July Term Break Writing Challenge Day 1

Day 1 Writing Challenge

Having been in teaching for over 12 years, I’ve seen first-hand how many young students were reluctant to write. Often, it is because of a lack of clarify as to what constitutes good writing and a resistance to critique.

With this in mind, I decided to spend much of this school holiday to help students conquer their fear of writing. My mission was to encourage reluctant writers to write and hopefully pass on my passion for writing to them.

The above picture is based on the PSLE format for English Composition writing in Singapore. So here are 2 stories that were submitted on the first day,

Let’s work together!

Soon we’ll have some semblance of a normal life. It’s not, yet… but we’ll get there. However, we can only do so if we all work together.
There’s 2 major ideology wrecking the world right now: Individualism and Government Cynicism.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to people having individuality. However people have confused the need to be unique with selfishness, which is to act with disregard to others’ safety and interest. That is appalling to say the least.
Same goes for Government Cynicism, which is to doubt the good intention of the governing body even when it is for the greater good of the society at large. Our own government is not perfect, but none is. Clearly the ‘golden standards’ of Western democracy have failed. Are we able to see whether our government have our best interest? Are we going to fall into the fallacy that everything by the ruling party has to be bad, has to be rejected or has to be opposed? We’re better than that, smarter than that, don’t you agree?
So let’s not undo the efforts we have made the last month and a half and let’s continue to do our part!

All children, except one, grow up.

Many years back I took a module on creative writing and as part of the assignments, we had to write a variety of stories based on different requirements. Today, I’m going to share with you one of them.

In this assignment, I was to create a story based on 1 line of words which we could choose from a list. In the end, I chose to work with the starting line “All children, except one, grow up.”

Here is my take on the line “All children, except one, grow up.”

All children, except one, grow up. 

That would be Peter, born Pan Wei De, a normal child before he became what he was.  

At age 11, he suddenly had a very high fever and after that,  he stopped growing. 

No one realised he had stopped growing initially; it just seemed he had stunted growth. 

One by one, everyone in his school hit puberty. Everyone, except one. 

You might think that not growing old is a gift. He would tell you, it was a curse.

In secondary school, he was always bullied and teased.  The girl he liked shunned him because he was short. He had no friends and he ate alone.

The problem with all that, was that he remembered; he remembered every single thing that happened to him. This was due to the fact that he had an eidetic memory. The good thing about it was that it helped him ace every exam, but that only made the bullying worse because nobody likes a teacher’s pet. 

Things took an unexpected turn in the year that he was 16 while he was taking his A-Levels. His parents had sent him for further medical examination and the results revealed that his cells had stopped aging. That explained his perfect memory and his growth, or lack thereof. 

Suddenly he became the darling of the medical world–everyone wanted a piece of him to study– the cosmetic world and very soon the media. He became Peter, Peter Pan.  It was an apt nickname, as apt as nicknames can be. 

For a while, he enjoyed the attention, or at least he prefers it to the constant bullying and teasing.

Then his fame got out of control; random strangers would recognise him and come up to touch him. He was too small to protect himself, so he would run; he would run with a mob of people chasing him till he was cold with sweat and fear, hiding in some dark corner until they were all gone. 

The worst part of it was that he remembered; he remembered his gasping breaths and his trembling hands.

After one too many such incidents, he decided to hide forever. 

So he had to come and see me, or rather, I, had to go and see him. I did the best I could for him but I never had a patient like him before. You see, for many of my patients, the best cure for their problem was time, for time really heals all wounds. For him, time only made the wounds deeper. 

One thing I could do for him was to listen. He was guarded at first but as the sessions went by, he began to open up. He began to share his experiences and his secrets. 

His greatest wish was to find a cure for himself; to grow old like the people around him; to be normal again. 

It was unfortunate that he never got around to doing that. 

On this day, as we mourn the loss of one extraordinary life, let us also remember for he would have remembered: the kidnappers who broke into his house; the  rich tycoon who would spare no expense to eat his flesh. And Peter would have thanked him for setting him free. And forgive him. For Peter always remembered to forgive.

Life lesson for us all?

I do not own this image. Rights of image belong to its owner.

Recently a friend of mine sent this meme over WhatsApp. When I saw it, I was confused because I wondered what was the life lesson that was being taught through this.

When I asked my friend about it, his answer was “Spamming classes for your child before they step into society? Overpreparedness?” and suddenly I was enlightened.

Oh course, this meme was created in jest, but it definitely got me thinking: “Is there really a ‘life lesson’ here that we can learn?” Is it really true that “You can’t go wrong with being over-prepared.”

I would think there is. There is something that goes wrong with being overly obsessed to hit ‘Level 99’ even before the ‘first boss’ which has to do with time.

As we all know, time is the one resource that we can never get back once it’s used. When someone prepares so much or even too much when the situation clearly does not require of it, then they are wasting the valuable resource of time–which could have been better spent elsewhere learning other skills, developing other interests or simply just having a good rest.

Well enough musing, time for me to go waste my time on playing my video games.

