R E F L E C T I O N S

A teacher affects eternity:
he can never tell where his influence stops.
Henry Adams

 

        Years of experience in the Singapore Education System have taught me how to appreciate the role that teachers have played throughout the process of learning. The learning that took place still has a place in my heart till now. The important life skills remained in me throughout the journey into adulthood till now.

 

As I entered Orchid Park Secondary School for the very first time, I was filled with so many uncertainties despite the excitement to start teaching.  Being equipped to teach primary school level in my diploma years two years ago, it made me rather afraid of what was ahead of me on the 28th July 2008 when I enter the school as a trainee teacher.

 

        Nevertheless, the first day reporting was indeed a simple affair. Greeted by nice office personnel who started off with the basic procedures in school, like reporting time, the punch card system and introduction to a few important individuals in the school’s management. In addition, the warm greeting by the Vice-Principal, Mr. Nath and having him personally bringing us around the school was indeed a good start. It was an eye-opener but it really enables me to understand more about the focus and niche areas of the school.  It prepared me for the simple things to be expected on the first day here. Furthermore, it was a rather beautiful first day at work being introduced to the school as teachers. That provided me with a platform to start off as a teacher who will be walking around and teaching in the school.

 

        Basically, OPSS has an encouraging start for its new teachers, regardless of trainee teachers or even relief teachers. It was what we needed to give us a good head start to allow us to serve as educators and facilitators who would be able to affect eternity. OPSS has provided the simple gesture of encouragement to make all that a reality.

 

 

Nine-tenths of education is encouragement.
Anatole France

 

          The fear of every trainee teacher during practicum is always about whether he or she is able to TEACH his or her students, as that would be where all the sense of achievement and comfort as well as satisfaction will come from. I learnt one important value of encouragement; from the first day I stepped into the classroom till the last day in OPSS, which happened to be the teachers’ day celebration.

       

        It is indeed true that encouragement is all that mattered to provide a holistic and meaningful environment in teaching. We could educate and teach many formulas, symbols and so on every single day but it can never be matched with the encouragement we provide our students with everyday.

 

        I recall the first day I stepped into the classroom to begin teaching on the second week of practicum. Other than the stressful moments of preparing lesson plans and thinking of the rationale of each activity in paper, I was looking forward to start the first lesson with each and every class. It was indeed challenging to think of slightly differentiated way to start the first lesson. The ‘signing of contract’ between the teacher and students that always have to take place on the first lesson was to be executed. I chose to do it differently. I played my first crossword puzzle game with them and based on the problems solved in the game, they gave me their definitions of the basic do’s and don’ts in the classroom in a very mature manner. The smooth running of the first lesson taught me one very simple message for the day; my students have their expectations and would like to take charge and make decisions too. They need someone to encourage them into the right decision making process and that is where I come in. I did not do any literal signing of contract like I did with my primary school students 2 years ago. I guess I did not have to and I never regretted that till today.

 

        Without doubt, many more things happened throughout the first 6 weeks of teaching the young adults. Many of which made me sit and ponder on the things that they want as well as the things they need in the classroom and outside the class. Each time things happened, it made me sit and think and reflect on myself first. I always reminded myself of the many things OPSS has provided for the students and me. My main concern is how I am going to utilize all that for the benefit of everyone through the practical teaching and ENCOURAGEMENT.

        I was given 2 Express and 1 Normal Academic Classes; all taking the Express papers. Yet, each and every class was a different set of students… a different batch of challenge for me. In each class, every student proved to be different in his or her abilities in the subject but all of them needed one thing, ENCOURAGEMENT from me to help them gain their identity and confidence.

 

        My first setback or rather challenge that I had the experience of facing a student telling me that he is not good in Malay and he does not like Malay. He was a challenge for me… I simply replied that I did not require him to be excellent in Malay or even like Malay. It was not because I did not want to be bothered with such students.. It was mainly because, as much as reality bites, that is the nature of the Malay students. It may be because of the content, the pedagogy and even teachers’ approach towards the learning process and the attitude of the students. I told him that I simply needed him to participate in the activities, which may come in handy in social skills outside the ‘Malay territory’.

