Gone are the days when a teacher was seen as a no-nonsense disciplinarian focused on getting good results for his or her students. Today, a teacher is much more than that as we get insights from two educators about this reputable career.
By Wendy Ng & Farhan Shah
In the 60s, a hard rap across the knuckles with a wooden ruler was more than enough to ensure students would toe the line. However, as the years pass by, the teaching landscape has evolved significantly, making these methods outdated.
Today, teaching is not just about reciting from textbooks and giving out test papers. It is about moulding the future generation. Today’s teachers have to incorporate the whims of today’s tech-savvy youths with the goals of the country.
However, there is no other career in the world that gives you the invaluable opportunity to be an inspiration and influence to the malleable minds of the young who will one day become the leaders of the country.
It is this very inspiration that propels young teachers like 28-year-olds Trixie Lim and Latifah Latiff to embark on the exhilarating path of a teaching career.
For Trixie, her school teachers were the people that inspired her.
Trixie: “I remember how much effort my teachers, especially those in my junior college, put in for us when I was a student. They even willingly sacrificed precious time with their families on weekends just to teach us. They inspired me to want to commit as much for my own students today.”
As for Latifah, the thought of being able to be a catalyst for the young generation inspired her to take up the baton of teaching.
Latifah: “I knew my personality would not be able to accept an office job where I sit down and work from 9am to 5pm. I wanted to walk around, interact with others, and hopefully do something different daily. There are plenty of jobs out there that offer this but I decided to teach because I love interacting with children. There’s always something to learn from them, seeing how their worldview is different from ours.”
Today, Trixie is a Geography teacher at Chung Cheng High School (Yishun) while Latifah is sowing the seeds for passion in History at Chung Cheng High (Main) School.
Basking in the constant awareness that she is surrounded by impressionable young minds whose lives she will inadvertently make a difference to, both Trixie and Latifah have learned to redefine their initial understanding of a teaching career.
Trixie: “Teaching does not involve just imparting textbook knowledge alone. It really entails many other activities on a daily basis. Each day offers a different challenge as we meet and handle different people, and tackle various situations that require our attention.”
Latifah: “Since becoming a teacher, I found that I did not simply ‘teach’ per se. I am a counsellor to students and an advisor to parents. I am an accountant, a manager, an event planner and much more. There are plenty of other things a teacher is exposed to and capable of! I’m not sure if there is any other job out there that requires such multi-tasking as teaching does.”
Within the confines of a school, the duo devotes their efforts towards igniting a love for learning in the students they meet.
Beyond school settings, they aspire to help students discover their own limitless potential, in the hope that it may carry them further in life.
Latifah recalls an episode that occurred during the early years of her teaching career which vindicated her career choice.
Latifah: “I was given a challenging class to teach and faced problems getting the class to be quiet for more than 20 minutes! I would walk out at the end of the class simply exhausted. But each time I walked in, I always told myself to give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they might have their own individual or family problems.
After four weeks of trying, the kids finally realised that I cared. Funnily enough, students may act naive and oblivious but they can tell when a teacher truly cares for them or their teacher is just pretending.”
For the both of them, gratification comes during graduation at the end of every school year when they witness the charges under them successfully moving on to the next phase of their academic life. Their hard work over the course of a year culminates in that one singular moment.
Trixie: “It is the greatest achievement in teaching, knowing that apart from academic guidance, we have been able to teach them about what goes on around the world, and about the values in life that cannot be found in a textbook. Teaching can be a very mentally and physically draining process, but when we see the impact that we have made on our students’ lives, we know that it is definitely a moment we can be proud of.”
Grooming the educators
Recognising the uniqueness and aptitude of the teachers under its umbrella, the Ministry of Education (MOE) strives to provide them with ample opportunities to explore their own potential and ascend the career ladder.
Individuals interested in a teaching career have three available career tracks to choose from.
For those who find their calling in the actual act of teaching, the Teaching Track provides steady progression through the various seniority levels, culminating in the highest level of Principal Master Teacher.
The Leadership Track sees an individual through the stages to become a Principal and beyond, providing opportunities for leadership positions in schools and the Ministry’s headquarters.
Individuals more inclined towards specialised areas, where they can apply their knowledge and skills towards further development of the education system, can pursue the Specialist Track which allows them to specialise in either subjects or education related disciplines.
Aspiring teachers will also be heartened to know that the system is flexible towards accommodating different career aspirations.
Trixie: “Apart from having the option to specialise in the track we are interested in, we are allowed to switch tracks midway if we decide that we would like to try something different.”
Furthermore, MOE has a wide array of in-service courses and overseas learning opportunities available for the teachers.
Trixie: “Besides offering us scholarships and study loans for further education, MOE provides in-service courses we can choose from to enhance our pedagogy in promoting more effective teaching and learning.”
Vietnam, Malaysia and China are among the places that Trixie has forayed into with her students on overseas field trips. Each trip is a unique experience that has bequeathed precious memories that she remembers fondly.
Both Trixie and Latifah strongly feel that a teaching career is as good, if not better, than a career in the private sector.
Trixie: “If you have the passion for teaching, you will want to remain in this profession. Even when sometimes teachers feel that they need a change in environment, they can apply for “professional development leave” or “no-pay leave” and then come back to the profession when they are ready. They also have the option of trying out different jobs within the ministry, be it secondments or postings to HQ. The education sector provides a lot of opportunities beyond teaching in a classroom.”
Latifah: “After more than four years in this profession, I do not have any regrets. I became a teacher to make an impact on students and guide as many of them as I can to become morally sound and ethical citizens of the country. I am glad to say I get to fulfil this goal. I simply do not just teach. It’s the values that I try to pass on that makes me keen to continue on in my journey as a teacher.”
Despite the challenges of the profession, both Trixie and Latifah have had no regrets joining a profession that nurtures the young.
Latifah: “Teaching is a challenging career which one should only consider if he truly wishes to impact the younger generation, not only through the teaching of specific subjects but through the teaching of values and life skills in the process.”
Trixie: “A teaching career is not a bed of roses. Join teaching only if you really have the passion for moulding the minds of the younger generation and are willing to make sacrifices for what you believe in. You have to really love what you’re doing. Once you’ve found that balance, teaching can be the most rewarding job in the world.”