Left: Toh Shao Ying is a
at the Geography Unit
of the Curriculum
She is a recipient of
the MOE Teaching
Scholarship and holds
a Bachelor of Arts
(Geography) as well as
a Master of Science
in Urban Studies
from the University
Right: Jane Pan is the Subject Head of Character & Citizenship at Hillgrove Secondary School. She is an MOE Teaching Scholar, and holds a Bachelor of Arts (Chinese Studies) from the National University of Singapore.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) Teaching Scholarship is not just about shaping educators to deliver academic content to students. Through an innovative curriculum, educators are groomed to be well-rounded and to encourage a nurturing environment that shapes young minds and talents. On top of this, MOE Teaching Scholars get the opportunity to hold senior positions in teaching, school leadership or senior specialist roles.
As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and BrightSparks was privileged to meet 32-year-old Jane Pan and 28-year-old Toh Shao Ying. We find out how their teaching training has, in turn, impacted their students’ lives.
Jane is a Chinese Language teacher and is currently the subject head of Character & Citizenship Education (CCE) at Hillgrove Secondary School. She is a big advocate of developing students’ academics and character.
Shao Ying devises, reviews and revises the geography curriculum in her role as a Curriculum Resource Development Officer at the Geography Unit of the Curriculum Planning and Development Division. She melds her passion and expertise to educate young minds and influence them to be more conscious of the environment.
ADVOCATING GOOD VALUES THROUGH TEACHING
What attracted you to teaching?
Jane: Teaching, for me, was not “love at first sight”. I love interacting with children very much, and perhaps because of my personality, I knew I did not want a desk-bound job. I felt it would be very meaningful to join a profession that helps others, so teaching was naturally one of my options. However, I think my love for teaching grew on me only after I took on the job.
Nowadays, schools focus on holistic education instead of just academic excellence. What are your thoughts on this?
Academic excellence and soft skills go hand-in-hand in developing a student holistically. In recent years, many companies have expressed that they do not just look for academic qualifications when hiring. Students must know that soft skills such as situational awareness, empathy and adaptability are all highly sought after by potential employers, and are important characteristics of personal development. As a CCE subject head, this is something I hope to inculcate in my students.
What traits do you think a teacher in the current environment should have?
A teacher in modern times has to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities, not just deliver lessons. Therefore, it is important to be organised and have good time management. Also, it is vital to be resilient emotionally to tackle the unique challenges each day brings.
How do you build character in a child based on your expertise?
Moral education and character-building are about helping a child make sense of the world. But I believe values are to be taught and not preached. It is essential to teach students to ask critical questions and to understand the repercussions of their decisions. It is also important to provide opportunities for students to experience the joy of being others-centred, such as through Values-In-Action (VIA) initiatives, so that they develop a genuine desire to connect with people and do good.
What do your family and friends say about your profession?
Some of my relatives and friends know how tough it is to be a teacher in modern times. But what I truly appreciate is the empathy my parents and husband have shown me. They understand when I need to work late into the night during busy periods, and they show their moral support in their quiet ways for which I am truly grateful.
MOULDING YOUNG MINDS
You studied geography, which is related to climate change. Do you think that today’s youth are apathetic when it comes to that subject?
Shao Ying: Youth today are definitely not apathetic towards climate change or sustainability! At the Singapore Climate Rally, we saw how an 11-year-old student addressed the crowd. I am impressed by the youth who have spoken up on and devised action against the pressing issues of climate change on the global stage. As a teacher, I have also witnessed how my students are slowly adopting sustainable processes and lower carbon lifestyles. That being said, with the advent of social media and digital advertising, youth today can be easily drawn into leading consumerist lifestyles. Students must be educated about the larger ecological footprint that our consumption practices inflict.
Share with us an edifying experience during your teaching years.
When I was teacher-in-charge of a Co-curricular activity (CCA), the CCA president fell short of receiving an Excellence Award as she did not meet its academic criteria. The team of CCA teachers, decided to appeal for her to receive the award. After several rounds of deliberation, the appeal was eventually acceded to. Buoyed by her excellent ‘O’ level results, she also entered a school of her choice. After graduation, the student thanked us for our help, especially in appealing for her to receive the award. It was a heart-warming episode.
What do your family and friends say about the kind of work you do?
Both my sister and I are teachers. My family understands that teaching is a purposeful and fulfilling profession, but it is also one that is physically, emotionally, cognitively and mentally demanding. All my family and friends are supportive of the work that I do.
What kind of traits do you think are necessary to be in today’s teaching force?
I believe the teacher of today needs to have the confidence to lead the class, and a ‘growth mindset’ to embrace changes and cope with the evolving education landscape. Fundamentally, the teacher must have a genuine heart to care for his or her students, listen to their struggles and challenges, and be the compass that guides them in the right direction.
What kind of advice can you dispense for scholars who wish to follow your path?
For those who are considering a Teaching Scholarship, my advice would be to follow the acronym, P-A-K. “P” stands for adopting a positive attitude – opportunities and obstacles along the way are part and parcel of the teaching experience. One would need to learn, unlearn and relearn from these experiences. “A” stands for asking and consulting experienced teachers whenever you are unsure. “K” stands for keeping an open mind and knowing you might need to step out of your comfort zone, push boundaries and take up challenges to hone your pedagogical skills.