Pix and Poems (Part 1)

A while back I collaborated with my good friend Moses on this project called Pix & Poems. It aimed to encourage creativity and promote poems writing.
Today, we proud to officially launch the FREE E-Book! Inside you’ll find the amazing illustration done by Moses Sia and some really interesting poems based on the word/picture prompts.

In the days to come I’ll share with you all the thought process behind each of the poems so STAY TUNED!

Download your FREE copy here: bit.ly/pixNpoems

How to deal with your child’s sudden meltdown?

So the other day my daughter wanted to ride 1 of those moving pony rides in the mall. We had previously purchased extra tickets for it so we told her that we would come back to play after the family had our dinner. She agreed and was so looking forward to it the whole dinner.

Then when we got back, the kiosk was closed with all the moving pony rides covered up and a sign that says “Out for Dinner, be back at 7.30pm.”

My daughter was so devastated (as if her hamster died and here’s the thing, we don’t have a hamster) and inconsolable. She began sobbing and stomping her feet on the ground. We tried to explain that there was nothing we could do and that we would probably be on our way home by the time it was 7.30pm, but she was having none of it.

That was when I realised that she probably had hardly experienced rejection and disappointment because for most of her life, she hardly had to deal with this. It was like what she wanted, her grandparents, maternal and paternal, would give. Often as parents, we were guilty of that too but we justify that it was “only for that one time”—that ended up being every time.

So rather than trying to force her to control her emotions, I began to validate her feeling by saying, “Darling, You must be very disappointment. I can imagine you were really looking forward to it while we were having dinner.” The wailing only became louder. To me, that was fine, because it meant I had her attention and what I said got through to her, because more often than not, when your kid is wailing and demanding what he/she wants, they aren’t going to be interested in whatever you have to say. They just want whatever they want!

Then I began to share about my own experience with disappointment, relating to her a time when I was about her age—she’s about 3—and did not get what I had expected to. My uncle had promised to bring us out to a theme park on Sunday and I was looking forward to it for the whole week! When the day finally arrived, my cousins became sick and it happened to be raining that whole day so the whole trip was cancelled! I was so disappointed.

I know some people caution us from redirecting the conversation to be about yourself every time and I totally agree with that. However, in this instance, I really felt it helped create a deeper connection between us too and showed her that what she was feeling was normal and that other people do feel it too.

As I was talking about my experience with disappointment, I carried her close to my heart around the mall. It’s important that you bring your child away from the source of disappointment and provide them with your comforting embrace. Sharing with them a story also serves to distract them from their own disappointment.

As we walked around the mall, we happened to find a kiddy ride that was $2 for 3 rides! We saw it and excitedly told her, “Hey how about we take this ride!” Now normally we do not allow our students to take such rides. In fact the toy pony ride tickets were purchased by her grandparents in bulk so we had no choice but to finish it.

We pointed out to her that this was really special that she actually got to ride it. We pointed out to her the significance of that moment and used that as a teachable moment to explain to her that often disappointment is there to teach us patience. All good things are worth waiting for.

So in summary, here’s what you can try to do when your child next meets with a major disappointment:

  • Validate their feelings. Do not dismiss it or force them to get a grip of themselves immediately. We know it’s impossible.
  • Hug them and carry them away from their source of disappointment. If the source of disappointment is not a place, but instead a missed event, it still helps to bring your child to another room or location. A change of locale might be a good distraction and the new sight and sound might arouse their interest.
  • Build a connection by sharing related incidents that you know of or experienced. It is important to educate them that they are not the only one in the world experiencing that emotion.
  • At the end of the day, once they have calmed down, acknowledge their effort to calm down and praised them if they managed to manage their emotions within 15 minutes. Younger children may take up to 30 minutes.

The Legend of the Dragon Fruit

So the competition required me to write a “pourquoi story, an original fairy tale or folktale that explains a how and why behind a natural phenomena – from the stars to the appearance of animals”.  I originally had another idea but thought of this story instead.

I decided to based the story in Vietnam even though based on evolution and scientific data, the dragon fruit comes from South America. This is because I feel I want to bring more awareness to the rich culture in South East Asia. To make sure I get the name and story context right, I even consulted with a Vietnamese throughout the writing process.

Read it here.

Enjoy!

To Kill a Big Bad Wolf

So I took part in this Fairy Tale Writing Competition and as part of the competition, I had to write a short story of a retelling of the famous tale of Little Red Riding Hood.

So in my story, I tried to explore why the parents would actually send Little Red Riding Hood out into the woods to her grandmother. Also, I tried to tie up some of the loose ends of the story and create a much more darker story than the original.

After I wrote the story, I had to come up with a title and eventually settled on ‘To kill a Big Bad Wolf’ as a nod to “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

You can read it here.

Counting with your fingers!

I’ve noticed that younger students when counting with fingers sometimes end up getting the wrong answer. That’s when I realised that the problem was that they were inconsistent in the way they counted with their fingers.

So, I went online to find out how others used their fingers to count and found that there were so many other ways! In the end, I decided to make a video on this and come up with my own easy and standardised way of counting with fingers! Enjoy!