Friday, April 02, 2004


As I look back on the many ex colleagues who had left the school, some busy doing other things (like having babies, then again there is more pleasure in doing so), another just recently who had to pay back a cool 30K, I started to wonder how on earth (or Mars and Saturn) did they get hookwinked into joining the profession. I reckoned that the media must had been drumming up the passion for teaching. Trust me, with all the media invasion, even the government is using it to tell us we need to procreate more (Yes, now you can put the long thing into the hole, not digging your nose you idiot!)

I did a double-take when I saw the latest series of poster ads commissioned by the Ministry of Education? It caught my eye but it left me asking, "What were they thinking?"

The aim of the poster is to recruit teachers who will nurture creativity. Notice how the words are painfully crafted: “I can change the world, if you teach me how” What on earth were the people in the Ministry thinking? The next thing we need is another Hitler, Stalin or a Saddam. The way the message was conveyed was that Singaporeans kids were ignoramus or the like. That assumption we made is the very reason why Singapore kids are not creative, we teachers basically need to teach them from procreation to producing bombs. Never ASSUME, it make an ASS out of U and ME.

Man, that poster is deep (read cheem). So deep that light refracts and certain colours get lost. So deep that you suffer from oxygen deprivation and the condition known as the 'rapture of the deep'. Does MOE hope that this poster will lure* the right kind of fish into the teaching profession?

*(Maybe it's an IQ test and the job interview might go something like...
Interviewer: "What do you think this poster means?
Candidate: "Um... dunno."
Interviewer: "Next!")

Teaching sucks?
A mentor once mentioned to me that ‘teaching sucks”. The mere utterance of the statement had the whole class of us holding our breath(es) {some did a double take}. It was as though we had mentioned the You-know-who thingy (Voldermort! Don’t you read Harry Potter? Where on earth were you?). He later quantified his statement by saying that “teaching suck the energy from the teachers”. We heaved a sign of relief; and that bring me to my earlier point about not assuming. Seriously, if teaching suck, why are there so much people joining the profession? Is it really the calling - the ‘teaching god” start knocking on your head and then imbuing the “be a teacher” messages in your subconscious? Could it also be the flashy posters or rather could there be other reasons?

I would rather see it as the same old bait of 'high starting salary' and 'job stability' (something that posters don't advertise but teachers-to-be hear about anyway)? Now I'll be frank (you can be Francine), only a fool would believe the earlier TV ads where everybody moves in a slow motion world where the dry ice machines work overtime. Just like how they glorify the army when we guys who had contributed the most fertile period of our “sperm-y existence” know it is an organization that grossly overutilise tax payers’ money. But then again, recruitment was one of the best things that MOE could put on paper. In fact, it was during the economic crisis that the teacher intake went up. So let's have a reality check (read cheque) here: in a country where paper is the strongest known substance, there is no juicier bait than the Almighty Dollar.

But that encouraged a more mercenary lot. Not all of them were like that, mind you, but noticeably more. I could literally see the difference in the intakes. Seeing the batches of teachers go had come and stayed, many were walking though the front door, some with unrealistic expectations. But some were leaving though the back door too. Others where jumping out of windows, going through the roof and digging underground as well but MOE has got good building contractors and gardeners ( No offence to the gardening projects in IJ). All is not that happy in the schools but most of them have such bright and cheery coat of Nippon paint on their outside walls that no one thinks twice. However, there are some dramas and clashing of swords that take place in schools that would rival "Masters of the Sea" and "Growing Up" combined! Let’s just put it this way, if you have a teacher half as pretty as Cynthia Koh in Moulmein High and that idealistic teaching environment when all issues can be resolved in an hour plus commercial break time, I guess teaching isn’t so bad after all. But let’s face it, this over rated TV programme is merely glossing over what can be really felt in school. Trust me, problems cannot be solved in a hour, though you can sent a student out to bask in the afternoon sun for an hour, drinks provided.

Let's start at the beginning: recruitment of fresh blood. I would do away with slogans like Do something worthwhile with your life or Mould the future of our nation. (The first slogan implies no other job is worthwhile. As for the other one, I think moulding a nation is not just the responsibility of teachers.) My suggestion? Teach... if you dare! MOE came close with If you've got what it takes, teach. But I recall some nitwit commenting in the Straits Times forum a couple of years ago that it should be rephrased as If you've got what it takes, they will take it away from you. Teaching can and will be a huge drain. Teaching can suck.

A good move by MOE was to allow untrained teachers to venture into classrooms for a first hand experience before undergoing training in NIE. That way, trainees would have a better picture of the situation in schools. However, I would go further and dare them to make this a requirement rather than an option. It's just one way of retaining teachers and doing away with unrealistic expectations . But then again with the present lot of students who can sniff a trainee/untrained teacher from a mile, I am quite worried about the teachers who had absolutely no way in handling waylaid kids. Trust me, it is not easy having a 200-pounder in your class who just yak and yak and yak without even getting her neurons working. You literally can’t push her around.

Just how ignorant is the layman about the plight of some teachers? Take the common misconceptions of "Wah, so good, work half day only!" and "No need leave what, got long holidays!" On behalf of all teachers, let me give all who think like that a cyberslap... ... now go stand in the corner and don't play with your mouse or yourself! If teachers only spent time teaching, then the first statement is fair as school is restricted to certain hours. But don't forget that many teachers conduct extra classes for weaker students. Many teachers come in early or leave late or both. Don't forget the bane of all teachers - marking! Teachers mark work in school, at home and a few like me, on public transport as well! (They don't call it the paper chase for nothing! You are always trying to catch up with the next pile of marking.) Don't forget extra or co-curricular activities, counselling students, dealing with disciplinary problems or police cases, administrative work, ad hoc projects, committee work, training hours, and other assorted "joys of life". I can also now add in learning about your students by reading blogs. Hey we got a social responsibility here! The holidays are no better with courses, invigilation, camps and other mind-numbing, toe-cramping activities. The slogan should be Teach... if you can or Teach - Be all that you can be (and much, much more) or Donate blood generously. Teach or Get an extra-ordinary career – Teach (for it will be what you will get with all the beyond ordinary workload)

But as I say, it is just my two cents worth.

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