Teaching is no easy task – apart from imparting knowledge to students, teachers also instil sound values to students to mould them into fine contributors to society. After all, today’s young are essentially tomorrow’s leaders.
We have with us two individuals who have chosen the education path – Puah You Kai, a History teacher at Sembawang Secondary School, and Dorcas Tan, a Planning Officer at MOE HQ’s Planning Division. Together they share how they ensure that our young are gifted with a balanced and well-rounded education.
What inspired you to be part of the education sector?
Puah You Kai: I have always wanted to do work that would make a meaningful difference to people’s lives, and I feel that the education sector allows me to do this on a very tangible, day-to-day basis. I am glad to say that I have no regrets thus far!
Dorcas Tan: I believe that education is key to empower young people to realise their potential. I was also personally inspired by a few dedicated teachers who taught and mentored me. Seeing how my teachers went the extra mile for their students left an indelible impression on me and spurred me on to do the same for future students.
Puah You Kai
MOE Teaching Scholar
History Teacher, Sembawang Secondary School
How do you derive fulfilment in your current role?
You Kai: As a teacher, my core duty is to impart sound values to my students, and equip them with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to become self-sufficient and rooted citizens. While counter-intuitive, I derive fulfilment in my work from seeing my students become less reliant on me over time, because this means that they are succeeding in their ability to fish for themselves.
Dorcas: As a Planning Officer at the Education Policy Branch, I contribute to the review and formulation of education policies within the purview of the Ministry. Some of the education policies that I am currently working on include special education and pre-school education. The work is very fulfilling as I get the opportunity to work with different agencies across ministries and experience first-hand what it means to adopt a Whole-of-Government perspective when formulating policies to best cater to the needs of the people.
What are some of the challenges you have faced? How have you overcome them?
You Kai: Having to wear different hats at work and having to engage multiple stakeholders can be mentally and emotionally draining. I have found that having a clear sense of purpose and mission has helped me to stay centred and focused on the things that matter. I have also learnt to prioritise work according to its urgency and importance, and to set aside personal time to rest and recharge.
Dorcas: There will always be challenges at work, no matter where you are posted to. As a teacher, some of the challenges faced could involve finding the best way to engage and motivate your students, especially those who have given up on themselves, or it could involve dealing with difficult parents. As a policy officer, one of the main challenges I face currently is the need to manage and balance the expectations of different stakeholders when formulating policies. This requires good communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively with others even when they may hold opposing views. Nevertheless, in any situation, I find that it is always helpful to keep an open mind, and remain humble enough to seek advice from others.
Tan Huiying Dorcas
Overseas Merit Scholar (Teaching)
Planning Officer, Education Policy Branch, MOE HQ Planning Division
What is something about your profession that many might not know?
You Kai: The notion “Teaching can’t be that difficult, right?” is a common misconception that many people – including myself, before I joined service – have. This is possibly because most of us have generalised notions of what teaching entails, from our limited student perspectives as we went through the formal school system. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I can say without bias that teaching is a multi-faceted job that requires a high degree of mental and communicative dexterity. Teaching is not just about standing in front of students to lecture, but a vocation that stretches you in multiple and demanding ways.
Dorcas: A great teacher is not one who has the best subject expertise (although this is important nonetheless) but is one who has the students’ interest at heart. Students remember you not for the subject knowledge that you have imparted to them, but for the genuine care and concern that you have shown to them.
What else do you look forward to?
You Kai: In the near term, and in my capacity as Subject Head of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), I look forward to working with my colleagues to help our students learn more effectively through ICT-enriched pedagogy. I also hope to continue developing my students’ joy of learning and ‘can-do’ spirit through my involvement in the school’s Applied Learning Programme (ALP) in Media Literacy. But more importantly, I look forward in the longer term to seeing my students succeed in life, long after they have left the formal school system. This, I feel, would be the ultimate validation of the impact my colleagues and I have made on them.
Dorcas: I look forward to taking on different roles within the Ministry and contributing to both schools and HQ as I believe that the wider exposure can help me grow as a leader. As an Overseas Merit Scholar (Teaching), I also look forward to the opportunity provided to have an external posting as the insights gained from this experience could help value-add to my contributions to MOE.