Upper Primary, Secondary & JC Level – Bukit Panjang

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The Journey of Scoring As

When I take on new students, they usually belong to one of two groups. The first group of students are far from their primary objective, which means that they are mostly just borderline cases. The second group are the smart ones. They learn fast and can usually do well in their exams. I have taken on students who belong to both groups. Here are their stories. Note that the real names have been replaced, but everything you read from hereon is based on true life accounts.

The Underdog

David, a primary 6 kid, comes across as a smart and intelligent boy. Before I took him on as a student, his mother told me that he likes to read. And he has no lack of books. So the mother was baffled when he kept coming back with poor grades. When he became my student, he was already taking his PSLE. So it’s too late for me to do anything, but to advise him to try his best.

When the PSLE results were released, David told me that he got a B for English – not exactly a good grade for Primary school level. The mother expected nothing less than an A. That’s why she hired a tutor for him.

During tuition lessons, I tried to identify his weaknesses progressively. Perhaps due to his love for reading, I soon discovered that David’s vocabulary happens to be his strong suit. He knows many words and he can get the spelling right most of the time. On top of that, he is quite a creative person. That’s a desirable quality if one wants to excel in writing. Doesn’t sound all that bad right?

When I worked with him more, I soon discovered David’s weaknesses – his grammar was zero. Despite all that reading, he didn’t quite understand the grammar rules that governed language usage. When he writes, he delivers content, but his grammar is atrocious. Having identified his weaknesses, I painstakingly walked him through all the grammar topics again – all of which should have been mastered when David was still in Primary six. In fact, we spent the entire December holidays just doing that.

When school reopened, the mother wanted to turn the heat up a little. She asked for tuition twice a week. I agreed. I made full use of lesson time to revisit grammar topics and I made David practice writing. I could see it was a painful process for him as he had to let go of numerous bad habits – habits that were developed over time without proper guidance.

Despite the intensive drilling sessions, David was still having problems with his writing. He just couldn’t get his sentence structures right. Over time, I also discovered that David lacks discipline and he tends to be lazy. When I casually discussed with him about his academic goals, he always tried to aim for the lowest score.

“Oh cut off point for Junior College is 19. So I’ll aim for 19,” he said.

Having such uninspiring goals, it is no surprise that the entire family, at that point, didn’t harbor high hopes for his academic results.

However, in my mind, I knew that David was improving. Having two tenacious tuition sessions a week isn’t something to be sniffed at. I was expecting a minimum B grade for his SA.

But when the results were released, David proudly asked his mum to SMS me – he had scored an A2 for English. Who would have known? The underdog had scored a distinction.

Cheeky Billy

Billy is a Primary two kid staying in my estate. The father is not highly educated. The mother is a Chinese language teacher who came from China. This means that Billy doesn’t get exposed to English when he is at home. Due to the lack of practice, his English grades suffered. When I took him as a student, he was barely passing his exams.

Billy, being young, was a difficult child to teach. He didn’t seem to like the subject very much, and he couldn’t sit still. To foster his love for the subject, I took time to read to him. Still, that was not enough to get him to sit still and listen. He would run round the room, jump on the bed, and when I deliberately ignored him, he used his pencil to poke me to get my attention.

Even though the lessons weren’t smooth sailing, I continued to teach. Soon, I noticed that even though Billy was running around, he was still picking up some knowledge from the lessons. This was apparent when I could get him to sit down and complete his worksheets.

I had to leave Billy as I was starting my teaching stint with a government school. Some time later, the mother called me and asked if I was still available as a tutor. I asked her how Billy was doing. She sounded happy and excited when she said that Billy had shown tremendous improvement in his English grade – he scored 75 in his year end exam, his highest English score to date. The mother called me and wanted me to step up the tuition to twice a week. Sadly, I had to turn the offer down as I was still teaching in school. From the bottom of my heart, I wish the very best for cheeky Billy.

Smartie Tim

Tim is a Primary three kid. He is an extremely bright kid. His eldest brother studies in a top Junior College, and his father is a government scholar. So excellence is in his genes. He picks things up really quickly. But there is one small problem – this little kid has a huge ego. He can grow pretty arrogant at times and when he doesn’t do well in tests of exams, he would kick up a big fuss. His mother secretly told me he would cry over poor results. Very cute kid.

Tim is a joy to teach. He learns very quickly and he can sit for 1 and 1/2 hours without needing to take a break. His concentration is impressive for a Primary three kid. Once I saw that he could retain my teaching, I tried to stretch him by giving him some Primary four work. At first, he struggled. He didn’t like that as his ego was bruised. But I kept encouraging him, until I saw that he began to understand what I was trying to teach him. Soon, I was rewarded with that usual arrogant grin – an indication that Tim had mastered the topics.

Tim’s writing also began to improve. I stretched him by exposing him to different styles of writing. I also taught him how to develop and organize his ideas.

For Tim, the weekly tuition sessions made a difference in his academic results. Being smart, I genuinely believe that Tim would have done well without tuition. But with tuition, he can get there faster with less struggle. His eldest brother, the one in the top JC, didn’t have tuition. He scored B3 for his O level tuition. His mother believed that he could have scored an A if he had gotten some expert help.

The Potential Scholar

Peter (Tim’s eldest brother) is a student in a top JC in Singapore. He scores A easily for almost every subject. A B3 is considered a disappointing result. He has no tuition throughout his school years, and continues to do well in his studies. He is active in athletics, and trains at least twice a week in school. That is on top of his heavy workload.

When his mother sounded him out and talked to him about his GP, he expressed concern. GP questions are tough, tough, tough! So his mother approached me and asked me to tutor Peter as well.

I adopted a different approach when I tutored Peter. He is, after all, a teenager approaching adulthood soon. So I adopted a consultative approach. We sat down and developed a strategy together.  (Nope, I can’t reveal the strategy to you here. It’s our secret.)

Every week, we stuck to this strategy and moved on from topic to topic. The first CA came and went quickly. Peter had passed his very first GP test!

You must be thinking why Peter was so happy when he just obtained a pass in his GP.

Let’s put things into perspective. First, it was his first attempt at GP, and he found the paper to be challenging. Second, top schools are notorious for setting highly challenging papers for their bright students. Due to the circumstances, Peter told me that most of his classmates had, in fact, failed their very first GP test!

How did Peter pass his test then?

He picked an essay question that we had gone through before. Lucky guy.

I have little doubt that one day, just like his father, Peter would become a scholar.