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Nature Nurtured - Listening to Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai

On Monday night, at the SG100 Foundation Meeting, our speaker was Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai, a lifelong naturalist and a wildlife consultant. Honestly, I can think of very few professions cooler than that.

When he took the platform, I could feel the passion behind his words as he told us about his humble beginnings and the immense work he had done to push for the conversation of what we now know as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, amongst other little-known but no-less-massive efforts to preserve Singapore's wildlife and its habitats.

He highlighted some of his favourite animals and showed us that Singapore, despite being a tiny country, has some of the richest biodiversity in the world due both to our geographical location (close to the equator) and the age of our rainforests (older than even the majestic Amazon).

When he came to the topic of rapid development and urbanisation of Singapore, he emphasised that he saw this as a necessary part of Singapore's growth, though he was firm in his belief that it needs to be done in a responsible manner and with respect to the natural environment.

To this day, he works in his favourite classroom - The Great Outdoors - both as a teacher and as a student. He gives guided tours, conducts nature programmes, and does field surveys alongside other researchers and nature enthusiasts.

Mr. Subaraj is a man I highly respect. He lives his life in the pursuit of learning and passing on what he has learned, and he encourages others to do the same.

He reminds us that we cannot live apart from our natural environment, that if we care for nature, nature takes care of us.

Thank you for sharing your life and your passion, Mr. Subaraj. Through your words, I am inspired.

Mr Subaraj

To My Pioneer Group of Students from Chung Cheng High (Main)

A decade has passed since first we were introduced in a smallish but, thankfully, air-conditioned room on the 2nd floor of the new(er) study block in CCHMS.

You were new to life in Secondary School and I was new to the world of training.

A number of you knew (or came to know later) that Chung Cheng High (Main) was my Secondary School. As such, I was elated to have been offered an opportunity to give something back to my alma mater. I am glad that you were the ones I could render this service to.

There were times of boring instruction, times of necessary discipline and times of intense focus. Above all, there were times of fun and sessions of learning.

Though some of you have professed to me in recent years that you had forgotten almost everything I had taught you in the DNA Hub, there were also moments that you remembered. I hope that they will always have a place in your memory.

In the past weeks, many of you have graduated from University - my heartiest Congratulations to you! - and had arranged for photoshoots in your now-alma mater. Clearly, CCHMS is dear to you. I hope that she will always be, as she is to me.

We no longer share a teacher-student relationship and I will not be presumptuous enough to assume that we are now friends, though I have at least one colleague amongst you and fairly regular correspondence with others. For that, I am thankful.

Wherever life takes you from this moment on, know that you can always count on your family and friends to support you. Though there will be down times, never feel embarrassed to reach out for help. And, of course, when times are good, share your joys with others.

To reach your goals, be resilient and always remember that a situation may fail, but that does not make you a failure. Look up and carry on. That is how success is made.

If you are able to, find a mentor, perhaps even different ones for different aspects of your life. It is true that information is readily available at your fingertips today. Nevertheless, it can never substitute real-life experience that your mentor(s) can bring.

You may not know it, but I learned from you, perhaps more than I ever taught you in return. In that vein, realise that you are an influence to the people around you and that you have an impact on them. Strive to be a positive one.

I wish you the brightest of futures, the richest of experiences and the deepest of relationships. May you discover your path early, may you find favour with those with whom you interact and may your future endeavours leave a legacy that will swell your heart when you look back upon what you've accomplished.

Here's to your journey ahead and the many adventures you will embark upon! Oh, what adventures they will be.

CCHMS Lake View.jpg

3 Steps To Getting Focused

In the past week, I completed a large project with a local primary school - to train their P5s for the upcoming Science Olympiad. It took 4 days of 4 hours each and I felt it  to be a little too intense for them. I realised that many of the participants didn't have enough prior knowledge to complete a large percentage of the test questions so I had to bring them up to speed in as little time as possible. 4 years' worth of Science education in 4 days of 4 hours? Well, we tried.

A glaring oversight was that the Primary students of today are getting less and less able to remain attentive for long periods of time. It was immensely difficult for them to sit still for the time of each session, let alone focus long enough to absorb the information.

Gratifyingly, though, I noticed that there were a few who could.

Perhaps all is not yet lost to touchscreens and other devices for instant gratification, including those incredibly annoying 'fidget spinners'.

If you're thinking of getting one such 'spinner' for your child or someone else's child, please don't. They really don't need another distraction. Instead, they need to learn to focus on their tasks at hand.

Focusing is difficult even for adults, what with the myriad distractions around us. As such, I've found it very useful to do a few things to help me focus:

1) Have a dedicated work space and work routine

This means setting a specific part of your desk to do work at. Use that space for nothing else but work. When you want to take a break, move out of that space so you don't end up mixing its use. It sounds like a lot of bother but, being creatures of habit, it will really help once you get this going.

If you're the nomadic type, like me, then you need to set up a strong work routine, since your work space will keep changing. Still, try to keep one such space at home, if possible.

For your routine, once you fire up the laptop, you immediately open a document file (or PowerPoint or Excel file, whatever you're working on) before you start trying to connect to the Wi-Fi, which will likely lead you to waste time doing endless searches on Google or some other site. 

If you prefer to write, start writing the date once you crack open your notebook / organiser.

2) Record EVERYTHING down

I create a 7 Day Plan for myself, in Excel format, in which I have the things I need to do each day already typed out. It doubles as my secondary calendar of events, because I can occasionally lose track of things.

I also keep a notepad-type app on the home screen of my mobile phone. On it, there is a To-do List that I check at certain intervals every day. Any time I think of something that needs doing, in it goes. Every time something gets done, it gets ticked off (and removed).

By having all these things down and ready for the days ahead, I don't have to waste space in my mind on remembering where I need to be tomorrow or what I need to get done later.

3) Announce your focused time slots

Let people around you know not to bother you at specified time slots. These will be the periods during which you do what you have to do.

This may be difficult in an office environment or if you work from home but try anyway. Once others know you have a routine set up, they will learn to respect your time and you will find fewer distractions.

You may even find your co-workers or family reminding you that you need to get work done when your time slot nears.

The School Holidays are Upon Us!

It's that time of year again, when our streets will be crowded by gleeful students who won't have to wear a uniform for the next month or two.

Of course, the Secondary 4 students are still in the midst of their O-level examinations. I've always told my students that they are likely to do better than they think. The bell curve by which they will be graded is an international one, and we are very privileged to be in a country of high literacy and education.

Now, I am no fan of examinations. I haven't been since I was a student myself. I've always felt that they sap the joy of learning. That said, we can't abolish all examinations since they still perform their function of helping us to separate students into their affinities. It's not a perfect system, but it's one that is familiar and does work somewhat.

To all students, happy holidays!