Teachers’ Day 2013

Now that I am a counsellor and not a teacher, Teachers’ Day somehow resonates less with me. Of course I am still an educator and very much still working with students and teaching them social emotional skills but somehow Teachers’ Day is less meaningful to me than when i was a teacher.

Since counsellors are also very much included in the celebrations, I see as a day to recognise our contributions as educators. I definitely enjoy the celebrations, the annual dinner and the holiday!

Having once been a teacher, I make it a point to take this opportunity to appreciate the teachers I know as well as Daniel’s teachers.

Cards for Daniel’s teachers

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Gifts for some of my colleagues

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Busy days at work

It has been crazy the past few weeks at work. Surge of cases which require attention and some case management. Felt really drained by the end of the week and felt so tired from all the giving and there was some transference too of emotions from the clients.

But the Lord encouraged me with this verse:
“The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.” Provb 11:25

Last night, during cell meeting, was also encouraged by this thought during worship that the Lord truly delights to use us and to work through us, with all our flaws and limitation. And it was just such an awesome thought that blew my mind – that an awesome God who is all powerful and omnipotent would desire to co-labour with us and work through us.

I am reminded to do everything for the Lord and to believe that He is with me even as I help students in this helping profession where often times it seems that there is so much giving of yourself that it is so tiring. And He will continue to fill me as I come to Him even as I give and pour out into lives.

Am also learning that even as we do everything as unto Him, no matter big or small, He sees. Was so touched a few weeks ago, when I was so sick and struggled with some ministry stuff. And after that just heard the whisper of the Father saying : ” I appreciated your labour.” I am really slowly beginning to understand more what it means to serve Him and to look to Him for affirmation.

Steven Curtis Chapman – Do Everything

Making a difference in our work

“…..that every student that passes through our hands will be an outstanding one.”

This statement at the end of our school video shown at the school anniversary celebration last Sat caught my eye.

It really caused me to reflect and to really see the difference I can make to each student that ‘passes through my hands’. In that statement is also the sense of responsibility that we have during our ‘watch’ towards the students that have been entrusted in our hands. And it is also about ownership. About seeing that each of us educators have been positioned in our schools, classes and appointments for a specific time and purpose and there is a sense of duty towards helping our students achieve their fullest potential.

I believe that for educators, a job is not just a job. And I do not want to fall into the trap of letting the work that I do become so routine that I lose the sense that I can really make a difference to every student who comes to me. The mundane things that I do …..like chatting with Sec 1 students and international students to see if they have any issues ….. that short 15 minutes I spend with them is the opportunity I have to connect and to touch lives and to leave something with them. Not all of them will need counselling, but every one of them could do with knowing that someone in the school genuinely loves them and cares for them and is there for them should they ever need help.

I recall times where healthcare professionals have made a difference in the course of doing ‘mundane work’. I was particularly touched by 2 doctors when I was having my last miscarriage in Jan. The first being Dr Ian Yeo from the National Eye Centre. I was there for my regular eye check-up when I started bleeding. He took the effort to personally call my gynae at KKH to tell him that I would be going down so that I could bypass the queue. And he also shared his personal experience that he and his wife went through. It was very reassuring and really touched my heart, that he cared enough to do all this when I was feeling so frightened. It made a great difference to me that day and I will always remember his kindness. The second doctor is my gynae Dr Han How Chuan at KKH. It was his operation day, and he came out from OT just to see how I was when he could have just left it to another doctor on duty to attend to me. I was very touched that he came, despite his busyness. These are doctors in govt hospitals who have tons of patients to attend to everyday. Yet they each showed that they cared for their patients beyond just doing their job.

This experiences remind me that in our line of work, we must not lose the personal touch in the midst of our busyness. When I am busy, things sometimes become tasks that need to be done and checked off. I pray that the Lord will enlarge my heart, that I may move more and more with His compassion and to be His hands and feet where He has placed me in my workplace.

Love this song ‘One Little Heartbeat at a Time’ by Steven Curtis Chapman. Really speaks to me as an educator and also as a parent in this call I have to raise the next generation.

