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Work life integration vs work life balance

“I hate my boss, why must he makes me work longer than my working hours. Fridays are finally here:)… Oh the Dreaded Monday blues…”

Well these are typical feelings that is seen during discussion with friends over off and online social network.

Noted that currently there is a post floating around stating work life balance vs work life integration. I think both prospects are just showing the wants from two parties.
One is an employee wants – which is work life balance.
One is an employer wants – which is work life integration.

Well, for work life balance, there are minimal jobs that offer this balance. In this world, the balance are only given to people whose job scope is static or minimal. The trade off – advancement is minimal and salary may not be good.

Well, for work life integration, if you hate your job, the work life integration will cause the employee to go crazy. Asking the people who were conscripted into the army, who had to served the nation for 24/7 on a weekly basis, they were under the beck and call of their officers. There are numerous stress that there are people who tells me “the gate is just 2 feet away, and really feel like running away”. If that’s work life integration, serving 2 years in the national service is so stressful, imagine this happening for 10 years.

I think the only solution is to change our mentality, and the way we look at jobs regardless if you are a music teacher or programmer. There are key traits in all of us that make are interested in a particular job.

As what Warren Buffet said ” he was lucky at being born at the right time“. If Warren Buffet was born 500 years ago, the stock market may not have implemented. He would not have being one of the richest people in the world.

What makes him different from others is that he has the passion to review financial statements and understand what makes a company tick. If he was forced into a circumstances where he was required to work at a factory floor, or working as a hunter, he would have hated his job, and would not have succeeded. The passion to understand the ticks and tocks of the business, helps him to gets through the boredom and difficulty of the learning curve.

The world had declared that there is a best job in the world – the caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian government will pay the lucky winner plenty of money, ability to do water sports, diving everyday. Well, on paper this look like the best job for everybody right, however if you have a phobia of water, will this be the best job for you?

Gaming vs music playing

“I, can’t get pass this stage . How should I do it? Any special motion I need to make? Do I need to press it faster? How do I leap from one place to another?”

Well, does this sound familiar to you? For people who game a lot on the PC, this sounds like something that comes out from DOTA, Counter Strike, for someone who games a lot on mobile platfform, it sounds like temple run. For someone who plays the piano, it sounds like practising.

Well, all the above mentioned, are corerct. Practising and playing is the same thing, same motion. However, one is met with dread, while one is met with anticipation.

What has the gaming industry gotten it correctly, while piano industry had gotten wrongly? Gaming and practising are based on a similar concept – to practise intelligently, and practise diligently.
Some people will dream about how to practise the motion of the game in their sleep, on the train ect.

Thus, is there a need for practicing to be constrained by the keyboard? Why are gamers able to think about gaming, and improve without touching the keyboard? Why are we amazed by kids who are able to play the piano sonata when they are the age of 7, but we aren’t amazed at the skill and coordination that they are utilising when they are playing DOTA?

Is it because it is common that kids take to gaming like fish to water, but music playing is an unnatural movement?

Well, there is a need for music teachers to think about how we teach music. How can we make music learning more appealing to the kids, and make them want to practise instead of forcing them to practise?

Mum, why am I not improving

“Mum, I have practised the piano for 1/2 hour a day.” Mum retorted “but why your teacher keeps saying the same mistake keeps repeating?”

This kind of squabbles happen all the time, however there is also a risk that the long term squabble demotivates the student, and the student may feel that practising is futile, and useless, thus is not motivated to practise anymore, and will slowly loose interest in music.

Well, the reason that this happens, is that student usually practises without absorbing. The student will place a sheet music in front of them, roughly plays through the piece, without ensuring that they play in accordance to the mood of the music.

Well, practising the whole song without paying attention to the musical details is like saying the scenery is nice, but it is the details of the scenary that builds on one another that makes it nice.

Thus practising is only based on one single idea:
practice the parts you are not good at. The parts that you are not good at can be from one whole line of the song, to just one jump to the entire song. Breaking the song into parts will help you understand how the different areas in the music that help is needed.

There are numerous ways to work towards this concept, and we will be talking more about the different ways of practising in future articles.

Backpacking with an instrument

Every single trip that I make overseas, I will always have a main theme to test out:
1. Thailand – Was my first trip overseas with friends which is very well planed.
2. Laos – Backpacking with friends with totally no plans.
3. New Zealand – Going to a country to visit new friends that I met during the trip.
4. China – Performing a solo backpacking trip
5. Taiwan – Performing a bike tour
6. Taiwan – Bringing a musical instrument for travel.

