Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Letter to future 3rd graders

Current 3rd graders were tasked with writing a letter to the incoming class of 2011-12 telling them about things in 3rd grade they can expect. Sean wrote this. I thought the last part was hilarious but his final draft which was given to the 2nd graders excluded this cos his teacher said she didn't want them to think she was evil :D

29 May 2011
Dear Future Third Graders,

As you get older, you are getting smarter. You are improving little by little every day. Now you have approached an alarmingly important grade. You need to start preparing for middle school. Everything will be tougher: the teachers, the classmates, and especially the work. So here is some acceptable advice that will hopefully help you survive.

First of all, you need to follow rules such as not talking, not playing in class, and sitting on the red mat. Secondly, you will have Word Study every week. The teacher will explain to you what Word Study is. It occurs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You will also need to be honest or you just might wind up in Mr Gerritz's office. Mr Gerritz is the head of school, so be careful. You also need to do what the teacher tells you to do or she/he just might annihilate you.

Everyday, you will have Math, Writing, Reading, and Social Studies/Science. In Math, you will have to do exactly what the teacher and Math book both tell you and you have to read the directions and instructions well or else you will get a completely wrong answer. You will also learn how to do different ways of adding and subtracting. In Writing, you will need correct spacing, correct spelling, correct grammar, correct punctuation, and even correct capitalization. In Reading, you will have to keep track of things you learn and think abotu the book/books you are reading in your Reading Notebook.

You will need to collaborate and cooperate with other people. Collaborate and cooperate both mean the same thing, so you will only need to look up one of those words in the dictionary. You will need to be joyful and helpful or the teacher will throw you out the window straight into Siberia. You need to bring your brains to school otherwise the teacher will dissect you without anaesthetics to give the others an anatomy lesson. You need to be respectful to the teacher or she will lock you in the dungeons and fill it up with molten magma. You need to have friends or else you will be all alone and everybody will put you in a giant freezer and leave you there to perish. You need to be able to choose just right books or else the teacher will cut your head off with a bookmark. You need to bring your homework back to school or else the teacher will smash the Smart Board on you. You need to bring your reading log back to school or your teacher will sharpen your head with an electric sharpener.

I know this sounds like too much to handle and too many possibilities of death, but trust me, if I can live, you can.

Sean Leong

Computers: Are They Wants or Needs?

Found this assignment amongst the stuff Sean brought home from school this last week of school. Here is what he wrote.

Despite the efficiency and intelligence of computers, I really do think computers are wants. I think computers are wants because instead of playing computer games like Pacman, Mathman and Mousehunt, you can play board games like Cadoo, Monopoly, chess and Scrabble. I barely ever play computer games and I really like to play lots of board games. The problem is, I don't know where the board games are and nobody wants to play with me.

Also, instead of using Email, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace or Skype, you can just call your friends or relatives or send a letter or a postcard. I never use any computer devices to get in touch with people. Instead, almost every single time I use the telephone.

Additionally, instead of using Google or Wikipedia, you can just look up everything you absolutely need to know in non-fiction books or dictionaries. We have literally over a 100 tonnes of books at my house and I've read about two-fiths of them altogether. Two-thirds or the two-fifths of all the books I've read from my home library are non-fiction books.

Finally, instead of using blogs like from Blogger or Wordpress, you can just make a diary/journal or buy a diary/journal. I scarcely ever use my blog any more and I love diaries and journals. I hope now you understand my thinking about computers and whether they are wants or needs.


So what does everyone think? Is a computer a want or a need? For my third-grader I guess it's still a want, but ask my eight-grader and he'll definitely disagree. My opinion? I live and breathe the internet, so what do you think I think? haha...

And even though I recently bought him an iPad monopoly app, he has decided what he really wants is for us to play the real board game with him. I feel guilty enough after reading what he wrote up there that I promised him a REAL monopoly game later tonight. Best mom in the world or what :P

Monday, April 18, 2011

First anniversary in ISB

A year ago, the boys started school at the International School of Bangkok (ISB) right after Songkran break. So today kind of marks the first anniversary of their time in ISB as Songkran break just ended.  This video shows what life is like at the school.  Granted it is a marketing video, but it is a good reflection of the relaxed and nurturing atmosphere in ISB.