One Little Heartbeat at a Time

You’re up all night with a screaming baby
You run all day at the speed of life
And every day you feel a little bit less
like the beautiful woman you are

So you fall into bed when you run out of hours
and you wonder if anything worth doing got done
Well maybe you just don’t know
or maybe you’ve forgotten

That you, you are changing the world
one little heartbeat at a time
Making history with every touch and every smile
Oh you, you may not see it now
but I believe that time will tell
how you, you are changing the world
one little heartbeat at a time

With every, “I know you can do it”
and every tear that you kiss away
So many little things that seem to go unnoticed
they’re just like the drops of rain
over time, they become a river

And you, you are changing the world
one little heartbeat at a time
Making history with every touch and every smile
Oh you, you may not see it now
but I believe that time will tell
how you, you are changing the world
one little heartbeat at a time

Thoughts on getting a degree

Recently, there has been some discussion after some ministers commented that Singaporeans do not need to have a degree in order to be successful. At home, there was also some discussion at our family dinner table. I listened with some interest but did not give it much thought as to me I understood what the minister was trying to say – that it is possible for one to have a successful career in Singapore without a degree and having a degree does not guarantee success. And, I do agree with that.

Last week, after a conversation with a colleague over a lunch meeting, I felt myself being challenged in my beliefs concerning having a degree. She was sharing with us about her eldest son who just started his career as a chef. He did his A levels and did not go on to get a degree even though he could. He wanted to pursue his dream of being a chef. She shared that initially, her husband was appalled of the idea that their son is not going to the university and against it. However, she supported him. He was interested in a degree in culinary skills offered by SIT, however, one of the criteria is that work experience is required. Hence, he started work as a kitchen help, and he showed much potential and was given many opportunities. Currently, he is given the opportunity to assist at a Michelin star restaurant and has abandoned the plan of taking the degree in SIT as he is doing well and need not go that path.

In today’s context, the idea that your child does not have a degree or at least a diploma would not sit well with many parents. In the course of counselling students, I often have students express sadness that they have interests like art/writing novels/music which their parents do not really support. As a hobby or CCA, yes but more than that …. a degree takes precedence. Hence, I was actually in admiration that my colleague actually supported her child to pursue his dreams even though it meant he would not take the conventional degree/diploma route. She said that she saw how since young, he was very interested in cooking and baking and would come up with interesting dishes for the family. Once, he baked a cheesecake which her colleagues loved and raved about. And as it turns out, he is doing well now …..well on his way to becoming someone accomplished in his field and happy doing what he loves.

I wondered what my response would have been if I was in her position. And to be honest, I am not sure. As parents, all of us want our children to do well in school. I realised that I still place a great amount of security in taking the conventional route. There is some sense of security in having paper qualification. My response I figure would be closer to that of her husband, though I will eventually be won over if I see that my child is really passionate, knows what he is doing and has a plan.

I also thought about this in relation to my job as a counsellor. Career counselling is something I find fascinating and empowering. Finding a good career match – a job that suits your interests/strengths/values/personality is so much linked to our destiny. Doing what we enjoy, do best and functioning effectively. Yet, often, it is a journey of self-discovery and sometimes, it takes time to explore and find out what we are good at and what we like to do.

I feel that the essence of it should not be chasing paper qualifications for the sake of doing so but that paper qualifications are just a stepping stone, which may or may not be necessary depending on one’s career goals. Definitely, I see much value in education and in getting a degree and would encourage every child/student to study as much as he is able to. In fact, I am also for post-graduate studies in the spirit of lifelong learning. I enjoyed my university days immensely – it was a time of great intellectual stimulation. I am not really that smart and I often thank the Lord for His goodness towards me, how he allowed me to pursue my university education.

Through education, our mental faculties are stretched and we pick up important skills which prepare us for our future vocation so one extent or another. Through education, many doors of opportunities are opened as well. Education must not become merely a pursuit of  paper qualification. Pragmatism does dictate that we need some sort of paper qualification to get a job, but paper qualification must not be an end in itself. If getting a degree or doing post-graduate studies help in our self-development and career advancement, why not? If it is not necessary for us to achieve success in our field, no need to get one for the sake of getting.

The smile on your face

Today, I saw a student for counselling. He had some family issues and there was an unpleasant episode taking place recently.

He was so downcast. I could not do much for him except to listen and to go through some coping skills with him to help him cope better. My heart broke when I heard of his family situation. I could not imagine the pain and the fear that he is going through. It broke my heart that he had to experience such unpleasant situations at a tender age. Anyway, I just encouraged him to focus on his exams and studies and other thing there were within his control like friendships and CCA since there was nothing much he could do about the situation.