This is my 6 backpacking trip, and during this trip, I realized that bringing a musical instrument to travel is one of the greatest joy of traveling.

When you travel and meet new people, when everybody is very new to each other, having a musical instrument help to provide a common topic for everybody. When you play the musical instrument and provide a basic sing along session, people will sing together with you, and everybody willl be having fun.

When you are alone, and there is nothing to do, music will help to prevent you from being homesick, as you will play music and widst the time away. During this time, your music skills may improve, as you are thinking of new ideas of playing the same music:)

Music is really a good way to travel, and i think my instrument will be my fixed item which I will bring for all my future travel.

Visualizing Scales

It is daunting when there are so many scales to practice, with so many different black notes and key signatures.

However, I have noted that there are mainly 5 types of scales up to ABRSM Grade 5 practical requirements.

Scales are divided into 4 main categories:
– Normal major / minor scales
– Contrary Motion
– Chromatic Scales
– Arpeggios

In each category, there are 12 scales, however they repeat the same motion.

Normal Scales
Fingerings are fixed for major / minor harmonic / melodic music. Each scale have a fixed fingering to start with and turn. All the scales turn using finger 3 and 4.
Students must use their own initiative to find out the different fingerings to start and when to turn.

Contrary Motion

To practice, first there is a need to practice normal scales instead from left to right, but right to left, and back to right. This instinctively assist the brain to remember to play the music backwards. Moving on, it will be easier to play contrary motion.

Chromatic Scales

For practice, chromatic scales are the most fun thing for the students. Except for the two white keys that are beside each other which is using finger 1 and 2, the other white and black keys using finger 1 and 3 respectively.


To practice, Arpeggios technically could be played just using the same fingerings for all type of chords. Right hand uses fingering 1, 2 & 3 constantly and 5 to end. Left hand uses 3, 2 & 1 constantly and 5 to start.
To facilitate playing the arpeggios, leaps are required to practice from one space to another. Eg. in C Major, a leap must be performed for RH from G to C.
To progressively practice the leap, there is a need to learn how to jump from one note to another, then chord to chord and after that arpeggios.

Thus with the simplification of the scales requirement, wouldn’t it be that hard to practice?

Why learn scales

My student ask “Why do we need to play scales”.

This is a common grumble from my students, even though I am passionate about scales:)

I like doing the scales in the dark or practice when I am distracted (eg. watching TV etc).

I think scales is a basic building block of learning music. Every piece of music are based on basic scale like position (eg. major scale, chromatic scale etc).

Scale to me is like the basic vocabulary in our language. Scale is a formation of a group of notes. This is similar to vocabulary which is a group of alphabets.

In the English language, since young we started learning basic vocabulary. We stated learning more words as we grow older. Thus learning scales should be in the same manner. We should learn it as a step by step method.

We will go through a systematic way of practicing the different types of scales in the following blog post.

Education in Singapore

I was chatting with my friend, a teacher from one of the education institute in Singapore, and we came on the topic of heavy workload that teachers have to endure in Singapore.

Education issues in Singapore
This was an interesting discussion, and my initial expectation would be stories regarding the academic workload (eg. marking scripts etc) being too much. However, the complaints are mainly about how to handle a class, and administrative matters that she needs to deal with.

Admin issues which I am referring to is mainly about side events that they have to organise (eg. in charge of Core- Curriculumn Activities (“CCA”), school carnivals etc)

However, based on my own discussion, not many teachers are complaining that pay was too low, but they usually complain about the workload.

This is in juxtapose against people who are working in the corporate world who are always complaining about the pay check in comparison to the work that they are performing.

Well, I believe that in order to be in the education business, the needs for the career is not just love for the money, but there is also another necessary attribute is to educate the next generation. Thus, I believe that all teachers who are interested in the education business for the right reasons, would have the passion for education.

However, based on the system in the Ministry of Education (“MOE”), I noted that due to the monetary benefits that they can obtain at an early stage of their career, youths that graduate as teachers may be teaching for wrong reason – purely money and a solid career.

I heard from my ex-primary school teacher that the new teachers keep taking medical leave during their stint at the workplace. She said that this was not the case for the old batches. The interesting part is that, based on her years of experience, she does not really see the love of education in the young teachers as seen in the older batch.

I believe, that due to the high pay that is being offered to the teachers at the moment, it is seen more of an avenue of earing money, then to really teach the students, thus I propose the following two solutions.

Overpaid and Overworked
At the moment, I believe the teachers are overpaid.. Yes, most teachers will be shocked by what i said, however wait.. I believe that they are overworked and overpaid.

