Can we get justice for Layla and other animal hit and runs?

Layla before we sent her for spaying.

On Thursday 5th May 2022 Layla was hit by a car and left for dead. As of today, she is still alive because someone called Pawsup, an animal welfare organisation, who promptly took her to the vet for treatment. But the prognosis is grim. Both her eyes popped out and the doctor said she is most likely going to be blind. There might also be internal injuries and complications. I could not hold back my tears. How could this happen?

Layla was roaming around the Tutong market area where she was found. Let me say this again. The Tutong market area. Now repeat that. Yes the market area where roads are short and there are plenty of stops for obvious reason. Is there any reason to speed in a market area? Is there any reason to harm an animal going about her daily business? There are no logical reasons for hitting such gentle animals. None but yet there are people in our community, sadly, who do this kind of things. Who are these people who commit hit and run?

Has there ever been a conviction for animal hit and runs? Personally I rarely hear, if any, about anyone being hauled to court to account for their actions. There may be many reasons for this. Apathy, ‘animal is less than human’ attitude, witnesses not willing to report the hit and run vehicle and driver, society’s lack of awareness for the plight of strays, etc. There is just no message out there that if you harm an animal for no apparent reason you should feel the full force of the law. I do not think we have this at the moment. If there is, please enlighten me and the readers. I am thinking particularly about our context in this country.

Layla may not mean anything to the driver in the hit and run but she means something to others in the community. Layla is the furry mother to at least 18 puppies but we’ve been told she has given birth at least 4 or 5 times. My family took in three of her puppies. Photo below (Leny, Mika, Lexi). We got Layla vaccinated and spayed last December to give her a better quality of life. However, Layla does not live with us because there is no space in the house (and I say this with a tinge of regret now). She is looked after by workers in a hardware shop not far from the market. We know the workers. We pay Layla a visit from time to time. Each time we leave the house or return home, we have to pass by the hardware shop and sometimes we see her lying down on her paws within the vicinity of the shop. Each time I pass by I expect to see her. These past three days, the ever present figure is not there. How can someone, just that one person, be responsible for so much pain caused to a harmless animal and to other human beings who have an interest in her well being? How can this be allowed to happen?

What can we do to get justice for Layla and other animal hit and runs? If you have knowledge of the law, it will help us if you can share with us what to do. Even if you have no knowledge of the law but you know that something can be done, please tell us in the comments below.

Learning to cook: the meals and the lessons

Cooking is a caring and nurturing act. It’s kind of the ultimate gift for someone, to cook for them.

Curtis Stone

At almost 53, I am learning to cook. I am not sure why I have not taken it up earlier but I think one reason is that others have always done the cooking for me. There was just no pressure to learn to cook. I know how to cook the simple things but it is invariably for myself. Real cooking is when you cook for others especially for your family.

So when my wife left for the UK last March to see our eldest daughter, I decided to do something about it. Another push factor is that eating out has become far too expensive for me.

The meals

Here is the first ever meal I cooked for 6 people.

Pork burger

I do not have all the vocabulary yet to describe all the stuff above. The main ingredients are pork steak, broccoli, corn, carrots, beans and buns. Apple is for dessert. What I know is that the meat has to be cooked well. That means frying it until I am sure there are no traces of blood. The meat is seasoned. Salt and pepper would do, I told myself. The vegetables are stir fried adding salt to taste. Sitting around the dinner table, the kids agreed that the burger was ‘better than I expected’, ‘very delicious’, ‘very good’. Now, that felt good. Really good! Ok there is now confidence. It is a good start. This meal costs between $15 to $20 to make. BND1=SGD1. About $3.50 per person. How much would this cost in a restaurant?

Here is another meal.

Chicken tortilla

I started off with the chicken meat. Salted and peppered to taste and then fried. Vegetables properly cleaned and cut. Tortilla was warmed in a pan, about 30 seconds each side until it rises. There were only eight tortillas and I sensed that I could have made more so that everyone fills a bit more full. I did not get the proportion right this time. It’s alright. I am learning.