Later in the day, I saw him with his classmates. He had such a bright smile as he was having fun with his friends in class after school. I wish I could capture that smile on camera.  The smile meant so much to me – that this boy was still able to smile despite what was happening in his life. That smile was so precious to me and I wished that he could always be happy and smiling. I am glad that in the midst of the storm he is in, he still does have moments of joy in his life.

Shepherding with integrity of heart

Recently, there have been a lot of scandals being uncovered in the education sector. Really saddened by reports of teachers and even principals doing things that are unbecoming of educators.

Needless to say, it brought much sadness to many of us in the service and management has been reiterating some of the ethics that we as educators need to uphold.

I read all these with a tinge of sadness as well as shock as to how someone as brilliant as a principal could have fallen into having links with online prostitution and worse still, having sex with an under aged girl. There has been many opinions on this topics which I listened and with my natural mind gave these some thought. Some feel that these men were themselves ‘victims’. It is after all very shameful for these men, some of whom are high flyers, to be brought to public awareness for an act which is arguably something small.

However, this morning, as I was reading some comments online on this topic, I felt a deep grief come upon me. I started weeping without even knowing why. I knew that it was the Lord, cos it was such a deep sadness that I knew was not my own. For a while I did not understand what exactly the Lord was grieved about. But I was glad that He would share His grief with me and that in some way, I could share His burden.

I began to ask the Lord what exactly He was grieved about? Was He grieved by the act that the men had committed? Was He grieved because the girl involved represented so many who were lost and did not have a direction in life? Was He grieved because of the state of the people – that some would think that the men are not at fault?  But I felt that the Lord was grieved at this – that some of these men had failed in the call that they had as educators – to sow into the lives of the next generations. To be called into the education sector is no small matter. Every educator is entrusted with the mandate of raising up the next generation. In the Lord’s terms, they are shepherds whom the Lord has called to look after and raise up the children who are so dear to His heart. However, some of them have failed in their duty and abused this trust that had been committed to them. They have taken advantage of their position and authority to harm those in their charge. This is what so grieves the Lord’s heart.

I really pray that those in the education service will not take their call lightly. I pray that they will shepherd the children not just with skillfulness of hands but with integrity of heart. That they will do their best to teach, guide, discipline and to stand guard for those under their charge. May there be many more such shepherds raised up that our next generation here in Singapore will be one there glorifies the Lord and take this nation from glory to glory.

Inspired by teachers

During this week’s staff meeting, a few teachers who had won the award for being engaging in the classroom shared some of what they did in the classroom.

I enjoyed the sharing and was very glad that 2 of the 3 teachers hail from the History department.

Malcom shared about his history lesson. They are absolutely awesome. Wish I had a History teacher like that. I was also encouraged that when I was a teacher in the past, I did some of what he did too. He does a lot of role play in his classes. But the way he conducts his role plays is really skillful. From crafting meaningful, interesting and relevant scenarios and tasks for students to simulate to him dressing up as a character from history, it really literally makes history come alive. For example, he teaches the years under the Japanese Occupation by giving them a taste of what it would be like to be in school under the Japanese. The students get to experience a bit of what it was like. Really amazing teacher! Even as he was sharing, I could really sense his passion for the subject. It thrilled me too as history is something that used to me so much a part of me. I excelled in History when I was in school and went on to study History in the university and even did my honours in History. Subsequently, I taught History in secondary school for 4 years.  Although that part of my life  is history, it was a large part of my life, and definitely something dear to my heart, though its season is over. Anyway, Malcom’s passion for the subject really inspired me. I want to be passionate about the things that I do, especially the things that I believe in.

Khairani’s (also a History teacher!!) lessons uses a lot of ICT tools to engage student. This generation of students love IT and she taps on this to engage them. I love her Powerpoints. They are really lovely and I wish I could do such Powerpoint too. But more than that, I think what I caught from her was how she takes the effort to find out what students like and to use them in her lessons to engaged them. For example, she does a profiling of her students’ interest every year and try to use what they like in her lessons. I feel that’s important in trying to connect with them. Students appreciate it when teachers make and effort to find out what they like and to get into their world. That’s something that I hope to do to. So I am learning to observe the fashion they like, the singer/pop stars they like and google about names and stuff I hear to find out more 🙂