ISB2 from Chad Bates on Vimeo.

In fact, what struck the boys most when they first visited was just how happy everyone seemed.  The reality of course is that there are happy kids and there are emo kids, but the boys love their school and Brian in particular has had a busy but absolutely amazing time here.  No school is perfect and I don't hang around the school that often, but I have to say the teachers and staff whom I've had contact with here are truly top-notch, I would even say gifted in their area of work, be it in teaching math or providing counselling services.  I wish we could stay forever...

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A Year in Service Learning

Every year, the Habitat for Humanity (H4H) Club in school organises an overnight build.  Now, there are usually a few builds during the year, but only the final one is an overnight build and the club members look forward to this.  Now, what I found unique in this school is that kids actually have to gain points to participate in builds, that's how much they want to help out.  Yes, you heard that right.  They don't get any points for volunteering, they have to earn points to volunteer.

So if they attend meetings regularly, they get points.  If they help out in bakesales (that help fund the builds), they get points.  If they've been on builds, they get points.  So priority for builds is given to those who are active members of the club.  A certain number of places is also given to those who have never been on a build, to be fair to new members.

Last year, in May, Brian was really fortunate that his counselor, seeing that he was new to school, decided to include him in the final H4H build for 2009/2010 school year in Korat.  He had such a great time and got to know more friends.  I blogged about it here.

From then on he was hooked.  Service learning is very much a part of every day life in ISB.  Brian is active in Green Panthers, H4H and also went on Operation Smile, but there are other clubs such as After the Wave (helping fund a school for children affected by the Thailand tsunami) and YKids (where Middle Schoolers host and play with groups of underprivileged children) etc..., the point is, if you want to, there's somewhere for you to contribute.

This past weekend, Brian was on his fourth H4H build, overnight in Korat again, the final build for this school year.  His year of service learning culminates tomorrow when he goes to Jakarta as an ISB delegate at the Global Issues Network Conference.  Twelve students are going to the conference, 8 high-schoolers and 4 middle-schoolers.  We are so grateful to the school for giving Brian this amazing opportunity to meet students from other countries and to listen to inspirational speakers.  Will blog about this when he gets back.

Based on whatever permission slips I still have, these were the trips that he went on over the past year.  I haven't blogged about many of his trips but I hope to do this in the coming posts, as a record of all the things he's done this year.   In between service learning trips, he also went to Brunei for a Math competition, and tribal trekking in Chiangmai for his grade trip.

8th-9th May 2010: Habitat for Humanity Overnight Build in Korat
29th Aug 2010: Tree-planting Eco-trip in ?? 
25th Sep 2010: Habitat for Humanity Day Build in Pathumthani
6th-9th Nov 2010: Operation Smile Mission in Mae Sot
12th-14th Nov 2010: Sustainable Living/Tree-Planting Eco-trip in Kaengkachan
11th Dec 2010: Habitat for Humanity Day Build in Pathumthani
7th-11th Feb 2011: Grade 8 trip, tribal trekking in Chiangmai
24th-27th Feb 2011: SEA Math Competition in Brunei
11th-13th Mar 2011: Elephant Sanctuary/Barge living Eco-trip Kanchanaburi
1st-3rd Apr 2011: Habitat for Humanity Overnight Build Korat
7th-10th Apr 2011: Global Issues Network Conference in Jakarta

It's been hectic to say the least, cos every weekend he's away, he has to catch up on homework, find time to make up quizzes and tests that he's missed.  But he'd be the first to say it's all been worth it.  The service learning culture in this school is just amazing, partly cos we're in Thailand I think, which provides opportunities for giving in a way not many countries can.  That said, not many schools here give kids at such a young age so many ways to give back.