Beef curry

The beef curry was a collaboration between my daughters and I. Daughter 2 helped with reading the instructions and cooking. Daughter 3 prepared the potatoes, the long beans and the soya sheet. First, the beef was cut into smaller portions. I estimated each person would probably need 6-7 cuts of beef. The beef was stir-fried in a large pot. We added the vegetables. The curry paste was added. Stir all until ‘aromatic’ as per instruction. We added about 200 ml of coconut milk. We left it simmering on low heat for 20 minutes. The beef was ‘slightly overcooked but the vegetables and broth were good’. Mixed with rice, it was definitely the best meal that we have cooked for everyone.

The lessons

Cooking is not as scary as I thought. I had a lot of questions before I started. What can I cook? What are the ingredients? Do I fry some stuff first? Then what? How do I cut onions and garlic which people on TV do so effortlessly? How much of the ingredients do I need? How much should I cook for 6 people? These questions all come in one go and my reaction initially was I really did not know. But I had to start somewhere and worrying about it was not going to help.

This is what I do before I cook. I decide what to cook. Then think of the ingredients. I inform the family in advance about what I am going to cook. This also helps them to decide if they wanted to help me and in most cases they have been very helpful. I learn to write a list down before I go to the supermarket. This sounds trivial but it is not. It makes shopping purposeful and it keeps spending in check! I give myself about 2 hours to do the cooking which includes preparation time. The kids have joined in and I think getting their input is also a good thing.

Rank the following cuts of meat from cheapest to most expensive: beef, pork, chicken. Try it.

Now that I am a more regular patron at the supermarket, I know the prices of things even more. When I go out with my wife, I try to remember the prices but I forget about them again next time. But when you do the cooking and you buy the items regularly, it stays with you. You know where to go to. I can tell you that beef is the most expensive – about $30 per kg. This is followed by pork and chicken.

I have reduced spending on outside meals. Instead, eating at home affords greater privacy and there have been some great conversations. There is no price for being together with your loved ones and enjoying each other’s company.

I like to ask for feedback from the family. What could I have added more? Was it good? I am also aware of how to make variations of the same meal. For example, I could have fried mee hoon with dried shrimps or anchovies. Something I can try next.

Now that I have learned to cook for family, maybe I can cook for others. And become more adventurous.

When did you start cooking? What are easy-to-cook meals for the family? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

The three phases in my professional learning journey

I will be reaching an important milestone in my career. Three years at the Teacher Academy on the 15th January. Not long for some but when I look back at my professional learning journey, I can categorise it into three distinct phases: neophyte, emergent and accomplished. A summary of the phases can be found in the Table at the end of this article.

The first phase as a neophyte teacher is characterised as a period where there is little professional growth. I think this is because there was no proper plan to develop teachers. You are very much on your own and that is not enjoyable. Isolation is the enemy of teacher improvement. It is difficult to improve your craft alone. In a previous post I mentioned the role of a senior teacher who helped me understand the power of social capital. Michael Fullan (2011) cited a study by Leanna who tested the relationship between the power of human and social capital.

Leana reports that teachers who were both more able (high human capital) and had stronger ties with their peers (high social capital) had the biggest gains in student achievement. She even found that low-ability teachers perform as well as teachers of average ability ‘if they have strong social capital’ in their school. Thus, high social capital and high human capital must be combined, with the former being the more powerful. Both should be developed in concert, but high social capital is a powerful strategy to leverage human capital.

Fullan, M. (2011). Choosing the wrong drivers for whole system reform. Centre for Strategic Education. Seminar Series 204.

This senior teacher said to me, “Come into my classroom. Come and see how I work. It’s ok.” It was the best teaching invitation I had in this particular phase. There should be more teachers like him, opening up his classroom for new teachers to observe and learn and to have a proper conversation about teaching and learning. It builds social capital. This phase was 9 years long and it really should not be this long before teachers can feel empowered to improve their teaching.

