Marigolds and Walnuts

During the Meranti Project over the last weekend, we had an experienced teacher come in for a dialogue session with my GESL group. The teacher shared something interesting with the group – the marigolds and the walnuts.

Many experienced gardeners follow a concept called companion planting: placing certain vegetables and plants near each other to improve growth for one or both plants. For example, rose growers plant garlic near their roses because it repels bugs and prevents fungal diseases. Among companion plants, the marigold is one of the best: It protects a wide variety of plants from pests and harmful weeds. If you plant a marigold beside most any garden vegetable, that vegetable will grow big and strong and healthy, protected and encouraged by its marigold.

Marigolds exist in our schools as well – encouraging, supporting and nurturing growing teachers on their way to maturity. If you can find at least one marigold in your school and stay close to them, you will grow. Find more than one and you will positively thrive.

While seeking out your marigolds, you’ll need to take note of the walnut trees. Successful gardeners avoid planting vegetables anywhere near walnut trees, which give off a toxic substance that can inhibit growth, wilt, and ultimately kill nearby vegetable plants. And sadly, if your school is like most, walnut trees will be abundant. They may not seem dangerous at first. In fact, some may appear to be good teachers – happy, social, well-organized. But here are some signs that you should keep your distance: Their take on the kids is negative. Their take on the administration is negative. Being around them makes you feel insecure, discouraged, overwhelmed, or embarrassed.

WALNUT TREES ARE POISON. Avoid them whenever you can. If you don’t, they will start to infect you, and soon you’ll hate teaching as much as they do.
– Jennifer Gonzalez, Find Your Marigold

I thought this was absolutely lovely. I am thankful that while I was in my old school, I had loads of marigolds around me. I shall strive to look out for the marigolds whilst in NIE. At the same time, I need to strive to make sure I do not become a walnut.

Meranti Project 2018

My Group Endeavours in Service Learning (GESL) group and I had to attend this 2-day course/module titled The Meranti Project. According to the National Institute of Education (NIE) website:

The Meranti Project is a MOE-funded personal and professional development programme specially tailored for student teachers. Held over two days in groups of 20, it has the following objectives:

a. helping student teachers to develop better self-awareness (better tuning into self);

b. providing a clearer idea of what Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) is all about and one’s role in nurturing CCE in innovative ways in the classroom;

c. better ideas of working with diversity in the classroom;

d. strategies for coping with being a teacher;

e. affirmation of choosing teaching as a career.

With the aid of informal dialogue sessions with veteran teachers, it gives student teachers the opportunity to listen to firsthand experiences of teachers and the perspectives of student learners. The programme also makes use of open sharing sessions and ingenious games to help the student teachers experience the core competencies of social emotional learning, to share their personal aspirations with their peers and to express their opinions in an open and creative environment.

At the end of the programme, student teachers will have a better grasp of the innovative approaches to Character and Citizenship Education and be better equipped when they begin their teaching journey upon graduation.

It was certainly an interesting 2-days. I will not blog about what happened as I respect the confidentiality agreement made before the course started but what I can say is that I had a very good facilitator.

I have heard horror stories from friends and seniors and I am really glad that my experience is rather positive. It is definitely due to the facilitator as well as my GESL group mates. After the end of the course, I guess I have learnt more about my GESL mates. Would I say it has brought us closer? Maybe. It has made me respect them more after hearing about their reasons and struggles about becoming an Education Officer (EO) and for a few of them, their journey has paralleled my own.

All in all, I guess this has taught me one thing. Keep an open mind. Always. Even if those who tells you one thing are someone close to you, someone whose advice really matters, keep an open mind. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Experiences are always personal and what may be a waste of time for someone may actually strike a chord in someone else.


I started my PGDE on 4 December 2017 in NIE and today marked the end of Orientation I.

Orientation II will begin on 5 January 2018.

All in all, from my last post until now, there certainly has been a lot of ups and downs. Since it’s over now, I shall not dwell on it and I may decide to post it up some other day as a sort of ‘throwback’.

Second Lesson

Friday’s lesson went better than Wednesday’s.

What I did differently: I ‘copied’ what Grace did to ensure participation. The class had already been divided into groups. What I did was to introduce a point-system. The way to earn these points was to participate in class. However, to ensure that everyone participates, each person who answers can no longer answer until everyone in the group has answered. This prevents the stronger students from dominating and ensures even the weaker students have a chance to speak.

Next, I told them that every week, the points will be tallied and on Friday, the group who scores the most point will get a reward from me.

Thirdly, bite-seized chunks and focused topic. Previous lesson, I tried to do too many things without giving them ‘take-up time’. This time, actual teaching/explanation was only 5 – 10 mins with sufficient concept check questions. Once the students have demonstrated they understood the concept, one more ‘stretch’ question is given. the ‘stretch’ question is a question that is just a little bit more challenging and if students are able to answer it, it shows that they really understood the concept instead of memorising a set formula.

After the concept checks and the ‘stretch’ question, students were then given the rest of the lesson to complete the exercises provided. While they were busy working on the questions, I went around to monitor their work and I’m happy to say that all were on task.

It’s a good end to the week.

First lesson

Yesterday was my first ever lesson with the Primary 3s. It didn’t go as well as I had planned.

First off, my class management skills were ‘meh’. I guess it was due in part to me not knowing the class well enough as well as me not setting expectations. My CT was in the class and I assumed (erroneously of course) that the students will behave. They most certainly did not.

Second, I had four periods to fill. Four 30 min periods. Two hours. 120 mins! So what did I do? I filled it with activities! (Kind of.) It didn’t work. I wanted to do too many things. I wanted to teach adverbs as well as to get students to read as well as get students to complete two worksheets as well as teach students to annotate the text they were supposed to read as well as get them to actually annotate the text as well as… Yep. Too many things. For a Primary 3 class.

Third, I realised on looking back, I was engaging only with the higher ability pupils and neglecting the lower ability ones. I did realise it mid-way through the lesson and I did try slow down to allow the slightly weaker students to catch up. However, in doing so, I forgot about engaging the higher ability students and they became bored and distracted. And then they started distracting the other students. Silly mistake for someone who’ve been in the classroom for a while now.

Tomorrow, I will be teaching my second lesson. Thank God tomorrow’s lesson is only one period. Now, reflection is one thing. Knowing my issues is a third of the battle won. Let’s see if I can implement it properly.