Because service and giving is such a big part of learning in the school, and kids actually see their teachers walking the talk so to speak, I think this really makes the children feel empowered to take charge and take action.  For example, immediately after news of the devastating Tsunami in Japan, one of Brian's Facebook friends, a Japanese girl, posted on her status asking if friends were interested in fundraising and asking for ideas on how to do it.  Within a short time, these 13- and 14-year olds were coming up with ideas, all wanting to help and contribute.  Within a week, bakesales were organised, wrist bands were made and sold, paper cranes were folded with donations pledged, donation boxes placed around the school.  Hundreds of thousands of bahts was raised.    

The most amazing bit though must be the fact that this Japanese girl was new at the start of the school year.  She spoke no English when she first came, was very shy, and now, she's galvanising her friends to make a change.  She's blossomed so much.  I only witness this cos I happen to know her mom.  Her mom says she was not like this in Japan.  So I have to credit the school for this.

Cliched though it might sound, kids here are learning to be global citizens in every sense of the word.  Learning that they can make a difference.  Learning that the world doesn't just revolve around them.  That there are others out there who need their help.  I hope what Brian's learnt this past busy year stays with him always.  I believe it will.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Emergent Caterpillar

So there I was playing SketchnGuess on iPad with Sean. It's like Pictionary and the word that I had to draw was Caterpillar. So I drew this. Fairly obvious right?

Sean shouted out his answer, "EMERGENTS!" I went what? What the heck's an emergent? He quickly explained, "An emergent is like in a rainforest, it's a tree that pokes out from above most trees."

So I draw a caterpillar, and Sean sees this instead (pic below). Either he's a strange little boy or I have really bad drawing skills!

Layers Of A Rainforest

Friday, April 01, 2011

Student-led Conferences 2011

Do they do Student-led conferences in Singapore? I can't remember, I only know there are parent-teacher conferences. Both in Moscow and here, there is a parent-teacher conference at the start of the year and a student-led conference (SLC) towards the end.

Sean blogs about his SLC here. I thought I should also upload his post here since that blog is managed by the school so I'm not sure if the blog would be deleted when the child leaves the school.

This is what he wrote.


Yesterday, I shared my learning in student-led conferences with my mother and my brother.  My brother is in Middle School and his student-led conference was in the morning while mine was right after lunch.  Since he had nothing to do, he decided to join in my conference.  I was very happy that they came. I was not happy that my father had a meeting at work and could not come. He promised to come to my choir concert later in April.

My mum took videos so that my father could see. These are some of the more interesting things I shared during the conference.

In this video, I talked about my crayfish project. I first greeted my mummy and korkor (that's big brother in Chinese).

I continue talking about crayfish and also showed them a poem I wrote, Caldera.

Observation in Science! That's a crayfish (they can be brown, red and white but ours are blue) and some snails. The snail in the tank looks rotten and dead, or so I thought. It later climbed to the top of the tank. I like my Science learning a lot.

I shared the second half of my favourite poem from It's Raining Pigs and Noodles. The poem is called The Outer Space Miracle Mall and it's about a woman who goes to the mall at the edge of the galaxy to buy useless stuff. I told my mum the woman is like her.

Math reflection. This is from my portfolio. I enjoy Math unlike most children.

The snail that I thought was dead climbed up the tank. Ms. Chesebro told us that once the snail climbed up the tank and went to the other tank which had the other snails in it.

I showed my mother and brother the big crayfish tanks. This is a molting crayfish! Molting means the crayfish got too big for its old exoskeleton and grew a new one. The note says that the molting crayfish must stay alone. This is because when it's new, the exoskeleton is very soft because it hasn't hardened yet. Before, we had a molting crayfish eaten by another crayfish when we did not keep it on its own.

I hope you enjoyed my student-led conference as much as I enjoyed leading it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I haven't been blogging...

...but Sean has :D So could you guys pop by to visit his little learning blog and maybe even leave a comment or two? He wants to get his pageviews up.

In the meantime, I'm contemplating a move away from Blogger. Not sure if this will be the change needed to get me out of this blogging rut, but stay tuned. xoxo guys...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Seoul 2010: Skiing in Jisan

The main aim of coming to Seoul was for Sean to play with snow. I arranged for a day trip to one of the many ski resorts near Seoul. We went with this company called VIP Travel. We're quite pleased with their service and their funny English-speaking guide. One thing about Seoul that I realise is that the daily tours are relatively cheap. Check out the website and you'll see what I mean.