The second phase was when things started to happen. I enrolled in a part-time PhD programme because I wanted to do something about my school’s underachievement in Mathematics and Science. My supervisor said, “Why not lesson study?” I can look back at this and identify this as the critical point in my professional learning. I became a researcher. I read widely. I asked lots of questions. I sought answers. I listened to the teachers in the lesson study groups. I tried to make sense about what the teachers were doing to improve student learning. I wanted to know if they were changing as a result of their engagement in lesson study. I collected lots of data and analysed hours of interviews and meetings. I became engrossed in lesson study. I worked with more teacher groups trying to understand what they were getting out of lesson study. I started writing and presenting the work and found that I was actually enjoying this kind of work. I began to meet more people who were also interested in lesson study. More opportunities opened up for me when people found out what I was doing. I received invitations to speak about lesson study. But the research bit was the one that kept me going because when you collect data to find answers to a research question it can be motivating. Getting the papers published and getting abstracts accepted were all high points in this second phase. I emerged from this phase deepening my professional learning. At the same time I experienced meaning in the work I do.

The third phase coincides with work at the Academy. This is where things are beginning to shape up. My role here is to bring people together especially people with lesson study experience, to build a network of lesson study leaders, to develop teachers to become leaders or facilitators of lesson study. I believe this will scale up lesson study even more in Brunei Darussalam. In addition to the work I do in Phase 2, I encourage teachers and leaders of lesson study to be involved in international seminars in lesson study. Here at the Academy is an opportunity to carry out evidence-informed and research-based professional development through lesson and learning study. After three years there is a feeling of accomplishment, the sense that you become more skilled in lesson and learning study work. Professor Keith Wood in recommending me to be a fellow of CollectivED wrote, “Teachers are eager to work with Vincent because they find his reflexive stand as a lesson study leader empowering.” Lesson study is really about the professionalising of teachers’ work and I am glad to contribute a part in this.

What is your professional learning journey like?

My Year in Review 2021

I found the ten questions from useful for writing this particular blog. Here is the link to that website:

What makes this year unforgettable?

One of my best friends from uni days died in September. His ex-wife informed me this only a week ago. Her words:

As far as I know, you’re his only friend who accepts him as he is and truly treasure him. I am very grateful. He was really bad in keeping friends. But you have a very special place in him. He has such respect for you. And me too. Really thank you. You won’t know how much it means to us.

What did you enjoy doing this year?

Doing something positive to reduce the number of strays.

Layla should have a better quality of life after being spayed.

We got Layla spayed. Three of her puppies have been successfully adopted. One of them, Mika, is still looking for a permanent home. We saw eight or nine abandoned puppies at the beach the other day. Contacted one friend who subsequently took in four puppies and was willing to take another three strays. If you wish to help the cause, join Sejahtera Community on Facebook or Pawsuptv on Instagram.

Mika is looking for a permanent home. Will you care for her?

What/Who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?

Definitely my family. Without them I would have struggled. They have all contributed and I am grateful for their support. I am blessed to have them in my life. At the end of a long day, it is nice to be back home to see my wife, my kids and the dogs+cat.

What’s your biggest win this year?

One co-authored paper accepted for publication! That was hard work needing five revisions. Under normal circumstances I would have given up but sometimes these things you have to be patient. Then again, there is no guarantee that anything will be published so I think it is an achievement to get a paper out there.

What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?

Not sure I can pinpoint one article or movie or podcast that has made the most impact. You learn something from every paper you read or any movie that you watch.

What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

The fear that I could be gone and my family is left to fend for themselves. Death is a morbid topic for some but my wife and I have been quite open about this topic and have discussed what would happen if either one of us were to go first. I am surprised how open I have become talking about death and what the family should do if I were to kick the bucket.

What was your biggest regret and why?

Not being able to say what was truly in my mind on a few occasions. Sometimes people don’t understand. What does it take for people to understand another person’s point of view? Something to work on I suppose.

