Do I look deaf? (Heck. Do I care?)

“Do we have to have subtitles on?”

“Why don’t you just get that implant thing?”

Lipreading superpowers? Huh? Simi min kia?

Brilliant and often funny responses to a range of not-so-funny questions addressed to a variety of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the UK. They speak, they sign, they gesture, they emo-ed, they whatever – I don’t care about their nationality or race or language or whatever; they all have hearing loss. And they are my people.

And yeah, I don’t look deaf. I look like.. me.

And Ryan Gosling. Just squint a bit.

(6 min, embedded English subtitles.)

AOPAD (3): Three times


After a year-long hiatus, I recently started taking the train again every weekday.

But I was not the slightest bit shocked by the ST headline “Khaw Boon Wan sets new rail network reliability target as MRT becomes three times as dependable as in 2015” this morning.

How come?

Thanks to my new watch.

The return of AOPAD* (1)


For a time, friends know me more as ‘the guy who takes ugly pictures of my pretty face’ than anything else. I was actually more keen on coming up with captions for the pretty ugly pixs anyway. (Artistry is an elusive concept to the masses, alas.)

It’s been some time. I am out to regain my former notoriety. Just as well iPhonegraphy is all the rage now. So is a picture a day (if it’s passé, tell me next year.)

First up, the aftermath of a Maths lesson. When you are a teacher, you are an improvisor.

* AOPAD: An Occasional Photo A Day


(I seriously considered writing this post in Chinese. This consideration lasted about ten seconds. My fellow bananas and the jiak kantang people will understand; maybe some will even empathise.)

After her Sing! China debut, which I watched with bated breath and headphone volume at 11, Rose has become the “singer from Singapore” du jour. It turns out that, as difficult to believe as it is, not everyone knows her. And it’s at times like this I feel the need to use my favourite idiom. 不可思议!

<< 我是猫>>

I first crashed into Rose on stage in 2007, albeit I was sitting a fair distance away. She was the female lead in the musical If There’re Seasons. (Which, by the way, sounds like one of those 1980s HK movies with English titles which have absolutely nothing to do with the original Chinese ones. Enlighten me. What is the link to 天冷就回来?)

<< 我是水>>

Then I crashed onto her again in 2009. This was a rerun of the musical. I think I sat a bit closer this time. And yeah, by then, I was a bit dented too. For weeks after, I was mumbling ‘I love only Rose’, which, if nothing else, at least had the positive effect of irritating all my friends.


In 2014, after the show during the third run of the musical, we met. I bought the CD, waited in line, and finally crashed and burned. She signed the cover, posed for a photo, and smiled.

<< I’m your number one fan.>>

“And JJ over there.. hey, JJ, come here! He’s your number two fan. He only caught your musical just the once. I watched it all three times.” (JJ Lim, sad to say, is only a letter away from superpopstardom. Nope, I didn’t ask to take a photo with him or get his signature.)

She was singing live, in a ballroom full of doctors at some charity function. I was there for work, to give a little speech of thanks and collect a cheque on behalf of my organisation and shake hands and look grateful. And it was there and then, in 2014, that I crashed into Rose for the last time.

The stage was quite a bit lower and nearer, and afterward I realised she was sitting at my table! Deep breath. I introduced myself, chat a bit, found out she knows the sign alphabet, asked for a photo, and called over a shy friend, JJ Lim, who was there to perform to get her autograph too.

As the scholarly types say in Chinese: 美梦成真!

I think I’ll never meet Rose again.


Big state, small state

He was a university lecturer when he was arrested for his political activism and his call for democracy. While in prison, he refused to forsake his beliefs or acknowledge any wrongdoing in exchange for his freedom. Today, most of the younger people in his country do not know about him because of a blackout by the government-controlled media.

In China, this describes Liu Xiaobo.


