“I’ve been teaching for the past five years. I teach chemistry and maths in secondary school, but I wouldn’t say I teach subjects – I teach students as a whole.
I became a teacher because I was inspired by my own teachers whom I was blessed to have in my life. One of them was my form teacher in secondary school. I remember how helpful and supportive she was when my dad fell critically ill.
My dad had kidney failure, and there was a period of time I didn’t attend school because I had to visit him at the hospital. That was when I opened up to her about my family situation. Ever since then, she’d check in on me regularly to know how everyone’s coping. We keep in touch to this very day, and she still asks me about my family.
Another teacher who stands out for me is my former chemistry teacher. We had dinner together recently and we talked about how life was like in junior college. I didn’t think highly of myself back then, but he was always making himself available for consultations and encouraging me to work hard, and that helped greatly.
What have I learnt as a teacher? The good and the bad. As newbies, we were told a story about a man and his son who saw starfish dying on the beach. The man said that it’s probably too late; they can’t save them all. The boy, however, said that they can bring them to the water one at a time and save them one at a time.
When I first became a teacher, my main challenge was trying to cater to everyone on a personal level. It’s a draining job. Every time you help a student, you’re giving away a part of yourself. Now, I’ve become more observant and I’m giving additional attention primarily to those who need it more.
It’s not that I care less now. I still believe in being there for my students the way my teachers were there for me, but you can’t be constantly giving – you need time for yourself too. If you burnt out, you cannot help anyone. That is why I’m learning to strike a healthy balance after five years at the job. – Shi Han, 31
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