NUS CSC: Chen Su Lan

Archive for October 2009

Joining CSL is the time I am tutoring a primary school kid. I can still recall being nervous, not knowing what to expect when I went for the first session. However, the moment I started tutoring a kid, I wasn’t nervous anymore and quite enjoyed the process of tutoring. I enjoyed it not because I was playing with the kid (the kid will surely be overjoyed if I just kept playing with him haha), it’s the sense of achievement, being able to be of help to the kid. However, it was sad that I was only his temporary tutor as the tutor in charge of coaching him was absent that day. So I had to change to another kid in the end.

I’m thankful to have taught the 2nd kid. Teaching her made me realized the difference between teaching fellow classmates about assignments and teaching at CSL. In order to teach the kid, a great deal of patience and effort must be put in on top of being able to answer any queries she has. Being a kid, the approach to take in communicating with her is significantly different from how we interact with each other.

From tutoring the 2 kids, I learnt a great deal from them about communicating with children, and at the same time develop more patience. I look forward to going for tutoring sessions every Wednesday, as I get to see their bright smiles and listen to their stories about school life. =D



How time flies, it has been almost 2mths since i joined CSL already! Overall the experience was great and memorable so far. I guess i was pretty lucky as i was allocated only 1 kid throughout this period which has allowed me to communicate and bond really well with him. Initially it was a little hard getting him to sit still and he was a little apprehensive towards me too, however after about 2-3 sessions we could open up to each other and he would share with me about the things he did throughout the week which i enjoy listening too. He would also ask me about my life, my studies and on many occasions, about my army experience! I realized that most of the boys there are pretty interested in asking about army happenings, the feeling of holding weapons, and especially if we had any ghosts experiences there.

The kids there are pretty adorable yet a little mischievious at times, but it is entertaining to see them having so much fun and playing around with each other. At times i would look around and see some volunteers getting quite fierce with their kid and asking them to settle down and do their work. I guess they had to do it as some of the boys really lacked motivation and needed some pushing before they could do their work. I’m glad I do not have to do that as i believe I would not be able to! I don’t think I can bring myself to get fierce with them as it is just not in my nature to do so! haha.. But I realized it is important that they do so or not the kid would certainly be wasting precious tuition time.

It was a great idea suggested by one of our own volunteers that we can now bring laptops there to entertain and serve as a motivation for the kids to do their work! I believe it was a great idea! I believe that 10-15mins of just playing a computer game would already make the kids very very happy. It certainly makes me wonder how fortunate other kids are when they have access to such entertainment easily and 10-15mins of gaming would certainly not be anything special to them. Hence I will continue helping the kids in their work, and being somebody they can confide in and depend on throughout my stay in NUS and hopefully bring smiles to their lives!


I had two students under me when i first came to CSL.The characters of both boys are totally different. One of them is obedient yet the other one is mischievous. I had a hard time trying to teach both of them in the beginning. However, just when i started to find a balance in cooping with the situation, I realised that one of the students is leaving home soon.
I haven’t met him for two weeks. I was trying by all means to know how he is now. I quite regretted being late for the Lantern festival celebration as he left before i came. I heard he waited for me till the very last minute. It might be his last visit at the home. I don’t mean to be late that day because i reached the Serangoon garden area around 8. However, i was not familiar with the road and i was lost and so i ended up late. I know i shouldn’t be using this as a reason or excuse.
I thought this week i might get to meet him. Adding fuel to the fire, my another student was taken away from me too. Though he might be mischievous but i know he is kind in nature. I still remember he once cried because i tried to force him to study but he wants to play. So i negotiated with him. And we became closer. We were like friends now. It is rather hard to draw a line between a friend and a teacher. Thus i choose to be his friend. There is always a trade off to the choice.
When i became his friend, i started becoming closer to him but his studies still lagged behind. I have to constantly remind him to pay attention even up to the extend in trying to convince or plead him. I thought if i were to be more patient and talk him round he will do as follow. Reality is cruel. I wasn’t given a second chance to teach him again. He was taken away from me due to his slow progress and mischievous behaviour. I tried to convince the person in-charge to give him another chance. He definitely deserves another chance. Instead, i was convinced by her that he can’t afford to waste time as his exam is drawing near. This is definitely a big lesson to set me thinking how i can help the kids better.ha. I love you boys! jia you

Yours sincerely,


This week was rather special. No, not because it was e-learning week… It was the mid-autumn festival celebration at Chen su lan!

