Passion is what keeps a teacher going

By Anonymous

I am currently an untrained NIE trainee (General Education Officer-GEO 2 untrained) on practicum in a primary school.

Just want to advise those who wish to teach to first try your hand at relief teaching to see whether you can accept the challenge of handling a classroom nowadays. You need to have compassion, understand why the kids behave in a certain manner and try to assist them to the best of your abilities. If you come out of the classroom at the end of the lesson feeling angry, you are not suited for teaching. The kids' well being, character and moral values should be our main focus, the academic results will happen naturally when the fundamentals are well taken care of.

I am currently in the last batch of the July 2016 1 year PGDE programme. Honestly, it is not easy during the PGDE phase. We are required to study all 3 subjects-English, Math and Science. I feel that the programme is very packed, challenging but fulfilling. The new PGDE trainee only need pursue 2 subjects except Mother Tongue (MT), Physical Education (PE), Music or Art (in span of 16 months)-of which they need only study one subject.

I was previously from the government and private sector, presently making a mid career switch. Highest drawn salary was $4.8k a month in 2010 in Mindef. Yearly salary was about $70k. Worked as a property agent for a few years earning $20-30K while applying for a position at MOE. Worked as a sales engineer for an IT company earning $3.3k monthly gross for a year in 2012 but never managed to earn any considerable sales commission. I tried relief teaching as a long term relief teacher in a secondary school in 2013 and subsequently in a primary school in 2014 with a daily salary of $100. No wages earned during weekends, public holidays or school holidays but the passion kept me going and my wife was supportive financially all these while. I was really blessed and lucky.

My wife is GEO4 after nearly a decade of teaching in two secondary schools with a monthly $5.8k salary. She just got promoted last year. She didn't want to be promoted as she just wasn't feeling comfortable with additional responsibilities; in any case she never tried particularly hard to score points with the school's upper management. She simply desired to be a normal teacher helping the kids as best she could.

I finally got through the MOE interview at the 6th or 7th attempt with the support of relevant relief teaching experience as well as the principal's endorsement. Worked as a contract teacher at the same primary school with a starting monthly salary of $3.4K. Before entering NIE, my salary increased by $200 on an annual basis. I am presently awaiting the next yearly increment due in July while doing practicum in the same primary school. I requested to be posted back to the same school and I was lucky that it was granted. No performance bonus awarded for trainee or contract teaching but all other forms of bonuses remain the same.

I am unsure when I am due for the next round of promotion; as it is the practicum ends in 6 weeks.

We wake up at about 5.40am, eat breakfast and start work at around 6.45am to 7am. On occasion I need to arrive earlier at school when I have morning gate duty as I am appointed the level discipline master. We normally knock off around 5 to 6pm. During certain instances (about 10% of the time) we get to leave at about 3-4 pm. Very rarely, we can pack up at 2pm unless we have urgent matters or medical appointments. We are free to leave after 2pm but there are just so many things to do or prepare for as far as lessons in the next few days are concerned. We miss spending time with our son , however we are lucky that my mum helps take care of him for us while we are away at work.

We are going to continue working as teachers until retirement; thereafter we will probably return in the capacity relief teachers. I am one of those mid career fellas who drives to NIE while studying because I need to send my pregnant wife to work before I head off to NIE every morning. The car was purchased with cold hard cash during my last government job in 2010. In fact I also have another new class 2 bike, upgraded from a small bike which we have kept for many years because of the retained number plate and our riding passion. I use this bike to save on campus parking fees on days that are not raining. We are trying very hard to resist the temptation to change our 7 year old continental seven seater to a Japanese hybrid five seater. We are lucky to have a healthy 2 year old son and a daughter (soon to arrive) with stable and satisfying careers.

Money should not be the only reason behind one's inclination to be a teacher. Ultimately passion what truly keeps you going. If you genuinely feel for and bond with the kids, then there will come a point in time when you start to loathing public holidays because you'd rather have more time to properly complete instruction of the existing syllabus or catch up with the required scheme of work (SOW).

Dated 24 March 2017


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