death by paper cut

{August 28, 2006}   why i do not hate teaching

i was referred to otterman’s post that points to two other posts about teachers hating teaching. with teacher’s day round the corner, a day of celebrating the profession and traditionally for showing gratitude these professionals, the professionals seem hard pressed to find reasons to celebrate.

i think its good that teacher trisha and teacher piper spend time to reflect and grouse about the obstacles they face in their profession even if they don’t consider alternatives or solutions.

i’m a teacher with three and a half years of experience in a primary school. being in a different school from teacher trisha and teacher piper, i cannot claim that my hypothetical solutions are workable in their context, neither will i propose specific solutions. each of us have different pressures in the work front and in our personal lives. i for example, do not have family commitments to juggle.

what i do want to share in this post is the other side of the coin because i believe the main issues facing teaching in singapore are to a large extent identifiable with those in the service.

i have had to some spend time dealing with administrative matters such as collecting money (sharity elephant of community chest is not my best friend), reminding parents to pay school fees (most parents do not need reminders about school fees, they know when to pay up and they also know they don’t have the means to), giving out forms, collecting forms and even taking temperature of students and personally delivering worksheets to students during the SARS period (principal’s orders). however, i still think it doesn’t take up the majority of teaching time. whatever time left and how it is used really depends on the individual time management skills. but i qualify again, i do not have family commitments to juggle although i do spend a fair amount of “playtime” with friends at sunset.

there is no such as non-teaching subjects or non-teaching moments. it is infact these moments that life values and skills are imparted. virtues like patience, self-control, discipline, fair play, often does not take centre stage in mathematics, science or linguistics. students learn from how adults/teachers react to situations and not so much from what we actually say.

national education is not uniquely singaporean, neither is it merely a communist brainwashing tactic. in recent times, john howard pm of australia has taken a personal interest in the teaching of the national history and the values the australians are supposed to inculcate. i am personally disturbed about the version of history he privileges but that’s a different story. in fact, i believe all nations are grappling with concretizing a national identity with special regards to multiculturalism. as contrived as national education/racial harmony might seem to have been cascaded down, there is merit in it. inter-racial mixing on a casual and social level doesn’t take place naturally and cannot be left to chance. the manner in which the messages are delivered to students – how artificially or how authentically – is in the hands of the teacher.

as for the many other non-teaching projects and meetings teachers are tasked to do, i hesitate to make a sweeping judgement about its utter uselessness. most of them deal with research and development to varying extent. i’ve been involved in innovation & enterprise (I&E), innowits conventions (work improvements teams), excel day, national junior robotics competition (njrc), service learning (sl), community involvement project (cip) and of course the infamous schools excellence model (sem). i do think that the rate of its implementation is too fast and too furious and can be often abused by ambitious principals to collect accolades has a hobby. teachers often complain about the system and its host of problems, but don’t you see? these “projects” of an r&d nature are the necessary evil used to identify problems and address them on a decentralised manner. it has critical potential which will only be tapped when management administers them properly.

is the grass truly greener on the other side? do all your friends not in the teaching service necessarily have the best bosses in the world? do they not have immense pressures at work too? my friends in the “prestigious” fields of architecture, finance and law to name a few, have less social time than i and often deal with last minute projects and more vile clients.


[…] I am not an authority on teachers and teaching. But I know people many who teach: friends who have become or training to become teachers, and teachers who have become friends. The most significant of which is my significant other. She responds, saying why she does not hate teaching, offering a different take on the issues raised by Trisha Reloaded and Flying Low. […]

3 years is a relatively short time to discover passion, in my opinion.

I had a few friends who taught for longer but ultimately quit the profession. Which I do not think it’s bad because they recognised they can’t give anymore. Worse would be those who lingered on as jaded senior teachers who demoralised students and colleagues alike.

I think it’s fair to recognise that a teacher’s greatest contribution is not just to teach but to connect. I have found this very lacking in most teachers in Singapore. Sometimes, I think the curriculum is too ambitious and the class size is too big.

Most teachers think they have taught well when they have delivered the lessons. It is far from it. It takes more to inspire young minds.

With this, I sincerely wish all teachers a “Happy Teachers Day”.


steelwool says:

if passion for a job isn’t discovered by the 3rd year, the job holder would have probably become a very bitter person in any profession.

teaching is not for everyone, in the same way that not every job is for anyone. and in the future, should i or any of my colleagues choose to quit, it wouldn’t be matter of hating the job. there can be many factors involved. but when we’re still in the service, we’re contributing what we can.

i qualified that i (only) have a teaching experience of 3 plus years because this what i feel and think at this point of time (therefore a contextualised perspective) and i am distinguishing myself from those who’ve achieved long service awards i.e. i’m not there yet.

i differ from your opinion that most teachers do not connect with their students, or their embittered, or always demoralised. i believe it is the disgruntled ones that make the most noise. the persevering ones who find satisfaction still outweigh in number, they do what they have to do, and make the most out of it. i do not have hard statistics to prove this, perhaps it is just my optimistic perspective, but i do speak from experience and from working very closely with various kinds of teachers.

inspiring the young is a paradox. sometimes, its the little things you do that inspires others. i’ll give teachers more credit to know for themselves whether they’ve taught well or not, whatever “taught well” means to them.

thanks for sharing though.

Bren says:

To inspire young minds is very much an art. I have had the opportunity to teach in both an elite school and a neighbourhood school. Students from elite schools tend to be more transactional; it takes a well- crafted and delivered lesson to inspire them. On the other hand, students from neighbourhood schools are easier to connect with, after lots of positive reinforcements; while you may have punished them for their mischief, they remember only the kindness that comes after. Different approaches when interacting with different groups of students and within each group are students with different backgrounds and character traits. It can’t be simple.

Having said that, I agree with Steelwool that it is afterall, the little things done with great love that touch them. I have had trying periods during the course of my teaching career when I undergo self-doubts of my capabilities as a teacher. The education system is occasionally quite unfathomable and in my school, teachers are either ‘busy’ or ‘very busy’. But when my students greet me with so much cheer sometimes, I can only wish I have the personality to respond with similar exuberance and I realise once again, they make the hard work all worthwhile.

A nice post and insightful sharing.

Google is the best search engine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

et cetera
%d bloggers like this: