Of school and cute lunches

It’s been about three weeks since I recovered from chicken pox and I’m still catching up on school work while new ones keep pouring in relentlessly.

Last week, one of our lecturers assigned us yet another essay to our utmost horror, which we made sure to express very visibly on our faces.

She took one look at us and said, “What, are you all feeling overworked?”

“Yesssssssssss,” We chorused miserably.

Smiling, she said, “You don’t know what’s coming yet. Have you seen your seniors lately and noticed how frazzled they have been looking?”

Right. We really needed to know that.

The “seniors” she was talking about are just three months ahead of us.

Anyway, we have a three-week holiday coming up, during which time we have to complete two essays and one file, which will contain about 60-80 A4 pages of notes and drawings.

Like this:


Oooh, my file


Some holiday.

We have to do about 15 essays and 7 or 8 files within this one year. Whee.

As a result, I’ve had to let my blog pile up as well. I have a lot to blog about but no time to write them. Today, I’m taking a break from school work because I will have the holiday to catch up on everything, hopefully, lol.

Regardless, I am still enjoying the course. At times, I do want to pull out all my hair, like when slaving over all my assignments, but completing them gives me such a sense of achievement that I sometimes actually enjoy the work, which is hopefully not a sign of masochism.

It’s like people who enjoy going to the gym and torturing the hell out of their muscles, right? I think I kind of enjoyed that, too, when I was doing it, except during the moments when I wanted to murder my personal trainer so he will stop making me do more sets.

This is a bit complicated so let’s talk about something else.

In England, there are no coffee shops, hawker centres, food courts or random food outlets. There are only restaurants, pubs and supermarkets. Which means that people make their own lunches and take them to school or work. (You can buy refrigerated precooked meals in supermarkets but they mostly suck.)

This is something I am having a lot of trouble getting used to. In the beginning, I just made sandwiches, which seemed easiest, but then I very quickly got stark raving sick of sandwiches. I will literally go insane if I have to eat the same kind of food every day for even a week. I would rather starve, seriously.

Sometimes, my lunch looks like this because I have no time to prepare food or I can’t be bothered:


Oooh, lunch.


But that was before I found out that our school has a no nut policy because nut allergy is quite prevalent and can be deadly. (Just read in Wikipedia that, in England, 11 people are newly diagnosed with a peanut allergy EVERY DAY.)

No more Snickers or Picnic for lunch, which is a pity because I love them. However, I have many other nutless mini snacks to choose from, so that’s alright.


Oooh, snacks.


We usually eat in our classroom because the break room has no tables and is always crowded. It’s very fun to see what lunches people bring every day.

Kai brought a whole can of tomato soup last week, lol.


Oooh, soup.


The bright side of having to prepare our own lunches is that I have an excuse to make some… uh… very essential purchases.


Oooh, lunch boxes.


Oooh, lunch boxes!


I tried to convince Piers that he needed cute lunch boxes and bags, too, because I sometimes prepare his lunches, but he refused to hear of it. Spoilsport. So we just got him some boring containers from Ikea.

So, now that I have lunch boxes, I can pack proper food like rice, pasta, couscous, or whatever. The lunch bag is to hold together a selection of mini snacks plus a banana.

Yes, bananas are very important because they help reduce/control/treat stress, depression, nerves, anemia, constipation, blood pressure, heartburn, morning sickness, ulcers, stroke, cancer, kidney disease, osteoporosis, vision loss and mosquito bites.

Yep, I just copied that from some website. BUT, oh my, bananas are so very amazing.

Anyway, I have so far visited two nurseries to clock my observation/teaching practice hours and have been delighted by my experiences with the children, even if most of them just involved me sitting in a corner and watching them.

Will share some stories next time when I have time to write another post. I will probably have enough material to write a book by the time I finish my 240 hours! Except I won’t have time to write it, lol.

Oh yeah, going back to Singapore for a week in April. Yep, sadly, that’s all the time I can spare in view of all the assignments we have.

Oh boy.

Oh, what a chore

I was wrong about the pace of study at the Montessori College being comfortable. It very soon turned uncomfortable and then — avalanche! I have been feeling snowed under for the last couple of weeks but I’m hoping to get used to the pace soon.

I’m enjoying it, though. At the moment, for practical classes, we’re learning how to do the activities that we will, in the future, teach children.

That includes household chores.



I don’t want to be a bore, but I have to explain it lest you think we are either crackpots or slave-drivers. Very briefly:

Small children love doing chores, as a matter of fact, so if you let them help out around the house (and not get impatient if they do it too slowly or poorly), they will develop a keen sense of responsibility and grow up independent and confident. At the same time, chores also help develop their co-ordination and motor skills, among many other useful life skills.

Better yet, they will grow up to become helpful human beings even without your nagging.

One day, in class, our teacher surprised us by making us do presentations on the following activities:

  1. How to scrub a table.
  2. How to clean the floor.
  3. How to wash up dishes.
  4. How to wash a duster.

Previously, she always showed us how to do each task before we practised on our own.

You would naturally think it’s easy to scrub a table or wash up some dishes. But we have to do it in a systematic way so that children can watch and copy easily. Also, we have to use all the set equipment provided for each activity because there’s also a system in there.

It turned out that some of us didn’t know how to use certain household tools.

Some of us had grown up having domestic helpers in the house and aren’t too good with chores.


This is not my scene.


Some of us did stunts with the tools in a way that would stump three-year-old children (for example twirling a tea towel with one hand while rinsing a glass with the other).

Our class turned into a huge giggle fest as everyone laughed at everyone else stumbling over their presentations. Our teacher corrected us as we went along: “If a child tries to copy you doing that, you will end up with a broken glass.”

The hardest activity to present was probably the washing dishes one (because it has the most number of items).

My classmates who got that task fumbled at various junctures and stared helplessly at the equipment. It was very entertaining. Both of them happened to have grown up in, shall we say, privileged households.

(Which is not to say that the rest of us did any better with our chores.)

I am not naming names nor placing faces!

The following photo is a re-enactment by two volunteer classmates who might or might not be the two aforementioned ones, lol.


I will do the glasses if you do the pots.


In any case, we all respect and appreciate each other’s fumblingness in class. It’s quite enjoyable if you can see the humour in the situation.

Kai and Charlotte enjoyed the re-enacting very much. And we’re all experts at chores now, after our lesson.


No! You change the dirty water while I sit down and relax.


My activity was to clean the floor, which I found rather challenging because the only floor cleaning tools I’ve ever used are vacuum cleaners and those long-handled Magiclean floor wipers with disposable dust-eating sheets.

In class, I had to scrub a pretend floor with a mini scrubbing brush using two hands, even though just one hand alone could swallow up the entire brush. (Children need two hands to get enough strength, so we have to show it to them using two hands.)


I will scrub the floor and then I will have chocolate.


But that was the easy part. The hard part was trying to figure out how to use the cloth and sponge, and in what order. (Answer: After scrubbing, mop up watery residue with sponge, then wipe floor dry with cloth.)

Give me my Magiclean wipers any day, but the children have to learn to do it without gimmicks.

(I’m not being a very good role model here but I don’t think three-year-old children are reading my blog so it’s okay.)

Well, we may be “experts” at chores now, but I’ll bet the children in the nursery downstairs are a lot better at doing them than the bunch of us in the classroom. And they enjoy it, too, so, good for them!

Oh, and Piers is a natural born chore genius, which trumps any supposed expertise, so he can continue doing the chores at home.


Finding things to talk about

You know how, in relationships, you reach a point where you run out of things to talk about?

Piers and I got to that stage a few months back. We gradually replaced our bonding sessions with TV. Lots of TV.

I was starting to get addicted, too, because England has no end of interesting, crazy TV shows.

Not very productive.

Fortunately, things are beginning to change now that I’m back at school. Piers will ask about my day and I will have many stories to tell him. We can last hours this way.

That wasn’t possible just two weeks ago.

Our daily updates went like this:


Piers: How was your day?

Shey: Um, same as yesterday. How was your day?

Piers: Same as yesterday.

Shey: What’s for dinner?


His job is a bit boring. He sits in front of three monitors and stares at pixels all day long. If the pixels are not worth staring at, he stares at his iPad.

For me, two weeks before, I played Facebook and iPad games full-time. Sometimes, I blogged.


Daily updates are good for relationships.


But now, we can have more engaging conversations, like this one that just happened:


Piers: How was school today?

Shey: We learnt how to transfer water and beans from container to container.

Piers: Gosh.

Shey: And how to open and close padlocks.

Piers: Wow. Sounds interesting.

Shey: Yes.

Piers: You must be becoming very useful.

Shey: I think so.

Piers: I can get you to do all sorts of stuff around the house now.

Shey: Do you have beans that need transferring? I can do that.

Piers: No, but now I know you can, I might get some.

Shey: I can do mung beans, butter beans, soya beans and aduki beans.

Piers: Amazing. You’re so smart! Proud of you.

Shey: Thanks!


We went on to talk about nuts. I tried to convince him to buy me honey roasted cashew nuts to practise on, but he wouldn’t hear of it, insisting that I haven’t been trained to work with nuts.

I have, though. I’ve been living with one for almost a year now.

Yes, we’ve been dating for nearly a year, so it’s understandable for us to run out of things to talk about.

But not anymore!

I think tomorrow we learn how to use scissors. Yes, Piers and I are going to have another exciting conversation!

The 3-year-old boy

I know people are expecting to read about my experiences as a wannabe nursery teacher but, really, at this point of time, it’s just lectures and lots of reading.

The good news is that we start going on job placements in about two and a half months’ time so I might have more stories to share then.

The bad news is that we’re not allowed to photograph children in nurseries. All students (and I expect staff) have to sign confidentiality agreements.

That means you’ll have to put up with my crappy drawings.


Crappy drawing


We sometimes do get to talk to the kids at the nursery. Bournemouth Montessori Centre has nurseries on the first floor and classrooms on the second floor, so we sometimes encounter kids on the way to and from classes.

One morning, a three-year-old boy was standing right in front of the baby gate which we have to pass through to get up to our classroom.

He was chilling out or something, I don’t know. He had his back facing me so I couldn’t tell what he was up to.

I walked right up beside the boy and said to him, “May I pass, please,” fully expecting him to stare at me blankly, or even cry. (I have this insane fear of causing babies to cry.)

To my surprise, he smiled at me brightly and said, “Yes, you may!” Then he promptly stepped aside.

I quickly recovered my shock and said, “Why, thank you!” as I unlocked the gate and let myself through. He stood there and watched me with a grin on his face.

Just as I was done locking the gate, he started telling me something. I wasn’t sure what he said. It was a long sentence, about twenty or so words. I’m quite sure he was saying something sensible and not just spouting baby talk. It’s just that I’m not so good at deciphering kiddy accents yet.

Not wanting to traumatise him by saying I didn’t understand him, plus I really had to get to class, I just said, “Thank you for telling me that!”


The boy


He smiled as I bade him goodbye.

“Good bye!” he said back.

As I went up the staircase, I looked down again and this precious three-year-old was still watching me with a happy smile.

“Bye!!” he said again, waving at me vigorously this time.

If I can bottle cuteness, this boy is going into my bottle.

But it seems that he’s not the only one. Many other kids in the nursery seem to enjoy interacting with students who pass by, as my classmates also report similar encounters.

I’m really looking forward to working with them for real. I just need to brush up on baby accents!

First go at being a teacher

Today, I taught two classmates how to unroll and roll up a mat*.

It went reasonably well. I’m sure they were very impressed by how I patiently paused at every step of the process to make sure they understood, and to covertly whisper to them, “Erm… What’s next?”

I’m sure I’ll be a brilliant teacher by the end of the year.


A lesson in teaching


The pace of study at Montessori College is comfortable. We have 15 hours of lessons a week, not counting workshops, talks and interning, which will happen when they happen.

We have a lot of private study time, which is good. I will need a lot of time to practice everything, in view of what happened today.

Today, we were taught the proper way to show children how to perform specific activities (for example, to walk quietly, which is to encourage them to respect the environment by walking calmly instead of dashing about like little torpedoes and knocking over other children and furniture).

It’s quite easy and straightforward if you understand why everything is done the way it’s done.

But when our teacher said, “Okay, now you try it on your classmates,” everything flew out my head.


Blanking out


For example, before we demonstrate an activity, we’re supposed to tell the children what we’re going to show them, and then assure them that they will get to try it after. This is to give them an incentive to watch patiently.

I had thought, “Great idea,” as I scribbled all the steps and reasons in my notebook.

But when you’re actually doing it, and there are people looking at you expectantly, your mind suddenly becomes empty.

I missed out on half the steps and only remembered them when we returned to our seats. (Like, I forgot to say they can try the activity after me, and I forgot to invite them to try it.)

Yep, gonna need a lot of practice.

Maybe I can practise on Piers. Guys can be such children so he will be perfect target practice.

Oh yes, I’m going to be just brilliant.


*Children are taught how to unroll and roll up mats because they do much of their Montessori work on mats. They’re shown how to set a mat up when they need one, and how to put it away neatly after they’re done. This teaches them responsibility and respect for objects they use.