He was a university lecturer when he was arrested for his political activism and his call for democracy. While in prison, he refused to forsake his beliefs or acknowledge any wrongdoing in exchange for his freedom. Today, most of the younger people in his country do not know about him because of a blackout by the government-controlled media.

In Singapore, this describes Chia Thye Poh.

The greatest challenge

My first week – the one just past – as a relief (special education) teacher reminded me of my first week as a full-time (special education) teacher a million and two years ago. Suffice it to say, most days, I crawled into bed immediately after dinner around 8 to 9pm.

And it so happened a long-lost photo, which I had accidentally left behind in school, emerged from a decade of accumulated debris and found its way back to me (thanks again, Dave!). This is a lesson to all who have gone fully feral, I mean, digital. Print out pictures you like and want to look at decades down the road. Also, hard copies are more likely to lurk around and resurface a million and one years later, compared to pixels (which are something like pixies, I guess. Do they really exist?).

But I digress.

The following is a journal entry from a million years ago, edited for grammar and clarity. Has anything changed since? Let me put it this way: Sure, but the pace can be.. a bit more empowered, enhanced, stepped up another level, pushed beyond the envelope, or whatever dumb phrase is in vogue with bureaucrats these days.

Come on, even the glaciers are melting far more rapidly than that.

25 November 2003

Was poking about the National Council of Social Services website – I have to attend a course there the next two days and was checking its location – when I stumbled upon its Special Education (Sped) section.

I happened to be a Sped teacher myself, and so did something most people wouldn’t – I browsed through the entire Sped site. NCSS, as with most government bodies, has a typical catchy-but-incomprehensible slogan for its Sped section: “Special Education. Because the greatest challenge is to teach kids who already are.” Cute.

But what stood out was the part on ‘How You Can Become A SPED Teacher’. First you need to be employed by a SPED school. After a minimum of six months of teaching experience in the SPED school, you are required to undergo a part-time Diploma in Special Education (DISE) course conducted by the National Institute of Education (NIE). And it had the gall to say, just before that, about ‘What It Takes To Be A SPED Teacher’.

“Educating children with disabilities requires certain skills and dedication. As a SPED teacher, you will be called upon to invest both time and energy to help these children develop to their fullest potential. With your help these children will obtain quality education and acquire skills which will prepare them to be more independent and integrate better into society. Thanks to you, they will then have a better quality of life.”

Now, if Sped teachers need to have “certain skills and dedication”, and presumably possess other personal qualities which are better than the average person’s (as in, when one thinks of Sped teachers, social workers and the like, what words come to mind to describe them?), why are they treated so shabbily? Like dirt, if I may put it as politely as I can.

Teachers in mainstream schools won’t be thrown to the classroom wolves without training; at least MOE certainly won’t allow untrained teachers to teach a class full-time for six months. Yet novice Sped teachers have to wait at least six months before they qualify to be trained. Or longer. In my case, I have to wait 1.5 years to begin my DISE course due to scheduling conflicts. (If all goes well, I’ll enlist in NIE next July.) And MOE teachers won’t have to teach and study part-time at the same time for their diploma in education. As a matter of fact, they aren’t allowed to. (Any MOE teacher who knows otherwise do correct me on this point.)

The most astounding thing is: Special needs kids are much more difficult to teach than ‘normal’ ones. I won’t belabour this point because I don’t wish to insult anyone’s intelligence by explaining why. And they should get the best, most well-trained, most professional and most motivated teachers. In theory.

Yet, compared to mainstream-school teachers, Sped teachers get delayed training, low-quality training (our DISE syllabus is crap, according to colleagues who have gone through it and the diploma isn’t recognised internationally too, unlike those of the UK, Australia and the USA), lower pay, dimmer career prospects and lower status within the educational field. Yes, this does a lot to boost morale and keep spirits up in the Sped community, as well as attract and inspire people to be Sped teachers.

So. May I suggest slight tweaks to the slogan?

“Special Education. Because the greatest challenge is to teach the adults who matter that SPED matters.”

Class of 2005