Art Jamming with fellow counsellors

3 April 14

Have to do a post on this as this is probably the only time I will ever go art jamming!

Art jamming was one of the activities which our cluster had planned for our peer support sessions. This is probably an activity that I will never go on my own. I am no artist and have always sucked at art since primary school! I don’t hate it, but it’s just something I don’t have a natural flair for. But since this is a group activity, I thought it would be a good experience and it would be nice to bond over a painting session.

We went to Arteastiq at Milenia Walk. It was a pretty cosy place. It was a 3 hour session from 11am-2pm. It cost $48 and includes a cotton canvas, free flow of paint, brushes and a beverage. I have never painted for such an extended period before and wondered how it would be like. There were lots of pictures for us to choose so that we could copy/get inspiration on what to paint. We chose our pictures and settled down to paint. I ordered ice lychee tea which I absolutely loved! I chose what I thought appeared to be a simple picture of a fish. But, I eventually realised that it was not as simple as it looks. What I found most difficult was mixing the paints to get the shade that I need. And the 3 hours passed quickly as there was lots to paint! Halfway through I was tired but persevered on as I wanted to bring home a completed work! I just managed to finish by 2pm. Some of us extended – $5 for each additional hour.

It was fun to see what everyone had painted. And they all looked pretty good! Some of us really had artistic talent! Julia really enjoyed herself so much and her painting looked so beautiful and effortless! We then realised that she took art at O level. No wonder! In fact, after the session, she was so inspired she actually went to buy art materials and it’s her new hobby 🙂

What an enjoyable self-care and peer bonding session!

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My favourite piece – done by Julia

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photo 3  photo 4

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Making a difference in our work

“…..that every student that passes through our hands will be an outstanding one.”

This statement at the end of our school video shown at the school anniversary celebration last Sat caught my eye.

It really caused me to reflect and to really see the difference I can make to each student that ‘passes through my hands’. In that statement is also the sense of responsibility that we have during our ‘watch’ towards the students that have been entrusted in our hands. And it is also about ownership. About seeing that each of us educators have been positioned in our schools, classes and appointments for a specific time and purpose and there is a sense of duty towards helping our students achieve their fullest potential.

I believe that for educators, a job is not just a job. And I do not want to fall into the trap of letting the work that I do become so routine that I lose the sense that I can really make a difference to every student who comes to me. The mundane things that I do …..like chatting with Sec 1 students and international students to see if they have any issues ….. that short 15 minutes I spend with them is the opportunity I have to connect and to touch lives and to leave something with them. Not all of them will need counselling, but every one of them could do with knowing that someone in the school genuinely loves them and cares for them and is there for them should they ever need help.

I recall times where healthcare professionals have made a difference in the course of doing ‘mundane work’. I was particularly touched by 2 doctors when I was having my last miscarriage in Jan. The first being Dr Ian Yeo from the National Eye Centre. I was there for my regular eye check-up when I started bleeding. He took the effort to personally call my gynae at KKH to tell him that I would be going down so that I could bypass the queue. And he also shared his personal experience that he and his wife went through. It was very reassuring and really touched my heart, that he cared enough to do all this when I was feeling so frightened. It made a great difference to me that day and I will always remember his kindness. The second doctor is my gynae Dr Han How Chuan at KKH. It was his operation day, and he came out from OT just to see how I was when he could have just left it to another doctor on duty to attend to me. I was very touched that he came, despite his busyness. These are doctors in govt hospitals who have tons of patients to attend to everyday. Yet they each showed that they cared for their patients beyond just doing their job.

This experiences remind me that in our line of work, we must not lose the personal touch in the midst of our busyness. When I am busy, things sometimes become tasks that need to be done and checked off. I pray that the Lord will enlarge my heart, that I may move more and more with His compassion and to be His hands and feet where He has placed me in my workplace.

Love this song ‘One Little Heartbeat at a Time’ by Steven Curtis Chapman. Really speaks to me as an educator and also as a parent in this call I have to raise the next generation.

