HBL is not for everyone

My son’s Math teacher has been texting me the past few days. Some days, she texts me multiple times. Mainly it’s about him not submitting his work on time. Or that she had asked him to go on a 1-1 video call to help him with his worksheets, but he doesn’t reply.

From what I understand, the role of the parent is to ensure they get online. We are not expected to take over the teaching.

However, I’ve found one other problem with HBL.

We, the parents, are expected to make sure they COMPLETE their work and submit it on time.

For Kate, at the P2 level, that is quite a hassle, but because we know teachers are doing their best to make this remote learning work, we try to do our part to cooperate, acknowledge and support them.

It’s also a steep learning curve for us, getting onto the different platforms, downloading / uploading assignments, to-ing and fro-ing with her teachers to overcome technical issues. She can handle most of her work independently, and where she is stuck, we are able to guide her and she is on top of all her work.

But for my teenage son, the type who belongs under the unmotivated category, various choke points prevent that from happening successfully.

When they are physically in school, teachers can find different ways to explain concepts to them, nag at them, make them stay back during recess or after school to complete their work.

Now that they are a screen away, when they can’t understand what is taught or can’t be bothered, they switch off (literally even). My teacher friends joke that they wish they could reach in through the screens and shake these teens.

But since they can’t do that, they have to politely rally the help of the parents.

So here’s how it plays out.

I’m working on my laptop and my phone keeps beeping. I wish Mdm Teacher could sort it out directly with my son. But no. He is not responding to her texts.

I storm into his room, demanding to know why his work was not submitted on time.

He shows me his SLS portal. So many items under the “in progress” column! With 8 subjects and various tasks tied to each, and some from the days before, it was a complete mess.

I went through each one, and there seemed to be all sorts of hurdles hindering completion.

But the problem that is HARDEST to deal with is this.

“I don’t know how to do it. And I also don’t feel like doing it.”

What do you do with an unmotivated HBL student?

From the experience of my other 4 kids during their secondary school years, among their 8 subjects, they would have a couple of favourite subjects as well as those they find boring, irrelevant or just plain difficult.

I feel bad that his teacher is trying so hard to help and to ensure that his work is up to speed, yet I’m at a loss at how to get him to complete his work. And I’m drained and frustrated from having to nag and yell at him daily about his homework.

Kate heard all of that noise and sprung into action.

After I left my son’s room, she said, “Mum, I have a surprise for you.”

She led me to the table.

“What’s this, Kate?”

Since I can’t make a real meal for you, I drew you my best meal to cheer you up! I know gor gor always makes you frustrated so I wanted to make you less stressed.

Haha, I burst out laughing! She’s such a darling indeed.

Kate’s surprise meal

I told Mdm Teacher that I absolutely appreciate her going out of her way to help him, but at this point in time, many of us are working round the clock, either in essential services or struggling to keep businesses afloat, figuring out how to move our businesses online, settling our foreign worker issues, supply chain problems and having younger children to manage. Chasing our teens to finish Math sums is the last thing on our minds right now.

We are not superhuman, and neither do we expect our teachers to be.

They are already overworked in a normal school year, and many of them have readily stepped up and have been working late into the night to get this out. It is a lot to ask of them to keep this momentum going for the rest of the month, especially for those who have their own young kids to take care of.

In a perfect world, every student is self-motivated, organised, and smart enough to understand everything that is taught. But alas!

I asked her to please give me the right email, and I wrote in to his school explaining how I was extremely grateful for such a dedicated teacher but there are a lot more pressing issues on our plates right now than him falling behind in 1 subject for this month and both he and I will take full responsibility for his incomplete work during HBL. After this episode, I will find him a tutor if need be.

So the daily texts have stopped, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

Let’s do what we can, but we have to adjust our expectations.

I really hope all the Mdm Teachers out there can stop worrying late into the night as they look aghast at the longer and longer rows of INCOMPLETE tasks flagged out on SLS. And instead, have some time to focus on their own families, providing them the needed stability and sanity to ride through this time.

I know it means a lot of catching up to do next time.

And yes, productivity and excellence are important.

But right now, the mental health of all of us, is most important.

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 – Tuition – First line of attack?
#14 – Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 – First day mix up!
#16 – The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 – No more T-score. Now what?
#18 – Tackling the new school year
#19 – She did it, without tuition.
#20 – So who’s smarter?
#21 – Why I do not coach my kids anymore.


About MummyWee

Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 7-turning-17 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function, to survive today’s volatile world. She is also a parenting coach and has been featured on national TV, radio and print media.

2 Replies to “HBL is not for everyone”

  1. So true Mummy Wee. HBL brings us and kids to a whole new level of digital usage in our lives!

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