Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stressed out parents in Singapore, myself included

Had to put this down to remind myself to watch my own actions.

I was at a beautiful nursing / diaper changing room in a mall ready to express my milk. This is a once a week routine since I have to go to school once in a week. I totally hated the idea of expressing in the staff toilet so I make an effort to go to the mall before I go to work.

As I was saying, every Wednesday there will be a mother and daughter in the nursing room too. The girl will take a nap on the little bench in that room for how long I am not sure. Why does she have to take a nap there? I do not have any idea too... my guess is that they have another lesson in the same mall to go to after that nap.

However, this particular day was different. The girl had to complete a teachers' day card for the upcoming Teachers' Day. Her mother was trying to get her to write the words "Happy Teachers' Day".

The conversation below is as best as I can remember...

Mother: Remember har... I want you to write small small.
Daughter: Okay. But why, Mummy?
Mother: You must learn to write small already. How can you keep writing so big.
Daughter: Okay

Since I was in a little room, I can only guess what is going on outside on that little bench.
A moment of silence later...

Mother: Why you write like that? Can't you write properly? Follow the card below!
Daughter: (give a little whine)
Mother: Your handwriting so ugly. Everyday you have to write one page for me.
Daughter: I don't want...
Mother: No! You will write two pages for me.
Daughter: I don't want. I write one page. (Whine plus sobbing)
Mother: You don't bargain with me. I say two means two. You not shameful meh? You handwriting so ugly. You not shameful, I see already also shameful! You teacher see already also shameful! You are K1 already. One more term, you will finish K1 then you will go K2, still write so ugly!
Daughter: (very quiet)

Mother: Capital letter! (slap or hit daughter)
Daughter: (sobbing)
Mother: Capital letter.. you never hear me say meh?
Daughter: Got...
Mother: Then why you still write small letter! Don't make me angry har? I am very angry liao! Why must you always like that! teaching you very frustrating!
Daughter: (quiet now)

At this point, I realised that I was hearing myself ... it sounded so familiar.

Mother: Write bigger! you write so small who knows what you are writing! Write bigger lah! Three words only also make me so angry. Can you see the card below? Copy it lah! I put the card below so you can copy. What is the card for?
Daughter: For me to copy... (sobbing again)

Okay, I was a little confused ... didn't the mother said to write "small small" at the beginning?
Also, I felt all tensed up in the room that my milk expressing session was not at all successful/
I also felt so sad for the little girl and for Ash too. I was at the verge of crying and was shivering uncontrollably.

Mother: Aiyoh! Why you write like that! I tell you the whole of next week I am not going to bring you out anywhere! You are staying at home to do homework.
Daughter: No... I want to go out... (sobbing)

I got too emotional to continue expressing in there plus milk was not flowing so I thought it would be better for me to get out of there.

I must also mention that the mother did hit the daughter a few times during that whole session.

When I got out of the cubicle, I wanted to tell the mother to relax and also to stop shouting at her as it does not help in the situation at all. I know because I am like that too when teaching Ash.

Through her, I saw myself clearly and I also felt the fear the child was feeling. It is all clear to me then... we are all too stressed up in our Singapore education system.

Why are parents spending hundreds after hundreds of dollars in finding the best enrichment class for their children? The Learning Lab... promise to deliver results, all so posh and expensive. Growing Up Gifted... the name itself is enough to pull the crowd. Shichida ... training a genius at an exorbitant price. And the list go on...

I am caught up in it too. I am tempted to put Aver into Shichida school and Ash to Learning Lab...but I cannot afford the fees. I realised that the time I spend with them, teaching them through playing at home, spending only a fraction of the fees, my daughters are still learning well.

Walking out of the nursing room, I promised myself to stopped being so stressed up over Ash and her studies. She is a very clever girl and she performs so much better then her peers. She did not attend any posh enrichment lessons. I taught her at home but it was not a stress free event. Now, I will ensure that it will be stress free.

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