What’s one thing that changed about yourself?

Not to allow people’s thinking of me affect how I do my work. During the pandemic, I find myself more focused, doing lots of writing, doing lots of facilitation for teachers. I follow @ithinkwellHugh who provides fantastic advice for writers. Keep writing, he says, even if it is not a good draft. Allocate two hours for writing and make others know that you cannot be disturbed. Every time I see his post on twitter, it reminds me that a bad piece can be revised. But do get some writing done on a consistent basis. That’s the key no matter how little.

What surprised you the most this year?

Being able to adapt myself to the demands of the pandemic. The second wave was like a slow mo. Working from home was incredibly hard. The hours were long. But there were advantages. No travelling to work. That is two hours saved each working day! You feel energised for not being on the road. Time at home meant I could get to read a lot of some very good stuff on the internet related to teacher professional development. I was also able to facilitate professional development online! Not easy but you learn the ropes. I find it really important to give people space to think and respond synchronously and asynchronously. Sometimes silence is golden and I understand better now that the silence allows people to think through carefully before they make a considered response. Preparing oneself for the online professional development with suitable activities and questions for adult learners is also something I learnt a lot.

If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?

Don’t worry too much about what other people think of you. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you, if you realised how seldom they do.” Make time to read and write. Go out with your family. Talk to your family. Go and spend some time with God. Be generous, do not be afraid to do that. Take risks. If you don’t, you won’t know what is possible.

Bye little ones who gave us so much joy

And then there is one left. Within a week, three puppies we took in have found their forever home. We are definitely glad to see Manu, Maya and Mika being adopted and taken care of. When their mum Layla gave birth to 8 puppies two months ago, we did not know what to do. We already had four dogs at home and a kitten and there was no place for a few more. When I saw the surroundings the puppies were in, I said to myself that it was no place for any animal to live in. I decided there and then to take them in. And guess what? The kids after the initial shock they got into when I said we would be looking after the four adorable puppies, they got into action right away. They contacted Pawsup, an animal welfare organisation, who said they could advertise the puppies. What we did not expect was the almost instant referral. Thank you Pawsup! I sent photos of the puppies to my siblings and through one of his friends, my brother managed to find a man who adopted Manu and Maya.

Maya and Manu with their new owner.

They have brought us so much joy even in the briefest of times. We hope we can see Manu, Maya and Mila soon. We have also decided to spay Layla so that she will have a better quality of life after this.

Mila on the right has been adopted.

Updated 10 January 2022 to reflect that Mila has been adopted while Mika is still looking for a permanent home.

Who or what has been responsible for your continued professional learning?

With the World Association of Lesson Studies (WALS) International Conference just concluded, I cannot help but reflect on my own learning journey as an educator. In 1995 as a neophyte teacher, a very senior teacher perhaps sensed that I needed help. He said, “Come to my lectures”. Just like that. In that sixth form college, students were taught through lectures and tutorials. I accepted his invitation and studied the A-level curriculum again in a year or two. And I thought being armed with a Bachelors and PGDE is sufficient. It is not! I would be seated at the back of the hall, next to a row of students, which also gave me a window into what they were doing at the back. Mostly filling the blanks in their notes it seemed and to their credit concentrating on the lectures. What stood out for me was how much I actually learned going to his lectures. His name is Mr Heng. He was presenting the material of course from the teacher’s perspective and with his pen and transparencies effortlessly overlaid several transparencies to show the effect of a change in the market. What he did was to plant a seed. Come into my classroom. Come and see how I work. It’s ok.

I did not think much of that at the beginning. I joined another school soon after and improved my craft all on my own. There was little opportunity to learn from anyone if you are the only teacher teaching your discipline. It was not a great way to develop yourself.