What I mean is that teachers should be paid for only teaching and not doing other administrative staff like organising school carnivals etc.

If you remove all obligations like field trips, overseas trips, CCA teachers, you will realise that they are seriously overpaid.

Overpayment is an issue whereby due to the high entry income, this will help to attract people who are not interested in teaching but just interested in the money. Thus there is a need to reduce the number of teachers who are interested in this education business because of money.

The thing is, MOE could reduce the wages that is currently being paid to the teachers, and to compensate them, remove more of the administrative stuff that they have to do. Because of this, the teachers will be able to focus on their job which they are good are: to teach.

Teachers are not taught how to do planning for events, these are learnt when they are still studying, IF they are active in their own CCAs. However, admitting the students to the MOE – NTU education degree program, they were mostly tested in their academic results and not how they can organise succesful events.

Even in their course of their studies, they are mainly taught on how to teach the students, and how to create a good lesson plan etc..

Thus, with the reduction of the wages for the teachers, The excess wages could be used to set up a separate department like a student development unit staffed with professionals who knows how to organise events.

Although people may say that it is a radical idea, however I think it is not a radical idea. Firstly, student development centers can be seen in the polytechnic and the university. Why can’t they adopt the same idea in the primary, secondary and junior colleges.

With this student development office, first they can enlist the aid of people of are fluent in doing planning and organising events.

These professionals are enlisted based on these attributes, thus there is a higher chance that they are good at it. Being good at doing helps make them better mentor for the students who are taking a leadership position. As the students with leadership capabilities, the professionals will be inclined to give them some leeway in pursuing their interest. Thus students with leadership capabilities can help to lead other students to organise better events and this mentoring process can continue.

Handling of students

Although currently Singapore had abolished the usage of EM1, EM2 & EM3 – grading system, however, they are still using another different grading system – academically inclined etc… Thus, this is not a solution in it by just changing the terms used to describe the kids.

I noted that there are different types of kids around, those that get into bad companies, those that mature at a later stage of their life (thats me) and the academically inclined students from young.

I believe that there’s still a need to classify the students in different band range, and I am not in the position to discuss which is the best age for the students to be banded etc (as I am not a child specialist).

However, I think that although banding is required as different abilities students have to be grouped together to ensure that they are learning at their optimum speed, at the moment, the students are not developing at their full potential.

There is a need to look at the needs of the students:
1) Academically Inclined students
– They are smart and inquisitive, there is a thirst of knowledge, thus there is a need to ensure that the teacher is academically smart and in tune with all types of knowledge to answer their queries.

2) Average students
– They encompasses the bulk of the student population. As this group is too varied, the current teaching system is the best way to tackle their needs.

3) Not academically inclined students
– These students may not be academically inclined due to varying reasons. Reasons such as:
1. Inability to understand what the teacher is teacher
2. No interest in learning etc.

There are also three groups of teachers:
1) Academically smart teachers
– These teachers are academically in tuned to the requirements of the education system, and they are well equipped to deal with the academically smart students.

2) Average teachers
– They may not that great in their academic studies, however they also form the bulk of the teachers in Singapore, thus they are suited to deal with the average students.

3) Rapport teachers
– These teachers may not need to be academically smart, however there is a need for them to be able to develop a good rapport with the students. Noted that for those who are not academically inclined students, they are usually disenchanted with studying and not because they are stupid. Thus with these type of teachers, they are able to develop a rapport with the student thus providing a chance for the teacher to understand them, and provide solution / listening ear for them(google freedom writers for further discussion in relation to a real life example).

There will be people who will say, there are not so many teachers to go around. Yes, there are not many teachers of the first and third capabilities based on the current education system. However each teacher is to lead their whole class throughout the year, the teacher would be able to know the standard of the class, and know which are the weaker / stronger students thus able to give more emphasis (Netherlands education system states that all children are grouped by age in mixed ability classes, with one teacher for all subjects).

Grading system
There will be issues with the teachers as when they are delegated to the academically weak classes, they would not be happy due to human nature. However, I believe that the MOE should step in and tweak the grading system and promotion system for the teachers who are teaching the students who are not academically strong.

If the teachers for non-academically smart students are able to help the students to improve their grades by certain percentage, they will be deemed for a promotion. As asking for the students to get an A from an F is in impossible task, compared to A to A star. Thus, just for the grading of these teachers, the system of grading should be different, thus reducing the teachers reluctance to conduct classes for these group of students due to promotions issues.

Any other comments?