Dear teachers, thank you for all that you do for generations of students

By Adrian Chng

It's a sad day for many Singaporeans who are in one way or another connected to the victims of the Mount Kinabalu earthquake. My deepest condolences go out to those who have lost a child or a loved one. As a parent, I can't even begin to fathom how painful this must be. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your families.

It's a sad day for many in the teaching profession who have had their professionalism questioned by keyboard warriors who suggest that teachers plan such trips as "free holidays" for themselves. My wife is a teacher. I have many friends who are teachers. I was once a teacher myself, maybe not an outstanding one, but I would like to think of myself as being at least a responsible teacher. I have witnessed, and personally been on, many school trips in my 13 years as a teacher. CIP, immersion, CCA, sometimes up to 3 trips a year. I've never had to pay a cent, aside from my own expenditure. You could say I went on free trips. But please get this clear. It was NEVER a holiday. The planning, the coordination, the endless administrative tasks, the briefings/meetings with students, parents, travel agencies. And that's just the pre-trip preparations. I have been in charge of groups upwards of 80 students and I felt personally responsible for their well-being every moment of the trip. I will never forget the terror I felt when I was faced with a student screaming and writhing in pain, clutching at his ear at 1am in the morning. Or when a softball hit high in the air landed squarely on my student's forehead. Or when half the group of students went down with upset stomachs in India. In my moment of madness, I even took 9 students to Tioman on a scuba diving certification course! When you are responsible for the lives of 80 odd children and answerable to their parents, trust me, the terror is very real. I'm sure teachers out there have shared such moments.

You may ask, why do teachers do this then? If I may answer this question on their behalf, teachers do this because they want their students to learn lessons that can never be replicated in the classroom. Teachers do this over and over again because they see the learning happening right before their eyes. Students seem to develop, grow, mature overnight. That is the power of experiential learning. Many of life's lessons can be well learnt over the duration of a short overseas trip. Social interaction, personal responsibility, leadership are but a few of the many life lessons that are more effectively learnt when experienced rather than taught. Believe me when I say this, but teachers who put themselves through these overseas trips care about your children more than they care about themselves. They put themselves out there so that your child learns more than just how to do well in pen-and-paper tests.

I may not be a teacher anymore but I have the deepest respect for teachers. They do a thankless job with an ever-expanding job scope. Academics, leadership, character development, sports, values, values-in-action. Before you fire off a response to make negative comments about teachers, please find out more about what teachers do. And ask yourself if you are up for the challenge. Because the people who decided to become teachers, decided that they wanted the responsibility of moulding your child's future. They wanted the responsibility of developing the future generations of Singaporeans. They put the future of Singapore on their shoulders. There are many great leaders in the world who led great lives and achieved great things. And I'm sure somewhere along the way, they had a great teacher.

To my friends in the teaching profession, please keep your heads up. Don't let the keyboard warriors shake you. Keep doing the good that you do. You and I know you won't see the results of your good work tomorrow but your day will come if you keep plugging away long enough. Thank you for all that you do for generations of students.

This first appeared as a post on the Facebook wall of Mr Adrian Chng on 7 June 2015. Do share your thoughts on the page itself via the link provided. Kindly adhere to a civil discourse.


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