But then I was parachuted into a leadership position. Suddenly my world changed. I was going into classrooms checking if teachers did the things that were stipulated on the observation form. The incredible thing was that there was no way one person could provide a fair and useful judgement of another person’s lesson. The acid test about the usefulness of such evaluation is: how do you know students learn anything? The school’s results did not improve. Morale was low because the school was not attracting enough students. There were rumours the school would be merged with a sister school down the road. It was not a good atmosphere at all. In all that craziness, I signed up to do a PhD at the local university, part time of course. My supervisor said to me at that time, “Why not try lesson study?” Ya, why not? It could not get any worse could it?

My first two groups of teachers engaging in lesson study were the Maths and Science teachers. I had separate sessions with these two groups. We met on Fridays and discussed how to teach topics. As the principal and researcher, I led those sessions. I recorded the meetings and transcribed them. I interviewed the teachers. What came out of that was quite revealing for me. Teachers who learned much from the lesson study thanked me for getting them involved. Teachers who struggled during the lesson study often laid the blame on the students and other teachers. I wrote a letter to the school board to tell them what I learned but I got no response. By the end of 2006 the Board closed the school.

I became unemployed for a while but soon joined a state school. My PhD was not over. I did not feel like completing it and for some time I did not touch it. Then I got back into it. I don’t remember how though. I became the HoD for my department. I said I would like to try lesson study with them. The principal supported it. We got on with it and there was some success with a paper presented at my first WALS Conference in Hong Kong in 2008 and a paper being published. I became a mentor. It lighted up some days although it increased my workload. However, mentoring the teachers and working together with aspiring teachers was a good experience. They all wanted to learn how to teach more effectively and having a deep discussion on how to do that was the way forward.

I moved on to another school where things were rather quiet and people mostly kept to themselves. However, my supervisor kept in touch with me and asked if I wanted to be part of a research project. I jumped at the chance. It was a good study on cognitive biases and the irrationality of the consumer. I enjoyed teaching the lesson. The students reflected hard on the experience. The findings were reported in an international journal.

During this period, I applied to be an A-level examiner and was accepted. This was such a useful experience, marking international scripts and seeing how students had different ways of answering the same essay. While marking, I was saying to myself how lucky some students were to be getting such quality teaching as the evidence in their answers shows. The good answers had to come from quality teaching. How else can you explain it? The experience gave me some insights into what examiners were looking for. I shared this experience with a group of Economics teachers nationally. You can read more about my marking experience here.

Teachers discussing what students’ answers meant as part of lesson study.

In my current role as a facilitator, I have been fortunate to work with different groups of teachers on lesson study. Much of the work involved working collaboratively and trying to get teachers on board and helping them see the effects of their work. I think I am more excited than the teachers doing this kind of work. I have also been mentoring my colleague on how to lead lesson study. Supporting colleagues is critical in my view if we want to build capacity. It helps me too. Can I inspire others to do this kind of work, to lead others? An on-going project is to develop leaders who will carry out lesson study in their schools. I plan to do more of this because I think it will scale up lesson study within the education system and that can be a good thing.

It’s been almost 27 years since Mr Heng invited me to his classroom. It was a simple gesture but it had a tremendous effect on my growth as a teacher. Throughout my teaching career and involvement in education, nothing motivates me more than to see fellow teachers experiencing the power of lesson study. You see this when they start to make sense about what their students are saying. You see this when they have seen the impact of lessons on student learning. You see this when they start to take ownership about lessons – they telling you in specific terms about what they wish to do and how they will do it instead of relying on an externally prepared lesson plan. To me that is a significant shift in the professionalising of teachers.

Mr Heng is at the back row, far left. Salute to you Sir! Photo: Hwa Chong Junior College, Singapore, 1995.

Variation theory, an eye for detail, and how students learn: Questions from Teachers’ Day Webinar

During the recent Teachers’ Day Webinar, I presented a paper entitled “What and How Students Learn from an Accounting lesson: Evidence from teacher observations and student interviews”. The feedback from the 51 participants so far who have watched the recording asynchronously has been positive with almost a quarter strongly agreeing to the statement that they will recommend the presentation to another colleague in school. See Chart 1 below.

