a sore throat. I wondered why. However, I guess there will never be a scientific explanation for that.

Lesley-Anne was especially pleased with this composition as she'd scored 35/40. Before you say "waaah", it's probably important to note that this was the highest mark she'd scored to date and she doesn't consistently do this well. I guess writing depends partly on whether the topic inspires you, especially within the alloted time.

I also realise that Lesley-Anne's writing style is very conversational which makes the story readable. However, it's drastically different from the typical 'Model Compositions' you'll find sold at Popular bookstore. Personally, I detest those compositions, they're so stilted and pompous you often feel like you're reading a comprehension passage. It's like someone trying to squeeze in as many bombastic phrases and words within each sentence as possible, for the sole reason of demonstrating sophisticated vocabulary. It makes for very dreary reading. More appallingly, I've heard that some creative writing centres teach the kids to memorise such compositions to be regurgitated during exams (and uphold this an a model of examination success). Only in Singapore can you take creativity out of creative writing!

Having said that, I have no idea how examiners in Singapore will mark the PSLE compositions. My worry is that they are looking for the 'Model Composition' type of writing because Lesley-Anne's language is very simple in comparison.

Lesley-Anne's English teacher is totally against using what she calls cliches in writing, ie memorising complete chunks of fancy descriptive paragraphs. She says examiners will mark DOWN the score for such usage. I don't know if that's true but I hope so! I do know that if I were an examiner and had to read 200 scripts on the 'cloudless, azure sky' with a 'crimson, scorching sun', I'd certainly be tempted to grade them all a bold, scarlet F.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Happy National Day!

Who says 44 is unlucky? Not for Singapore!

To celebrate our nation's birthday, Lesley-Anne and Andre wore red t-shirts to school on Friday. They also each made a festive item. Andre's is a red and white shaker (a mineral water bottle half filled with rice) and Lesley-Anne's is a colourful star streamer.

Andre is posing here with both items as Lesley-Anne was camera shy.

What's a birthday celebration without a sweet treat? We had chocolate fondue, mmm... The best way to have your fruit, I say!

Did you say the pledge at 8.22pm? We did.

Happy birthday Singapore!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The piano singeth again

Received a text message from my piano tuner: "According to my records, your piano was tuned by me in 11/8/07. Would you like to service your piano?" How clever is that? I don't suppose anyone (except piano teachers and musicians) actually keeps track of when they tune their pianos, it's probably Task No.187 on the priority list after "clean fans". So I thought it was rather enterprising of him to gently remind his customers that maintenance is due.

Actually, it's more than due, it's way overdue. You're supposed to tune your piano once every 6-9 months but our last tuning was 2 years ago. But better late than never, right?

First, he opens up the front board and brushes all the felt keys. Then he places this electronic thingamajig on top of the piano, which tells him for each string, how much it needs to be tightened. Gone are the days of metal tuning forks and the tuner's exacting ear, today, even piano tuning relies on technology.

It's quite a mechanical process, you basically test string by string. According to him, my piano is 10% out of tune. Doesn't sound too bad what, considering. I told him it's because my kids hardly practise, haha.

The whole process takes about 45 minutes, then he sits down to test out the sound and the pedals.

Then it's done! And because my piano tuner is such a nice guy, when he saw me taking pictures, he removed the whole lid to show me what it looks like inside.

Pretty nifty instrument, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Debunking the myth of the GEP label

A p6 girl, whom I shall call HL, wrote a comment on one of my blog posts. We exchanged a few emails and I found her to be a very sweet, mature and unassuming 12-year-old. She told me she loves to write and sent me a link to her blog, where she posts her compositions and other written work. Let's just say I was very impressed - she writes lucidly and expressively, her command of English is masterful for her age.

Academically, she's doing very well too, topping her cohort in her neighbourhood school. Yet she seems to feel that she isn't top A calibre because she's not a GEP student.

I find this mindset to be quite prevalent. I have a close friend with two very bright daughters who are not in GEP. I think they're doing marvellously well in school but she's worried about letting her elder daughter (p5 this year) apply for a top secondary school because she's afraid her daughter wouldn't be able to cope next to the GEP kids.

