I spent the last few days if the week at a Junior College observing classes, talking with students and faculty, and enjoying the delicious food at the school’s canteen.
Although the teachers at JC and other schools in Singapore have a full syllabus, it was refreshing for me to see each faculty member I observed at JC engaging in innovative pedagogy in their classrooms. Each teacher knew his / her subject well, engaged the students, and used a variety of structures in how they taught their subject matter – lecture, group work, partner work, turn and talk, and some arts integrated activities to shape students’ understanding of literature.
One of the faculty members introduced me to the work of Roslyn Arnold who wrote a book called “Empathic Intelligence.” I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, but I am looking forward to it. I think this work will help me with my research project.
One of the most interesting experiences I had at JC was the ceremony announcing the “A Level” results at school. If students are interested in going to university (in Singapore or elsewhere) they take a series of “A Level” exams. They can take up to 6 exams in different subjects (most often people take 4), and they receive grades in each of the exams. Because there are so few spots available to students at local universities, their A Level grades are extremely important. And you could feel it…
At 2:30, those students who had taken the A Levels sat on the floor of the multipurpose room where teachers, parents, and younger students gathered.
The principal at JC announced the highest achievers on the A Levels in both science and the arts. As he announced their names, the results were projected on a screen behind him. Afterwards, he announced that the school had done very well on the exams so he was rewarding the students with a day off next Friday.
After the top achievers were announced, the remaining students got into lines to collect their individual results on the exams. One by one they approached a small table, sat at a chair and collected the results. The students in line were very nervous. As they sat down and saw their results, some students were surprised at how well (or poorly?) they had done. Others hugged friends and parents. Some were absolutely devastated. Some were thrilled. The teachers were really amazing, being so supportive and caring of the students, regardless of the results.
As I took the MRT home that evening, I thought about my Horrid experience with standardized tests, and how badly I had done on the SAT (all 3 times I took it) and the ACT (twice, both terrible). Yet, I still found my niche. I wish the same for all of the students who got their test results on Friday.