Chart 1

But what I find even more illuminating are the questions raised during the webinar. I shall pose three great questions and my responses in this blog. Here is the first one.

How can variation theory be applied in language teaching?

The question suggests that variation theory can be more easily applied to Mathematics and Accounting but not for English language teaching. While there are many studies that have used variation theory in Mathematics (Bjorklund et al, 2021), to my knowledge there is fewer for Accounting (Andrew, 2012) and language teaching (Lo, 2012). Here is my response to this question.

In the Accounting study, the difficulties of learning the topic were found after a group of teachers discussed the pre-test responses. From the pre-test the teachers discussed that students could not do xx and yy. This became the focus of the study. Once we knew what was causing the difficulty, we planned the lesson. Planning the lesson requires teachers to put their heads together again. With the facilitator’s help, they can plan a lesson using variation theory as the pedagogical framework. This is not easy but this is also why teachers do learn deeply when they come together. In this study, they have to decide the pattern of variation – what aspect to hold invariant and what to vary. Then they test the lesson in the context of a real classroom and collect the data. The teachers become researchers of their own classroom. The work to improve teaching takes time. There is no magic bullet. But research suggests when teachers work deliberately to identify what students need to learn and test the plan in the classroom, they learn a lot more about themselves as teachers.

Here is the second question.

How do you support teachers to have an eye for details?

This is a perceptive question indicating the participant has listened carefully till the end of the presentation. Here is my response.

In the Accounting study, what helped the teachers I think was that we put key episodes in the lesson plan. The key episodes inform the teachers what to look out for. It all goes back to the aim of the study – to see if students can discern what the critical aspects of the object of learning are. This is something the teachers are new to and it requires training to observe for such details. I believe that if teachers continue to be part of a collaborative action research such as lesson study or learning study they will learn to be more adept at listening and observing. They key is to ask the teachers – what are we looking out for and focus on that during the observation. It takes time and teachers need encouragement to develop this approach.

The third question focuses on how students learn. Here it is in full.

How do students learn?

Lesson Study uses Action Research (AR) as its methodology. The AR cycle consists of identifying the problem, identifying the possible solutions, implementing a solution and evaluating the effects. This cycle can be found in Lesson Study and Learning Study although the stages may be named different things. Carrying out LS has many advantages and challenges as documented in the literature. See the References in the slides. The LS research I have conducted with different groups of teachers in Brunei corroborate the positive effects on pedagogical content knowledge, teacher professionalism and improvements in student learning reported in the literature. Teachers do report of lack of time in carrying out LS and this is a real challenge. We acknowledge this but if we want our education system to improve time has to be granted for teachers to carry out such professional learning activities. In Japan, LS is seen as a culture of continuous improvement in teaching (Stigler & Hiebert, 1999). We have to find a way to support Bruneian teachers to have the space and time to do classroom action research because when it is done carefully and properly, it can have enormous benefits for teacher learning.

On your second question, we found LA (low ability) students do as well as HA (high ability) students, again providing evidence that LS that is well structured to support teacher learning can have a good impact on student learning. In the Accounting study, we were interested to see if the students were able to discern the critical aspects identified from the pre test. The answer is yes they can and that includes the LA students. This tells us that all students can learn, contrary to the belief that only certain kinds of students can learn. Learning is defined here as a way of seeing things. Some students see things in a more powerful way than others because they discern more critical aspects. The interest in the study was to see if implementing the lesson by using a pattern of variation can help the students discern the critical aspects. The teachers said they could see the link between the enacted lesson and the learning outcomes.

I think making the recordings available for teachers was a great idea. They can watch all 18 paper presentations in their own time and reflect on what to ask. Perhaps this is why the quality of the questions is so good. They are the best questions I have had in a Conference so far.

How would you respond to the three questions above?


