Teachers’ Day; Molding the world

Today is Teachers’ Day in Singapore. As a Social Work undergrad, I constantly reassured my concerned mother that teaching would be my ‘backup’ career plan if being a social worker was not sustainable 🤣 (Ah, those days when the profession was still not as established!) Seeing how I ended up in this PhD partly influenced by what one teacher said about teaching, I guess this nurturing/educating role is still something I hold close.

I thought I’d celebrate and encourage the teachers in my life and educators out there through this personal memory archive of what they had said and done. They are probably ‘significant events’ in shaping how I saw and interacted with the world, however imperceptible the influence may be.

Undergrad Year 4 | In response to my protest against going into academia because I wanted to make a direct impact on the lives of the disadvantaged and marginalized, Dr Chiu said: When you are a social worker, you can maybe benefit a few families or shift something in the system. But when you teach social work students, you can influence them to make this change. The ripple effect is much greater. This was probably the start to my developing vision of how I engage the world as a social worker. While I have since discarded the notion of teaching in a public university, I do still hope to nurture young people eager to be changemakers. Perhaps more than nurture, to learn together with them. In the words of Brazilian educator and advocate of critical pedagogy Paulo Freire:

Whoever teaches learns in the act of teaching, and whoever learns teaches in the act of learning.

(check out Pedagogy of the Oppressed!)

JC Year 2 | It was in GP class and the context in which this personal snippet was shared had been long forgotten, but somehow this memory of Ms Joey pops up now and then: In her clear crisp voice that made the start of a compelling story, she told us: When it was time to pop the champagne (at her wedding), it ended up all over my gown instead. I was there in front of everyone. What do I do? [pause– us students imagining scene] I just started laughing. In life, its important to laugh at yourself. Apart from this important life lesson, I think those GP classes were a place where I learnt more about the world and tried to ‘apply’ myself in it. (Haha some of it ‘fluff’ to score of course, but it was a start)

Primary 2 | My P2 form teacher Mdm Toh made an indelible impression on me for reasons I can’t fully articulate. I remember her with short hair, pretty tall, often in capri pants. When she got angry at the class, I was scared. But somehow there must have been much warmth felt from her- I still keep those handwritten cards that she gave us. Reflecting on this, I realized how much she’d cared to buy those gifts and write to each one of her 40 kids :”)

I started on my PhD to communicate ideas that can reshape collective imagination towards a better society. Teachers, in their everyday work in school and educational institutions, mold the world in imperceptible but significant ways through the minds that they influence. I am but one of these students.

Happy Teachers Day 😊

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