City News invited two teachers to write a special piece for us this Teacher’s Day—one who teaches Mathematics in School for the Arts and another who teaches English in City College, a school that offers an alternative route to students sitting for their ‘O’ Levels. Plus, four photography students pay tribute to their “Jedi Master”.
“Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.” — Nikos Kazantzakis
Helping Them Connect The Dots
Chiam Ling Siang, 36, Teacher in the Faculty of Mathematics, School of the Arts Singapore
I am currently teaching Mathematics in School Of The Arts which offers a six-year program leading up to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme examinations. IBDP is an academically rigorous program for 16- to 19-year-olds that aims to prepare students for success in University and beyond that. Teaching Mathematics in SOTA may be different from teaching in a mainstream school mainly because of our target audience. We are teaching students who are spending a good portion their time being trained and educated in the Arts. We need to develop a curriculum that is concise and yet comprehensive for them.
In SOTA, we see knowledge as connected rather than disjointed, hence the idea of a connected curriculum. I see Mathematics as a language—a language that communicates precision. By learning it, you can then “talk” in the language of precision in every arena: Architecture, Biology, Finance and Arts. Recently we conducted a lecture in which we explored Motion Geometry in Visual Arts, Dance, Theater and Music. It is our desire to help students catch a glimpse of how different fields of knowledge are connected to one another.
My students always ask me, “Why do we have to study Math?!” I welcome a question like this as this is how they try to make sense of what they are learning! Most of the time we will be going through the technicalities of calculus, trigonometry, statistics and such … but every once in a while we would discuss and explore on how we can effect what we have learned in a different context or field. I enjoy helping them to connect the dots as I want them see knowledge as part of a whole fabric, and not isolated as just academic subjects.
I value what I do mainly because of the interaction with people. I enjoy encouraging the students and telling them they can achieve what they are willing to work for. I feel that being a teacher is like being a cheerleader and a coach. We correct them sometimes, but most of the time we just have to keep cheering them on.
In 2007, six years into teaching, I went through a period of burn-out. I remember feeling very exhausted and unhappy about my work. That year, Dr. AR Bernard from New York, held an educator’s session at the Singapore Expo. During that meeting, he said with such conviction that teaching is a call and a privilege. Educators need to know that it is a privilege to be given the opportunity to teach and mold a person.
That night I went home and did a lot of soul searching. I decided that if teaching is indeed a privilege, then I should treat it as it is. When a person’s mindset changes, the situation will change too. I started to meet people, mentors and friends who share the same passion and ideology in education and it refueled my love for this vocation till today.
When The Teacher Becomes The Student
Wilhelmina Priya, Teacher at City College, Singapore
I used to be a freelance Speech and Drama teacher. For six years of my life, I taught in different kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools in Singapore. I considered myself to be in the system but not of it. Some of the experiences I gained shaped my perspective of both teachers and students of various ages. Not all of it was positive. In fact, the perspectives I had were more negative than positive. It left me feeling hopeless about making a significant difference in the lives of the young individuals I met with each passing year.
Approximately two years ago, I was employed by City College to teach English as well as Speech and Drama. I was employed to teach but I ended up being the student. This school is special like no other school I have encountered. It has become my privilege to teach here at City College.
The education one receives begins with the head of the organization, flows down to the staff and then to the students. The vision of the leader sets the culture of the school and this school lives its culture everyday. Love is the blood that choruses through the veins of every staff of this organization, teacher or not. It is the heartbeat of the school.
I teach because I am called. I teach because I care. I teach because I want to make a difference in another life. The people at City College taught me what it means to be a teacher. You see, delivering knowledge and application only makes up a small fraction of building up an individual’s education. Add to that equation a lot of love through deliberate acts of care and concern, and then you see the magic happen.
At City College I learned to teach with more love than I ever knew. I learned that I wanted to go the extra mile in acts of care and concern because I saw how much it meant my students.
So what precious gems I have received thus far?
I’ll never look at tattoo-adorned teenagers negatively again because by simply caring, I’ve seen what awesome and sweet people they are. I’ve seen hope flood back into the eyes of the hopeless and dejected. A smile. A “thank you.” A hug. Camaraderie. Lives changed for the better.
I got to see the power of love in action. Thank you [founder] Kenny Low and City College for making me a better teacher and person.
The Value Of A Teacher
At the annual Crowbar Awards (an international platform for emerging young “creative” to showcase their best works) organized by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Singapore on Aug. 20 in Singapore, five students from the School of Design and Entrepreneurship (SODE) in City College submitted their entries under the photography and film categories. Four students’ works were selected into the finals and one of them, Aston So, clinched the Gold award for Photography. SODE was among the top 10 schools represented in the competition, which is an achievement considering this is SODE’s first batch of students. This year, the Crowbar Awards also saw a record number of entries.
The four finalists credit their teacher Jim Orca for adding value to their lives.
I’ve been under Mr. Jim’s mentorship for about four years. He never failed to show care and concern when I was not doing well in my path towards becoming a fashion photographer. He always encourages me, believes in me and inspires me to become a better person. Mr. Jim, I will make you proud. Thank you for sowing into my life!
I liken Mr. Jim Orca to Yoda in Star Wars—one with wisdom and patience to mold us into “Jedi Masters.” At times when we dropped into our pits of slack and distraction, he uses the “force” to pull us back on track. Indeed, the force is strong with him.
Yoseph Ade Setiawan
Mr. Jim Orca is one of the reasons why I signed up with SODE. I knew that under his care, I would grow to become not just a better photographer but also a better person. He cares for the lives of the students inside and outside photography. He can be serious at times but also has his moments of fun. He is very creative and innovative and is our role model when it comes to being a professional photographer.
In my time in SODE, I experienced Mr. Jim not as another typical lecturer. I would say that he is a friend and a mentor. His passion and care that he has for us amazes me, considering there are other people and matters under his responsibility. I am impacted by the patience he had when we made mistakes. He is a person who makes things happen, and not just completes the task but does it with style and finesse. By observing and modeling him, I gained greater confidence in what I can achieve and know that I can also be successful. Thank you Mr. Jim!