Andrew, V. (2012). Using learning study to improve the teaching and learning of Accounting in a school in Brunei Darussalam. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies. Vol 1 No 1, 23-40.

Bjorklund, C., Marton, F. and Kullberg, A. (2021). What is to be learnt? Critical aspects of elementary arithmetic skills. Educational Studies in Mathematics. 107, 261-284.

Lo, M.L. (2012). Variation Theory and the Improvement of Teaching and Learning, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg.

Stigler, J. & Hiebert, J. (1999). The Teaching Gap: Best ideas from the world’s best teachers for improving education in the classroom. New York: The Free Press.

“Our job is not to cover curriculum but to help kids uncover meaning” – Prof Carol Ann Tomlinson

Professor Carol Ann Tomlinson was the keynote speaker for this year’s Teachers’ Day Webinar. An expert on differentiated instruction, I found her responses to the audience’s Q&A revealing. I refer to two comments she made amongst the many insights she shared with the audience.

Keynote speaker

First her comment on ‘low ability’. She said, “I am not a big fan of that notion of lower ability. What we perceive to be inability is inaccurate.” From reading biographies she gave examples of how people who were slagged off in school due to their supposed inability have made it in real life. I agree with her. Labelling or streaming students according to their ability is not productive. The argument is that when students are streamed, instruction will be better tailored according to their needs. Professor John Hattie from the University of Melbourne notes that ‘tracking has minimal effects on learning outcomes and profound negative equity effects’.

Based on my own experience in school, it is very much more likely to see the achievements of Science students being celebrated. Rather than students who study in the Arts stream or whatever stream. Students studying certain subjects, what may be considered as soft options, are also perceived in a different way. And because of this belief, these students do not receive the proper instruction that they deserve. Even amongst Arts classes, students at the bottom end are treated differently than those at the top end. If we want to talk about equity, we must ensure all students have access to the highest quality of instruction and there must be a belief that all students can learn. This has to start from a very young age, not when they are in secondary school when it becomes more challenging to remove a mindset that ability is fixed.

Second her comment that ‘our job is not to cover stuff but to teach people’ in response to a question on teachers’ need to complete the curriculum. “Covering the curriculum … puts the emphasis in the wrong place. Our job is not to cover stuff but to teach people. We can’t teach by coverage”. Referring to Jay McTighe, one of the authors of the book Understanding by Design, she said his take is “the job of the teacher is not to cover curriculum, it is to uncover curriculum, to uncover the meaning, to help students see the organisation, to help them get involved in the ideas and make connections amongst ideas.”

As a teacher and researcher I hear this notion of completing the syllabus very often and not helpful either. A teacher may cover the curriculum but if the students are not engaged and if students are not querying what they are learning, the learning is going to be superficial and that is not going to help students do well even in exams. If teachers claim they have completed the syllabus, then why do students still perform miserably? In two recent researches my colleagues and I have worked with teachers to focus on students’ different understandings of difficult ideas from the students’ perspectives, and jointly planned lessons to tackle those difficulties (Wood and Andrew, under review; Sabli & Andrew, 2021). This kind of work is much more enriching because it attempts to solve teachers’ problems in the classroom and it allows them to see for themselves the impact of the lesson design on the learning outcomes.

Her best quote is this. Referring to an example where she had to learn precis, from summarising a 40 page paper to 4 pages and then summarising that to 4 paragraphs and then 4 sentences and then in 4 words, Professor Carol said, “We can in fact distil things so that kids are learning what is most important and learning it really deeply, and our experience tells us that when we get good at that, in getting to the essence of what we are trying to teach and helping kids learn in a hands-on conversation on (inaudible) they actually perform much better than if we cover everything. One of the hardest things for us to share in the world as educators and one of the most important is to realise that our job is not to cover curriculum but to help kids uncover meaning.”

The webinar was informative and questions from the audience provided some stimulating insights. Thank you so much Professor Carol.


