I went to watch the drama , Normal by Checkpoint Theater last Thursday (6th Apr) . This was part of the CLDC Learning Journey. It was indeed a very powerful and realistic show that highlighted accurately both the realities and challenges that both the teachers and the students faced in Singapore schools.
Definitely as teacher, I still believe in them even though they can’t really do well in their academic subjects. I remember giving my P6 students a talk last year before they leave school :
“Do not let the academic results define who you are. You have your own strengths and it just happens that your strength is not in your studies. Do not let anyone put you down. I assure you in the whole world, there would be at least one person who believes in you (that is me of course!)”
Even I firmly believe in accepting for who they are , at times, I still need to push them to do more exercise in the name of “passing the big P”. And of course, not forgetting those book checks to show evidence of students’ learning. The hard question to ask ourselves : “How can we, in our own little way, change the ingrained result-oriented educational system?” Yes, there have been talks at the higher levels about being not focused on the results. But, has that been really translated into actual cultural shift in most of the schools? Does the higher level talk match the actual context in most of the schools? I can see that we are moving in that direction, but we need to move *FASTER” [Link] .
As a practitioner on the ground, rather than having the mindest , “That is the result-oriented system, we can’t do much”, let’s look inwards and what we can do to to help such academically-challenged students within our own means. So, what can I do as teacher? I need to constantly need to balance between the system demands and my students’ needs. But , to me, my students’ interest would always come first. I would need to use my little grey cells to match both the interests. Why so? So that I can live with my conscience and still meet the needs of the higher demands (let’s be practical, I need the salary for my retirement! :-).
For example, currently, I seldom focus on the worksheet (which is just too beyond them) but allow my students to use technology (like creating of videos) to show their learning. I usually use the worksheet as a means for them to take down notes or get them to do the more “doable” questions [A tick for book checking, Yeah!] . Why technology , you may ask? I notice that they would be at least doing a bit more thinking when I get them to articulate their thoughts online as what they have written are visible to the public audience rather than just the teacher. When I show their posting on the projector screen, they would always want me to showcase their posting. Good to see them so enthusiastic about their learning. You check out my reflection on the lesson at this link.
In my role as AVA Co-coordinator in my previous school, I always tried to get my NT students to helm the team. I gave them responsibilities and made them run the show. I still remembered some of them being very affected when I told them I would be leaving the school when they were in Sec 3. This showed that rapport that I had with them. I have seen them mature and grow up over the years and had indeed been a great help in AVA matters. One of them is now in polytechnic and even text me to thank me when he was accepted in polytechnic. He was , at first, a very bad-tempered boy but the AVA duties changed him. I talked to him and made him change his way if he wished to be part of the AVA team. In Sec 4, he was the 2nd in command and helping to run the AVA show. This was definitely one of the highlight in my teaching career.
In my first year in teaching, I was given the tail-end Physics S3 Express class (in which almost all of them failed their Mathematics). My name would always come up as one of the teachers who never gave up on them. I still remembered one of the boy (which I scolded regularly) giving me a card when he was about to graduate. That really made my day! One of the girls in the same class has not failed to texted me every year during Teachers’ Day . I am very grateful for that note as it keeps me going as a teacher especially in the busy Term 3. Their O level results were not that fantastic (only half of them cleared combined Science) but as far as I am concerned, I have not failed them. I had never given up on them (despite them challenging my limit for the two years) and was with them till the end of the O level journey.
Till now, I can confidently claim that I seldom give up on my students eno matter how academically weak they are As a teacher, I definitely have not failed them and give them the attention that I can within my means (I need to take care of myself too!) My colleagues know that I always talk about them fondly (despite scolding them regularly), “You know, they are actually nice students but it just happens that studying is not their forte”. No matter what their results are , they are and always will still my little rascals :-).