“Teachers don’t teach a subject. We teach children.” Expressed by an educator Nurul Syahidah Rahmat, these words reflect the dedication inherent in well-trained and committed teachers. Today, Syahidah tells us more about her role as a mentor and educator alongside fellow educator Elfy Lee. Syahidah is an Engineering Information graduate from Ngee Ann Polytechnic who went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science (Education) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Elfy, on the other hand, graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a Diploma in Early Childhood. After which, she pursued a Bachelor of Arts (Education) at NTU.
Although the two ladies specialise and teach in entirely different domains, they tell us about the similar stressors inevitable in a teaching career and the similar ways by which they derive satisfaction. Here are their stories.
Nurul Syahidah Rahmat: There is never a boring day in teaching. It is so dynamic and you get to experience something new every day. As my work is not confined to the desk, it suits my active personality. I have tried desk-bound jobs before and I could not stand it. I also love working with children and interacting with them. I get to see them learn, grow up and improve right before my eyes. Besides, I get to impart my knowledge on the subject that I love which is Physical Education (PE)!
Elfy Lee Yi Yu: I chose a career in teaching because I believe education gives students a head start in life and opens doors for young people regardless of their backgrounds. I consider it a privilege to be part of the experience of firing up young minds and sharing in their discovery of meaning and direction in the world we live in.
Elfy Lee Yi Yu
Unity Secondary School
Tell us about your decision to teach PE (Syahidah) and History (Elfy).
Syahidah: I have a passion for fitness and sports and I would like to inculcate that love in my pupils as well. I enjoy teaching in the outdoors, having my pupils learn, getting them to move about and at the same time refining their cognitive, psychomotor and affective skills. PE is also an avenue for me to help my pupils build on their character, develop problem-solving skills, and strengthen relationship management and social skills.
Elfy: Contrary to popular misconception, history is about much more than dates and dead people. I chose to teach history because history matters. History helps us to understand the roots of societal oppression and it presents guidance to future political and social actions essential to creating an inclusive society. As students explore authentic case studies, they also learn to challenge assumptions and develop critical thinking skills.
What is one challenge you have faced?
Syahidah: Fulfilling parents’ expectations. Some parents are very supportive, kind and understanding. But there are also others who have demanding expectations. I used to find myself out of words when communicating with intimidating parents. However, the art of speaking to parents comes with time and experience. I ensure that I have all the information I need and am clear about my discussion points. It is always important to remain calm and patient!
Elfy: A school is a vibrant and dynamic environment where I can never expect to do the same thing every day. Besides teaching different topics, I also need to be creative in employing various strategies in order to stimulate students’ interests in learning. Thankfully, I have the great fortune of learning from and working with experienced colleagues who are supportive in guiding and mentoring me.
Nurul Syahidah Rahmat
Physical Education Teacher / CCA Coordinator,
Frontier Primary School
What is one myth about teaching that deserves debunking?
Syahidah: People tend to say “Wah! A teacher finishes work at noon. After that they are so free. So good!”
Wrong! Our afternoons are filled with departmental meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings, CCA duties, remedial and supplementary lessons, learning community sessions, professional sharing sessions, events and programmes planning, and the list goes on. Our afternoons are very much as engaged as our mornings.
Elfy: Teachers are not the sage on the stage. For effective learning to take place, students should be viewed as invaluable collaborators who actively participate in the process of learning. Beyond lectures which are one-directional, teachers do less on teaching but more on facilitation of learning by empowering students with the skills needed to solve complex problems.
What is one quality all teachers must possess?
Syahidah: Patience – Kids will test you. The workload will test you. External vendors will test you. Parents will test you. The school will test you. You need a lot of patience to keep motivated in the job. Patience also keeps you level-headed and allows you to carry on with your work in a calmer manner.
Elfy: To be a teacher, one must love children. It is important to care about the students to bring out the best in them. Teachers should also enjoy teaching. When you do what you love, you would then strive to be the best version of yourself every day. You would find ways and means to motivate a highly unmotivated child, make difficult topics easier to understand, and fundamentally feel the innate desire to overcome all challenges that may come your way. With this passion for teaching, you will be committed to excellence as a teacher.