A calling. A sense of purpose. Inspiring hope. Giving back to community. These are but only some of the reasons why people embark on the teaching journey. Whatever your reasons may be, teaching is undoubtedly one of the most fulfilling vocations you can ever have. Enter the fascinating world of academia with Education Merit Scholar Jane Chia and MOE Teaching Scholar Keith Ang as they share their teaching experiences (albeit not without their unique challenges) with us.
Jane Chia: Growing up, I always thought of teaching as a career I would pursue. I did relief teaching at a secondary school after my ‘A’ Levels for six months. Going through that experience, especially through interacting with the students on a personal basis, made me feel that teaching was something I would enjoy. I also believe that to teach is to mould the future of our nation and that this is a worthwhile responsibility.
Keith Ang Wai Kin
MOE Teaching Scholar
Art Teacher, Jurong Secondary School
Keith Ang: As a child one of my dream ambitions was to become an artist. However, the notion of it being just a dream slowly changed as I grew up, all thanks to really inspiring art teachers. They were encouraging and broadened my perspective about the subject, which made me fall in love with it even more. I chose to pursue a career in teaching as I hope to inspire future generations and expose them to the importance of Art.
Tell us about your roles and responsibilities as a teacher.
Jane: I teach Geography to Secondary 1 to 4 students. More specifically, I try to get my students to learn the content, develop thinking skills, prepare them for the examinations and be inspired to have a broader perspective of the world. As the form teacher of a Secondary 1 class, I am also responsible for the overall well-being of 40 girls. This includes caring for everything ranging from discipline, motivation, health and friendships to family issues.
I am also in charge of the Bowling CCA, which gives me a good opportunity to nurture the girls to develop values like perseverance, discipline and team work. Lastly, I am in the Subject Options Committee and am also an Education and Career Guidance (ECG) Coordinator.
Keith: Currently I teach Art and English to lower secondary students. I am also in charge of my school’s basketball team and the form teacher of a Secondary 2 class. Apart from this, I am an active member of my English department’s Speak Good English Movement team, the student leadership development team and the school’s student talent development team.
What are some of the challenges that you face at work?
Jane: Many teachers face the challenge of work-life balance and this is something I’m still learning to deal with. I have found it helpful to set aside time for activities outside of work and remind myself to just do my best. Even with classroom teaching alone, it is a big challenge to engage a class of students with a wide range of learning abilities and motivational levels, ensure that they are actively learning for the duration of the lesson, and balance the need to prepare them for examinations and for life. Furthermore, being a teacher is not only about classroom teaching. It involves a basket of roles – we are also required to be facilitators, counsellors and motivators. To do each role well requires much creativity, wisdom and discernment. It helps to personally reflect on past experiences, exchange experiences with colleagues and learn from courses.
Keith: One of the challenging things about teaching is having to shelve your emotions and not carry any of your personal baggage with you into the classroom. Before I step into class I tell myself to put on a smile and be enthusiastic even though there are times when I might be having a really bad day or entering a really challenging class. I take it upon myself to ensure that students have the most conducive learning environment and experience.
Share with us about some of your more memorable experiences.
Jane: Unplanned teachable moments in the classroom are generally heart-warming and memorable. For example, we recently had a debate in class about whether the rate of deforestation in Brazil should be doubled by 2020. One of the students commented that the lives of the indigenous people who lived in the forest were not as important as they did not contribute to society. In response to her comment, the rest of the class chipped in with their views and this resulted in a fruitful discussion that challenged some of the students’ underlying values.
Keith: One experience was when a class requested to spend more time in school the day before the exam to work on their painting techniques. It was amusing as the class kept thanking me for helping them while I kept thanking them for caring a lot about the subject. Little moments like this really make me feel that all the work I have put in has been worth my while.
What development opportunities have you received as a teaching scholar?
Jane: Taking up the MOE scholarship gave me the opportunity to do my undergraduate studies in the UK. The overseas experience was priceless. Also, it gave me the opportunity to have a HQ stint in the then-Higher Education Division. My time there helped broaden my perspective on Singapore’s education system and gave me a better understanding of policy planning.
Keith: One thing I really appreciate is the many platforms that MOE has given me to share my experiences with prospective teachers. I’ve returned to my alma mater to share about my scholarship and study experiences with my juniors, and also attended recruitment events to talk to people interested in becoming art educators.
What advice do you have for aspiring teachers?
Jane: If you enjoy teaching and believe in the value of contributing to schools and education in Singapore, join us! In order to stay in education for the long haul, teachers should have a balanced outlook – idealism that holds on to the greater objectives of education amidst the daily challenges, and a deep care for their students while still managing their own well-being.
Keith: Teachers should be down-to-earth, open-minded and non-judgmental. It is important to know yourself well and believe in what you do. You also need to exercise tenacity and patience amidst juggling different tasks simultaneously, because teaching involves many challenges.