The tour cost includes gloves and ski equipment but not the ski outfit. Rental of ski outfit was about S$24 per person. Getting to Jisan from Seoul was about an hour plus. We rented our outfits and then took a short walk to the forest.

Jisan Forest. It was such a beautiful day when we were there. The sun was shining so brightly and the snow was just gorgeous.

There are different slopes for different ability levels.

The resort was teeming with people.

Our group getting our skiing gear on. This alone took more than half an hour, I think.

Listening to our ski instructor. Basic lessons are included in our tour package.

Of the 4 of us, Brian did the best. I was hopeless as expected and I don't think I'll be attempting this sport in future, wearing the boots and skis is a huge pain.

Sean wasn't too happy about skiing and gave up soon after basic lessons were given cos he said he came to play with snow, not ski! He had a blast just playing with snow from start to end. Mission accomplished, I guess :)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Seoul 2010: Lotte World

In the morning, when we woke up, this is what we saw from our hotel room, all of Seoul was covered in snow.

Sean admiring the view.

Today was themepark day. The two famous themeparks in Seoul are Everland and Lotte World. I was told Everland is very nice but not as accessible. Lotte World is right above the Jamsil train station so it was off to Lotte World we went. Lotte World has an indoor section which was nice in winter. Jamsil station was about 15 stops from Hoehyeon, with one train change. Easy peasy.

We headed out after breakfast. Instead of walking properly, Sean kept stepping on and kicking snow.

The short but precariously slippery walk to Hoehyeon station.

Korean workers getting their morning snack and cuppa.

Jamsil is 15 stops from Hoehyeon and the total fare for 4 of us was 3850 won, or less than S$5!! Crazy cheap right?

And it's not some stinky clunker of a train. It was a very spacious, comfortable, uncrowded train.

There's an underground mall before getting into Lotte World. We took this picture cos there's a fairly new Krispy Kreme in Bangkok and the queue has been CRAZY!!

We've had Krispy Kremes in London and it really isn't a big deal, J.Co is much better.

Inside Lotte World.

The indoor section of Lotte World has a roller coaster, viking and other scary rides but we went mostly on the non-scary rides. This photo was taken from a 'hot-air balloon' that went around the themepark. The rides look a bit dusty and faded but given the low entrance fees, can lah. I think we paid less than S$50 each, maybe even less than S$40 cos there was some special discount given when we were there.

There's a skating rink in Lotte World but it's not within the themepark, it's on a lower floor. I'm not 100% sure but I think you'll need to get out of the themepark to get into the skating rink. And you're not allowed re-entry into the themepark.

Panaroma function on Brian's Sony camera.

This is the outdoor section of Lotte World. We headed out cos we were looking for a Korean restaurant there.

The restaurant we ate in is the one with the Asian-looking roof. Lunch was beef and leak soup with rice.

Tower of terror I think. And next to it...

...Gyro Drop...which looks super scary! We didn't explore the rest of Magic Island (that's the outdoor section of Lotte World) as it was too cold.

We headed back around tea-time, tired of the queueing...we are so NOT themepark people. We passed a river on the train ride back to the city, oooh, so coldddd.

Seoul 2010: Namdaemun and Ginseng Chicken

The hotel we stayed in was Millenium Seoul Hilton. It's pretty conveniently located, just a short walk from Namdaemun market. Seoul station is pretty near but I think the nearest subway station is Hoehyeon. Hoehyeon is just a stop away from Myeongdong, where the malls are. It took us about 5 minutes to walk to Hoehyeon.

So anyway, after a good rest and showering, we headed out to Namdaemun Market. I think this is like Chow Kit Road/Petaling Street in KL. The streets were quite confusing to us and there were underground shopping areas too.

Mary in Namdaemun Market. It was coldddd, but thankfully there wasn't much wind, so it was bearable with proper clothing.

Ginseng galore.