Lilian and I were just discussing a few days ago that the GEP label is very powerful. People have this misconception that GEP students are super kids of some kind - like they can calculate complex maths formulas in the blink of an eye or maybe write Shakespearean sonnets in a single bound. They're believed to be brighter, faster, sharper, just better all round.

If there is one trait that I think gifted kids have, it's the ability to think more laterally and conceptually than other kids their age, that's all. That's why the GEP syllabus works for them, because the programme challenges their minds to delve deeper into a wider spectrum of subjects.

Ability is not so simplistically defined in a linear format. Achievement in school depends on so many factors, including aptitude, attitude, accuracy, speed, home environment and most importantly, hard work. Gifted kids certainly don't have dibs on all these traits. I've met GEP students who are so slow that finishing a paper on time is a feat in itself. I've seen others who are so blur that they struggle to follow instructions. And then there are the unmotivated who constantly perform below par. GEP kids are certainly not always whizzes in every subject, though often they may have special talents in one or more areas. Lesley-Anne, for example, has a gift for languages (my own assessment anyway!) but she has to work much harder for maths.

The unrealistic label of GEP kids is unhealthy in so many ways. What happens is that mainstream teachers, parents and kids themselves, identify the GEP kids as the target to beat because in their minds, that represents the pinnacle of academic achievement. And if they manage to achieve this goal, I sometimes hear this flippant refrain (or something to the effect): "GEP so special meh? Mainstream also can beat them!"

For mainstream students, the label can create a psychological barrier and give them a false diminished sense of their own abilities, like in the case of HL. I feel she's very capable of doing better than some GEP kids in the PSLE but she first needs to believe that she's not inferior to them. (HL, if you're reading this - I hope you know how talented you are!)

For GEP students, the label creates the pressure of having to perpetually live up to the super kid image and not "let the mainstream kids overtake you". Don't believe me? Lilian sent me this blog post by an RGS girl. She's a GEP student and she found herself trapped in the stress of unrelenting competition and comparisons between GEP and non-GEP. Her anguish is evident. It was written back in 2005 but I think it is still relevant, even more pronounced, today.

In this competition, no one wins. In the same way that when siblings are constantly pitted against each other, all you get is intense sibling rivalry. No one is happy for the other's achievements and no one is willing to help the other. All you get is a bunch of unhappy people constantly trying to outdo each other.

If we will stop obsessing over others for a minute, whether out of pride or insecurity, and just focus on bettering our own achievements, maybe we'll even be able to *gasp* enjoy the process.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Andre's in the school team!

The focus has been on Lesley-Anne lately, so it's time to turn the spotlight on my little firecracker. The latest update on Andre's badminton coaching - he made the selection for the school team!

We're very pleased with his progress and this for him is a major milestone because he has been dying to represent his school. Since he's only in p3, he probably won't have this opportunity for a while, but at least he's made the first cut.

Letting him receive additional coaching at the academy was definitely a good decision - he has learnt at a pace that he wouldn't have at school alone, sharing a court with 30 kids. His dedication to training has also convinced us of his passion for the game, which we weren't too sure if it was just a phase at first.

There are several coaches at the academy. One of them who also coaches the school team told us that Andre's progress has surpassed her own expectations. It's very encouraging indeed and we're delighted that he has found a niche interest to call his own.

Here's a clip of Andre doing one of the many different drills at the academy. This one was done in pairs. He's the mini one on the left.

video

I also tried to record Andre's game play with Kenneth a few weeks ago. It's difficult to get a long clip because Andre is taught to play strategically, ie win the point. Here are a couple of the longer rallies I managed to film. The first clip shows him trying to use his smash to bring home the shot but it's not a sustainable plan because you will eventually run out of steam if your opponent is able to return the shots.

video

In the second clip, Andre shows more variety of shots and this is what he learns at the academy, to mix up his shots to try and wrongfoot the opponent. Having a height disadvantage means it's more difficult to smash without getting the shuttlecock into the net. His plus point is that he's willing to run down every ball. It's what I call the Michael Chang strategy.

video

To expose the kids to tournament conditions, the academy encourages them to participate in competitions outside of school. There's one coming up at the end of the year and we'll probably let Andre join just to give him experience. Will continue to record his progress!
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