 

        Maybe that was my aim as a Malay teacher. A tough place to stand on, as compared to the many other subjects since our students’ mindset is that it is mainly needed in secondary and not when they embark on their tertiary education in polytechnic and university. I wanted my students to love the lesson and be casual-cum-formal in class, so that the use of the language seeps in the sub-conscious mind and thus, translated in their schoolwork and hopefully, in their performances in the examinations.

 

        I treated myself as a student to my CT, SH, and SCM; even to the other teachers who never failed to provide a sense of encouragement for a trainee who is learning the ropes as an educator.

 

The strength that I managed to gather comes from the very encouragement provided by my CT who very often reminded me to take things easy and never to take the students’ words too heavily. She was indeed someone I could sit and share about the students and their attitudes as well as their comments about me. She never failed to provide me with a positive outlook and even ‘strategies’ to deal with the difficult students in class. I have to say they were indeed excellent for dealing with these young adults. Every post conference was filled with positive feedback about the things done and the comments on the AFIs were put across in a very empowering manner. In addition, it provided me with sufficient knowledge of what was within the students’ grasp and what would prove too much for them.

Besides that, she also managed to get me involved in other things that went beyond the classroom teaching like the Short Stories Writing Comp, setting of test papers, an experience in conducting the oral exam. These may not be a lot but indeed it was a good experience in understanding and experiencing for myself the other aspect of being a teacher other than just teaching in the classroom. 

 

The opportunity of bringing students out during the Opening Ceremony of the Singapore Youth Festival was a good start to begin my teaching practice. The chance of interaction with a lot more students other than my own students in class was indeed enriching. At the same time, there was a chance of getting to know more teachers. Nearing the end, the chance of bringing the students out to watch a play was also another sweet closing experience in OPSS. Although it was just two instances, it gave me a chance to experience something beyond classroom learning; that teachers do have moments of bonding and interaction in many ways; at the same time, a gust of fresh wind to loosen the tensed muscle.

 

All the encouragement given, be in directly or indirectly was a pillar of strength to me as a trainee in leading a fruitful experience throughout practicum. I would have to thank the many teachers, CT, SCM and even the other school personnel in the office and all the canteen vendors. Every word and even simple greetings of Good Morning became a very important beginning for me to encourage myself to always relate back to the needs of the students.

In addition to that, my learning journey throughout practicum also included ENCOURAGEMENT from my own fellow students themselves. That was the bet form of learning that I always got. I felt encouraged too by their words, work and sharing moments.  Through the moment’s reflections during certain lessons, I could feel their uncertainties answered and their wants fulfilled. Be it good or bad feedback, it was still meaningful experience of good comments and encouragement to live up to the expectations of my fellow young adults.

 

This also made me strongly for the Heart 2 Heart program in OPSS. It is an avenue for students to open their heart and share their feelings openly. At the same time, it is also another avenue for teachers to also be open about their thoughts and feelings. I believe that that would be a great avenue for ENCOURAGEMENT to be a tool for learning of students and teachers.

 

Only those who do nothing make no mistakes.
Anonymous

In OPSS, more importantly, I was given the chance at trying many things… I knew that I was frequently learning from the strength and mistakes I committed. Nevertheless, the beauty of it all was that I never regretted making those mistakes, as I knew I was learning and doing something worthwhile.

Summing up, the fears I started off with on the first day subsided with great surprise and appreciation from the students since week three till week ten.

My stay in OPSS was indeed a fruitful and enriching experience and will definitely miss the working environment and the students, uniquely OPSS:

 

Optimistically Arty-Farty,

 

Potentially lovable,

 

Simply Interesting &

 

Simply Interesting &

 

Superbly empowered students…