Sabli, R. and Andrew, V. (2021). Using critical aspects to design Chemistry lessons: A learning study with Combined Science teachers. Paper to be presented at the Teachers’ Day Webinar (virtual). November.

Wood, K. and Andrew, V. The development of teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge through learning study. Paper submitted to Asia Pacific Journal of Education for review.

Football managers are humans too and do not deserve the bile

Why would anyone want to be a football manager these days? You can’t beat the highs of triumphant days and nights, can you? But spare a thought for some of these managers who have been hurled abuse all because the teams they manage have lost a football match or have not performed according to the fans’ expectations.

Number 1 in the media now is Solksjaer, the baby-faced assassin who struck Bayern Munich’s hearts in the added time of the 1998-99 Champions League Final. His position as Manchester United’s manager is said to be untenable because of a string of poor performances by his team. The latest was the 0-5 thrashing by Liverpool. I see a lot of #oleout on social media. But many people also forgot that he brought stability and some very good results since Mourinho was sacked. Perhaps if United had won the Europa League Final last season, he would not be in this position where his every move (or lack of tactics and philosophy as the pundits say it) is open to so much forensic scrutiny. Give him time will you and get off his back.

Solskjaer is under pressure after some poor performances from his team.

The writing was on the wall for Koeman, another outstanding player for Barca in the 90s, when his team lost heavily to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Recently, his team lost the el clasico to Real Madrid. After that loss, his car was banged and spat at. The defeat to Rayo Vallecano was the last straw. This morning he was sacked.

Steve Bruce is number 3. He was famous for being in the Manchester United team that captured the first English title after 26 years in the doldrums. He was sacked as the manager of Newcastle United FC as soon as the new owners came in. He said in an interview that he had been called “fat waste of space” and “inept cabbage-head”. He said he may retire citing the toll insults have on his family.

Sackings are very common in football. They do not come cheap either because the managers have to be compensated when fired. This does not mean managers should be abused.

Thank goodness normal life is not like this. Imagine your every move in your workplace is monitored and talked about on social media. People can go crazy or become depressed.

Football is entertainment for many people. This is true. It is a form of escapism from the reality of life. But there should be no excuses for any person to be the subject of vile abuse from anyone, let alone fans. I think this is the crazy part about football. The advent of the internet and social media amplifies the voices of individuals and it seems that just because there are a vocal few, their voices should be heeded. No wonder Pep Guardiola avoids social media.

The dogs (and kitten) in our lives

Layla has given birth. Again. According to the shop workers who have been looking after her, it’s the fourth or fifth time she has given births to litters of puppies.

We are happy for her. But we are also mindful if she is ok with giving birth so many times.

I called the shop this morning to find out if she had given birth. The shop worker recognised my voice and said, “Yes! Ada sudah (she has).” My wife and I went to the shop to check on her. She was hiding under a pile of pipes. It was difficult to get to her. We heard her babies’ cries and wanted to see them so much. One of the workers helped Layla to get out of her hiding area. My wife fed her with some treats. She was emaciated and most probably exhausted. When we tried to get to her babies, Layla nudged her babies closer to her. It is an indication to us that she wants to nurse her babies and spend time with them. We left her some food and pledge to come back again to see how she is doing.

Layla getting her treats from Mummy this morning.

In case you are wondering what the story is with Layla, we fostered two of her babies last February. First we took Lexi two weeks after she was born and then Leny two weeks later. They are now 8 months old. Big, happy and giving the rest of the family a lot of cheer!

Lexi and Leny at the beach.

We also have two other dogs, Leia and Lily. They recently celebrated their birthday.

Happy birthday!

And one more kitten to talk about. We found her (that’s what we thought at that time) outside our house with what appeared to be a wound to her face. We brought her to the vet and got her vaccinated. The vet told us he was about two months old then. He loves all things stringy, does flips and excites the dogs whenever he walks down the stairs!

The youngest addition to the family – Lilo.

You may be interested to read a previous blog on how our dogs have made a difference in our lives.

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