One Little Heartbeat at a Time

You’re up all night with a screaming baby
You run all day at the speed of life
And every day you feel a little bit less
like the beautiful woman you are

So you fall into bed when you run out of hours
and you wonder if anything worth doing got done
Well maybe you just don’t know
or maybe you’ve forgotten

That you, you are changing the world
one little heartbeat at a time
Making history with every touch and every smile
Oh you, you may not see it now
but I believe that time will tell
how you, you are changing the world
one little heartbeat at a time

With every, “I know you can do it”
and every tear that you kiss away
So many little things that seem to go unnoticed
they’re just like the drops of rain
over time, they become a river

And you, you are changing the world
one little heartbeat at a time
Making history with every touch and every smile
Oh you, you may not see it now
but I believe that time will tell
how you, you are changing the world
one little heartbeat at a time

Thoughts on getting a degree

Recently, there has been some discussion after some ministers commented that Singaporeans do not need to have a degree in order to be successful. At home, there was also some discussion at our family dinner table. I listened with some interest but did not give it much thought as to me I understood what the minister was trying to say – that it is possible for one to have a successful career in Singapore without a degree and having a degree does not guarantee success. And, I do agree with that.

Last week, after a conversation with a colleague over a lunch meeting, I felt myself being challenged in my beliefs concerning having a degree. She was sharing with us about her eldest son who just started his career as a chef. He did his A levels and did not go on to get a degree even though he could. He wanted to pursue his dream of being a chef. She shared that initially, her husband was appalled of the idea that their son is not going to the university and against it. However, she supported him. He was interested in a degree in culinary skills offered by SIT, however, one of the criteria is that work experience is required. Hence, he started work as a kitchen help, and he showed much potential and was given many opportunities. Currently, he is given the opportunity to assist at a Michelin star restaurant and has abandoned the plan of taking the degree in SIT as he is doing well and need not go that path.

In today’s context, the idea that your child does not have a degree or at least a diploma would not sit well with many parents. In the course of counselling students, I often have students express sadness that they have interests like art/writing novels/music which their parents do not really support. As a hobby or CCA, yes but more than that …. a degree takes precedence. Hence, I was actually in admiration that my colleague actually supported her child to pursue his dreams even though it meant he would not take the conventional degree/diploma route. She said that she saw how since young, he was very interested in cooking and baking and would come up with interesting dishes for the family. Once, he baked a cheesecake which her colleagues loved and raved about. And as it turns out, he is doing well now …..well on his way to becoming someone accomplished in his field and happy doing what he loves.

I wondered what my response would have been if I was in her position. And to be honest, I am not sure. As parents, all of us want our children to do well in school. I realised that I still place a great amount of security in taking the conventional route. There is some sense of security in having paper qualification. My response I figure would be closer to that of her husband, though I will eventually be won over if I see that my child is really passionate, knows what he is doing and has a plan.

I also thought about this in relation to my job as a counsellor. Career counselling is something I find fascinating and empowering. Finding a good career match – a job that suits your interests/strengths/values/personality is so much linked to our destiny. Doing what we enjoy, do best and functioning effectively. Yet, often, it is a journey of self-discovery and sometimes, it takes time to explore and find out what we are good at and what we like to do.

I feel that the essence of it should not be chasing paper qualifications for the sake of doing so but that paper qualifications are just a stepping stone, which may or may not be necessary depending on one’s career goals. Definitely, I see much value in education and in getting a degree and would encourage every child/student to study as much as he is able to. In fact, I am also for post-graduate studies in the spirit of lifelong learning. I enjoyed my university days immensely – it was a time of great intellectual stimulation. I am not really that smart and I often thank the Lord for His goodness towards me, how he allowed me to pursue my university education.

Through education, our mental faculties are stretched and we pick up important skills which prepare us for our future vocation so one extent or another. Through education, many doors of opportunities are opened as well. Education must not become merely a pursuit of  paper qualification. Pragmatism does dictate that we need some sort of paper qualification to get a job, but paper qualification must not be an end in itself. If getting a degree or doing post-graduate studies help in our self-development and career advancement, why not? If it is not necessary for us to achieve success in our field, no need to get one for the sake of getting.

The smile on your face

Today, I saw a student for counselling. He had some family issues and there was an unpleasant episode taking place recently.

He was so downcast. I could not do much for him except to listen and to go through some coping skills with him to help him cope better. My heart broke when I heard of his family situation. I could not imagine the pain and the fear that he is going through. It broke my heart that he had to experience such unpleasant situations at a tender age. Anyway, I just encouraged him to focus on his exams and studies and other thing there were within his control like friendships and CCA since there was nothing much he could do about the situation.

Later in the day, I saw him with his classmates. He had such a bright smile as he was having fun with his friends in class after school. I wish I could capture that smile on camera.  The smile meant so much to me – that this boy was still able to smile despite what was happening in his life. That smile was so precious to me and I wished that he could always be happy and smiling. I am glad that in the midst of the storm he is in, he still does have moments of joy in his life.