Trotter time :P

We had lunch at this noodle shop that seemed to have lots of patrons. Seating was tight and Sean didn't eat much. But the noodles were quite yummy.

It started snowing while we were having lunch. Yayyy, Sean was happy. Strange thing I realised, when it's snowing, it doesn't feel quite as cold as when it's not. We continued walking and getting a little lost and ended up at the edge of Myeongdong, in a mall called Shinsegae.

After walking about for a while, we headed back but somehow got a little lost. We jumped into a cab and fares aren't expensive at all. A 10-min ride would cost no more than S$6. There are no surcharges or call-in charges or any of those nonsense :P I like the transportation system in Seoul. The next day I was also impressed to find a very comfortable subway system with very low fares. So my impression that Seoul is like Japan was quite wrong, both in the good and bad sense. Transportation is really cheap BUT the toilets are really bleahhhh, Bangkok loos are much cleaner.

Our cab ride was most interesting. When we had gotten lost, two kind Koreans saw us looking at our maps and offered help. Well, one of them, an elderly lady, pointed us to a completely different direction, but still, Koreans are really helpful. But we also saw a very ugly Korean. Our cab driver somehow couldn't navigate the steep slope to the hotel, so he needed to reverse out the right turn he had made. Most cars behind him were reversing to allow him to do so except this idiotic young man right behind us who just refused to budge.

This fella caused a minor jam and then after a few minutes, he came out of his car, approach our driver and both started having a Korean-style shouting match. Quite funny to watch, just like what you see in Korean dramas, the men shouting and going "HAIIISSSHHHHH!!!!". LOL. An older lady came out to calm the young chap down, I think maybe his mum, and he went back, still refusing to reverse and instead drove straight on, when it was obvious he meant to turn right too.

That was fun to watch :) We had to get out of the cab there and climb up that slope ourselves. Wilson and family came to pick us up for dinner at a ginseng chicken place recommended by SQ Seoul staff. We each had our own bowl of chicken ginseng, except Sean. We ordered a roast chicken for him.

At the traditional-looking restaurant and yes, Brian is playing his DS again.

Chicken ginseng is I guess an acquired taste? I found it quite tasteless actually. I prefer our chinese beggar's herbal chicken. The rice is stuffed inside the chicken so you're eating a kind of soggy soft rice, like hard porridge.

The ginseng in the chicken.

The hearty meal did fill our tummies nicely, and Brian and Eddie liked their ginseng chicken.

Sean helping to zip Valerie's jacket...awwww :D Remember Valerie? Here and here.

She's not even 4 but poses like a pro. she's grown.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Seoul 2010: Our Winter Sonata

Sean wanted to see snow during winter break and we had our annual free tickets that were expiring soon, so we decided to fly to Seoul during the last week of 2010. Seoul turned out to be better than I had expected. The food is good, it's easy to move around, cab fares are reasonable and trains are efficient AND cheap, shopping is fantastic, and there's skiing and themeparks for the kids.

Since we were using our free Singapore Airlines tickets, we had to fly back to Singapore first before going to Seoul. We arranged for the boys to have their eye-check in Somerset 313 during the transit. This is Mary on the MRT to the city.

Sean in Changi Airport, which I think is the best airport in the world...I know I haven't been to many airports, but Changi Airport wins hands down lah, I don't care what the surveys say. Free internet, free foot massage, GREAT food, subway connection, lots of shopping. So shiok, makes transits a lot less boring.

Almost ready to board. Brian played his Nintendo DS almost non-stop during this trip.

We all slept really well during the 6-hour flight and didn't take any meals on board. The plan was to take the limousine bus to our hotel in the city but we were surprised by our friend and Eddie's colleague Wilson, who came to meet us. Incheon Airport is not exactly near to the city, so we felt quite bad that Wilson woke up so early to pick us up. Really wasn't necessary.

Seoul morning sun welcoming us :)

Wilson dropped us off at our hotel, which is located in Namdaemun area, before heading off to work. Luckily, the hotel allowed early check-in so we managed to rest and clean up before going out to explore the vicinity.

Next post: Exploring Namdaemun