The kids were treated to several activities in line with the theme as well as a customary treat to mooncakes! About 30+ kids participated and not to mention a very good turn up of volunteers were present that night. The kids first had their hands full with a lantern making contest. We provided them each a used empty bottle and some decorative paper whereby the bottle was wrapped with the paper. They then decorated the ‘lantern’ with markers and finished it off with a light stick inserted into the bottle. It is always a joy to see kids spill out their creative juices and what they come up with. I dare say if they were given all the proper resources and time at their hands, they could produce lanterns that I would carry around proudly =)

The girls and boys were then split into groups and all participated in a more physical activity/game. I wouldn’t even try explaining the game here as it would definitely confuse you if not me. In short, it involved a row of chairs, the classic scissor-paper-stone game, continuous butt moving from one chair to another, tons of laughter, almost deafening cheering, some sweat and a bucket load of joy.

We ended off the event with prize presentations to the top 5 lanterns selected by the house parents followed by yummy snacks as prizes for all the kids involved in the aforementioned game. It was particularly amusing to see the all the little hints of anticipation in the kids’ faces, in a good way of course. As if prizes were not enough, we followed it up with a goody bag filled with treats to each kid as a token of appreciation. And of course no mid-autumn festival would be complete without mooncakes! You would be surprised at the rate that these kids munch up the slices of mooncakes. Now don’t you wish you were a kid?

The event got a little chaotic at points with all the kids running around and overwhelming our voices. But I expect no less from these truly energetic kids. I believe it was a good change to the typical routine the kids go through every Wednesday night, as it was a good change for the volunteers too nonetheless. It was a good opportunity for us to see the more light hearted side of the kids, the sides we are more accustomed to when it comes to kids. Its events like these that allow us greater understanding of them which I believe would help in our tutoring skills, even if just a little. This is what volunteering is about as I see it, satisfaction and FUN!

Though personally, the only negative for this event was the absence of the kid I normally tutor. He was busy studying for his PSLE alongside other primary 6 kids. This adds to the gazillion times that I wished I could be 2 places at once. It would have been awesome if he’d participated in this event amidst all the pressure that’s been placed on him for his exams. It would definitely relieve a little of that worrisome look he always has when he talks about his PSLE…before he goes off into another story about his soccer games =)

Opps I may have made this a little too long. Will end it off by mentioning that the largest take away for me was definitely the smiles in the childrens’ faces.



p.s. we all hope Chang’e will make its appearance for the next mid-autumn festival =)

Celebrating mid-autumn festival at Chen Su Lan holds a very special place in my heart. Exactly one year ago, I set foot into this home not knowing what challenges I’d be faced with and not knowing any volunteers there except for my friend whom I brought along. All I knew was that I was on my way to making a difference in a child’s life and the start of something fulfilling and meaningful.

I wouldn’t say that my first experience was either smooth-sailing or easy. My girl appeared rather shy and was not as willing to communicate with me as I expected her to be. As part of the mid-autumn festival celebrations, lantern making was an activity that couldn’t be missed. I remember trying to assist my girl in decorating her lantern with colorful and/or shiny pieces of paper cut into various shapes and using makers to draw pictures on it. When it was finally completed, she kept telling me that her lantern wasn’t nice. But in order to make her feel happier, I have to admit that I told a white lie. I told her that her lantern was nice. Afterall, even though her lantern didn’t win her a prize, there was still considerable effort put in.

Since then, I’ve made an effort to attend almost every tuition session despite my academic commitments. I remember sitting at the same table as another kid whose volunteer was absent that day, and she was complaining to my girl. My girl turned to me, smiled and said “Luckily my jie-jie always come one”. That sentence really warmed my heart and made me feel that the time I sacrificed and the energy I invested in traveling was all worthwhile. Perhaps it’s that sense of responsibility I have for her that motivates me to attend every session/event. Now she knows how to look out for me at every tuition session/event, and the last thing I’d want to do is to disappoint her.

Mid-autumn festival 2009 was slightly different. I had to arrive late because I was assigned the duty to fetch exchange students from school. As a result, I missed the lantern making session. I felt terribly sorry when I received a phone call from Andrew saying that my girl has asked for me so many times and still I wasn’t there yet. Games were fun although my girl cried when she got elbowed accidentally by another girl. At that moment I was thrown into a situation I didn’t really know how to handle, but she was willing to open up to me and let me know who the “culprit” was. Luckily it was just a short episode and everything was fine again.

At the end of the celebration, she asked if I would be there next Wednesday, and as usual, I told her I would be. This special bond which I’ve developed with her (and her sister of course) over the year, the little promises I’ve made to her about being there and the laughter we shared during each session make my experience at CSL so extraordinary.